Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Keeping in touch.

I've been really busy the past few weeks and have also had some writer's block. I hope to have a few posts up in the next week.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Imperfect acting

Before a person performs an action, they must have something in mind--the objective--which they intend to perform. The purpose of acting is to realise the objective. When we perform an act, we set out to achieve what our will wanted us to do. Now this might sound like stating the obvious and in one way it is, the problem is that when we try to achieve our objective we may cause other effects to come into being incidental to the realisation of our immediate objective.

Example: A man is involved in a motor vehicle accident. He has been flung out of his car onto the road in the path of oncoming traffic. He has also broken quite a few bones in his body. We happen upon the accident scene and try to move the man out of the path of oncoming traffic. Now in moving the man we cause him suffering and distress as every movement jostles his broken bones.

Now our objective is to move the man out of the path of danger, however in trying to perform this act we manage to move him out of danger while at the same time causing him considerable amount of pain. In actuating our objective we have also actuated this man’s pain. Now if we are aware that the man has broken bones we clearly foresee that the action of moving the man is going to cause him pain. How do you evaluate the determine the morality of an act when clearly both good and evil is happening at the same time as a result of a specific action?

Now our capacity to actuate our objective is limited to our means and circumstances. A elderly man may want to help our injured motorist but not have the strength to do it. A young lady may drag our motorist across the road, causing more pain than if he was gently lifted by paramedics yet both people have tried to actuate a morally good objective with various degrees of evil resulting as a result of their circumstantial limitations.

The prevalent view amongst a group of quite a few Christians--who should know better--is that the act is evaluated on the consequences, if one of the consequences is a foreseen grave evil then the act’s nature must be intrinsically evil and hence prohibited. The act is judged by its effects. By their reasoning, if a man performs an action in which he foresees his own death he must have intended suicide. If a pilot of a plane bombs a building in which terrorists have used hostages as shields he must have intended to kill the hostages. It is the doctrine of immaculate actuation.

They will of course deny that this is their reasoning and this is because they cannot see their error. All of them can state the principles of double effect and list examples of how they support it; up to a certain point. Once a certain psychological threshold is crossed, double effect is negated. While it is never OK to deliberately actuate pain or maiming to an individual as in torture they will quite happily accept it as a side effect of medical treatment. However once the unintended evil effects of an otherwise morally permissible action include injury to children or death to innocents then the principle of double effect usually is switched off: Double effect is applicable up to a certain threshold of unintended evil after which it is not on.

Now this is basically a repudiation of Veritatis Splendor. The document states that the morality of an act is determined by a moral analysis of the actors corporeal objective, not the effects of the realisation of the objective. The question to be asked is what was the actor trying to achieve by the action which resulted in both good and evil effects? The fact that a good action may have a bad effect does not automatically disqualify the action. St Thomas will back me up on that one.

Veritatis Splendor did not deal with the doctrine of double effect explicitly but its principles are easily applicable to the doctrine. In order for an action to be licit under the principle of double effect:

The actor must have a good moral objective and
A proportional analysis of the effects of actualisation of the action must on balance be good in order for the action to be permitted: The doctrine of double effect is the doctrine of conditional proportionalism.

The doctrine of double effect does not permit an actions which have a morally good objective but which on balance has bad consequences. Likewise double effect does not justify a morally bad objective if the consequences are good. Double effect also implicitly demands that we chose actions which minimise the bad consequences where that choice is available.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Moral Object Solutions.

Apparently My Blog is being read in heaven; no seriously. I got two replies to the Double Effect post from John Paul II (check the comments on the post) I do get an impressive audience. I wonder if it is a wireless link?

I’d thought I’d have another go thinking about moral objects.

What is a moral object?

One of the big problems in understanding morality is an understanding of the concept of the “moral object“. I’ve gone looking around on the web and have been mulling over Veritatis Splendor and most explanations seem to go give a partial understanding of the subject. I also feel that Veritatis Splendor may confuse the terminology a bit. Thinking about the matter a bit more, I feel that the military may have some useful ideas in helping us understand the moral object a bit easier.

The target of a military endeavour is called the objective. The objective is the thing to which military activities are directed. Military endeavours are usually divided into two different types of objectives: The strategic and the tactical.

The strategic objective is the purpose to which all military operations are directed. Principally they are the defeat of the enemy or a lessening of its power. Broadly speaking it is why military operations are constituted in the first place. The tactical objectives and the targets which have to be achieved--either in the form of possession, neutralisation or destruction--that have to be achieved in order to achieve the strategic objective. Now the strategic objective can be thought of analogous to the idea of intent while the tactical objective can be thought of as the objective of an act.

Notice that there are two different types of objectives. Intended objectives and objectives of acts. Both acts and intents have objectives but they are fundamentally different in their natures. The intended objective is a state we wish to achieve, this state may come about passively without us doing anything while an the objective of an act is a state we wish to achieve by our active participation.

This objective can be considered from many different perspective but when considered against a moral standard the objective can be thought of as a moral objective. The moral object can therefore be thought of as the classification of an object with respect to its relation to God’s moral law. Example: Let’s say A wants to murder B. The object of A’s intent is the unjust death of B. As it is never licit to murder, the object of A’s intent can be thought of as contrary to God’s law and therefore is categorically evil. A’s intent has an evil moral object. Broadly speaking bad intentions and bad acts have are bad moral objects, while good intentions and acts have the opposite. Moral theologians have also made the distinction in the following terminology:

The finis operis: the end of the operation , similar to the concept of the tactical objective,
The finis operantis: the end of the agent similar in concept to the strategic objective.

Personally, I think that the terminology doesn’t emphasise the distinction enough, so I ‘m suggesting a different terminology be used. (I’m open to suggestions of a better terminology).

Finis operis: Corporeal object.
Finis operandis: Intended object.

I want to be clear that by corporeal object, I mean human acts including thoughts; for thinking is a human action even though it is not strictly corporeal.

Now human acts can be considered as being directed towards a specific corporeal object. Human action is the ontic realisation of the corporeal object: The thing willed is made real by the act.

Now why does all this matter?

At any given point or place the universe as we know it exists in a certain ontic state. By ontic state I mean the bits and pieces that make up our universe have a specific relation to one another. The universe as it was on June 22nd 3.05pm exactly was in a different ontic state to what it was on Feb 12 1987 at 11.37 am.

Now the intent concerns itself with the nature of the ontic state, or the type of state the particular individual would like to see exist. The object of intent is a particular ontic state; while the corporeal object realised, is an active alteration of the ontic state: the act generates a particular ontic state. The important point being is that the corporeal object and the intended object are not the same. Sometimes the corporeal object is congruent with the intended object sometimes it is not: the corporeal object--with the contingent assistance of circumstance--is a means of attaining the intended object.

I think a change in terminology is important because ill will in discussions on moral matters frequently hinge on definitions, the current definitions are not precise enough. More tomorrow.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Thinking about Hiroshima.

“What guided me in my thinking and guided all our efforts—The reason the 21st Bomber Command worked like no other command during the war and kept us going—was the million men we were going to loose if we had to invade Japan. That says nothing of the Japanese losses, although we didn’t give a damn about them at the time. We were primarily worried about our own people”

Curtis Le May.

I’ve been watching with dismay the two opposite lines of reasoning evidenced at VFR and WWWtW.

It would appear to me that Laurence Auster is putting forward an argument that the ends justify the means. The Japanese were wicked, tenacious and determined not to give in no matter what the price. The dropping of the bomb instituted events which stopped the war quickly and saved many lives, Japanese and American; this interpretation is consistent with the facts.

The position of WWWtW is that the attack on Hiroshima is wicked because innocent civilians were killed. As I have argued previously the position of the main protagonists on WWWtW leads to functional pacifism. The criteria that they set up for the fighting of just war make it effectively impossible to fight. Furthermore their thinking opens a line of tactical exploitation by wicked people. Tie up an innocent to your tank, plane or whatever and it is immune from attack on the basis of the moral argument put forward by WWWtW.

Both approaches are wrong and both are wicked.

Following my line of reasoning from yesterdays post I would like to make an analysis of the atomic bombings within the Christian tradition.

Auster's argument is quickly dismissed. Christian tradition has always condemned the line of reasoning that wicked means justify good ends. That ends that argument.

Now I feel that the atomic bombings were wrong but not for the reason the people over at WWWtW do.

Firstly the state has authority to bear the sword in defence of the common interest. However the state is allowed only to attack the unjust (aggressors) and their means, it is not allowed to attack the innocent. Now any enemy city is going to contain a mixed bag of the innocent and combatants, the concept of deliberately targeting a city itself, is morally wrong since by definition it would be an intended attack on both the innocent and the guilty.

However, we are allowed to attack the unjust and if in the process, innocent civilians are killed unavoidably, then the action is permitted according to Christian tradition. It would appear therefore that the attack on Hiroshima was justified, as Hiroshima was a major military base as well as Nagasaki.

However double effect is a two edged sword and the mechanism that permits collateral losses also obligates their minimization. The question to be asked then is, did the U.S. have a capacity to destroy the military installations of Hiroshima without using the atomic bomb? The answer to that is unfortunately yes.

The Twentieth Air Force had the capacity to destroy whatever it wanted on the Japanese mainland. Towards the end of the war it was safer in a B-29 flying over Japan than in a training mission over the United States. General Curtis Le May felt at the time that the action--dropping the bomb--was unnecessary, as did Admiral Arleigh Burke; the two men who were putting most of the hurt on Japan. Had the 20th Air Force gone in to firebomb Hiroshima, perhaps twenty to forty thousand would have been killed, but that means that the sixty thousand extra who died as a result of the atomic bomb would not have been. The option to minimize civilian losses was available and it was not chosen, therein lays the evil.

Had the U.S. no other way of defending itself against attack except by nuclear weapons then I believe it would have been justified in using them, provided they were targeted at military targets only and with an eye to minimizing civilian casualties. The problem was that no one cared about the Japanese, no one gave a damn. In fact Hiroshima was also seen as an experiment, the fact that it had remained deliberately unscathed with a view of it being a test city for nuclear experiments shows just how degraded the concern for the Japanese had become, the citizens of Hiroshima were to be the guinea pigs of atomic warfare.

Truman did agonise over the civilian losses that the bombs were going to produce; I do not stand in judgment of him. He was a fundamentally decent man and I believe that when he made the decision to drop the atomic bomb, he did so with a good and hence binding conscience. I live in a different time and benefit from the freedom his actions provided. Free from the pressures, sorrows and anxiety of war, I and others can dispassionately reflect on the situation with the benefit of hindsight; which by its nature is always crystal clear. Truman did not enjoy that privilege.

Every society should make a moral accounting of its conduct and if it finds itself wanting, ask for forgiveness from the Almighty and determine not to repeat the same mistakes again. Our Christian tradition reasserts that we should choose to suffer death rather than perform evil. Death before dishonour is not just the motto of some fanatical Japanese; it is also the motto of the Christian soldier.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Double trouble with double effect.

I’ve been pondering double effect for a while and thanks to the moral definitions in the previous post, I feel I have a better understanding of the phenomena.

Firstly when one acts one brings something into being: Something is made real through the act of the will. By running I make my intention of going for a run real. The things that are actualized in this world can be good, bad or indifferent.

When one performs a good act one wants to bring something good into the world. When one an evil act they causes an evil in this world. But what happens when one brings about an action which brings about both good and evil at the same time?

How does one form a moral assessment of surgery, in the days prior to anaesthetic? When the knife is put into the flesh, curing the patient (good) begins at the same time pain(evil) and mutilation(evil) is actuated. To deliberately cure someone is good, to deliberately hurt someone is evil, then how do we evaluate the morality of surgery if intrinsic to its actuation, good and evil result?

The Christian tradition stated that the moral species of the act is determined through its moral object: what was the moral quality of the “thing” realized through the act. Example; putting a dent in a brand new car--as in an act of vandalism--is evil, since by denting a car, it is privated in some way. The moral object of an act concerns itself with the moral quality of what is bought about by the act, not why the act was done.

Now according to Aquinas one does good when one actualizes a good, and one sins (peccatum) when one actualizes an evil; now sin in this context is non-pejorative. A man sins and does good when he performs an action with a double effect. So how to determine its permissibility or not?

Christianity has stated that acts which bring about a state with a mixed moral quality are permitted provided:
  • That a person may choose to act in a way which results in mixed moral objects provided that the person is choosing the good moral object.
  • The mixed moral quality of the act must on balance be good. A proportional assessment of the act has to be made and the result must be in favor of the good. In sum, a net good is achieved by the act.

Now a man is culpable for the things he has control over not for the things he doesn’t. In choosing an act which actuates mixed moral objects, one cannot be blamed if the evil moral object is bought about, not through any choice of the agent. He is inculpable. However if the evil moral object could be avoided in some way then the agent becomes culpable because he has some choice in what type of evil is bought about. No choice, no culpability. There is a double imperative in Christianity: do good and avoid evil.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

The Good Conscience

I thought I would post a link to an interesting speech delivered by Bishop Anthony Fisher of the Catholic Church here in Australia. Bishop Fisher is one of the most conservative Catholic bishops out there and a strong defender of orthodoxy. His comments on conscience are quite nuanced. They can be found here.

Monday, August 13, 2007

An Inconvenient truth

The local paper for right thinking people; The Age, frequently berates outer suburban types for living in high energy consuming McMansions in the outer suburbs. It’s quite funny then that the paper ran an article in its Sunday edition which showed some “surprising results’. It would appear that our affluent inner city environmental types leave the largest eco-footprint in the country. Those berating the community about their inconsiderate use of water and fossil fuels tend are its worst offenders. Reminds me a bit about Al Gore’s energy Bills. Who would have ever thought the Left a bunch of hypocrites?

Yours truly lives in an area that is quite conservative and also has a very low eco footprint. Right wing and environmentally sensitive; now there’s an inconvenient truth. Anyway you can see how much damage you’re doing-in Australia at least-by clicking here.

The Damned.

One of the blogs I like to visit is David Apatoff's, Illustration art. His latest posting deals with Mr James Montgomery Flagg, the illustrator who painted this famous poster.

The fellow's story is tragic; Mr Flagg you see loved beauty, but for the wrong reason. To him the beautiful was something that was valued because of the pleasure it gave to Mr Flagg, but not of the object it represented. The consequences were predictable. Read on.
(Caution, some risque art)

Sunday, August 12, 2007

The Verdict.

I've been waiting for my "higher authority" to get back to me, they haven't officially as yet, but Annoymous of 5.58 pm sent me a very interesting post which I think settles the matter.

"I don't know if a Jesuit qualifies as "higher authority" but he's probably more likely to be right than a bunch of guys yakking on the web. One of the instances Father Hardon gives below (in his Pocket Catholic Dictionary), is almost exactly analogous to the discussion at WWWtW...

(Father Hardon then goes on to discuss the principle of double effect and gives the following example)

...the commander of a submarine in wartime who torpedoes an armed merchant vessel of the enemy., although he foresees that several innocent children on board will be killed.

(Father Hardon then states that the action is licit if) All four conditions are fulfilled :
  • he intends to merely lessen the power of the enemy by destroying an armed merchant ship. He does not wish to kill the innocent children;
  • his action of torpedoing the ship is not evil in itself;
  • the evil effect (the death of the children) is not the cause of the good effect (the lessening of the enemy's strength);
  • there is sufficient reason for permitting the evil effect to follow, and this reason is administering a damaging blow to those who are unjustly attacking his country.
You were right, at least according to Father Hardon, S.J...

Oh, and who was Father Hardon S.J. ?

Click here

The defence rests.

We praise God and not our strength for it.

Btw, Annonymous; good wine shall be drunk in your honour.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Legal terminolgy.

Janet E Smith, of conservative orthodox Roman Catholic fame, gives a little run down on moral terminology. Some people may find it helpful. It can be found here.

The right call

I’ve been away for a while, posting on other blogs. Apparently I can get into trouble anywhere I go so I guess in order to keep the peace, I am staying at home.

Recently I was involved in a rather engaging struggle over at the What’s Wrong with the World site. The site is definitely worth a visit and the topics raised there are treated intelligently and with conviction.

The matter under contention was titled The Right Call? The thread can be found here:

The moral question in essence was: Is it morally permissible to shoot down an civilian aircraft, commandeered by terrorists in flight and intending to use the aircraft as a weapon? Essentially a moral judgment was to be made on Dick Cheney’s decision to shoot down Flight 89 during the September 11 attacks.

Yours truly, took up position as counsel for the defence; arguing that the act was morally permissible under the principle of double effect for the following reasons.

1) The intention was to defend the United States.
2) Shooting down the aircraft was a morally legitimate form of defence.
3) The shooting down of the aircraft would have a double effect:
a. Stopping the attack. (good)
b. Death of the innocent civilian passengers(Evil)
4) Death of the civilians was not wished/intended.
5) A proportionate analysis of the double effect weighed heavily on the side of good.

The action of the Vice President conformed to the principle of double effect and hence was morally licit.

The prosecution argued that the VP’s actions were morally illicit. It was agreed that:

1) The intention was to defend the United States
2) The Vice President did not wish the civilians any harm
3) A proportionate analysis favoured the action but;

4) The action of shooting down the aircraft was morally impermissible since innocent civilians were going to be killed. It was argued that as the death of the innocent civilians was foreseen, and hence must have been intended. As deliberately causing the death of innocent civilians is intrinsically evil, the action was morally forbidden.
5) The principle of double effect is negated if evil means are chosen for good ends.

The Prosecution argued that the defence were proportionalists, justifying any evil act provided good could come of it. The Prosecution argued that the killing of the innocent was always and everywhere a deliberate evil and any other such act in which a deliberate evil was chosen was always and everywhere wrong.

The Defence argued that firstly, the Prosecution's understanding of intention was deficient; just actions could have deliberately foreseen evil consequences which were unintended. What defined the goodness or badness of an act depended on its moral object. The Prosecution argued that a deliberately chosen behaviour which resulted in intrinsic evil was always a sign of an evil moral object, the Defence rejected this proposition. Furthermore the Defence argued that the Prosecution's understand of double effect was flawed, since apparently some intrinsic evils were permissible and others were not. Cutting the flesh is intrinsically evil, yet is permitted for surgery. The Prosecution agreed that surgery was permitted but because cutting the flesh was not intrinsically evil.

At stake for the Defence was more than the question under consideration: At stake was everything.

If the Prosecution’s line of reasoning was correct, then any action in which an intrinsic evil was deliberately bought about would be not permitted. Killing one’s self is an intrinsic evil. One can step in front of fast moving train and afterwards claim that the train killed him, but one cannot say that he did not foresee his death. The Prosecution's line of reasoning would lead to the conclusion that the death was suicide; their early argument illustrated this position. The Defence insisted that why a person did what they did was vitally important. If stepping in front of a train to push a young child off the tracks resulted in the foreseen death of the rescuer, then the act was self sacrifice; not suicide: the highest of motives, as our Master taught.

Indeed; the Defence feels that the line of reasoning pursued is a most evil attack on Christianity, veiled as a defence. It was mentioned in opening argument, that had the passengers of flight 89 deliberately crashed the aircraft to save other Americans on the ground, it would have been collective suicide. Yet; our master would have taught that no greater love man hath, and would have such men supp with him in paradise. Indeed in choosing to have himself killed, Christ would have, by the prosecutions reasoning: committed suicide: The Son of God becomes the Devil himself. It is this foreseen consequence of the Prosecution’s reasoning, that drove the Defence’s vigorous crusade, but as usual argument drew to a stalemate.

The Defence as such has deferred the matter to higher authority and will publish the findings of this authority when it becomes available.

It remains to be seen whether the Prosecution or the Defence made the right call.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Eating your greenies makes you healthier.

I love nuclear power and this article in the Australian is priceless.


Sunday, April 01, 2007


Orwell was right; Many on the left have a remarkable capacity for doublethink. For those of you who don’t know what doublethink is a definition is in order: Doublethink is the capacity to hold two mutually contradictory thoughts in ones head and not notice the contradiction. It’s almost a prerequisite capacity in order to belong to the Left.
The latest cloning bill bought before the Victorian Parliament would support genetic manipulation of the embryo. But here’s the rub, why are they against genetically modified crops but for genetically modified humans? Beats me.

Friday, March 30, 2007

A McDonalds culture.

I personally don’t mind McDonalds. No body forces you to go there. The food is appropriate if you’re on the run, ravenous and need something to eat. It’s cheap and the kids love it. It’s a bit like chocolate, fine as a treat but unhealthy eaten all the time. One of the things I don’t like about McDonalds is its ubiquity. I am not very traveled. But in New Zealand they are everywhere as they are in Europe. I don’t have a problem with McDonalds chasing economic opportunity rather it’s the cultural damage that it brings with it that bothers me

The last thing I wanted to do in Europe was to eat at a McDonalds, because I can eat at one at home. The whole point of traveling is to experience other cultures; not to relive what is at home. But that was the problem, to my mind Europe was too much like home. Standing in Vienna, it struck me that the faces were the same, the scenery was a bit different: I had traveled around the world to experience another backdrop. The injury that a business like McDonalds does to a country such as France is that it makes the place a bit less French and bit more American. Is it such a great idea that France becomes less French when multinationals set their businesses there?

Now most of my friends on the Left would agree that it’s a bad thing. However I feel that they are being hypocritical, for why is the destruction of economic diversity so much worse than the destruction of cultural diversity? Yet my friends on the left have no problems with multiculturalism. In my mind economic multi-nationalism is just as bad as demographic multi-nationalism; in other words multi-culturalism. Our friends on the left are very keen on keeping biological diversity; they are not so keen on cultural diversity. When cultural diversity becomes universal it simultaneously becomes extinct. Japan is the nature it is because it is full of Japanese. If we were to put large minorities of Europeans, Indians and Africans in Japan it would cease to be Japanese, it would become multicultural.

And that’s the problem, traveling will become pointless because of the world will be the same. It will be one big melting pot; its individual flavours indistinguishable from each other.

Thursday, March 29, 2007


“The Earth has a skin and that skin has diseases, one of its diseases is called man.”
Friedrich Nietzsche

My mother ran a spotless house and I suppose I have inherited a legacy of enmity towards dirt and mess: I like things clean. I grew up in an industrial part of town and I can still remember as a child, my disgust at dirty walls, industrial rubbish, polluted creeks and smelly air. I always thought that the men who allowed this to happen were somehow deficient in manners. I always imagined their homes as being grubby, with piles of dishes and washing lying around. Little did I realize that the men who owned these factories, left them, to go to nice tree lined streets, in areas zoned to prevent industrial activities when the evening came.

I think it was Chesterton who once remarked that every movement starts with some disputed truth and invariably ends in error. The environmental movement is one such movement.

I have much sympathy to the environmental movement. The way that many of our ancestors treated the environment was simply abysmal. They poured pollutants down the rivers which we drank from, poisoned the air we breathed and generally left their trash out of site. Many of the great capitalists in the past would think nothing of cutting down a whole forest, fouling a river or wiping out a species in the ever relentless pursuit of greater profit. Afterwards retiring to great estates that would maintain nature in its most pristine if not sometimes contrived forms. Hence it was right that this total disregard of our common environment should have been opposed. But what started out as a noble cause has morphed into an ignoble philosophy.

What irks me with regard to the environmental movement is its quasi religious overtone. Walking on elevated bridges through forest canopy is meant to inspire the same religious awe that the relics of the saints were meant to arouse: A trip to Amazon, equivalent to a pilgrimage to Mecca. Somehow, any disturbance of the way things are is the equivalent of sin. Indeed it is this undertone; that mans presence is sacrilegious to the environment, that rubs me the wrong man. In Christianity man was cast out of the Garden of Eden when he ate from the tree of knowledge. In the environmental movement, paradise was lost when God created man. I suppose Nietzsche could be considered a proto-Greenie.

I take the biblical view that man was put in the Garden of Eden to tend it, not worship it. This means that we have a responsibility towards it and not veneration. We are free to use the resources of nature, provided we do so with good husbandry; for we are the stewards of this Earth and not its owners.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Starting out.

The Sunday Age is always good for a laugh. The story that got me thinking, dealt with the tribulations of a young couple who were having difficulty purchasing a first home. Our aspirant homeowners were having difficulty finding a affordable property in their first choice suburbs of East Melbourne and Richmond. Now for those of you who don’t know Melbourne, East Melbourne is one of the most affluent and expensive inner city suburbs. Richmond has its dingy bits, but it too has quite a bit of very expensive housing and amongst our inner city types carries a bit of prestige.

Now in days of Yore, a young couple would scrimp and save and move into a modest home in a modest suburb and slowly move up. But not our young couple; they were starting at the top.

What got me down about this article was the way these young people felt that there was some sense of injustice in their not being able to afford luxury immediately. This sentiment is not isolated and seems to be a growing contagion, especially amongst the younger generation. I was bought up old school: if you wanted luxuries you saved up till you had enough to purchase them, not the current generation though: Luxury and prestige are a “right” and their inability to afford them a “problem”.

Likewise, there has been much talk of rapidly rising rents. I have quite a few real estate agents as patients; they’re finding it difficult to fill vacancies in rental properties. However the suburbs that I serve don’t carry high status. The “problem” our “progressive paper” harps on about is the high expense of high status housing: Big deal.

There is plenty of cheap housing if one is prepared to accept compromises; the problem is that most of our trendy, eco-friendly inner city types are not. With champagne tastes and beer budgets, the bastards are complaining about the price of caviar. Excuse me for not being sympathetic.

Monday, March 12, 2007

The value of tradition

I am at variance with the mainstream conservative movement when it comes to tradition. Most conservatives seem to have a soft spot for tradition. Many conservatives see it as part of the “continuity of life” or a link with their ancestors. American and British conservatives tend to think of the conservative mission as a project to preserve the “old ideas”: The conservative movement as a sort of intellectual ossuary.
I am convinced that there are others though, who are conservative for aesthetic reasons. Fussiness, traditional modes of conduct, titles and formality give them much pleasure. Recently there was an interesting debate on Right Reason on this very matter;


I value tradition simply because the dead sometimes have quite intelligent things to say. The men and women who lived before us were not all stupid. Their circumstances may have been different, but in their dealings with human nature, things have not changed. So when it comes to issues on how we should live I am quite prepared to give a respectful ear to the opinions of my forefathers. I recognize that they were men and prone to the failings of men: They were not infallible. However where I differ from a significant portion of my conservative colleagues is that where as I give them a respectful ear, they worship them; and Idolatry is a sin.
This worshiping of the old I think has done the conservative cause a lot of damage. The old world was full of problems, the modernist approach was to try to fix them up—usually the wrong way—while the conservative approach was either not fix them up at all or to turn the clock back. Traditionalism is the process of allowing dead people to do your thinking for you, hence I believe that it was justified that the conservatives were called the stupid mans party.


For what it’s worth, my conservatism is rooted in a metaphysical view that was until quite recently, common opinion: That there is a right and wrong which is quite independent of my perception of them. My imperative as a conservative is to live the right way, not the old way. The fact that my forefathers were right on so many issues means that I give them a respectful ear, not a bended knee.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Why not pay the protestors to beat the police up?

Several years ago I had the unfortunate experience of treating an ambulance officer who was injured at the S20 protests approximately 7 years ago. The poor fellow had metal objects—nuts and ball bearings—and had urine thrown at him which had splashed him in the eye. He came in anxious with regard to risk of catching certain diseases. The risk was small I explained but still there. While organising his tests we chatted about the days protests and in no uncertain terms he convinced me that the rioters were at fault and the police remarkably restrained.
Several hours later to my surprise one of the rioters came in, wanting me to document his injuries, which consisted of some minor bruising. He regaled me at length of how the police had attacked the innocent rioters, later on that night when I got home and saw the TV news, the pictures on television seemed to support the paramedics’ view.
Today this in the paper;


Why do the police bother?

Monday, February 26, 2007

Poverty 101

A lot of my professional career has been spent in dealing with the problems of poor people. Indeed for most of my life prior to graduating from university, I shared a practical solidarity with the poor by being one of them. My parents were working class people, who migrated to this country because quite simply, there was nothing for them to eat at home. So when I speak of poverty I feel that I can make statements safely and with some authority, I therefore propose a taxonomy of poverty.

Firstly: the nature of poverty.

There is absolute poverty; this is quite simply not having enough to eat or drink, lacking a roof over your head, clothes to cover yourself with and the like. This is the nature of poverty in third world countries.

Relative poverty; this is quite simply not having as much as the man next door. It used to be called by the old name of envy, though in these politically correct times it could mean living in a society with a high Gini coefficient. This forms the bulk of poverty in modern western countries.

The causes of poverty.

Resource deprivation: This is when one has lack of access to resources to alleviate their predicament. This can happen through theft, denial of work,lack of capital or income. Poverty of this kind is alleviated by directing resources to the deprived. Most kind hearted people feel that the way to fix poverty is through resource access.

This however poses problems, because by and far in Western countries the biggest cause of poverty is:

Resource misallocation: This is where resources are available but are used in ways that maintain relative deprivation. Charity directed towards the poor of this type, tends to buy them little luxuries, which once used, leave the individual in the same state that they were in before. Poverty of this kind is only temporarily ameliorated, it is never cured at all.

It is this-- resource misallocation—type of poverty, that forms the bulk of the Western World's poor. It is indeed the most fascinating type of poverty. I have as one of my patients, a person who won more than $600,000 in the local lottery, and who after two years, and orgy of consumption, is back on social security. Indeed, it seems to be a reasonably common phenomenon. Approximately one third of lottery winners are in the same predicament as my patient. Now if a one off gratuity of $600,000 cannot relieve poverty, how much will?

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Rude behaviour

Over coffee this morning, my wife asked if people interrupt their consultations with me when their mobile phone rings. She had been reading an article in the paper about the general level of rudeness in society. She was quite aghast when I replied that it happens all of the time. Most people excuse themselves before answering the phone, however a significant bulk don’t, expecting me to stop the consultation so that they can carry on with their personal life: In a nutshell they are rude.

The point of the newspaper article was that there is a growing problem of rudeness in society, a point which I totally agree with. Rudeness if considered is really a lack of consideration to others. Whereas tolerance aims to put up with disagreeable behaviors, courtesy aims to make one tolerable. In other words, courtesy is an effort to please society.

However pleasing society otherwise known as social conformity has been under cultural attack in the West for most of the last century. Amongst our “creative types” the escape from social conformity has been the hallmark of personal maturity and growth in authenticity of the person. Hollywood and most contemporary literature idolises the rebel and scorns the conformist.

So is it any surprise then that people who have been conditioned to do their own thing without regard to others, do. Also as we keep being reminded standards are arbitrary and who are we to impose standards on others? Good modern multicultural man is tolerant.

In our current society we have reached a situation where we have a synergy between broad tolerance and self assertion which I believe is contributing to the expansion of boorish and rude behaviour. Whereas previously this behaviour was confined to the lower classes--with the better behaved affluent, insulating themselves by postcode and employment type-- now, through the rising level of affluence, these people are increasingly coming in contact with each other.

What this means for the genteel is that their interaction with society is less pleasant. While I do not think that there will be a “war” between the classes on this matter life will become rather less pleasant. The rude and the obnoxious abound.