Re: sentient, malevolent, whatever :-)

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From: Dave Long (
Date: Thu May 18 2000 - 12:11:07 PDT

There is a great footnote in Koerner's _The Pleasures of Counting_:
| Using the model above, explain why we may expect fishing to
| extinction may be rational, in a simple economic sense, for species
| which reproduce slowly*.
| * This will disturb only those who believe /both/ in saving the
| whale and the substitution of economic for moral choices.

From "sentient, malevolent, whatever":
> and the folks trying to argue for sentiency are getting the same old
> stuff that went on for generations in the slave era as "proof" that
> folks with a different skin color couldn't be as human as others.

Of what "slave era" do you speak? It was a historically common
institution, and depending upon how narrow a definition of liberty
one subscribes to, it could be argued that the wage slave is with us
still. Probably even common pre-historically, but it was agriculture
which made large scale slavery economically worthwhile, and when
people do enough accounting eventually they wind up literate. (the
quipu may be an exception -- anyone know of good quipu resources?)

If you are speaking of the antebellum south, then I believe the
justification was based on:
1) strong property rights, and
2) the good of "exporting values", and
3) slaves are cheap. To the low cost producer in a global economy,
   the invisible hand writes clearly, and of course a little short
   term vice is good in the name of economic development, right?

Perhaps the similarity between that time and our own should disturb
only those who believe both in freeing the slave and the substitution
of economic for moral choices.

My working hypothesis is that one's political rights are determined
by how closely one resembles those who can afford to acquire* the
minimum militarily useful panoply. I used to worry, because it
seemed that commissioning a carrier group is an expenditure beyond
the means of all but artificial persons (and perhaps a handful of
natural ones). However, the VC and the Afghani provide reasonable
examples of the importance of considering the minimal panoply, and
that is why democracy is alive and well.

Sure, our version of democracy, a system where all animals are equal
(and many are more equal than others), does tend to display a bit of
man's inhumanity to his fellow man, but we have a good deal of
evidence to show that other systems merely provide the opposite.


* well, acquire and use. I wouldn't be surprised if a chimp could
wield an SMG; I'd be very surprised if a group of chimps could
decide where to place the HMGs, coordinate fire and movement, etc.


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