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The difference between a democracy and an oclocracy
Posted: 20 March 2008 07:57 AM   [ Ignore ]  
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Famously, Aristotle had an idea that there existed three good type of governments that easily could pervert into bad governments:

Monarchy could degenerate into tyranny.

Aristocracy could degenerate into oligarchy.

And,

Democracy could degenerate into oclocracy (rule of the mob).


While we may be justifiedly suspicious as to whether monarchy or aristocracy are good type of governments, Aristotle does have a point that various governmental types can carry within them the seeds for their own destruction.

That is also the case with democracies, also the modern forms of them:

The oclocracy is essentially a type of government that says ALL attitudes, laws and rights in a society can be dispensed with/ instituted insofar as the majority of the populace wishes it.

But note that this is utterly at odds with the concept of individual RIGHTS.
Whether we regard rights as inalienable or as prima facie rights in a contractual, egalitarian sense, if we are to follow the oclocratic model, the individual as such has NO rights other than those the prevailing majority might concede to him.
If the majority desire to kill all elderly women because sagging breasts are ugly, then the oclocratic model says they are fully entitled to do so.

Yet, in a rights system, the individual can command a degree of respect from the majority on basis of his non-violation of the basic contract.

In order for a rights-based system to actually function, therefore, the desires of the majority are NOT to be regarded as intrinsically valid, but only insofar as they are consonant with the underlying system of rights.
And, equally importantly, if a minority sees that THEIR rights, or some other individuals’ rights are threatened and undermined, then such a minority must be conceded the right to subdue the majority, with violence if necessary.

Thus, to go against the opinion of the majority can be morally justifiable.

A democracy (in the sense of a good government) can then be defined as a system in which the majority vote is to be respected/implemented, INSOFAR as that vote does not violate basic individual rights.
If it does, then it is invalid.

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Posted: 12 April 2008 06:31 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]  
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It might be added that, in principle, whereas it is impossible to force upon others a well-functioning democracy, it can be perfectly possible, and indeed justifiable, to force upon others a system that is based upon upholding human rights. In particular, where a large group exists that is commonly involved in flagrant abuse of the human rights of some vulnerable minority, those abuses may be so severe that it would be wrong not to take control and forcibly prevent rights violations. They do not have any rights to violate others’ rights, and insofar as it is probable they will engage in such acts, others are no longer obliged to let them do as they please (i.e, engage in such violations).

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Posted: 12 April 2008 07:19 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]  
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arildno

Thus, to go against the opinion of the majority can be morally justifiable.

A democracy (in the sense of a good government) can then be defined as a system in which the majority vote is to be respected/implemented, INSOFAR as that vote does not violate basic individual rights.
If it does, then it is invalid.

That is the beauty of the Bill of Rights and the 3 branches of government set forth in the US Constitution.  The checks and balances idea.

Unfortunately, often the powers that be find ways to weasel around explicit law with “Executive orders” and “Executive priviledge” which makes a mockery of individual rights.

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Posted: 12 April 2008 07:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]  
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arildno
It might be added that, in principle, whereas it is impossible to force upon others a well-functioning democracy, it can be perfectly possible, and indeed justifiable, to force upon others a system that is based upon upholding human rights. In particular, where a large group exists that is commonly involved in flagrant abuse of the human rights of some vulnerable minority, those abuses may be so severe that it would be wrong not to take control and forcibly prevent rights violations. They do not have any rights to violate others’ rights, and insofar as it is probable they will engage in such acts, others are no longer obliged to let them do as they please (i.e, engage in such violations).

 


In theory, you are absolutely correct. In reality, dismally wrong.

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Posted: 12 April 2008 07:29 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]  
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I’ve never said that “reality” flows effortlessly from “theory”, nor that “theory” is some sort of idealized description of reality.

So, how am I “wrong”?

Furthermore, hand-wringing and paralytic inactivity out of fear that an intervention MIGHT bring out some violations of its own is not a moral attitude at all. Rather, it is deeply immoral.

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Posted: 12 April 2008 07:56 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]  
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arildno - 12 April 2008 11:29 AM

I’ve never said that “reality” flows effortlessly from “theory”, nor that “theory” is some sort of idealized description of reality.

So, how am I “wrong”?

Furthermore, hand-wringing and paralytic inactivity out of fear that an intervention MIGHT bring out some violations of its own is not a moral attitude at all. Rather, it is deeply immoral.

You are right, it is deeply immoral. My comment was not saying you are wrong in bringing the immorality to light.  I am only suggesting that putting it into practice does not happen in the world today.  In “reality” it doesn’t seem to work. So if you are making any assumptions that because it is immoral and theoretically we are morally obliged to act on it, this fact in and of itself does not make it happen in reality. It is “wrong” (incorrect)  because ending human rights violations in the world today is not happening even though it is immoral for such abuses to take place.

And I will also add it is immoral for such acts to take place but it is also immoral for the rest of the world to NOT act on it.  There are two immoralities here: the practice of human rights violation and the apathetic disregard towards it by the rest of the world.

I think we are actually saying the same thing.

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Posted: 12 April 2008 08:12 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]  
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lindajean - 12 April 2008 11:56 AM
arildno - 12 April 2008 11:29 AM

I’ve never said that “reality” flows effortlessly from “theory”, nor that “theory” is some sort of idealized description of reality.

So, how am I “wrong”?

Furthermore, hand-wringing and paralytic inactivity out of fear that an intervention MIGHT bring out some violations of its own is not a moral attitude at all. Rather, it is deeply immoral.

You are right, it is deeply immoral. My comment was not saying you are wrong in bringing the immorality to light.  I am only suggesting that putting it into practice does not happen in the world today.

Agreed.

  In “reality” it doesn’t seem to work. So if you are making any assumptions that because it is immoral and theoretically we are morally obliged to act on it, this fact in and of itself does not make it happen in reality. It is “wrong” (incorrect)  because ending human rights violations in the world today is not happening even though it is immoral for such abuses to take place.

And I will also add it is immoral for such acts to take place but it is also immoral for the rest of the world to NOT act on it.  There are two immoralities here: the practice of human rights violation and the apathetic disregard towards it by the rest of the world.

In my view, a violation does not, in a normative sense, automatically translate into a moral OBLIGATION to prevent that violation (or similar ones). Rather, the primary violation, representing a breach on the violator’s obligations, nullifies others’ obligation to uphold rights that were granted to the violator ON CONDITION that he does not become a violator. In order for a positive obligation to be generated to stop the violator’s violations, so that non-action is condemnable, due consideration must be given as the nature and gravity of the violations, along with an appraisal of the probability of success and the means of implementing it.

I think we are actually saying the same thing.

Quite possibly.

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Posted: 12 April 2008 09:36 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]  
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arildno

In my view, a violation does not, in a normative sense, automatically translate into a moral OBLIGATION to prevent that violation (or similar ones). Rather, the primary violation, representing a breach on the violator’s obligations, nullifies others’ obligation to uphold rights that were granted to the violator ON CONDITION that he does not become a violator. In order for a positive obligation to be generated to stop the violator’s violations, so that non-action is condemnable, due consideration must be given as the nature and gravity of the violations, along with an appraisal of the probability of success and the means of implementing it.

When you state, “Rather, the primary violation, representing a breach on the violator’s obligations, nullifies others’ obligation to uphold rights that were granted to the violator ON CONDITION that he does not become a violator…’

I am interpreting this to mean that there is no moral obligation to nullify the violator’s rights, unless you have   successful actions available to stop him. 

I am arguing that we have a moral obligation to act on crimes against humanity, but the reality of actually doing it due to economic, strategic or other factors do not make it feasible much of the time and sometimes may even be harmful to those who are morally obligated. 

You seem to be saying it with a twist: we do not have an obligation morally unless there are certain probabilities that can be reasonably implemented. These probabilities need to be duly considered before taking action.

We both agree you need success to nullify the violator.  You say that is the only time we are morally obligated.  I say we are always morally obligated but because of the implausibility of nullifying the violator it is not usually possible or reasonable to do so, and that doing some may cause more harm than good to others not involved in the violations.

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Posted: 12 April 2008 09:49 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]  
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lindajean - 12 April 2008 01:36 PM

arildno

In my view, a violation does not, in a normative sense, automatically translate into a moral OBLIGATION to prevent that violation (or similar ones). Rather, the primary violation, representing a breach on the violator’s obligations, nullifies others’ obligation to uphold rights that were granted to the violator ON CONDITION that he does not become a violator. In order for a positive obligation to be generated to stop the violator’s violations, so that non-action is condemnable, due consideration must be given as the nature and gravity of the violations, along with an appraisal of the probability of success and the means of implementing it.

When you state, “Rather, the primary violation, representing a breach on the violator’s obligations, nullifies others’ obligation to uphold rights that were granted to the violator ON CONDITION that he does not become a violator…’

I am interpreting this to mean that there is no moral obligation to nullify the violator’s rights, unless you have   successful actions available to stop him.


Not quite. It is not meaningful to say that the violator has any “rights”. Rather, the rights conception is to be understood as the protective shield around an individual others are obliged to uphold as long as that individual upholds his obligations. Once he violates those obligations, others are no longer obliged to protect him, i.e he has lost his “rights”.

But just because he has lost that right, meaning it would not necessarily be wrong of others to constrain him of freedoms normally protected by the rights shield, it does not follow that such a constraint is morally obligatory upon others to impose.
They have the choice of doing so, but not necessarily the duty to do so.

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Posted: 12 April 2008 12:14 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]  
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arildno

Not quite. It is not meaningful to say that the violator has any “rights”. Rather, the rights conception is to be understood as the protective shield around an individual others are obliged to uphold as long as that individual upholds his obligations. Once he violates those obligations, others are no longer obliged to protect him, i.e he has lost his “rights”.

Agreed.

airldno
But just because he has lost that right, meaning it would not necessarily be wrong of others to constrain him of freedoms normally protected by the rights shield, it does not follow that such a constraint is morally obligatory upon others to impose.
They have the choice of doing so, but not necessarily the duty to do so.

Disagree.  They have a moral obligation but because of circumstances they do not have the means to bring it to fruition.

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Posted: 13 April 2008 10:36 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]  
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Hmm..that attitude implies that moral behaviour is self-contradictory, and hence, meaningless.
Before ending up there, we might try to save it by saying that lack of feasible action dissolves the obligation to perform such actions.

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Posted: 13 April 2008 11:09 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]  
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arildno - 13 April 2008 02:36 PM

Hmm..that attitude implies that moral behaviour is self-contradictory, and hence, meaningless.
Before ending up there, we might try to save it by saying that lack of feasible action dissolves the obligation to perform such actions.


I don’t see how it would be meaningless.

A poor mother may have a moral obligation to feed her child but does not have the means (or feasibility) to do it.  The obligation is still there and it is not meaningless, nor does the obligation dissolve.

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Posted: 13 April 2008 11:12 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]  
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Why are one obliged to perform actions one cannot perform?

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Posted: 13 April 2008 11:35 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]  
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arildno - 13 April 2008 03:12 PM

Why are one obliged to perform actions one cannot perform?

I would say one ought to put forth effort to perform the action and a person has an obligation to do that. If you have a sick child and have no money to get him to the doctor then you still have a moral obligation to find help, ask a friend, seek out a relative or at least take him to the doctor and tell her you have no money (and then she has a moral obligation to help you even if she doesn’t get paid.)

Another example:  There is a genocide in Darfur (or something of that nature.) Governments across the globe claim there is no solution and they have no way to stop it. Yet, I argue we, the Western world have a moral obligation to work together to end the genocide.  Is it feasible to send in troops to stop it?  Probably not.  So does that indicate we no longer have a moral obligation? No, it does not. It means we attempt to try other measures and we work together as a block of nations to put pressure on the Sudanese to stop the killing. Groups can rationalize that this is not feasible.  Well, maybe it is and maybe it isn’t but the obligation is still there.

The problem with moral obligations is how do you know when you have reached the point where it is no longer feasible? This is often a matter of judgment and something people will disagree on.

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Posted: 13 April 2008 12:09 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]  
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The fact is that your experience (and the law) makes a distinction between “compulsory” and “prohibitory”. Get used to it. As an aside, “obligatory” is still not quite the same as “compulsory”, because you’re not obliged to do the compulsory thing unless the situation comes up.

[ Edited: 13 April 2008 12:38 PM by Traces Elk]
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Posted: 13 April 2008 06:04 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]  
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Salt Creek - 13 April 2008 04:09 PM

The fact is that your experience (and the law) makes a distinction between “compulsory” and “prohibitory”. Get used to it. As an aside, “obligatory” is still not quite the same as “compulsory”, because you’re not obliged to do the compulsory thing unless the situation comes up.

Salt Creek,
If this response was for my ears, you’ve lost me.  You will need to put a little more effort forward to shine the light on me. Thank-you.

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