viagra for salelicphilosopher.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/800px-Lake_Dukan_06-510×382.jpg” alt=”" width=”510″ height=”314″ />The recent news coverage of the three American hikers detained in Iran since 2009 raises important questions about ‘danger tourism’ and its role in foreign policy. The hikers’ trip to mountainous northern Iraq took an unpleasant turn when they wandered into Iran and were promptly accused of espionage by the Iranian government.
Media response to the event has been generally sympathetic to the hikers. But maybe they shouldn’t get off so easily. Consider their vacation destination. Kurdistan has many features that make it attractive for adventure tourism: it’s isolated, unconventional, and thrillingly dangerous. But there are many other destinations that meet similar criteria and are far less politically sensitive.
So why Kurdistan, and why the border region? Is it such a unique and lovely place that the hikers had to go there specifically? It was most likely chosen because of its political instability, not in spite of it. The State Department makes it very clear that travel to Iraq is inherently risky. It’s even reasonable to assume that hiking in Kurdistan is politically dangerous. Considering these travelers were appropriately warned, to what extent is the government obligated to protect them? Read more
On both the 11th and the 23rd of this month there have been stories on BBC citing the inadequacy of the international aid response to the Pakistani floods. At the moment, there are seven mentions of the Pakistani floods on the front pages of the BBC site.
U.S. news outlets have less to say. CNN, Fox, CBS, the New York Times, and the Washington Post have one or two mentions each on their front pages. ABC News and the Wall Street Journal have none at all. Elsewhere in the world, Der Spiegel, Xinhua and Pravda are about the same.
The British understandably feel a peculiar connection with their former colonial possession. But in most of the world, you would not think that there is an ongoing calamity displacing millions of people, exposing them to hunger and disease.
One BBC article offers tentative answers for this indifference. Some suggest that Pakistan is merely unluc
ky. The floods come while donors are fatigued from the Haitian earthquake; the disaster unfolded over a span of weeks and makes a weak headliner; the floods are a part of the seasonal monsoon rains.
Other explanations, however, point to Pakistan’s perceived faults. Namely, Pakistan’s links to terrorism and corruption within its government make sympathy a tough sell. Comments on the story’s page suggest, sometimes harshly, that a country capable of amassing nuclear weapons, maintaining a large army and funneling money to terrorists surely has the means to rescue its own people.
This is close to approval of collective punishment. Victims of the flood cannot be held personally responsible for the dubious actions of Pakistan’s ISI (its clandestine intelligence service), its decades under military government, or greed and corruption of its officials. Moral and legal codes everywhere assign agency to individuals and judge them accordingly. Can individuals be blamed for the actions of others in a group over whom they have little control? What are the bounds of collective responsibility?
Image by Flickr user DFID-UK Department for International Development used under a Creative Commons Attribution License
Should the poor be allowed to choose?
The New York Times reports that malnutrition and starvation remain stubbornly entrenched decades after India’s Green Revolution, which modernized agricultural practices, massively increased agricultural yields and eliminated the specter of famine.
The existing government food distribution system relies on bureaucratic rationing, through which the poor are given ration cards to purchase food from government-run distributors. It is notoriously inefficient and plagued by corruption. Some reform proposals emphasize improving monitoring and delivery within the system. Others favor entirely dismantling the system, replacing it with vouchers or cash payments to the needy. Read more
The BBC reports that several federal police officers in Ciudad Juarez have arrested their own commander on grounds of corruption and racketeering. On the heels of the Wikileaks case and in the midst of two ongoing wars, it is worth considering the moral role of the individual in security-related institutions like the military and police.
Millennia of human experience demonstrate that discipline and professionalism distinguish effective security forces. Such forces can do tremendous good. But institutions are fallible. The uncertainties of both violent conflict and day-to-day human life also provide endless opportunities for rigid adherence to orders to cause grievous harm. When is it appropriate for those who are vested with the protection of a society to disobey orders and even turn on their superiors? Read more
Global warming and intergenerational justice
As environmental activists and their allies mourn the death of the climate bill, the ethics of environmental protection bring up many interesting questions. In this post, I’d like to take a look at one often overlooked issue. The true effects of global warming (and other environmental problems), even at its worst, will probably be felt most by a generation that has not yet been born. Does this change the moral calculus? What do we owe future generations?
Theoretically, it is tempting to think that we owe them nothing. After all, future generations by definition do not exist, and it is hard to imagine persons who do not exist having rights. Classic conceptions of justice rely on reciprocity or consent – concepts that cannot be applied to future generations. Yet, this position is obviously counter-intuitive. Nobody thinks it’s morally permissible to leave the planet an inhospitable wasteland when we die. Read more
The White House this month asked states to end criminalization of HIV transmission. Basically, these laws make it a crime for anyone who knows they have HIV to engage in activities that could transmit the disease to others (unless informed consent is given). According to the White House:
In many instances, the continued existence and enforcement of these types of laws run counter to scientific evidence about routes of HIV transmission and may undermine the public health goals of promoting HIV screening and treatment. CDC data and other studies tell us that intentional HIV transmission is atypical and uncommon. A recent research study also found that HIV-specific laws do not influence the behavior of people living with HIV in those states where these laws exist.
The entire argument here appeals to “public health goals,” a broadly consequentialist notion about overall health of the community. But perhaps the justification for these laws can be found elsewhere.
After all, the state has a responsibility to protect individuals from the negligence of others, and this law may be an expression of this responsibility. This protection can have societal costs, but non-consequentialists might argue that the rights of the individual trump these concerns – the protection of individuals from others is still the first responsibility of the state, morally prior to protecting citizens from, for example, diseases and poor health.
Photo by Flickr user Trygve.u used under a Creative Commons Attribution license.
According to James Jay Carafano in today’s New York Post, the press has moved on from the Deepwater Horizon spill—at least, they don’t care about the disaster nearly as much as the locals in the Gulf do.
Carafano’s main project is to criticize the federal response to the spill, on behalf of Americans in the Gulf. But he also notes that people who aren’t still personally affected by the disaster are forgetting about the situation in the Gulf States, or that most people and our news media have a memory problem.
The idea that the citizenry gets apathetic unfortunately quickly with certain issues, like distant disasters and politicians’ records, is not new. It is, nevertheless, important.
Our society is a democratic one. It is the citizens who determine (however indirectly) what decisions are made and what issues need to be decided. If we can only keep our attention focused on each society-spanning problem until another problem arises, how will we resolve them?
Is this democratic ADD one of the reasons we are not a direct democracy, but a representative democracy or republic instead?
TPP’s own Sam Gill has written on a similar topic in a recent Atlanta Journal-Constitution op-ed. Give it a read.
Image used under a Creative Commons attribution license from Flickr user Deepwater Horizon Response.
An article in the L.A. Times reports that the Obama administration plans to greatly increase spending on the nuclear arsenal. Obama has made the reduction of nuclear weapons a serious and oft-repeated promise both during his campaign and throughout his time in office so far. Indeed, the plan calls for a reduction in the amount of weapons in the arsenal. Unfortunately that reduction in number is accompanied by $175 billion over the next twenty years to spend on new weapons, testing facilities, and increasing the longevity of the weapons we already have.
It also comes as a rather unpleasant surprise that administration officials defend the spending by “argu[ing] that even as they reduce the number of U.S. warheads, they need to bolster the government’s ability to increase weapons production quickly if a new threat arises.”
It’s time to proceed with a full program of nuclear disarmament. The current policy and future plans are merely an empty gesture. Those who fear that such a comprehensive program would do irreconcilable damage to our national security should realize that the last time nuclear deterrence was thought of as a sound policy was during the Cold War. More importantly, every promise we break on nuclear policy damages our international reputation.
The Obama administration has consistently taken the stance that the proliferation of nuclear weapons is a danger to everyone and vowed to do its fair share in reducing that danger. The new budget is a sign that they have not remained true to that stance. Reducing the number of warheads while drastically increasing the budget and researching new weapons is a hypocrisy that cheapens the value of our voice in the international community, particularly those statements we have made concerning the danger of nuclear weapons and the necessity of their strict control.
This kind of discrepancy between words and action is not only wrong; it will also hurt our credibility as a worldwide, often aggressive advocate for nonproliferation.
As a world leader, the U.S. needs to send a stronger message about the use of nuclear weapons.
Image used under a Creative Commons attribution license from Flickr user mightyohm
What is the ethically appropriate stance towards meat-eating?
An article in The Chronicle of Higher Education makes a strong case against the practice of Veganism, arguing that vegans are entangled in a futile practice with no meaningful goals. Taking the stance that we are ethically implicated in the killing of life forms simply in virtue of our existence as humans, the author denounces Veganism as a mainly narcissistic exercise. Instead, he suggests that Vegetarianism is a far more practical, and thus admirable goal. Vegetarians, he goes on to argue, have a realistic understanding of the world with “fewer cosmic pretensions.” Instead of an overly optimistic ideal that exists only to support a fragile notion of moral innocence, Vegetarianism adopts a modest stance far more appropriate for the world in which we live.
Is this an effective argument against Veganism? And what do we make of his stance towards vegetarians? If we’re going to go through the trouble of purposely avoiding meat, going vegan can seem like a natural extension of that. An attempt to further minimize animal suffering would then be seen as laudable, rather than foolish. Why applaud vegetarians and not vegans? As I understand it, each choice represents varying degrees of effort in an ethical stance he sees as admirable, but ultimately futile.
Image used under a Creative Commons attribution license from Flickr user Sunfox
I’ve written on risk and moral responsibility a few times on this blog. Like many good ideas we have, the mainstream media has followed suit. In this Sunday’s New York Times Magazine, economics columnist David Leonhardt considers who is responsible for preventing low likelihood, high consequence events like the Deepwater Horizon spill. Leonhardt writes: “When the stakes are high enough, it falls to government to help its citizens avoid these entirely human errors. The market, left to its own devices, often cannot do so.” He goes on to claim that, in passing a law after Exxon Valdez to limit the liability of the spiller, the U.S. government actually encouraged oil companies to underestimate the odds of a catastrophe. Check out the full article here.