Proposal: a carbon tax on voting

February 5, 2016 § 11 Comments

This is just a theoretical exercise, so the specific numbers aren’t all that important: I’m just spitballing here. Basically what I am proposing is (say) a $1000 tax per voter, paid by the voter, to cover the carbon footprint of that person voting.

Suppose 100 million voters average 2 miles to get to the polls each at 20 miles per gallon. That is 10 million gallons of gas.

Polling places consume another 5 million gallons of gas or equivalent keeping facilities open, setting up and tearing down, running computer equipment, and the like.

The politicians these voters elect consume about 1 billion gallons of gas or equivalent in the process of providing for their own facilities, transportation, perks, interns, hookers, bribes, kickbacks, drugs, and alcohol.

Elected politicians also consume the equivalent of about 1 trillion gallons of gas in the process of providing goodies back to the voters, who elected them in order to receive those goodies.

Again I am just spitballing here, but I think is it pretty easy to see how a $1000+ carbon tax on everyone who votes could be straightforwardly justified.

Gravity Makes the World Go Around: NFP and Voting

November 19, 2008 § 7 Comments

There seems to be reasonably wide agreement that when one formally cooperates with grave evil in how and why one votes, it is grave matter: the “grave matter” in the triad of conditions for mortal sin, that is, grave matter, knowledge, and deliberate consent.

On the other hand the gravity of various acts of remote material cooperation with grave evil in how and why one votes is more controversial.

Commenter msb at Catholic and Enjoying It made the following interesting argument:

I think voting for Obama even if it was [remote material] cooperation was grave matter. Faithful Citizenship says that your proportionate reason to do it must itself be a grave reason, meaning that the vote is grave in the first place.

I think this argument has some force; but it may be worthwhile to consider other situations where the Church has authorized certain practices under a rubric of “grave reasons”:

“But if, according to a rational and just judgement, there are no similar grave reasons of a personal nature or deriving from external circumstances, then the determination to avoid habitually the fecundity of the union while at the same time to continue fully satisfying their sensuality, can be derived only from a false appreciation of life and from reasons having nothing to do with proper ethical laws.” – Pius XII, Apostolate of the Midwife

And yet the same Pope Pius XII later tells us:

“Therefore, in our late allocution on conjugal morality, We affirmed the legitimacy, and at the same time, the limits — in truth very wide — of a regulation of offspring, which, unlike so-called ‘birth control,’ is compatible with the law of God.” – Pius XII, Morality in Marriage (emphasis mine), from Papal Pronouncements on Marriage and the Family, Werth and Mihanovich, 1955

So there is precedent for a Pope in the exercise of his teaching office – let alone the USCCB – to say on the one hand that “grave reasons” are required, and yet that the discretionary limits of action are still “in truth very wide”.

This leads me to the question of gravity when we are talking about remote material cooperation with grave evil. Jeff Culbreath suggested below that the gravity of an act of voting (as remote material cooperation) for a candidate who actively pursues a policy of murdering the innocent probably depends on the reason why one does it, even if that reason is not proportionate in truth. I think that makes a great deal of sense. For the answer to the question “is X a proportionate reason” is not always an unequivocal “yes” or “no”. That is to say, prudence is a scale, not binary: one may act very imprudently, somewhat imprudently, somewhat prudently, or very prudently; or anywhere in between. In addition, everyone’s understanding of the facts will vary to some extent, and one can only act based on facts one actually knows and one’s understanding of how things work. If I believe I am acting prudently that doesn’t mean I am in fact acting prudently, but there is a morally nontrivial difference between willful imprudence, apathetic imprudence, and simply mistaken imprudence.

So I think it is, well, imprudent to assume that every act of voting for Obama (or McCain for that matter) was necessarily grave matter simply because Faithful Citizenship says that reasons for voting for a pro-abortion candidate must be “grave”. There is precedent for the Magisterium to require grave reasons, on the one hand, and yet say that the acting subject has wide lattitude on the other. In addition I think Jeff Culbreath’s suggestion that the actual reasons why make a significant difference here is eminently reasonable; even if, as an objective matter, the reasons why the voter voted the way he did were not proportionate.

The Catechism on Voting and Game Theory

October 22, 2008 § 19 Comments

The Catechism tells us:

2240 Submission to authority and co-responsibility for the common good make it morally obligatory to pay taxes, to exercise the right to vote, and to defend one’s country:
Pay to all of them their dues, taxes to whom taxes are due, revenue to whom revenue is due, respect to whom respect is due, honor to whom honor is due.

[Christians] reside in their own nations, but as resident aliens. They participate in all things as citizens and endure all things as foreigners. . . . They obey the established laws and their way of life surpasses the laws. . . . So noble is the position to which God has assigned them that they are not allowed to desert it.

The Apostle exhorts us to offer prayers and thanksgiving for kings and all who exercise authority, “that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way.”

Despite the lack of any mention of game theory in this passage, some people seem to want to interpret it to mean that there is always a proportionate reason to vote for a medical cannibal who supports aborting children and using their body parts for research (like, say, John McCain), as long as the other major party candidate is worse. I’ll just point out that this interpretation involves more than a little bit of filling in of the blanks. If anything, a much more plausible interpretation is that exercising the right to vote is, when morally licit, about submission to authority, respect, co responsibility for the common good, living a pure Christian life in a pagan culture, etc — that is, it is about outcome-independent considerations, not about making sure I am on the winning team.

What’s Wrong with the World of Voting?

May 30, 2008 § 47 Comments

Lydia has posted at What’s Wrong with the World on the question of the moral essence of voting. After reading the interesting post and the discussion which followed, I posted the following comment in the thread:

I think there may be a thought process that goes something like this, at least among Catholic moralists and those who even bother to follow such things. (Which, let us grant, is laudible in itself: most people just vote however they choose without consciously reflecting on what a vote is at all. That is, most people don’t even consider the possibility that they might be doing evil simply by choosing to vote at all, given some particular ballot option permutation space).

The thought process:

Premise 1: Voting as an act is never intrinsically immoral: it is just throwing a lever.

Premise 2: Voting as an act is nothing but remote cooperation (material or formal) with whatever specific things a candidate actually does as an elected official.

It follows that the only thing that voting always is, is remote material cooperation with the things a candidate actually does as an elected official. It would be formal cooperation in those cases where I will some specific thing the candidate does: so if I will that Obama issue an executive order authorizing abortions on military bases I am formally cooperating in that act, and if I will that Obama withdraw the troops then I am formally cooperating in that act; but in general, I don’t will everything that he does or has promised to do. Therefore under its moral aspect – unless I am formally cooperating with one of his specific acts and that act is evil – a vote is simply remote material cooperation, and this exhaustively describes its moral parameters.

It further follows that the moral aspect of voting resides solely in (1) avoiding formal cooperation with specific evil acts on the part of the candidate (everyone will of course claim this as a matter of internal forum: will claim that they don’t want Obama to authorize abortions on military bases, and because they don’t want it they aren’t choosing it and don’t intend it); and (2) a prudential evaluation of the external consequences of the candidate actually being elected.

I think there are a lot of problems with this narrative, though it dominates contemporary Catholic thinking on the subject. Those problems start with the fact that it assumes an antiessentialist theory of what a vote is in the first place, leaving moral evaluation of (say) voting for Obama in the realm of strictly material external consequences; and the narrative goes downhill from there. Another problem is that ‘voting’ may simply be an inadequate moral specifier of a species of act, much as ‘firing a gun’ is an inadequate moral specification of a species of act. “Voting for Obama” may be deontologically more akin to “firing a gun into a living baby’s brain” than to simply “firing a gun”.

As I mentioned on my blog, I don’t feel as though I understand with clarity the deontology of a vote: I don’t really know what a vote is with enough clarity to give an even semi-rigorous definition. But I have intuitions of what a vote is not, and Lydia’s “intuition pumps” in this post are pretty helpful in clarifying my own intuitions on the subject.

Voting is Like a Box of Chocolates

November 18, 2006 § 2 Comments

The Object of Voting

September 26, 2006 § 26 Comments

There are some really great comments in the voting thread below. But there is a key point which I think may be getting lost in the larger discussion. Tom hits it directly when he says:

This may express the intent of the voter, but before we get to intent we need to know what the object of the act of voting is. We need to make sure that the means of mitigating a greater evil is not itself evil. And we need to make sure without making the “everybody does it” fallacy.

When we drop a 500 pound bomb on a military target, and an elementary school filled with children is a mile away, it is pretty clear that “destroying a school filled with innocent children” is not a part of the object of our act. When the military target is in the same building as the school that is far less clear.

Likewise, when we vote for a mayoral candidate who favors torturing suspected terrorists it is pretty clear that the object of our act is not to choose a policy of torturing suspected terrorists, because the mayor doesn’t really have anything to say about how suspected terrorists are handled. But a President is a different matter. When a candidate has promised to do something specific which is within the role to which we are electing him, the argument that we are not choosing the actual thing he has promised to do becomes weaker. And if in our own minds we make the decision “the torture is bad, but it is a small and confined evil, and I therefore choose it as a lesser evil than the abortion policies of the other candidate”, then the argument that we aren’t choosing the evil policy becomes very weak indeed.

The bimbo that didn’t bark

October 14, 2016 § 98 Comments

I am not voting and cannot be convinced to vote, for reasons I’ve explained many times. That doesn’t imply that I have no opinions on the candidates, or that I consider the candidates to be in any sense equivalent.

UPDATE:  SDG in the comments provides several corrections re: Trump assault allegations:

Because Ivana Trump’s testimony was given in a deposition in 1989.

Because Jill Harth sued Trump for sexual assault in 1993.

Because Mindy McGillivray’s 2003 story is backed up by a photographer who says she immediately told him Trump had grabbed her ass.

Because Trump not only admitted but BOASTED about the very behavior he is alleged to have committed. Who are you gonna believe: a man who says he gropes women without waiting, or women who say they were so groped? There’s a real “He and she both said” dilemma for you.

Because so far nine or more women have come forward with stories like these, combined with Trump’s own words. There’s never THAT much smoke without at least some fire.

Because the pattern of other women remaining silent about being abused by powerful men until the issue of a public person’s pattern of abusive behavior and the celebrity’s public denials and attacks on the women is strikingly similar to other cases, like Bill Cosby. To characterize this pattern as “only now conveniently remembered, like college girls with a hangover, that they were sexually assaulted” is the very kind of cruel abuse that keeps women who have been abused silent.

Because even if you’re agnostic about whether or not the allegations are true, slurring even possible victims of sexual assault with the word “bimbos” is a kind of judgmental cruelty I can’t imagine, certainly not from someone I have regarded as a thoughtful Catholic.

UPDATE 2: Andrew E responds here and here:

Just to be clear, Jill Harth and Ivana Trump both contradict SDG. Jill Harth, of course, contradicts herself therefore requiring her lawyer to draft a followup to the lawnewz story to avoid any federal liability.

And SDG said the photographer also witnessed the incident in the case of McGillivray. But the story says that neither Davidoff nor McGillivray actually witnessed it. SDG needs to get the facts right.

(I suppose if nothing else this post proves that I am not immune to the lazy blogger tendency to find out details about a distasteful subject by just posting on it and having commenters do the fact checking for me).

Hillary Clinton is a crazy criminal egomaniac who will burn down the world before even considering the possibility that there might possibly be something slightly questionable about her world view or her self image.  Her one saving grace is that she might be too physically ill to accomplish anything.

Trump is basically transparent. What you see is what you get, and we’ve seen a lot of Trump over the decades because that’s just the way he likes it. It may be puerile, morally decadent, and just generally in bad taste; but it isn’t a mystery. Trump is a wealthy and successful amoral product of 80’s era America, with all that that implies.

His credibly (for versions of ‘credibly’) alleged tendency to literally grab what he wants sexually appears to be generically the same as Bill Clinton’s.  Taken in itself this is enough to disqualify both men from any serious office, but is hardly the worst of either of their faults.  Bill Clinton didn’t in fact start a nuclear war, and Trump almost certainly wouldn’t. Hillary Clinton just might.

I publicly retract the following paragraphs after considering SDG’s criticisms and correction of my ignorance on several particulars.  I leave them in place for the record:

This is even true in terms of bimbo eruptions: the most notable thing is not all the stuff we already knew without anyone saying it. The notable thing is that not a single credible Juanita Broderick or Paula Jones has been uncovered by the Clinton machine: just zero credibility Anita Hills who have only now conveniently remembered, like college girls with a hangover, that they were sexually assaulted.

The Trump ‘scandals’ appear to be marketing initiatives designed to appeal to the fatty vote, the feminist regret-is-rape slut vote, and prudes (in the pejorative sense) who (unlike me) support Trump for president as long as what everyone already knows about him doesn’t actually come up in conversation.

Trump for President!

February 1, 2016 § 82 Comments

As a notorious and outspoken non-voter, I definitely plan to not vote for Donald Trump. I have to say that I really, really appreciate what he is doing for American politics.

Once we grant the premise of American politics – that government should represent the people of the United States, should be the political incarnation of the current American zeitgeist – well, I am hard pressed to think of a viable candidate who comes even close to representing the American people in 2016 as well as the Trump.  Who could possibly be more appropriate than a crass billionaire reality TV star, a hotel and gambling magnate with a new blonde on his arm every time we see him? His defining political position, his unprincipled exception designed for mass appeal, is just that he will keep America from getting dissolved by the dilutive power of mass immigration, making sure that America stays American by rejecting the ideology of white people. All hail the Donald, archetypical representative of our greatest aspirations!

Folks who think he can’t win are, I think, stuck in the past and do not understand the society in which we live. I don’t predict a win, mind you, but the notion that the Trump cannot win is just ridiculous. Modern effeminate Americans love to look up to a bad boy showman. Even if he slaps them around a bit and cheats on them we know they’ll still end up back with him. He’ll smile at them and say something that makes them all hot and bothered, and then they are his.

Establishment Republicans are so cute, the way they take the political process seriously (for values of ‘seriously’) — unlike the vast majority of voters, who do not have the intellectual resources or the inclination to take it seriously in the same way. For the great majority of people voting is just a signal of allegiance, a doffing of the cap, an expression of emotion, an outlet for frustration. The stereotype of the thoughtful voter on either the left or the right is one of those quaint things that certain people believe despite their lying eyes.

Another thing I appreciate about Trump is that he has introduced us to a new phase in the Hegelian Mambo. All the usual suspects will perceive this new step as the arrival — finally! – of the revolution we’ve really been waiting for! Pay no attention to what gets dropped on the floor as the dance proceeds.

The last few decades of American politics have involved a dialectic between nominally Christian liberals and anti-Christian liberals. In this new phase we can leave Christianity behind entirely, even that pesky nominal Christianity. This new phase ushered in by the Great Salesman with Fantastic Hair and Lots of Money will be one of nationalist liberalism versus globalist liberalism. Just watch that dowdy old religion disappear without a whimper!

And this could be a good thing for at least some, perhaps some small number, of even modestly serious Christians who have been stuck up until now, lured by the siren song of supposed personal relevance into lighting a pinch of incense. Though I suppose if decades of abortion rope-a-dope with the Republican party hasn’t cut the cord yet it must be a pretty thick cord.

In the land of lies, every day is opposite day

December 21, 2015 § 32 Comments

Lies typically get their purchase by imitating truth, and then ultimately asserting the opposite of what is imitated. We end up with a language filled with words that appeal to our sensibilities by pretending to mean the opposite of what they actually mean in practice.

Political liberty crushes subsidiarity beneath a monolithic bureaucratic authority which rules while pretending not to rule: which makes sure, good and hard, that nobody is allowed to tell anyone else what to do. Political freedom insures that everyone is subjected to anonymous monolithic all-encompassing authority which hides unaccountably behind a wall of structural bureaucracy. That way nobody ever feels compelled, by social pressure or a misguided and really rather pathetic respect for authority, to doff his cap to the king. But if you don’t cast a substantively meaningless symbolic vote personally affirming the legitimacy of the political liberalism under which you are a tiny and insignificant subject, you are a traitor. Voting should probably be made mandatory; in the very least, people who refuse to vote have no right to complain.  And it is a moral travesty that this political freedom is not comprehensively imposed on everyone, everywhere. Freedom should be imposed, by force of arms when necessary.

Equal rights impose a ‘live and let live’ philosophy formally and comprehensively on every person and institution in the name of tolerance, authoritatively discriminating everywhere that is necessary in order to eliminate discrimination and authority.

Fraternity means that if you will not agree that my political philosophy is right you are less than human scum.

Anti-authoritarianism means imposing anarchy on everyone against their will.

Hatred means being the kind of jerk that every right-thinking person despises.

Diversity means making sure that everyone is the same.

Dignity means making our defects into the principle of our identity.

Being open-minded means that you make all of the same unreflective metaphysical assumptions that I make.  It means attributing everything that is good in the world to my narrow point of view.

Conservatism means making sure that there are plenty of ways around to dissipate the natural human instinct to conserve, providing an outlet so people can whine ineffectually without actually questioning liberalism.

Anti-racism means that we should despise any race of people who have, for any reason and in any context, historically shown hatred toward other races, or, equivalently, done anything objectively superior in any way to people of other races. But only as long as that race is the bad race, that is, white people, or white hispanics, and anyway I AM NOT WHITE!!!  Whites are the Low Man! Anti-racism means importing large numbers of pliable brown skinned immigrants to do work that less pliable brown skinned citizens won’t do as cheaply and efficiently. And it means insuring that the way white people see the world rules supreme. (Wait, what?)

Welcoming the marginalized means supporting society’s most powerful people in crushing fringe religious opinions.  Mercy means empowering evil and lost people to destroy and torment themselves and their innocent victims. It means making sure that the way out of sin is as obscure and hidden as possible under a fog of sentimentalism. (Unless you are the kind of sinner we don’t like: the only people worse than you are the people trying to dissipate the fog).

Laissez-faire economics means that government should be aggressively and comprehensively involved in selectively enforcing mostly involuntary contract terms on debt slaves. Economic freedom means turning people into property. A scientific approach to economics means treating economic value as if it were nothing but the product of our imaginations, and money as if its value were spun into existence by magical incantation and pagan circle dances. Contrariwise, securities granting specific rights issued by the most powerful economic institution on earth against its real economic assets have no intrinsic value.

Responsibility and fairness mean that deadbeat dads who have been thrown out of their own home and had their children taken away – so that mommy could have a more exciting sex life and their children can benefit from the darwinist struggle of having a thug who doesn’t care about them in their life – should continue to hold up their end of the marriage contract while mommy doesn’t have to uphold hers.  It means protecting women who are being abused by a bilocating husband who is capable of teleportation and has been beating his poor wife from his Iranian prison cell.

Respecting women means making sure that we treat them like children who are not responsible for their own actions.  Unless they are gay.

Scientific impartiality means (at least methodologically) begging the question in favor of one of the most manifestly stupid and puerile metaphysical ideas ever conceived by man: metaphysical naturalism.  “Science” means that, at least for the sake of argument and method, we should adopt the point of view that we ourselves are literally mindless idiots.

Transparency means hiding everything behind a wall of bureaucratic structure and superficial philosophical obfuscation so that authority can be exercised while pretending that it isn’t, and people can be, not subjects for the good of whom those in authority are responsible, but owned chattel; all while pretending that everyone is free and equal.  It means more generally that you cannot see what rules over you and have no idea who or what they really are. Until they show up to kill you.

Checks and balances mean that structures and philosophies are put into place which make it impossible to stop mass murder; and bureaucratic measures are taken to insure that nature doesn’t stop it either.

Marriage means the union of any two arbitrary things for any arbitrary reason, as long as the union can be dissolved at any time and for any reason.  More generally, commitment means carefully remaining uncommitted to anything in particular.  Except sodomy.  Oh and contraception, if you are cisgender.  For the time being, until you and your surgeon and your psychiatrist change your minds and decide to rearrange your legos.

Game means learning to be a man by spending all of your time and energy obsessing over how to curry favor with women.

Rape means mutually voluntary sex when both parties are under the influence of alcohol or drugs.  Or when one of the parties is a man.

A right to die means they will kill you no matter what you think or want.

Consent means that if you were right like me you would choose what I am imposing on you.

Liberal republic vs monarchy

December 17, 2015 § 45 Comments

Both monarchy and liberal republics are structures of governance: particular arrangements of political authority with subjects, that is, people subject to that governing authority.  Liberals tend to be obsessed with the precise structure of governance, because to the extent that bureaucracy obscures authority liberals can pretend that authority doesn’t exist.  In liberal republics, subjects petition the sovereign on general matters of politics through the formal process of voting.

The main difference is that subjects of a liberal republic are governed by a sociopathic ruling class, which governs while pretending not to govern, under an immortal pack of lies which never dies; whereas in a monarchy the people who hold authority can be personally identified and live the life span of human beings.

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