Policy IS a Competition

After I posted some thoughts on Boston to Facebook, someone sent me this annoying article indicating that I was being "self-righteous" by treating tragedy as a "competition," in that I was trying to "one-up" the Boston tragedy with some other one with which I was more concerned.

What neither Benincasa nor my correspondent seem to grasp is that while tragedy is not a competition, policy certainly is one. If we spend a billion dollars on new security measures in response to the Boston attack, that is a billion dollars we are not spending on better inner-city schools, or discovering a cure for cancer. Benincasa snidely notes:

"You are allowed to feel bad for bombing victims in Boston and drone strike victims in Pakistan. You are even allowed to hold these two thoughts in your head at the same time. Unlike your friend, who seems to see life as an either/or proposition..."

Well, Sara, one can certainly feel sad about two things at once. But one cannot devote one's cake to stronger anti-terrorism measures while at the same time devoting the same cake to eradicating hunger. Unfortunately, in a world of scarcity we must choose. Allocating scarce resources is an either/or proposition. And when Peter King is already ramping up to use Boston as an excuse for bombing more of the Muslim world, I believe I have a right and a duty to protest that this is not a very wise choice, whether Sara Benincasa tut-tuts at me for doing so or not.

2 comments:

  1. re: "If we spend a billion dollars on new security measures in response to the Boston attack, that is a billion dollars we are not spending on better inner-city schools, or discovering a cure for cancer."

    There you go again - confusing an accounting identity for a behavioral law!

    *joking*

    As I noted on facebook, I think you're wrong on this for an entirely different reason. The plant in Texas offers a good comparison because it's closer to the same numbers. Boston arguably matters a whole lot more, not because of the body count but because of the nature of the process that brought it about -deliberate violence rather than risk/randomness in a process that is on net good.

    Not that I'm much of a fan of NAP in the hands of most libertarians, but this would be like responding to a strict-NAP person by citing the number of people who die from smoking or heart attacks. We may care about those deaths, sure, but aggression is a different death-generating-process that deserves a different sort of consideration.

    Obviously I agree with your facebook post that none of this is cause to trample on rights.

    ReplyDelete
  2. "Not that I'm much of a fan of NAP ..."

    Actually, I've found that you've been quite a big fan of the NAP. Almost all of your arguments favor it in some way, and you certainly wouldn't oblige aggression upon yourself or your own (or your nation). However, your real disparity with libertarian philosophy is with property rights. This is what you disregard, not the NAP, but it is actual property rights on which the libertarian conception of the NAP is based upon.

    It's strange that this only just occurred to me now, but you and Gene's attack on the NAP a few years ago was really a red herring. You don't necessarily disagree with the concept of non-aggression, rather you disagree upon the justification. For a libertarian, such justification lies in property rights. So it is clear to me that this is the subject of conflict, not the NAP.

    ReplyDelete