Politics and values

… are often confused. For example, the communist who votes for socialist candidates in the US, despite socialism being widely reviled and practically unworkable. This communist assumes that because he lives in a successful commune with several others, that this will translate into successful policy for society. He ignores that while he possesses the ethic of society-above-individual necessary for communism to work, regardless of whether such an ethic is good or bad, others do not necessarily possess it. If his plan were placed into action, it would be a failure.

Are we better served when people attempt to vote and legislate their individual values onto society? After all, their values, even if inefficient or harmful, will only take hold if enough others agree with them.

Or are we better served when people use a more universal metric for gauging the value of political efforts, such as the sum total of happiness for example?

This is not appeasal. Appeasal means to make free riders happy at the expense of others who are made less happy. The happiness created at the targets of redistribution is negated at perhaps an even greater magnitude at the source of the redistributed wealth.

This is not hedonism. Hedonism espouses a reckless disregard for the consequences of actions. But we should be certain that we are not manufacturing consequences in order to make fables out of individuals' lives. And we should be sure that when technology presents solutions that can prevent those consequences, that we do not use circular thinking to obstruct such measures.

The golden rule, as in do unto others only what you would allow them to do unto you, only works if individuals are social and rational, i.e. that they value fellow human creatures and that they value that which fosters happiness and survival. Individuals who are anti-social or who somehow obtain happiness from self-harm could use the golden rule to justify harming another.

What if throwing oneself on the sword would increase the sum total of happiness? Then this turns into collectivism. What if killing another would increase the sum total of happiness? Can such a metric be used as a moral compass? The very thought is disturbing. That action could be justified by other means, perhaps in terms of retribution, if the man had inflicted at least that amount of harm on another. But it is difficult to justify in terms of simply weighing the termination of his individual happiness against those whose happiness would be increased upon knowledge of his death.

Whether our autonomy is an illusion or not, it is fundamentally all we have. As soon as we hand over the reins to fate and become spectators in our own lives, we have ceded any meaning in our actions. Lack of autonomy implies nihilism. Does nihilism increase happiness? Maybe for those for whom autonomy is a curse rather than an exquisite and unique privilege.

What happens when the reactionary survival instinct of a nihilist clashes with the examined plan of an autonomous individual? Since the nihilist values nothing, is it okay to disregard his instincts as we disregard those of beasts? How can one empirically, and externally, determine whether another truly holds no autonomy, no values and thus no happiness, in which case their life is an objectively valueless slideshow of sensations that can be discarded if it interferes with the happiness of one who does hold values?

Then again, if our senses were wired into a perfect simulator of nirvana, we could obtain ultimate happiness even though autonomy would in reality be non-existent…

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