Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Do Australian resources belong to Africans as a right?

I'm still reading Kok-Chor Tan's book, Toleration, Diversity and Global Justice.

In this book Kok-Chor Tan puts the case for "comprehensive liberalism" against the "political liberalism" of John Rawls. It's a dispute between two varieties of liberalism.

Rawls's liberalism appears to be the less radical of the two options. As Kok-Chor Tan describes it, Rawls wants to establish a "law of peoples" - one which would govern the way nations act toward each other. Rawls doesn't seek to impose the full liberal programme in establishing his international protocols. He is willing to tolerate the existence of hierarchcial, non-liberal societies (on certain conditions) and he doesn't insist on the same "distributive justice" (equal distribution of resources) on a global level that he wants to establish within the Western liberal nations.

Kok-Chor Tan believes Rawls is selling out in making these concessions. His key argument is significant. He rejects the idea that liberals should tolerate non-liberal understandings of distributive justice, as toleration is only a value inasmuch as it serves the cause of autonomy. Given that autonomy is undermined by social or economic inequality, liberals should therefore opt not for tolerance but for egalitarian redistribution:

For the comprehensive liberal, on the other hand, the toleration principle is derived from the more fundamental liberal commitment to individual autonomy, and inasmuch as autonomy is a posteriori underminable by social or economic inequalities, he or she will insist on some principle of distributive justice, disagreements over the content of this notwithstanding.

That might seem drily academic, but it is significant in a number of ways. First, it helps to explain why liberals are so committed to the principle of equality. If you believe that the highest good is autonomy, then it will seem unjust if some people have more resources (money, power, status) to exercise autonomy than others. So you might well then be committed to "distributive justice" (taking resources from some people to give them to others).

But there is no stopping the logic of this principle. Consider what it leads to when it comes to foreign aid. Rawls believes that wealthier nations have a humanitarian duty to use some of their resources to assist poorer nations. Kok-Chor Tan is strongly opposed to this view. He believes that the resources of wealthier nations belong to the poorer nations as a matter of justice and therefore as a right:

it makes an immense difference whether wealth redistribution between countries is conceived as a matter of humanity or justice...treating duties between countries as a matter of justice...reminds us that the crucial issue is ultimately that of rightful ownership rather than that of humanitarian contribution.

He quotes another liberal (Barry) to underline this point:

...if some share of resources is justly owed to a country, then it is (even before it has been actually transferred) as much that country's as it is now normally thought that what a country normally produces belongs to that country.

Kok-Chor Tan is serious about this. He argues that even though this is a liberal principle, the non-liberal countries are likely to accept it, as most of them are non-Western nations who would benefit materially:

Accordingly, because non-liberal societies tend to be in reality the less well-off societies compared to liberal ones, they stand to gain from an egalitarian global theory and therefore...will readily endorse this ideal.

And the Western nations? Kok-Chor Tan believes that they will have the intellectual compensation of seeing their beloved liberal ideology put in place globally. Liberal states, he writes,

are to accept global institutional arrangements that will call on them to transfer resources, which they have taken for granted as rightfully theirs, to less endowed countries.

...liberal states sacrifice some of their GNP, but get a global system of rights consistent with their moral philosophy.

These proposals would have a particularly deep effect on Australia. One of the specific suggestions made by the comprehensive liberals is this:

Pogge, for instance, proposes a global resources tax (GRT) that will tax better endowed countries for extracting natural resources in their own countries.

Another idea is that there should be "technology transfers": that technology produced in one country belongs by right to a less well-endowed country.

All of this goes to show that there is always a more radical liberalism. There will always be those who want to implement the theory more consistently.

It's not difficult to see how Kok-Chor Tan's own version of liberalism could be trumped. If the moral course of action really is to level social and economic conditions between individuals, so that no-one is privileged in their autonomy; and if this means that the resources of one individual belong by right to someone less well-endowed; then why bother at all with property rights?

Why should the guy up the road end up with more money because his dad worked hard and left him and his family a big inheritance? Under Kok-Chor Tan's approach, part of that inheritance belongs by right to me as a matter of justice. I have a claim to it, even though neither I nor anyone in my family did anything to produce that wealth.

I would much rather live in a society with a degree of inequality, but in which people were able to set about producing wealth for themselves, their own families and their own communities, rather than one which insisted on redistribution as a right.

It's true that absolute poverty in some countries is a serious issue to be tackled, and one which unduly diminishes the quality of life for those experiencing it, but that needs to be addressed by carefully targeting aid (so as not to make things worse) rather than handing resources over as a right to be used for whatever purposes, useful or not, the rulers of that society have for it.


  1. It simply an expression of barbarism. Whats yours is mine and whats mine is mine. Amazing how they have turned the act of raiding and pillaging into a philosophy.

    Conincidentally ABC radio just broadcasted some typical dribble
    "bla bla racist
    bla bla racism"*
    Then African music started playing.

    "It's not difficult to see how Kok-Chor Tan's own version of liberalism could be trumped."

    It can and has but it really starts to become so sick, perverse and barbaric liberals have to hide these extreme versions from the public. Underground leftist/liberal sites have some of the most vile views i've ever encountered from human beings.

    Its also interesting that you mention Africans. The left couldn't find a better ally than in the African.
    Africans take this idea to the extreme. We all owe them everything we have because of our fair skin. I mean how racist is that. This is the typical African mindset to everything. Then add the the leftist flame stoking the African hatred of white people and you have a genocidal time bomb waiting to explode all over the west.
    To the people that say you don't care about ethno-politics or you are not 'racist' thats really great but this doesn't stop Africans from hating you competely and wanting you to surrender everything you own because it is justified to them and why wouldn't they feel justified they have the leftist whites agreeing with them!

  2. It's interesting that the idea of actually creating wealth doesn't even occur to Kok-Chor Tan. So the only way to enrich one nation (or one person) is by taking something away from another nation (or person).

    Of course being an academic Kok-Chor Tan has spent his entire life as a parasite so it's really not surprising at all that he sees things that way. Although one wonders how he would feel if a homeless person were to walk into his house and tell him, "I'm sorry Mr Kok-Chor Tan, but this house belongs to me."

    It really is time to pull the plug on the universities. Time to end the academic gravy train. Let them get jobs as cab drivers.

  3. Hi, first comment on this site.

    I haven't read Kok-Chor Tan's book but by the tone of what's being extpressed, would it be appropriate to assume that he assumes that less developed nations will naturally gravitate to a style of social/political liberalism comparable to the developed nations when the less developed nations receive those resources?

    If that's the case, why aren't we seeing it on an appreciable scale right now considering the amount of aid which has already been transferred from developed nations to less developed nations?

  4. Liberals realize that having America, Europe, and Australia pay Africa money is untenable (at least for now) -- and therefore the short-term plan is to bring Africa to America, Europe, and Australia, which is a "right" that is more accepted.

  5. Anon (above),

    I think you're right. But in doing so, they are slowing African development. A very high proportion of the African professional class heads off elsewhere - people who are desperately needed at home.

    Gareth B,

    Thanks of the comment. Yes, part of Kok-Chor Tan's deal is that the non-liberal nations getting the money will liberalise. He hasn't thus far addressed the issue of what has happened to the many billions of dollars already transferred to third world nations. So far it's all about "distributive justice" rather than real practical effects.

    Dfordoom, again Kok-Chor Tan hasn't considered the issue of wealth creation. He's stuck on the idea of distributive justice as a moral category. But I agree that he ought to be thinking the issue of wealth creation through more. What leads a nation to become productive? It's not helpful to throw money at a society if certain conditions for economic development aren't in place, including stable governance and a family system which motivates men to engage in productive labour above the subsistence level. Kok-Chor Tan seems to assume that if you give money the rest will follow.

    First anon, good point that the leftist view encourages a "gimme" attitude - a sense of entitlement.

  6. I find myself becoming less and less interested in engaging with liberals on political ideas. Their ideas are just so stupid that I find greater sense can be made out of them by looking at the personal and ethnic aspects that may have driven them to support some aspect of liberalism.

    Mr Tan is a Chinese living in a white country (Canada). Perhaps, just as Andrew Bolt became a liberal because of his discomfort as a Dutchman in Australia, Mr Tan finds some relief from his feelings of otherness through supporting his ridiculous one-worldism.

  7. Liberals realize that having America, Europe, and Australia pay Africa money is untenable (at least for now)

    That's what all this climate change nonsense is about. It has nothing to do with climate or science, it's all about gigantic handouts for the Third World. Most of which will end up in the pockets of tinpot dictators and corrupt UN bureaucrats. It's all about destroying the economies of developed countries to prop up regimes that don't deserve to be propped up. It's all about transferring economic and political power to such well-known liberal democratic societies such as China. It's all about exploiting the irrational guilt of white middle-class liberals in the developed world.

    That's why climate change hysteria must be fought every step of the way.

  8. Mark Richardson wrote...

    Dfordoom, again Kok-Chor Tan hasn't considered the issue of wealth creation.

    That's because he doesn't understand that such a thing exists. How much wealth does the Philosophy department at The University of Pennsylvania create? Academics are like the Third World - they exist on handouts. Academic salaries are welfare payments. The world would be a better place if people like Kok-Chor Tan were forced to get real jobs.

    It gets back to the point I'm always making - that conservatives must stop being on the defensive all the time and go on the offensive. We must put issues like the reform of higher education on the political agenda. We have twice as many people getting university educations as we actually need. We need engineers and doctors. We don't need huge numbers of arts graduates. Why should taxpayers subsidise these parasites?

  9. Bob wrote...

    I find myself becoming less and less interested in engaging with liberals on political ideas.

    Trying to engage with them just gives them a bogus credibility. It means accepting the agenda they're setting. When will conservatives start setting the political agenda themselves?

  10. "We must put issues like the reform of higher education on the political agenda."

    Quite right Dfordoom. A few days ago I discovered a Black supremacy course at an Australian uni. How to encourage Black supremacy was literally the title of the course.
    Seriously how is that Liberals can get away with open hate speech and race supremacism and not be taken to court.

  11. Dfordoom, 5 January 2012 11:13:00 AM

    Actually there are two distinct groups which have been driving the climate change dabate. The professional environment/climate academics who are generating the theories and studies claiming that human activity is having a measurable effect on the global climate, and those theories/studies are then used by the redistributionists as justification for their agenda.

    The environment/climate academics may or may not also be redistributionists in their own right, but my scpepticism tells me they have a vested interest in ensuring that the gravy train which keeps them ensconced in their ivory towers does not get derailed or diverted elsewhere. I'm prepared to bet good money that funding for climate research has increased as a result of the current climate debate (squeaky wheels getting greased).

    The died in the wool redistributionists then use the alarming climate change theories and studies as ammunition for their own agenda. Perhaps there is collusion between the two groups, perhaps there isn't, but they certainly appear to be allies of a sort at the moment.

  12. GarethB

    I think its more complex than two groups driving it. The reason why I'm skeptical about it was my experience at university.
    There were many oppertunistic activist groups jumping on the climate change bandwagon.
    A major one was the Vegans. There presence was everywhere on campus. They were telling us within lectures for totally unrelated subjects to climate change to stop eating meat to save the world. This is concerning when the climate change head Rajendra K. Pachauri was encouraging the entire world to eat only vegan (not suprising considering hes a vegan hindu).

    Then there are the more crazy liberal connections with climate change being caused by racist thoughts and any opposition to climate change related taxes and money redistribution is racism. As our own lovely antisemitic Green party said publicly.

  13. "Thier presence" opps
    pardon my mistakes

  14. Yes, part of Kok-Chor Tan's deal is that the non-liberal nations getting the money will liberalise

    Tan is an idiot. Muslim nations, for example, will not, since their religion teaches them that the lives and property of the infidel is theirs by right.

  15. What really intrigues me about the leadership of the conservative parties is - what are they afraid of? If you were a conservative leader and you came out for genuinely conservative policies you’d lose the votes of the tree-huggers, of the Marxist feminists, of the extremists in the gay lobby, of left-wing university lecturers, of vegan activists, of the climate change loonies and the mung bean-munchers in the inner cities of Sydney and Melbourne. But those people are all going to vote for Labor or the Greens anyway. You’d lose the support of the Fairfax newsapers and the ABC. But they’re going to support Labor and the Greens anyway. So in reality you’d lose nothing.

    The only voters who matter are the swinging voters and they’ll vote for anyone who brings economic prosperity, security and law and order.

    So in reality there’s nothing to be afraid if. It’s obvious that the leaderships of conservative parties everywhere are afraid of phantoms, of illusions.

  16. Randian,

    You're right to query Tan's attitude to Islam. He approvingly quotes an "Islam scholar" who claims that "Islam teaches principles of freedom, human dignity, equality, governance by contract, popular sovereignty and the rule of law" that are compatible with liberalism.

    Tan then goes on to tell us that taking any other attitude is impermissible because if it were true that Islam were "inherently oppressive" it would have to be "eradicated in toto" (Again, note here the liberal supremacism - there are only two options - liberalism or death.)

    Furthermore, states Tan, if we were to view Muslims as being unable to engage in reasonable moral inquiry that would mean treating them as less than fully human. The idea that they might be fully human but committed to a view hostile to the West - whether liberal or non-liberal - just doesn't compute within his liberal mind.

  17. Anon, 5 January 2012 2:31:00 PM

    Although I was never a uni student, I did work at Monash uni (as technical support staff) for approx 11 years, so I have some first hand experience of the shenannigans that occour.

    I'm in my mid 40's now but I've been convinced for a long time that much of the uni student activism is young adults being typical young adults. Before they finish highschool, students are pretty much powerless. They don't earn much of an income, they cannot vote, they have little to no voice in the wider public arena and to a large extent they don't know what they stand for or stand against.

    Then they enter uni, they can vote, their income potential is higher and they have access to venues of public expression which they did not have access to before. They are going to take advantage of the new opportunities they have available to them, and of course they take themselves so very seriously in the process. To my mind they have become politically/socially active, but are still not politically/socially astute.

    It doesn't help the situation that universities are the environment of career academics who feed of the adulation of these impressionable young minds, having their own egos stroked by the spectacle of the sudents lapping up the perceived academic wisdom as if it was the milk of life itself.

    While the topic of universities being a recruiting ground for liberal movements is widely discussed, how much thought is put into liberal academic careerism as a self-validating ego trip for the individuals involved in it?

    I think I'm derailing the discussion away from the original topic so I'll stop here.

  18. GarethB wrote...

    To my mind they have become politically/socially active, but are still not politically/socially astute.

    You have a large number of over-privileged young people who have never had to take responsibility for anything in their lives, and once they get to university they make the happy discovery that they never will have to take responsibility for anything. They can be supported by the taxpayer till the day they die.

    That's why academics are stuck in permanent adolescence. They get to middle age and they're still teenage rebels.

  19. Anon from 2:31 again...
    Well the Vegan activists weren't even students as bizarre as it sounds. They were some sort of literal hippy cult that squatted on the uni campus. They did nothing all day but meditate in a circle or as I now know because of the OWS thing held wavy hand meetings (I didn't realise at the time what they were doing)
    They were not young either. They were young but close to 30s young. They also didn't wash and went around collecting money for bogus charities. I saw one guy walking around with almost a thousand dollars in cash in one hand he had suckered from the naive students you were talking about.
    The uni just turned a blind eye to it but I think in the end this group was nomadic and did a circuit of uni campuses to make more cash.

    Speaking of odd things at the uni I saw advertising for a group offering financial assistance to everyone but straight white male students specifically. I just don't understand how they get away with this.

  20. Does Tan think the first world countries are going to continue being so productive if all wealth in excess of the bare minimum necessary for subsistence is exported?

    Would Tan be happier in a world of equal poverty than in a world of unequal wealth?

    Does Tan live the talk? Does he forgo a trip to the movies because the price of his ticket could be used to inoculate African children? Does he live a life of meager wealth and send his excess income to Africa to feed the starving? If not, why does he want the government to force him to do something he would not choose independently?

    It is amazing how people in the top 5% of income worldwide would be so in favor of redistribution.

    You can only really equalize downward. How does Tan expect large numbers of western democratic people to willingly vote themselves less money?

    Has Tan written anything on the good of social welfare? Does he know how paying people money because it is their "right" to such money work out?

  21. If not, why does he want the government to force him to do something he would not choose independently?

    He won't do it unless he's not disadvantaged relative to you, so he wants the government to force you to do it along with him.

    Besides, many government/ngo workers have pay indexed to government price indexes, so they don't care if government policies make everything more expensive (as carbon taxes and cap & trade will do).

  22. "Does Tan live the talk? "
    I bet he does its called Western Union...

  23. Like Dfordoom said engaging them in debate over this subject even discussing this subject and trying to rationalise it so we can understand what they are thinking. Is giving them bogus credibility.
    The response to unethical Wealth distribution from 1st world to 3rd world countries should be, NO fullstop. Just as legalising Pedophillia should be NO fullstop.
    A similar leftist talking point is open borders again. NO fullstop (although open borders is a little late imo as it pretty much is in effect)

  24. This is how we used to think and act in the Australia.
    "We shall go on building for our children"..a healthy self interest. Watch from 13:20 if you haven't much time.

    Last year...the steelworks are long gone(and the smoke).

  25. Anon, that video was really interesting, thanks.

  26. dfordoom,

    Agreed on conservatism needing to graduate from defense to offense on general principle. But the schismatic nature of modern conservatism needs sorting and this is happening now, slowly, in no small part due to the internet. This is a complex and infinite process.

    Much of what is labelled as politically "conservative" is really liberalism and this may never be understood by most voters. It doesn't need to be-- a smaller number with critical awareness can be enough to shift the tide.

    There needs to be a broader social understanding that redistributing the wealth of actual producers to support parasites (Tan) or corporate welfare (Western states) is fundamentally WRONG. We will always lose in any "compromise" dialogue in these areas.

    --New anon.

  27. Anonymous wrote...

    Much of what is labelled as politically "conservative" is really liberalism and this may never be understood by most voters.

    Agreed. The biggest danger we face comes from politicians who might be fiscal conservatives but who are in fact just as left-wing on social issues as the actual Left. The Liberal Party in Australia today is full of such people. On issues like immigration, multiculturalism, abortion, political correctness, gay marriage, etc you might as well just vote Labor.

    So many people believe they're voting conservative (and intend to vote conservative) when in fact they're voting for politicians who will betray every essential value of conservatism.