Ethics concerns how we should behave towards each other as members of society. It is therefore closely connected to politics, hierarchy, and the goals of social and economic institutions in general. Ethical views on the nature of human rights, on valuable social goals, on what is permissible and what is not, are of obvious and direct import on what kind of social and economic institutions we should have.
Evolutionary intuitionism, being an ethical position, has a great deal to say about these things. Before I get into those that, let me first remind you what the two basic premises of evolutionary intuitionism are:
* Being of value*: I am essentially of objective and independent intrinsic value throughout my existence, and so are other human beings with foundational attitudes. From now on, when I write that something is valuable* or of value*, this is what I mean.
* Desire-dependence: We should first seek to preserve ourselves from significant injury, then preserve our kin from significant injury, then preserve our friends and other people with whom we enjoy mutually beneficial relationships from injury.
From these two basic premises, we can derive a great number of principles. In my entry on intuitionism, I listed the ones Zamulinski discusses in his book Evolutionary Intuitionism. The principles on involuntary sacrifice and on egalitarianism are of particular importance to the topic of politics.
If you remember my entry “On the inconvenient truths about human sacrifice,” you’ll know what I’m referring to when I say involuntary sacrifice is an important political issue. Capitalism and its various forms are based on involuntary servitude and involuntary sacrifice. Indeed, we freely admit that our infrastructure was based on sacrifice, but would rather deny the consequences of this fact. Many of our laws and institutions (the two examples I gave in that entry are our laws for or against abortion, and hospitals) are based on involuntary sacrifice, in that we know for a fact that people will die because of their continued existence.
Now people might object to my painting of these sacrifices as being involuntary. Let’s take the most “voluntary” case I can think of, driving on roads. People drive on roads knowing very well that death can result, and 1.2 million people a year die in automobile crashes around the world (more than the number of successful suicides).
You may argue that people voluntarily go on the road with the risk of death in mind, and that therefore they are not “involuntary sacrifices.” But I think this is a vast exaggeration. No one sets out to drive their car with the expectation of dying, including those people who do end up dying. So no one voluntarily dies so the road system can continue to exist. And yet they do die so the road system can continue to exist.
Likewise, factory workers in Third World countries do not voluntarily want to die or be wounded in workplace accidents, but they do die or get wounded so neo-liberalism can export the result of their labor to Western markets.
Keep in mind that it is not the action itself that is involuntary, but the sacrifice (the loss of life for some unrelated cause). I am not arguing here that the driving or the labor is involuntary, but that the sacrifices that result from these actions are involuntary. No one commits to these actions expecting to be wounded or die.
Of course, there’s always the fatalistic objections. By fatalistic, I mean that the objections basically amount to shrugging and saying “well, that’s the way it is, so…” In the case of roads, one may answer that “well, we need roads so we should just accept that using roads will result in some deaths.” In the case of neo-liberalism, one may answer that “well, we need to work for survival, and some people will be hurt because of it, but that’s just how it is.”
Firstly, such answers are red herrings, because they do not argue against the existence of involuntary sacrifice; on the contrary, they confirm it, because they seek to rationalize its existence. This is similar to a Christian answering the Problem of Evil by answering that “well, God must have some reason to bring all this about…” By giving such an answer, the interlocutor has already defeated eir own position. Likewise, the fatalist does not deny the existence of involuntary sacrifice, so ey fails to address the issue.
Secondly, I do not accept the fatalist conclusion that because “that’s just how it is,” we therefore cannot pass judgment. History is “just how it is,” but we still pass judgment upon historical events. To reiterate an example I’ve used before, the execution of Giordani Bruno is “just how it is,” but we have no problem passing judgment upon it. But unlike the execution of Giordani Bruno, the existence of roads or other institutions is not fixed in stone; the way society works can be changed, albeit very slowly, in a way that historical facts cannot.
Another obvious answer is that the benefit we get from the sacrifice outweighs the cost of the sacrifice itself. But if the victim is of value* and desire-dependence is true, then it cannot be the case that anyone is obligated to sacrifice themselves for other people’s benefit, no matter how great that benefit might be. One may voluntarily decide to commit such a sacrifice, but it cannot be involuntary.
If involuntary sacrifice is morally wrong, then all economic and social institutions which entail involuntary sacrifice are morally wrong, regardless of their benefits. We have no duty to benefit others, but we have a duty not to harm others.
Capitalism in all its forms, including neo-liberalism, relies on the exploitation of some for the benefit of others, an exploitation which includes the enclosure of commons, the expropriation of people from their land, and the expropriation of natural resources, all of which may entail starvation and therefore involuntary sacrifice. Capitalism also entails the primacy of the “right to property” over the rights to the requirements of life (such as food, potable water or health care), which may entail involuntary sacrifice as well. Many jobs also risk people’s lives in ways which are not necessary for attaining their objectives, but are necessary for profit-seeking.
War also entails massive amounts of involuntary sacrifice (sorry, I meant “collateral damage”… or something). I hope I don’t have to explain this one. The “justice system,” with its routine disrespect for human life and for truth, entails massive amounts of involuntary sacrifice as well (not only in the use of the death penalty and in prison violence, but also in psychological trauma).
I’ve already discussed the case of the laws regarding abortion; both pro-choice and anti-abortion laws entail involuntary sacrifice (although pro-choice laws do so to a lesser degree). Anti-drug laws also entail involuntary sacrifice, in that they make drug use more dangerous and more likely to be lethal, and also introduce a tremendous number of crimes which may be lethal as well. Laws regarding guns and other weapons also entail involuntary sacrifice when they interfere with self-defense or generate more armed crime.
I could go on and on with examples, but I think you get the idea: a lot of our institutions entail involuntary sacrifice. This means they are morally wrong, regardless of any other consideration. A lot of them (such as food safety issues, workplace issues, transportation issues, health care issues) are partially or completely reducible to capitalism. Air, water and soil pollution, which may be the greatest cause of death in the world and the cause of at least 3% of deaths in the Western world, is also partially reducible to capitalism.
It is not exactly capitalism that is to blame, but any kind of totalitarian economics. The Soviet Union and China were no exception to the rule: they both had rent-seeking (mainly through obtaining higher prices by appealing to the planning bureaucracy) and wage contracts. Firms there were therefore under the same incentives which cause involuntary sacrifice under capitalist economies.
We also have an obligation to oppose such sacrificial arrangements as much as we can, for the same reason that we have an obligation not to personally kill innocent people. Unlike Zamulinski, I do not construe this as meaning that not opposing such arrangements signals consent, however; consent cannot exist without a credible signal of refusal, and there is no credible signal of refusal to capitalism, war, the “justice system” and various laws.
This means that anyone who supports capitalism is morally wrong, because they fail to oppose a sacrificial arrangement made for their benefit. Of course, such people have already bought into self-interest, and therefore see nothing wrong with having others killed or wounded for their benefit. This merely highlights how morally wrong they are.
We’re not talking about egalitarianism here, but about something very basic, that one should not sacrifice others for oneself. But evolutionary intuitionism also entails egalitarianism; because we are committed to treat everyone with foundational attitudes to be of value*, no matter who they are, we are committed to treating them as our moral equals and to give them equal respect.
Zamulinski’s egalitarian conclusions are extremely radical in nature:
If we are committed to attribute to other possessors of foundational attitudes the same amount of value* as we attribute to ourselves, always treating one person’s desires as more important than another’s is wrong, because doing so presupposes that the former is more valuable* than the latter.
Thus, we have a prima facie obligation to reform or abolish customs or institutions that promote unequal status, unequal treatment, or exploitation. For instance, the subjugation of women (sic) is wrong even if it is in the biological interest of males to subjugate them…
Equality trumps economics. The economic costs of achieving equality are morally bearable unless they increase the probability of the deaths of some possessors of foundational attitudes. The currency of morality is human lives, human well-being, and human dignity. Other currencies are subordinate to it.
This bears repeating: equality is more important than benefits, even if the benefits greatly outweigh the practical harm inflicted by the inequality. No amount of money can outweigh the fact that we are owed equal respect as valuable* human beings.
Capitalism is not, and cannot, be ethical. No “reform” can make capitalism ethical because its basic premises are explicitly anti-egalitarian and subjectivist.
Of course Zamulinski is correct in saying that the Patriarchy must be abolished. He also parries the usual argument that the Patriarchy should not be abolished because it makes men feel good; no benefit, including something as strong as biological interest, can trump the fundamental equality of valuable* human beings. To refuse to treat each other as equals is profoundly wrong because the fact that we are all equally valuable* is so obvious; this is why we need to rationalize inequality so much.
This is why traditionalists and funfems cannot simply come out and say that the Patriarchy is good because it makes men feel good (even though in practice they behave exactly as if that is their motivating belief). Instead, they have to either argue for the objective existence of gender, as I’ve discussed in many prior entries, or argue that the Patriarchy makes women feel good too (as they do with pornography and prostitution, amongst other things); while I don’t dispute that the most brainwashed women feel good by objectifying themselves for the male gaze, again, benefits cannot trump equality.
Antinatalism also enters into this ethical approach. As Zamulinski points out in his book, we are committed to treating human beings to be of value* from the time of conception, because they are potential beings of value*. As I’ve pointed out before, this cannot mean that fetuses cannot be aborted, because abortion makes it so that the fetus is no longer a potential being of value*. But it does mean that we are committed to treating potential humans in the same way we would treat any other human. So at least some forms of antinatalism (those based on issues of consent, risk, the Asymmetry, basically arguments which demonstrate that we treat potential lives with unjustified contempt) are logically validated by evolutionary intuitionism.
Ethics informs us about the validity of our social values. Everything we do, as members of society, has a social component, and therefore every action fulfills some social value. Morality, ethics, personal and political are all intimately connected. We cannot pretend that there are separate realms of reasoning called “politics” and “economics” which are separate from human values and human considerations. This is a recipe for massive dehumanization and destruction. We have seen as much in the ways these disciplines have been used to steal, maim and kill. Equality trumps politics and economics.