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Saturday, August 30, 2008

A New Moral Code

"But if there's no hell, there are no consequences for our actions!"

I cannot count the number of times I have heard this argument or its variants. First off, there are consequences for your actions in this life: jail, pain, loss of property/reputation, and death to name but a few. There are plenty of reasons to be nice to other people without invoking the supernatural.

Nonetheless, many claim religion (well, not all of them- that would just be silly) as a source of morality. For a good rebuttal, see George Carlin's critique of the Ten Commandments. Our old friend Richard Dawkins also does a good job of demolishing the supernatural explanation for morality in this video. As for the other religions, if you're reading this, then you know how use the Internet, so find it yourself.

Here's my attempt at a new moral code:

1) Be nice other people. Not only is this prudent, but it also helps encourage nice behavior.

2) Do not let other people take advantage of you. Just being nice is not enough- you have to be on guard for not-nice-people.

3) Forgive people who wrong you, as everyone commits wrongs. Avoid holding grudges. Forgive people even if they do not ask for it.

A few months ago, I tried reading the Qu'ran. I read the first fourth and that is the reason I did not read the rest of it. I never thought I would read a book so bad that it makes Battlefield Earth look good but there is such a book. The fact that it is considered the most beautiful thing written in Arabic goes to show that the Arabs need some new books. I only hope no one translates Dianetics into Arabic. Then we'd have a billion Scientologists on our hands.

Here Arabs, try this:

Saturday, August 23, 2008

The International Plane Ticket Fund

This is an idea which has been floating around in my head for a while.

Instead of spending billions of dollars trying to bring democracy by force, for a lot less money, every person who wants to leave could be relocated to a halfway decent country with plenty of room like the US, Canada, or Australia. The people interested in rescuing people from tyranny should just put a fund together for the sole purpose of evacuating people from horrible places. I call this idea "The International Plane Ticket Fund."

For example, There are about 18 million people in Iraq. At $10,000/person for travel and relocation costs, the total cost of evacuating everyone comes to $180 billion- quite a bit less than the approximately $500 bilion the US has spent so far in military operations in Iraq.

This is a simple, humane, and effective way of dealing with tyrants, who would probably jump at the chance to get rid of any potential dissidents. In fact they have. If any leader refused to let people flee, that leader would invite war upon himself. It would be the same thing as saying "my country is so terrible that the only way to keep people from leaving is to threaten to kill them."

If everyone who wanted to leave Zimbabwe could, the country would quickly empty and Mugabe would have no one to oppress. His government would collapse and then a new one could be established.

Many discussions of promoting peace revolve around democracy and capitalism. While it is true that capitalist democracies generally do not fight each other, this is not the only reason. The US has no love for North Korea but we do not fight them. Why is that? Well, it's because they have a large, well-equipped military. It's the same reason the US never fought Russia directly. When two groups are capable of hurting each other more or less equally, they quickly learn to compromise. Every genocide has one element in common: the people who got massacred were unarmed or armed poorly. The best way to promote peace would be to arm everyone equally. I call this idea "AK-47s for Everyone."

On a side note, I have always been puzzled by why many liberals oppose gun ownership. More guns means more power in the hands of the average Joe, doesn't it? "Political power springs forth from the barrel of a gun." And if it's about saving lives, they'd be better off trying to improve road safety, or convince people to stop smoking, or exercise more, or a dozen other things. In any case, as there are about 200 million firearms in the US and a gigantic black market, more regulations aren't going to keep them out of the hands of criminals and it would be just about impossible for the government to round up all the illegal guns in the US even if it wanted to.

Well, this post is all over the place, and since I have no inclination to tie it all together, I will leave it to the reader to assign relevance to this information.