Many of us feel that we have a duty to participate in politics in one way or another. But a lot of political participation seems to be causally futile. Maybe the most obvious example of this is voting in very large elections (such as a national presidential election). The chances of casting the deciding vote are astronomically small. So a natural question arises: why would we have a duty to do something that is almost guaranteed to make no relevant causal impact? Chris Freiman, a philosopher at the college of William & Mary, proposes an answer: we have no such duty. In this interview, he addresses a number of objections to this response, including objections from free-riding, complicity with injustice, expressive duty, and, of course, the ever-popular “but if everyone thought this way…”. We conclude with a discussion of Peter Singer-inspired arguments to the effect that not only are we allowed to ignore politics, but we are in fact morally obligated to do so.
0:00 – Intro to Chris Freiman and public goods
5:12 – Futile political participation, voting, thresholds
18:34 – “If everybody thought this way” and free-riding
33:55 – Complicity with injustice and accepting state benefits
43:09 – You can always leave, an obligation to tax evasion?…
A primer on anarchism from individualist anarchists William Gillis and Ryan Neugebauer. Anarchism is sometimes assumed to be synonymous with a call for chaos and disorder, a characterization which most of its adherents consider to be quite the opposite of what they strive for. But it is difficult to pin down just what unifies the many strands of anarchism under a single umbrella. In this interview, we discuss some of the central ideas behind most forms of anarchism: power dynamics in relationships, hierarchical vs. ‘horizontal’ organization, freedom as consent vs. freedom as the availability of options, among others. We conclude with a discussion on strategy: just what would bring about the end of the state? Does it require violence against the state? Is the aim of anarchism primarily a cultural shift, or is it something more concrete?
In the paper, Bostrom argues as follows: think of human technological development as an urn filled with balls. Most balls are white: these are mostly beneficial, or at least harmless, technological developments. A few are gray: they’re dangerous and have potentially catastrophic consequences, but either act on a long enough timeline that it’s possible to prevent these consequences, or are otherwise containable (fossil fuels and nuclear weapons might both go under this category). Presumably, there are some black balls. These are the sort that, if anyone discovered this technology, it is almost certain that humanity would suffer a catastrophic, possibly species-annihilating, event within a very short span of time, unless it were possible to very quickly and effectively contain it.
Bostrom elucidates the black ball possibility vividly: we had no reason to assume that something like nuclear power, if it were possible, should be easy or difficult to recreate. Had it turned out that nukes were fairly easy to make in your own basement, we might not be around right now to talk about it.…