Friday, 27 April 2012

Exile the rich!

We must make our choice. We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both.  (Justice Louis Brandeis)
The rich have two defining capabilities: independence from and command over others. Those two features make being rich very pleasant indeed. But they are also what make the rich bad for democracy, and indeed even for capitalism. The problems I am concerned with are not about justice. Perhaps it is wrong that some people are rich and others are poor, and perhaps it would be right to redistribute wealth from rich to poor, and from wealthy countries to poorer countries. But from my perspective that resembles debating the proper (re)arrangement of deck chairs. What I'm concerned with is the sinking ship - the threat the rich pose to liberal democracy itself. Democracies are extended moral communities whose flourishing and indeed survival depend on the interdependence and equality of their members. The rich not only have no place in this kind of community, but their very presence undermines it. Therefore, if we believe our democracy is worth preserving, we should offer the rich a choice: give up your money or give up your membership of our society.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

National Responsibility for Historic Crimes: It's a Matter of Honour

Your country has probably done some very bad things. Perhaps recently, perhaps before you or even your parents were born. How do you feel about that? Does your present government have a duty to make amends for the bad things it has done, for example with apologies and reparations? Intuitively most people think so, but what kind of duty is that and what does it require from you as a citizen or subject? And how can you get other countries to admit that they have done wrong?