Greater Good, Lesser Evil

Often, when justifying someone’s action, you hear the phrase, “for the greater good.”

It took awhile for me to realize that the proper question isn’t “greater than what?”  The proper question is, “greater for whom?”

The phrase is used as an unanswerable justification for an action that would otherwise be judged as bad or evil.  It’s as though if something is done “for the greater good,” it is unquestionably virtuous.

Think of the alms for the poor that religions have demanded from their congregations for hundreds of years, threatening hellfire for disobedience.

Or, consider the justification given for funding welfare programs through taxation.  There are people in need; those who are meeting their own needs must provide for them.  If your question about the good is, “greater for whom?” the answer comes easily; at least, it does if you’ve read Ayn Rand on altruism.  The “greater good” means what’s good for other people, as opposed to what is good for an individual.

The “greater good” is given as a Christian way of dealing with the “problem of evil”.  This latter is often raised in discussions about the existence of God.  How can the Christian god exist when there is so much obvious evil in the world?  Evil becomes less problematic — it can even be seen as necessary —  if it contributes to bringing about the “greater good” of fulfilling God’s wishes.

What unites the religious “greater good” with the political “public interest”?  They both based on the premise that sacrifice is good.

“The greater good” fits right in with the Christian duty to self-sacrifice.  It also fits in with the political Left’s maxim that the good is whatever benefits the most people.  Thus we get “the public interest”, which is said to justify the sacrifice of the productive to the “needy”.  So, what might be thought of as “bad” or “evil” for some thus becomes a “greater good” for other people.

In essence, sacrifice is the giving up of something you value for something you value less or not at all.  Christianity expects you to do so in order to have any chance of reaching Heaven.   Leftist politicians exhort you to forego your own interests for:  future generations, or the poor, or the environment, or health care for everyone or — fill in the blank with whatever goals they may currently specify.  (Conservative politicians agree with most of their goals, but differ in their methods.)

The flip side of the “greater good” is the “lesser evil”.  Lesser evil is necessary for there to be a greater good.  (That’s what it’s greater than.)

The sacrifice entailed by the “greater good”, then, turns out to be the standard of morality. But how can something that’s admittedly evil — sacrifice of your values — be a moral standard?  There is a contradiction here.

As always when encountering a contradiction, the principle is: check your premises.  The premise that sacrifice is good contradicts the premise that values are good.

The alternative to the Christian/Leftist call for self-sacrifice?  Rational egoism.  Your responsibility is to yourself; not to any god nor to everyone else.


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Instructions to Congress

Dear Congressman Minnick,

My $.02 on the health care reform and insurance issues:

1. Do NOT authorize ANY increased government involvement in health care OR in health insurance. The idea of compromising on a “public option” is a red herring — vote against ANY bill that calls for more interference in health care or insurance.

2. Use your energy and influence to work toward reducing regulatory laws and bureaucratic agencies presently involved in health care. This nation was founded on the idea of individual rights. STOP restricting our rights!

Yours, etc.

I sent similar messages to Senators Crapo and Risch, both Republicans.  Like many others, I’m getting damned tired of the ever-increasing government controls on our lives.


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Letter To My Senator

Dear Senator Risch:

You responded with a form letter to my expressed concern about health care.  Thank you for replying.

My hope is that you understand that we protestors want the government out of the health care arena.

I want to implore you not to accept any compromises with the reform advocates, such as simply dropping the “public option” but keeping the rest, as recently floated by the President.  The only way Congress can now help the health care system to improve is to begin to deregulate health care, with the eventual goal of getting out of it entirely.

We are not asking Congress to “advance health care reform with caution and concern related to cost, choice, quality and access,” as your form letter states.  We are asking — demanding — that the government be restrained from any involvement in health care.

I am glad you do not approve of the creation of a new government-run “public” health care system.  I am glad for your focus on freeing consumers and health care providers from government interference.  Since the current problems with health care can be traced to previous government interference, it would make no sense to mandate further intrusion into such an important area of our lives.


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Lately, I haven’t been able to turn on TV news without the talking heads therein telling me the country’s financial state is terrible because of deregulation. The Republicans, it is alleged or explicitly stated, deregulated the financial sector, and those greedy businessmen and bankers took full advantage. Now, the bottom has fallen out of the stock market and financial institutions are having to be bailed out by the government.

Then, what to my wondering screen should appear, but the following:

The heart of the matter:

“The Federal Register, which lists all new rules, ran to 72,090 pages in 2007. This was down 3.8% from 2006. The record year was 2004, which saw 75,676 pages.

“Out of more than 60 federal departments, a mere five accounted for 45% of new rules. The departments of Treasury, Commerce, Agriculture, and Homeland Security, along with the EPA, instituted a combined 1,741 new rules in 2007.

“Some rules cost more than others and deserve special attention. Of the new rules, 159 are “economically significant,” meaning they will cost at least $100 million a year. ”

So, it’s difficult for me to see just what has been “deregulated,” and how it’s caused all this financial destruction.


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Terrorism vs. Freedom of Speech

Here we go again.

Sherry Jones, an American journalist, wrote a book entitled The Jewel of Medina. She got and advance of $100,000 from Random House, and the book was scheduled to come out in August of this year. It reportedly concerns the love story of Muhammed and his child bride.

A professor who was asked to read the book and perhaps provide a blurb for the cover, instead panned the book. Her derogation of the book as “softcore pornography” was leaked to the press.

The result was to cause Random House to withdraw. Jones responded, “That one of the biggest publishing houses in the world refuses to publish a book because of warnings is a sobering comment on the state of freedom of speech in the USA.”

What Jones said is true; freedom of speech is eroding in this country. That is happening, not because of any conspiratorial suppression, but because of our government’s defaulting on its job of protecting this freedom.

The default, ongoing for years now, was highlighted when American publishers and book sellers were terrorized from publishing Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses, and the government did nothing. It’s hard to blame Random House for being scared off.

Sherry Jones was able to find another publisher, Gibson Square, an independent in Britain. The threats followed the book across the ocean. The home/office of this publisher, Martin Rynja, has been firebombed, lending credence to Random House’s fears. At least, the British authorities acted quickly and well, arresting the perpetrators and charging them with terrorism.


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To the Republican Platform Committee

In a fit of pique, I submitted the following to the Republican Platform Committee. I don’t expect a great return for the effort, unless …many others express the same ideas as emphatically as they are able:

“My family has always voted Republican. The Party has changed in recent years.

“The important issue: the Republican Party must stand for strict separation of church and state.

“But the Party has now allied itself with the religious right, with such pet issues as anti-stem-cell research, anti-abortion, anti-gay marriage.

“I will not vote Republican under such terms. Protection of individual rights is the most important political issue. Citizens have the right to indulge in their religion, but only privately. There is no right to force one’s religious views on others, as the religious right hopes to do through the Republican Party.

“My hope is for the Party to get back to issues of individual rights, national defense, and free markets. Leave the “social” issues to Americans’ free choice. Until then, the Party will not have my vote.”


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Dr. Geeta Shroff

Imagine having a paralyzing spinal cord injury. Imagine being unable to move your arms or legs, or even to breathe on your own. Then imagine that a physician has developed a treatment using injected embryonic stem cells which can actually improve your condition, allow you to, say, breathe again without mechanical aid. Or begin to regain some use of your limbs, and find yourself on the road to recovery.

Such treatment now appears to be on the horizon for sufferers of heretofore incurable conditions such as SCI, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease.

Every now and then, I run into a new candidate for the title, “a hero of mine.” It’s too early to tell, but I may have found another.

A medical researcher in New Delhi, India, Dr. Geeta Shroff, is reportedly doing wondrous things with embryonic stem cells. She has been called a “maverick,” already an attractive description in an age of regulated conformity. The reason for the appellation: her fierce determination to do her work under her own terms and in her own way.

This means that Dr. Shroff did her research without any government financial assistance. As with the early Bill Gates, she at first worked out of her garage, where she set up her own small lab.

She first became famous in the early 90’s for developing a technique for determining the sex of a fetus in the womb, without taking a scan. After regulators curtailed that practice, she worked at treating couples for infertility problems.

She began her controversial work on stem cells in the late 90’s. At present, she has two hospitals in New Delhi, where she treats people who have terminal conditions or incurable diseases. Her patients have mostly been countrymen, but lately she has been approached by many international patients from Britain, Australia, America, and other countries which tightly control the use of embryonic stem cells.

Dr. Shroff gets criticism from the conventional medical establishment because she doesn’t publish on her research and technique. Instead of publishing, she has applied for a patent in order to stop competitors from copying and profiting from her work.

Dr. Shroff is to be commended for steadfastly being her own person in an era when such independence is frowned upon. She will have huge forces aligned against her: the medical profession’s disapproval and consequent ostracism, condemnation by religious “pro life” groups, castigation by self-styled “ethicists”, censure for insisting on making her own use of her discoveries rather than giving them away — the list goes on.

It’s too early for me to tell whether this remarkable woman and her breakthrough methods are for real, or a flash in the pan, but I have to say, I like her style.

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Kevorkian To Be Released

One of my heroes, Dr. Jack Kevorkian, is to be released on parole from prison June 1, after serving over eight years of a 10- to 25-year sentence. He is the retired pathologist who was imprisoned over eight years ago for assisting a man to end his life. He is scheduled to appear on “60 Minutes” two days later, on June 3, 2007.

There is sure to be a lot of attention paid to his release; the media likes to sensationalize their reports about Dr. Kevorkian; they make up terms like “Dr. Death” and capitalize on the supposed “contradiction” of a physician assisting a patient to die.

Lost in the controversy is the concept of individual rights. It is each individual’s choice whether to keep on living. After all, whose life is it? If a person chooses to end his life, it is his right to hire a physician to help him end it in a way that is both painless and efficient. And, it is a doctor’s right to provide such help if he sees fit.

Life is sacred, the opponents of physician-assisted suicide say; it’s never right to purposely end it. They are right that life is sacred. That’s why it must be ended when it loses its value to the person concerned. The question then is, how best to end it. To prohibit a doctor of his choice from helping that person is to deny both of them their right to live as they choose.


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Faith Kills

An excellent letter-to-the-editor of the Richmond, VA Times-Dispatch is worth disseminating far and wide. It can be found here.

Richmond, VA Times Dispatch:

Faith Caused 9/11, And Much Else

Editor, Times-Dispatch:

Five years ago, nearly 3,000 of our fellow Americans were reduced to burnt dust in the rubble of the Looming Towers.

They were not killed by ignorance or poverty or because “terrorists hate our freedom.” They were murdered by faith — faith in unseen gods, in invisible paradises, in the ancient fairy tales of desert tribes, their myths of creation, sacrifice, redemption, and eternal life. Faith caused 9/11.

Oh how easy for us to scoff at the outlandish, misogynistic beliefs of the 19 “holy warriors”, the shaving of their body hair, the 72 virgins awaiting each assassin, the eerie willingness of these highly educated children of affluent families to slaughter and die for lurid storybook endings in the happily-ever-after.

But were not 300,000 burned at the stake in Madrid’s main square over the course of the Inquisition? Did not all of Europe’s Catholic and Protestant armies slaughter and starve to death one-third of the entire German people in the horrible war of 1618-48, fought over whether the Holy Father or the Holy Bible was inerrant, over whether Communion wafers were truly the very flesh of the Living Lord or just a symbol of his gory sacrifice? And did not our German cousins, in living memory, grind 6 million unarmed men, women, and children into wet mud in the crematoria of Central Europe because of their peculiar pagan faith in an omniscient Fuhrer?

Chosen People, Elect of the Lord, Master Race — on and on, faith in fanciful tales, embellished and handed down for a hundred generations — these are the lies used by priests, preachers, and politicians, by imams and rabbis, since the first witch doctor sought sway over his fellows in a cave at the dawn of our species.

Faith, its arrogant certainties, and its absolute imperatives caused 9/11.

Faith kills.

William Pinknoras. Midlothian.

Faith is the blind acceptance of ideas without concern for evidence and proof. It would have been good to point out the alternative — reason — but Mr. Pinknoras does a great job of identifying many of the effects of reliance on faith, across time and across (most of) the world.


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Drugs and Gambling

Today’s news is full of: what-to-do about drug gang violence in Nuevo Laredo, just across the border from Texas, and, the “big” gambling scandal involving the wife of a hockey superstar.

By the standards of Objectivism — and of common sense — neither of these “problems” ought to be a problem. Gambling, for example should never be a concern of the government, if the government is solely concerned with protecting individual rights — the primary concern of government. What a person does with his own money, even if he capriciously loses it, is his own business and responsibility. Government has no proper authority to make him treat his money differently “for his own good.” (Nor should the government have the authority to make others take care of that person when he is broke.)

As to the gang violence at the border, note that what was mentioned is drug gang violence. Like gambling, drug use/abuse should be a matter of personal choice. If it had not been made illegal to buy, sell, or use drugs, it would not be worthwhile to form illegal “gangs” in order to supply drugs illegally.


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