Archive for debates

A Brief Moral Argument Against Voting for Anyone to be President.

Posted in opinion, politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , on 2012 October 3 by KLP

Although presidential debates have captured my interest in past election cycles, I did not bother to watch this last one. I did not bother because I do not intend to vote for anyone to take that office on the anarchistic grounds that voting signifies endorsement of the state, something that I would prefer to avoid giving. But, regarding the office of the president in particular, I think I have found a persuasive argument for those who don’t share my libertarian inclinations.

This article about Harold Herring made me aware of the fact that the president of the United States of America has the unchecked authority to deploy nuclear weapons and potentially end civilization, if not our entire species (and many others, no doubt). Conceivably,  anyone in the chain of command could disobey an order to launch, but the system is supposed to prevent such dissension. That’s why the Air Force discharged Herring after he asked, “How can I know that an order I receive to launch my missiles came from a sane president?”. I believe that no individual has the moral right to impose such a consequence on everyone. Therefore, it is immoral to award anyone such authority unless, perhaps, such an award comes with the unanimous consent every member of the human population.

I was going to argue that voting for anyone to become president would unconditionally constitute an immoral act because it is an attempt to award someone that authority. However, a friend reminded me that, at least in the United States of America, voters don’t award the presidency to anyone. That job belongs to the Electoral College (usually). Therefore, voting for any presidential candidate becomes an expression of consent, which I won’t argue is intrinsically immoral. However, giving such consent is misguided because no candidate can meaningfully deserve it more than any other. Given the enormity of the consequences, no candidate is significantly less unfit to hold that authority than his opponents. Going by this train of thought, a vote for a presidential candidate means effectively nothing. Of course, if we ignore the idiosyncratic technicalities of our electoral system and approximate it as a roughly democratic process, the moral argument still holds.

My friend also pointed out that even if no one has the legal authority to launch a nuclear attack or retaliation, a few conspirators could still deploy the arsenal illegally. In other words, the citizenry withholding their consent for anyone to have that authority will not preclude individuals from simply taking it, thereby leading to the same pragmatic outcome. We could go on from here to a discussion on disarmament, but that’s besides the point. If an illegal launch does occur, whether legal means exist or not, the moral responsibility lies exclusively with the individuals who took it upon themselves to conduct the attack. When you vote for someone, though, and thereby consent for him to have the legal authority to use nuclear weapons, you have explicitly accepted moral responsibility for an immoral condition as well as that for an attack that occurs by the authority to which you consented. So, if you intend to vote for president, you’d better be cool with, or at least ignorant of, that responsibility. I suspect that the powers that be rely on the latter.

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The YouTube Debates Aren’t that Awesome

Posted in opinion with tags , , , , on 2007 December 26 by KLP

This post on the Official Google Blog makes me pretty upset with Google. All this talk about breaking down barriers and not one mention of including third party candidates in future YouTube debates. Let’s get something straight: Google isn’t improving the political process. They’re just reinforcing the status quo, and claiming otherwise. So much for “don’t be evil”You can make money without doing evil“. If Google really wants to improve the political process, then they need to turn the election into a real competition and actually make it interesting. Imagine a debate where the debaters are judged on what they say and not on how they answer (or not answer) questions or how they behave or other minutia. Such a debate would actually be useful to voters. A sure way to bring this about is to invite third party candidates to debate. Doing so will call into question the legitimacy and earnest of the candidates who currently aren’t working hard enough or making enough of a case to deserve the position they seek. I agree that YouTube is powerful, but Google needs to use it to affect the sort of change that the USA needs. Something is wrong when elections are won by very slim margins. Blaming the problem on the red-state/blue-state division of the country is incorrect. Rather, the presidential candidates we’ve seen in the last few elections have been too similar. Modifying the debate format to help voters discern the difference between candidates isn’t the way to go about solving that problem. Rather, YouTube should use it’s muscle to force candidates to adopt diverse positions and give voters a real choice.

One might argue that YouTube couldn’t hope to hold a debate with third party candidates because Democrat and Republican candidates would refuse to participate for fear of the sea change that I’ve described. I argue that YouTube is too powerful for any candidate to ignore simply because they want the exposure. Google has no excuse.

Google, don’t be evil. Make things right.

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@dmytri

Venture Communist. Miscommunications Technologist. Telekommunisten Polemicist. ThoughtWorks Analyst.