Friday, 6 July 2012

The influential moral and political philosopher Peter Singer, who started his career in his native Australia and then moved on to the prestigious, Ivy League, Princeton University where Einstein once taught, has done very good things for the world.

In 1975 he wrote Animal Liberation, the book that gave academic and political recognition to the concept that nonhuman animals, as sentient and in many species self-conscious beings, must become part of the "expanding circle" of ethical acknowledgment and consideration.

I so much liked this work, which expressed in systematic form many of the things that I believed, that I wanted to translate it into Italian (which I managed to do several years later, in 1991, published by Mondadori).

Nobody, though, is perfect. A thinker may be a great pioneer in some field and make serious mistakes in another.

Singer is a utilitarian. Utilitarianism, a moral theory developed in the 19th century by John Stuart Mill and Jeremy Bentham, has the beauty of - as far as ethical doctrines go - simplicity, which is also, alas, its problem.

Utilitarians believe that every moral choice between two actions should be guided by a calculation of the consequences of either action on all those affected by it. Since for utilitarianism what is important in the moral calculus is the amount of positive and negative feelings, sensations and emotions experienced, the ethical course of action should be the one that results in the best possible balance, i.e leads to the greatest possible amount of happiness and pleasure and the least possible amount of misery and pain, regardless of who experiences them but only taking into account how many. The last derives from the principle of equality embraced by the theory.

In short, the goal is the greatest benefit for the highest number.

As I said, it has the attraction of simplicity by reducing all values to one, the continuum of subjective experience of pain/pleasure but, as critics have observed, in so doing it reduces moral patients (the individuals affected by a choice) to mere receptacles of those feelings.

Tom Regan, another moral philosopher who is a champion of animal equality, follows the other main school of ethics, the Kantian or natural rights view, which holds that each moral patient has intrinsic value.

He once gave an interesting example to show what is wrong about utilitarianism. Suppose that you have an old aunt without family, who is immensely rich and never donates to charity. If you let her live the benefits from her continued existence and her wealth will be only for herself; but if you kill her, inherit her estate and then give all her money to charity, you will create a much greater amount of happiness and wellbeing for a much higher number of people.

Utilitarianism, even after being refined and revised as "preference utilitarianism" by R. M. Hare and Peter Singer, can lead to such undesirable conclusions.

Another major problem with this theory is that things are not so simple, for many times it is very difficult if not impossible to know all the benefits or disadvantages deriving from a certain course of action, let alone their amounts.

A clear case of this problem arises in relation to the issue concerning our blog.

In his book One World, Peter Singer advocates all the things we stand against: he thinks that the West should encourage as much immigration from the Third World as it can possibly take without bursting. As a utilitarian, he thinks that the “suffering”, i.e. the negative effects, for the West of this policy would be outweighed by the greater benefits for the rest of the world.

Singer obviously believes that he can tell what those negative consequences for the rich world will be.

But has he considered this scenario, accurately described by the Danish psychologist Nicolai Sennels?

The Danes are the world’s most trusting people. Historians and researchers believe that the Danes' nature of trusting other people goes back to the time of the Vikings. The Vikings' domestic economy was simply built on trust: If you live in a time with no police or courts, and you entrust some animal furs to a trader, you need to be able to trust that trader to pay you your money once he returns - often months or years later - from his trade trip.

Trust is very important for the economy to function. According to some researchers, a "10 percent negative change in the level of trust in a population will cause a half percent negative change in economic growth." Both Vikings and anybody who has ever borrowed or lent money knows that trust is important when it comes to finances. Without trust, there will be either no deal or a lot of resources will need to be invested in insurance, lawyers and bureaucracy.

Trust is also believed to be a prerequisite for happiness (Trust Hormone Associated With Happiness, Happiness flows from trust - etc.). Trust increases the feeling of security, and feeling secure is - unless you are looking for certain types of excitement - a necessity for feeling happy. No wonder the most trusting people are also the happiest.

Trust and sharing values

It is easier to trust people if you feel that you know them. This is why businessmen take the effort to travel to meet their clients personally. If you know that the other party shares the same basic values, you already know a lot about that person - because you know yourself. Sharing values means knowing each other, and knowing each other increases trust. This is why criminal gangs - which are built on a high level of trust - are mostly monocultural.

So what happens when people with very different cultural backgrounds and religious values live together? The level of trust naturally goes down. In order to preserve trust and the many benefits coming from this important feeling and experience, the different groups tend to live together in enclaves separated from the other groups. It is important for people to feel "at home" - but what makes that feeling of being at home? It’s the feeling of being surrounded by a recognisable environment and culture where one does not have to communicate excessively to reach mutual understanding and thereby trust.

A decrease in trust leads to a decrease in the feeling of safety and happiness as well. As psychologist Abraham Maslow showed us in his hierarchy of needs, and as all who have been able to learn from life's ups and downs know, not having our basic needs fulfilled leads human beings to focus more on their own basic needs before focusing their efforts on benefiting those around them. Thus a decrease in trust means an increase in egotism.

Proponents of multiculturalism may think that they are working for more confluent societies with more tolerant citizens by waging lawfare against our national borders and thereby forcing us to live with people from cultures that we basically do not know and understand. But their efforts are clearly counterproductive, as the result is cultural segregation and individuals focusing more on themselves. The multiculti segment clearly lacks knowledge of human nature, and their ivory tower theories completely overlook normal real life experience, established psychological theories and well known facts.

Multiculture destroys trust

It is understandable when people from countries, where you need to be more egoistic to survive, have less reason to trust others to the same degree, and tend to exploit the good will and trust from others. The same goes for people from religions that tell them that adherents of other faiths are unworthy of the same respect.

A recent sample conducted by the Danish tax authorities among Somali immigrants showed that 92 percent of Somali immigrants evade taxes. On average they cheat Denmark of 8,300 USD yearly. This is possible because of the Danish system Tast-Selv ("type in yourself") that allows taxpayers to type in their income to the IRS themselves. It is a system built on the state's trust in the taxpayers and is meant to save a lot of time and money. We are also seeing an alarming increase of so-called trick thefts committed by foreigners and immigrants. Here the thieves, often disguised as police or nursing assistants, deceive the home owner into letting them into the house. This type of crime is another example of exploitation of the typical trusting Danish/Western nature. The alarmingly high degree of tax evasion and social fraud among non-Western immigrants, especially Muslims, is well known but politically incorrect to speak about. A large investigation in Høje-Taastrup, Denmark, showed that 75 percent of all social fraud is committed by immigrants - other countries have similar problems.

Trust makes people happy and countries rich, but letting people from less trust-based cultures into our fellowship turns this strength into our most dangerous weakness. Multiculturalism corrodes trust, a cornerstone for happiness, economic well-being and social cohesion - and thereby eats away at our whole way of life.

Only yesterday we had a clamorous case of this climate of lack of confidence, when in England a coach driving on the M6 motorway from Preston to London was stopped for 4 hours as armed police, firefighters, troops and bomb disposal experts responded to an alarm from passengers who suspected a terrorist attack when they saw smoke coming from an ex-smoker's electronic cigarette.

Singer made the mistake of not realizing that his inability to predict developments like all the ones described above prevented him from telling the consequences of Third World immigration to the West. His analysis was way too approximate and superficial to sustain his far-reaching conclusions, and incapable of standing its ground against objections like Sennels'.

And, perhaps even more seriously, not understanding Islam led him to misjudge what the true long-term consequences of this immigration really are going to be.

By Enza Ferreri


4 comments:

Cheradenine Zakalwe said...

I started reading Singer's book "The Expanding Circle" recently after I saw his concept of the "moral circle" referenced in another book I was reading, The Blank Slate by Steven Pinker (which I might make a post about because it is germane to our topic).

The idea of the moral circle (the sphere of people included in or excluded from our feelings of empathy) is interesting, I think, in relation to the concept of racism. It's clear that many Europeans feel distress at the ways their countries are being changed by third-world immigration. Normally we empathise naturally with people in distress. But through the alchemy of "racism", the empathy normally felt for people in distress is transformed into contempt. It's an extraordinary thing.

How, after all, is the distress felt by Europeans at the colonisation of their homelands by Asians and Africans in essence different from the distress felt by Asians and Africans at the colonisation of their homelands by Europeans? It isn't. But through the magical potency of the concept of "racism", applied only to the European victims of the colonisation process, our elites channel empathy for one and contempt for the other.

isntlam said...

"As a utilitarian, he thinks that the “suffering”, i.e. the negative effects, for the West of this policy would be outweighed by the greater benefits for the rest of the world."

Never. Muslims will never be happy regardless of how much they have. Islam is nothing more than a death cult.

Anonymous said...

Applying philosophical and moral theories to practical politics of a nation is foolhardy to say the least. Common sense and what the people desire, should be the way.

DP111

Emigration said...

While immigration to the United States is well documented, so is emigration from the United States. And while people coming to the United States still exceeds those leaving, most who do leave, do so not as permanent emigrants but as expatriates for a limited amount of time.

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