J Thomas on September 29, 2010, 03:02:12 pm

Let me try to make it clear.  Not all atrocities are committed by Israelis.  Not all atrocities are committed against Palestinians.  Civilized people oppose all atrocities.

You and many terrorists make the same collectivist mistake: putting people into groups and justifying atrocities against innocent people who you consider to be in the same group as guilty people.  It is barbaric when terrorists do it.  It is barbaric when you do it.

Well, what about guilty people. Is it OK to do atrocities on guilty people?

If you can't do atroctiies on people who deserve it, who *can* you do atrocities on?

We just have to figure out who's guilty enough to deserve it, and then we're set.

quadibloc on September 29, 2010, 03:07:59 pm
Well, what about guilty people. Is it OK to do atrocities on guilty people?
Depends what you mean by an "atrocity". I agree with the Constitution's prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment. On the other hand, just killing people only becomes an atrocity when the victims are innocent.

If it's true that only brave people can be free, then maybe the battle for freedom was lost in the United States in 1920, when the Nineteenth Amendment was passed. Despite the fact that Colt made men equal... and if that didn't include women, Derringer corrected the omission.

Since so many men are so much bigger and stronger than the typical young woman, and because at the moment, at least, getting schools to consider letting girls carry their concealed handguns to class seems out of reach, having a law in place that prevents any man ever getting drunk, so as to get into a state where he might act impulsively without considering the consequences of his actions... may seem like a very attractive reform.
« Last Edit: September 29, 2010, 03:21:55 pm by quadibloc »

Brugle on September 29, 2010, 03:55:19 pm
in our culture people are taught that esthetics is personal and variable -- de gustibus -- while morality is objective and universal.

Bullshit.

In my culture, people are constantly bombarded with propaganda that ethics is variable and arbitrary.  The primary lesson of government schools, enforced over and over again, is that people should obey government edicts, no matter how inconsistent, idiotic, or destructive.  The idea that people should look for and try to follow ethical truths is not considered, and if a student brings up the idea it is ridiculed.

Before you insist that government propaganda is correct in this instance, consider this: who gains from that idea?  Who gains when the choice of a) people keeping the wealth they produce or b) government officials taking that wealth for themselves and their politically powerful friends is considered an aesthetic difference?  Who gains when torturing innocent people is considered performance art?  Who gains when guilt or innocence is considered to be arbitrary and subject to official whim?

Have you ever rejected any government propaganda?  If not, this would be a good place to start.

jamesd on September 29, 2010, 05:52:44 pm
This looks like an interesting claim to examine from an AnCap perspective.

Imagine it. You are an AnCap who does not recognize the authority of governments, peacefully living in your home. But collections of armed gangs are roaming the area killing people who look like you, and they threaten to kill everybody who looks like you. They heavily outnumber the people in your AnCap town and they have better weapons, but most of you successfully run away. Then a couple of governments fight on your land. One of the governments wins. It announces that you cannot come home, they will stop you at the border. If you sneak across the border they will point guns at you and escort you out of their country, unless they shoot you.


Let us suppose you are anarcho capitalists, members of group X.  Other members of group X are attempting to set up as state that will kill or subjugate all members of group Y.  It becomes apparent that members of group Y decline to be subjugated, so the objective gets redefined as killing all members of group Y, men, women and children.  Members of group Y win against members of group X, set up a state, throw you out. 

Why are they throwing you out?  Because they cannot tell you from members of group X that were trying to kill them all.  So if you are around, they reasonably suspect you will kill them.

Why can they not tell the difference?  Because when fellow members of group X were raping and murdering, you and your friends sat on your hands, at best saying and doing at nothing, at worst cheering on murderers and rapists.

If not all members of group X intend murder, they have an obligation to make that obvious by doing something reasonably effectual against members of group X that do intend murder.  In a somewhat anarchic situation, this would involve hanging objectionable members of group X from the lamposts.  In a less anarchic situation, this would involve condemning them as going to hell, publicly naming and shaming them, and ratting them out to enemies who intend to kill them - giving out their precise location in the expectations that hit teams or high explosives would soon be at that location.

Group Y is obligated to try to distinguish between hostile and non hostile members of group X - but group X is obligated to make them distinguishable.  In the common situation where bad guys hide behind women and children, it really is legitimate to kill the women and children.

Xenophon often used the tactic of burning the houses and crops and raping the women and children in order to force his enemies to appear and engage in a conventional battle.  This was legitimate, since they could have protected their women and their crops by allowing Xenophon free passage, and allowing members of their group to freely sell supplies to Xenophon's men.


J Thomas on September 29, 2010, 06:42:05 pm
in our culture people are taught that esthetics is personal and variable -- de gustibus -- while morality is objective and universal.

Bullshit.

In my culture, people are constantly bombarded with propaganda that ethics is variable and arbitrary.

There may be some of that. I would tend to ignore it, while you would tend to ignore the reverse. I note that if there is a lot of that it's pretty much ineffective.

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The primary lesson of government schools, enforced over and over again, is that people should obey government edicts, no matter how inconsistent, idiotic, or destructive.

Yes, I remember. I was kind of a naive loudmouth back then, and I remember asking, "If I'm stopped at a red light and there's nobody else there, why shouldn't I just go ahead through? Who would it hurt?" And the teacher's answer was, "If you get caught you'll get a ticket." The consistent refrain was that it's *impractical* to disobey government edicts, because the government is stronger than you are.

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The idea that people should look for and try to follow ethical truths is not considered, and if a student brings up the idea it is ridiculed.

I didn't see that ridiculed when it was presented as Christian belief, but the christians with oddball beliefs tended to keep quiet. Maybe there's more ridicule now than there was then.

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Before you insist that government propaganda is correct in this instance, consider this: who gains from that idea?

Who gains if an idea is correct, is completely irrelevant to whether it is in fact correct. It's possible that you gain in the short run by persuading people that a correct idea is false. I assert that this approach is likely to backfire. It may let you win against a particular opponent, but your lie will haunt you -- you will continue to have dealings with people who believe your stupid lie and they will continue to get in your way.

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Who gains when the choice of a) people keeping the wealth they produce or b) government officials taking that wealth for themselves and their politically powerful friends is considered an aesthetic difference?

Let's think about that. Say for example that you are a corporate tax lawyer. You know a whole lot about tax law, and you argue at length with government tax lawyers. You and they both probably have the illusion that you are "producing wealth".

Say you are an MD. Look back at the medicine practiced in 1930. How much of that was valuable? Today the consensus is that it was all ineffective or actively dangerous, except for bonesetting. Try medicine from 1950. Ineffective or dangerous except for bonesetting and antibiotics. 1970? Perhaps 20% of what they did then is still considered useful. 1990. Sixty percent? There's every reason to think that in 80 years, pretty much everything that current MDs do will have been debunked. But they think they "save lives" and "produce wealth".

Say you are a real estate agent. You show people houses and convince them which one to buy. You think you are "producing wealth".

A life insurance salesman? A car salesman? A mattress salesman? A middle manager? Maybe you manage a hedge fund? You sell sophisticated financial instruments? Perhaps you work for the Army repairing military vehicles, producing wealth?

You are a building contractor and you have gotten a lucrative government contract to build a prison. Wealth production?

Perhaps you are a farmer. You use a collection of gasoline internal-combustion engines -- and you get a subsidy on the gasoline -- to plant and harvest corn. 40% of your income comes from shrewd bets on the commodity options market. Your corn uses 3 gallons of fossil fuel to produce 4 gallons of ethanol, which will be used as a contaminant in gasoline. Do you produce wealth?

It would not be at all surprising if the majority of the people who fondly believe they are "producing wealth" are in fact not doing so, and would not make money doing what they do without government intervention.

Is it only an esthetic question how much of the money the government gives to people for makework it takes back from them, and how much they keep? Yes.

On the other hand, there are some people who are actually producing wealth that supports the whole thing. Are you one of them? Possibly, but the odds are not strongly in your favor. We have a whole bunch of self-righteous fools who think they are productive citizens, who are not.

And yet, with a good system they could become productive.

J Thomas on September 29, 2010, 06:55:20 pm

Members of group Y win against members of group X, set up a state, throw you out. 

Why are they throwing you out?  Because they cannot tell you from members of group X that were trying to kill them all.  So if you are around, they reasonably suspect you will kill them.

Why can they not tell the difference?  Because when fellow members of group X were raping and murdering, you and your friends sat on your hands, at best saying and doing at nothing, at worst cheering on murderers and rapists.

So, you have a strong obligation to speak out against US occupation of middle east nations, right?

And a strong obligation to oppose US support of Israel? We haven't been sitting on our hands, we've been actively supporting them.

What about Taiwan? They seem a lot more democratic than they used to, and they have some sort of right to independence. But it would be hard for them to stay independent, and they'll probably make a deal with China at some point. Ideally I think we should support them while they need it, knowing they might at any time make up with China -- we shouldn't consider that a betrayal when it happens.

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If not all members of group X intend murder, they have an obligation to make that obvious by doing something reasonably effectual against members of group X that do intend murder.

So, what will you do against US government foreign policy?

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In a less anarchic situation, this would involve condemning them as going to hell, publicly naming and shaming them, and ratting them out to enemies who intend to kill them - giving out their precise location in the expectations that hit teams or high explosives would soon be at that location.

Are you ready to go that far?

Brugle on September 29, 2010, 07:42:01 pm
in our culture people are taught that esthetics is personal and variable -- de gustibus -- while morality is objective and universal.

Bullshit.

In my culture, people are constantly bombarded with propaganda that ethics is variable and arbitrary.

There may be some of that. I would tend to ignore it,

On the contrary.  It's obvious that you swallowed it hook, line, and sinker.

The consistent refrain was that it's *impractical* to disobey government edicts, because the government is stronger than you are.

Exactly.  The idea of considering whether an action is right is ignored, and if a student tries to bring it up the idea is ridiculed.

Who gains if an idea is correct, is completely irrelevant to whether it is in fact correct.

Not exactly true.

Who gains is very important when considering why someone is trying to persuade you.  If a disinterested and informed person suggests that an investment is safe, that may be valuable information.  However, the same suggestion from a person who would get a large commission if you make the investment is not nearly as valuable.

You buy into government propaganda that is highly advantageous to the government.  At the very least, you should go back and consider every bit of that propaganda skeptically, only accepting that which you have a good independent reason to think is true.  Even better would be to seek out at least a few competing views and consider them skeptically as well.

On the other hand, there are some people who are actually producing wealth that supports the whole thing. Are you one of them? Possibly, but the odds are not strongly in your favor. We have a whole bunch of self-righteous fools who think they are productive citizens, who are not.

And yet, with a good system they could become productive.

As we anarchists have suggested.

But what does that have to do with your assertion that moral decisions are just aesthetics?  Do you really consider torture to be simply performance art?

terry_freeman on September 29, 2010, 08:21:45 pm
"Still, for a long time the system worked. The Constitution constrained the mass-murderer Andrew Jackson, it constrained Lincoln, and Grant, and Harding and FDR, it constrained Truman. It seems like it did a good job stopping all the mischief-makers before my time, and it just stopped working say, from Kennedy on."

I'm sorry, were you being sarcastic? The Constitution wasn't much of a constraint, considering how many people were killed by the mass murderers whom you mention.

J Thomas on September 29, 2010, 09:40:56 pm
"Still, for a long time the system worked. The Constitution constrained the mass-murderer Andrew Jackson, it constrained Lincoln, and Grant, and Harding and FDR, it constrained Truman."

I'm sorry, were you being sarcastic?

Yes, completely. I've got to stop doing that, people can't tell.

J Thomas on September 29, 2010, 10:59:40 pm
Who gains if an idea is correct, is completely irrelevant to whether it is in fact correct.

Not exactly true.

Who gains is very important when considering why someone is trying to persuade you. 

If someone gives you information that you can't easily check for yourself, then his motives for telling you are important while you decide whether to believe him. Say for example one of your customers tells you that he saw your wife coming out of a motel room with your best friend. You'd certainly consider whether he'd have reason to lie, or whether he could be mistaken. If you ask your wife about it she might tell you she's having an affair, or she might have an innocuous reason, or she might deny it completely. The third case doesn't tell you much unless you know the way she denies reality versus the way she denies stupid false accusations, and can tell the difference.

But when it's an idea which you can check for yourself, it doesn't matter who tells you the idea. Check it and see. It might be interesting to think about why they would tell it to you, but that has nothing to do with whether it's actually true or not.

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If a disinterested and informed person suggests that an investment is safe, that may be valuable information.  However, the same suggestion from a person who would get a large commission if you make the investment is not nearly as valuable.

You should do due diligence in either case, unless you aren't interested enough to do anything.

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You buy into government propaganda that is highly advantageous to the government.  At the very least, you should go back and consider every bit of that propaganda skeptically, only accepting that which you have a good independent reason to think is true.  Even better would be to seek out at least a few competing views and consider them skeptically as well.

Yes! Consider as many competing views as you have time for.

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On the other hand, there are some people who are actually producing wealth that supports the whole thing. Are you one of them? Possibly, but the odds are not strongly in your favor. We have a whole bunch of self-righteous fools who think they are productive citizens, who are not.

And yet, with a good system they could become productive.

As we anarchists have suggested.

But what does that have to do with your assertion that moral decisions are just aesthetics?  Do you really consider torture to be simply performance art?

I don't like torture. And I don't like people who do like torture. They argue that it's a valid esthetic choice. I am not clear how often it's actually abuse. People in unequal relationships may not be capable of careful choice. It's possible for people to get so caught up in addictions of various sorts that they don't notice what they're doing to themselves. So while I accept it can be a sane, consensual choice, and it can be performance art, I am not comfortable with it. Yes, it can be highly erotic. But that is not necessarily an acceptable justification.

NSFW
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sadomasochism

Archonix on September 30, 2010, 04:41:34 am
Are you sure you mean aesthetics and not ethics? Aesthetics is the understanding, appreciation and personal definition of beauty. It's what you like the look of. Ethics is the personal set of rules (separate from morals) that you use to make your way in the world.

I'm not sure you've got your definitions quite correct, to be honest, as you seem to be arguing that torture is a piece of art rather than an ethical choice made based on a given set of circumstances.

And then we could get into the difference between ethics and morals, I suppose...

But this talk about "esthetics" confuses me. It's not even a word.

quadibloc on September 30, 2010, 09:34:06 am
But this talk about "esthetics" confuses me. It's not even a word.
The word "encyclopędia" can be spelled in two different ways if you don't have the "ę" ligature on your keyboard. It can be spelled "encyclopaedia", or it can be spelled "encyclopedia". Most people spell it the second way. Similarly, fœtus can be spelled foetus, or it can be spelled fetus. As well, ęsthetics can be spelled either aesthetics or esthetics.

You and many terrorists make the same collectivist mistake: putting people into groups and justifying atrocities against innocent people who you consider to be in the same group as guilty people.  It is barbaric when terrorists do it.  It is barbaric when you do it.

The problem with many Muslims is that they fail to differentiate between residents of the US and the government of the US.  But that's also the problem with many non-Muslims as well.
This deserves a careful and intelligent reply. I am going to try and provide one.

Living in France or Poland in 1939, or Britain in 1940, or America in 1941, I wouldn't have the luxury of dealing with the people of Germany as individuals. If I have the might of a modern industrial state, comparable in power to the one I live in, bearing down on my own nation to take its land and enslave its people, I will have to resist by the means which are available to me that have a chance of working.

Weighing Dresden against Belsen, and Nagasaki against Nanking, it's hard for me to see criticism of the monstrous things the Allies did do in World War II as more than nit-picking. It was a fight for anything even remotely resembling freedom on this planet.

If all al-Qaeda had done was lump American civilians together with the American government... I would hardly have a complaint against them. The movie Red Dawn illustrated (not, of course, in detail: as popular entertainment, it was cleaned up, as it were) that if Americans faced an occupation by the Soviet Union, they would put up a fight that could teach Hamas or al-Qaeda some lessons.

Instead of "whose ox is gored", though, I ask the question "who started it". If Israel or the United States had decided one fine morning that they hated Muslims, and were going to steal their land and kill them off... with no opportunity for the Muslims to avoid this fate by choosing peace... armed resistance would be justified.

Lebanon was once a French colony, and Egypt and Palestine were British colonies. I suppose it could be said that we started it, unless you go back to before the Crusades. Neither Zimbabwe nor India nor Fiji has yet embarked on a project to wipe Britain off the face of the Earth, though: most people recognize that colonialism is something that's going to happen when Great Powers are contending with each other for survival... and lands at a far lower level of technology and military competence have resources that are useful in that struggle. It is beyond being redressed by force.

If we put British colonial control of Palestine outside the picture, which may be unfair, the picture of the Middle East conflict painted by what you may feel is the propaganda of the mainstream media is not really a false one.

Did it begin with a big Jewish army going through a swath of the Middle East, taking any land it could grab, even though the group it was taking land from had been peaceful before?

No. Instead, what we had was:

Jews bought land in Palestine. They were peaceful. Fanatics egged on some Muslims to commit massacres against them.

The U.N. partitioned Palestine. The Jews were only given the parts they were living on. This partition was intended to let the Jews keep any people bent on violence out of the places where they lived. The surrounding Arab nations descended on the new state of Israel to drive it into the sea.

Israel just barely managed to defend itself successfully, because the initial 1947 borders were hard to defend. As its neighbors had tried to destroy it, despite its having been peaceful, and as the Arabs of Palestine had largely run away, having been urged by Arab propaganda to get out of the way of the invading armies, Israel took control of all of Palestine. Arabs still living there were free to continue to practice their Muslim faith, they had the rights of citizens, and the additional privilege of being exempt from military service. In 1967, Egypt built up its military to the point where it could strike a devastating blow against Israel in a surprise attack - it did this through buying weapons from the Soviet Union and the Eastern European nations it had enslaved.

The pattern is obvious to me. Time after time, the Jews offer the choice to their neighbors of living side by side in peace. Their neighbors don't give Israel that choice - they attack them for the effrontery of being Jews who don't want to be ruled over and bullied by Muslims. (And I mean bullied - I'm sure you've seen the words "Shari'a" and "dhimmi" raised in debates on the Middle East conflict.)

One side wants to live in peace, but gets attacked. The other side commits aggression - and, as a result, suffers losses of territory - but it never seems to learn its lesson, and cut its losses, and start being peaceful.

And now, with 9/11, militant Islam has decided to involve the United States. Which happens to have a vast nuclear arsenal. Americans don't like it when their loved ones are suddenly killed by violent people. Like anyone else, they have very little patience with such things. And they have the power to do something about it.

People who are the victims of aggression may fight back.

People who created their own problems by aggression and obstinacy, and then continue to dig themselves in deeper by attacking a vastly superior power... are not only doing something wrong, but something stupid. The vast majority of the world's one billion Muslims aren't terrorists, but many of them - or, to be honest, many of their governments - are likely to be asked, in one way or another, whether they're going to cooperate in helping the Western World avoid further terrorist attacks, or choose the really stupid path of making things harder for us, and easier for those who are waging war against Israel and the United States.

Now, if someone had decided to use military force against the United States to end segregation, the shoe could easily have been on the other foot. The United States is lucky that its mistakes weren't punished by history the way.

The Islamic world isn't going to be attacked by the United States because we want to steal their oil or their land, no matter what they do or don't do. They have a choice. It's definitely not perfect - the Palestinians can't depose Fatah and Hamas with their bare hands, and few Muslim nations have democratic governments. The governments that survive have had to be pretty tough and nasty with those who try to depose them - and the very date of 9/11 reminds us that it isn't just "bad" regimes like that of Saddam Hussein that are tough and nasty this way, but also "good" regimes like that of Jordan's King Hussein - Black September.

All the tough nasty guerilla movements out there seem to be Muslim extremist ones, like Boko Haram or al-Shabaab.

So those who would join our side don't seem to have a faction with guns they can rally to, except where the government is already "moderate" or "pro-Western".

One could say that this isn't World War II, and 9/11 was but a pinprick on a national scale - so we have no excuse for war. Well, America isn't fighting a war, yet, except in Afghanistan - where the government refused to extradite Osama bin Laden - and in Iraq - which invaded Kuwait, was defeated, and then didn't abide by the treaties that ended the war, because it obstructed UN weapons inspectors.

Yes, this situation has a great potential for expanding into a war between the U.S. and a big chunk of the Islamic world, but if it does, it seems clear to me who will have started it - and it won't have been the U.S..
« Last Edit: September 30, 2010, 10:30:09 am by quadibloc »

J Thomas on September 30, 2010, 01:03:11 pm
Are you sure you mean aesthetics and not ethics? Aesthetics is the understanding, appreciation and personal definition of beauty. It's what you like the look of. Ethics is the personal set of rules (separate from morals) that you use to make your way in the world.

Yes, I mean aesthetics. People can choose their ethics because some authority figure told them to and they aren't willing to choose for themselves.

But people who actually notice what they like, are doing it out of their esthetic sense. If the ethics you choose feel ugly to you, you are doing something wrong. When that happens you have missed something important and left yourself with an ethics you don't actually like.

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I'm not sure you've got your definitions quite correct, to be honest, as you seem to be arguing that torture is a piece of art rather than an ethical choice made based on a given set of circumstances.

Torture is ugly. If it resulted in the victim and the torturer giggling together and feeling wonderful and together they find a way to solve their mutual problems and tiptoe away among the roses and rainbows and such, people wouldn't mind it so much.

I tried to imagine why this seems controversial rather than obvious. Here's what I came up with. Maybe people think that their sense of beauty is arbitrary and capricious and irrelevant. So saying that this is what people base their ethics on sounds like saying that their ethics are arbitrary and capricious. Is that what it seems like?

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But this talk about "esthetics" confuses me. It's not even a word.

Sorry, American spelling.

Brugle on September 30, 2010, 03:07:45 pm
Is that what it seems like?

No, it seems like you simply refuse to see the obvious.

A person may get much the same pleasant feelings from seeing something beautiful or from making a scientific discovery.  That is no reason to think that science is based on aesthetics.

A person may get much the same unpleasant feelings from seeing something ugly or from hearing about an ethical travesty.  That is no reason to think that ethics is based on aesthetics.

quadibloc on September 30, 2010, 04:53:56 pm
Maybe people think that their sense of beauty is arbitrary and capricious and irrelevant. So saying that this is what people base their ethics on sounds like saying that their ethics are arbitrary and capricious. Is that what it seems like?
That's what it seems like to me. I can't speak for others, as one person who disagreed with you already said that wasn't what it seemed like you were saying to him.

My esthetic choices are my own business, not anyone else's; they're personal preferences that don't intrude on others.

I expect that if I try to steal from or enslave others, they will fight back. How should I respond to this knowledge? Should I try to figure out better ways to not get caught, or impose my will so that they have no recourse?

Most people have a preference for a society where people, instead of trying to take advantage of each other, leave their neighbors in peace to enjoy the fruits of their labor. It makes for less effort wasted on looking over your shoulder. So it's not just nicer, it's more efficient.

The forms of organized stealing - like taxation - that we've come to tolerate have generally been those which led to even more efficiency - in the business of waging war. There's a good book, The Parable of the Tribes, which talks about the problem of war and peace.

Several tribes are living in peace in proximity to one another. One tribe decides to become warlike. Once this happens, the other tribes don't have the option of just ignoring them, and having life go on as before. Instead, the alternatives become these:

  • be exterminated;
  • be defeated and enslaved;
  • become warlike enough to successfully defend yourself; or
  • run away somewhere else.

And so the world today is composed entirely of those societies that met the third and fourth fates - all the major countries of the world are in the third category, and some of the indigenous people that we find in remote areas are those in the fourth.

So the societies of the world in which almost all of its people live are heavily structured around war, and yet the natural inclinations of human beings are far from being terribly aggressive.

Thus, history has taught us that the only way people can enjoy a long period of peace is if there is some strong over-arching authority that prevents any one group from choosing war, and thus imposing war on everyone.

In any case, though, getting back to where I was, since choosing to be peaceful, to cooperate, affects your neighbors and not just yourself, it is not a personal choice - it's a responsible choice. And when the concept of responsibility enters the picture, something resembling moral language will be used.

 

anything