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December 12, 2012
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Soft politics

:icondelusionalhamster:
delusionalHamster Featured By Owner Dec 12, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Recently, there are lots of areas in politics and legislation where it seems like there are two competing ideologies, fighting about what is the best way to deal with an issue.

Specifically, it seems to come down to "soft" vs. "hard" politics. The hard-line policy seems to be to try to combat an unwanted phenomenon by harsh penalties, criminalizing unwanted behaviour, and lots of zero-tolerance policies on various issues. The fallacy in this kind of thinking is that it overlooks a fundamental aspect of human psychology. People are not going to stop doing something that is natural to them just because it's criminalized, and often times this leads to additional trouble.

I'll give examples. First, there's the one most everyone knows about, the war on drugs. The hard-line policy is that "drugs" (a totally arbitrary definition of certain chemical substances, that are intoxicating when consumed, but not certain other chemical substances, that are also intoxicating when consumed) should be totally eradicated from society, and that mankind should strive for a situation where no one ever consumes any "drugs", even if we have to kill people to do it.

Second, there's the copyright industry and their war on piracy. Their hard-line policy includes handing out excessive jail sentences to teenagers for sharing files over the internet. If public libraries were invented today, they would be banned very quickly, because apparently the sharing of culture is a huge crime that threatens all of society.

Third, there's the war on sex. This is a hard-line policy that requires making prostitution illegal. It's mostly based on moral views of certain people, and secondarily to some of the side-effects of it, such as human trafficking and crime. Mostly the people who campaign for harsher penalties on prostitution seem to try really hard to ignore the fact that most of those side effects are a direct consequence of it being illegal in the first place.

But then, this seems to be a common theme to all of them. All of these issues have one thing in common, which is that the actual criminalization causes more harm than the "crime" itself. Each of these could be handled as a social issue instead of a criminal one. That's where soft politics comes in.

Soft politics is more about realism than crusades. Soft politics realizes that most of these goals are unattainable (we'll never get rid of drugs, prostitution or piracy) and that the best thing to do in the circumstances is to find a solution that causes the minimum amount of harm to all involved.

The war on drugs could be ended by making mild drugs fully legal and taxable, and putting hard drugs on prescription so that addicts could use them safely. That's a harm reduction policy. The money and resources that now goes wasted into fighting an unwinnable drug war could be used for education, combating poverty, and increasing the security and protection of citizens, as police wouldn't have to chase drug users they could concentrate on preventing and solving serious crimes. Furthermore, the money that now goes to organized crime would go to legitimate businesses that could be taxed, bringing even more income to governments. This extra income could be used to treat addicts of harder drugs, making them more likely to become productive members of society again. The economy would gain a huge boost.

When it comes to piracy, file sharing and copying should be legalized. This would force the copyright holders to seek more sustainable business models that wouldn't be dependent on trying to create artificial scarcity on markets where scarcity doesn't naturally exist. Crowd funding, crowd sourcing and other such financial models could be adapted and developed into new models of distribution for all content. This would cut down the fat old record labels, publishers and other middlemen who do nothing but profit from the work of others like the fat parasites they are.

As for prostitution, why not make it a legitimate business? Why shouldn't a person be allowed to decide to have sex with another person for pay, if they so choose? How is it anyone else's business if I decide to tell someone else I'm willing to have sex with them if they pay me some amount? It isn't. Human trafficking could be dealt with with existing laws, and it could be completely separated from legitimate prostitution. Prostitutes themselves would gain all the benefits of a real job, such as insurance, healthcare, protection of society.

Why is it that "soft on crime" is such a crime? I think if we all became more "soft on crime", the world would be a better place.

Now, to anticipate some of the usual counter-arguments, no, this wouldn't mean we would have to legalize murder, rape, pedophilia, theft or any such thing. Like I said, there's a clear, very simple litmus test to see if an issue could be better solved by decriminalization or soft politics. And that is, if the criminalization is causing more harm than the actual "crime" itself, it's likely that the current solution is not working.
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Devious Comments

:iconskulkey:
skulkey Featured By Owner Dec 12, 2012  Professional Digital Artist
the notion that people can't be trusted to make the right decisions for themselves is an authoritarian one. the opposite of this is a libertarian (or even anarchist, if you will) one. i'm of the latter.

i'm also a believer in primary prevention where bad choices are concerned, and treatment and rehab when that fails. in a soft policy, money no longer directed at punitive measures can be spent on both programs. that's the kind of society i'd like to see.
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:icondelusionalhamster:
delusionalHamster Featured By Owner Dec 12, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I am mostly in favor of libertarian ideals when it comes to the rights of individuals.

Sadly, most self-proclaimed "libertarians" today seem to be of the mind that this should include granting corporations and their lobby organizations the same rights. That we should not interfere in or regulate the "free market" in any way. This is fallacious, because often those corporations have vested interests in disrespecting the rights of the individuals, and the individuals' rights should always trump the rights of corporations or other business entities.
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:iconskulkey:
skulkey Featured By Owner Dec 13, 2012  Professional Digital Artist
i tend to argue from a moderate anarchist viewpoint, but my preference is for anarcho-leftist ideals. i don't trust any sufficiently large bureaucracy, be it government or corporate. bureaucracies are notorious for shitting on individual rights and accumulating power in places untouchable by the people.

that said, i can at least appreciate right-libertarian arguments regarding the free market and keeping government from being able to select the winners (via kickbacks, etc.). corruption runs both ways in that regard, and if we must have a capitalist society, we should keep government and business from being involved with / interfering with one another.
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:icondelusionalhamster:
delusionalHamster Featured By Owner Dec 13, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I agree that there's corruption and it should be fought against. But many of the internet-libertarians seem to see government regulation as negative, no matter what the regulation does - they just bundle in all regulation as being inherently oppressive. Whereas I think that's shortsighted, because I don't think regulation itself is bad or good, it can be used for either. And regulation of markets is still necessary to ensure fair competition, and competition is required for free markets to even function. Monopolies (and oligopolies) are harmful for both consumers and economy, and without some intervention there's no way to stop them being formed.

Ideally, the government should watch over corporations and hold them accountable, whereas the people should watch over the government and hold it accountable. If there are abuses in corporations, it's governments job to deal with them. If there are abuses in government, it's the citizens' duty to act and demand changes in government.
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:iconskulkey:
skulkey Featured By Owner Dec 13, 2012  Professional Digital Artist
yeah, the "all regulations are evil" thing is a bit irritating, but there are so many useless regulations out there that i can understand why a great deal of pruning is in order.

"watchdogs" are a key concept, i think. i long for a day when the people are more informed and involved in the process. they need to wake up to their own oppression, first, and that is not an easy thing to do...
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:icondelusionalhamster:
delusionalHamster Featured By Owner Dec 13, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Certainly there's a lot of superficial bureaucracy. I suspect a lot of it exists to create jobs for bureaucrats...

As for watchdogs, the situation is improving, I think, in some ways at least. Internet is a good thing, it's much easier to get people organized to fight causes than it was 20 years ago. I think that's one of the main reasons why some people/governments want so badly to suppress it.
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:icontheawsomeopossum:
TheAwsomeOpossum Featured By Owner Dec 12, 2012
Sir, isn't the idea that one causes more or less harm than the other a matter of opinion? After all, people don't always agree as to what things are harmful, or how harmful they are. So I don't think it's quite as clear of a litmus test as you think it is.
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:icondelusionalhamster:
delusionalHamster Featured By Owner Dec 12, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Harm can be quantified, surveyed, measured and arranged into neat little piecharts.

People don't agree about a lot of things. Some [who?] might argue that the world is flat, but that doesn't mean it's a reasonable position, when we have plenty of evidence of the world's ellipsoidness.
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:icontheawsomeopossum:
TheAwsomeOpossum Featured By Owner Dec 12, 2012
"Harm can be quantified, surveyed, measured and arranged into neat little piecharts. "

Please tell me precisely how much harm, as an integer, that eating a piece of cheese does. It isn't that simple.

"People don't agree about a lot of things. Some [who?] might argue that the world is flat, but that doesn't mean it's a reasonable position, when we have plenty of evidence of the world's ellipsoidness."

Ever studied solipism? Reasonable is a point of view, a perspective, an opinion. It's not as simple as 'it has evidence' or 'no it doesn't' in ethical theory. Philosophy doesn't have the black and white truth that science portrays.
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:icondelusionalhamster:
delusionalHamster Featured By Owner Dec 12, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Well, that depends. What type of cheese? Casu marzu is pretty damn iffy if you ask me.

Anyway, cheese is actually a good example. It's addictive (contains high levels of casomorphins), has health concerns (contains fat, raises cholesterol) and is not a necessity for humans. So why is cheese still legal?

Because we can evaluate the harm that criminalization of cheese would cause, and compare it to the current harms of legal cheese, and we can make a decision that it would be more harmful for society as a whole to outlaw cheese. Cheese is so popular, that outlawing it would produce a huge outrage, it would drive cheese manufacture and sale to the black market, and this would eliminate all quality control and hurt the economy. These are quantifiable effects. They can be measured.

But cheese doesn't have the demonized stigma that prostitution or drugs have, so it's easier for people to think about cheese rationally.
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:icontheawsomeopossum:
TheAwsomeOpossum Featured By Owner Dec 13, 2012
"Anyway, cheese is actually a good example. It's addictive (contains high levels of casomorphins), has health concerns (contains fat, raises cholesterol) and is not a necessity for humans. So why is cheese still legal?"

And yet, addictiveness is not always a bad thing. Consider sugar, very addictive, and yet necessary to life. So where is the fine grey line between two addictive and not addictive enough? And where is it prosecutable in law? What is the center, and what is the range?

"Cheese is so popular, that outlawing it would produce a huge outrage, it would drive cheese manufacture and sale to the black market, and this would eliminate all quality control and hurt the economy."

And yet, with enough enforcement, you could stop the black market. And thus, the hurt on the economy would be minimal.

"But cheese doesn't have the demonized stigma that prostitution or drugs have, so it's easier for people to think about cheese rationally."

I'd agree it doesn't have the demonized stigma, but that doesn't relate at all to rational thought.
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:icondelusionalhamster:
delusionalHamster Featured By Owner Dec 13, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I know addictiveness is not always a bad thing, that's sort of the point. Opioids are addictive as fuck but without them a lot of people suffering from pain would be suffering a hell of a lot worse.

Stopping the black market - no you couldn't. That's just baloney. I mean theoretically I guess if you started a totalitarian regime where every aspect of people's life were controlled 100% of the time it might, theoretically, be possible... but even then it's doubtful, just look at soviet union. In fact, that's exactly the kind of fallacious thinking that fuels the war on drugs, the idea that if we just pour enough money to enforcement, if we just make punishments harsh enough, fight hard enough, then somehow we can make people not want to use drugs anymore. Thing is, it just doesn't work that way. It's just human nature.

And demonized stigma does relate to rational thought in an inverse way. Demonizing things solicits emotional knee-jerk responses which makes it harder to think about them rationally.
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:icontheawsomeopossum:
TheAwsomeOpossum Featured By Owner Dec 13, 2012
"I know addictiveness is not always a bad thing, that's sort of the point. Opioids are addictive as fuck but without them a lot of people suffering from pain would be suffering a hell of a lot worse."

Ah, but they can be bad. And they can not be bad. And most important of all, you can't measure how bad they are because it largely depends on the circumstance. Opioids save some people from suffering, but would cause large problems for other people.

"Stopping the black market - no you couldn't. That's just baloney. I mean theoretically I guess if you started a totalitarian regime where every aspect of people's life were controlled 100% of the time it might, theoretically, be possible..."

Precisely. A totalitarian regime could stop it.

"but even then it's doubtful, just look at soviet union."

Not a good analogy. A better one would be North Korea.

"In fact, that's exactly the kind of fallacious thinking that fuels the war on drugs, the idea that if we just pour enough money to enforcement, if we just make punishments harsh enough, fight hard enough, then somehow we can make people not want to use drugs anymore."

Ah, but are you sure it isn't effective? Tell, me, why has using drugs become less popular since the 1970s? I don't support a totalitarian regime, but I am sure punishment has been somewhat effective indeed.

"Thing is, it just doesn't work that way. It's just human nature."

There are a lot of things which are human nature which we don't allow.

"And demonized stigma does relate to rational thought in an inverse way. Demonizing things solicits emotional knee-jerk responses which makes it harder to think about them rationally."

What makes a knee-jerk irrational? If you are about to be bitten by a snake, I'm sure hope you have that knee-jerk reaction.
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:icondelusionalhamster:
delusionalHamster Featured By Owner Dec 13, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Ah, but they can be bad. And they can not be bad. And most important of all, you can't measure how bad they are because it largely depends on the circumstance. Opioids save some people from suffering, but would cause large problems for other people.

Uh, yeah so? That was the point.

Precisely. A totalitarian regime could stop it.

No it couldn't.

Not a good analogy. A better one would be North Korea.

Firstly that's not an analogy, that's an example. Secondly, you're naļve if you think there's no black market in North Korea.

In fact, a 5 second google search is enough to prove you wrong: [link]

Ah, but are you sure it isn't effective? Tell, me, why has using drugs become less popular since the 1970s? I don't support a totalitarian regime, but I am sure punishment has been somewhat effective indeed.

And what statistic do you have to show for that? I don't think that is true at all. You are begging the question.

Punishment doesn't work because drug addiction is a disease. People won't stop getting cancer if you make getting cancer illegal. People don't stop getting depressed if you make being depressed illegal.

Addiction aside, it's in human nature to want to use intoxicating substances and that is never going to change. The whole idea that it's possible to somehow end all drug use is simply absurd.

There are a lot of things which are human nature which we don't allow.

That's a good point but totally irrelevant. Again it's a question of which approach is less harmful overall. We can see that most of the harmfull effects to society from drug use are direct consequences of the criminalization of those drugs, so ending the criminalization makes sense. It should be treated as a social/health issue rather than a criminal one. Punishing the users makes no sense at all. And mild drugs should be fully legal.

What makes a knee-jerk irrational? If you are about to be bitten by a snake, I'm sure hope you have that knee-jerk reaction.

Come on, now you're just reaching.
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:iconskulkey:
skulkey Featured By Owner Dec 12, 2012  Professional Digital Artist
things like his example cause measurable consequences. anyone who denies those measures is of an opinion unsupported by fact.
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:icontheawsomeopossum:
TheAwsomeOpossum Featured By Owner Dec 12, 2012
And yet, people disagree about how significant these consequences are, and more importantly, how justified they are. After all, if a consequence is justified, the harm is okay, right? That's really the disagreement; what sort of punishment is justified for an action, if any, at all.
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:iconskulkey:
skulkey Featured By Owner Dec 12, 2012  Professional Digital Artist
if you can't look at the facts and say "okay, X is greater than Y", you have a problem (i.e. you're not looking at things rationally). i have no patience for irrational people (not saying you aren't being rational, btw. i think we're arguing different points). irrationality leads to rhetoric and demagogy and nothing of any value being accomplished.

as i said in my response to the OP, punitive measures are the province of authoritarians. both parties in power in the US are authoritarian in this regard.
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:icontheawsomeopossum:
TheAwsomeOpossum Featured By Owner Dec 12, 2012
"if you can't look at the facts and say "okay, X is greater than Y", you have a problem (i.e. you're not looking at things rationally). i have no patience for irrational people (not saying you aren't being rational, btw."

Mmmm... I think you need to consider things even if you think they are irrational regardless of whether or not you dislike it. You should argue why you think X is greater than Y, rather than say it's obvious. That way both you and who you are talking to have a chance to reach an agreement.

"irrationality leads to rhetoric and demagogy and nothing of any value being accomplished."

But so does asserting the opposite party is 'irrational'. Generally, in my experiences, it is better to accept the other person's argument as rational, and try to explain to them your point of view on the chance that they will see your point of view's merits rather than just point-blank asserting the irrationality.

"as i said in my response to the OP, punitive measures are the province of authoritarians. both parties in power in the US are authoritarian in this regard."

Well, I'm a moderate so I'm not really authoritarian or libertarian; I see the merits of both. In any case, I'd agree both parties currently have authoritarian leanings in at least some of their usual positions.
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:iconskulkey:
skulkey Featured By Owner Dec 12, 2012  Professional Digital Artist
Mmmm... I think you need to consider things even if you think they are irrational regardless of whether or not you dislike it. You should argue why you think X is greater than Y, rather than say it's obvious. That way both you and who you are talking to have a chance to reach an agreement.

i'm talking about simple quantifiable things, not subjective assessments. for example, if you can show that it costs X dollars to put someone through the prison system, versus Y dollars to put them through rehab, and X is greater than Y, then you have a clear measure. if you can further show that it takes A months for an ex-con to find a job, versus B months for someone out of rehab, and A and greater than B, then you have another clear measure. these kind of measures aren't up for debate. you can say "but i don't think that's fair" or some shit, but that's not being rational.

you don't have to say the other party is being irrational. you show the numbers. if they still can't agree to your premise after seeing the numbers, then you may have cause for insults, although that was not my intent. i mean that i would not tolerate irrationality in the face of facts. if i can't get a person to face facts then i've done all i can and it's time to walk away.
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:icontheawsomeopossum:
TheAwsomeOpossum Featured By Owner Dec 12, 2012
"i'm talking about simple quantifiable things, not subjective assessments."

Well, justified harm isn't one of them.

"these kind of measures aren't up for debate. you can say "but i don't think that's fair" or some shit, but that's not being rational."

Nonsense. You see, if being 'fair' is more important than the other factors, it's totally rational to choose the alternative. And whether fair is important or not is a matter of opinion, isn't it?

"you don't have to say the other party is being irrational. you show the numbers. if they still can't agree to your premise after seeing the numbers, then you may have cause for insults, although that was not my intent."

How does numbers saying "People are more likely to stop doing drugs if they get out of jail" at all deal with "If people don't go to jail, they aren't being punished fairly for their crimes." It doesn't deal with it. For some people, not doing drugs will be more important. For others, being fair might be more important. Those people will be at an impasse.

"i mean that i would not tolerate irrationality in the face of facts. if i can't get a person to face facts then i've done all i can and it's time to walk away."

Well, that's up to you, but I rarely meet people who are intolerable of facts. I meet people who are intolerable of opinions people have based off of facts, but they aren't irrational for not tolerating such.
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:iconskulkey:
skulkey Featured By Owner Dec 13, 2012  Professional Digital Artist
i think your view of "rational" is a bit subjective. my training was in science, so i have a very clear view of facts and appropriate conclusions based off them. subjective opinions about the meanings of facts are problematic, i grant, but that's exactly what i'd like to see done away with. we should be clear on the meaning of facts and their import, without personal biases getting in the way. that's the only way to get to policy that makes any sense. policy based on biases will be inherently "unfair".
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:iconragerancher:
Ragerancher Featured By Owner Dec 12, 2012
Ultimately it boil down to responsibility. Those who take the hard line think that people can't be trusted to make the right choices or be responsible so they feel it is the role of government to do it for them. They also ignore human nature, which is to rebel against any perceived injustice. The softer approach recognises human nature and is much better because anyone who doesn't use something will do so because they chose not to of their own free will. Sometimes being told you can't do something makes you want to do it. This is shown in a test where subject are told not to press a big red button because it could do something bad but they invariably do. Soft policy trusts individuals to make the right decisions and recognises that there will always be some who make the wrong choices no matter what you do.
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:icondelusionalhamster:
delusionalHamster Featured By Owner Dec 12, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Yes. Fighting the windmills is not productive...
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