Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Self determination

An anonymous commentator at NRT notes

the most basic freedom is not that of free thought, or of free belief, or of free speech. It is the right of peoples to self-determination.

The problem I think is that there is a key hidden assumption in this self determination example. It is that the group being describes is the legitimate group to "self determine".

It would seem this is the nation state - or possible the sub-state level at which people generally refer to these things. That is valid as a practical argument (i.e. I can’t stop china from killing its citizens) but it is not valid as an absolute moral argument.

I see two consistent positions
1) Self determination matters at the individual level (in which case it means rights such as freedom of speech)
2) Self determination matters at an international level (in which case determinations by the global community, for example that humans have rights, can and should be enforced).

OK maybe there is a third which applies self determination to itself - it allows someone to contract out of self determination by contracting into a group. But that contradicts itself in how it allows a certain subset to defy the will of individuals and society as a whole. And counties are generally not "opt in" i.e. while from a practical perspective they may be the best tool but from a moral one they are pretty arbitrary - besides with the people who are subject to a death penalty for exercising their views - who would define themselves to belong to a set that will kill them?


Blogger sagenz said...

self determination must rule at the lowest appropriate level. There can be no tyranny of the majority. the group may be of one or any number up to people crossing state borders. Exclusive brethren for example. they congregate through free choice and must be allowed their freedoms.

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