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Nanny Knows Best

Recently, Newsweek (which recently decided to redefine itself as THE magazine for liberals, and wrote off the huge chunk of its would-be readership that had already realized that and left) wrote an article that attempted to drive a stake through one of the foreign policy tenets of the far left: the "free Tibet" movement.

Now, there's nothing inherently liberal about that notion. I'm personally in favor of it myself. But it's mainly liberals who want to talk (and talk and talk and talk) about it, but not actually doing anything about it.

Newsweek did the unthinkable: they looked at the reality of things, and came to the conclusion that China's occupation and repression of Tibet isn't such a big deal. The stated reason is that it's been pretty good, materialistically, for the Tibetans. The unstated reason, of course, is that there isn't jack squat anyone can do about it.

But Newsweek can't let itself succumb to anything as crass as pragmatism, so they have to find some kind of face to put on it. And the improvements China's brought to Tibet are as good as any reason.

The wishes of the Tibetans -- who aren't exactly renowned as among the world's greatest materialists -- don't enter into the question. Their standard of living is improved, by Western standards, so that's all that matters.

It's quite a reflection of the liberal mindset: the good of the collective trumps the will of the individual. And in this case, the "good" of the collective -- as defined by outsiders -- trumps the will of the collective.

That's one of the major points of the health care reform debate. No one can argue that it's better for society as a whole for each and every single individual to have health insurance. It's "settled science." But there are those individuals who -- for whatever reason -- simply don't want to participate. We can debate endlessly the intellectual and pragmatic validity of those reasons, but to even begin that debate is to start from the presumption that their refusal to participate is in any way debatable.

A while ago, I came up with a test for whether or not something qualifies as a "right." If one can exercise it with no other explanation than "BIFFLI" -- "Because I Fucking Felt Like It" -- then it's a right. If one has to come up with some justification for the action, then it's not a right, but a privilege.

Refusal to buy health insurance, to me, passes the BIFFLI test. One should not have to explain or justify or rationalize one's decision here. If you don't want to participate, then so be it.

Here in New Hampshire, we carry that principle of respect for personal choice a bit further than other states. We don't have mandatory motorcycle helmet or seat belt laws for adults. I, personally, think that anyone who rides a motorcycle without a helmet or in a car without a seat belt is an idiot, but I don't think it's the state's place to insist that people not be idiots.

Mr. Fish's Newsweek apology for China ends with this paragraph:

It's true that, so far, all the money has failed to buy Tibetan loyalty. Beijing won't deal with the Dalai Lama, even though Tibetans revere him, nor will it let his monastic followers build any power or voice any nationalist sympathy. Instead, the government is offering Tibetans the same bargain it has offered the rest of the country: in exchange for an astronomical rise in living standards, the government requires citizens to relinquish the right to free worship and free speech. The Chinese government has kept its end of the deal. Even if Tibetan residents never signed the contract, they have benefited from its enforcement--a fact Obama might keep in mind when he meets the Dalai Lama.

I struggled with a few metaphors to properly express my disgust -- the Mafia and their "protection" rackets, Hitler at Munich if he had stopped with the Sudetenland, and so on -- but no real analogy holds up.

Instead, I'll rely on my layman's understanding of the law and use Mr. Fish's "contract" analogy to beat him over the head:

The basic definition of a contract relies on two things: offer and acceptance. (There are others, of course, but those are the starting point.) Fish says China made an offer to Tibet, and lived up to its commitments.

But Tibet never accepted the contract. They have no obligation to honor its terms, no matter how well China lived up to the terms it proposed. Under American law, without the acceptance, whatever China has done for Tibet would be considered a gift, free of any obligations or conditions.

Pragmatically, Fish does have a point. Tibet is occupied by China, and will remain a vassal of China for the foreseeable future. Fish is advising them that since the rape is not only inevitable but ongoing, they might as well relax and enjoy it.

I disagree.

I think the Tibetans have the right to oppose the Chinese occupation, just like the average American has the right to say "no" to mandatory health insurance or the average driver to say "no" to wearing a seat belt. That might not be the wisest move, or in their best interests, but that's their right and their choice.

It's a little thing called "freedom."


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Comments (13)

'A while ago, I came up wit... (Below threshold)

'A while ago, I came up with a test for whether or not something qualifies as a "right." If one can exercise it with no other explanation than "BIFFLI" -- "Because I Fucking Felt Like It" -- then it's a right. If one has to come up with some justification for the action, then it's not a right, but a privilege.'

I am not sure I follow your reasoning here.

DaveD, the fundamental char... (Below threshold)

DaveD, the fundamental characteristic of a right, what differentiates it from other claims of "rightness of action," is that it requires no justification. In general, whatever you may do that does not prevent others from exercising their rights, is a right. Rights can impose no burdens or obligations on others, for example, because that would contradict their right to do nothing at all. (This is an accretive definition, and the right for two people to do nothing at all, because that does not prevent the other from doing nothing at all, is the basis of the process.) Rights pre-exist the state, though they are meaningless outside of a social context.

By contrast, a privilege must be granted by the state, or some other person or body giving up a part of its rights, and can impose an obligation. Voting is a privilege, for example, because all of us give up our right to choose our agents (in this case, government representatives) and follow a process, rather than fight when our choice is not honored. This has only broken down once in American history: the election of 1860. In that election, the Southern states decided that giving up their right was not worth the result. Another privilege would be welfare or any other kind of transfer payment provided by the government, which abrogates our right to the products of the labor of our body by taking some of those products (in the form of money through taxation) and giving them to others. The taking of something that is ours by right to give to another makes its receipt by that other a privilege.

Clear as mud?

All liberals are closet fas... (Below threshold)

All liberals are closet fascists.

Where the Chicoms to take o... (Below threshold)

Where the Chicoms to take over the US, the editors at Time would feel right at home with their new masters.

Didn't Obama give the Dalai... (Below threshold)

Didn't Obama give the Dalai Lama a pair of presidential cufflinks and then send him out the door where the trash gets picked up? Did he think this would somehow make China a little happier?

I mean, I understand the whole "rock and a hard place" situation we're in with China, but yeesh.

Jeff,Thanks for the ... (Below threshold)

Thanks for the reply and, yes, quite clear. Guilty, I guess, of not thinking enough about Jay's statement before posting.

I am also pondering this statement you wrote:
"Rights pre-exist the state, though they are meaningless outside of a social context."

Could one be just as accurate substituting the word 'individual' for 'state' and still consider your sentence accurate? That is, in the context of 'inalienable rights endowed by the Creator'?

JT:"No one can argue... (Below threshold)
Les Nessman:

"No one can argue that it's better for society as a whole for each and every single individual to have health insurance."

Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, et al? Instead of them paying cash for whatever they want, it's better for them to contribute to clogging up the insurance system?

Pedantic-ish, I know; but you specified "each and every single individual". That's a bit much. If more people had the ability to self-insure and bypass the waste and duplication of insurance, we might all be better off.

What is it about socialism ... (Below threshold)

What is it about socialism that makes Barry and the crackpot libs at Newsweek want to bow to it continually?

Newsweek?Never hea... (Below threshold)
Charlie Gibson:


Never heard of it.

DaveD, I don't think you ca... (Below threshold)
Jeff Medcalf:

DaveD, I don't think you can substitute "individual" for "state" there. Without individuals, rights are a meaningless concept, since rights govern what individuals may or may not do without punishment and without action on the part of other individuals. Rights are tied deeply into the concept of individual, sentient beings that are moral actors. Rights pre-exist any given individual, but at least two individuals must be present for rights to have meaning.

In contrast, a state need not be present for rights to exist. Take the situation of several people in a family. A right is what the group may not punish, whether the individual does or does not do it, and which invokes no obligation on others. This clearly makes sense within a family context, though no state is present.

The concept of inalienable rights is simply that some rights cannot be given away. Some can; for example, I have the right to enter a contract with another person. I may delegate that right to an agent, though the state pretty much requires at this point that any such agent be licensed by the state. In any case, having delegated my right to contract to an agent, I am bound by the contract he negotiates and signs, and cannot later reneg. By contrast, I cannot alienate (give up to another) my right to express my opinion. Giving another person (say, a Congressman) agency power to speak on my behalf in some context does not in any way obligate me to the opinions he expresses.

I think the concept of rights granted by man's Creator essentially comes down to being functionally equivalent to "rights arising from our nature as humans." Thus, those who deny that human nature is a meaningful concept also tend to deny that rights are a meaningful concept, except as a political tool to advance their agendas.

The disgusting lie which un... (Below threshold)

The disgusting lie which underlies this article is that China has drastically improved the living standards of Tibetans. The facts are that China has migrated millions of ethnic Chinese to Tibet and overwhelmed the Tibetan population. Therefore, any improvement in living standard has not benefitted Tibetans as much as it has the Chinese who have destroyed Tibetan culture.

One should be careful about transferring fiction to reality, but the novels of Evan Pattison paint a heart wrenching pictue of China's brutal exploitation of Tibet. I know he has researched carefully, and am prepared to accept his descriptions before those of the proven of official accounts.

China should never be excused on grounds of pragmatism, or any other grounds. They should be held accountable in any way possible; even if it only moral disdain. Newsweek has proven itself corrupt in this matter; and unfortunately, the President of the United States has proven himself spineless.

It is a sign of China's paranoia and arrogance that they still make an issue of how a foreign government treats one of the world's most visible symobols of peace and passivity--the Dalai Lama--decades after they drove him from his homeland.

It seems that one vestige of Imperial China still flourishes; the KOWTOW. I would never have expected an American President to participate so readily. Still, in the tradition of the Serf pulling his topknot to the Lord of the Manor, I suppose we best get used to this situation so long as we cannot control our national indebebtedness to tyrannical regimes.

BIFFLIThank... (Below threshold)


Thanks Jay!

It now lives forever.

I'll STFU for now, but it will come again.

Go visit Tibet and see the ... (Below threshold)

Go visit Tibet and see the truth for yourself. The biggest critics of China are those that have NEVER visited the country. Fish was right on target, but of course, he had to add some apologetic statements for the Free Tibet street, because Newsweek's audience is mostly American, and they love the Dalai Lama. Most Americans probably will not be able to point out Tibet on the map. LOL!






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