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Means vs Ends

I don’t indiscriminately support doing evil things for good causes.

If someone is evil, is our enemy, it’s because of one or both of these two things.

Using evil methods makes us evil.

Adopting our enemy’s methods—for retaliatory or preemptive purposes—is not a legitimate carte blanche reason for using evil methods. “But they would do it” is not an excuse.

I don’t want to become as evil as my enemy is.
I don’t want to look in the mirror and see an enemy.
I want to be good and kind.

I get that inaction is also a kind of action.

I realize that sometimes somewhat evil methods can be OK if the goals are very, very good. Directly good, and not indirectly, vaguely, kinda sorta hopefully will benefit the cause.

People (who see themselves as good) doing evil things to evil people is one of the most frustrating things about politics for me.

Trolley Problem Shenanigans

The Trolley Problem in short:

There’s a runaway train on a track, heading towards injuring or even killing five people.

You have the chance to actively pull a lever and save those people but it’ll switch the train to a track where another person is gonna get killed.

It seems like one day I woke up and the world had settled on the Trolley Problem as if it were a no-brainer, that it was just a question of will & machismo to be able to pull the lever, be a hero and save five peeps.

I’m not onboard with that.

It’s just not easy.
I feel differently about the problem if it’s one million people on one track and one person’s just having a single foot on the other, vs how I feel if there are 29 people on one track and 28 people on the other.

You’ve got to case-by-case these things. We are condemned to choose.

Ends vs Ends

Two groups who have different goals—let’s say one side has goals that they see as communal but that the other side sees as selfish, and the other has goals that they see as communal but that the other side sees as selfish—but both reason that any amount of methods are justified vs the other group, that’s gonna make a mess of cruelty and horror.

Please don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to both-sides things here. I do agree with our side’s goals and I do disagree with our enemy’s goals.

I’m just very, very cautious about what methods we should adopt so our enemies don’t win by turning us into them.

Directness of Ends

Maybe the biggest change in my politics over the last ten years is that I’ve become much more of a pacifist.

To some extent, it’s a question of degree, because I’ve always felt that the worse the means, the better the ends need to be to justify ‘em, and that threshold of how good the ends need to be to justify fighting has risen.

But there’s also a new condition, a new dimension. The means need to be very direct. Tackling an active shooter? I might grant it. Tackling someone who’s maybe kinda sorta spotted in the vicinity of a potential shooter? Not into it.

Doing good things to vaguely hopefully indirectly for-want-of-a-nail–style effect good things down the road is and remains awesome, but doing bad things for that purpose is now not. If you need to be bad, the good consequence needs to be very concrete and causual and clearly understandable.

Now, all of these axes—badness of means, goodness of ends, directness of ends—are scalar. And they are internally multidimensional—the mental model I have for them is more like ribbons full of tangled data rather than lines. Ergo you’ve got to case-by-case it.