Thursday, 29 April 2021

Hannah Arendt's fundamental folly

It is often said that duties and rights go together. Sadly, this is not the case. Rights are claims which correspond to obligations. Duties have salience in so far as they cancel an obligation. You may go to great lengths to show you discharge a duty of care but only so as to wriggle out of an obligation to make the other party whole.

For deontic Ethics, a duty exists only if there is a duty to have a duty. Otherwise all one can say is that such and such obligation arises in such and such transaction or set of relationships. A Google search tells me 'When used as nouns, duty means that which one is morally or legally obligated to do, whereas obligation means the act of binding oneself by a social, legal, or moral tie to someone'. In other words, for ethics, a duty can exist independently of any obligations, while an obligation isn't essentially (i.e. binding in all possible worlds) a duty- it is something which arises in a particular transaction or relationship, in a given state of the world, as a matter of pragmatic give and take rather than from an inward, a priori, ethical compulsion.

However, ethical compulsions may be entirely solipsistic- duties may spark endless navel gazing without any action being taken- while obligations may be cheerfully scamped. Thus, I may acknowledge a duty to help you- for example, by writing this shite- but may not feel myself obliged to do so even if you are literally on fire and standing in front of me screaming horribly, because there is nothing which binds us together. Equally I may be obliged to you. because you were nice to me, but not duty bound to you in any way. 

If there is no duty to have a duty, a duty is simply flotsam or jetsam upon the highly subjective tides of the will. For this reason, deontology considers a duty to have a duty to be more fundamental than the duty itself.  Otherwise it is just a fancy word for doing what you like. How could such a more fundamental duty arise? One answer is 'oikeiosis'- the fact that you were born into a particular oikos or sept which itself was generated within a larger tribe or nation to which it has a duty to hold duties towards. Another is that such duties are imposed by God, the Creator.  It was hoped that participating in a particular epistemic or other protocol bound type of discourse would involve the discovery of some more fundamental 'duty to have a duty' such that there might be some a priori, metaphysical rather than pragmatic, means of condemning some propositions, or those who advance them, while valorizing others such that that a particular branch of discourse could better fulfil its duty to the commonweal, or if that was clearly risible because the thing was useless, then, nevertheless, keep faith with a more pristine duty to have a duty despite being utter rubbish and a thorough waste of time- e.g. Kantian or Hegelian shite.

Other people's duties to us are dangerous because they don't necessarily correspond to any obligation to us we would welcome and thus are not linked in any way to rights we would want to have. What Kipling called the 'White Man's burden'- or duty to have a duty to my ancestors- was one that crushed and starved brown people, while demanding the sacrifice of many a White working class man's life, so as to enrich a corrupt, cosmopolitan, plutocracy, which turned out to be as thick as shit, in an island far away. 

If meta-duties- i.e the duty to have a duty is more fundamental than a duty- is it also the case that there can be a more fundamental right- a meta-right, or right to a right- than any acknowledged by jurisprudence? 

No. More fundamental than rights are the things- e.g. due processes of law- over which those rights are specified. A right to a right is inferior to the right itself in the same way that a claim to own a thing is inferior to actually possessing it. It is not the case that there must first be a claim and then possession occurs. Indeed, a claim may be upheld but remain unenforceable. 

Your rights refer to your claims on things which tend to enhance or preserve your endowment set. Duties refer to claims on you that, if discharged in uberrima fides, diminish, or constrain utility from,  your endowment. If a duty is merely seen as an obligation arising from a mutually beneficial arrangement, then it is rational to acknowledge duties because similar rights get vested in you when you do. This is purely transactional. The problem here is that we could get rid of talk of 'rights' and 'duties' and just frame things in the sort of vulgar terms any illiterate fishwife or costermonger might use. Instead of saying 'I have a duty of care with respect to you' I might say 'hey, gotta scratch your back, innit?, seeing as how you scratched mine'. Clearly, this is an outcome deeply repugnant to Political Philosophy or the project of shitting higher than your arsehole.

Since rights are merely rights over things, they are defeasible by reason of economic scarcity. However, no scarcity obtains in the imperative realm. I can't have a right to a time-machine, because the thing does not exist- but I can have a duty to have a duty to change the past for every individual whose collective identity has, in some sense, been raped and sodomized and subjected to aggravated epistemic acts of cunnilingus and fellatio by Neo-fucking-Liberalism. 

Genuine duties, accepted in uberria fides, make you worse off in all possible worlds. They are a 'Zahavi handicap'- a costly signal- and they can be 'eusocial' and promote better 'correlated equilibria' of a 'separating type'. It is quite possible that there is a way to specify a 'duty to have duties' such that it corresponds to the 'oikeiosis' of the Stoic Sage or that which is maximally beneficial to Gaia on the basis of the 'extended phenotype' principle. It may be that Lord Jesus Christ and Lord Buddha- but also a little Gujerati guy named Abdul Sattar & his wife Bilqis- had a proper conception of 'their duty to have duties'. What is certain is that neither assholes, nor the stupid Socio-proctologists who point their stinky finger at such assholes, ought to have any such thing. 

It could be argued, I suppose, that a 'meta-right' may directly supervene on relationships and thus become more fundamental than other rights which also gain their efficacy by a like, but less prescriptive, supervenience. What I mean is, suppose everybody changes how they relate to each other upon the promulgation of a new 'right to have rights' ; then it would be the case that the meta-right was more fundamental. But in that case, there must be something even more fundamental than meta-rights- viz some Mahatma just saying 'be nice' because this would cause everybody and everything to become a nice as pie. 

Let us imagine that a Messiah proclaims that everybody has the right to all the rights we would naturally accord our own kinfolk. It may be that our world becomes a Utopia as we all begin to show a tender regard for each other. But if this does happen it is because people have changed and relationships have changed. This is what was fundamental, not the proclamation of a meta-right. 

 Just as rights supervene on relationships, so too do relationships supervene on individuals and their attitudes and preferences and loyalties. But, up to this point in history, individuals and the relationships they maintain are founded upon a natural type of oikeiosis- i.e. belonging or appropriation.

It is simply a matter of fact that everybody who has ever existed had a biological father and a mother. Most people were raised by their biological parents. For this reason, one may say one has a right to know one's mummy and daddy. One may even say that sperm or eggs currently in cold storage have a right to turn into embryos and to grow in a womb of some type and to be born and then to gain parents. But, it would be foolish to say that the right to the right to have parents was more fundamental than the right of two people at some point in history to get married and to raise a family. Oikeiosis, or belonging, arises from the fact that creatures are born into families. A family may exclude a black sheep or a white sheep may run away from a reprobate oikos. The law may seek to force relationships upon those who don't want them. A right to a right may be meaningful in this context. But even if such a right is vested what is created is not a relationship of a natural type. By law, you may be forced to treat me as your little baby. But you are unlikely to feel warmly towards me as you change my diapers for the umpteenth time. Some quality of maternal affection will be severely lacking.

Of course, if I've attained insight into Heideggerian 'Ereignis', I may feel that I really am a little baby you dote over. But then I may feel this even if I am confined in a padded cell. One can always see the world- or any other plane of being- as one wishes it to be on the basis of some 'Ereignis' more fundamental than Oikeoisis. This does not change the brute fact that I, not you, am engaged to be married to She-Hulk. She will be popping out of my TV screen any day now to consummate our nuptials. 

Gloating aside, it is folly to demand fundamental, as opposed to contingent, rights over things which don't exist because that very demand may deter the provision of the thing or else what is actually provided turns out to be wholly imaginary. If you demand a share in the cake I was planning to bake, I may decide not to bake it but may invite you instead to a Barmecidal feast where you are welcome to gorge on imaginary jam tarts. 

Freedom could be thought as a set of immunities or 'Hohfeldian' incidents of a Justiciable sort. This means any doubt as to its exercise can be resolved by a 'buck stopped', protocol bound, method of public reasoning- viz. that of the law courts.  

One reason this is effective is because determinations of fact are separated from determinations of the legal 'ratio' applicable. What 'is' is distinguished by people who are not necessarily lawyers, from what the law says 'ought' to obtain on the basis of legal arguments. This means that, for any specific purpose, there is a good enough method of 'operationalizing' the concept of Freedom or specifying the scope of rights. It is this feature of the Law which enables Justice to be a service industry- i.e. pay for itself in the real world. 

For the Academy- which only exists because students are ignorant and poor at reasoning- Freedom could be a purely philosophical concept in which case anything at all could be said to have or lack any freedom whatsoever. Not being able to stipulate a 'buck-stopping' mechanism for itself, Philosophy is 'anything goes'.

However, neither Law nor Philosophy affirms that having a freedom means that a person will be better off. O. Henry tells the story of a homeless man who wants to get arrested so as to have a warm place to stay and nourishing food to eat during a rough New York winter. It makes sense to trade a freedom for a material benefit. The Law takes such trade-offs for granted. For Philosophy this may represents a scandal or aporia or troubling irony. But then reflection upon anything at all, or nothing in particular, might have the same effect.

 The Law is essentially economic. It seeks to improve the administration of things.  Philosophy rejects a pragmatic acceptance of 'economia' because it smacks of 'the unexamined life'. But, when it speaks of 'rights', it takes the path of 'akrebia'- a fault in rhetoric, Aristotle says, such that greater precision is sought than the subject matter can afford with the result that foolish things are said. Thus a philosopher, carried away by her own rhetoric, may pretend that what a tortured person really abhors is that a 'rights violation' has occurred rather than the fact that she is being beaten. This is ludicrous. The tortured person would be happy if someone came and violated the fuck out of the torturer's rights. Philosophy pretends otherwise by appealing to some supposedly more 'fundamental' value which undergirds social reality. We laugh at these cretins and have been doing so since the time of Aristophanes. 

What does it mean to say x is more fundamental than y? One answer is that y is supervenient on x. Change something in x and y changes. Another answer is that x is essential- it exists in all possible worlds- while y is accidental. If somethings are indeed more fundamental than others, then it is folly to expect supervenience to work the other way- i.e. to expect a change in y to change x. It can be the case that physically changing a painting causes its aesthetic reception to change. It can't be the case that changing the aesthetic reception causes a physical change in the painting. Life is more fundamental than the Law. It is nice to have a right which makes your life better. It is foolish to say that x's life has gotten better if you think the Law has gotten better in some respect which does not affect x at all. 

If we speak of one right being more fundamental than another we mean that other rights are affected if the more fundamental right is abrogated but not vice versa. This means if a more fundamental right, other than those recognized as such by a given jurisdiction actually exists, then that set of rights (e.g. the American Bill of Rights) is defeasible.  Thus positing such a right reduces the prescriptive power of existing rights or sets them aside altogether. If the Law currently makes your life better, it would be folly to posit any such more fundamental right. If the Law is making your life worse in every respect, fuck the Law. Hope for its annihilation. A more fundamental right may cause the Law to bear down on you with greater force.

As we previously saw, trading a freedom for a material benefit is perfectly sensible. We may feel that we should have the freedom to posit more fundamental rights than any that currently obtain. However, it would be folly not to trade this freedom in order to have prescriptive fundamental rights which can operate in a useful, for buck-stopped, protocol bound and transparent manner so as to secure our flourishing.

Hannah Arendt, presumably speaking of Refugees or perhaps persecuted Jews etc, commits this fundamental act of folly when she writes-

‘If a small burglary is likely to improve his legal position, at least temporarily, one may be sure that he has been deprived of human rights.’

This is crazy. A person in this position gets a punishment on top of all his other deprivations and miseries. When a person subject to a deportation order commits a crime- even a small one- they are punished and then deported or- under the terms of relevant bilateral agreements- deported and then punished. Furthermore, the chance to emigrate somewhere nice is foreclosed by having a criminal record.

A right more 'fundamental' then any the Nazis claimed would be the right to classify certain people as food. Nobody should be excluded from the Human community. Sub-humans should be incorporated into our tummies by our eating them. This is a type of Oikeiosis which few would desire. The right to the right to belong to a community of cannibals- and to get eaten when our jokes begin to pall and our presence is considered de trop- is a right we fundamentally don't want to have. 

Perhaps Arendt thinks there were some Jews, or Gypsies, etc under Hitler who gained a superior legal status as prisoners which they would not otherwise have had. Things may indeed have worked that way in one or two instances. It may be that there were some convicts who got overlooked when Jews or other persecuted groups were being rounded up for deportation. But this has nothing to do with the Law or with Philosophy. It is just one of those bureaucratic quirks or represents a method of 'gaming' the system. 

A more Freudian explanation for Arendt's foolish statement is that she herself was aware that the position she upheld involved 'a small crime'- viz asserting rights more fundamental than any hitherto recognized- thus damaging the prescriptive nature of the Law and permitting a monstrous type of Oikeiosis. But self-interested actions have always been considered sanctioned by 'the Law of Necessity'. This generates a Doctrine of Exception or exigent circumstances which, as in Schmitt's jurisprudence, was scarcely helpful to Arendt's people.

Arendt wrote- ‘man, it turns out, can lose all so-called Rights of Man without losing his essential quality as man, his human dignity. Only the loss of a polity itself expels him from humanity.'

This is not true. Being deported does not turn you into a goat or other non-human type of being. On the other hand, being eaten by a cannibal, asserting a more fundamental right to incorporate you into his body after putting you through a meat-grinder, may leave no trace of you except a lump of shit. 

On the other hand, if all communities and polities are made subject to a superior authority- indeed, if everybody became the slave of a particular despot who could punish whole nations with impunity- then a philosopher might be able to convince that despot to impose a rule such that no community could sanction any of its own members such that they feel excluded from it. Here 'oikos' has been weakened. It can no longer define itself. Oikeiosis can no longer be a question of embracing wider and wider circles of belonging and affinity. There is but an equal servitude and impotence. 

True, this might secure what Arendt calls the 'right to have rights' for all- but only if the despot so wills. However, the existence of this meta-right would be predicated on lack of freedom for collectives and the despot's ability to directly punish both the collectives and some individuals within those collectives. Moreover, this meta-right would not be foundational to any other right or imbricated in the exercise of any sort of freedom. If the despot wills it- it exists, though of course whether it is enforced depends only on the despot. But, outside his will, it has no existence. 

Hannah Arendt very willingly became an American citizen in 1950 despite the fact that America had a history of withdrawing citizenship from non-Whites and female Whites who married non-Whites. In 1954, under 'Operation Wetback' over a million Hispanics were expelled from the country. It appears that some of these people were bona fide American citizens. Perhaps two or three million people were removed from the country during the Fifties though they were undoubtedly indigenous to territories the US had previously seized. 

America and its allies exercised power over Germany and Japan such that some Germans and Japanese gained a 'right to have rights' at the price of reduced freedom for both nations as a whole. This may have been a good thing. Freedoms, including political freedoms, can, after all, be traded off for a material or other benefit. Rights don't really represent a more fundamental good than Living does. But this means a 'right to rights' can't itself be 'more' fundamental than anything else. Indeed, it must be less so because the thing is meaningless unless rights already exist. My right to own a time-travel machine is empty. Only if time-travel machines actually exist is it worthwhile for me to secure a legal entitlement to one. However rights, under a bond of law, must have incentive compatible remedies. It would do no good to say 'everyone has a right to the latest Apple phone regardless of ability or willingness to pay'. Apple would simply stop making phones rather than go bankrupt supplying everyone with their latest bit of kit. It is better to have a right to get the Apple phone which you paid for under the terms of a contract of adhesion. It is in Apple's interest to ensure people get what they pay for so as to maintain the reputation of their Company. This is an example of an 'incentive compatible' remedy. It would exist even absent the Law, but the existence of the Law is helpful because it reduces uncertainty and allows clarification of 'grey areas' where ambiguity obtains. In such cases, adventitious or imputed rights may be helpful. I paid for an Apple watch, not a phone as I thought. However, it may be that I have a right to a phone because of some lack of clarity in the proffer. A 'reasonable person' may have believed I gained a right to some other right than the one I actually did gain. These are the sort of ambiguities and inequities which Courts can clarify or set right without damaging the whole fabric of socio-economic existence. 

It is true that societies sometimes face unexpected calamities. But 'hard cases make bad law'. Rather than invent a 'more' fundamental right to deal with a 'hard case'- e.g. a flood of refugees- some discretionary accommodation of an equitable kind is advisable. It is not the case that everything has to change before any particular thing can change.

Arendt, being White, gained rights of a superior kind to non-White Americans by becoming American. No doubt that was advantageous to her. But was it admirable in her? Or did it flow from some more fundamental 'right to have rights' which adhered to her but not to Hispanics or African Americans? Certainly, her superiority in this matter was affirmed by the American governing class at that period. But this superiority flowed from the accident of her skin color. It was not predicated on a philosophical essence.

The Bible speaks of the Assyrian Empire and its policy of breaking up Nations and imposing servitude upon their remnants. Judaism itself could be seen as a Nation constituting itself first under Judges and then under Kings to secure Justice and certain types of freedoms for Jews. Arendt seems unaware of this. She wrote- ‘we became aware of the existence of a right to have rights (and that means to live in a framework where one is judged by one’s actions and opinions) and a right to belong to some kind of organized community, only when millions of people emerged who had lost and could not regain these rights because of the new global political situation.’ Yet, in the Bible, a Persian despot who defeated the Assyrians and permitted the return of the Jews to Palestine was greatly praised. Indeed, the notion of the Messiah is prefigured in the Persian Saoshyant or Liberator. But this could be a function of despotic power. It might have nothing to do with Freedom.

It so happened that Arendt could choose between Israel and West Germany and the US as places where she could belong to a political community. However, Hitlerites, who had belonged to a very organized community, were removed from some territories which were previously German and were subject to punishment or 'de-Nazification' statues and procedures elsewhere. Speaking generally, this was advantageous to the Hitlerites. Their lives became safer and more prosperous under Allied surveillance and tutelage. Few would shed a tear for the disappearance of an 'organized society' which was to the liking of those fanatics. No doubt, some equal evil existed within our own Societies, but that evil had not caused a World War of a type disastrous to itself. A not too obstreperous Evil we can live with. But an imbecilic, highly belligerent Evil, which tries and fails to kill us, is one we are content to see perish from the face of this earth. 

Arendt, famously, wasn't opposed to the death penalty, yet she writes

‘man as man has only one right that transcends his various rights as a citizen: the right never to be excluded from the rights granted by his community’.

So, provided the guy is killed in a manner prescribed by law- i.e. without any rights' violation- then his right to have rights is respected. Cool. But the same must be true of any right abrogated by due process of Law- including less severe penalties, e.g. being exiled, outlawed, deported, or confined in a prison or concentration camp. This is the commonsense position. Perhaps, Arendt- being a hysterical foreigner with a shoddy education- was simply groping her way towards ideas formulated in English before Burke or Bentham were born. 

She had queer beliefs- e.g. that Europe learnt barbarity during the scramble for Africa- though Tzarist Russia, with no interests in Africa, had pogroms whereas Leopold of Belgium incited none. She also believed the Wilsonian 'Minorities Treaties' mattered. They did not. All that mattered was whether the French could maintain a credible offensive doctrine. It was this failure of theirs which led to two World Wars. The smaller guy should aim to 'frontload' pain on the bigger guy so he postpones the conflict. 

Ultimately, as one would expect of a person with a PhD in a shite subject, she was simply too stupid to be able to write a single sentence which wasn't obviously foolish, fatuous or utterly false. Hence her continuing relevance in our times which, ominously, have too many cretins with PhD's in shite. 

Consider the following-

Something much more fundamental than freedom and justice, which are rights of citizens, is at stake when belonging to a community into which one is born is no longer a matter of course.

The first thing we notice is that animals of a certain type are free to roam in certain areas. Moreover they have judicial remedies to rights' violations, either by suo moto action of the Court or by a petition by a concerned party, or some other process of law. Indeed, all sorts of entities- including, in India, rivers and Temple deities- may have legal personality. 

Arendt thinks those who don't belong to the community have no rights whatsoever. This is not generally the case. The justiciability of right-violations they suffer may be curtailed. However certain rights subsist and can be a defense in law for actions protective of those rights. 

Population exchanges- e.g. between Greece and Turkey after the Treaty of Lausanne, or between India and Pakistan- pose no great scandal or aporia for the Law. No one has suggested that 'something more fundamental' was or is at stake in these exchanges. Manmohan Singh and Musharraf had ancestral homes in each other's countries. This changed nothing between them. 

Arendt next mentions the plight of the possible targets of ethnic cleansing

and not belonging no longer a matter of choice,

The problem here is that it parallels the plight of the illegal migrant or the person born in the country but not entitled to citizenship. In both cases a person may be denied right of domicile and be subject to a deportation order. Idi Amin expelled Asians but, on the whole, this turned out to be a good thing for them. Similarly, rapid detection and expulsion from a country may be a blessing in disguise. It lets you get on with your life somewhere else.

Consider the 'Windrush scandal'. Why was no legal challenge mounted when the 'hostile environment' policy was first implemented and some people were illegally removed or otherwise discriminated against? Part of the answer is that lawyers were under the impression that some new, more fundamental, 'Human Rights' law applied. In other words, supposedly more 'liberal' fundamental rights caused immemorial common law rights to be disregarded. Britain witnessed the prima facie illegal removal of citizenship (on the contention that a person living in our country as a citizen ceases to be so, save by express stipulation, just because some other country he may be affiliated with becomes independent and he could be considered a citizen of that country) on the grounds that no Statelessness arises by reason of the provision of a Statute passed subsequent to settlement as a qualifying citizen.

The scandal here is that British citizens were treated much worse than Refugees because Rights of domicile etc. were believed to have been 'fundamentally' broadened! 

I think ordinary lawyers- more particularly those who work with poorer people in this country- thought a challenge to the Home Office under the Common Law of this country was bound to fail because really clever people must have drafted the statues & policies in question. To get justice you'd have to get Amal Clooney & Cherie Blair & Professor Chinless Wonder & Lord Haw Haw on side. Yet, the injustice at issue was glaringly obvious to older lawyers- or indeed ordinary people familiar with the Common Law tradition. This is an example where a false belief in a more 'fundamental' right has a mischievous effect. It prevents existing rights violations being remedied till there is a test case about the supposedly more fundamental matter. 

 What of particular groups- e.g second-generation Palestinians in Saudi Arabia or Lebanon who may face severe restrictions and, depending on exogenous geopolitical factors, official hostility amounting at times to summary expulsion?

Speaking generally, the best thing is to take steps to acquire another passport one way or another or at least keep one's place in the queue for resettlement as a Stateless person. 

It may be argued that some more 'fundamental' right exists. Perhaps it is the right to wage war or conduct terrorist strikes. Sadly, exercising such a right- however fundamental you may claim it to be- might result in a worse outcome. 

On the other hand, if waging war leads to victory, you can award yourselves any rights you like. But what is fundamental here is not 'a right to right' but having the stronger 'right arm' or, to be less Biblical, better armaments and training. 

Arendt may be called a Political Philosopher. Does this subject have any right not to be called a pile of shit? Does it have a more fundamental right to have a right not to be expelled from the Academy? It appears so. Sad. 

Wednesday, 28 April 2021

Does Amartya Sen justify Uighur oppression?

Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen is, surely, one of the great and good. Yet his theories seem to be either empty or to condone Stalinist methods of Development.

In particular, can we find a theoretical argument in his oeuvre endorsing what we believe to be happening to the Uighurs in Xingiang?

If so, that would be a serious flaw in an approach which now has a global following among academics and Development professional. 

To clarify, our own 'common sense' view is that it is okay for us to impute values to others- e.g. it's okay if I think you would value the chance to read my poems. We are also welcome to give others reasons to value what we want. So, I am entitled to direct a marketing campaign which gives you a reason to value my poems. What would be illicit would be for me to impute a reason to value my poems to you and then proceed as if some marketing or other type of persuasive operation had in fact been completed and you had accepted the gift of a 'reason to value' my poems without my actually having persuaded you to do so. 

Sen and Sen's acolytes work- if taken at face value dismiss 'marketing' as an option. Instead the notion is, if 'open discussion' could, to their own minds, condone a 'reason to value', then it actually exists even without any actual discussion or consent. In other words, this is a type of marketing which says- we don't need to advertise this so long as the focus group likes it. But since the focus group might have some reason to like it, forget the focus group. We need do nothing whatsoever. We just report- everybody wants our stuff. Indeed, everybody is getting our stuff because it might be whatever they are getting already. We have solved both the production and marketing problem for a Universal Company! How come we are not getting paid big bucks? Oh. We are employed by a shit University Dept or Foundation dedicated to providing careers for credentialised cretins. Sad.

My own view is that Sen's work is meaningless. It can't justify anything. The problem is that if others think his work is meaningful then, for them, Uighur oppression may appear not just justified but salutary. I'm not saying this would cause them to oppress anybody. But it may cause them to have reasons to value biting their own heads off. More sadly, it may not.

It has been suggested that the weakness in Sen's approach arises out of the notion that we can impute 'reasons to value' things to people we don't know. On the face of it, if we can impute values- e.g. she looks starved, she would value food- why not reasons to value? The answer is that it is not reasonable to do so. We wouldn't like it if she did it to us. But, before I can explain why, I must first introduce Sen's terminology and quote one or two of his acolytes. 


For Sen 'Capabilities' are defined as the real freedom to achieve those doings and beings that we ‘have reason to value’.

Sadly, we don't know what 'real freedoms' we have- 'freedom from want?'- what if your Pension Fund collapses? A freedom is real if its violation has a justiciable remedy. But that remedy, long run, must be incentive compatible. If it isn't you may get a judgment entitling you to a remedy but you can't enforce it because the obligation holder is bankrupt or otherwise incapable of doing anything. None of us really know if the remedies we are entitled to will actually be provided when we need them. Thus the price of freedom is constant vigilance.

If we don't know what freedoms we have, at least we must know what reason we have to value the things we do. Sadly, this too is not true. Our behavior is largely mimetic. We may value a particular type of vaccination or a type of asset like bit-coin, without possessing the reason for that preference. We think it valuable because others think it valuable and it seems safer to go with the flow.

 Nor do we know what reasons we should have or even what form they should take. We may know what we want and value it accordingly. But our reason for wanting it may itself determine whether we get it or not. There is a strategic element to reason. Thus, even if we know we value x- we don't know, a priori, if we should have a reason to value x or what that reason should be. 

Thus, if you are asking a girl out and she says 'why do you want to go out with me?' you should not say 'coz you are a slut', or even 'you are a big boobed slutty slut slut'. You should say 'no reason. I just thought it would be cool to hang out. Hey, no biggie.'

Values could, I suppose, be operationalized in a rough and ready manner for some particular purpose (Operationalization means turning abstract concepts into measurable observations)

You could operationalize capabilities by saying they are 'achievements' attainable with given endowments. But this just cashes out as productivity on the one hand and utility on the other. The fact that we are achieving the thing means we value it for some reason. Maybe it is to earn money to buy cool stuff. Maybe it is to escape a beating. Maybe it is because we think it is God's will. 

Capabilities- potential achievements- differ from 'functionings' which are simply outcomes. Capabilities are the production/consumption bundle possibility frontier. We haven't really moved away from Economics at all. We have just needlessly imported meaningless, but nice sounding phrases like 'real freedom' and 'doings and beings' and 'reasons to value' in order to sound like we are real swell guys who care deeply about freedom and values and so forth.

Obviously, we could always go one up on Sen or any other virtue-signaler by padding out our definition even more. Why stop at 'real freedom'? Say 'real, substantive, authentically empowering, freedom' instead. Doesn't that make you feel like you've already made the world a better place?

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy summarizes a recent attempt to pad out Sen-

Khader and Kosko (2019) argue that there are three interpretations of Sen’s ‘having reason to value’ definition. On the procedural autonomy interpretation, an individual Y has reason to value doing or being X if Y has reasoned that X is valuable;

This is not a sustainable interpretation. Y may know that they are shit at reasoning. Indeed any Y not at the 'Pareto Front' of Reasoning, has a reason to reject procedural autonomy. Thus this interpretation either militates against 'real freedom' as being associated with 'capability' (save for those at the Pareto front of Reason) or else it suggests that 'procedural autonomy' is satisfied by delegation to an unknown expert- in other words, no actual procedural autonomy obtains. 

One may say of Uighurs in a concentration camp, that they have procedural autonomy. They have a reason to value being alive in the camp over being dead, or have reason to value being tortured over being dead, or reason to value being shot in the back of the head instead of being tortured to death in a prolonged manner. Thus anyone alive has a reason to value anything at all that is happening to them.

on the process interpretation, what we have reason to value is not necessarily what we do value, but rather what we would value if we had gone through the proper process of individual reflection

The proper process of reflection may indeed be what 're-education centers' inculcate. Thus, the 'process interpretation' could be properly Stalinist or properly Ayn Randian or anything else. Indeed, open public discussion may- on the evidence of recent history- put any sort of straitjacket on our thinking. 

How is the 'process interpretation' different from procedural autonomy where delegation of reasoning is permitted? Suppose it isn't permitted and that procedural autonomy is some stupid shit everyone in their right mind would reject, then it is still the case that the process interpretation is equally shit. Why? The fact that we haven't gone through that process of individual reflection indicates we wouldn't want to have wasted our time in that way because we'd have missed out on some more useful experience.

The fact is, I'd rather have my meal cooked for me by an expert chef. But I don't want to have spent time becoming an expert chef because the opportunity cost would be my not having my current job. I suppose you could say- 'wouldn't it be nice to have expert knowledge of cooking as a 'plug in'? Sure. Magic is cool- when you are 5 years old- but it palls rapidly. Suppose I could introject the life experience of a great chef. I'd probably end up having really simple meals. But, because I've never cooked professionally, I want to sit down to fancy stuff which a true chef would find boring and pretentious. 

Both the procedural autonomy 'interpretation' and the 'process interpretation' are, of course, perfectly compatible with each other or with cats being dogs or anything else if we stipulate that 'values' doesn't mean 'values' but whatever we like. Thus for any given outcome, we can say it is procedurally autonomous or it expresses a reflexive equilibrium or is perfect or is having sex with She-Hulk or anything else we care to stipulate. Ex falso quodlibet. Sad.

(and on the perfectionist interpretation, what people have reason to value is what is objectively valuable: Y simply has reason to value X because X is valuable, even if Y does not herself value X (e.g., Arneson 2020).

If we knew what is objectively valuable there would be no need for language or money or markets. Imagine the following. I walk into the baker's shop and pick up a pie. The baker nods to me. He knows objectively that I will go to the house of Smith and fix his window. Smith knows objectively that in return for this valuable service he must go do something for Jones who ends up requiting the baker for the pie. 

Khader & Kosko, neither of whom are starving, engage in a bit of poverty porn at the start of their 2019 paper-  

 Imagine that Amibesa is an illiterate woman in rural Ethiopia whose parents and siblings have never practiced family planning, despite having some knowledge about and access to contraception. Amibesa, like her neighbors, believes that children are an expression of God’s will, and that she has a duty to respect her husband’s desire for more children. She has never discussed family planning with her husband. Despite her low income, and an alarmingly high risk of death in childbirth or from an unsafe abortion, Amibesa does not wish to pursue any of the family planning methods available to her. 

Since we are descended from Amibesas, we can understand her values. It is likely that, if we ourselves have descendants in the far future, at least some would inherit mitochondrial dna from her. This is an argument- if her love of God is not sufficiently persuasive- to help her here and now. We are related to her from way back when and because she sacrificed herself for her kids- we will be related to her- if our progeny reproduce- sometime in the future. 

Although this example is fictional, real cases like Amibesa’s can pose difficulties for Amartya Sen’s variant of the capability approach. Sen argues that development is the expansion of freedom (Sen 1999b, see also 2002, 8).

This is not true. The production possibility frontier might be expanding like crazy while political and other freedoms are contracting.  

If freedom is the ability to pursue what one values, then the opportunity to control the number and spacing of her children does not count as development in Amibesa’s case.

But it would show up in GDP which is why GDP is useful. 

I suppose the authors want to argue that the fact this lady has a choice not to have a baby means that having the baby in obedience to the will of God is all the more valuable to her. Fair enough.  

Sen’s phrase in the epigraph, echoed by David A. Crocker, has seemed to many to resolve this difficulty. Development is freedom, and freedom is the ability to pursue not only what one “values” but also what one “has reason to value.” Amibesa has reason to value access to and knowledge of contraception (even if she elects not to use it).

That's all that is needed to justify funding a marketing campaign for contraceptives. Evelyn Waugh depicts just such a campaign in East Africa in the Thirties in the novel Black Mischief. The problem, of course, was that take-up was low till incentive structures changed- i.e. women could get paying jobs. 

But is the phrase “reason to value” really a solution to this difficulty? The idea that development is freedom, rather than access to some specific set of opportunities or goods, gains much of its appeal from promising to avoid certain paternalism and pluralism-related criticisms of development.

What it actually avoided- or actively prevented- was genuine Development. China curbed the freedom to indulge in Sen-tentious criticism of Development and developed rapidly. India was more handicapped in this regard.  

One could certainly criticize a particular Marketing campaign as elitist or paternalist or whatever. But if a marketing campaign works and proves 'value for money' because economies of scope and scale are achieved, then such criticism is irrelevant. Nothing succeeds like success. We might initially listen to critics. Then we start criticizing them for their  paternalistic reason to value their own incessant, not wholly epistemic, raping of dogs in the street. This puts them on the defensive. They search for reasons dogs might value being sodomized by Amartya Sen.

Crocker defends his “agency-focused version of capability ethics” (2008, 1) as particularly respectful of differences in values that guide people

but also street-dogs expressing a masochistic cross-species sexual preference 

to lead the kinds of lives they desire. “Authentic development,” Crocker says, is something that “occurs when groups at whatever level become subjects who deliberate, decide, and act in the world rather than being either victims of circumstance or objects of someone else’s decisions, the tool of someone else’s designs” (2008, 339).

So, 'authentic development' was a feature of Neandertal life. Sadly it tended to peter out with the agricultural revolution.  

For both Crocker and Sen, an “agent” is “someone who acts and brings about change, and whose achievements can be judged in terms of her own values and objectives, whether or not we assess them in terms of some external criteria as well” (Sen 1999b, 19, emphasis ours).

So the pussycat is an agent. It valued jumping on my desk to play with the mouse. Shame it upset my cup of tea over the key-board. On the other hand my literary agent is not actually an agent because, he tells me with tears streaming down his cheeks, he really does not value getting dreck published. He'd much rather be publishing cutting edge Queer Theory (which he assumes Socioproctology to be a sub-branch off) instead of biographies of Corporate fat-cats.  

The paternalism and pluralism-related criticisms

are themselves authoritarian and impose their own paranoid vision till we accuse them of epistemically raping street dogs incessantly 

of the notion of development-as-freedom or agency suggest that development is something unacceptably imposed from without.

Unacceptably? Can we do regime change? No? Then let us accept we can't change shit in this respect.  

Development-as-Freedom was what the US was selling Post War. Marketing could be sub-contracted to local Agencies. But, soon enough, there was absolutely no need for this. By the Sixties and Seventies 'Coke gives life' might be translated as 'Coke raises the ghosts of the dead' but locals were not put off. They valued Coke regardless of the strapline. A good wine needs no bush. 

The reason Development Economics collapsed was because Development occurred only where it didn't exist. Those who had always objected to Development, because they were mentally retarded, then retreated to writing this sort of pseudo-woke shite- 

They are commonsense worries, not articulated with a definition of paternalism or a particular defense of value pluralism in mind—and in fact they may be arrived at from a variety of philosophical perspectives.5 One such worry is that development extends the legacy of colonialism by offering people “benefits” that they do not perceive as such (see Escobar 1994, Apffel-Marglin 2004, Rahnema 1997).

Sadly, poor people have not seen any 'benefit' in this sort of critique. Let the Rich dole out a little money to these cranks if this boosts their reputation. Charity can be of many types and the least deserving are often the most in need of it.

Another is that development is coercive, a violation of the autonomy of both individuals and communities (Kapoor 2002).

 Yes. However, coercion is costly. By the folk theorem of repeated games, a non-coercive solution based on subsidiarity or autonomy is better- because cheaper. Development may be about non-coercive activity acquiring an instrument of coercion or it may work the other way around. It has nothing to do with freedom. It has everything to do with productivity. But this was well known before Sen was in short pants.

A third is that cultural homogenization is undesirable. The idea of development as freedom suggests that the “correct” types of interventions—that is, ones worthy of being described as “development” rather than “maldevelopment” (Penz, Drydyk, & Bose 2011)—do not prevent the beneficiaries from determining what types of lives they want to lead.

Sadly, there is no evidence for this view. Either productivity grows or else there has been no development worthy of the name. Freedom may have waxed as life-chances waned or vice versa. There is no necessary connection between the two.  

As Wells summarizes in an autonomy-focused version of this line of defense: “development can be understood as transformational and in the interests of those concerned only if people are treated as autonomous agents whose own valuation of the life they have reason to value is central to the evaluation of advantage and development.” (Wells 2013, 11, emphasis ours)

Either people are autonomous or they aren't. A slave may be treated as though he were a King for some specific purpose. But a slave he remains. If it makes sense to say 'in this place, people are treated as autonomous', then they are not really autonomous at all. For a specific purpose, they have been granted a Hohfeldian immunity which however could be snatched back at any moment. 

It is quite possible that a bunch of 'autonomous' collectives, or free individuals within those collectives, decide to 'pool sovereignty'. They may do as the Chief tells them. They have reason to value what they do because it is 'Law as Command' and they are discharging a duty which they freely contracted to. 

However, suppose they are deluded. There was no free contract. Then, though nothing on the ground has changed, the system of government may be considered repugnant. This is a genuine problem for any type of Decision theory. The fact is there can be 'tipping points' such that there is a 'saltation'- a discontinuous change of state such that all that seemed fair now seems foul.

 Graciella Chichilnisky, in a recent paper, has argued that the same topological structure which gives rise to Arrow's theorem also gives rise to Quantum paradoxes. What she won't accept is that Quantum stuff can make us much much more productive while worrying about Social Choice theory is a complete waste of time. Imposing topological structure- like 'treating agents as autonomous'- is moronic because an actual oxymoron is involved.  A paradox isn't a scandal- it may be a 'money pump', something to exploit because it increases productivity perhaps by diminishing freedom or utility. 

Khader & Kosko have a different objection to make to Wells-

But something moves too fast here. Doesn’t the very addition of the phrase “reason to value” suggest that people already value things they should not, or should value things that they do not—and thus that there are times where people’s “own values and objectives” are not the only standard of judgment about what counts as development?

It may do- or it may be mere puffery- like adding 'authentically empowering' to 'reason to value' 

Who decides what people have reason to value, and what kinds of interventions are acceptable when and if people’s values conflict with it?

Chichilnisky says 'Physics is fine if everything is considered to be part of one big experiment. Then 'unicity' obtains. Once you have separate experiments you could end up with clashing coordinate systems and that's when quantum weirdness rears its ugly head'.

The same thing can be said of Society or the Economy. We can take the view that we are God-like in our power over both. But doing so means we miss out on spotting opportunities to make things more productive here and now.  

The answers to these questions depend on what the phrase “reason to value” means. In the hands of his admirers, Sen’s phrase has become something of a pointer, a way to signal to an audience in the know that one is engaging the capability approach, and usually his version of it. The phrase is rarely discussed in its own right.

So, it is merely a shibboleth. 

Yet Sen’s version of the capability approach, now widely described simply as “the capability approach” (Nussbaum’s is often referred to as “the capabilities approach”), is now widely defined using it: it is the idea that development increases people’s access to what they “value and have reason to value.”

This idea is false. More Development may occur where people's access to stuff they like falls. When things get worse, we get less of what we value. But, 'Necessity' may be 'the mother of invention'. We might find a way to be more productive so that, at the end of the day, we are all better off.  

We argue in this chapter that, despite the intuitive strength and strategic value of the idea that development should be guided by people’s own values, the phrase “reason to value” (or “R2V”) incorporates additional normative commitments into the CA.

How so? Values aren't subject to Pauli's Exclusion Principle. If you value an idea then you can just the change what you value in it to include any other values- known or unknown. As Sen points out, it doesn't matter if values are incomparable- indeed, that's why you can't be sure they are contradictory- you still get a poset and a maximal and so forth.  

However, in our view, such commitments might be required for prospective judgments about what will enhance people’s lives, or what they will come to value over time--judgments development practice cannot do without.

Development practice did fine without any such shite in every single country which actually developed. Sen-tentious shite hasn't developed shit.  

Having a range of substantive opportunities to be and do from which one might choose (capability) is, in Sen's view, more important than being or doing in any particular way (functioning).

Sadly, only the opportunity cost- i.e. best foregone alternative- matters. Failure to understand this leads to the sort of false consciousness ridiculed by Chekhov or Tennessee Williams. Thus, my contention that I could have been bigger than Beyonce on the basis of my Dad's compliment that I should take up twerking- I was more likely to make a success of that type of dance than achieve acclaim in literature- is the delusion of a sad and elderly man. It may warm the cockles of my heart but isn't really true. Once I accept that I could either have published articles on technical aspects of Cost and Management Accountancy or else concentrated on Poetry as Socioproctology, I grow contented with my lot. I have 'minimized regret'. Thankfully regret only extends to opportunity cost not the entire choice menu. Indeed 'regret minimization', not Chichilnisky's shite, is what solves all problems of Social Choice. 

Yet Sen’s uses of the term “reasonable ” and “reason to value” point to a more normative strand in Sen’s writing.

But also to a moronic strand. 

Sen argues that reasonableness requires that behavior be more than simply goal-oriented, and uses the example of self-harm to demonstrate this (Sen 2002, 40).

It is not reasonable to treat the word 'reasonableness' as other than a Tarskian primitive. Tort law doesn't define 'reasonable person'. Why would a philosopher rush into a field where Judges have proved so cautious?

The phrase R2V is often invoked to justify questioning people’s existing desires or going beyond people’s existing desires in assessing wellbeing (Sen 1999b, 14, 18, 63, 152; 2002,7, 13-14, 616). A need to question people’s existing desires also seems built into Sen’s commitment to fighting oppression of women and the poor,

by beating up pimps and muggers? Cool! Amartya Sen is like Batman! 

given that he argues that the “objective illusions” created by sexist, racist, and elitist ideologies can create adaptive preferences and make it difficult to identify accurately what oppressed and deprived people need

Oh. Not like Batman then. Sad.  

Is it really difficult to identify accurately what oppressed people need? No. Find one bunch of guys who are unanimous on demanding something reasonable. Help them get it. Word will get around. You have a queue outside your door. That's it. That's the whole story.

On the other hand my theoretical work on how best to qualitatively differentiate orgasm intensity as experienced by supermodels who will also pay me handsomely for my sexual services will definitely cause me to have to beat them off with a stick once the lockdown is lifted.

(Sen 2002, 469-483). Even Sen’s (2002) statement that “the ‘freedom to lead lives that we have reason to value’ cannot be independent of what we do value

this is nonsense. Provided there is some minimal level of indeterminacy in action, it must be the case that living in this manner is, at least in that moment, completely independent of what we value. On the other hand, Sen has just said Buddhist 'kshanikavada' is baloney. No wonder he was such a shit Chancellor of Nalanda! 

(on this see Sen 1982b, 1982c, 1985a)” (Sen, 2002, p. 685) leaves room for nonidentity between what we value now and what we have reason to value.

As a matter of fact, there is no supervenience relationship, or indeed logical connection, between 'valuing' and 'reasoning' about that valuing. Consider the thousands of years spent discussing the 'paradox of value'. Did anyone really trade a diamond for a glass of water after hearing a philosophical argument?   

It may be objected that the value-laden remarks in this paragraph are not really part of the CA—and rather just parts of Sen’s general body of political and economic thought. As Mozaffar Qizilbash (2012) argues, however, even though Sen sometimes defends only the narrow view that interpersonal comparisons of well-being should attempt to measure abilities to be and do rather than completed functionings or access to resources (a “capability perspective”),

whereas, in life, we do the opposite. Twerkers imitate Beyonce, not me,  because her functioning is better, though- no doubt- properly considered my capabilities are greater than that poor lady. 

he also develops a unique theory of the role of capabilities, one that focuses heavily on choice and public reason (a “capability approach”). Whatever Sen’s intentions, the phrase R2V operates in the secondary literature to restrict the range of abilities to be and do that count as constitutive of freedom. In an important CA handbook, Sabina Alkire and Séverine Deneulin make the notion of reason to value a defining one: “The capability approach contains three central concepts: functioning, capability and agency. A functioning is being or doing what people value and have reason to value. A capability is a person’s freedom to enjoy various functionings—to be or do things that contribute to their well-being. Agency is a person’s ability to pursue and realize goals she values and has reason to value” (Alkire & Deneulin, 2009, p. 22).

Cool. In an advanced economy very few are 'functioning' at all- during their day time job. Their capability is much greater- unless they start functioning- in which case they are fucked. They have no agency because their ability to pursue goals is predicated on a very complex web of interdependence. It is a sad fact that a Wall Street banker can't even shit on the sidewalk the way a hunter gatherer can.  

On the other hand, the fellow has the capability of quitting his job and joining some worthless Foundation after getting a credential which involves reading poverty porn of the following stripe-

Consider a case where Amibesa believes that reproductive decisions are appropriately left to her husband, or that they simply ought to be outside of human control (i.e., left to God). If R2V is a notion that expands, rather than contracts, her freedom, then not controlling her fertility (what she values) and having control over the number and spacing of her children (what she has reason to value) are equally constitutive of her freedom.

This is foolish. Amibesa's wants the freedom to set fire to an abortion clinic- or at least protest against the existence of contraceptive devices in the godless metropolis. It is your job to build such clinics so that real freedom can be exercised. Also send some tame SEALS for Osama's acolytes to kill. 

One problem with this view for pluralists or antipaternalists is that, without a weighting of the various freedoms, neither alternative is better than the other.

The solution is simple. Start with a base case where there is no ambiguity. If you do well there, you get invited to do the same elsewhere.

Economics accepted that 'substantive rationality' involving access to perfect information was actively misleading. Procedural rationality expressed by search or sorting algorithms were what paid the bills. 

 Consider the Secretary problem. How do you get the best Secretary for the wage you can afford? One approach would be a complicated weighting system which the 'anti-paternalist' is bound to dislike because dick-size not boob-size is what should count. Anyway, after a few thousand man-hours spent on this delightful task, you realize that it is very difficult to get Secretaries to submit to a proper weighting procedure. So you eventually adopt the common sense- but also mathematically provably optimal rule- viz. reject the first two or three and then hire the first at least as good. You have done 'discovery' and have applied a 'stopping rule'. Then your wife founds out. Sad. 

Pluralists and anti-paternalists who are attracted to the term R2V will find no reason to defer to Amibesa’s actual desires in an expansive understanding of R2V, since it merely proliferates, and does not weight, objects that are constitutive of her freedom.

Objects are not constitutive of freedom. Mums generally find kids limit their freedom. But kids are cute- so Mummy doesn't mind and only insists you move out after you turn 50 and start losing your hair. 

Similarly, those who think Amibesa ought to have (substantive) access to contraception will find no reason to encourage this rather than respect her wishes.

Sad. I would eagerly watch a You Tube video of these guys prancing around Amibesa so as to encourage her to use contraception or vibrators or whatever. 

More importantly, the use of the phrase R2V to eliminate “bad” capabilities from counting as valuable suggests that CA advocates like Alkire and Deneulin do not intend the “and” to be inclusive. In explanations of the phrase R2V, the focus is often on the CA’s not being committed to expanding access to “harmful”—or what Alkire (2005) calls “horrid”— functionings, for example self-cutting, or more spectacularly, murder.

Good to know. Still, it is a shame these guys aren't dancing around African villages- or inner city Middle Schools- in a manner which encourages people to use contraception.  

 ... Sen and his interpreters tell us that a person who does not value a functioning, and whose other values are unknown, still has reason to value it

How so? This is like saying 'you have a nuclear bomb' in your underpants. You reply- 'No I don't. I don't even like nuclear bombs.' You sternly reply 'You have a reason to value nuclear bombs in your underpants. It isn't your reason- it is mine- but I'm gifting it to you. But this means you definitely have a nuclear bomb in your underpants'. 

The problem here- at least in Navya Nyaya Indian law- is that this 'gift' does not vest in the person save by some overt act of theirs. In Anglo-Saxon law, acceptance is required for a thing to be yours. 

Now it is quite true that you have an immunity in Law to do certain things to protect the the things others value even if they didn't want you to act because they didn't really value those things. This is where a 'reasonable person' test comes in. But this is restricted to actions of immediate, obvious and direct utility. It can't extend to any complex type reasoning on behalf of another without explicit authority. 

and, conversely, a person who values a “horrid” functioning might not have reason to value it.

So, reasoning and valuing are independent. Neither supervenes on the other. But this means there is no 'natural' or 'reasonable' way to link what is valued with 'reason to value'.  

There may be a strategic interplay between 'value' and 'reason to value'. 

Mum says 'Come have your dinner. You must be famished.' I turn away. In a miserable but dignified tone I deny being hungry- though saliva is dripping from my lip. Mum reflects for a moment and gives in- 'I was wrong to say you don't twerk better than Beyonce. You took it to mean that your twerking was too vulgar because your bum was bigger than hers. That is why you don't now value this tasty meal. What you value is losing weight. But this is unnecessary. All I meant was that you shouldn't let anyone see you twerking. They'll want to video it and post it on Tiktok. Then Beyonce's Agent will have you killed because your bum is bigger than hers. Amartya Sen has explained all this in his latest book. Read it and see for yourself.' 

Strategic considerations in Social contexts lead to different forces operating on 'costly signals'= e.g. actual values- which give rise to a separating equilibrium- while 'cheap talk'- e.g reasons to value- only generates a pooling equilibrium. 

As a matter of fact it is rational for a population of Amibesas to split on the issue of contraception. Some take it up to have a higher quality of life but pretend not to to remain part of a pooling equilibrium. Others reject it and gain reputationally- God has favored them! They may have higher reproductive success and gain other benefits- e.g. more political voice and greater access to club goods- so it is an open question as to the evolutionarily stable proportion of 'cheap talk' Amibesas relative to 'costly signal' Amibesas. Then you look at historic demographic data are realize contraception we have always had with us. Women just didn't talk about it.

But surely a person can use their reason to come to value having their reproductive life determined by others, for example. Sen’s typical recommendation for such cases is public deliberation or expansion of their capability set expanded with the aim of bringing that person to value (or devalue) that functioning, or with the expectation that she will come to (de-)value it.

As a young man, Sen would have seen Family Planning workers and other such outreach teams going off into the villages and encouraging 'public deliberation' and so on. That shite didn't work because the incentive structure had stayed the same. What worked was getting rural girls into big factory dormitories by giving them something they valued- transferable utility- i.e. money.

I suppose the guys writing this shite are getting paid. They are 'functioning'. Maybe some of them will be able to save enough to go off to Africa to try to do first order good. I suggest that they study my Tiktok twerking videos to learn how to encourage Amibesa's to stick diaphragms or whatever up their whatsits. In this way 'Freedom-as-Development' will have fulfilled their Capabilities to the uttermost.  

Capabilities may be hot air- just harmless jargon indulged in by imbeciles- but another aspect of Sen's work- viz. championing open public discussion as a panacea- is clearly having a mischievous impact in an India reeling under COVID.

The Process Interpretation A second interpretation of R2V, the process interpretation, suggests that one has reason to value what one values after deliberative processes, changes in one’s opportunity set, or both.

This is foolish. Only the information set, which contains all you know about your opportunity set, matters. How it is enlarged is irrelevant. To argue otherwise is to say information is not univocal. If a bad man discovered a Scientific Law we must have nothing to do with it. This is sheer magical thinking. Boko Haram may be right to say that the White Man brought evil. But they are wrong to say books are evil just because White people brought them.   

It is forward-looking and suggests that the term R2V tells us what people would value after undergoing certain changes.

No. It has no such magical quality. Nobody can say with certainty how any person will think after undergoing some pedagogic or discursive process. It is not the case that students who took the same courses have the same values. Harvard or the LSE is not a brainwashing center. After Sen finishes a debate, it is not the case that he and his interlocutor have 'Aumann agreement'. 

This is the interpretation that Crocker seems most committed to, both in his writing and in public lectures and discussion. Crocker has done much to forward Sen’s distinction between the process and opportunity aspects of freedom,

I have argued this is specious elsewhere 

a distinction that can help us get clearer about which processes, in addition to an agent’s internal reasoning, are necessary for a person to come to have reason to value something:

This is foolish. Either you value something or you don't. In the former case you may have a reason to do so in which case whatever process that reasoning took- e.g. comparison, x is doing better than me coz x values y, hence I too shall value y- is the process. 

Imputing values is something we do out of normal 'theory of mind'. It is quite natural. 'I thought you must be hungry and would want this food' is a perfectly innocent thing to say.  But 'imputing reasons for values' smacks of insincerity. You are laying it on too thick if you say- 'I thought, oh great sage, that though you are impervious to hunger yet, as a favor to your humble acolyte, you might deign to partake of this dish'.

It is perfectly acceptable when surveying a market or making a fiscal decision to impute values of a natural type to people whom you don't know. But 'reasons to value' can't be natural. They must be independently corroborated precisely because they don't seem natural even to their proposer. 

In any case, as a matter of common sense, it is the do-gooder whose 'reasons to value' should change- if the thing really is ethical- not the other way around. We think well of the Vicar who finds new reasons to value reprobates every day. We don't think well of holier than thou hypocrites who ape the mannerisms of that good man.

“Freedom is concerned with the processes of decision making as well as the opportunities to achieve valued outcomes” (Sen 1999b, 291).

Is this true? No. Administration is concerned with this. Freedom is not. It is a set of Hohfeldian immunities representing Rights which have judicial remedies (though these may be self-supplied). One may say Freedom is concerned with Administration. But Slavery is more so.  

Exercise of political freedoms (like public discussion and free speech)

Political freedoms- i.e. the ability to participate in political processes- may be wholly lacking whereas speech may be wholly free. The opposite too may be the case. 

or expansion of available opportunities (a change in one’s circumstances that results in an expansion of one’s real capability set) might be reason-giving processes.

only if they are inscribed in the information set.  

If having R2V something means one would value it following certain kinds of processes, then the function of R2V is largely to facilitate prospective judgments, allowing development practitioners to anticipate what Amibesa might, after an intervention, “have reason to value,” irrespective of what she currently values.

So the process still ends in an imputation of values. What difference does it make if I chop off your head in a fit of rage or if I do it after some process of reasoning such that I think you'd really value not having a head on your shoulders? 

This is merely bureaucratic pettifogging of a Kafkaesque type.

We have identified two types of process that might make Amibesa’s values count as reasoned: her participation in collective deliberation and an expansion of her capability set.

So, we can demand she get her tubes tied provided we 

1) organized a discussion about this in her village so she had her chance to participate

2) set up a Family Planning Clinic able to perform tubectomy in the region

This is a bit like what happens in Douglas Adam's 'Hitchhiker's guide to the Galaxy'. Our planet can get bulldozed to construct a Galactic super-highway provided we were notified of a public hearing and provided a Vogon 'Constructor Fleet' is ready at hand.  

According to the first, which we call the “deliberative-process” version of this interpretation, when we say that Amibesa values and has reason to value something, we are saying that: Through a public, deliberative process, she has reasoned (or will reason) that X is valuable.

Cool! That's what the Chinese say about the Uighurs. But why stop there? Given enough re-education they will gladly commit suicide so more living space is available for their betters. 

Notice no 'natural' imputation of values to Uighurs would permit such a perverse outcome. What is truly monstrous is not that ordinary people 'impute values' in a manner we find natural,  but that stupid, virtue signaling, egg-heads impute highly artificial 'reasons to value' to poor people such that any atrocity whatsoever could be justified under the rubric of  'freedom-as-development'

Though this interpretation of R2V is largely absent in the secondary literature on R2V it would be consistent with Sen’s emphasis on the role of political freedom in value formation, emphasis Crocker embraces.  Sen argues that the ability to participate in politics and public discussions is valuable, not only because of its ability to motivate governments to act in the public interest, but also because it plays a constitutive role in development, by facilitating value formation.

Things are either valuable in themselves or because they are causally linked to valuable things. The ability to participate in politics may be valuable in itself. It may be causally linked to 'motivating governments'. But what is the causal link to that government acting in the public interest? There is none. It may be argued that the Government is afraid of public opinion. But that is also true of tyranny! Moreover, there is no evidence in the annals of history that public opinion reflects 'the public interest'. 

Sen should be satisfied in saying x is valuable in itself. People like having it. Try taking it away from them. They will get angry.

Instead he says x is valuable because x causes pigs to fly and is constitutive of aerobatic porcine aeronautics by the manner in which it facilitates saying stupid shit like this. 

Collective decision making processes are central to the development, evaluation, and evolution of weights and values that individuals might place on ways of doing and being and on various goods (Sen 1999b, 152).

No. Individual 'weights' and 'values' are inputs to mechanisms created collectively or tyranically or imposed exogenously. No doubt, in a small tribal republic, it may seem that the Ecclesia- i.e. the assembly of the free citizens- is important. But if you look a bit closer even at Plato's Athens you see that the Ecclesia wasn't important. There were mechanisms- judicial, military etc- which said they took their authority from the Ecclesia. But dealing with them was a matter of incentives not arguments. 

Sen and Crocker both suggest that public deliberation transforms the normative status of values; their being deliberated upon makes them especially worthy of playing a role in development policy.

Cool! So Sen is really happy that India is getting a big Ram Temple in Ayodhya. There was a lot of deliberation about there wasn't there? Clearly Ram Temples play a big role in 'development policy'.  

In many cases, Sen treats values that have not undergone scrutiny through some kind of public process as in some way suspect, perhaps unreliable as guides to the actual (uninformed, unregimented) values a person holds: “We cannot, in general, take preferences as given independently of public discussion, that is, irrespective of whether open debates and interchanges are permitted or not” (Sen 1999b,153).

Cool! We can't say Sen's shite aint shite till there has been a full public discussion about its utility. But would Sen really want to debate me and the millions of other knuckle dragging trolls like me?  

 Sen writes “In examining a person's opportunities, it is possible to go beyond the actual preferences used in her choice acts into the preferences she could have chosen to have” under different circumstances (Sen 2002, 616).

What should Sen have done with his life? Physics? He hints as much. But he was too stupid to make a mark there. 

This is not to say Sen- like Spivak- wasn't useful to his people. Back in the Seventies, the safe thing to do on University Campuses was to pretend to be a 'useful idiot'. You needed to show that you were too stupid to read Marx- thus you couldn't be a left deviationist or a right opportunist or whatever- but also too stupid  to understand Adam Smith. Thus you could say 'what puzzles me is why Smith's so called devotees don't join the Communist Party. There's a Professor in America who has made this point in a marvelous manner. I'm hoping to go work under him.' The Reds would then consider you a sort of Trojan Horse and send you on your merry way. Sooner or later you would come to Marx. Meanwhile your oeuvre was just what the Doctor ordered when it came to showing bright young Commies just exactly how useless and fucked in the head bourgeois liberalism actually was. 

Sen's class were academo-bureaucratic parasites in India. Now his acolytes secure their careers by preying vulture fashion off a Developmental Aid which looks more and more skeletal. 

What if there is a sudden collapse in this Credentialized Ponzi scheme? Suppose 'tenure' for virtue signaling cretins suddenly disappears? What if Gates actually figures out a way to lift up the poor and then the Ford Foundation and so on are shamed into following suit? 

Would 'deliberative public reason' rally round these soi disant savants who have become a victim to epistemic entitlement failure? Of will they impute to them 'reasons to value' being thrown on the scrap heap?

I'm kidding. These are good people. If their citation cartel collapses, they will get jobs doing first order good. Then, they will be happy. 


COVID crisis & Open Public Discussion

One year ago, Amartya Sen argued that open public discussion during a crisis could cause equitable policies to be implemented such that 'a better world emerged'. His example was Britain during the Second World War. 

There was a sharp reduction of the incidence of undernourishment in Britain in the difficult years of food shortages during the second world war. Facing a big reduction of total food availability, Britain arranged more equal food sharing, through rationing and social support. The chronically undernourished were much better fed than ever before. A similar thing happened with better shared medical attention. 

It is notable that, Charles Tegart, Imperial India's notoriously brutal Police Chief, who had ruthlessly suppressed Bengal's revolutionaries using spies and double agents, was put in charge of combating the British black market in 1942. Was there 'open public discussion' in the UK? Up to a point- yes. But Nazi sympathizers were thrown in jail. After the war, collaborators- like Lord Haw Haw or even the son of the former Secretary of State for India- were hanged. 

Sen does not acknowledge that it was Tegart's methods- not open public discussion- which secured Britain's triumph.

 However, a counter-example Sen suggested might, in view of India's current COVID surge, seem prophetic- 

 India is a particularly striking case. Inequalities remain very large. Famines have not occurred since the establishment of democracy in independent India.

Though one did occur in neighboring Bangladesh soon after it became a Democracy with a free press and lots of open public discussion. Sadly, around this time in India, the Police and paramilitaries were killing Maoists with such vim and vigor that open public discussion decided to keep shtum or talk about something else.  

Yet open public discussion — which makes the predicament of the deprived heard, politically significant and protects the endangered — faces increasing governmental restriction, including reduction of media freedom through direct and indirect means. Marked by the contrast between reasonable medical facilities for the affluent, and not even decent primary healthcare for most of the poor,

who overwhelmingly live in rural areas 

and weighed down by the brutal asymmetries of modernised caste inequalities, India could have benefited greatly from equitable pandemic management. Yet there is little evidence of egalitarian concerns. Instead, the focus has been on drastic control and sudden lockdowns (including of trains and buses)

to prevent the virus getting loose in the hinterland where it could mutate quietly with none being the wiser.  

with little attention paid to labourers who lose their jobs or the many migrant workers, the poorest of the poor, who are kept hundreds of miles from their homes.

Shailaja, Health Minister of the Communist regime in Kerala, did a much better job. Her expert knowledge of coping with NIPAH a couple of years previously meant that she and her team were not just reactive, they were proactive. Migrant workers had faith in the State Government because they could see with their own eyes that Government Schools and Clinics were fit for purpose. Sadly, this is not true of most of India because grass-roots politics is corrupt and casteist- not meritocratic and based on competition re. 'last mile delivery'. 

The Communists may get re-elected in Kerala because they have done well in this crisis. The problem is Modi too may get re-elected no matter how badly he does simply because there is no other credible, or willing, candidate.

Competition matters. Open Public Discussion does not. Criticism is useless if no other choice is available.

Sure, social distancing restricts the virus’ spread (this important benefit is not in dispute). But it has to be combined with compensatory arrangements — for income, food, access and medical attention — for people devastated by the lockdown.

But 'compensatory arrangements' have to be combined with resources on the ground and administrative capacity. Carving up an imaginary cake is all very well. But the cake has to be baked before anyone can eat it.

For Modi this crisis has been a discovery process. A lot of capacity which exists on paper turned out to be useless or counter-productive. But then the American CDC turned out to have feet of clay.

What the COVID crisis has shown us is that policy making must acknowledge 'Knightian Uncertainty'- i.e. the unknowability of future states of the world. Public discussion has purchase where the future is predictable. Where it isn't, regret-minimizing strategies must be employed. We must guard against catastrophic threats which we keep quiet about in public.

India, like many countries, needs something like an NHS.

Why not say 'India needs to be as rich as Britain'. But why stop there? Why not say 'Indians should be British. They should eat scones not samosas.' 

But no lesson in that direction will probably emerge from the pandemic response, given its huge inequities.

I think one lesson which emerged very quickly was the need for 'One Nation, One Ration Card'- i.e. portable benefits so as to give migrant labor more security, which benefits industry without increasing its regulatory burden. 

There are many other such lessons at the District and Regional level. The crisis has concentrated minds on demographic realities- not the picture that was current on the basis of outdated statistics which showed much less migration than there actually was.  

Sadly, it is quite possible that when we meet again we will be no better placed to face the unequal world in which we live. Yet it need not go that way. A concern with equity in crisis management would lessen suffering in many countries now, and offer new ideas to inspire us to build a less unequal world in the future. Since we are less than half way into the crisis, dare we hope this can still happen?

A year later the answer is clear. Open public discussion has not played a helpful role. Compare America- where many politicians and media personalities expressed COVID skepticism- with China and this conclusion is inescapable.

Many in India, sharing Sen's fear that the Modi Government was restricting media and other freedom, suggested that the lockdown was a tool to 'stifle dissent'. In particular, it was seen as a heavy handed attempt by a Majoritarian, if not Fascist, Government to put an end to mass protests by a minority. At a later point, when farmers from the majority community were conducting a protest, the fact that there seemed to be no COVID surge confirmed most people in the view that the whole thing had been overblown. Perhaps Indians had higher natural immunity. People said- 'you see, Caucasians have AAT deficiency and are more at risk. Anyway, many Indians have immunity because similar viruses have been circulating here for centuries.'

Would a greater concern with 'equity in crisis management' have helped? The answer is that in the case of a pandemic only one thing matters- who is most at risk of infection. Whether they are rich or poor does not matter. They must be identified and quarantined. The moment you change the policy instrument to satisfy a second policy objective, you get something which is not just sub-optimal, it may be counter-productive. Let us suppose a bien pensant government had decided to force Black people where I live to get vaccinated on the grounds that we were at higher risk and, in any case, combating 'Institutional Racism' is a good thing. It is likely we would have felt we were being used as guinea pigs. We might double down on opposing the vaccine as evil and part of some malign conspiracy. Suppose the Government backs off- for fear of provoking race riots- and moves on to the next most vulnerable group. They might be equally recalcitrant. Indeed, they might feel they are being unfairly equated with a less prestigious social group.

Economists speak of Tinbergen's rule- you must have as many policy instruments as you have policy objectives. It is folly to say 'well, this instrument' should be changed to reflect other concerns we ought to have'. That is a path to McKelvey chaos.

There may be a moral argument that Medical Science can't be our sole guide. A coldly utilitarian approach must be softened by the warmth of human sympathy and sentiment. But, surely, such warmth and sympathy can be added at the point of delivery? There is no need to change the instrument for an a priori reason. 

Still, the objection may be made that any Social Action must reflect the moral values that constituted the Social realm. 

However, this may be countered by saying 'instruments arise out of nothing else. The fact that they have an objective, scientific, description and set of protocols doesn't mean they don't arise from the promptings of a warm heart and a misty eye.'

A cynic might say 'instruments may be designed by angels. But they are implemented by devils- greedy politicians intent on sucking up to the rich. Thus there is an occult mechanism whereby only instruments beneficial to the rich get implemented. You are very naive to believe otherwise.' 

This may be true. Still, this may be a case of 'enlightened self-interest' doing what is socially optimal. 

Suppose a Government were only concerned with the Rich. It would still have to help the poor because the poor can infect the rich or, if the Rich have retreated to a private island, harm the value of their investments by dying instead of working. 

Interestingly, Labour- as a class- gains from a pandemic. The Black Death is supposed to have helped the English peasantry emerge from serfdom and rise up economically. Capital, thus, would have a greater interest in preserving the quality and quantity of the Labor supply. 

Sen speaks of 'compensatory arrangements'. This requires resources and a type of State Capacity which itself requires resources of a qualitative type. This means a poor country with a lot of very poor people is not going to have the fiscal resources, or administrative capacity, to make 'compensatory arrangements' - more particularly if it was already using transfers to help the poorest. In other words, a concern with equity may mean that, when a medical or military crisis hits, there is no 'spare capacity' to cope with the increased need for equitable compensation. Instead there is entitlement collapse of an inequitable type. 

Open public discussion can have a perverse effect on tackling inequity. If the impression is created that there is 'free money' available for the very poor then all sorts of not-so-very-poor start queuing up demanding compensation. The farmers who were protesting actually employed migrant laborers. They have been offered a higher price for their product than that given to those migrant laborers who now have no choice but to work for local landlords. 

During a crisis, it makes sense to have an expansionary fiscal stance. However, those who supply mission critical items- e.g. oxygen or vaccines- may use their market power to extract windfall profits. The fact that there is an expansionary fiscal stance itself sets off a furious race to secure the benefits. Open public discussion can be used to amplify unfair, as well as fair, demands.

In India, Pratap Bhanu Mehta has been the most vocal supporter of open public discussion as a panacea. Indeed, he may be regarded as a martyr in its cause. He says he resigned from a Private University because the Government had put pressure on the Donors to get him to quit. This was because they didn't like the articles he was publishing in the Indian Express. 

He complains in his latest article- ' what do policy proposals mean, when all policy is about managing headlines, not achieving an objective?'

The McKelvey chaos theorem tell us that when a policy space becomes 'multi-dimensional'- e.g when considerations of equity are tagged onto purely medical considerations- then there is a struggle for 'Agenda Control'. Virtually any outcome, however disliked by all, may result from a situation where any sensible measure can be opposed on the basis of some other principle. If open public discussion wants to be fully reflected in the actual decision space- if Democracy is to be truly participatory- then, having 'incomparable' principles (e.g. equity considerations separate from health considerations) can lead to chaos. 

Mehta writes-  There is a need to fix accountability. 

In a representative Democracy, accountability is secured by having an Executive subject to Judicial and Legislative overview. However, there must be a viable alternative to the existing Chief Executive or ruling party. This is what is lacking in India now. Rahul Gandhi won't step up to the plate. Open public discussion might increasingly deplore Modi, but if there is no alternative to Modi, then it is impotent. It is not the case that the Judiciary can take over the running of the country. Nor, in India, is it feasible for the Army to step in. 

Mehta suggests that 'institutional sinews' could have played a role- But how does accountability get fixed when so many institutional sinews from federalism to bureaucracy have snapped?

The problem here is that the Indian Constitution contains no notion that India is federal, not unitary, or that the Civil Service has a separate mandate and is wholly independent of elected politicians. One may say 'yes, but there was a certain political culture or 'unwritten code' which obtained in the good old days.' But there is no evidence of this. Furthermore, in no State- no matter which Party rules it- do we see anything very different from what is happening at the center.

The conclusion we must come to is that the Basic Structure of the Indian Constitution is not favorable to the view that 'Open Public Discussion' or 'Participatory Democracy' has salience- more particularly during a crisis. One the contrary, the Executive is expected to get on with the job and keep its fingers crossed that it gets re-elected. Recent Supreme Court judgments suggest that the right of mass protest is not unconditional or indefeasible. The harm such protests cause should be taken into account.

Sen and Mehta- unlike the 'Subaltern School'- don't dwell much on an obvious problem with 'Open Public Discussion' in a highly unequal society. The very poor have little 'Voice'- save at election time. By contrast, the wealthy own newspapers- like the one which employs Mehta as a contributing editor- and endow University chairs or, indeed, entire Universities. 

Mehta writes- 

India has always been a tough place; the callousness that comes with inequality is deeply inscribed in our social structure. Politics was supposed to mitigate at least the harshest edges of this inequality. Instead, what we are seeing in the politics of the BJP is the unleashing of an unvarnished social Darwinism, a ruthless exercise of power on behalf of the powerful: Majorities against minorities, state against dissenters, and big capital against small. The spectre of more repression being unleashed to manage the post-pandemic discontent cannot be ruled out. The question is this: Will these rudiments of public solidarity on display counter deadly social Darwinism that our official politics has become?

Mehta impugns 'repressive' actions- e.g. lockdown enforcement- and equates anything else with Social Darwinism. He does not understand that we are dealing with actual Darwinism. Genes which do not contribute good defenses to this type of virus are being eliminated from the population. This does not correlate with one's Social status at all. 

Let us now look at the sort of policy proposals 'open public discussion' throws up. Bear in mind Mehta was the head of a leading think-tank in Delhi and had previously held some sort of quasi Governmental advisory position.

Perhaps, a good test case is something urgent: A reconsideration of our vaccine policy. The three basic ingredients of a vaccine policy for a pandemic of this kind are clear. Do whatever it takes to make sure there are enough supplies (the right procurement contract, capital subsidies, capacity expansion, and, if need be, the suspension of intellectual property rights).

This may be true of America. It isn't true of a poor country like India. We can ask for 'suspension of intellectual property rights' but asking aint getting. It seems Biden will actually help us with vaccine raw materials but this is because India could incubate much more deadly vaccine resistant strains thus sparking an even more deadly surge in America itself.

It is notable that much 'open public discussion' opposed the indigenous vaccine- the suspicion being that an unfair advantage was being given to a particular Company- though Fauci now says it may be resistant to mutated strains. This underscores the important of 'informed' rather than 'public' information exchange. The latter can crowd out the former.

Centrally procure vaccines, but give states operational flexibility.

To do what? Hoard vaccines? Set off a bidding war? Has 'operational flexibility' helped the EU response or has it hindered it?  

And distribute them free. This is essentially what the United States did.

Because India is as rich as the US 

And do all of this as fast as possible, if we are to prevent new mutants from arising.

Earlier this year, there was a learned article explaining that vaccinating those who had already been infected was very wicked. Indeed, at the time a lot of ordinary people- seeing the farmers as healthy as ever after weeks of mass protests- believed that Indians had natural immunity. The whole thing was a hoax.  


Instead, what we got in vaccine policy is a bizarre combination of ruthlessness and managing the headlines.

Open public discussion, means business as usual for politicians and public intellectuals. Mehta will continue to scream that Modi is Hitler. Others will scream that Mehta and Sen are utter cretins who live in a fantasy land where India is as wealthy as America. Meanwhile elections go ahead and it turns out that the 'open public discussion' of Sen & Mehta and their counterparts on the Right wasn't actually public at all. They may as well have been whispering to each other and giggling behind the bike shed.  

Mehta ends by denouncing private provision of vaccination.

 Now allocation will be based on whoever can lay their hands on the vaccine, not what is best suited to combat the virus and reduce health burdens. You then say there will be differential pricing. In essence, those who can afford to get them at private sector rates shall get them more easily. The argument is that they will cross-subsidise. This is a specious argument; if people want to genuinely fund cross-subsidies in health, better to collect it as taxes and create public goods, not distribute vaccines as a privileged good under scarcity.

This may seem perfectly reasonable in the U.K- where Mehta got his first degree- or in the USA- where he got higher degrees. But the UK, with one twentieth of the population of India, has double the number of tax payers even though the tax threshold is twice as high. 

Suppose, vaccines were free but allocated strictly on medical criteria. Then more Income tax payees die because they have lower priority. This shrinks the tax take which in turn shrinks the budget for Health care etc. You have a vicious circle. 

Can a better society emerge from the COVID crisis? Yes. Informed discussion- with safeguards such that experts don't have to worry about being labeled racist or transphobic or Zionist etc-  could take the place of open public discussion. But, surely, some provision like that already exists? Anyway, we can't suppress public discussion in our sort of Societies. Thankfully, there is a 'Darwinian' solution. Don't engage with obvious losers. Be like Modi. Grow out your beard or otherwise improve your image. When attacked by a potential winner, respond yet more viciously. If he calls you a Nazi, accuse him of raping dogs in the street. A little of this goes a long way. Ordinary people understand that one can just disintermediate the 'open discussion' losers. Our leader could always, like Trump, turn the tables on them by deploring their amorous attentions to innocent little bow-wows. But he doesn't have to bother. What is important is that he project confidence and take as many U turns as are necessary to get us away from this horrible virus.