Tuesday, April 24, 2007


Means vs Ends --
Over at Democracy Arsenal, Ilan Goldenberg makes the following observation while looking at a recent Barack Obama foreign policy speech:


Too often progressives confuse ends (Keeping America secure) with means (multilateralism). Working with others is important but it shouldn’t be our top priority. Obama doesn’t drivel on about the UN, the ICC or international norms. Instead, he uses examples where working with others results in tangible and direct benefits to America’s interests.


I've made the suggestion in the past that tolerance isn't really a value or an end but rather a means to the actual end of a peaceful and sufficiently fair society. I might even go so far as to put democracy under the category of means rather than an end.

I don't think that it is feasible to claim that we must progress by certain means to reach a certain end. That is just too many variables to specify. Human behavior lacks that many degrees of freedom. Fairness can be defined primarily as a fair process or as a fair outcome. We often can't specify both a fair process and a fair outcome. We can hope that fair means lead to fair ends, but we can't force the future. Policy choices hinge upon deciding whether or not we care more about means or ends, and I don't think that enough people understand that we are forced to make such a choice.
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