Major stumbling blocks to my sympathy

You know, stuff like this does not help, conservative people. I refer to the very first sentence of the quote, which acts on me much in the same way a too-high speed bump acts on the undercarriage of my car: it brings the vehicle of my caring to a crashing, jolting halt:

A primitive society is being devastated by a disease, so you bring modern medicine to bear, and wipe out the disease, only to find that by doing so you have brought on a population explosion…

What. I mean what. No really, what. This was quoted with approval, by the way, because as we all know conservatives are supposed to want to stop all that improvement-of-the-world stuff because OMG something could change and someone might get uncomfortable by being jolted out of their little shell of complacency! Especially if it results in a “primitive society” (ew!) having a “population explosion” because some stoopid doctors cured them of a disease that was killing them off and making more room for white people.

So you know, I think for myself. If that means I’m not “conservative” if “conservative” means worrying that healthy “primitives” (i.e., people with too much pigmentation in their skin who put too much spice in their food and worship unapproved gods) are having too many babies because some “scientist” (boo hiss) cured them of a disease then fuck it, I’m a liberal.

By the way, I didn’t read the rest of the shit. I know what “unintended consequences” are and I know that they are something to watch out for and when they happen to deal with like grown men and women. They are not a reason to stop curing diseases or trying to fix any of the other problems of life on Earth. They are not a reason to retreat in a thumb-sucking sulk to a playpen lined with the works of Dead White Males.

16 thoughts on “Major stumbling blocks to my sympathy

  1. sweetie

    David Stove wrote:
    Even so, Hayek is right when he suggests that it is on the issue of change that the liberal and the conservative disagree. While the liberal sees changes as inevitable and healthy, the conservative sees changes as fraught with danger.

    The conservative has “a fear of change, a timid distrust of the new.” As a result, just as the liberal is committed to the maximization of individual freedom, the conservative is comitted to the diversification of political power among a wide range of social institutions, believing that it is only by encouraging this diversification that we can protect ourselves from the unintended and unwelcome consequences of revolutionary action.

    Sounds right to me!

    1. Andrea Harris Post author

      Sorry, I can’t even get to that because the car of my brain is still hung up with a broken axle on “we shouldn’t cure diseases because non-white ‘primitive’ people might have lots of babies.”

    2. Steve B

      ‘”we shouldn’t cure diseases because non-white ‘primitive’ people might have lots of babies.”
      Cept that, that’s not what he was saying at all. I believe he was addressing the idea that improving the life expectancy of a population, by reducing infant mortality, people staying alive to child-bearing age instead of dying of polio, etc., means that you have the potential to increase the population faster than the surrounding infrastructure can support. So now, you overtax the available food/water/etc, and so while people aren’t dying of diphtheria, they just end up living long enough to starve to death.

      I don’t think he’s saying that we SHOULDN’T cure diseases, but rather, we need to understand that a sudden three-fold increase in mouths to feed without a commensurate increase in the food supply will lead to additional problems, the solutions for which must be accounted for.

      And I am SOOO tired of this meme that conservatives are frightened of change. Perhaps deeply suspicious of change for change’s sake. Or maybe we figure we have a pretty good system going, and a “change” to marxism/socialism isn’t exactly an improvement, given the examples history makes available to us.

    3. Andrea Harris Post author

      Cept that, that’s not what he was saying at all. I believe he was addressing the idea that improving the life expectancy of a population, by reducing infant mortality, people staying alive to child-bearing age instead of dying of polio, etc., means that you have the potential to increase the population faster than the surrounding infrastructure can support. So now, you overtax the available food/water/etc, and so while people aren’t dying of diphtheria, they just end up living long enough to starve to death.

      Okay, how is that anything but a longer-winded version of “curing diseases is bad because it will lead to overpopulation which will lead to bad stuff”? Because it’s not like this Stove guy went on to say that at least more babies meant more people to work and raise food and help their parents etc. etc. No, it was just the usual “overpopulation — worse than anything!” cant that we’ve heard for ages. And by the way, there was nothing in what I quoted that pointed out examples of this horrible overpopulation effect from curing diseases OR any great effects from letting diseases have their way. Is there any such event in history? Was Europe after the Black Plague had gone through it better off with three-quarters of the population dead? How about the entire fucking world after the influenza pandemic during World War I? How about any part of the world any time in history after any epidemic killed a large number of people? You’re saying that it is okay to postulate “well at least they weren’t suffering from too many people being alive!” then? Really? REALLY?

      Note: I have read somewhere — I can’t remember now — recently that there’s a theory that Europe was somehow pushed into the Renaissance by having to invent a bunch of things and techniques and political adjustments and so on to cope with the reduction in population caused by the Black Plague. But correlation is not causation — a whole lot of other stuff was going on in the 14th and 15th centuries. And it’s not like we can actually know — say the plague hadn’t ever hit, or hadn’t been as virulent, and no so many people had died. Who knows, the world might have even become more advanced; some of those plague victims could have lived to have contributed even more inventions and works of art and so on. (And also, the theory completely ignores the fact that Europe wasn’t the only part of the world affected by bubonic plague.)

      As for the mythical Bad Population Explosion After Diseases Were Cured, where did this happen? China, for example, has more people than it has ever had ever, and I haven’t heard that starvation has been a problem there lately. (Finally. After all these centuries.) I wonder why. Surely it can’t be because they refuse to vaccinate people and let diseases run free through the countryside there. Could it be that “too many people” isn’t really the problem, or at least not that much of a problem? That maybe now that they aren’t always having to take time off to bury plague dead (because China used to have loads of epidemics, and yes it is still a problem only way, way less than it was even fifty years ago), they have more time to pay attention to their infrastructure?

      As for conservatives being afraid of change… I’m not sure that’s what’s going on here. I don’t think people are really doing anything more than posturing. On one side we have people saying “Change is great! We’ve got to change everything and it will be rainbows and puppies and if you oppose change you’re just mean!” On the other side, people saying “No! Change is bad! It’ll just make things worse! Do nothing! If you want to change things, you’re a crazy idiot who wants to destroy the universe!” It’s broken down into a big mess of “no U!” and finger-pointing, and I’m bored with it.

      (Note: I edited this comment because I forgot some things.)

    4. Starless

      The trouble is that too many people take Malthus too seriously. Yes, there is a danger that humans can over-populate and consume resources at a geometric rate, and yes, disease acts as a natural check against such over-population (as does war). But to say that, as a result, disease will run unchecked regardless of what we do — which is what Stove seems to be arguing, at least in the case of “primitive” people — is too cynical by far and presumes that humans are far more stupid than they are.

      If his argument is that it is irresponsible for the condescending, rich, soft-headed White Man (let’s say, for example, Bill Gates and Warren Buffet) to swoop down and cure diseases which are devastating Brown People without helping the people he saves to feed themselves, then fine, maybe there’s an argument to be made there. (Though, that is not the case with the Gates Foundation, amazingly.)

      But that’s not what Stove was saying. If you look into his biography, you’ll see that he was a Neo-Malthusian, so I have to wonder about putting any conditions on the words that he actually wrote. And if you consider the time at which he wrote those words — 1989 (!!) — you’d have to take into account that the idea of “carrying capacity” was gaining quite a bit of currency. “Carrying capacity” is yet another cynical theory (embraced whole-heartedly by the enviro-Nazi Left, BTW) which presumes that humans are too stupid for their own good.

      Any conservative who decides to embrace Stove should keep in mind that Keynes — the font of so much idiotic Ivory Tower economic theorizing — would vigorously nod his head in agreement with what Stove has to say.

  2. aelfheld

    It is important [...] to bear in mind that the words `unintended’ and `unforeseeable’ are by no means synonymous. — Theodore Dalrymple

    I share your distaste for the quotation – it’s the sort of argument I expect from a leftoid Gaia-worshipping enviroweenie.

  3. Starless

    Attack the Enlightenment? One of the greatest periods of Western intellectual development — the building blocks for two of the most important documents ever conceived in human history? WTF?

    There can be a legitimate concern over the negative consequences of do-gooderism and an argument for certain types of non-interference as a positive Conservative value, but to use disease in “primitive” cultures as an example is just stupid. He should have stuck to talking about minimum wage.

    1. Andrea Harris Post author

      Yeah, I’m getting really tired of this thread in “conservative” thought about how the Enlightenment was really bad because “the French Revolution!” or something. Maybe if it wasn’t the same people who keep complaining that Muslims are backwards and need an Enlightenment of their own it wouldn’t be so irritating. No, actually, it would be. But still.

    2. Starless

      I didn’t even know that was a thread in (some, I assume) conservative thought. Again…WTF? Yes, the Enlightenment birthed a concept of “equality” which has turned into “let’s all be equally stupid while the bully-boys lord over us”, but it also birthed the concept of Liberty as we know it today. So, yeah, the French Revolution was an abhorrent expression of the Enlightenment, but then again…it’s the French fercrissakes, how else were they to be expected to handle it?

    3. Andrea Harris Post author

      *rubs forehead* You know, I’m kind of not sure I, a non-Muslim, should go around telling Muslims what they should or should not do with their religion. It’s kind of presumptuous. Not to mention, the Reformation was hardly a Happy Fun Tiems for all. It’s effects on women, for example: wasn’t it great that all those nuns got thrown out of their convents and that husbands could divorce their wives? In the 16th century, not so much.

      Also, the situation with Islam now isn’t exactly the same as the situation with Christianity then. A number of situations converged in Europe then that aren’t happening today anywhere Muslims live. It’s not like a one-size-fits-all solution can possibly exist.

    4. aelfheld

      You’re right, the situation with Islam now isn’t exactly the same as the situation with Christianity during the Reformation nor would a reformation be without its upheavals.

      Nevertheless, I have no problem urging a reformation on Muhammedism – better that than seeing much of the world come under the thrall of that psychotic death cult.

  4. john malpas

    So you dont mind the huge influx of immigrants to the UK.
    The squestration of energy and food production by groups of people who got rather big recently.
    Your belief has consequences.

    1. Andrea Harris Post author

      My “belief” has nothing to do with this. As for the UK, I don’t really care — I don’t live there, it’s up to the people to deal with their immigration situation. Not to mention, they immigrants aren’t going to the UK because of overpopulation anywhere.

      By the way. In the context of this conversation, you’ve just implied it would be better if those immigrants died of a disease. Is that what you mean? Would you like them to die of this disease in the UK? You do know that people other than immigrants can catch diseases, right? I’m going to hope that your comment is a result of you have suffered a sudden head injury, and urge you to get off the computer and go to the hospital to be treated. Brain damage is a serious thing.

    2. aelfheld

      The squestration [sic] of energy and food production by groups of people who got rather big recently.

      The influx of immigrants to the UK has as much to do with the ever-increasing British aversion to work as it has to do with a government committed to a suicidal immigration policy.

      And, considering the expansion of British girth, it is ludicrous to say food production has been ‘sequestered’.

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