Alexandra Hudson on Human Rights

On the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights

The UDHR’s first line proudly recognizes “the inherent dignity and … equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family,” principles that are “the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.”

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For most of human history, the notion that all humans are morally valuable was widely rejected […] it is imperative that each successive generation understand the values of this document.

I must have never got the memo. Why would the vision of natural rights made manifest in the Founding (”We hold these truths to be self-evident”) seem indeed self-evident and natural to an immigrant to the US while the notion of “human rights” has always seemed like an affectation of an effete social and economic elite that everyone else merely indulges?

Humanity had just been through one of the bloodiest half-centuries in human history: two disastrous World Wars, the first use of nuclear weapons (on civilians, no less), the Rape of Nanking, the Russian Gulags, the Armenian Genocide, the Holocaust—which together caused the deaths of more than 100 million human beings—and other, some perhaps still unknown, atrocities. East to West, North to South, the world had been devastated by humankind’s brutality against itself.

If I had just lived through a war, I would simply ban war.

On having your circle expanded, by force if necessary

“Peter singer for thee, not for me”:

Adam Smith famously observed in his Theory of Moral Sentiments that we do not feel the same degree of concern for those in China who suffer from an earthquake that we do for our own minor disturbances. As a descriptive matter, this is of course entirely true. Yet the fact that we share human dignity means that we ought not to entirely disregard the value of the lives of those who are different or distant from us.

Compared to the Declaration of Independence

The UDHR is in many ways analogous to America’s Declaration of Independence: another non-binding document which enshrined universal truths of the inviolability of human equality and rights.

One way it’s not (or is it): the latter is a statement of grievances meant to galvanize a people to defend their claims by force.

The same may be said of the UDHR. The 70 years since its enactment have seen many advancements in the cause of human rights. The UDHR precipitated decolonization and the independence of post-colonial countries.

I would think that the good we seek is not decolonization as such, but first, a minimization of violence, and second, the maximization of self-determination.

On the birth of a state religion

Eleanor Roosevelt, wife of FDR and a key contributor to the UDHR, knew that a declaration of abstract ideals carried “no weight unless the people understand them, unless the people demand they be lived.” Judicial decisions and law change only when individuals “progress inwardly.”

Curtis Yarvin on Globalism and Coronavirus

On the real constitution

TLDR: As I write (January 30th), there is no good reason for anyone to be flying across the Pacific. The same may soon be true of the Atlantic. And certainly, no one should be flying in or out of mainland China—except via a quarantine facility.

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Western public health authorities, though their epidemiology remains first-rate, cannot say this, or even think it, because of their internationalist intellectual doctrine, just one aspect of the great American progressive tradition of government.

They cannot even remain silent on it. Just today, they have said just the opposite. “WHO advises against the application of any travel or trade restrictions on China.” Always trust content from international institutions.

Modern leaders cannot think for themselves. They cannot trust fools. They have to trust international scientific institutions. They are and must be existentially dependent on the collective accuracy of the global scientific community.

These are just the rules. This is the real constitution—the way government decisions are actually taken.

On the implicit bias that dare not speak its name

Here is the shocking secret bias motivating our public-health experts. One: they are deeply passionate and principled people. Two: they have a single shared purpose—to make the world a better place. Three: they share a deep, almost spiritual belief that a more open and interconnected world will be a better world.

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As we learned from the 20th-century regimes in which power distorted science, this bias, iterated, can evolve almost arbitrary levels of consensus error.

On internationalism as narcissism

But who is “we” / “the US” here…?

Yet we find internationalism so emotionally attractive that we cannot abandon our dreams of Americanizing the world, even to defend ourselves against a deadly virus. Internationalism is sexy because it casts us as the teacher, the parent, the master. One might even say—the missionary.

On China’s imported revolutions

The damage from China’s imported revolutions was immense, and included the physical destruction of much of its heritage. Is it an accident that a foreign ideology tried so hard to destroy so much that was authentically Chinese? It is a historical fact that Beijing, in so many ways, became Boston. Recognizing this fact need not mean celebrating it.

On the duty of a good neighbor

Had the Western powers honored the wishes of the Qing Dynasty and Tokugawa shogunate and not only complied with these policies, but cooperated in enforcing isolation against their own citizens, the historical treasures—human and physical—of these ancient civilizations would still exist. What internationalist can stand up and call it good that we destroyed these societies?

Instead we have Boston, made out of Japanese people, occupying the Japanese land, speaking Japanese, with a slight but genuine Japanese flavor to their culture. Modern Japan remains the most non-Western country on earth. Compared to pre-Perry Japan, it is still Boston. After Boston it owes the most to…Prussia. And more in Japan survived the war than in China after the revolutions.

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Might not we say: our species is made richer by its differences? But, if we try to blend all of these ways to be into one way, we either destroy all but one—or end up with bland, beige mush. This rhetoric, although not orthodox, is mere inches from orthodoxy.

On Skype isolationism

Don’t we all want to matter? To have big ideas? This is the way to compete with internationalism: beat it at the fundamental game of giving elites a way to feel important.

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The winning doctrine is always sexy, true—and incomplete. Man needs dreams; they cannot be removed or refuted, only replaced. With big dreams we can act in small ways. But if the dreams are built for the act—they will be small.

Kenneth Waltz on Anarchy in IR

“The Meaning of Anarchy” from International Politics, 13th Edition.

On the nature of structure

How units stand in relation to one another, the way they are arranged or positioned, is not a property of the units. The arrangement of units is a property of the system.

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Structure defines the arrangement, or the ordering, of the parts of a system. Structure is not a collection of political institutions but rather the arrangement of them

On international politics being anarchic rather than hierarchic

The parts of domestic political systems stand in relations of super- and subordination. Some are entitled to command; others are required to obey. Domestic systems are centralized and hierarchic. The parts of international-political systems stand in relations of coordination. Formally, each is the equal of all the others.

The prime directive of the state and the economic analogue

International-political systems, like economic markets, are individualist in origin, spontaneously generated, and unintended. In both systems, structures are formed by the coaction of their units. Whether those units live, prosper, or die depends on their own efforts. Both systems are formed and maintained on a principle of self-help that applies to the units… .

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I assume that states seek to ensure their survival. The assumption is a radical simplification made for the sake of constructing theory.

Structure (arrangement) as a filter or seive

To say that “the structure selects” means simply that those who conform to accepted and successful practices more often rise to the top and are likelier to stay there. The game one has to win is defined by the structure that determines the kind of player who is likely to prosper… .

On the legitimate use of force to check violence

The difference between national and international politics lies not in the use of force but in the different modes of organization for doing something about it. A government, ruling by some standard of legitimacy, arrogates to itself the right to use force—that is, to apply a variety of sanctions to control the use of force by its subjects. If some use private force, others may appeal to the government. A government has no monopoly on the use of force, as is all too evident. An effective government, however, has a monopoly on the legitimate use of force, and legitimate here means that public agents are organized to prevent and to counter the private use of force. Citizens need not prepare to defend themselves. Public agencies do that. A national system is not one of self-help. The international system is.

On the specialization and productivity unleashed by the monopoly on force

What happens when the incentive structure changes radically and abruptly? What happens when the monopoly on legitimate force fractures? Does striving for efficiency contain, latently, an essential tendency toward upward consolidation?

Insofar as a realm is formally organized, its units are free to specialize, to pursue their own interests without concern for developing the means of maintaining their identity and preserving their security in the presence of others. They are free to specialize because they have no reason to fear the increased interdependence that goes with specialization. If those who specialize most benefit most, then competition in specialization ensues.

On “structural problems”

The example of the bank run:

In such cases, pursuit of individual interest produces collective results that nobody wants, yet individuals by behaving differently will hurt themselves without altering outcomes.

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The only remedy for a strong structural effect is a structural change.

On self-help

Self- help is necessarily the principle of action in an anarchic order. A self-help situation is one of high risk—of bankruptcy in the economic realm and of war in a world of free states.

On the vulnerability to capture under world government

Is there a natural limit to the extent of global integration in the absence of an extraterrestrial threat? Is climate change the internationalist attempt to approximate an alien invasion? What to make of the obvious UFO psyop the CIA (?) has been trotting out?

The prospect of world government would be an invitation to prepare for world civil war… . States cannot entrust managerial powers to a central agency unless that agency is able to protect its client states. The more powerful the clients and the more the power of each of them appears as a threat to the others, the greater the power lodged in the center must be. The greater the power of the center, the stronger the incentive for states to engage in a struggle to control it.

How the institutional prime directive introduces bias into its workings

Organizations have at least two aims: to get something done and to maintain themselves as organizations. Many of their activities are directed toward the second purpose.

On how Thrasymachus was right, and self-help is good, actually

The more influential the agency, the stronger the desire to control it becomes. In contrast, units in an anarchic order act for their own sakes and not for the sake of preserving an organization and furthering their fortunes within it. Force is used for one’s own interest. In the absence of organization, people or states are free to leave one another alone. Even when they do not do so, they are better able, in the absence of the politics of the organization, to concentrate on the politics of the problem and to aim for a minimum agreement that will permit their separate existence rather than a maximum agreement for the sake of maintaining unity. If might decides, then bloody struggles over right can more easily be avoided.

Force used by a state—a public body—is, from the international perspective, the private use of force; but there is no government to overthrow and no governmental apparatus to capture. Short of a drive toward world hegemony, the private use of force does not threaten the system of international politics, only some of its members.

Under such conditions the possibility that force will be used by one or another of the parties looms always as a threat in the background. In politics force is said to be the ultima ratio. In international politics force serves, not only as the ultima ratio, but indeed as the first and constant one.

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The constant possibility that force will be used limits manipulations, moderates demands, and serves as an incentive for the settlement of disputes. One who knows that pressing too hard may lead to war has strong reason to consider whether possible gains are worth the risks entailed. The threat of force internationally is comparable to the role of the strike in labor and management bargaining.