During lockdown, it was reported that some states had their police pull over cars with out-of-state plates, asking where they were going. If the driver answered with “just passing through,” they were let go with no further hassle. The newspaper told them this. Otherwise, they were told to stay in place for fourteen days. Was this program a good idea? To answer these types of questions, I like to do a cost-benefit analysis.
On the one hand, many people are nervous around cops. Pulling them over might trigger them into doing something crazy. Even if it doesn’t, it increases their general stress level and this is something to be avoided if there is no good reason for it. Pulling people over also inconveniences them, it costs taxpayer money to pay the police to stand out there all day, and it puts the police at risk being on the side of the road where they might be hit.
On the other hand, it all might be worth it if the virus is halted and thousands of lives are saved. Unfortunately, the fact that people were still able to pass through with no enforcement mechanism or way of checking up on them later means that nothing was accomplished. Those who were going to be responsible anyways were responsible anyways and those who were going to be irresponsible anyways were irresponsible anyways. The police wasted their time and yours for no good reason.
There were costs with no benefits. Math proves the program had no net benefit. How could anybody think this was a good idea?
During lockdown, some mayors and governors put into place policies that would pay people to snitch on neighbors who were violating coronavirus restrictions. Did they justify these actions? I seriously doubt it.
First, they would have to show that their restrictions were more likely than not the correct way to fight the virus. Based on some things I have heard from immunologists about herd immunity, this is not clear.
Second, they would have to show that enforcing the restrictions could more likely than not be done without causing more harm than good. Since police can spread disease or catch it from criminals, this is not clear.
Third, they would have to show that soliciting tips from the general population more likely than not increases the efficiency of law enforcement. Since people will sometimes make false accusations out of revenge, and the policy could pit people against each other when we need unity the most, this is not clear.
Fourth, they would have to show that paying people money more likely than not improves the snitching program. Since the availability of money creates an incentive for people to invent up a bunch of imaginary snitches while keeping the money for themselves, this is not clear.
In order to show that the money-for-tips plan is a good idea, all four of the above propositions must be shown true. It is no good if paying people is okay if the lockdown restrictions themselves are misguided. ALL FOUR MUST BE SHOWN TRUE.
The probability of all four being true is equal to the product of the probabilities of each alone being true. Thus, if the first has a 1-out-of-2 chance and the second has a 1-out-of-2 chance, the chances of both being true is only 1-out-of-4. If all four have the same probabilities, the chance that all four are true is a tiny 1-out-of-16. Not good.
In order for the set of all four to be at least as likely true as not true, the chance of each should be at least 86%. The lowest one could go is 50% - but only if the other three are all 100%. Was it ever shown that any of these ideas had a greater than 86% chance of being true?
The burden of proof is so high, that it would be a miracle if they found the evidence. Even if it was the right answer, we would not know it, and we shouldn’t be doing risky things we don’t have good reasons to believe in. Math.
Some time ago, some Muslims were hired to drive trucks. The whole purpose of hiring them was to ship goods across the country. That was their job. Soon after, they refused to work, so the company fired them. This is what normally happens to those who refuse to work. If one party in a business agreement fails to uphold their end of the bargain, the other party has the right to terminate the agreement. If the shipping company had refused to pay the truckers, the truckers would have had the right to quit. The alternative is slavery.
The story should have ended there, but the Muslims then claimed that since some of the trucks were carrying alcoholic beverages, forcing them to drive violated their first-amendment religious rights. The Obama administration agreed, stepping in to argue on their behalf.
Strangely, the Obama administration was the same one who went after a Catholic charity for refusing to pay employees’ health insurance policies if they covered abortion, also citing first-amendment religious rights.
The problem here isn’t merely the hypocrisy of politicians who unfairly apply the principles of freedom of religion. The problem is that cultural relativism is inherently nonsensical.
The problem is that there is no agreement on the boundaries between cultures. One can argue that Saudi Arabia should be free to conduct its internal affairs in accordance with Arab culture without Western interference, but then by the same logic women in Saudi Arabia should be allowed to drive vehicles in accordance with their personal preferences without interference from the neighbors or from government. If it is wrong to tell the Arabs they are doing wrong in the way they treat women, then it is also wrong for the Arabs to tell the women they are doing wrong by driving.
There are pragmatic reasons why people in one geographical region should not interfere with those in another, not even to protect the innocent, but it is different when people live together. When people live in the same city, shop at the same stores, travel the same roads, use the same currency, and speak the same language, they are part of the same culture and must necessarily be bound by the same laws. In that case, cultural relativism simply doesn’t apply.
Culture is invented by people. It is not a preexisting, physically measurable thing such as mass or electric charge. It is whatever people say it is. It does not matter how long a practice has been in effect or how many people follow it. If a new cult pops up that believes in sacrificing their first-born children, then that is their culture. Stopping them from carrying out the murders infringes on their freedom of religion. By the same logic, the cult members are infringing on their children’s freedom of religion, since it is hard to worship the way you want if you are dead. By the same logic, if vigilantes decided to arrest the cult members, stopping the vigilantes would infringe on their culture. By the same logic, any murderers not in the cult could simply claim upon arrest that they were part of yet another cult, no matter what their true motives.
Taken to its logical conclusion, a community with cultural relativism would have no enforceable laws while simultaneously enforcing laws consistent with the culture of the enforcers. Thus, we have a paradox. Cultural relativism is nonsense. Logic.
High School Locker Rooms
I keep hearing the claim that there are biological males who identify as females and feel uncomfortable sharing a locker room with other biological males. The presented solution for this is to have them share the locker room with the biological females. Does this make sense? It has also been hinted that there are biological females who identify as males and feel uncomfortable sharing a locker room with other biological females. The presented solution for this is to have them share the locker room with the biological males. Does this make sense? If the goal is to reduce total discomfort, no.
If we assume equality, then the discomfort of one person is equal to the discomfort of another. No one knows how another really feels. Any deviation from equality must be justified, and I have yet to hear a logically coherent justification in this scenario. The total amount of discomfort, then, is simply the number of people made uncomfortable. Logic.
If it is sound for one to be uncomfortable around members of the same sex, then it is sound for others to be uncomfortable around members of the same sex. Logic.
So long as there is more than one person uncomfortable around others like themselves, and there are only two locker rooms, they cannot escape making each other uncomfortable. Allow one biological male to enter the girls’ room and by the same logic every other male must be allowed in, recreating the very situation the first male was trying to escape. This will always be true so long as there are more students than there are locker rooms. Math.
Furthermore, if it is sound for one to be uncomfortable around members of the same sex because they identify themselves as different, then it is also sound for one to be uncomfortable around members of the opposite sex because they actually are different. Logic.
Moving one person from one locker room to another might alleviate their discomfort, but by the same logic, it will increase the discomfort of everyone else in the same locker room. So long as there are a greater number of those uncomfortable around those of the opposite sex than there are those uncomfortable around those of the same sex, the total amount of discomfort will be higher under the proposal. Since “transsexuality” is generally considered to be in the minority, this will tend to be the case. Math.
Of course, individual groups of people can arrange their own arrangements. If everyone else involved agrees that it does not bother them to accommodate one person, then I say more power to them. The problem is only when a one-size-fits-all policy is imposed from above, whether it is the Republican plan or the Democrat plan. So long as we are debating such a policy in the abstract instead of negotiating with specific individuals directly affected, the only possible logically coherent policies are the one in which the biological sexes are strictly separated with no exceptions the way we do now, and the one in which everyone is grouped together in the same locker room. I vote for the latter.
Daniel Noe is an author, artist, explorer, and contemplator of subjects large and small.