Every civilized country

Posted by – May 10, 2010

It’s a common tactic in national politics to state that since all civilized countries do X, so must Examplestan. There’s some variety in how useful it is: in big countries like the US it doesn’t mean anything, in small ones like Finland it’s practically law. However some small countries, like Poland, are very nationalistic and therefore don’t care. Other small countries, like the UK, consider themselves to simply be a special case in everything, so they also aren’t as affected.

Because politics is the mind-killer, there’s a considerable amount of myopia in declaring this type of universality, eg. Europeans consider the death penalty to be the height of barbarity, yet it is in use in the dominant culture of the age.

This occurred to me in particular with reference to the UK elections. Firstly, it would be “out of the question” to implement the UK electoral system anywhere else because it is so undemocratic, but the British have had it for a long time and are strangely ambivalent about it (also: monarchy).

Secondly, I only recently learned that each candidate has to pay a £500 deposit to stand, to be repaid if the candidate secures at least 5% of the vote. This has given me a new standard of respect for all the Monster Raving Loony Party members spending that much on a practical joke. There’s no way a Finnish politician could ever suggest such a plutocratic law and keep their career. According to this jubilant website, the BNP has forfeited at least £131,500 in contesting the present election. I guess they were able to afford it – the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (I think the main socialist electoral group) mustered 41 candidates at the cost of £20,500 just to stand. For these marginal groups, that must be one of their more significant expenses – not to mention that for major parties, the equivalent cost is zero.

Some civilized (non)universals with exceptions:

  • A national airline (US, which has antitrust laws)
  • Freedom of expression (Finland has special protection for religion, the Finnish flag and the pride of national and ethnic groups, the UK has hate speech and “antisocial behaviour” laws, Germany has banned holocaust denial and Nazi symbols, in Australia even drawn or written depictions of child pornography are illegal (except for Lolita, because no civilized country would ban a famous book like that)… you name it, someone’s banned it)
  • Legislation mandating disabled toilets (there are no exceptions to this, you really live in a shithole if you don’t have it)
  • Universal suffrage (criminals and people considered insane often excluded, stupidity is no obstacle)
  • Rule of law (surely a mistake, this doesn’t exist anywhere -Ed.)
  • continued on page 37
3 Comments on Every civilized country

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  1. Jason says:

    Interesting post, and thanks for the link to that article…


  2. sam says:

    Thanks, and I’m happy to know you’re still stopping by occasionally! I came to read Less Wrong via Eliezer Yudkowsky – if you want to read some amazing stuff, read more articles by that guy.


  3. Jason says:

    Yeah, I’m kind of sporadic in my blog reading but I’m around. And thanks for the tip, I’ll keep an eye out for him.