30 November 2009

arguments and arrangements which occurred over the weekend

I could deal with tax hikes, but only if they come along with tax simplification for corporate and individual reasons. And I'd probably favor doing it in tax neutral ways as much as possible. That is, by enacting VATs or higher energy taxes (as well as "sin taxes" and taxation on legalized narcotics) as revenue producers to cover externality costs of public services in exchange for lower normative rates of income taxation, in particular on the lower end of the income spectrum (since such sales taxes are inherently regressive and consumption of "harmful" goods should be implicitly designed as a luxury good rather than as a basic necessity for those in poverty subsidized by those in opulence).

I'd also favor paying the military more when we're at war (we presently offer I believe a substantial tax benefit for combat duty, but no official financial bonus) as a notional way to both 1) discourage wars and 2) encourage enlistment without need of a compulsory draft. Rather than passing a "war tax".

of things I don't care about, this is pretty high on the list

And so is this

I care so little that I have no opinions or concerned notifications to make.

On the other hand the Swiss voting patterns do concern me. If only because they lead to blithe assumptions that are incorrect. For example: exposure to Muslims was demonstrated to be a factor against the ban on minarets by the very next post. Cosmopolitan attitudes prevail where one has the ability to be engaged with other peoples. Including even insular peoples who are eventually adapted and integrated into the whole for the purposes of legal and modest social conformity. That is to say, that when individual Muslims are provided the same level of civic freedoms that others enjoy and where the majority community around them is exposed to their unique cultural or ethnic traditions, there is a process of moderation and tolerance (as demonstrated by the popular vote in Geneva and its surrounding cantons). When individual Muslims are denied the same level of civic freedoms as their neighbours and where their neighbours do not get or seek access to their communities to begin with, then there are problems and a cyclical backlash between groups which naturally clash (ie, two roughly socially intolerant demographics of a distinctly religious basis). As in France and other parts of Europe and in those cantons of Switzerland with diminished ethnic and religious mixtures, ie its dominant Italian/Catholic province.

This sort of vote has a number of curious angles to it. For starters, it wasn't clear to me (yet) what the underlying reason for the ban referendum was. Aesthetics? Those change over time anyway (see: USA 1950-1970s building design and indoor paint choices or 1980s hair/clothing). Noise? They don't use the minarets for the call to prayer in Switzerland. Seemed pretty much like a vote on whether Muslims should be allowed into the country and afforded basic rights once there in the first place rather than as demonstrative of some public problem or nuisance worth voting over (naturally the Muslim population in Switzerland was largely excluded from voting in their own defence).

Second, I call attention to the notions we have of "democracy" as something like "the will of the majority" whenever we have spread elections to foreign countries with no tradition of liberal democratic practices and institutions. Like Palestine, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Switzerland, for better and worse, uses the historical practice of democracy far more liberally than any other country on the planet, accounting for over half of all direct democratic initiatives in any given year. And yet occasionally things like this will be the result. In spite of rich cosmopolitan venues, in spite of a fruitful globalizing culture all around it, and in spite of government opposition to the proposed reform (imagine a government passing up the opportunity to apportion itself more authority...), the matter passed. I think this suggests much about the ability of local majorities to make decisions in their long term interest, sometimes they cannot. It's also a problem that voters take with them into a ballot box any and all prejudices and biases they have developed regardless of whether those prejudices and biases are counterproductive or useful for rational voting. If the public or government can restrict the practices of one religious institution, why not another? Or my own?. Why then is appropriate or necessary to allow this one exception to the free exercise of conscience and the practice of one's beliefs as they regard the architecture of places of worship?

Suffices to say, it is characterized as unlikely that such a matter might pass in America through a national vote. Despite our relative hostility toward Islam and various religious subcultures with blatantly anti-Islamic views, in large measure because a protection of the boundaries between church and state are still viewed here as important public duties rather than as annoyances to be discarded to satisfy our hatreds. I'd still like to know what the supposed justification was for this to be even on a ballot, even though I know that separation of church and state is not nearly so sacred an institution in most European voting blocs as it is here. But it doesn't look like there is one other than a sort of backwater bias against the new intruders on the block. Xenophobia and insular politics are still possible even in a vastly tolerant and demographically heterogeneous society I suppose. Good times.
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