Sunday, 13 December 2009

The value of the individual.

It's interesting, I heard an American basketball player who plays for a local team that JUST gained Aussie citizenship talking about the value Australia and UnZud place on humans being a large part of his decision to gain citizenship.

He mentioned how where he was born the price of life is VERY cheap and that made me think it was almost reflective in the US judicial system with sentencing being ASTRONOMICALLY harsher than anything we've even come close to since hanging was knocked on the head, so to speak.

'White Colar' criminal sentencing is a joke, I'm sure most of us agree, but is the judicial system of countries a reasonable gauge on the value countries place on the individual and their civil liberties and why do you think we generally, as a society, apparently value each other more than other nations might?.


  1. I think it is almost impossible to define a metric by which it is possible to measure how different cultures / societies value individuals.

    For example, two different but reasonable people could argue that a society that allows abortion and euthanasia places higher value/lower value on human life.

  2. Too early for such a thinky blog topic! :D

  3. It's an interesting dichotomy. 'Liberal' societies like Aus/NZ tend to have that tension between fair punishment (arguably) for wrongdoing and fair protection for the rest of us i.e the welfare of the law abiding majority versus the rights of the individual. In the US where the whole premise of their constitition is about the rights of individuals, they take the much stronger line on the welfare of the rest of society (the locking up and throwing away of keys etc).

    Does that mean we value human life more? Certainly we don't kill people here for breaking the rules so in that regard perhaps yes?

  4. I'd never really considered the issue. Will do so, and perhaps get back.

  5. There are human rights indices and suff. Some have different focuses, and there will exist ones that favour the USA because they focus on "individual freedoms" at the expense of "social and economic rights", and there are ones that reverse this focus and therefore favour places like Australia, Scandanavia and other Northern European countries*.

    There's an interesting set of analyses by country by paragraph of the UDHR here:

    Me, I am increasingly thinking in terms of a dichotomy between "rights" that are sweeping but abstract and those that protect peoples' quiet enjoyment of their lives. I think most property and business "rights" are of the first form, and that where it's permitted for these to override the latter, that is a kind of repression. In the USA they have a principle of "eminent domain", for instance, that says esentially that if you're not extracting a packet of money form your property the state can take it from you and give it to someone who will.

    Sorry if this is a bit rambly, still early really

    *Something I'd sometimes advise our American friends is that socially and in terms of how our society works, it's easier if you think of Australia as being in Scandanavia

  6. H'mm good thoughts bloke.
    Instead of prison terms as a metric of Value of the individual, perhaps the lengths a state will go to ensuring the health & happiness of it's citizens would be better.
    It has always struck me as odd that in the US unemployment benefit & health care expire leaving the most vulnerable without support, yet as I heard yesterday, most local councils in Denmark give the handicapped members of their populace monthly $ to visit a sex worker of their choice.
    By that analysis, India & Indonesia that barely count their populations let alone support them would have to be at the bottom of the ladder & Scandahoovian countries at the top.

    Prison terms, to me at least, measure the populations displeasure at breaking the civil contract. They scale up relative to the seriousness of the offence, which in turn makes for some pretty far out comparisons. I can hand out a $1000 on the spot ticket for non compliant By-Catch reduction devices on a trawler. Many many many convictions for (admittedly minor)assault are hit with far smaller penalties. So harming a turtle in a trawl net is a bigger deal than harming a person in a taxi que?


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