Saturday, November 28, 2009

the three gorges dam

Trevor's being pleasingly indoctrinated in libertarian theology by Virginia Postrel and is talking about it on his blog. Most recently he wonders about the value of grand projects like the Three Gorges Dam in China.

Way back Trevor defended projects like this and, though the post is sceptical, it still sounds like he's tempted by them.

The project reminds me of District 6, which is remembered as one of the greater injustices of apartheid. We're not conflicted about this big government project because it was racist and evil in concept as well as having bad consequences. But surely the main problem was that it was forcing people to leave their homes; it messed with a functioning community and all the individuals lives. Without this you don't have a great crime.

I know that the goals in China seem nobler, but if you're forcing people to move how can you avoid the same evils? I'm not denying that the benefits may be great, but our moral intuitions usually oppose harming one person to benefit another if the harm is very large (we're okay with taxes and other smaller things).

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