The Dilemma of the Lesser Evil

Our presidential race in the U.S. got me to thinking of the issue of the lesser evil.  Polls have shown for months that voters strongly dislike both Clinton and Trump (both have around 60% unfavorable ratings), and “That exact phrase — “lesser of two evils” — was repeated over and over again when voters talked to CNNMoney as part of a tour in September in the swing states of Florida and Ohio.”  It is easy to find material for a blog on evil – there is no shortage of examples out there, but what happens when good people have to make a choice which involves moral tradeoffs?
I won’t talk about the election, except to say that for some of us conservatives, even not having a president would be preferable to having the hard-left in power, and we see Hillary as a exemplar of the hard and radical left.
Here are some scenarios where people made a choice.
In the early days of Labor Unions, some unions sought the help of organized crime.  Why?
 Labor organizing is a risky business at the best of times. Local banks and other businesses, in solidarity with the relevant management, can refuse to work with organizers. The local police can be controlled by management-aligned interests, to the point of threatening the safety of organizers. Because of this, labor organizing has a long history of sponsorship and solidarity, where established unions help smaller, start-up unions get off the ground, even in widely differing industries, with financial support and even personal security support. If labor organizers don’t have access to local “legitimate” infrastructure or more established unions, they may turn to “illegitimate” sources for financial and personal security. Once reliant on an organized crime syndicate for this support, the union may be trapped, indefinitely.
This is only a puzzle if you believe that unions are a good thing.  If you believe that the union makes the company less competitive, or that mandatory union fees interfere with workers rights then the answer is clear-cut.  Otherwise, maybe not.
And more recently, there was this:
Operation Cyclone was the code name for the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) program to arm and finance the Jihad warriors, mujahedeen, in Afghanistan from 1979 to 1989, prior to and during the military intervention by the USSR in support of its client, the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan. The program leaned heavily towards supporting militant Islamic groups that were favored by the regime of Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq in neighboring Pakistan, rather than other, less ideological Afghan resistance groups that had also been fighting the Marxist-oriented Democratic Republic of Afghanistan regime since before the Soviet intervention. Operation Cyclone was one of the longest and most expensive covert CIA operations ever undertaken; funding began with $20–$30 million per year in 1980 and rose to $630 million per year in 1987.
There is no question that the Soviets were committed enemies of the United States.  However, when you arm radical Islamic groups, there is obviously no guarantee they won’t turn on you, and that is what they did.
There are many other current examples of course, and the problem is related to tradeoffs.
Do you want universal health care in the United States, with everyone covered, but long wait times as in Canada, or do you want to have a free market system where some people can afford better health care than others?
Do you want to mandate that hospitals treat anyone who visits the Emergency Room, even if they can’t pay?  (This mandate caused several hospitals to go bankrupt).
To stop global warming, do you build wind turbines, despite the fact that they kill tens of millions of birds?  (Of course if you don’t believe man-made global warming is a problem, or if you calculate that the windmills don’t make much of a difference anyway to the problem, then the answer is clear-cut).deadbird
Should you allow immigration from countries with powerful social, cultural, and religious movements that do not value individual rights?   Even if the population of those countries are being bombed to the point that they have to flee en masse or die?
Actually, in my view, the answers are clear cut in most of the above examples, but it is easy to think of a fictional example that isn’t.
For instance, you are on a life raft with an unpleasant man who is also a petty criminal.  Then you see your spouse and child swimming to the raft.  Should you push the criminal into the water, pick your spouse and child, and sail on?  If so, you will be guilty of a murder.
If you know of a criminal plot, and you also know that if you do not keep quiet, you will be murdered, should you keep quiet?
If you are selling your house, should you avoid telling your buyers that it has a recurring infestation of bats that you never have been able to permanently get rid of?  Or should you keep your house, with its expensive constant repairs and even more expensive school tax, and not be able to retire to a smaller cheaper home on a Florida beach, which has been your dream for years?
If an embarrassing secret about a man you know has become common knowledge among your circle of friends, should you tell him?  If it would just make him unhappy and he wouldn’t be able to do anything about it, should you tell it to him anyway?
I obviously don’t know the answers to some of these, but it is important, especially for perfectionist ideologues, to know that not all choices in life are easy to make, and the people who make different choices than we would are not necessarily bad people.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s