If I talk to people about life, politics and what is important for them in life the one thing that gets mentioned a lot is tolerance for each other’s views. I cannot agree more if, and I say if everybody would follow that rule.
But if I think about it more, I immediately see some problems with this ideal of respecting each other’s way of life. It is the wet dream of all the libertarians in the world off course, a society of loving egoists but we all live in some kind of group. At work you live in a small group where you might have a lot of freedom, but the workplace expects from you that you follow certain rules like safety instructions and the expectance that you deliver some sort of work or added value for the money you get paid. You cannot go to work and expect your boss to respect your personal opinion that following safety rules is wrong, your boss can’t be tolerance towards you, he can at most tolerate that you want to work unsafe in your own time.
When you are not at work you are still part of a larger group of people that live together like in a neighborhood, village or city. You can probably imagine yourself that it would be chaos if everybody does what they want. Imagine driving home from work and all the cars you meet follow their own rules. I can go on and on but you understand that if you live together, you cannot be tolerant towards every body’s way of life, or in this case driving style.
If you live together with more then one person you need to surrender some of your freedom. You might even say that living with yourself demands from yourself to compromise. We all know how often we discuss with ourselves what to do or not to do, we can’t even be tolerant towards ourself, you know what happens if you give in.
So, what to do? Take driving your car in a city. We need some rules and these rules are not arbitrary, we can discuss what a safe driving speed is and who has to stop at a crossing when two cars meet at the same time. These rules can be decided by a king or dictator or we can all vote on it like we do in a democracy. I live in Norway and like al lot of countries Norway is a democracy but it is not often that we vote for traffic rules, we vote for people that say what their ideas are about traffic rules. But at the end the experts have the biggest say in what is a safe speed to drive on a certain road and how traffic lights should work so it interrupts the least.
We invent all kinds of systems who’s task it is to draw a line for us were our freedom stops and our duties start. No matter where we draw this line, we have some personal freedom and in this “freedom part” we can maybe talk about respecting each other’s way of life, what we do with our own freedom, what we think or do in this “space”. But even there I can think of scenarios where tolerance is difficult. The problem is that we can break the “social contract” we have, I can drive to fast with my car whenever I want, only when I get caught, I will pay for it. We agree to obey but there is no hard wall that stops us, we are all ultimately free to do what we want if we ignore the consequences, murder is the ultimate example of this, something that is not tolerated in almost all cultures and societies.
Other examples are hate crimes or racism. I don’t mind if an individual is a Nazi when they live alone on an island, but if you are a Nazi and a teacher at the school where my children go, and I see my kids slowly become racist because of what the teacher teaches, I will have a problem with you. Here you can see that these racist ideas are fine as long as you keep them for yourself but if you spread them, it becomes a problem. The same goes for the Nazi, he will say that my liberal views are poisennes and shouldn’t be taught at school and You have to say that he is right. You might say: lets vote for it and the majority rules if we are Nazi’s or liberals. But that has nor really worked in the past and we still have problems with it.
We could invite the scientists like we did with our traffic problems to solve the problem of what the best worldview is, but with speed limits we can see in the data we collected in the past that driving 100km/h causes so many dead people and so much pollution and if we drive 80km/h these numbers get halved. These numbers give you something tangible and it is relatively easy to get consensus on what to do. But if you talk about religions, economic systems or the value of other living beings you can not just crunch a bunch of numbers and come up with an answer for what is the right way to go. So, me and my imaginary Nazi neighbor can do what we want in our own space, and as long as we don’t share our believes it should go OK.
Does this mean that our government should only decide over what is calculable? A rational government, a technocracy? I think that in a country as Norway we are more or less ruled by that though. There is a slight problem with this: Norway has very sticked rules in regards to alcohol and drugs usage. The Norwegian government says that they use numbers in support of these stricter rules but I was raised in the Netherlands and you might know that we are pretty liberal when it comes to drugs usage for instance, the strange thing is that the Dutch government also uses numbers to support their liberal ideas. So “numbers” can also be chosen with an agenda. But besides these small problems in both these countries you have a lot of personal freedom, most of the time it is no problem to work and live together no matter what you’re believes are.
If you compare this to a country with minimum democracy that is mostly ruled by elites like the USA you will see that it is mush harder for an individual to say in public what their believes are. The change that you get ousted by the community you live in is big in large part of that country, if you have ideas that are not accepted. In most European countries the religious leanings, or lack of it from the politicians is not important but, in the USA, they are still intolerant towards people that are not religious or live different then the personal norms of the people that judge and oust. A lot of Americans find freedom important if it comes to their way of life and how to express it but they have not learned how to live together and respect the freedom of others. As a side note I have to say that in large parts of America the people are tolerant towards others but as a whole America has never been a real democracy, the kind of democracy where tolerance of minorities is expected.
No political system that has worked for more then a couple of years has ever solved the problem that I just painted for you. One thing I know that it is easier to get consensus in smaller groups then in large ones, we all know that planning a party with 5 people is easier then planning it with the whole family of 60 people. Maybe we should have one large world government that decide what the speed limits are and other rules that fall in that category like environmental care, emergency care, work safety and more like these. And all the other rules can be decided by the groups that live together voluntary. If you want to be religious in a certain way, well cling together and move into the forest together and do what you want as long as you don’t bother other groups that live nearby. There is another rule we should all obey if we want to live like this and that is the size of these groups. If…
I am writing this and think…this is never gone work, it is not practical to now start living in small communities, soon larger groups will form and no one is there to enforce this rule. I think we, as the human race, still live in the toddler faze, or maybe we are all teenagers but certainly not responsible adults with some sort of discipline e to control ourselves. In an ideal world we don’t need limits on how fast we drive, we know that we have to drive slow in certain circumstances, because we think like scientist supposed to think, reasonable and skeptical.