13 Aug 2013

Olympic boycotts

I remember when the US led a boycott against the 1980 Moscow Olympics, as a response and condemnation of the USSR's invasion of Afghanistan. That boycott was effective at drawing attention to the diverging sides in the Cold War but it did nothing for athletes and little for Afghans.*

Now there's talk of another boycott -- of the Russian Winter Olympics in Sochi -- due to an international annoyance with Russia's homophobic policies (let alone Putin's thuggish mafia-state). This version is stronger in its aims -- a change in domestic legislation instead of the reversal of an invasion -- and unlikely to happen. Athletes don't like the idea, and politicians are also talking it down.

The aim of the boycott is laudable, but it's not going to happen for three reasons. First, there's the problem of hypocrisy: lots of countries have inhumane laws (think about anti-abortion laws in the US). Second, there's the problem of self-interest: many countries want Russia's oil or diplomatic cooperation. Third, Russia is already well on its way to implosion. The Olympics are way over budget; the State is weakening from within (like the USSR before it) due to autocratic tendencies; and the Russians tend to unite against outside threats.

Although I agree that countries that invade other countries should be shunned, I also see that those countries (I'm talking about the US here) get away with it because the weaker countries do not have friends willing to stand up to the US. Hypocrisy is a terrible thing.

Bottom Line: Those who live in glass houses should not throw stones, but they can surely support others trying to clean up their houses. Support human rights in Russia, the US and elsewhere.

* It's ironic that the tables have turned, but nobody talks about boycotting the US for its invasion of Afghanistan.


Anonymous said...

Anti-abortion laws are inhumane? So laws that attempt to prevent the killing of a human life during its most vulnerable and most innocent state are inhumane? I don't think I can ever understand that line of reasoning. I think banning all abortion would be largely ineffective, because outlawing a human behavior seldom makes people decide not to do it. I also can sympathize with the privacy argument that for a ban to be effective, it would require the state to act in invasive ways. This is arguable. However, to say that it is inhumane to outlaw the killing of an unborn human being who is defenseless and cannot possibly have infringed on anyone else's rights strains credulity.

Rich Mills

David Zetland said...

@Rich -- You appear to have forgotten your priorities here. It's inhumane, to me, to tell others what to do with their bodies (wrt smoking, weight, tattoos, etc.) when the person doing the telling (you) has less at stake. If anything, I'd prefer that women decide abortion laws, but I'd go further and say that pregnant women have more at stake than anyone else in the abortion decision. It's inhumane to give your views a higher priority. Those women do not get abortions without cost, and they -- like any mother -- are first in line to decide what's good for their children, even if it means aborting them before they're born.

I suggest that you offer your time and money for adoption (and support of single mothers) if you want to help out unwanted children. That would make it easier for SOME mothers to choose to not have abortions. Oh, and check out the rate of abortion in Europe (e.g., NL or SE) vs. the US to see how proper social spending lowers unwanted pregnancies and abortions.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your thoughtful reply. For the record, I said that banning abortion would be ineffective, so I don't support anti-abortion laws. I don't consider them inhumane. It's not about what I have at stake that is the issue. You talk about not wanting to tell other people, specifically women for this issue, what to do with their bodies. However, the body that is most affected is not the woman's, but the baby's. While I think the mother is responsible for the decision, I think I would be hard pressed to call aborting the child good for it.

I don't support abortion laws for the moral reason that I don't consider them the most effective way to reduce abortion. I reject, however, the idea that it is the woman's interests who are most at stake; it's the baby's. Also, the purpose of the law (I'm speaking from a theoretical "Bastiatian" perspective) is to defend the weak. In the case of abortion, the weakest people here are the babies. For that reason, laws restricting abortions are not inhumane. I would instead argue that abortion itself is inhumane.

I wonder if there are any restrictions on abortion that you would support? What do you think about the cases when babies are born and then killed (the Gosnel case in Philly, but there are others)? Most babies are viable after 20 weeks, when a great many abortions happen.

By the way, mothers are not always the first in line to decide what is best for their children. There's a very good reason I was a single father for many years, raising my children on my own without any direct government help, with the exception of the school lunch program.

Finally, to be clear on what I do support: ending government subsidies of abortion and a public service campaign making the moral case against abortion. I think those things would save far more lives. While there are some things I think can be done to improve the "safety net," I know personally of a number of people who treat the net more like a hammock and live better than I do in some respects. So reforms should be cognizant of incentives and the old adage that if you want more of something, subsidize it.


Rich Mills

David Zetland said...

@Rich -- yes, there's a quandry when it comes to choosing between the mother's wishes and the life of an unborn child. We protect "women and children" all the time, but what about a choice between the mother and her fetus? If one's life was to end, I'd say that the fetuses would be the way to go, as we have no debates over murder of "those already born." From there, I support abortion as the mother's choice. Of course, it would be nice to transfer the fetus to someone who wanted it - and who could care for it -- be we do not have that social or technological capability. That's why I still favor abortion as a third-best "solution" to unwanted pregnancies. The first-best is not to have them; the second-best is MUCH better birth control and social security. Those are missing -- due to religious zealots -- in the US, Ireland, et al., but not in countries where women have more rights (e.g., Scandinavia, NL, et al.)

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