Updated: Sep 14
People die every night on the streets. This is clearly not quite the nation the Founding Fathers intended to create for us. And yes, I know they didn’t get everything right either. But they were trying.
There’s an interesting exercise suggested by Anthony Pagden, the author of a collection of prize-winning books on human behavior. Pagden asks that we imagine ourselves prior to birth, when we know that our arrival on the planet is imminent. But we don’t know what color we will be, black or white or somewhere between. We don’t know which sex we will be. We have no idea what country we will be born into. And we don’t know what kind of sexual drive we will be living with.
Nevertheless, before we go, we are asked some questions about what we would prefer to experience in our new home.
How should women be treated? How should the laws be enforced? Should they be tougher on different groups of people? What kind of government would we prefer? How should people of different colors be treated? Of different religious faiths? Or none? How do we feel about the availability of guns? Do we want to be able to vote, and if so how seriously should we take it? (I can’t help thinking about Mark Twain’s comment that a democracy is a form of government in which the voters get what they vote for, good and hard.)
Should we pressure other nations to submit to our views?
It’s not difficult to imagine what our answers to these types of questions would be. If the world were designed to fit the opinions that would emerge, imagine how much more reasonable, and pleasant, and safer, it would be.