Of course that doesn't mean we can't protest, or campaign for a different outcome, or explore legal means to prevent or limit policies we disagree with. Those are legitimate forms of engagement, they're taking a stand and taking some personal moral responsibility I can respect. Ultimately though, our freedoms and those of our allies and neighbours have to be fought for if we are going to keep them. Iraq's invasion of Kuwait could not be allowed to stand. Russia's annexation of Crimea and bullying of Ukraine should not be allowed to stand. Britain's occupation of the Chagos islands probably shouldn't be allowed to stand either, it's not a perfect world.
Of course there are extremely complex, dangerous issues that are hard to resolve out there. Those problems won't go away by refusing to think or worry about them and refusing to do anything about it. Inaction is just as much of a moral choice with it's own potentially catastrophic consequences.
I'm not advising anyone what to do. Sure, make up your own mind. But I don't think it's obvious that refusing to engage is a morally superior position.
What defense? Against whom? When was the last time the United States had to defend itself against invaders?
We've grown accustomed to how military technology (for killing people) is called "defense". It sounds benign. It feels better to work on advancing "defense" technology than on building tools to kill people.
Pretty much all "Defense" technology after WWII has only been used to invade and occupy other countries (by means of killing people).
Having said that, there have been many direct attack’s against the US since WW2.
The 9/11 attacks were an act of naked direct aggression carried out with the explicit support and protection of a nation state - Taliban Afghanistan. If that’s wasn’t an act of war, what is? The rest of NATO certainly thought so.
A Marines barracks was destroyed in Lebanon with the direct support and encouragement if Iran. US warships have been directly attacked in the Persian gulf. Al Qaeda launched a bloody campaign of bombings against US Embassies in Africa in 1998.
Arguably these were due to US activities abroad, but taking action to protect and support allies is, or certainly can be a legitimate national interest. Containing nakedly and self admittedly hostile active powers is a reasonable activity, but it does put you in the firing line.
For the sake of argument, what would you have done about 9/11, or the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait?
I’m not blind to many mistakes made in the last century. I think the Korean War was justifiable. On balance the Vietnam War was not. I still have mixed feelings about the second gulf war. Being engaged means you risk making mistakes, that’s for sure, but being disengaged makes you culpable for the evils you fail to prevent or allow to stand.
The fact that you are able to ask this question means the military is doing this job well and most people don't even notice.
Especially since "we" supplied Iraq with weapons in the hope he would use them against Iran.
> could not be allowed to stand.
The US did not supply Iraq with weapons, they were mostly equipped by Russia. The US did supply some services such as high resolution satellite imagery, which was a mistake.When it looked like Iran might win the war, some restrictions were eased such as bans on supplying dual-use technologies. However the intent wasn't so much to support Iraq as it was to contain Iran.
Messy for sure.
 Like the US? https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/america-de...
The problem with our form of democracy is that once voted in, the winner is given power.
Instead, power should be expendable.
Votes that a party wins should be able to be used to either to push through legislation or to defeat legislation, and once those votes are used, they’re gone. This would lead politicians to be much more careful about how they expend their power, spending votes in what they really want, and spending votes to stop what they really disagree with.
Closely related concept is that it should not be “one person, one vote”. Instead, everyone should get 100 or 1000 votes to distribute across the politicians/parties that represent their many interests and values.
May countries have voting systems where candidates and parties take proportional seats in parliament according to their votes. This means there is a need for coalitions and consensus seeking across in order to get anything voted through parliament.
I notice something, with your proposal one person can keep proposing 100 to 1000 votes to make all taxes go to them, effectively killing the government.
Expendable power is the idea, not unlimited power, which is what we have now.
In fact, if I offer 1 billion dollars to each politician that votes for my bill of 1 trillion dollars for me? Well, I get 1 trillion dollars, and politicians get a cut. I keep at least 600 billion dollars. Still overall a loss for democracy.
I think culture is the issue. Independence of judiciary and anti-corruption investigations will lead to a golden democracy. Few countries can accomplish this.
Politicians get votes to spend, either on backing or opposing legislation.
Would USA's effectively having a two party system be better definition of democracy?
Meanwhile, most other democracies have multi-party systems.
So in a different culture with different "influencers" at the top, and therefore a different public sphere, the outcome can be something completely different from what most people associate with democracy (positive and negative freedom). It's basically a shared experience.
Religion was first as centralizing force, then came the traditional mass media and now there is social media and individual influencers, everything is getting less gated.
The dilemma is that most people didn't learn the true hierarchies in school, or how the system and democracy really works and what holds it together. And those who research it on their own may easily drift off into conspiracy stuff, because conspiracies feed the people with tiny bits of the truth (among many lies) they weren't meant to know.
Some say not.
> If not, why not?
Probably because the elections are thoroughly suspect, and people have a weird habit of being abducted.
> Is it a flawed democracy like the US?
Well, it is probably flawed in the sense that the elections are thoroughly suspect and people seem to be getting abducted a lot. Neither of these particular criticisms apply to the U.S. in anything approaching the same capacity.
Ah yes, the UK EIU calling the U.S. a "flawed democracy", and not the UK, when in the UK politicians are seen openly calling to discard the result of the largest referendum with the highest turnout in the history of the country, more or less because they do not agree with the people. I don't know what their indicators are, mainly because I don't want to fill out a twenty-field survey just to find out if the PDF even explains their methodology, but what could they possibly be measuring?
As for the question what is a democracy, I feel like it's easier to answer what isn't a democracy. In China, the President has committed to live out the rest of his life in the office; so maybe we start there.
There's a reason we have delegates making decisions for us. People generally don't know the weight and consequences of decisions. We saw this with so many posts of what is the European Union originating out of UK in the days before and after the refeurandaum.
Sure, but we're talking about democracy not expertocracy.
When called to a referendum, the people have a say in the question you ask; if you want the answer to a different question, then call a different referendum.
Other large, economically successful countries are spending huge on military tech and have their best people on it.
You’ll care when it matters.
If you’ve got a fundamental point of principle disagreement with the idea of there being a military, and the need for countries to project power, then you should perhaps consider working in a different corner of the it industry.
If anything, the world is heading to a much more militarized future. Rising economic powers are spending vast amount of money on building modern naval capability. Only a fool would think that now is the time to turn away from the countries need for increased military capability.
We have to be realistic about the actual threats, which are either trivial or overwhelming. There's no scope for the US to fight a roughly equal opponent.
There is asymmetric warfare. Imagine a scenario where a large unit of e.g. terrorists attack a city. Imagine what just 100 armed and armor wearing individuals could do. This would likely result in a military response and the skill/capability of the military is largely going to determine the outcome and 'efficiency' there.
Finally there is also the issue that nuclear deterrence may not always be a thing. Anti-missile technology is constantly improving and we could develop even more efficient means of developing any sort of concentrated nuclear threat. If and when we reach this time, the world's geopolitical equilibrium would radically shift overnight and trying to play catch-up from that point would be unlikely to be effective.
Perhaps; but why? What, ultimately, was the point of that? In whose interests was it fought? Did the loss of Vietnam (now an independent country) make any long term difference to the US?
> Imagine a scenario where a large unit of e.g. terrorists attack a city. Imagine what just 100 armed and armor wearing individuals could do
City in the continental US, or are we talking about somewhere like Raqqa here?
I’m pleased he sees beyond a small minority of active dissenters.
As a side, it’s odd seeing headlines about the redundancy of the US and NK declaring a formal cessation of hostilities and declaring the war officially over. Those are the people you should denounce: people who want to promote endless wars.
apparently among the things on the table at the summit is the possibility of signing a peace accord, though the likelihood is low, it’s odd to see the negativity in the possibility.
From my point of view, the consequences of global nuclear war
became much more dangerous with the invention of the hydrogen
bomb, because airbursts of thermonuclear weapons are much
more capable of burning cities, generating vast amounts of smoke,
cooling and darkening the Earth, and inducing global-scale
nuclear winter. This was perhaps the most controversial scientific
debate I've been involved in (from about 1983-90). Much of the
debate was politically driven. The strategic implications of nuclear
winter were disquieting to those wedded to a policy of massive
retaliation to deter a nuclear attack, or to those wishing to
preserve the option of a massive first strike. In either case, the
environmental consequences work [to] the self-destruction of any
nation launching large numbers of thermonuclear weapons even
with no retaliation from the adversary. A major segment of the
strategic policy of decades, and the reason for accumulating tens
of thousands of nuclear weapons, suddenly became much less
This "need to project power" is just another way to say we're too goddamn stupid to use the technology we create without blowing ourselves, and everyone else, up with it. Democracy has nothing to do with it. Raw, unmitigated human stupidity dominates military decisions in every country.
This is a straw man argument. The employees prefer not to develop products that kill people, that's very different than opposing the concept of a military.
Democracies have a weak point though, because not always does the majority stand behind the "good" side of history. For example the US electorate was 80% in favor of the Iraq invasion in May 2003, a month or two after the invasion had begun and approximately at the same time with the infamous "Mission accomplished" speech. I've always compared the Iraq war with the equally infamous Athenian Sicily Expedition , which had got the majority support of the Athenian citizens at its start but which in the end proved to be disastrous for the Athenian democracy.
With our way of life being using up the planet's resources in an unprecedented speed, exploiting third world countries and waging war around the globe?
Microsoft is losing relevance heavily right now so they take more compromises than before.
India, on the other hand, is a melting pot of multiple cultures, ethnicities, and religions that have managed to co-exist harmoniously, despite the odd riot or skirmish. Based on this alone, I would support India's "way of life" to be worth fighting for.
I don't think though it makes sense to try to paint every single conflict as good-vs-bad, democracy-vs-dictatorship, since you can easily have full democracies fighting each other for any possible reason (imagine potentially UK-France, Yugoslavia breakup or anything else)
Not every war is about protecting democracy or anyone's fundamental freedoms against undemocratic enemies. Nationalism, disputed territories, conflicts involving minorities, these things cause wars, and democracy doesn't necessarily fix it.
Sometimes the world is a bit more complex than a Hollywood movie.
The unwritten corollary to this is that we elect better officials. And in that regard, this week's episode of the EconTalk podcast on cronyism had an interesting line I've since been pondering. Paraphrased, "It's not that we should get better people, we need to incentivize bad people to do good things rather than incentivize good people to do bad things."
MSFT is not selling weapons, so long as they are not selling to tyrants, I think they're in the clear.
If they were selling tanks this would be a more complicated discussion.
I think Microsoft is going to lose users over this. Not much for sure, but it's naive to think people don't care.
And let's face it, The military is a big part of the American institution - you can disagree and argue against it but that will not change reality. They also have the biggest pocket book, so Google, Amazon, Microsoft will always do business with them. If you disagree - leave Silicon Valley or those companies and join an NGO - I am sure they need technical help these days and cannot afford the talent.
Really? Always? What about the Project Maven cancellation?
History is written by the victors, and always has been. You're only likely to approach the truth (or at least, approach making it generally accepted) when it can't threaten the powerful enough to matter. There's a reason why it usually takes 50-100 years for a country to admit major wrongdoing (i.e. the U.S. apologizing for Japanese internment, or Britain apologizing for forcefully exporting children to Australia).
This is problematic because the real motivations for war are practical and strategic and not actually moral. But since military personnel require moral justifications, there is no choice but to fabricate them. For this reason, information control is a key aspect of warfare.
The reason people are blind is because they have been inundated with propaganda. US intelligence must require large outlets like NBC, NY Times and Wall Street Journal, etc. to toe the line when it comes to certain key war propaganda. If they do not do this, then soldiers will not fight. Soldiers are not going to go to battle if the president gives a speech saying "well, the oil executives say that if we can't maintain the status quo for pipeline protection then we can expect 8% higher oil prices next year". They are not going to risk their lives for something like that. They _will_ happily go kill an "evil dictator" and his "evil minions".
But the bottom line for control in our world is deadly force. If we want to get away from that then we need everyone to start following an entirely new paradigm.
Doing nothing and letting someone die is just as immoral as potentially killing someone.
Nation states currently operate like violent criminal gangs. In the same way that street gangs indoctrinate their members into loyalty, nation states indoctrinate their populations.
And in the same way that most of the benefits of gang crime go to the leaders, most of the benefits of war go to a country's upper class, while everyone else bears the risks.
After all, even Hitler hated his enemies, so no one can be free of being hated by at least someone unless they are a passive rock.
WWII was a thing, the Nazi party came to power and started pushing their agenda, and the holocaust actually happened. And the farther back in history you go, the more it becomes apparent that it's not really all that much of a statistical outlier except in scale.
That we don't need to continuously make sure we're strong enough to defend ourselves is a fiction that people in countries with strong governments that enforce the rule of law like to tell themselves. That's only possible because the government is there to be the ultimate arbiter, and as libertarians will quickly point out, that's only possible because they have, and ruthlessly enforce, their monopoly on violence (to our collective benefit, IMO).
No such thing exists for nations between themselves, except for pacts like the U.N. or NATO, and that's not a solution, it's just kicking the problem up the chain so we can act like it's not our problem.
* stop making China rich. All the stuff they're building is built with US money.
* vote for a president that isn't more friendly towars the US's traditional adversary Russia than towards European allies.
Military hardware is useless if the politicians continue to make strategic blunders.
Do you think not helping China as much economically (read as: hurt us both economically to suppress them somewhat) would prevent their research of military technology, including both hardware and software/network capabilities?
I disagree with how the current administration is dealing with Russia and China, as I disagree with a great many (most!) the things they do, but I don't think that really affects the calculus of the equation on whether we should continue to invest in our own military technology.
I do not want it to be this way, it's just how I perceive it to be, and as much as people have taken exception with my statements, I'm not seeing a lot of arguments that explain how it's wrong or can be escaped.
> Military hardware is useless if the politicians continue to make strategic blunders.
It's also useless if it doesn't exist. Available but unused when needed is a step up from not available when needed. The ultimate outcome might be the same, but one is a precursor to "available and used when needed" and the other isn't.
Obviously yes. It's absolutely evident that the large majority of the economy of China is based on export towards rich countries. Without US investments China would be extremely poor.
Yet, the US decided to embargo communist Cuba (and Vietnam) and invest heavily in "communist" China. The latter being very capitalistic.
You say obviously, yet fail to link why making China poorer would significantly affect military investment and which type. How much money does it take to throw people at software? And people are something China has a LOT of.
Depending on how you measure it, China's economy is between the 1st and 3rd largest in the world (I think first largest is a stretch, but there's apparently some metrics which rank it that way based on purchasing power).
The United states is not the only country that China exports to. It's a large chunk, and it would hurt, but as we're seeing, China is not willing to let the United States dictate everything in the relationship. Why would they let the United States use economics to tell them they can't research what they would describe as technologies used to protect themselves when they aren't willing to do so for lesser reasons, as evidenced by the current tariffs?
At most, we'll cause them to hide their activity. Why would they stop in light of the aggressive stance by other countries to dictate their future? North Korea certainly doesn't seem to like it, and China is in a position of much more power.
> Yet, the US decided to embargo communist Cuba (and Vietnam) and invest heavily in "communist" China. The latter being very capitalistic.
Well, yeah. Because doing otherwise hurts us economically, and economics drives a huge amount of decision making. And barring a concerted world effort to to China to stop investing in any military tech, while the rest of the world would undoubtedly continue, I doubt China would be willing to stop. It's not all that different than if some nations came to the United States and told us to stop researching and building up our military. We'd tell them it's none of their business and they have no say in what we do. Why would we expect China to act any differently?
Full video (3hrs): https://youtu.be/jiHm2S0w3_Q
Indeed it was, but many people act like the whole thing just sprung up from a vacuum. There was an entire history which went before, and at least libertarians seem to attempt to dig a little deeper. If you don't want to hear out the prologue to these kinds of dastardly events, there isn't much difference between your acceptance of propaganda and your supposed adversary's.
"Because the politics of Europe so clearly had nothing to do with America, it took a massive propaganda campaign to solidify American involvement. This allowed an overwhelming victory for the allies and the disastrous peace agreement that followed. So much of the ensuing horror of the 20th century, Scott and Woods contend, resulted directly from Wilson’s foreign policy."
Yes, I am sure someone will come and point out some nutty thing some or the other libertarian said. You don't have to be in complete agreement with someone's viewpoint just to hear out their views.
For "democratically elected institutions" (as Nadella put it) and by tacit approval the wars of aggression and internal repression they perpetrating -- or against the corruption and profiteering in them, that helps create a lot of these sad realities and never seems to make them any better?
> It is part of the general pattern of misguided policy that our country is now geared to an arms economy which was bred in an artificially induced psychosis of war hysteria and nurtured upon an incessant propaganda of fear. While such an economy may produce a sense of seeming prosperity for the moment, it rests on an illusionary foundation of complete unreliability and renders among our political leaders almost a greater fear of peace than is their fear of war.
-- Douglas MacArthur
It's like when you ask someone who is running around with a knife to drop the knife, and they scream "What? Should I just let anyone do anything to me? Why don't I just stop breathing right now?"
Pacifism is a straw man. The issue isn't that the US should unilaterally disarm; but as the world leader in arms racing, and also kinda not slowing even when major opponents topple (also see the cold war), and also a rather sad reality of a track record of murdering hundreds of thousands of civilians, directly or by direct support, it would be nice for the US to have the moral integrity and backbone matching its military capability and economic power rather than inversely proportional to it.
> No admiral wants to be without a ship. No general wants to be without a command. Both mean men without jobs. They are not for disarmament. They cannot be for limitations of arms. And at all these conferences, lurking in the background but all-powerful, just the same, are the sinister agents of those who profit by war. They see to it that these conferences do not disarm or seriously limit armaments.
-- Smedley Butler
> The business of buying weapons that takes place in the Pentagon is a corrupt business - ethically and morally corrupt from top to bottom. The process is dominated by advocacy, with few, if any, checks and balances. Most people in power like this system of doing business and do not want it changed.
-- Colonel James G. Burton
That's the sad reality of not just the US, but also the US.
Try reading a History book. It might dissolve your rosy picture of what you're assuming are the reasons your country goes to war.
Rather, we simply don’t know of any viable alternate to the existence of defensive militaries, right now: So long as human aggression exists, those unable or unwilling to defend themselves against forceful attacks will inevitably be stomped out of existence.
This is why to sustain a peace-loving society, that society need to be capable of exerting physical force defensively if need be, even if that capability is never actually used (in fact, to have the capability but never use it is the ideal goal).
Pure pacifism only exists in a bubble of ignorance to the existence of the military and police that are already there defending it, or by pure chance that no aggressor has yet stomped over it. As such, it’s certainly not real pacifism, unless you also make sure to move to a part of the world where there’s no police or military defense forces. These are hard to find, because where and when they exist, they do not exist for very long except for extreme good luck (like geographic isolation).
Maybe some day, humanity’s groups will figure out a better solution to aggressive behavior than everyone holding metaphorical guns to each other’s heads, but it doesn’t look like we’re anywhere near there yet. Remember — all it takes is one aggressor to stomp all over a world of pacifists, so local solutions here do not work, or if they appear to work, it will only be momentary.
The comment you replied to didn't say that anyone claimed that, either.
> that society need to be capable of exerting physical force defensively if need be, even if that capability is never actually used
I agree, but that that is nowhere near the case is the problem.
Two facts (or conjectures maybe) lead to a third:  Civilian technology is increasingly critical militarily, sucking tech companies into this market^  The military industrial complex(es) are a global force unto themselves, with a potentially frightening influence on war and peacetime policies... possibly more influence than the banking sector.
So... are we going to see SV pivot into a major military income stream? You are what you eat and the military industry is a large plate.
There's a lot of daylight between pacifism and an objection to MSFT entering the wider arms producing market.
In any case, it's Satya that opens the door to this discussion by calling it a principled decision and stating the principle. Is democracy the only standard? An absolute standard? Do US interests play? Many of the US' allies are not democracies and some of its rivals are not.
^The advertising-espionage dovetail is especially weird and worrying.
As someone belonging to a nation, whose history is littered with repeated invasions accompanied with atrocities and mass genocide, I fully support Microsoft's decision.
A Pacifist is someone who demands that others die for his freedom.
If I recall correctly there was no actual war in the universe of Nineteen Eighty-Four, Oceania just pretented wars were going on to keep citizens in a constant state of fear.
There was the implication that the wars are not truly being fought, such as in the quote above.
That was my interpretation anyway. War is never actually witnessed by the protagonist, it's just used as a rationalisation of various actions by the state.
Nadella: We've got it.
So 0.2% of 134,944. That takes vocal minority to a whole new level.
I applaud Nadella.
I think Quark has a hand in this, somehow.
Unless they're a public benefit corporation, an FFRDC, or one of any variety of non-profits, this is their only goal. (probably missed a few, but you get the point)
Obvious point aside, here's a challenge: if this bothers you as an entrepreneur, start your next idea off as a public benefit corporation or equivalent, or roll your existing firm into one. Tread new ground. Need inspiration? https://www.navapbc.com
Further reading: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public-benefit_corporation
The real driver is stock options and other ways that employees (including the CEO) get rewarded for making the stock go up. This does not necessarily mean that it's the company's only goal any more than getting paid necessarily makes you a soulless worker drone who will do anything for money. But it does tend to encourage people to celebrate profits.
If that happens with Microsoft, should the shareholders file suit since the management decision to do weapons development caused the shareholder value to decrease, yes?
That is, by protesting and potentially quitting (or 'work to rule' or any of many well-known practices), the employees have the ability to determine what "maximize shareholder value" means.
Their primary goal. Major difference. The other is business.
Elon Musk is literally out there launching a satellite surveillance network to help the military spy on the entire planet, meanwhile Microsoft employees are getting hung up on a headset that will maybe improve their aim, or maybe lead to fewer deaths in the field.
Besides that, was there ever a time where Microsoft wasn't selling their services to the U.S. military? It's hard to resist a contract from the world's largest employer.
Vonce ze rockets are up, who cares vhere zey come down? Zat's not my department, says Wernher von^W^W SpaceX employee #4512.
I am also confused about why you think I'm flaming someone, and would really like to understand where you're coming from in that interpretation.
I understand this is a contentious topic. That is why I sourced my premises and tried very hard to be reasonable in my synthesis of those premises into the opinion I expressed.
Thank you for any further guidance you can provide on how you read this comment, and how to avoid such miscommunications in the future.
That said, I think I had a point too. Yes, it's nationalistic—in the sense that we use that term in HN moderation—to make an only-one-country argument that obviously aligns with a good/bad judgment. That's a soft way of saying that one country is better than others, that one is good while another is bad. One sign of this is using honorifics to describe the one and pejoratives to describe the others. Such language is not only about discerning differences, it's about elevating and demoting. Another sign is mentioning facts about one side while omitting obvious corresponding facts about the other side. What you said about the use of armed force, and about building weapons capabilities, were clear examples of this in my opinion—clear enough to make the omission count as flamebait, in the sense that someone else is going to come along with the countervailing facts, angered by your omission of them, and feel justified to take the discussion one notch deeper into hell. Even there, though, you did the most important thing, which was not to reply in kind (or if you did, you at least deleted it). That's the main reason why I was probably a bit too hard on you. This could have been much worse.
Providing sources doesn't add information in this context when the links are expressions of the dominant perspective in the country you consider better. Also, providing sources doesn't cancel out the emotional information encoded (doubtless unintentionally) in your comments.
It's easy to fall into this when you're expressing your perspective in terms that would not, in your home base, count as inflammatory. Indeed, that is an important degree of tolerance and it's commendable and necessary. But it's not sufficient. It isn't enough for your expression to evaluate to tolerant in your own system, because it's the ears of the listener, not the speaker, which condition the effects such statements have. Are you responsible for how your statements are heard by others? Actually yes, here—on a large, public online forum—you are; we all are. Why? one might object—isn't that a violation of individual freedom and responsibility? No, because the alternative, of not considering the effects of our statements, leads to the destruction of the commons (in this case, the Hacker News community), which is in none of our interests. We all have to find ways of expressing our views that don't do that. It's the same principle why we don't have campfires in dry forests, litter in a city park, and so on.
Fortunately, this doesn't mean we can't express our views—or at least mostly doesn't. It means that if we want to have an online community that isn't hell, we have to work to express our views as the guidelines ask—e.g. eschewing flamebait. And we have to work harder at that as a topic becomes more divisive. That means shooting for a level of tolerance that feels counterintuitive, because our intuitions for tolerance are all derived from the much smaller contexts we're personally familiar with. When you're broadcasting to millions of people all over the world, which is exactly what you're doing by posting to HN, such intuitions fail. In that sense we're all on a journey to learn something new here—maybe even something fundamentally new.
I definitely don't mean to pick on you personally. All of us do this and few of us notice it. But when you're responsible like we are for keeping the peace a very large, very international community, you get to notice it because you have to, much as firemen become domain experts in fire hazards.
One last point. I know that when we post like this it sounds like we're moralizing. But that's a bit of an illusion. Yes we're advocating a certain discussion ethics, but we're not making claims to universality. These ethics are relative to a specific type of community: the sort of large, flat, public, anonymous internet forum that Hacker News is. Other types of forum—for example, smaller and more cohesive ones, or ones where people know each other in person—can presumably withstand more intensity, more uncompromising opposition, and so on. That's why I go for physical, empirical analogies like fire hazards, city parks and the like. It's easier to see in such cases how the rules derive from obvious desires we all share, like having buildings not burn down, gardens with nice flowers, and so on. We're not saying it's wrong or immoral to go against HN's rules or that people are bad for doing so. The claim is more empirical: we've learned from over ten years of running this place what works and what doesn't work for achieving the goals of the forum, such as having civil, substantive discussion that doesn't degenerate. And one part of our job is to distill and articulate those learnings in feedback to the system, so it can continue to evolve in complex ways—into something more interesting than scorched earth.
- The US has military bases in over a hundred countries in the world,
- has a long and storied history of supporting US-friendly dictators over "chaotic" democracies,
- has for over 60 years tried to control Latin America by overthrowing democratically elected governments(when Chile democratically elected a person who would protect their copper mines, Henry Kissinger - Hillary Clinton's mentor called the rise of independent democracies shunning US influence "a "virus" that would "infect" the region with effects all the way to Italy."),
- funding military coups and destabilising governments across the world,
- intervening in elections through massive financial support(including the Russian election the 90s, ironically)
- supporting apartheid South Africa and the Israeli occupation of Gaza
Imagine if China had military bases in Puerto Rico or Canada. Or if Russia was carrying out an invasion of Brazil to overthrow the US backed Bolsonaro Government in order to stop him destroying the Amazon and vastly accelerating climate change.
Take the current commander in chief of the US army, who asked why the US hasn't invaded Venezuela yet with all their oil. Who gives billions to the major funders of islamic terrorism - Saudi Arabia, and also gives them chemical weapons(White Phosphorous) to use on Yemeni civilians.
If the US is to be truly exceptional, it could start by following international law.
To the contrary, it seems that you are the one who is surprised about the idea employees should and can put pressure on management.
You write "suddenly worry about the morality of their employer", but presumably most of the Microsoft employees didn't sign up to work for a company which directly worked on weapons development, because:
> The employees behind the open letter say that even with these contracts, Microsoft itself was never engaged in weapons development; it was selling general-purpose software that others then used and adapted. The IVAS contract is perceived to be different, with Microsoft, rather than third parties, working to increase battlefield effectiveness and lethality.
Perhaps that's the surprise? Should all employees expect that their employer can become a weapons developer, and not give any pushback should that happen?
can’t people pack up and leave? i mean, there’s probably a queue of other people who will happily work for MS.
But to the larger point, employees have many ways to provide pushback when management is doing something they don't like. They can complain to their boss, complain to HR, take it up at shareholder meetings, and much, much more.
While there is the view that the only possibilities are to follow orders or quit, that isn't very effective management practice for programming.
In the intermediate, it means people are no longer enthusiastic about their work, leading to worse quality. People in most fields, not just software development, do more than their job specifically requires. "Rule-to-work" is one way to push back, by doing only what one's job requires.
In extremes, it leads to strikes, as you see see with teachers in the last few years.
Or even sabotage.
These all might reduce shareholder value.
do you think this question is being asked in the Syrian arms factories? just seems extremely naive to me.
it's in the same vein as "can't we all just stop causing global warming?" no, of course not.
> But to the larger point, employees have many ways to provide pushback when management is doing something they don't like. They can complain to their boss, complain to HR, take it up at shareholder meetings, and much, much more.
Best form of protest is to quit. the worst possible effect for any company is to lose an employee. not for the employee to protest or whatnot, but to actually lose him to a competitor.
Nor do I see how my comment is any more naive than your earlier one. (Indeed, my comment was meant to highlight why I didn't find your earlier comment persuasive.)
I think that not only is your analogy to global warming incorrect, but it's hard to make any good argument by analogy. Please instead make a counter-argument on the topic itself.
You write "Best form of protest is to quit".
The history of labor actions show that isn't always true.
Strikes - in effect, a threat of collective quitting rather than the slow effect of individual, uncoordinated quitting - can be more effective. (Though of course not always.)
I even pointed to the recent teacher strikes as a counter-example, so it's not like you needed to guess what I was referring to.
As another example, do you think that the best way for me to object to racist practices as my place of employment is to simply quit? US civil rights law says that not only do I have the right to object, and publicize my objection, but that my actions are protected, such that it is illegal for the company to retaliate.
Consider Google recent decision to end its relationship with the DoD's Project Maven. A dozen staff resigned, while thousands signed a petition in protest.
Do you think Google would have ended its relationship if only a dozen people resigned and no one else spoke up against it while being employed? How many people do you think would have needed to resign in order for Google to change its mind?
regarding quitting, I would assume that for any huge corp it's a mixture of staff resigning + publicity + the general "root for the underdogs". but for any other smaller and/or less public corp, I would again assume that staff resigning would count a lot more than any petition no one will see/care about.
It seems like your argument is that since there are 'Syrian arms factories' then every company in the US should be involved in weapons development (presumably so long as it is profitable?).
And therefore it seems like you think that every employee should expect that their company may switch to weapons systems development, and so therefore no one should object should that happen?
Your statement "[X] will be developed no matter what" has been the justification for a huge amount of unethical practices. Just last month I saw https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2019/01/space-ch... about a company trying to justify organizing a birth in orbit by 2024 :
> Gerrit-Jan Zwenne, one of SpaceLife Origin’s advisers and Edelbroek’s cousin, is convinced that if this company doesn’t do it, another will. ... “I think at some point this will happen anyway, so we better do it in a very open and transparent manner,” Zwenne says. “If it’s somebody working on his own, in isolation, not in contact with the rest of the world, you may discover that something happens and you can’t reverse it.”
Yet that project is, by modern medical standards, completely unethical. I'm sure it would not be hard to find many other unethical examples.
Remember too that your argument would also justify using chemical weapons again in WWII, and justify a nuclear first strike, and justify all sorts of other barbaric military practices. We should torture our enemies first, because we know they would torture our troops if they could, and it's better that American Freedom does it first. /s
I therefore cannot accept that as a valid argument, and instead see it as being very naive.
You write: "i would like to bring everything out in the open"
Well, that's not going to happen, so what's your backup plan? That is, name one open military weapons project.
Regarding "regarding quitting", since Google and Microsoft are huge corporations, your reply acknowledges that it can be effective for employees to protest without (or before) actually quitting, in order to change policy. Which is what you are seeing here.
Why then are you saying that it isn't effective?
It does not appear that you know much about the history and effect of labor actions, so I do not believe anyone should trust your assertion that the "Best form of protest is to quit".
This assertion is so preposterous I'm not going to reply to it.
You have personal issues with weapons systems development. I get it.
But why should anyone stay with a company that isn't to their liking? Is it a sense of nostalgia as to "how things were before"? Is it peer pressure? Companies changes, products change, people come and go. It's the course of life.
>You write: "i would like to bring everything out in the open"
Well, that's not going to happen, so what's your backup plan?
It's already out in the open. No backup plan needed. That's what happens when the likes of MS or Amazon are involved. Again, I'd rather keep it that way.
You want to send it back to Raytheon so that we don't hear about it again. No, thank you.
> Regarding "regarding quitting", since Google and Microsoft are huge corporations, your reply acknowledges that it can be effective for employees to protest without (or before) actually quitting, in order to change policy. Which is what you are seeing here.
Why then are you saying that it isn't effective?
One can quit and then tell the world about what's going on. That would make the prevailing narrative very convincing.
Or one could continue to collect their paycheck while at the same time protest. Making their narrative extremely skewed, even hypocritical.
"You have personal issues with weapons systems development"
To quote you, "Preposterous." Where have I ever said or even implied that?
"But why should anyone stay with a company that isn't to their liking?"
Of course they shouldn't. But the entire point of my comments is the flip side - why shouldn't an employee try to change the direction of a company?
There's plenty of history to show that that's possible.
Your last paragraph is simply that there are only two options: work without public complaint or quit. Over and over again, labor history shows that other options exist and are effective.
I would argue even more effective. On the one hand we have the Oakland teachers' strike, where the teachers got what they wanted - http://nymag.com/intelligencer/2019/02/this-is-why-oakland-t... .
On the other hand, we have Oklahoma, where over 1/3 of the teachers have left over six years, due to lack of funding, lack of respect, and excess workload - http://curmudgucation.blogspot.com/2019/02/ok-voting-with-60... . But in that case the teachers individually walked out.
The narrative of the collectively striking teachers of Oakland has been much more convincing than the narrative of the individually leaving teachers of Oklahoma in making policy change.
"It's already out in the open."
Umm. Okay, so please define "open", since it appears to be "whatever Microsoft does which Raytheon wouldn't have done."
Microsoft doesn't have a long, traditional history of being "open" either, as the AARD code, the so-called 'Halloween documents', and others show.
But suppose they are now "open". What is the basis of that openness? Is it part of the corporate charter, or employee contract? If they decide to not be open, or are found to not be open, what should the employees do?
It sounds like your only response is "quit", which leaves them in the same place they are now.
Democracies are (supposed to be) representative of the masses. A few angry employee's in a tech company are not.
Democratically speaking they dont have a right to demand a company doesn't make software/hardware used in war.
Shareholders on the other hand are a perfectly acceptable place to object.