"Should" is a Dangerous Word

"Should" is right up there with "we" as a dangerous word, one of the signposts you'll see as you're sliding down the slope to signing away your life and rights to collectivism. For example, the sentence "Should we want to live longer?" A lot of foundational assumption is slipped in underneath that one. "Should" according to who? Who is "we?" Who are these people with the veto over our desires implied by "should?"

It is usually the case that you will see sentences containing "should" and "we" in this way when you're being sold up the river. There exists some group of people who think you should live your life a certain way, regardless of your opinions on the matter, and this is a little of the manner in which they build up a rhetoric to justify their eventual use of force and constraint of law. Assumptions of inclusion and unity via "we" and assumptions of authority via "should." Neither are true; you're not a member of their little group unless you choose to be, and there is no authority beyond that which you grant them of your own choice.

If we didn't live in a world of huge, intrusive governments, in which the writing of law and use of force is up for grabs by any sufficiently well-organized and unethical group, then rhetorical dishonesty would just be part and parcel of persuasion. A tactic of the low road, and probably not a very good one at that, but there's nothing wrong with persuasion.

Sadly, we do live in a world in which freedom, beyond lip-service to the concept, is unfashionable and no-one is safe from the mechanisms of government. Those mechanisms are presently sitting atop medical research and development, for example, ensuring it proceeds far more slowly than is possible. It is plausible that access to life extension technologies, once developed, will be limited by goverment employees and their enablers. So we must be deeply suspicious of everyone who invokes unity, collectivism and authority in their speech.

When you see "should" think instead about your own opinion and reasoning. Don't let anyone tell you what to do with your life, or how long you can aim to live in good health. No more justification for is needed for working towards healthy life extension than "I would like to."


"So we [sic] must be deeply suspicious..."

I had to smile when I read that sentence.

Generally I like the soberness and calmness with which Reason makes his case but I still have a strong aversion to large portions of where he's coming from idea-wise. Of course, even to the casual reader of "Fight Aging" it wasn't hardly a surprise that Reason is an adherent of Ayn Rand.

Posted by: FrF at May 2nd, 2008 10:20 AM

Naturally, you would benefit from applying the same skepticism and thought to whatever I might recommend. I was going to tack on a paragraph saying as much, but it seemed redundant at the time.

Posted by: Reason at May 2nd, 2008 4:20 PM

Well said. People who want to control you will always claim that they're doing it "for the greater good", or say that they're simply fulfilling the wishes of the majority (majority rule is necessary in some cases, but only a limited number).

Posted by: Michael G.R. at May 3rd, 2008 11:28 AM
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