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Ukraine and the Power of Moral Judgment

Ben Bayer, Agustina Vergara Cid

Presented at: New Ideal Live

Date: Apr 06, 2022

When President Biden declared, off-script, that Vladimir Putin cannot remain in power, many pundits reacted by calling it a gaffe that could be taken as declaring a policy of "regime change" in Russia. Why do so many assume that a political leader's moral condemnation of a regime is a call for war? Why don't they see the other important functions of moral judgment in foreign policy? Join Ben Bayer and Agustina Vergara Cid to explore answers to these questions as they apply to our relationship to Russia and to other areas of American foreign policy.

Among the topics covered:

  • The moral failings of the Biden administration’s foreign policy; [0:58]
  • The meaning of Biden’s comment on Putin in the context of his speech; [6:17]
  • The Biden administration’s separation of morality from policy in its “clarification” of the comment; [11:04]
  • Why Biden’s critics are wrong to assume that harsh moral judgment makes one vulnerable to evil; [14:20]
  • Dictatorships’ dependence on the moral support of their citizens; [19:37]
  • Ayn Rand’s view of the importance of acting on moral judgment in foreign policy; [26:54]
  • How Russia’s membership in the UN is a symptom of American moral neutrality; [29:59]
  • How the U.S. could act on the moral condemnation of Russia without going to war; [36:01]
  • The claim that the American judgment of Russia is an instance of “cancel culture;” [39:31]
  • Why moral condemnation is a form of persuasion that can prevent violence; [45:07]
  • How to regard Russia’s possession of a powerful military when pronouncing moral judgment on it; [48:41]
  • Whether moral judgment is important in all branches of government. [52:05]

Mentioned in the discussion are the essay “How Does One Lead a Rational Life in an Irrational Society?” by Ayn Rand, the book What Justice Demands by Elan Journo, the articles “Ayn Rand’s Radical View of the United Nations” and “The Real Reason Why Russia Won’t Be Kicked Out of the UN” by Agustina Vergara Cid, and the New Ideal Live episodes “The Meaning of Russia’s War on Ukraine” and “Nationalism and Russia’s War on Ukraine.”

0:00:00 Introduction
0:00:58 Moral failings in foreign policy
0:06:17 Biden's comment on Putin
0:11:04 Separating morality from policy
0:14:20 Vulnerability to evil
0:19:37 Citizen support for dictators
0:26:54 Ayn Rand on moral judgment
0:29:59 Russia's UN membership
0:36:01 How U.S. could act
0:39:31 Judging Russia: "cancel culture"?
0:45:07 Moral condemnation as persuasion
0:48:41 Russia's powerful military
0:52:05 Moral judgment in government

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Parts: 1

Handout: none