Vodafone in Egypt

Sunny says Vodafone should have broken Egyptian law.

Yet he argues strongly that Vodafone should obey English law.

Wish he\’d make up his mind: should corporations obey the law or not?

26 comments on “Vodafone in Egypt

  1. I think he’s saying it’s OK to disobey the laws made by totalitarian socialist governments.

    I mean, what’s the worst that could happen? It’s not as if you’d be violated with a broomstick handle, is it? Oh, right..

  2. What he is saying is that rule of law only applies when the society is run the way he likes. Typical of a certain type of political personality.

    I presume this means that he feels free not to collaborate with the idealogically unsound current British Goverenment. Surely justified by its massive cut-backs, destruction of the NHS and your great education system. Sunny, your obligation is to stop paying taxes and face up to the consequences. I insist. otherwise I will have to believe you are a cowardly s**t. There are I assure you certain differences between and Eygptian prison and a British one and they are all in your favour.

    Stand up for what you believe in.

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  4. “Yet he argues strongly that Vodafone should obey English law.”

    To be fair this is an excellent point.
    Vodafone should obey English Law, which is exactly what they do.

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  6. Vodaphone Egypt is not the same as Vodaphone UK. V-E is majority owned by V-UK.

    So is Sunny ok with Starbucks ignoring UK law and using American law to run it’s shops – ignoring things like minimum wage etc.

  7. “Vodaphone Egypt is not the same as Vodaphone UK.”

    And neither are related to Vodafone. In the UK or elsewhere.

  8. “Should armies obey their commander-in-chief or not?”

    I thought we established the answer to that at Nuremberg.

  9. David Gillies – “I thought we established the answer to that at Nuremberg.”

    I don’t think we did. I think we just pretended we did.

    But Vodaphone should consider itself lucky. The Left usually condemns companies for investing in countries they do not like, but also for not investing in countries they do like. On occasion they will go further and condemn Shell for *not* trying to overthrow the Nigerian government (or at least its policies) while they have not forgiven Shell and.or BP for doing the same in Iran.

  10. I thought we established the answer to that at Nuremberg.

    I didn’t notice a bunch of leftists rushing to defend that couple who refused to rent a double room to that gay couple, because it offended the business owners’ conscience.

    I don’t think Nuremberg settled anything, apart from that genocide is special in international law. People have always, at times, faced tensions between obeying the law and their conscience, and other people’s opinions on what they should do will be more dependent on the other person’s opinion of the rights and wrongs than any principle.

  11. I thought we established the answer to that at Nuremberg.

    I was going to go for Nuremberg, but Godwin’s law and all that. Speaking of which:

    I didn’t notice a bunch of leftists rushing to defend that couple who refused to rent a double room to that gay couple, because it offended the business owners’ conscience.

    I don’t think Nuremberg settled anything, apart from that genocide is special in international law. People have always, at times, faced tensions between obeying the law and their conscience, and other people’s opinions on what they should do will be more dependent on the other person’s opinion of the rights and wrongs than any principle.

    I’m really not seeing how the one follows from the other. One of those cases involves following anti-discrimination law, and the other is the Holocaust. In only one of those is the “other person’s opinion of the rights and wrongs” likely to vary.

    Which is, obviously, the principle: If you’re ordered/legally obliged to do stuff that any reasonable human being should recognise as fundamentally wrong, you have a moral responsibility not to obey that order/law (obviously there may be mitigating circumstances like duress, etc.). Otherwise you obey the law.

    Now, we can disagree about what sort of circumstances might constitute “stuff that any reasonable human being should recognise as fundamentally wrong.” And presumably this is what’s actually at the root of Tim pretending to not understand the principle involved. But it’s silly to pretend that we have no clear moral responsibilities because some moral questions are unclear.

  12. I’m not sure what you mean by “other person’s” opinion likely to vary in only one case – tragically the Holocaust did have some supporters, people who thought it was a good idea. And, while we’re on the topic of genocide, some of my Maori ancestors participated in the deliberate genocide of the Moriori, apparently quite willingly. I agree that genocide is morally wrong, but it’s terribly obvious to me that there are other people who sometimes think it is right.

    Another divisive example is abortion – is current civilisation deliberately tolerating the murder of thousands of people a year? While we’re at it, infanticide was regarded as not a crime in Ancient Greek and Rome, were all the reasonable people not there?

    You can call anyone who disagrees with you unreasonable by definition, but they will probably think the same about you.

    But it’s silly to pretend that we have no clear moral responsibilities because some moral questions are unclear.

    No, I don’t think it is silly. It is complicated, the question of what rules we should obey, even when we disagree with them, and what rules are so obnoxious as to be broken. Would you consider a person killing a doctor specialising in abortion to be obeying a clear moral responsibility? Or how about a group that kidnaps abortionists and keeps them in luxury, just preventing them from doing their jobs?

    Or, another way, what sort of infringements on freedom of speech are justifiable until people are morally obliged to start breaking the law? How about incitement to religious hatred? To ethnic hatred? Telling lies in advertising? Publishing polls on the day of an election?
    I’m not interested in an argument about the rights and wrongs of any of these things per se, just I suspect that many of the people critical of Vodafone for obeying the Egyptian law would also be critical of someone who broke these other laws.

  13. No, I don’t think it is silly. It is complicated, the question of what rules we should obey, even when we disagree with them, and what rules are so obnoxious as to be broken.

    But the principle that the law should be obeyed unless it’s so obnoxious as to be broken is actually not that hard to understand.

    And whilst it’s tricky to identify some of the laws that are so obnoxious, in other cases – the holocaust being about as clear as you get – it’s actually really easy. The fact that genocide being viewed as bad is culturally and historically contingent does not change the fact we, as a society, find it really easy to say that genocide is bad.

  14. Pete- “The fact that genocide being viewed as bad is culturally and historically contingent does not change the fact we, as a society, find it really easy to say that genocide is bad.”

    Retrospectively. In the last 50 years or so.

    The fact is anyone who refuses a clear order to take part in genocide is likely to be punished. That genocide is unlikely to be recognised as genocide at the time. It is unlikely to be condemned afterwards. While the person refusing orders is likely to be punished.

    We punished officers who refused to bomb civilian targets in World War Two. They have not even got an apology. We shower people who have taken part in quasi-genocidal activities in openly genocidal organisations with honours and awards. And this is just us. The rest of the world is much worse.

  15. Pete – But the principle that the law should be obeyed unless it’s so obnoxious as to be broken is actually not that hard to understand.

    I agree with this statement, but it’s the clash between this principle, and the principle of “obeying laws is necessary for a society with widely divergent views about morality to function” that gives me the difficulties.

    The fact that genocide being viewed as bad is culturally and historically contingent does not change the fact we, as a society, find it really easy to say that genocide is bad.

    Yes, so if anyone wants to commit genocide, they claim that what they’re doing is not genocide. Take the UN definition, it was written by a group including the Soviets, and it runs “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.” because the Soviets wanted to exclude Stalin’s persecution of the kulaks, while covering what the Nazis did. But there’s no reason to think that killing a 4-year old girl because she’s a kulak’s daughter is any morally better than killing her because she’s a Gypsy.
    As SmfS says, the English-speaking world’s own standards about genocide are badly applied, and other cultures aren’t exactly shining examples of dedication to the idea that genocide is wrong.

  16. We punished officers who refused to bomb civilian targets in World War Two. They have not even got an apology. We shower people who have taken part in quasi-genocidal activities in openly genocidal organisations with honours and awards. And this is just us. The rest of the world is much worse.

    Yes, so if anyone wants to commit genocide, they claim that what they’re doing is not genocide. Take the UN definition, it was written by a group including the Soviets, and it runs “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.” because the Soviets wanted to exclude Stalin’s persecution of the kulaks, while covering what the Nazis did. But there’s no reason to think that killing a 4-year old girl because she’s a kulak’s daughter is any morally better than killing her because she’s a Gypsy.
    As SmfS says, the English-speaking world’s own standards about genocide are badly applied, and other cultures aren’t exactly shining examples of dedication to the idea that genocide is wrong.

    I’d agree with all of that, but I think you’re making the perfect the enemy of the good (or at least the enemy of the better-than-all-out-amoral-chaos). The fact that international law is hypocritical and compromised does not mean we should just give up on the idea of crimes against humanity and declare a moral free-for-all. Which as far as I can see is what the argument being made here – Vodafone have no moral responsibilities because they should obey the law and moral problems are difficult and sometimes the left wants people to obey laws that other people don’t like. Actually Kay Tie raised a serious point, but other than that…

  17. Pete – I don’t think I’m making the perfect the enemy of the good. I think I’m stuck not knowing what the good is, in the first place. And, you haven’t exactly made a convincing case that my state of indecision is silly.

    As for declaring a moral free-for-all, when did the principle that one should obey the law become an amoral one?

  18. Possibly I’m being unclear.

    Its not silly to disagree over what Vodafone should actually do – as Kay Tie implied, you can make a pretty good case for their responsibilities to their employees outweighing anything else. Pretending there’s no moral conundrum here is silly.

    There’s also a fairly silly bunch of moral equivalences being drawn here. The whole premise of Tim’s question was that there’s no difference between the laws passed by dictatorships and laws passed in democracies. Which is sort of silly (though I accept it’s chiefly being done to wind up Sunny, a man who could arguably do with a lot more exposure to silliness). But you then ratchet it up a step further to “Resisting anti-discrimination law is sort of like resisting an order to engage in mass murder”, apparently in all seriousness.

  19. Pete – David Gillies started the comparison, by comparing orders to shut off internet access to principles established at the Nuremberg trials. I think that cutting off internet access, while disturbing, is not the equivalent of genocide. Before the internet was invented there were plenty of countries, including some dictatorships, that refrained from genocide for large periods of time.

    So when someone starts applying the Nuremberg principle to laws and orders that aren’t to the effect of “destroy group x, little children too”, then I think it’s sensible to start asking difficult questions about where the Nuremberg principle stops. AFAIK few people think that it’s fine to disobey *any* law if it conflicts with the individual person’s conscience, that was the point of the anti-discrimination example.

    Then I got distracted by your claim that in only one of those cases would the “other person’s opinion” be likely to vary, since that claim struck me as factually wrong.

    As for not being obliged to obey laws in a dictatorship – on the one hand, this strikes me as a plausible moral principle, on the other hand, how does that work out for society as a whole if broadly applied as “any law that offends your conscience should be disobeyed”? Even in a dictatorship there typically is a wide variety of opinions about moral matters.

  20. As for not being obliged to obey laws in a dictatorship – on the one hand, this strikes me as a plausible moral principle, on the other hand, how does that work out for society as a whole if broadly applied as “any law that offends your conscience should be disobeyed”? Even in a dictatorship there typically is a wide variety of opinions about moral matters.

    Well insofar as it makes dictatorship a less stable mode of government, that may be a feature rather than a bug. But that’s taking us a little way off topic…

    David Gillies started the comparison, by comparing orders to shut off internet access to principles established at the Nuremberg trials

    To be fair I sort of baited him into that one, so I should probably take some responsibility for that. Still, we do think it’s a good thing that the Army doesn’t seem to be doing Mubarak’s every whim, don’t we?

    I think that cutting off internet access, while disturbing, is not the equivalent of genocide. Before the internet was invented there were plenty of countries, including some dictatorships, that refrained from genocide for large periods of time.

    The first sentence is true. The second is disingenuous. Suppose you’re Vodafone and you notice that people are getting restive on the streets of Cairo. The authoritarian dictator with a torture-habit comes up to you and says, “What the people need right now is more limited access to the outside world.” If your response is, “Well sure. Historically there’s no correlation between lack of internet access and atrocities…”, then I think we can all see that you’ve missed an important part of the context here.

    So when someone starts applying the Nuremberg principle to laws and orders that aren’t to the effect of “destroy group x, little children too”, then I think it’s sensible to start asking difficult questions about where the Nuremberg principle stops. AFAIK few people think that it’s fine to disobey *any* law if it conflicts with the individual person’s conscience, that was the point of the anti-discrimination example.

    Fair enough. It was probably a mistake to turn it into a left-right issue, though. The implication becomes that the left’s got its little worries about genocide and aiding authoritarian regimes, the right’s got its concerns about being allowed to properly hate on the gays, and the question of which is the greater evil is all down to your political persuasion.

    Which is really my concern with this whole thread. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with beating up on Sunny, or the left in general. Lord knows they could both use it. But if you’re focussing on it so much that you find yourself making arguments to the effect of “Aiding authoritarian regimes presents no serious moral problems”, the time may have come to refocus.

  21. But if … you find yourself making arguments to the effect of “Aiding authoritarian regimes presents no serious moral problems”, the time may have come to refocus.

    Lucky for me I’ve been arguing nothing of the sort, then, isn’t it?

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