Friday, December 17, 2010

Pluralism and Punishment

Most theories of punishment are monist.  One is usually either a retributivist, a deterrence theorist, or a rehabilitationist.  That is, most people think one of these kinds of theory about punishment is sufficient to justify punishment.

It also seems that most people do not think that they can work together.  So a theory which combines retributivism and deterrence is taken to be impossible or nonsensical, or perhaps merely unnecessary.

I think, contrarily, that punishment can be pluralist:  It can incoroporate multiple of these perspectives.

Pluralism can, I take it, come in a weak and a strong form.  The weak form of pluralism merely states that no monist theory of punishment is sufficient across the range of situations in which it is to be applied.  Applying only retributivism will not provide justified/defensible outcomes in all the situations in which applying punishment is appropriate.  This seems the case.  But I would go further, and argue for a strong form of pluralism.  According to a strong form of pluralism about punishment, not only is no single perspective sufficient across the whole range of cases, but there is also no consistent ordering of the theories of punishment, capable of general application.  That is, it is not the case that Retributivism ought always to be the primary consideration, with rehabilitation and deterrence modifying the retributively established outcome.  Rather, sometimes deterrence is primary, sometimes rehabilitation is primary.

This approach is more difficult to defend.  It requires a mechanism for determining the circumstances in which each of the plural approaches is primary, and probably also a weighting mechanism for combining their commands into a coherent description of the appropriate course of action when confronted with any particular circumstance requiring punishment.  But I think it is a better place to begin than are the monist positions.

Friday, December 10, 2010

The constraints imposed on punishment by structural injustice.

Modern liberal democratic states have robust criminal justice systems.  The police and the courts are generally reasonably consistent in their enforcement of the laws to all within the state, and punishments prescribed are usually proportional more to the crime committed than to the offender themselves.  There are, however, problematic exceptions.  The arrest and imprisonment rates for African Americans, particularly men, are disproportionate to their numbers in society, and even to their numbers within the lower socio-economic group that most of them are in (a problem in itself).  Similarly in Australia amongst Indigenous Australians, and in New Zealand amongst Maori, this kind of disproportionality arises.  Presuming that we cannot blame anything like an innate tendency towards criminality for the difference (and there is good reason to think that we can not do this), the best explanation for these results is some sort of structural injustice within the state.

That is, something about the institutional arrangement of the state disadvantages members of these groups, such that criminal behaviour is a better option (and hence, more often engaged in), than it is for society as a whole.  The state, or the arrangmeents made by the state, pushes members of these groups towards crime.  Having done so, it then arrests and imprisons them (which again, pushes those subjec tto these sanctions towards further crime).  The question is, to what extent should the existence of structural injustices within the state constrain the practice of the police and the courts in punishing criminals?  After all, if someone commits a crime due to some degree to the situation the state has placed them in, is not the state (to that degree) to blame, rather than the individual?

A first attempt at answering this question:  Minimise penal sanctions as much as possible.  Apply them consistently across the entire population for violent and sexual crimes, say, but take heavier account of social standing and the like in minor and non-violent crimes.  Attempt to avoid the imposition of additional penalties which lead to further isolation from the structure of the state, such as disenfranchisement.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Julian Assange

Has been arrested in London.  There is discussion everywhere on the web about this, but this article in The Atlantic is one of the better discussions.

My opinion is that the whole thing seems like angry governments hunting someone who made the mistake of believing them regarding freedom of speech and the dissemination of information.

Edit:  Alas, A Blog has 20 links to articles on the Assange situation! (On a single page, no less)

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Away for a week and some

I'm about to start the Great Victorian Bike Ride. 9 days, 590km on a bicycle.  No blog updates.  See you in a while

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

What is the upside for North Korea here?

So, North Korea is now using artillery against South Korean civilians.  (Telegraph)  I'm not sure what they could possibly think will come of this, outside of even more of their population starving to death as the international community further withdraws aid.  Possibly the internal situation is now so bad that only being at war will prevent internal rebellion?  I hope not, but the whole thing is moving from farcical to absurd.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Supermax Prisons: Cruel and Unusual Punishment?

Some interesting thoughts raised at LGM regarding the Ghailani verdict.  In particular, the idea that it may actually be a worse situation being sentenced to 20 years in a Supermax prison within the civilian criminal system, than being held indefinitely at a military institution.  Why?  Because the conditions in Supermax prisons are so degrading, so foul, that they may breach international law, and indeed, the law of the United States itself, regarding cruel and unusual punishment.  This article at alternet compares the situation to torture, while there has apparently been a  UN Committee against torture ruling condemning the conditions at Supermax prisons.

I didn't realise the US did things like this.  I mean, I know it is cliché to ridicule the US system for its misguided approach to most everything to do with punishment, but really? 

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

More on US Airport security.

It is getting worse for the TSA and their silly rules.  We have another blogger equating TSA enhanced pat-downs with sexual assault (which it would be, if it was done by anyone else), and more media getting on board the TSA hatewagon. (Bloomberg)

Monday, November 15, 2010


...Has got itself a serious public relations problem.  According to this article, another Qantas plane was forced to turn back to origin, the fifth fault in 11 days to get media attention.

Add to that that Qantas is expensive and the service is bad comparative to other full priced airlines, and really, for any flight you absolutely must make out of Australia, Emirates or Air New Zealand are surely better options.

Functional Healthcare

I notice there is a new report (via ABC) being shopped around the news media in Australia about doctors thinking of giving up the profession because of worries about liability (or more accurately, worries about litigation, irrespective of their liability).  This is not a trivial concern, and the need for doctors to take out expensive insurance policies to protect them against lawsuits is part of what drives the price of medical care upwards in Australia and (to a much greater extent) the US.  Indeed, the US is the paradigmatic example of litigiousness losing all sense of scale and reason.

Fortunately (or unfortunately, insofar as this will not happen), there is an alternative system available, which strictly curtails litigation and thereby makes medical care affordable.  This is the kind of no fault compensation scheme, government run, that is found in New Zealand: The Accident Compensation Corporation.  It is an option that should be considered far more than it currently is, and while the US is unlikely ever to be sensible enough to do anything like it, Australia at least potentially still could move towards the system.  As an added bonus, Australians have the benefit of seeing the teething problems with the NZ system and preventing them from occuring, rather than having to fix them on the fly as NZ has had to do.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Trouble for the TSA

So people are starting to call the TSA in the US on their lies about security.  I'm fortunate enough not to have to go to or through the US when flying, but I have felt increasingly sorry for the poor people corralled into their separate lines at Auckland or Melbourne airports for stricter, invasive, completely useless security measures.  Be interesting to see how this plays out.

Friday, November 12, 2010

The problem with workfare...

...Whether it is called workfare (, or work for the dole, or anything else, is that it relies on an often baseless assumption; that there are jobs available for the people who are unemployed and eligible for welfare.  Sure, there are some jobs, and some people who are unemployed could do some of them.  But the systems we have in place do not guarantee a job for every person, and there certainly are not as many jobs as there are people unemployed (there are not even as many as there are people looking for work).

Workfare laws in a situation where there aren't jobs for all the unemployed, will end up punishing those whose fault is not willingness to work, or lack of effort in seeking a job, but working in the wrong industry at the wrong time.  This is hardly desirable.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Hunting the LRA

A very interesting response by Human Rights Watch to a suggestion about the use of the US military to pursue Joseph Knoy, the head of the Lords Resistance Army, was posted at Lawfare today.  It is a good insight into the background to HRW campaign practices, and it provides a good guide to an international law enforcement based approach to targetting small scale dangerous figures, as opposed to the now prevalent military approach, which has a number of obvious flaws.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


People appear to actually use 'sez' instead of 'says' in written english now.  I have even seen it in newspaper headlines.

Australian River Systems

It isn't that I hate farmers.  Rather, it just seems obvious that it is more important to avoid destroying river systems through overextraction of water, than it is to postpone the loss of some thousands of farming jobs in areas where farming is ecologically unsustainable in the long term.

Yet, the amount of complaining coming from farmers on the basis of a report that recommends doing the bare minimum (The Age) to sustain the Murray-Darling system makes it seem as though a whole lot of people do not share this intuition.

Losing jobs is bad.  But losing more jobs in a few years because we have carelessly destroyed a major river system through overuse isn't just bad, it is crazy.  Yes it hurts to lose jobs, yes there may be flow on damage to the wider economy, particularly in terms of things like food pricing, but these dangers are at least ones we are forewarned about, and may actually be able to prevent.  Unlike the harms that would come from losing major river systems.

The official report can be found here.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Can we get pluralism going at the level of normative ethical theories?

(Some WIP thoughts)

And if we can, does doing so force us into any particular meta-ethical position?  I think we can, and that it does not (but looks like it works out well for error-theories of meta-ethics).

The idea would go something like this:
  • There are multiple sufficiently plausible moral codes (aka sets of instructions on how to act morally).  
  • These roughly correspond to things like 'the current best account of utilitarianism' and 'the current best virtue ethical moral framework'.  
  • None of these current best accounts is universally preferable to any other best account, but each is universally preferable to any other account from within the broader category (utilitarianism, virtue ethics, Christianity).
    • It may be that this lack of universal preferability merely means that multiple accounts provide equally plausible means of decision-making in particular contexts.
  • Utilising any one of these codes will enable an actor to act morally in the (vast) majority of circumstances.
  • It is at least unclear and possibly indeterminate which of the codes offers the best chance of acting morally in the greatest number of circumstances (particularly once the chance of acting immorally is discounted in virtue of the likelihood of the situation arising).
  • There are practical reasons mitigating against using some combination of best theories.
So, to act morally is to utilise any one of the sufficiently plausible moral codes in guiding your decision-making.  In particular instances, this will result in the moral thing to do being A (for code X) & ~A (for code Y).  This isn't a problem, given the above.

So what is going on meta-ethically here?  I would think that what our normative theories are doing is pointing not to moral truth, but to something akin to usefulness or suitability.  Despite acting as though they state moral truths, and systematically failing to do so (evident in virtue of their disagreement with each other while all falling within the realm of the moral), these competing systems each individually provide the right kind of enabling framework to allow actors to interact morally.

    Thursday, October 28, 2010

    On marking

    Am I the only person who habitually emphasises to all their students the importance of presentation?  So often people seem to halfarsedly cobble together an argument, and hastily pretend to format, proof read and cite it.  These things are important.  They cannot, of course, make up for a lack of content or failures of argument, but they can mitigate them to some degree.  Alternatively, when a well presented work is presented in conjunction with good content and arguments, the work as a whole is likely to be better received than will a shabbily presented one.

    I also see a strong positive correlation between those who worry about their presentation and those who have otherwise done well in content and argument.

    Wednesday, October 27, 2010

    US Politics, again.

    Or should I say, 'batshit-insane things just keep on happening over there'?  Because despite my best intentions of actually trying to talk about something other than the giant mess that is the US midterms, things keep catching my attention.  This time, it was the by now widely publicised video (On TPM)that was taken of a group of Rand Paul supporters curb-stomping (thankfully without the efficiency displayed in American History X (and if you do not know what curb-stomping is, you probably don't want to find out)) a female moveOn supporter.  Amanda Marcotte has it about right in her comments here, which basically amount to 'WTF, these people are pure evil.'

    From the outside, it isn't as though I agree with the Democrats about much at all, but given the choice between them and the trigger happy racist, misogynistic bigots who seem to infest the republican party... it isn't really a choice, and active support of the US democratic party, despite their problems, seems almost morally obligatory.

    Tuesday, October 26, 2010

    Is there any remotely plausible argument for discrimination against LGBTs?

    I think not, and the rhetoric in the US constantly astounds me on this point.  Really, it shouldn't be at all a contentious issue, and that it is speaks volumes about the state of US society.

    Monday, October 25, 2010

    The difficulty of sustainable transport

    With great fanfare, and PR friendly announcements about environmental sustainability, Monash University announced the construction of a Bike arrival station that would enable bicyclists to shower, secure their bikes, and generally make themselves presentable after the bike ride to Clayton, which is far too far from Melbourne proper.  Upon completion of the facility, the available places were snapped up within a day, and after receiving 500 registrations (in under a couple of days) for the 100 spots, a waiting list was created, on which the vast majority of those who want to use this facility, are now placed.

    Let us think for a while about what it would actually take for Monash to fulfill the promise of sustainable access.  Obviously, many times the number of bicycle spots provided by this new facility.  Further, there is no train line to Clayton, and people are much more willing to train than to bus (not sure why, but I am in complete agreement).  Incentivising the use of public transport, and incentivising even more the use of bicycles would also help.  But ultimately, I do not think there is much that the university can do by itself, as despite being a large employer, it doesn't have the clout to change the policy focus on car use.  That is what needs to be addressed.

    Wednesday, October 20, 2010

    Friendship: Physical and Virtual

    Some musings on a semi-formed idea for a paper:

    The idea that there is something fundamental that distinguishes traditional modes of interaction from their newer, technologically mediated counterparts is widespread.  I am not sure that it is defensible.  In the context of friendship, the idea seems to be that something is missing from online 'friendships', which is present in non-technologically mediated friendships, and that something constitutes the necessary core of what it means to have a 'real' friendship.  Accordingly, friendship is something that cannot be established without the (intimacy?  proximity? something) of meatspace interaction.

    This seems to be rubbish.  Here is why:  For any claimed feature of meatspace friendships, that is said to be shared by all of them and lacking in all virtual 'friendships', there seem to be actual, as opposed to merely hypothetical counterexamples.  At this stage, this point is not fully cashed out, and I think maybe I could come up with a rule that avois all the traipsing through particulars, but for now, some examples.

    I have good real world friends who I haven't seen in years.  Some of these I also seldom catch up with in virtual worlds.  From the opposite perspective, I have friends I have never met, with whom I spend far more time than I do with any but the closest of my meatspace friends.  We inhabit a shared, persistent virtual world multiple times a week, for hours at a time. 

    Virtual friendships are not anonymous.  The closer ones are mediated through mechanisms like ventrilo and skype, and forged through shared experiences in the way of physical friendships.  Similarly, the opportunities for deception, mistrust, and the undermining of friendships exist as much virtually as they do physically. 

    I also think there is an ambiguity played on betweens enses of the word friend.  In the strong sense, it means more than mere acquaintance.  It means someone whose absence you would genuinely notice and care about.  In the weak sense, it just indicates that you have some passing knowledge of a person.  The weak sense is popularised by online social media, and used by various reports on online friendship as synonymous with the strong sense in the physical realm.  I think there needs to be a recognition that both virtually and physically, each of these sense of the term friend is operating.  As long as you compare strong virtual to strong physical friendships, the similarities outweigh the differences.  Differences are peripheral to the concept of friendship, while the similarities attach to the core characteristics.

    Friday, October 15, 2010

    In NZ

    Posting will be scarce for this week and into the middle of next, as I am out of the country. 

    Monday, October 11, 2010

    US Mid-Term Elections

    Despite the occasional crazy candidate put forward by the Republican party this election cycle (the first of those links is Christine O'Donnell, nutbag and senate candidate, the second is Rich Iott, Nazi re-enactor and house candidate), the Republican party is still looking as though it has a reasonable chance of taking over both houses in the US.  Good analysis of this possibility (the best, that I have found) is at 538, where the current predictions show the Republicans taking the house comfortably and cutting the Democratic senate majority to one. 

    The question I have is what exactly fuels the people who vote for the Republican party?  From outside the US, the hot button issues on which the American right is getting agitated and involved, are all crazy person issues that simply aren't taken seriously (at least not in US form) in any other reasonably functioning liberal democracy. 

    Friday, October 8, 2010

    How hard is it to eat well?

    And is the failure to do so a condemnable offense? 

    This is quite closely connected to the previous post on fat activism, in particular the worry that a large part of what drives nutritional problems is not a lack of willpower regarding eating habits, but some combination of a lack of knowledge, affordability or access to nutritious foods.

    If a lack of will power is the cause of things like overeating, then the inclination is to say that this is a (moral?) failing, and that the person who makes it should be amenable to criticisms.  If, on the other hand, one of the three other fialures identified above is the primary cause (or if some combination of those failures is the primary cause), then the blame seems to lie elsewhere.  Let us consider them in turn.


    What do you need to know in order to eat healthily?  At the most basic level, something like the energy in/energy out equation seems fundamental.  If you consume more calories than you expend, you will gain weight, if you consume less, you will lose weight.  But for this information to be useful, you need to know what foods have what calories.  This isn't so hard for packaged foods, as most are required to have that information present.  It is more difficult for grains, fruits, vegetables and other foods that do not come prepackaged.  There is likely, I think, to be a knowledge gap here.  Further, there is at least a concern that nutritional information guidelines do not adequate state servings per package.  A chocolate bar marketed for an individual may contain multiple 'servings', leading the consumer to underestimate their calories consumed when they eat the whole thing.

    The other half of the equation is more difficult again.  To know how much you need to consume, you need an idea of how much you expend.  This varies according to a range of factors, including the weight and body composition of a person and the extent of their physical activity.  Guidelines are available, but provide at best ballpark figures.

    Would this knowledge suffice?  No.  In addition to knowing the above, some more nuanced nutritional knowledge is required.  What nutrients do we need, and in what proportions?  How much fat, protein, carbohydrate ought I to consume, and when is it best to consume these?  Does when I eat things matter?  Big meals or small?  Should I eat when hungry, or wait for set mealtimes?  You might think that these are unknowable, or that in order to eat well enough, this knowledge isn't necessary.  But having the knowledge would at least positively correlate with eating more healthily.

    A connected issue with knowledge is knowledge of preparation.  Cooking is not something that everyone is comfortable doing.  Some people are bad at it, others dislike it, and still more have never tried.  If you do not know how to cook, then it becomes more difficult to eat healthily, as your options are reduced to buying prepackaged or preparation free foods, or eating out.  In each of these alternatives, your control over your calorie and nutritional intake is reduced by comparison to preparing food yourself.


    This is probably an easier criterion to analyse.  In order to eat well, you need to be able to afford to purchase good food.  Often, good food is expensive.  It may be cheaper to eat takeaways than to buy and prepare a nutritious meal.  In particular, good vegetables and fruits can be expensive, and they do not last as long as packaged foods.

    In addition, a component of affordability is time.  If you have the income to buy healthy food without the time to prepare it, then the income you have does not assist.  Similarly, anyone with a heavy workload needs to make time to cook, which can be difficult.


    I live in Melbourne.  It is easy for me to access good, cheap fresh food.  I also have the time to shop at markets rather than supermarkets, which reduces my food cost considerably.  Not everyone has this luxury.  A problem particularly prevalent in the US, but not, I am sure, exclusive to that country, is the issue of food deserts, areas in which access to fresh and healthy foods is severely limited.  This problem is exacerbated by the issue of transporting large amounts of food for those who do not own a car.  (Again, being childless and living only with my partner means that transporting days worth of food for 2 on a bicycle is possible, in a way that buying for a family would not be).  So there is at least reason to think that some people would legitimately not have access to the food they require to eat healthily.


    As it turns out, I think that someone like myself has probably the least excuse for poor eating habits.  I have the requisite knowledge, the income, the time, and the access to healthy food, which means I have only myself to blame for failing to take advantage of this.  People who lack any of these identified features would, I think, be absolved from blame in proportion to their lack.

    Is this conclusion going to be useful?  Well, it could help shape public policy.  If we want to reduce the health concerns arising from poor nutrition, in particular, the increasing numbers of overweight and obese people in society, then good education, affordability for healthy foods, and increased access to them are all policy goals worth pursuing.

    Wednesday, October 6, 2010

    Fat Activism

    This is an issue which concerns me, brought to mind most recently by this (ABA) article concerning a suit brought by the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission on behalf of the estate of a deceased obese woman.  The claim is that she was fired on grounds of obesity, and it seems to want  obesity to be or become a protected grounds of discrimination, or recognised as a disability.

    The reason this concerns me is that i'm very conflicted by the issue.  On the one hand, there is clearly an ongoing cultural and societal disapproval of even moderate excess weight, which is exacerbated in the case of the obese.  This disapproval is not accountable for on terms of things like health concerns, but rather seems to be prejudice.  So this is bad and we should try to consider ways to eliminate it.

    On the other hand, attempts to do things like getting obesity recognised as a disability, or as a grounds on which employers cannot legitimately discriminate, seems to be pushing too far in the other direction.  There are significant and ongoing physical and psychological health concerns with being overweight, which are unlikely to be assisted by vindication (probably the wrong word in this context) of one's overweight status through  classification as a disability.

    Part of the difficulty is that there are such a wide range of factors pushing people to become overweight and to stay that way.  The diversity of the causes makes it hard to differentiate between those who are strongly genetically predisposed to weight gain, those who gain weight in resposne to things like medication, and those who simply systematically make harmful lifestyle choices leading to weight gain.  The latter seem justifiably criticisable in ways the former two do not, but how do we tell the circumstances of any particular individual?

    Further, how do we tell when being overweight is actually unhealthy.  At the high end of the overweight scale (obesity and morbid obesity) it is clearly unhealthy, and very much so, but being moderately overweight is far less determinately linked to health concerns.  Can we simply scale our criticism to the size of the person being criticised?  A corrolary to this is that thinness is often taken as evidence of health, which obscures the fact that people of average weight can be as unhealthy as the overweight, and it may be even more difficult for them as it is not visibly diagnosable.  Think of people who (at least claim to) guzzle junk food without putting on weight.  They may well be severely lacking in micronutrients, have a terrible fat/muscle ratio, without displaying this through weight alone.  Then there is the inadequacy of BMI as a measure of health.  This is, at least, a procedural point.  People need to stop pretending BMI is useful in determining the health of an individual.  It gives you a good idea of the state of society as a whole, but on the individual level, it tells you nothing useful.  An example:  It doesn't differentiate between the significantly overweight non-exerciser and the muscular athlete, as it measures each in a ratio of weight to height, without regard for composition.

    It seems to me that what is needed is a clear delineation between harmful prejudice and helpful concern.  I am not, however, sure that there is such a distinction available, let alone that it has successfully been made.  There is much to think about with this, and I would love to get a clearer idea of the state of the debate.

    Monday, October 4, 2010

    Opening Ceremony...

    So the commonwealth games have overcome their initial stumbles and have, at least, opened without any further problems.  I do still worry that the whole child labour thing has vanished without a trace now that the pretty spectacle appears to be coming together, though.

    Thursday, September 30, 2010

    Science Fiction: Less fiction-y all the time.

    A mere 20 light years away, a (theoretically) habitable planet.  Now all we need to do is figure out how to get there, and what to take with us.  I'm guessing it is time to start re-reading the Heinlein collection for some pointers.

    Wednesday, September 29, 2010

    Capacity testing young people.

    My contribution to the APSA conference I am attending went off  without a hitch this morning.  I presented a paper I have been working on in which I argue that a) (In)capacity is the only legitimate excuse for excluding citizens from political participation, b) Some young people are capable and excluded, therefore c) we should lower the voting age & institute capacity testing to further reduce the number of people who are wrongly excluded from participation.

    I received a surprisingly positive reception from the audience, who largely seemed to like the idea.  A couple of people were concerned about where this would fit within a broader framework of youth inclusion, such as the expansion of civic education and representation, but these issues can I think be addressed with relative ease (maybe a book?!).

    Paper here.

    Tuesday, September 28, 2010

    Crazy idea of the day:

    Perhaps we should use private military companies to intervene in internal state conflicts when the international community is unable or unwilling to do so?

    This suggestion was mooted at a session of the APSA conference I am currently attending, and seemed not to be taken as completely crazy by many of those in attendance.  I found this odd, as there are a number of immediate issues that spring to mind.  Firstly, there is an accountability problem.  Who gets the blame if things go wrong?  Are PMCs able to be charged with war crimes?  Secondly, such companies will want to do this for profit... I would have thought that profiting on war is likely to be a bad thing.  Thirdly, do we really want to be encouraging and legitimising mercenaries?

    Friday, September 24, 2010

    Stewart, Colbert and some hope in the US.

    This seems worth posting about.  Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert are hosting rallies in Washington.  Hopefully they will upstage Glen Beck's tearfest.  Politico is styling it the Democrat's October surprise.  Charli Carpenter at LGM ponders the Locke/Demosthenes effect appearing between these two, and I have to say, I wouldn't be too sad if that result came out of all this.

    India and the Commonwealth Games.

    I have mixed feelings about this issue. On the one hand, it is already obvious both from the way in which the media is covering the issue, and from the mood of the Australian public, that if the games do not go ahead, it will be a catalyst for criticism of India and Indians generally, rather than for specific recriminations against the incompetence, corruption and neoptism of the government and organisations responsible for overseeing the development of the Games village and associated facilities.

    On the other hand, it might actually do some good for there to be real consequences for letting your corruption, incompetence and nepotism get so bad that you squander a huge chance to prove you can host an important international event effectively. At this stage, the Indian government seems to be in a lose lose situation. Even if they do manage to avoid the complete disaster that would be a result of the games being called off, they have proven incapable of providing basic security; there is pictorial evidence of the use of child labour in an attempt to rush the completion of the project, and two separate construction failures (plus the threat of more) have left a pall of doubts hanging over the integrity of the entire venture.

    Oh, and there are already athletes withdrawing due to personal safety concerns, with the backing of their respective national teams for doing so.

    Of all the concerns, the unabashed use of child labour is the one that leads me to think that the games being cancelled would be the right thing to do.  It is one (very bad) thing to pretend not to notice flagrant violations of children's rights when they go on in relative obscurity, it is another (much worse) thing to have photographs of child labourers engaged in finishing your games venues splashed across the front pages of international media, and then to not engage in some serious and meaningful criticism of that government for this blatant disregard of fundamental moral norms.