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THOMAS FLEMING: Abuse Your Illusions
Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture ^ | January 2002 | Thomas Fleming

Posted on 02/04/2002 12:00:14 PM PST by ouroboros

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To: Okiegolddust; architect; A.J.Armitage; who_would_fardels_bear
Very good posts both, thank you. I can't do them justice in the short time I have available since I am going on a business trip for two weeks.

I would tend to agree with you that honest libertarianism is anarchism. This is how my views are evolving, anyway. "Pursuit of Liberty" taught me that minarchism is not grounded in any particular principle. The moment we accept that the government should exist to protect individual rights, we have accepted in principle the entire lumbering apparatus of modern government: taxes, regulations, foreign wars, you name it, as part of an amorphous "social contract". Libertarianism is the nice-sounding continuum between anarchism and the GOP, everybody makes what he wants out of it. Culturally it offers many attractions of liberalism, so as you say, both camps end up in the same place despite differences in rationalization.

On liberty Vs. values I still think that you confuse "enabling freedom" with "being free". Thus freedom is enabled by virtue but it is not a virtue. In a related way, along with Who_would_fardels_bear you confuse moral imperative and law.

Let's return to these topics when I come back.

51 posted on 02/15/2002 1:12:22 PM PST by annalex
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To: ouroboros
The interesting thing is that one need not even reach for traditional morality (institutional Christianity) to disagree with Libertarians. If enough educated voters in a state, municipality, or country find prostitution odious, they can make it illegal. Ultimately, they may find arguments from Natural Law or from sacred scripture, but you need a plurality among voters and jurists to maintain legal penalties for immoral activities considered injurious to society. You can complain about things like abortion until you're blue in the face, but, given the perils of social democracy, if you don't have enough votes to back up your position, the vulgar, immoral, or infanticidal majority will prevail.


52 posted on 02/15/2002 1:24:44 PM PST by HowlinglyMind-BendingAbsurdity
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To: Okiegolddust
Unlike anarchists however, libertarians appropriate limited (minimalist) government to defend certain essential things. What they view essential though is can be transparently seen, in almost all cases to be found by using the categories of what is and what isn't fashionable in modern liberalism.

That simply isn't the case. We've never thought that enforcing economic "fairness" was essential. We've never thought gun control is essential. On the contrary, we've opposed both of these things. It's essential to avoid them.

Practically it does seem to me, as it does Bork, that whatever their different rationalization processes, libertarians usually in social matters end up the same place as modern liberals.

A counter-example: if a store owner refuses to serve blacks, libertarians would almost all be appauled - and I would be one of them - but, unlike modern liberals and modern conservatives, we would recognize his property rights. If consumers want to stay away, and I hope they would, that's the free market.

The libertarian=liberal argument just isn't going to work. We aren't the same.

53 posted on 02/15/2002 7:41:26 PM PST by A.J.Armitage
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To: annalex
The moment we accept that the government should exist to protect individual rights, we have accepted in principle the entire lumbering apparatus of modern government: taxes, regulations, foreign wars, you name it, as part of an amorphous "social contract".

I'm a minarchist and I don't believe in any kind of social contract.

54 posted on 02/15/2002 7:44:37 PM PST by A.J.Armitage
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To: Architect
The traditions of our ancestors are largely dead, destroyed by the rise of the state.

Contemporarily, it would seem, too many of us stand on the shoulders of giants in order to pee down their collars. By the way, an excellent post #4!
55 posted on 02/15/2002 7:54:05 PM PST by BluesDuke
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To: Okiegolddust; Architect; A.J.Armitage; annalex; x
I've had some problems with my ISP and I've been reading "Anarchy, State, and Utopia" so I haven't been able to respond.

I've gotten through Anarchy and State and am just now getting into Utopia, and I know that Nozick is not the be-all-and-end-all of libertarian philosophy, but I have these comments to add to this thread so far:

1. Regarding freedom, either we truly have free will or we don't. This is not merely a "poetic" question. If it turns out we don't have free will, then this would be truly a tragic result. Whether or not I would be depressed upon learning of this, would be a matter of whether or not I had been preprogrammed to become so.

2. Separating "legal" freedom from all other freedoms seems rather arbitrary. If you believe that only the state is capable of enforcing its edicts and thus of truly limiting your freedom, then I guess "legal freedom" would be distinctively different from all others. However, it seems that criminals, traditions, social institutions, etc. can cause people on occasion, or over long periods of time, to be essentially prevented from doing certain things. Thus Fleming's claim that libertarians who favor limited legal restrictions tend to also lobby for limited social restrictions is essentially correct. The fact that there are a few paleolibertarians who insist that social institutions be allowed to beef up their enforcement arms to offset the minimal enforcement of a limited state is the exception that proves the rule.

3. At no point in Nozick's book does he fully define a human being or reasoning agent or even an individual. It would seem this would be essential to a political theory. Fleming has pointed out that at least one libertarian ideologue does not include fetuses, and that he would also exclude small children. The fact that the Libertarian Party has also gone on record to exclude fetuses from protected status, suggests once again that Fleming is right: even the average every day libertarian has a limited concept of what an individual human is.

4. Nowhere in Nozick's book does he fully flesh out what a child is under a minimal state. Is it completely the property of its parents? Is it a complete individual free of all control from the time of birth? Or is it somewhere in between? Ideologues, libertarian and otherwise, will tend to want to lean toward one extreme or the other: the child is a possession or the child is a free agent. Conservatives don't have to do this because conservatives aren't, or at least shouldn't be, ideologues. If libertarians can't properly define what a child is and how it interacts with its family under a minimal government (especially when the child wants to do something that the parents do not want it to) then I believe they will tend in the direction that Fleming warns them about: the child will be perceived as an independent agent which can then be exploited, killed, or neglected unless someone happens to take an interest in it.

5. Fleming's prediction that anyone who doesn't support ideologically pure libertarianism will be labeled a statist or worse has been proved by replies to conservative comments in this thread.

6. There are a number of unstated requirements that Nozick hints at for his minimal state to remain in tact. One of those unstated implications is that the majority of citizens retain a minimal level of reasoning ability. If huge sections of the citizenry behave irresponsibly, then they can either choose to vote themselves into a socialist state or they can impoverish themselves so that they beg for a savior to help them out of their mess. Something like this happened in Albania where bunches of people freely chose to enter into pyramid schemes and thus impoverished themselves. Albania is certainly not on the road to becoming a free market capitalist nation, if it ever was.

7. Conservatives wish to add something to the minimal state, not to perform any kind of leveling or human engineering as the liberals want, but to create a stable and free state in a real world. Nozick's primary arguments against additions to a minimal state are against liberal notions of equality and social leveling. He doesn't really address the things that conservatives ask for above and beyond the libertarian ideal. Conservatives want people to grow up to be by and large independent individuals capable of rational thought. This might entail limiting access to drugs, prostitution, gambling, etc. It might entail some sort of support for traditional careers such as farming, ranching, etc.

Yes, it is possible that any minimal limitation of rights or minimal support of certain "protected" lifestyles will eventually result in the creation of a welfare state. However, it is also possible (and this is another point that Fleming makes) that eliminating all restrictions and supports too quickly might result in people irrationally choosing to put themselves into a welfare state. This Fleming argues is exactly what happened in the late 1800's.

If everyone drove their cars with perfect skill, then there would be no need for seatbelts or bumpers. The money saved could be reallocated in the marketplace for more productive endeavors. However, people don't drive perfectly, and even if the government didn't require them, most people would want their cars to come with seatbelts and bumpers. Conservatives by and large (I exclude the rabid fundamentalist theocrats) want to add some bumpers and seatbelts to the minimal libertarian state so that it will chug along in its imperfect state a lot longer than the pristine libertarian seatbelt and bumper-free Porsche when it merges into real traffic on the highway of life.

P.S.: I hope this is sufficiently screed-free for you all! ;-)

56 posted on 02/18/2002 10:36:17 AM PST by who_would_fardels_bear
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Comment #57 Removed by Moderator

To: A.J.Armitage; who_would_fardels_bear; Okiegolddust
I don't believe in any kind of social contract.

Of course you do. If you believe in government with consent of the governed then that is a social contract that you believe in. Then, as Who_would_fardels_bear correctly observes in #56,

If huge sections of the citizenry behave irresponsibly, then they can either choose to vote themselves into a socialist state or they can impoverish themselves so that they beg for a savior to help them out of their mess.

In other words, while freedom is necessary condition of virtue, it is not a sufficient condition. A free nation that loses its virtue will freely enslave itself.

58 posted on 02/28/2002 7:28:03 AM PST by annalex
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To: Architect
Nice response. Thanks!
59 posted on 02/28/2002 7:32:50 AM PST by gjenkins
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To: annalex
If you believe in government with consent of the governed then that is a social contract that you believe in.

Define "government with the consent of the people".

60 posted on 02/28/2002 4:58:20 PM PST by A.J.Armitage
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To: A.J.Armitage
Governed.
61 posted on 02/28/2002 5:02:40 PM PST by A.J.Armitage
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To: A.J.Armitage
It shouldn't matter how precisely "government with consent of the governed" is defined, because if the phrase has any meaning at all, it describes a contractual relationship between those who govern and those who do the governing.

One popular notion of "government with consent of the governed" is a republican form of government similar to the one defined in the US Constitution. That is not the only form; the feudal suzerain to vassal relationship is also government with consent of the governed.

My point is that under the nominally republican political system as it currently is, it is virtually impossible to delineate what is and what isn't consented to in our overweening government. Since the country isn't in revolt while both major parties openly work for larger government, we have to conclude that the larger government is consented to. Thus the minarchist belief, that a single government with consent of the governed always delivers a minimal government, does not obtain in modern America (nor in Europe). The proponents of freedom should then abandon this notion, as I did, and either hold up the truly consentual system of anarchism, where protection of rights is contracted to private security firms, or the moralist government that instills virtue more or less by force.

62 posted on 03/02/2002 6:14:00 AM PST by annalex
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To: annalex
It shouldn't matter how precisely "government with consent of the governed" is defined, because if the phrase has any meaning at all, it describes a contractual relationship between those who govern and those who do the governing.

A contractual relationship is what I don't believe in. I was trying to get at something, but you didn't head in the right direction, but I think I can recover it. You mentioned later that not overthrowing the government is seen as tacit consent. It's not, but there's no reason to bring in the idea of consent in the first place. If the government protects life, liberty, and property, it's a good government, and if not, it should be reformed or, failing that, overthrown; this is not because it does or doesn't have consent, but because either leaving it as it is or altering or abolishing it is the right thing to do.

Thus the minarchist belief, that a single government with consent of the governed always delivers a minimal government, does not obtain in modern America (nor in Europe).

That's not the minarchist belief. I don't believe it, and neither did John Locke, the founder of contractualist minarchism. If you have consent, and nothing more, there's nothing that can't be consented to. Locke's whole point was to limit consent. In his view, men in the state of nature have the right to punish others who are guilty of crimes, hence, that can be consented away, giving rise to the judicial authority of the state. They do not, however, have the right to kill themselves, hence the right to life cannot be consented away. It is inalienable.

63 posted on 03/02/2002 1:06:41 PM PST by A.J.Armitage
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To: A.J.Armitage
Locke's whole point was to limit consent.

I defer to your understanding of Locke; you've drawn a very clear distinction between government by consent and government that protects unalienable rights regardless of consent. I wish you were around when I tried to discuss social contract on my Lysander Spooner threads.

As to the consept itself, I believe it to be self-contradictory unless unaleanable rights are understood, as I understand them, as something that can be consented away. Your description already produced a government that would consider suicide illegitimate, -- hardly a government rooted in liberty. More relevant to the issue of good government is the unalienability of property rights. In that arena, trade by its very essence is about consenting rights away: I abandon my rights to a dollar, you abandon your rights to a hamburger. Thus if property rights can be consented away, then we have a foundation for a state that taxes you at 50% (or 99%) of your worth. If property rights cannot be consented away, we don't have property.

I believe that the proper philosophy of rights is to distinguish between rights that are granted by authority (e.g. a right of way across property or a right to vote) and rights that do not require authority (e.g right of self-defense, non-disruptive speech or property). The latter are natural or unalienable rights; but either can be contracted, i.e. consented, away. The government derives its legitimacy from the consent of the constituents to the future laws that the present lawmaking process will produce.

64 posted on 03/04/2002 2:38:45 PM PST by annalex
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To: annalex
As to the consept itself, I believe it to be self-contradictory unless unaleanable rights are understood, as I understand them, as something that can be consented away.

If you'll forgive my saying so, you've got it exactly wrong. An inalienable right is one that can't be consented away; that's the definition of "inalianable". Your understanding is the self-contradictory, you're saying that something can only be inalienable if it can be alienated. You may disagree that there are inalienable rights, but you can't take them to be alienable.

Your description already produced a government that would consider suicide illegitimate, -- hardly a government rooted in liberty.

It's not clear what Locke would've thought. His argument against suicide was the same as his argument against murder, that both you and others belong to God, and as such should live on the Earth as long as He pleases, with just punishment for crime the only reason a person could rightly kill someone. He cited the commandment to Noah after the flood, "Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed," to show that his one reason for killing someone was authorized by God, and therefore didn't contradict his argument from God's ownership. What I don't know is whether or not Locke regarded suicide as a crime in the Earthly sense.

65 posted on 03/04/2002 5:06:27 PM PST by A.J.Armitage
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To: A.J.Armitage
An inalienable right is one that can't be consented away; that's the definition of "inalianable"

Of course, my understanding doesn't contradict the dictionary meaning, since under my definition no one other than the right holder can contract it away. The essence of freedom is though that whatever is mine as a right I can do as I please with, includeing foreswear it. Would you comment on property rights and their unalienability?

66 posted on 03/04/2002 6:15:37 PM PST by annalex
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To: annalex
The essence of freedom is though that whatever is mine as a right I can do as I please with, includeing foreswear it.

Which is why Locke didn't build on freedom but on the absence of freedom, leading, ironically, to political freedom. He said you lack the right to do with your life as you please, and therefore that you cannot grant that right, which you don't have, to the government.

Would you comment on property rights and their unalienability?

Rights to a particular piece of property are alienable, but not the right to property itself, since it's inherent in humanity and is, as Locke put it, a kind of fence protecting life itself.

67 posted on 03/04/2002 7:48:51 PM PST by A.J.Armitage
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To: A.J.Armitage
You acknowledge then the existence of a class of rights that are natural rights (don't proceed from an authority), that can be relinquished solely by their owner. Such are rights to specific property or various contractual rights and duties, such as the right to demand performance form a hired worker or fidelity from a husband. You refuse to call them unalienable because the owner can relinquish them; you would probably find a general right to enter such contracts behind each specific right, and you would probably agree that that general right is unalienable. That is fine by me, although I question the cognitive utility of "unalienable" thus understood (we can't even figure out if one has a right to suicide). Let's just call all these rights, self-alienable or not, that do not stem from authority, natural rights.

Let us now return to the issue of consent to government. You mentioned that the government has a just power to punish criminals because an individual has a right to punish criminals. I take it that you would agree to a broader statement:

The government has a just power to do on behalf of the individual whatever the individual has a right to do.
How would you qualify the "right" in the above? Would you say that it has to be a natural right, but not necessarily an unalienable (in your narrow sense) right? I would think that you would; otherwise you need to explain to me why the ability to rescind the right has such a determinative logical connection to the just powers of government.

And now the critical question. When the government contemplates an action that would be rightful for an individual in the above sense, who is to decide whether or not to take that action, the individual or the government?

If you answer, "the individual", then you have described government by consent. That would be the ideal government that I recognize: the government would be allowed to act on its own in criminal law enforcement; would be asked to wait for a lawsuit in civil law enforcement; would be asked to do no enforcement of marital fidelity or rights to educate children, leaving that to the individual.

If you answer "the government" then you describe a system where the government picks and chooses which rights to enforce. It may for example, enforce rights of only particular class of individuals, stomp out adultery with vice squads, or allow crime to go unpunished for lack of resources.

It is amuzing that presently our government bears characteristics of both systems.

68 posted on 03/05/2002 8:37:47 AM PST by annalex
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To: annalex
Why would I have to say on behalf on individuals? Aren't the people in government themselves individuals?

How would you qualify the "right" in the above? Would you say that it has to be a natural right, but not necessarily an unalienable (in your narrow sense) right? I would think that you would; otherwise you need to explain to me why the ability to rescind the right has such a determinative logical connection to the just powers of government.

I don't view it as a right. Like overthrowing a tyrannical government, punishing crimes is not so much a right that exists as an option as it is the right thing to do, a moral duty (in fact, overthrowing a tyranny is a subset of the larger duty). And I don't think it's alienated at all. Who would carry out a necessary revolution, if not ordinary citizens?

I think my way avoids your choice altogether. The government ought to punish crimes as best it can, and so should citizens. That may mean turning suspects over to the police, but then again, it may not. Neither are free to determine for themselves what constitutes a crime. Any violation of life, liberty, and property is a crime, including punishments inflicted for a fake "crime".

69 posted on 03/05/2002 10:19:58 AM PST by A.J.Armitage
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To: A.J.Armitage
I think my way avoids your choice altogether. The government ought to punish crimes as best it can, and so should citizens.

That is the second alternative: "the government picks and chooses which rights to enforce", - in other words, which rights violations should be treated criminally.

Why would I have to say on behalf on individuals?

You describe a system where the government just is, handed down from history, and acting not on citizens' behalf but because it chooses to, like a dragon in a castle. You then draw a distinction between good government and bad government, and you say that bad governments ought to be overturned. I assume they ought to be replaced with good, or better, governments. Two questions arise:

1. Is there an objective way to tell good government from bad government or is it something the citizenry determines implicitly as it goes through elections and revolutions?

2. How is the process of elections and revolutions, that reconstitutes the government, different from establishing a government with consent of the governed?

70 posted on 03/06/2002 6:41:52 AM PST by annalex
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To: annalex
That is the second alternative: "the government picks and chooses which rights to enforce", - in other words, which rights violations should be treated criminally.

No it's not. All rights violations should be treated criminally. The government doesn't get to pick and choose, and neither does the majority or a king or some particular social class.

You describe a system where the government just is, handed down from history, and acting not on citizens' behalf but because it chooses to, like a dragon in a castle. You then draw a distinction between good government and bad government, and you say that bad governments ought to be overturned. I assume they ought to be replaced with good, or better, governments.

That's essentially right, but the government shouldn't act simply because it chooses to, but because it ought to. It's that fact, that they should act on right and not on mere will, that creates the distinction between better and worse governments.

1. Is there an objective way to tell good government from bad government or is it something the citizenry determines implicitly as it goes through elections and revolutions?

The objective way to determine whether it's a good government or not is whether it protect life, liberty, and property. The real difficulty is figuring out whether a bad government should be reformed or overthrown. It don't think a simple rule for that is possible.

2. How is the process of elections and revolutions, that reconstitutes the government, different from establishing a government with consent of the governed?

I suppose you could say the difference is theoretical, but the theories people act on do make a difference. If the important thing is getting the government the people want, they can replace a good government with a bad one. I don't believe that's legitimate. Instead, I believe that replacing a bad government with a good one should be seen as moving things as they are into alignment with things as they should be, not as moving things into alignment with someone's arbitrary will.

71 posted on 03/06/2002 11:54:25 AM PST by A.J.Armitage
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To: A.J.Armitage
He confused the subjective theory of value with relativism to his own advantage. The two are not the same

Show me.

72 posted on 03/06/2002 12:51:54 PM PST by Pistias
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To: Architect
People want what they want and they make choices based on their wants...I find it almost impossible to see how someone could argue with Mises’ characterization. It is a self-evident truth, an axiom of the behaviour of the reasoning man.

Does what I want=what I should do?

73 posted on 03/06/2002 12:55:16 PM PST by Pistias
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To: A.J.Armitage
I don't believe in any kind of social contract.

That's a bold statement, A.J. What's the difference between minarchy and anarchy?

74 posted on 03/06/2002 12:57:00 PM PST by Pistias
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To: Pistias
“Freedom to do what?” we ask. “Freedom to choose,” answers Professor Friedman. “Choose what?” we persist, like rude children. “Whatever you like,” they answer (provided you do not harm anyone, though—as we see in Professor Block’s case—they have a rather narrow construction of harm that can exclude the death of innocent people.) It comes down to a question of value, which (at least for adherents of the Austrian school) is entirely subjective.

Right here he's shown the confusion. He's talking about moral values, but then starts talking about the Austrian school, which means ecomonomic subjective valuation. And in the next paragraph he says:

This theory of subjective valuation is, perhaps, the linchpin of the Austrian/libertarian approach, though not all liberals (particularly left-liberals such as John Rawls) have achieved the terrible simplicity of Ludwig von Mises, whose entire “science” of economics and praxeology is based on it. “Ultimate ends are ultimately given,” says Mises, “they are purely subjective.” Now, Mises might simply be uttering a fatuous tautology of the type, “I want what I want what I want . . . ,” but since he is at pains to defend his position as a breakthrough in the history of thought, we have to assume that he thinks he is saying something important, not just about economics but about human nature.

This makes it clear that he was talking about the economic theory in the first paragraph, and thus that he think the subjective theory of value is the same thing as moral relativism, or at least implies it. If Fleming is right, that poses a very serious problem for those of us who aren't moral relativists: the subjective theory of value is true. If the two are the same, we lose. You can't go arguing that moral relativism is wrong and that therefore the subjective theory of value just has to be wrong. That's like arguing from a moral position to the world being flat. It doesn't work like that.

Fortunately for us, they aren't the same.

75 posted on 03/06/2002 1:31:43 PM PST by A.J.Armitage
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To: Pistias
That's a bold statement, A.J. What's the difference between minarchy and anarchy?

You seem to be assuming that no social contract means no government. I don't agree with that. See #s 63, 69, and 71.

In fact, it seems to me that basing your government on any meaningful form of consent leads in a straight line to anarchy. I haven't seen an adequate reply to the anarcho-capitalist critique of tacit consent. Even if you go live in the woods, civil society will come after you for endangering a species. Locke's majoritarianism presupposes everyone agrees to be in civil society in the first place. If I don't agree, why should I be concluded by the majority of that civil society I never joined any more than I would be concluded by the majority of Frenchmen? If membership in civil society really does depend on consent in any meaningful way (not, that is, once in always in, and being born is considered tacit consent to enter), then any one person or group of persons can unconsent at any time, and what that leads to is Rothbardian secession: states have the right to secede, and if states have that right, so do counties, and cities, and neighborhoods, and blocks, and individual residents.

76 posted on 03/06/2002 1:50:19 PM PST by A.J.Armitage
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To: A.J.Armitage
F*****g A, A.J., it was a short question! :)

But seriously, this requires too much brainpower to answer now...will have to wait until after midterms for attention, or neuro grade will suffer dramatically.

77 posted on 03/06/2002 11:00:51 PM PST by Pistias
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To: A.J.Armitage
All rights violations should be treated criminally. The government doesn't get to pick and choose

I doubt that you really mean it. Should an unfinished repairs job be treated criminally? Should adultery be treated criminally?

moving things as they are into alignment with things as they should be

What is the objective criterion of what is and what isn't proper government? You say it's government limited to protection of life and property but that is open to interpretation. Who does the interpreting?

My impression is that you pick a rather arbitrary point on the scale and then you want to enforce that rigidly, in order to avoid any expression of popular will. Even assuming an objective interpretation of "life and property" exists, the point is arbbitrary. On one end, why should the government do even that? Most people can protect their own life and property just fine without any government; those who can't can hire a professional. On the other end, why can't citizens set up other government functions if they want to? For example, imagine that Social Security and public education were set up based on voluntary participation. I think that would be OK (even if the participants ended up with less value for their dollar due to the government's inherent inefficiency). But you would prevent the citizens from setting such wholly voluntary system up simply because that ought not be.

78 posted on 03/07/2002 8:56:00 AM PST by annalex
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To: annalex
I doubt that you really mean it. Should an unfinished repairs job be treated criminally? Should adultery be treated criminally?

By "criminally", I don't mean jail, I mean that it should be dealt with by some sort of punishment. If a repairman violates a contract, he ought to have to pay restitution to the person he ripped off.

In the case of adultery, there shouldn't be any such thing as no fault divorce. The wronged party should be able to sue for divorce. I also don't think there should be state issued marriage licences, which I suppose complicates suits for divorce, but not too much. Things like having had a religious marriage ceremony, being generally reputed to be husband and wife, living together, ect, could be taken into consideration. This isn't something altogether outside common law experience.

What is the objective criterion of what is and what isn't proper government? You say it's government limited to protection of life and property but that is open to interpretation. Who does the interpreting?

No more than anything's open to interpretation. Who does the interpretation of when a government has the consent of the people? In practice, almost always the government itself. In extreme situations, the people themselves rise up to contradict the government's interpretation. I suppose it won't be any difference, except for this: instead of interpreting someone's (or, worse, their own) arbitrary will, they'll be trying to determine what is right by standards that exist outside of themselves, apart from anyone's tastes and interests. Will their tastes and interests distort their view? Well, these are humans, so the answer is yes. But at least they'll be aiming at something higher than those same tastes and interests.

My impression is that you pick a rather arbitrary point on the scale and then you want to enforce that rigidly, in order to avoid any expression of popular will. Even assuming an objective interpretation of "life and property" exists, the point is arbbitrary.

I don't think it's arbitrary at all. It seems almost self-evident that everyone ought to do his part to protect life, liberty, and property.

On one end, why should the government do even that? Most people can protect their own life and property just fine without any government; those who can't can hire a professional.

I don't think that would work, or at least, not here.

On the other end, why can't citizens set up other government functions if they want to? For example, imagine that Social Security and public education were set up based on voluntary participation. I think that would be OK (even if the participants ended up with less value for their dollar due to the government's inherent inefficiency). But you would prevent the citizens from setting such wholly voluntary system up simply because that ought not be.

I wouldn't have a problem with that kind of thing, as long as it really is voluntary.

79 posted on 03/07/2002 12:13:33 PM PST by A.J.Armitage
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To: A.J.Armitage
I wouldn't have a problem with that kind of thing, as long as it really is voluntary.

How about this. Some citizens unanimously decide to withdraw from the rights-protection apparatus of the state. Let's assume that it can be done equitably, without freeloading on services rendered to others. For example, they all live on an island and decline paying taxes to support law enforcement on the mainland. Do you see a problem with that?

80 posted on 03/07/2002 2:03:16 PM PST by annalex
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To: annalex
How about this. Some citizens unanimously decide to withdraw from the rights-protection apparatus of the state. Let's assume that it can be done equitably, without freeloading on services rendered to others. For example, they all live on an island and decline paying taxes to support law enforcement on the mainland. Do you see a problem with that?

That depends on why they're doing it. If they do it so they can have a better government than the one they're leaving, more power to 'em. If they're doing it in order to get away with violating someone's rights, I do have a problem with it.

81 posted on 03/07/2002 2:14:31 PM PST by A.J.Armitage
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To: A.J.Armitage
So, you agreed to the following:

1. Government should enforce all rights but it should acknowledge different categories of rights violations and treat them differently (#79, your first two paragraphs). I assume that laws would need to be passed by elective legislative bodies to draw such distinctions with adequate precision.

2. When less than the established amount of government is desired by a segment of the population, that segment may wind down the government that applies to them, provided no rights are violated (#81).

3. When a segment of the population desires to charge the government with more than its established function, that segment may institute those additional government powers, provided no rights are violated (#79, last paragraph).

It seems to me that you agreed to every element of a government established by consent of the governed.

82 posted on 03/08/2002 7:01:19 AM PST by annalex
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To: annalex
It seems to me that you agreed to every element of a government established by consent of the governed.

Well, no, I haven't. I do support the republican form of government, but my position wouldn't change in any fundamental way if I were a monarchist. You see, if the people consent to protect rights, I'm all for that, but if they consent to violate rights, they have no authority to do that.

83 posted on 03/08/2002 12:49:14 PM PST by A.J.Armitage
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To: A.J.Armitage
But that -- contractual government within the framework of individual rights -- is all I mean by consent of the governed. It is impossible to consent to a violation of rights.
84 posted on 03/08/2002 5:11:50 PM PST by annalex
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To: annalex
I'm not against the governed consenting, I just don't think it's necessary for a government to be just. Let me ask you a question now: what constitutes consent?
85 posted on 03/09/2002 5:34:33 PM PST by A.J.Armitage
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To: A.J.Armitage
Sorry for not responding sooner -- I'm sick with a flu.

This could fill volumes, but this is my basic thinking: man can be free only if he obeys laws voluntarily. If a law exists that is not consented to, then that law is tyrannical in principle, no matter how good the outcome of that law is in peoples' lives. So, what is consent?

We should distinguish between consent and preference. For example, if a question be posed to me, would I like a brothel to open next door (stuff of many referenda) then what I am stating with my response is not consent but preference. The word "consent" in social theory must mean consent to a process that yields laws, otherwise it is meaningless. So, the brothel question does not really ask for consent and cannot be used to make law.

If, however, I am asked: would you agree to laws that seven selectmen would decide upon from time to time in the future, given a specific rule of selectmen's succession, then I am asked for consent to law. I then remain a free man even if the brothel that I don't want, but which the selectmen approved, is built.

This system of thought describes a constitutional republic or a medieval vassalitude (excepting serfdom, of course). You would agree though that the consent to the US Constitution is a nebulous thing, which is its defect. I would view a constitutional amendment that fairly and with precision delineates the rule of renouncing of citizenship, and the status of non-citizen denizens, before I would say that ours is truly a constitutional republic in the above narrow sense.

In absence of the rule of citizenship we are left with a pragmatic test: do you rebel and run to the hills? Some do, most don't. By that test, America consents to its laws. Presently, consent is fuzzy, because our freedom is unevenly imperiled. For example, many don't consent to tax laws and would cheat in any way they can get away with. This is how a free man would react to the reality when the tax laws, supposedly, based on the constitution, bear no resemblace to its core principles. If the deterioration of constitutionality in our politics continues much longer, we shall witness gradual withdrawal of consent in multiple areas of social life. That will take the form of declining patriotism, various forms of cheating, underground economy, offshore banking and so forth.

86 posted on 03/13/2002 2:26:19 PM PST by annalex
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