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  #41  
Old 05-13-2010, 03:54 PM
Unit Unit is offline
 
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Default Re: What are the philosophical merits of libertarianism? (jimM47 & hamandcheese)

Quote:
Originally Posted by hamandcheese View Post
If you want to say the 5 cent difference is on a spectrum of coercion, I'm fine with that, I just don't think its warranted much moral concern, in the same way I wouldn't consider a 5% sales tax to be very morally egregious either, especially if its used to provide useful services. This is the point I'm making.

So yes, you could consider it coercion (it's ultimately up to which semantics you choose) but I don't consider it to be immorally so. Why? Because the consequences are not having an apple, as opposed to death or alienation. And the cost of avoiding the consequences are, as you point out, extremely low.

The gist of it is to question the notion that there is the state, and then there is freedom; and to posit that non-governmental forces, including peers, can be just as detrimental to our liberty as g-men. The exact formulation of how and why this is so is of secondary importance to me.
There is a difference though between private plunder and govt plunder, which I think makes govt plunder "morally" worse. If tomorrow I'm mugged at the street corner I can try to fight back, and my act of self-defense will be recognized as legitimate by the larger society. But no one can fight back govt plunder. You might point to voting, but that's such a weak remedy from an individual point of view that it becomes almost irrelevant.

This is the point I wanted to make with supply and demand: you can call it coercion, but I don't, I call it coordination. Other cars on the road make me drive in ways that I don't like (say, make me put my foot on the breaks) but that's not coercion, it's coordination. Again, if my neighbors kidnaps me and makes me his slave, society's norms deem this unacceptable and will back me up if I try to fight back, or people will try and come to my rescue.
Likewise, there's a range of govt actions that have consequences on individuals, more or less serious. Take for instance eminent domain where private property is transferred to other private individuals on the account that they might generate higher tax-revenues. That to me is not 'coordination', in fact it's the opposite, because it crowds out the private arrangements that would have emerged if the govt hadn't stepped in.
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  #42  
Old 05-13-2010, 05:21 PM
hamandcheese hamandcheese is offline
 
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Default Re: What are the philosophical merits of libertarianism? (jimM47 & hamandcheese)

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Originally Posted by Unit View Post
There is a difference though between private plunder and govt plunder, which I think makes govt plunder "morally" worse. If tomorrow I'm mugged at the street corner I can try to fight back, and my act of self-defense will be recognized as legitimate by the larger society. But no one can fight back govt plunder. ...
Your mugger analogy is seriously flawed. Trying defending yourself against mobsters and oligopolies, or price gauging of inelastic services, or "pre-existing conditions", or debt collectors and drug lords. Its not quite as easy.

Quote:
You might point to voting, but that's such a weak remedy from an individual point of view that it becomes almost irrelevant.
The history of the unionist movements around the world are, in the eyes of the members, attempts to resist the muggers. And they do so by giving workers a vote on the nature of their employment. So, ironically, you apparently think the remedy against some types of private coercion is almost irrelevant too.

Quote:
Again, if my neighbors kidnaps me and makes me his slave, society's norms deem this unacceptable and will back me up if I try to fight back, or people will try and come to my rescue.
This might be true. Libertarians will further argue that in a market private power is limited through competition. Some Austrian economists even deny private natural monopolies as being possible. They too must think private power is a bad thing for them to spill so much ink trying to refute it as being even possible in their personal utopias.

Yet I agree with the libertarian that a well oiled market, and the work of individuals in society, is extremely capable at suppressing the imposition of power of one over another. I only argue that it is not flawless.

Quote:
This is the point I wanted to make with supply and demand: you can call it coercion, but I don't, I call it coordination.
I agree with you that markets are more like a system of co-ordination than coercion -- when they're working. Its only ever been in areas of market failure (monopoly power, costs not being fully accounted for, information asymmetries, discrimination and inequality, surpluses and shortages, races to the bottom, boom and busts, property and contract violation) -- areas where supply/demand gets thrown out the window, that I bring up the notion that the market can be violently coercive, and the state a freedom enhancer.
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  #43  
Old 05-14-2010, 01:33 AM
Unit Unit is offline
 
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Default Re: What are the philosophical merits of libertarianism? (jimM47 & hamandcheese)

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Originally Posted by hamandcheese View Post
Your mugger analogy is seriously flawed. Trying defending yourself against mobsters and oligopolies, or price gauging of inelastic services, or "pre-existing conditions", or debt collectors and drug lords. Its not quite as easy.
I didn't deny the existence of private plunder. So you bringing up examples of it is curious. I'm sure you can think of govt monopolies that are just as hard to defend against. My point stands: you have more options if the mugger is a private entity, than if it's the govt with the law on its side.


Quote:
The history of the unionist movements around the world are, in the eyes of the members, attempts to resist the muggers. And they do so by giving workers a vote on the nature of their employment. So, ironically, you apparently think the remedy against some types of private coercion is almost irrelevant too.
Again, this is a strange example. I'm sure you've heard of violence that unions themselves perpetrate on workers that try to break a strike, haven't you? Unions are cartels of workers that try fend-off competition from would-be workers. They work best when they represent a small work-force with a lot of bargaining power. Unfortunately govt regulation usually is geared to allowing unions to "coerce" workers in various ways (to join, to strike etc...). By the way, since you cited the history of unionism, it has several unsavory chapters. Here is one, from an article on Aparthaid in South Africa:

Whites formed labor unions in the early 1900s to guard against this persistent tendency, and the South African Labour Party (SALP) was formed in 1908 to explicitly advance the interests of European workers. The SALP and the unions with which it allied, including the powerful Mine Workers’ Union, were all white and avowedly socialist; the British Labour Party formed the model for the SALP. These organizations opposed any degradation of “European” or “civilized” standards in the workplace, by which they meant the advancement of blacks willing to undercut white union pay scales.


Quote:
This might be true. Libertarians will further argue that in a market private power is limited through competition. Some Austrian economists even deny private natural monopolies as being possible. They too must think private power is a bad thing for them to spill so much ink trying to refute it as being even possible in their personal utopias.

Yet I agree with the libertarian that a well oiled market, and the work of individuals in society, is extremely capable at suppressing the imposition of power of one over another. I only argue that it is not flawless.
I agree with the Austrian economists that private monopolies are hard to define. But the more important point is not to deny that bad stuff happens, it's to point out that more often than people care to believe, bad stuff is "regulated" to happen, through govt meddling that grants privileges, and yes, monopolies, to certain outfits and not to others. The argument is not that, say, slavery never happened but it's to say that govt regulation made it all the more cruel and entrenched.

Quote:
I agree with you that markets are more like a system of co-ordination than coercion -- when they're working. Its only ever been in areas of market failure (monopoly power, costs not being fully accounted for, information asymmetries, discrimination and inequality, surpluses and shortages, races to the bottom, boom and busts, property and contract violation) -- areas where supply/demand gets thrown out the window, that I bring up the notion that the market can be violently coercive, and the state a freedom enhancer.
I don't deny that markets fail, I just don't believe that govt is the solution. And in fact, in most examples, you can always find the govt in the causes as well. Markets do fail, but the solution is not to be found in govt (I don't claim to be speaking for libertarians.)
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  #44  
Old 05-15-2010, 06:38 PM
wreaver wreaver is offline
 
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Default Re: What are the philosophical merits of libertarianism? (jimM47 & hamandcheese)

Seems there's been a number of people replying since I last took a look.

jimM47: Before replying to you, I will point something out, with the intent to avoid confusion (and to make the conversation more productive). (I've noticed that often when people have discussions, they are actually not arguing the same thing, but do not realize it. So let me say the following, to try to lower the probably of that situation happening here.)

Based on your reply, what you have described as libertarianism is different from my (personal) "flavor" of libertarianism and different from what I'm most familiar with what others I know (on a face-to-face basis) that describe as libertarianism. Which isn't to say I'm "right" and you are "wrong". And is not to say that the "flavor" of libertarianism I'm most familiar with is representative. (And isn't to even say that I'm not familiar with what you have described as libertarianism.) But only to point out that there are differences among people who self-identify as libertarian.

Years ago, there was a time, when I spent what seemed like more time than before, trying to resolve what I perceived to be logical inconsistencies in my moral framework. Long story short, eventually I came to something which I think would be best described as libertarianism. (I actually didn't "accept" the label of "libertarian" for quite a while, for various reasons, but that's probably too long a story to go into right now.)

Note, I'm not claiming I got to this point in a vacuum. And not claiming that I know that I have no contradictions left. But only pointing out that logical consistency is important to me; that not having contradictions in my moral framework is important to me. And that this motivation what got me to accept a moral framework that I think would be best described as (a "flavor" of) libertarianism.

For me, I reject the notion of moral authority of a state, because based on the moral axioms I accept, it is not logically consistent to accept it. To me, (many of) the people who make up the state are the moral equivalent of a thieves, murderers, extortionists, and kidnappers (depending on what actions they are performing, for their stately actives). Which doesn't mean that I think no one benefits from the state. Nor do I think that the state is arbitrary. But, to me, those things are irrelevant insofar as the moral axioms I accept are concerned.

So, perhaps if you keep those things in mind, it will make my responses clearer.

ALSO NOTE THAT THERE SEEMS TO BE A 10,000 CHARACTER LIMIT FOR REPLIES, SO I WILL HAVE TO BREAK UP MY REPLY BETWEEN MULTIPLE POSTS. THE NEXT PART IS A REPLY TO THIS POST.
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  #45  
Old 05-15-2010, 07:25 PM
wreaver wreaver is offline
 
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Default Re: What are the philosophical merits of libertarianism? (jimM47 & hamandcheese)

CONTINUED FORM THE PREVIOUS POST BECAUSE OF THE 10,000 CHARACTER LIMIT PER POST.

NOTE THAT I ONLY RESPOND TO NOTIONS OF LIBERTARIANISM IN THIS POST. AND REPLY TO THE PARTS ABOUT SAM'S ARGUMENT IN A FOLLOWING POST.

jimM47: Note that I'm largely replying from the point of view of my "flavor" of libertarianism. And not (in general) trying to do a broad coverage of what people who self-identify as libertarian think.

Quote:
Originally Posted by jimM47 View Post
That distinction — between coercion that is or is not backed by the threat of physical force — is actually more difficult to flesh out than it appears to be at first blush, and it makes the pursuit more pragmatic than some care to admit.

First, most coercion is physical coercion only in an attenuated sense. If I get a speeding ticket, the physical coercion forcing me to pay it exists only at the end of a long causal chain. I have to refuse to contest the ticket, refuse to pay it, refuse to pay it again, get arrested, and resist arrest or incarceration before I am gonna get anyone punching me in the face. When we count that as being physical coercion we need to remember to follow the same chain for everything.
I can't speak for others, but I would never call this physical coercion. But would instead call this the threat of physical coercion. (I.e., it's the punch in the face that's the physical coercion. The parts before it are the threat of physical coercion.)

For me, this is an important distinction.


Quote:
Originally Posted by jimM47 View Post
When we do, we run into two problematic cases: economic coercion and social coercion.

At base a lot of economic coercion can be reduced to saying, 'you can't come on my land, use my things, or eat my food unless you have my permission, and if you do, I'll get the state to come in and punch you in the face.'
I think many people who self-identify as libertarian would protest the notion that they would ask a state for anything. (Since many people who self-identify as libertarian reject any moral notation of a state.) It is a matter of perspective, in the moral sense. But is an important one.

But you could have replaced "the state" with "the owner", "someone the owner hired", etc. So it's probably not an important point, in terms of your overall argument.



Quote:
Originally Posted by jimM47 View Post
In order to distinguish this from physical coercion we need a concept of property that will define the initial transgression as the coercive act. Naturally, we will have some concept of property, and its broad outlines are easy to define, but it turns out that the classification of individual cases of economic coercion can turn on the precise details of our property definition. Some libertarians simply stipulate this and move on. Other libertarians make consequentialist arguments for how we should define property rights. (In both these cases you move from coercion being what you are really talking about though).
I've actually had a number of debates about the concept of property and libertarianism. (And initially didn't "accept" the label of libertarian because this point.)

Consequentialist arguments are not going to appeal to those looking for a logically consistent moral framework (such as myself). I've found that for those who seek logical consistency, concepts of property need either come in the form of an additional axiom (or axioms) or a system built on top of the existing axiom(s).

Quote:
Originally Posted by jimM47 View Post
Still other libertarians try to keep a rigid focus on coercion by asserting that some definition of property rights is natural and inherently true.
This is a libertarian argument I've come across most frequently, and not one I accept (given my interpretation of what "natural" means in this context).

But, speaking for myself, in "finding" libertarianism, I was not trying to seek something "natural", but instead trying to find something logically consistent. (Although my endogenous nature may have affected various choices.)


Quote:
Originally Posted by jimM47 View Post
i.e. that state isn't engaging in coercion by defining and enforcing property rights because the definition of those rights is independent and pre-existant of the state.
Again, replace "the state" with "the owner", "someone the owner hired", etc.

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Originally Posted by jimM47 View Post
The problem with this argument is that good property rights are notoriously hard to define. There is a danger in making rights too flexible and allowing people to agree to unconscionable bargains,
Such as?

Quote:
Originally Posted by jimM47 View Post
or allowing people to fragment property between so many hands that it cannot be reassembled toward productive uses. But there is also a danger in making rights to rigid and preventing people from working out deals that would benefit everyone.
If I understand you correctly, you are making a utilitarian argument. Correct?

Quote:
Originally Posted by jimM47 View Post
This difficulty is reflected in actual legal history. Even in the halcyon days when the Natural Law position was the dominant force in American jurisprudence, and radical Positivism was just a shadow lurking over the horizon, property law was considered a matter of positive law, defined by the sovereign. The most famous natural law cases out there tend to involve property rights; they simultaneously assert a natural and inviolable right to acquire, hold and keep property while at the same time asserting that the scope and definition of those rights is a matter of state law.

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Originally Posted by jimM47 View Post
The second case is social coercion, and if you trace it back far enough, much social coercion can be recast as 'do this, or the next time you need help there will be less chance I'll give it.'
From my point of view, I see nothing immoral about this. (Although I may find some instances of this to be distasteful or unfortunate.)

Quote:
Originally Posted by jimM47 View Post
You can certainly draw a principled distinction between acts and omissions, but where does that get you? If I say to you 'conform yourself to my oppressive conception of a woman's role, or the next time someone tries to carry you off and rape you, I won't stop them' I am probably not limiting your freedom less than if I was threatening you with harm myself.
From my point of view, this is not a moral concern.

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Originally Posted by jimM47 View Post
Yes, that's an extreme example, but I think it shows generally how we can conceive of a great deal of social coercion as being more attenuated of a threat, but not different in kind.
Perhaps this betrays my background in mathematics, but I've found that it is easiest to show problems with an argument by looking at extremes. So an argument that looks at the extremes can be quite apt.

But, like I said, from my point of view, I see nothing immoral with inaction. (Even if I find it distasteful or unfortunate.)

Quote:
Originally Posted by jimM47 View Post
You can try to overcome this by distinguishing between 1) omissions where there is no duty to act and 2) overt acts plus omissions where there is a duty to act. But this kicks the can down the road and runs into the same problem as property. It's very hard to define what sort of duties to act we hold toward other people, and which people we owe them to.
From my point of view, from a moral perspective, I would say no one has any duty to act. But that does not mean I do not prefer for people to act, in many of these situation.

Quote:
Originally Posted by jimM47 View Post
Now, as I indicate in the diavlog, I am much more optimistic about social coercion being escapable than state coercion, and I am more optimistic about social coercion trending toward better outcomes than state coercion. But given the rather pernicious social institutions that have at times prevailed in this country in the past — Jim Crow is the most obvious example — I don't think it is misguided to recognize a continuum between social coercion and physical coercion and stand vigilant there.
I don't think I agree, that there is a continuum (assuming I understand you correctly). But this could be dependent on your moral framework. Could you elaborate?

THE REST OF THE REPLY TO FOLLOW.
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  #46  
Old 05-15-2010, 07:34 PM
wreaver wreaver is offline
 
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Default Re: What are the philosophical merits of libertarianism? (jimM47 & hamandcheese)

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Originally Posted by jimM47 View Post
As I think I say in diavlog, "coercion" — as it is used in libertarian discourse — is a term of art. Some privately-emergent economic realities can be more constraining on freedom that some laws backed by a state monopoly on the use of force are. So when we call something coercive, in the libertarian sense, we are talking about the kind of coercion, not the magnitude of it.
Agreed.

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Originally Posted by jimM47 View Post
As I understood his argument, Sam isn't denying that this is the distinction Libertarians make, he is trying to present his argument for why it is not a valid distinction: why one should look to the magnitude of coercion, not it's source.
What does Sam mean by "valid"? Morally valid? (If so, that would depend on your moral framework, would it not?)

Quote:
Originally Posted by jimM47 View Post
I think it is an argument worth hearing over, because in fact many libertarian thinkers do acknowledge and worry about forms of coercion that are of a high magnitude but which do not originate in the state. Oppressive cultural norms are one example of this (though often they come up in the context of government action fostering bad cultural norms).
I'm not the type of libertarian who believe that all the evil in the world comes from governments :-)

And I do think one should consider the magnitude of the physical coercion and even the whether it was intentional or not, when deciding to seek revenge or retaliation or not. (For example, if a 9 year old kicks you in the balls, perhaps you could forgive him, even if his act was immoral.)

And I do agree that I do see some problems with cultural norms.

However, these do not seem to be moral issues to me.

But perhaps I've misunderstood the topic of the diavlog. (And perhaps I should watch it again.)
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  #47  
Old 05-15-2010, 08:03 PM
wreaver wreaver is offline
 
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Default Re: What are the philosophical merits of libertarianism? (jimM47 & hamandcheese)

hamandcheese: I'm replying from my own point of view and moral framework. (And not trying to do an overview of all people who self-identify as libertarian.)

Please interpret my replies below as such.

Quote:
Originally Posted by hamandcheese View Post
I fully endorse and agree with Jim's post, the one that begins with "That distinction".

If you ignore the causal chain then the state is only ever coercive on the margins
Agreed.

Quote:
Originally Posted by hamandcheese View Post
-- on those civil disobedients and criminals who defy the law. The other 99 out of a 100 people pay their taxes and smoke their weed in private, only occasionally feeling as if they're being "forced" to do anything, it's in our human nature to simply go with the flow.

My arguments were addressed specifically to the crowd who think the only legitimate way to organize society is in a way altogether voluntary -- not those libertarians who simply say "well, a smaller government just works better."
I would be of the former type.

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Originally Posted by hamandcheese View Post
And I did so by trying to point out that their constant focus on government interventions ignores the huge anti-libertarian forces of, say, cultural homophobia.

Ireland has blasphemy laws, for example, that any good libertarian should be opposed to.
And I am.

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Originally Posted by hamandcheese View Post
But if one removes those laws to reveal beneath a society that ostracizes and boycotts anyone who heresies than by what measure has one increased the liberty in a society?
Using the terminology of "positive liberty" and "negative liberty". I believe you are talking about "positive liberty", where libertarians would be concerned with "negative liberty". In the situation you have described, "negative liberty" has in fact been increased. Even if there are some (from my point of view) distasteful and unfortunate outcomes.

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Originally Posted by hamandcheese View Post
Perhaps culture is more malleable, as Jim suggests (thats dubious at best. its certainly easier to pass a law freeing the slaves then it is to eradicate racism). But what of the here and now?

Depending on the situation we might need more adamant norms, in the form of laws.
What do you mean by "we need"?


Quote:
Originally Posted by hamandcheese View Post
The first amendment comes to mind. Modest social safety nets are also important, in my opinion, not only to minimize the perversities of an occasionally arbitrary and volatile market place, but also to place economic security in a more solid and egalitarian foundation, not subordinate to the whims of private charity.
So, would it be correct to describe what you are saying here as... I have a "goal", and I want you to have this "goal" too (and reject any "goals" you had before)?

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In short, I want to argue for a more robust understanding of both liberty and coercion.
What do you mean by "robust"?
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  #48  
Old 05-15-2010, 08:05 PM
wreaver wreaver is offline
 
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Default Re: What are the philosophical merits of libertarianism? (jimM47 & hamandcheese)

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Originally Posted by hamandcheese View Post
Actually I would argue that even comparatively repressive regimes are only coercive by a casual chain. That is, their populations self-regulate and self-censor because of fear with very little direct coercion exerted on them.

In this sense even state coercion is, for the majority, a type of social or cultural coercion. Bare in mind that I'm not using this to justify state coercion, but to scold the libertarians who fall for the idea that only direct coercion counts. Pulling in the chain is a must.
(Assuming by "direct coercion" you mean ""physical coercion"....) From my point of view, direct coercion isn't the only form of coercion that matters. But it is the only form of coercion that is a moral issue. (I.e., other forms of coercion are outside the realm of morality. And it is not legitimate to "deal with them" in immoral ways.)
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Old 05-15-2010, 10:23 PM
hamandcheese hamandcheese is offline
 
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Default Re: What are the philosophical merits of libertarianism? (jimM47 & hamandcheese)

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Originally Posted by wreaver View Post
(Assuming by "direct coercion" you mean ""physical coercion"....) From my point of view, direct coercion isn't the only form of coercion that matters. But it is the only form of coercion that is a moral issue. (I.e., other forms of coercion are outside the realm of morality. And it is not legitimate to "deal with them" in immoral ways.)
Exactly. If you believe that only direct coercion is immoral than you have fallen for the trap my and Jim's posts have both warned you about. Based on the above quote, and the one where you reject social coercion as morally relevant, you should be able to be a statist and be morally consistent by your own standards. This is the whole point of my argument. You must yank in the chain of causality for it to make sense, and in doing so to remain consistent, one must start including non-state phenomena too.

Quote:
In the situation you have described, "negative liberty" has in fact been increased.
How? If you already agree that most state 'coercion' is indirect, threat based, or the population simply self-regulates, conforming to the law, than why are anti-blasphemy laws bad, but cultural witch hunts aren't?

Quote:
What do you mean by "we need"?
Jim made a comment that culture is more malleable. I was making the point that while bad laws may be more permanent than bad cultures, the same is true of good laws and cultures, and that sometimes its better when the rules are hard to change.

A few other other quick comments on things you said, wreaver, not directly tied to the diavlog:

Quote:
But only pointing out that logical consistency is important to me
1. The logical consistency of a moral framework does not make the framework valid. An infinite number of ethical systems is possible on the basis of consistency. At best consistency is only a necessary property, not sufficient.

2. I would even question whether perfect logical consistency is even available to, let alone desirable for a system of ethics. Morality is inescapably linked to our innate moral sentiments preinstalled by evolution, and while we needn't submit ourselves to our intuitions, there is little reason to think our most fundamental intuitions have to be logically consistent. Psychology and morality alike have plenty of room for technical contradiction. In attempting to create a morality of pristine logical clarity you will build a morality that is highly artificial, probably too demanding to adhere too, and one that ignores important facets of the human condition.

3. You use the term extortionist to describe some members of the state negatively. How is extortion immoral in your framework? Extortion cannot violate anyones negative rights and it is specifically an indirect form of manipulation, which often utilizes omission and inaction.
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Old 05-15-2010, 10:33 PM
jimM47 jimM47 is offline
 
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Default Re: What are the philosophical merits of libertarianism? (jimM47 & hamandcheese)

There are indeed many flavors of libertarianism. Broadly speaking, though, these variations can be represented by two archetypes, which I think you describe well when you use the words: "axiomatic" and "consequentialist."

No person is a pure version of one of these archetypes, of course, but I would generally describe myself as holding the 'consequentialist' position: what I care about is human welfare, defined in reference to the preferences of each individual. So I am looking for systems of rules, which, when implemented in the real world, are reletively stable and will lead to the greatest amounts of freedom.

What you've said so far could be generally described as an 'axiomatic' position: you care about constructing a rational and self-consistent position. I think it emerges in the conversation between Sam and myself that most of his criticisms are directed more toward an axiomatic position, and that when he issued his initial diavlog challenge, a position like yours is what he was looking to debate. Since you appear to be such a person, perhaps you two should do a follow-up diavlog.

I don't at all mean to demean the contributions of libertarians who disagree with me, but: For my own part, I am highly skeptical in general of the idea that it is within the capability of humans to rationally construct rules of society. (see Hayek's attacks on 'scientism') It isn't of inherent value that a model relies on a very few propositions, expanded logically. For instance, using different starting propositions, one can construct many different systems of algebra or geometry that will be fully self-consistent, but which shed no light on the material world. We use the system we use, not because it is somehow the most axiomatic, but because it is the one that actually describes reality. Similarly, there is no way to look at a set of moral axioms except with reference either to their fit with our moral intuitions, or to the consequences they engender. That being the case, we must look consequences somehow.

Still, all that said, the positions I hold on what is the best public policy are ones that fit within the libertarian label, and the heuristics I use for judging potential policies closely parallel the axioms that would be put forward by someone holding a pure archetypal axiomatic position. Thus, I felt it was still useful for someone like me to be the interlocutor trying to explore the point Sam was trying to make, and make practical critiques of the places it brought him.

(Response to your point-by-point posts to follow.)
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Old 05-16-2010, 12:51 AM
jimM47 jimM47 is offline
 
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Default Re: What are the philosophical merits of libertarianism? (jimM47 & hamandcheese)

(And the point-by-point analysis)

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Originally Posted by wreaver View Post
[I]t's the punch in the face that's the physical coercion. The parts before it are the threat of physical coercion.... For me, this is an important distinction.
I am not sure I take your point as to this distinction. Coercion is by its nature a threat — a threat to make a threat of violence is just a type of threat of violence. Your distinction seems to imply that if a state achieves its ends by threatening force, and it must occasionally make good on that threat, the state is illegitimate; but that if the state threatens force so great or so persuasively that it never has to use that force, the state is legitimate. I make no such distinction.

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Originally Posted by wreaver View Post
I've found that for those who seek logical consistency, concepts of property need either come in the form of an additional axiom (or axioms) or a system built on top of the existing axiom(s).
In my experience it isn't really possible to build a concept of property merely from contractarian axioms. What is required is an additional axiom, which not only supplements the requirement of voluntariness, but actual precedes it in order of importance. Thus rights of property must to defended by means other than that the use of force (without consent) is evil.

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Originally Posted by wreaver View Post
[In comparing the value of alternative conceptions of property], you are making a utilitarian argument. Correct?
'Utilitarian' is a tricky label; I wouldn't use it to describe my arguments. What I am definitely saying is that property is a multidimensional concept and that, depending on the time and place, certain conceptions of property, which vary across certain of those dimensions, will lead to outcomes that are better or worse by nearly any metric — they make everyone's wallets and lives richer, and they do a better job of minimizing random hardship visited by fate — but that there is no objective, a priori, or timeless solution to this problem.

And to be clear, I am not talking about redistribution here. These are things like: how are you allowed to divide rights to property in time? how are you allowed to divide rights to property by its uses? what non-tangible things are property? when is something a promise and when is it a presently-held right to property that will exist in the future? how do you resolve conflict between joint-owners? when does theft become ownership?

A really simple rule would be that you can't divide anything at all — you can only own a tangible thing, you can only own all of a thing, you can only own it alone, and you can only own it at the present time. But this turns out to prevent all sorts of voluntary arrangements that people currently enter into: easements, rents, post-mortem gifts, intellectual property, etc.

Another really simple rule would be that anything goes — you can own anything that can be defined if someone will sell it to you, you own any part, use or aspect of a thing, any number of people can own the same thing at the same time, and you can own something in the future, even something contingent on an event happening in the future. The problem with this is that it is very stultifying. Property get locked into bad uses by the dead hands of those long dead. The costs of voluntary exchange of property goes up and are eventually prohibitive as the number and type of owners rises. The costs of dealing with strangers goes up as we allow more speculative types of property to be traded.

Finding a zone of possible conceptions of property is a matter of balancing transaction costs based on current realities. What worked for feudal England isn't what works for 21st century America. What works in a literate industrialized society is not what works in an illiterate agrarian society.

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Originally Posted by wreaver View Post
From my point of view, this [a hypothetical example of a freedom-limiting social institution] is not a moral concern.
This seems like an odd definition of morality. It seems fundamentally unjust to me that because a person has the misfortune to be born into the wrong status, or because she makes a private choice which harms no one else, that we should see her systematically denied the opportunities and basic security that everyone else receives with no productive reason for such discrimination. It doesn't necessarily follow that either you or the state can or ought to do something in response, but it does seem to be an issue of morality.

To put it another way: the distinction between positive liberty and negative liberty is generally useful when discussing the legitimacy of state action. But the distinction is much less applicable when discussing the morality of an action or the desirability of an outcome.
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  #52  
Old 05-16-2010, 03:17 AM
wreaver wreaver is offline
 
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Default Re: What are the philosophical merits of libertarianism? (jimM47 & hamandcheese)

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Originally Posted by jimM47 View Post
I don't at all mean to demean the contributions of libertarians who disagree with me, but: For my own part, I am highly skeptical in general of the idea that it is within the capability of humans to rationally construct rules of society. (see Hayek's attacks on 'scientism')
I didn't think that's what I was doing. (Assuming that's what you were implying.)

A logically consistent moral framework does not make anyone do or not do anything. It is just a perspective. It is a way of "calculating" whether something is immoral or not immoral.

You could ask... what's the point of having this perspective if I don't expect people to "follow" it?! And I would say, I actually don't expect most people to. Given my current understanding of genetics and psychology, I think most of the time, with most of the population, you are not going to get this kind of behavior. (I suspect libertarianism and logically consistency tends to only appeal to a certain portion on the population.) But that's not the point. The point is that, if I am to even accept a notion of morality (as opposed to being amoral), then it needs to be logically consistent. The point is that, my moral framework will affect my actions. (And that includes when I choose to "punch someone in the face", and not just what I refrain from doing.) And will affect who I choose to associate with.

Even if I were to hope people would not commit immoral acts (under my moral framework) more often than not, I am still not being prescriptive. (I.e., there are still many many different ways for societies to organize.)



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Originally Posted by jimM47 View Post
It isn't of inherent value that a model relies on a very few propositions, expanded logically. For instance, using different starting propositions, one can construct many different systems of algebra or geometry that will be fully self-consistent, but which shed no light on the material world. We use the system we use, not because it is somehow the most axiomatic, but because it is the one that actually describes reality. Similarly, there is no way to look at a set of moral axioms except with reference either to their fit with our moral intuitions, or to the consequences they engender. That being the case, we must look consequences somehow.
I would say that it is true that there exists many logically consistent moral frameworks. (And not just one.)

And I do suspect that people who care about logical consistency (including myself) will pick from the possibilities based in part from the consequences. (But I'd also say I'd imagine various instincts likely come into play too, affecting their choices.)

(It's a bit late, so I will get to your other reply tomorrow.)
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Last edited by wreaver; 05-16-2010 at 03:54 AM..
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  #53  
Old 05-17-2010, 01:33 AM
wreaver wreaver is offline
 
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Default Re: What are the philosophical merits of libertarianism? (jimM47 & hamandcheese)

A couple of clarifications...

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Originally Posted by wreaver View Post
I didn't think that's what I was doing. (Assuming that's what you were implying.)

A logically consistent moral framework does not make anyone do or not do anything. It is just a perspective. It is a way of "calculating" whether something is immoral or not immoral.

You could ask... what's the point of having this perspective if I don't expect people to "follow" it?! And I would say, I actually don't expect most people to. Given my current understanding of genetics and psychology, I think most of the time, with most of the population, you are not going to get this kind of behavior. (I suspect libertarianism and logically consistency tends to only appeal to a certain portion on the population.) But that's not the point. The point is that, if I am to even accept a notion of morality (as opposed to being amoral), then it needs to be logically consistent. The point is that, my moral framework will affect my actions. (And that includes when I choose to "punch someone in the face", and not just what I refrain from doing.) And will affect who I choose to associate with.

Even if I were to hope people would not commit immoral acts (under my moral framework) more often than not, I am still not being prescriptive. (I.e., there are still many many different ways for societies to organize.)
Here, when I talk about the point of my moral framework, it's somewhat similar to being an agnostic. (To be specific, my usage of the word "agnostic "here means: not believing the statement "a god exists" is true and not believing the statement "a god exists" is false. I.e., taking it as an unknown.) Given what I know of genetics and psychology, I do not expect most people to become agnostic. I expect most people to have religiosity. But that's not the point.



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Originally Posted by wreaver View Post
I would say that it is true that there exists many logically consistent moral frameworks. (And not just one.)

And I do suspect that people who care about logical consistency (including myself) will pick from the possibilities based in part from the consequences. (But I'd also say I'd imagine various instincts likely come into play too, affecting their choices.)

(It's a bit late, so I will get to your other reply tomorrow.)
What I'm saying here is that a consequentialist argument is not going to make me reject my desire for a logically consistent framework. But you are quite correct that consequentialist notions have affected what moral axioms I accept. (Perhaps I chose my words poorly.)
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Old 05-17-2010, 02:45 AM
wreaver wreaver is offline
 
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Default Re: What are the philosophical merits of libertarianism? (jimM47 & hamandcheese)

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Originally Posted by jimM47 View Post
Quote:
Originally Posted by wreaver
[i]t's the punch in the face that's the physical coercion. The parts before it are the threat of physical coercion.... For me, this is an important distinction.
I am not sure I take your point as to this distinction. Coercion is by its nature a threat — a threat to make a threat of violence is just a type of threat of violence. Your distinction seems to imply that if a state achieves its ends by threatening force, and it must occasionally make good on that threat, the state is illegitimate; but that if the state threatens force so great or so persuasively that it never has to use that force, the state is legitimate. I make no such distinction.
You are correct. Under my moral framework, with your later case, no individual in that group would have done anything immoral (as part of their stately actions).

I don't see this as a problem. So if you believe this to be an important point, please elaborate.


Quote:
Originally Posted by jimM47 View Post
Quote:
Originally Posted by wreaver
I've found that for those who seek logical consistency, concepts of property need either come in the form of an additional axiom (or axioms) or a system built on top of the existing axiom(s).
In my experience it isn't really possible to build a concept of property merely from contractarian axioms. What is required is an additional axiom, which not only supplements the requirement of voluntariness, but actual precedes it in order of importance. Thus rights of property must to defended by means other than that the use of force (without consent) is evil.
This is actually the issue that had me not "accept" the label of "libertarian" in the past.

Other people that I know (on a face-to-face basis) have a notion of property in a form where they seem to consider their property as a piece of themselves -- more or less as part of their body. (I've argued long, in the past, about various problems I perceive with this.)

And I do believe you are correct, that you can construct this by adding an additional preceding axiom.

Alternatively....

Another way of having a concept of property though is to build it on top of the moral system. This would imply that it is not legitimate to use physical coercion when someone (only) violates your property. But you could instead use things like social norms, markets, architecture, inclusion, exclusion, or creating a situation where the would be thief has to commit physical coercion to steal (thus enabling you to legitimately use physical coercion against them).

(I think you could probably call this decreasing the thief's "positive freedom" while not infringing on their "negative freedom".)


On a personal note... I was surprised when I first realized that a concept of property did not naturally flow from the moral axioms I was left with after removing the logical inconsistencies I became aware of. To be honest, I would have liked it if the concept of property was a moral issue. But my desire for logical consistency is greater. And I submit to the logic, so to speak.


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Originally Posted by jimM47 View Post
Quote:
Originally Posted by wreaver
From my point of view, this [a hypothetical example of a freedom-limiting social institution] is not a moral concern.
This seems like an odd definition of morality. It seems fundamentally unjust to me that because a person has the misfortune to be born into the wrong status, or because she makes a private choice which harms no one else, that we should see her systematically denied the opportunities and basic security that everyone else receives with no productive reason for such discrimination. It doesn't necessarily follow that either you or the state can or ought to do something in response, but it does seem to be an issue of morality.

To put it another way: the distinction between positive liberty and negative liberty is generally useful when discussing the legitimacy of state action. But the distinction is much less applicable when discussing the morality of an action or the desirability of an outcome.
I do not see a logically consistent way of never violating both "negative freedom" and "positive freedom". (And actually, I do not see a logically consistent way of never violating "positive freedom" all by itself.) If you are aware of a logically consistent way of never violating "negative freedom" and "positive freedom", I'd actually be very interested in "hearing" it.
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  #55  
Old 05-21-2010, 05:30 AM
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Default Re: What are the philosophical merits of libertarianism? (jimM47 & hamandcheese)

Lest we forget 1964...
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Old 05-23-2010, 01:13 PM
ledocs ledocs is offline
 
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Default Re: What are the philosophical merits of libertarianism? (jimM47 & hamandcheese)

To answer the question posed in the topic, the philosophical merits of libertarianism are exiguous. From an Augustinian point of view, I suppose that it is better that one can know the good and do its opposite, contrary to the Socratic point of view. And there, in a nutshell, lies any philosophical merit that libertarianism might possess. Libertarianism is for nutcases.
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Old 01-11-2011, 10:41 AM
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Default Re: It is a good thing we are not so rational

I would like to hear comments on how the Fair Tax proposal would affect all of this.
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