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Invictus2017

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Invictus2017 last won the day on November 4

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About Invictus2017

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    I move a lot.
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    computers, Objectivism, and starting an Objectivism-based society

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    Extensive, since 1983. I've read most, maybe all, of the important books and periodicals published before the mid 90's.

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  1. Correcting the nonaggression "principle"

    "Government is magic" is both liberal and conservative...and absurd either way. Government is simply a bunch of people who use force, and its legitimacy has no direct relationship to the consent of the governed. Yes, I know. Rand said otherwise. Rand was wrong. The whole "consent of the governed" thing is mere "magic". Besides, people can, and do, consent to horrible governments. Does that make them legitimate? Of course not. What makes a government legitimate is that it protect rights. And a government that protects rights does not need anyone's consent to do so. Does that make consent irrelevant? No. Consent is merely how a rights-loving population keeps its government from going out of bounds. Of course. Subjectivity inevitably leads to the rule of force. In my view, the only "rights" a government has are those that are transferred from individuals to government agents so that force may be wielded properly. E.g., without a government, I might have to break into someone's home to retrieve property they stole from me. With a government, I would have no right to do that but must instead let the government do it on my behalf.
  2. Correcting the nonaggression "principle"

    It doesn't directly touch on my personal narrative, because there was never any effort made to defend me. No subpoenas, no nothing. Slightly deeper, though, it does, because my conviction was the product of intentional attacks on the government's objectivity plus the government's general disinterest in objectivity. I'd also add this: Were I to follow my emotions, I'd be an anarchist. Government, in my experience, is so evil (I don't think I mentioned the Hell my childhood was, also largely courtesy of government) that nothing short of compelling necessity would allow me to tolerate its existence. Unfortunately, Rand makes a compelling argument for the necessity of government. Since I'm not prone to letting my emotions dictate to my reason, I accept that argument. All that's left to me is to figure out how to construct a proper government while mitigating its demonstrated propensity for evil. This reminds me of another problem I have with the NAP. Consider what happens if you act properly on any of the Objectivist ethical principles but fail to accomplish your goal. What are the moral consequences? None. Having taken into account everything you could, you are not at fault if things don't work out as you had planned. But now consider the NAP. It says, without qualification, that you have committed an immorality if you use force against anyone who hadn't initiated force. There's no exception for innocent error. So if you believe, after appropriate inquiry, that someone has initiated force and then reply with force, and it turns out that you had erred, you initiated force and thereby committed an immorality. Of course, there can be no such thing as an innocent immorality. At a minimum, this requires rejecting the unqualified formulation of the NAP. This flaw is bad enough for an individual. It is devastating for a government, for the government's business is to employ force -- it is guaranteed to do so erroneously (by NAP standards) if it is to function at all. One of the requirements of Objectivism is logical consistency. If reason requires both the NAP and government, and if government must violate the NAP, even if only accidentally, you have a contradiction. Something is wrong, either with the NAP, or with the very idea of government (or both). The NAP (!) provides a definitive answer. If I didn't initiate force, no one may use force against me. That doesn't change if the someone is a government agent. So, if I haven't initiated force and the government comes after me, it has initiated force, and I may defend myself against it. Whether doing so is practicable is another question.... Of course, I don't think the NAP is accurate, so the answer isn't so easy for me. Once I have a definite answer concerning the NAP and what, if anything, to do about it, then I can work out an answer. As applied to my current situation -- even if I conclude that one should obey a lawfully obtained but incorrect judgment of a lawful government, this one isn't a lawful government. I may defend myself against it as necessary. I agree. I haven't read the more recent Objectivist work on law, but what I remember being said basically was that the American system is fine, let's just fix a few minor things. That's patent nonsense, the sort of noise one hears from people who hear the rhetoric from the legal system without looking at its reality. There are real problems, problems built right into the structure of the system, that must be addressed before it can be a real justice system. I think it requires a total rethink. Anyway, I have lots of thoughts on this, but that, I think should be in a separate topic. Heh. The current random quote says, "It should be remembered as an axiom of eternal truth in politics, that whatever power in any government is independent, is absolute also; in theory only at first while the spirit of the people is up, but in practice as fast as that relaxes." -- Thomas Jefferson A good point to keep in mind when designing a government....
  3. Correcting the nonaggression "principle"

    Not at all. The way I see it, the Randian ethical method asks in each case, "What do I, a rational person, need?" Because the conclusions are based on premises that always include "a rational person", it is legitimate to shuffle the quantifiers around and say, "a rational person needs...", which is what she actually says. But the philosophy is ultimately based on statements about the individual, not about statements about "society" or "government". Anyway, when I was making "I" statements, I intended them to mean, "I, because I am a rational animal, need", not simply "I need". I should have made that explicit. But I wouldn't make those claims, because they don't follow from my premises. Evidently, I haven't made them clear... Well, we'll keep talking until I do... or one or both of us becomes exhausted. (more to come, but I have to get off my computer now....)
  4. Correcting the nonaggression "principle"

    And here again, I don't know that we've exhausted all of our options, or even considered them. A subpoena is a demand for information on pain of government imposed penalty, so it is a use of force. And there's no requirement that the person who must comply with the subpoena be even suspected of using force. That sounds like initiation of force to me. What other option might there be? (Actually, DavidOdden suggested one: that, morally speaking, the initiator of force responsible for a subpoena is the person whose initiation of force resulted in the government's actions. I can't buy that, but it stirred the thought that a subpoena was essentially collateral damage, in the same category as harm done to a bystander when taking down a gunman. I'm not happy about that one either, but it might be a step in the right direction.)
  5. Correcting the nonaggression "principle"

    I'm sympathetic to this idea -- the subpoena certainly seems to me to be important -- but to be honest, I don't think it's been established sufficiently. I think that this is, thus far, a question begged. Well, unless we're going to assume a society of angels who always comply with legitimate government requests for information (hah!) we have to accept that people (and, by present day evidence, a not trivial number of them) will refuse to comply. So what's a government to do in that case? Elsewhere you bring up the idea of voluntary testimony in the same paragraph as voluntary funding and manpower. In the latter cases, though, these things are voluntary on the premise that the government has offered something of value in return -- government services and pay, respectively. I just don't think we can make this work for testimony. Here's an all too likely example of why. Imagine that I commit some fraud and I possess the evidence needed to prove the fraud. I'm accused, brought to court, and in due course receive a request for that evidence. I, of course, refuse to hand it over. Now what? They gonna give me enough money to cover what I'm going to owe if I'm found guilty? Plus whatever else I think I can get away with? Wouldn't that kinda defeat the purpose of my prosecution? Anyway, let me turn this around: How do you propose that a government produce objective judgment in the face of people who will not comply with requests for information? "Pay them enough" is not an adequate answer. Nor is "do nothing" or "act without sufficient information". The former would turn government into a debating society, the latter into a gang.
  6. Correcting the nonaggression "principle"

    Isn't this her case, in a nutshell? It is. However, the NAP has two parts. The first proscribes the use of force except in response to initiated force (I have no trouble with this part) and the second requires that this use of force be applied only to initiators of force. That quote speaks only to the first part; it does not address the second part, nor can I think of anywhere that Rand explains the second part. I also don't think that the Objectivist Politics requires the NAP. It does require the first part, but the second part can be replaced with a corollary of the first part, to the effect that force that does not serve to defend against initiated force is itself initiated force. This change affects very little, as far as I can see. BTW, given this replacement, it is also possible to see why a subpoena would be legitimate but taxation and conscription would not. A subpoena is force in response to initiated force to defend against initiated force. It therefore is consistent with both parts of the replacement. But taxation and conscription run afoul of the first part of the NAP, and my replacement does not change that part.
  7. Correcting the nonaggression "principle"

    Agreed on all points. There is a qualitative difference between the taxation and conscription powers and the subpoena power that makes all the difference here. The difference can be found by considering the sentence, "An organization that does not have property X is not a proper government." If "property X" is "the ability to tax", you do not have a true statement, because a government can fund itself without taxation. A similar point can be made with respect to conscription, since a government can hire the people it needs. This, ultimately, is why my argument cannot be used to justify taxation or conscription. (Yes, I recall my earlier statements. However, I also made the point that, if taxation or conscription were justified, it would only be in extreme cases. Rand, when confronted with the possibility that her ethics led to undesirable results in extreme cases, pointed out that they were extreme cases, and that such cases were outside the scope of her ethics and would have to be evaluated separately. More importantly, she made the point that whatever conclusions one came to concerning lifeboat ethics, they did not affect the validity of her ethics as applied to ordinary circumstances. I think the same applies here. So I'm going to take as the context of this discussion that a government can fund itself without taxation and that it can find enough manpower without conscription. We can discuss the other possibilities at some other time.) But make "property X" "the ability to obtain the facts necessary to objective judgment". In that case, the statement is true. So, the ability to obtain the facts necessary to objective judgment -- unlike the ability to tax -- is a characteristic of a proper government. Does this make sense so far?
  8. Correcting the nonaggression "principle"

    By all means do, since using the correct words is essential to clarity..... Let me introduce a bit of legal-speak, since I think it may prove helpful. In law, a choice is often referred to as "voluntary" if the choice is "knowing", "intelligent", and not "coerced". While the legal beagles are often confused by these terms, they seem clear to me, so here are my definitions: knowing: made by one in possession of all of the relevant facts intelligent: made by one with the capacity to properly evaluate those facts coerced: made because of the threat of violence or because of actual violence When I wrote my post, I was taking the term "physical force" literally, so that only coercion would be counted as physical force. I did that because that seems to be what Rand meant by it, since she felt the need to classify fraud as "indirect force" rather than as "physical force". However, DavidOdden introduced me to Schwartz' restatement of force, which I have decided to adopt. Under that definition, physical force is a physical act intended to make another's choices involuntary, and so would include fraud, and thereby eliminate the need for the concept "indirect force". I take "initiation" to be along the lines of "bring into being". When a punch is thrown, the force is "initiated" when the puncher forms the intention to throw the punch.
  9. Correcting the nonaggression "principle"

    Ah, wasn't it clear that I was paraphrasing Rand? Here's the original: That's very different from what you took me to be saying. Sorry about that.
  10. Correcting the nonaggression "principle"

    Objectivism is often phrased in generalities, like "society needs" or "government needs", etc. But Objectivism is fundamentally, one might even say radically, individualist. So such statements are, strictly speaking, false. So let me put a few things in "I" terms: I need a government so that I don't have to live in anarchy and practice KYFHO. I need a government that is controlled by reason so that I don't have to fear my government more than I do anarchy. I need a government that can subpoena so that it will be objective, so that I need not fear false accusations (a subject near and dear to me!) and so that I have effective recourse should my rights be violated. I'll let you decide which way I lean.
  11. Correcting the nonaggression "principle"

    I'm persuaded that a government cannot be properly instituted without some equivalent to the subpoena and I don't see how a subpoena can be regarded as anything but the initiation of force (even with my rethinking of force, as prodded by DavidOdden). But I also think that the NAP is not really central to the Politics. Rand's goal is not to eliminate force from society but, rather, to bring it under objective control, to make it serve life, rather than destroy it. The NAP is a means to that end. However, I think it's flawed. First, Rand never proves the validity of the NAP. Second, I don't think the NAP is necessary to proving the major points of the Politics. I read it as more a rhetorical device than an actual principle. Anyway, what I ultimately hope to end up with is a replacement principle for the NAP or a demonstration that the subpoena is not inconsistent with the NAP (along with a proof of the NAP). (more to come)
  12. Correcting the nonaggression "principle"

    I don't have the time to disentangle your many seeming misreadings of my post. Pick a single thing you regard as an important error and present it, and I will address that.
  13. Correcting the nonaggression "principle"

    I'm not sure that I was entirely clear on this point, but my intent was to take Rand at her word in order to show a contradiction. So, I meant by " physical force" what I understood Rand's meaning to be. Therefore, a perfectly valid rejoinder to my argument would be that I misunderstood Rand. And, if your final quote, is an accurate statement of Rand's position, I have erred in my understanding. My understanding, in essence, is that, to Rand, "physical force" means a physical action taken by a volitional being against another's physical values, and "initiation of force" means taking steps toward such a physical action. So, a punch in someone's face would be physical force, and swinging one's hand in preparation for the punch would be initiation of force. I reached this understanding because Rand used the concept of "indirect force" in relation to fraud. Such a concept would be unnecessary if fraud were a species of physical force, as it is under Schwartz' definition. Frankly, I much prefer Schwartz' definition to my understanding of Rand's definition, so henceforth I shall use it instead. That also means abandoning the concept of indirect force which, as I've indicated, I have real problems with. That said, this redefinition of "physical force" does not seem to affect my argument that a government must have a means to compel testimony and that this is inconsistent with the NAP. I'll give it some thought....
  14. Correcting the nonaggression "principle"

    (Sorry to take so long to post this, but I haven't had much time for writing lately. Hopefully, I'll have more time to spend on the ensuing discussion.) I begin by sketching Rand's theory of government. A "right" is "a moral principle defining and sanctioning a man's freedom of action in a social context". "Freedom" means an absence of "physical compulsion, coercion, or interference" by other people. In a proper society, it is improper for anyone to use physical force or the threat of physical force to prevent or respond to that which another has the right to do. The fundamental right, from which all other rights derive, is the right to one's own life, which means the right "to take all the actions required by the nature of a rational being for the support, the furtherance, the fulfillment and the enjoyment of his own life." Implementing this right, and any other rights, requires property rights, "the right to gain, to keep, to use, and to dispose of material values." The right to property "is not a guarantee that a man will earn any property, but only a guarantee that he will own it if he earns it." Another essential right is that of self-defense. Without it, each person would be a victim to anyone who decided to be immoral and employ rights-violating force. However, self-defense is not a matter that can be left to the individual. That way lies gang rule and arbitrary acts of force. Instead, self-defense must be implemented via a government, an organization that employs force only when objectively necessary to implement the right of self-defense of those within its jurisdiction. Rand, at numerous places, asserts that force in society may only be used in response to the initiation of physical force and only against the person who initiates the force, the so-called non-aggression principle (NAP) beloved of Objectivists and libertarians alike. There are some immediately obvious problems with the NAP. In general, neither fraud nor violations of contract involve physical force, so how can a person -- even via his government -- properly defend himself against it? The orthodox solution to this particular problem is so-called "indirect force". I may not have used force in my fraud or contract violation, but when you attempt to retrieve the improperly obtained values from me, I must choose between giving up the values or using force to keep them. If I do the former, there's no issue, but if I do the latter, you may exercise (via the government) your right to self-defense. This "solution" fails because there are means other than physical force to retain values, such as concealment. Be that as it may, a bigger problem for the NAP comes from the fact that a government must function objectively; the last thing anyone needs is a government that behaves according to whim -- even well intentioned whim. But objectivity doesn't "just happen", it is the outcome of a particular kind of process, one that requires obtaining all the facts known to be relevant. But facts are not generally just lying around waiting for some government agent to sweep them up; they are generally in the possession of people, some of whom may be unwilling to give them up. So what's a government to do? Well, if you believe the NAP, nothing. The mere possession of a fact of relevance to a proposed government action does not in itself constitute force, not even indirect force. But if you actually pay attention to the Randian argument, you realize that, no matter how often Rand stressed the NAP, she never proved it, and the method of argument she used in proving the need for government requires discarding the NAP. The Randian argument for government essentially goes like this: Nature confronts man with a choice, endemic violence or a properly constituted government. A proper life is impossible in an environment of violence, so a rational person will choose government. In terms of Rand's rights formulation, rights are those "actions required by the nature of a rational being" to support his life. Having and supporting the government is not merely something one should do, it is something one has a right to do. Conversely, acting against the government is an action inconsistent with the nature of a rational being, so cannot be a right. Just as Nature confronts man with a choice between endemic violence or a properly constituted government, it also confronts man with a choice between a government that acts arbitrarily and a government that acts objectively. The former is nothing more than institutionalized violence, and is just as inimicable to life as anarchy, if not more so. In terms of Rand's rights formulation, having and supporting the government's objectivity is not merely something one should do, it is something one has a right to do. Conversely, acting against the government's objectivity is an action inconsistent with the nature of a rational being, so cannot be a right. Just as the argument for government precludes a rational person from taking self-defense into his own hands when there is a proper government to handle his self-defense, so also does it preclude a rational person from withholding information government must have when performing its function. Neither one of these things can be a right in the presence of a proper government, and so such a government is free to act in response to such actions. Note that this mode of argument is very limited. It only pertains to what are, in essence, metaphysical necessities of government, things without which the government ceases to be a properly constituted government. Where a government has a metaphysical necessity to act, there can be no right to act in opposition to it. And where there is no right for a person to act, and the government has an objectively demonstrable need to act, it may do so without concern that any of that person's rights are violated -- because there are none. Limited or not, this argument demonstrates that the NAP is not true; there are circumstances where a person (acting as a government agent) may properly use force against one who has not initiated force. (I'll review other posts in this topic to see if I need to respond to them. But it won't be today.)
  15. Correcting the nonaggression "principle"

    Rights are both general and particular. The right to property is a general right; the actions one may properly take with respect to particular objects are particular rights. As you say, a general right cannot be alienated; it is a logical consequence of being a human being in a society. But particular rights can be -- and are routinely -- alienated. The only way you could alienate your rights is by enslaving yourself or killing yourself. I think Rand does object to that strongly. She would object to doing so sacrificially. But not if doing so would preserve or gain an equal or greater value.
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