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Deriving Ethics from Reality

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tbj2102@gmail.com
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As the derivation of ethics as a whole; morality is a set of principles needed to guide man's actions. Morality should be seen as a set of 'rules' that if followed should help man achieve attainment of values. The ultimate value being the happiness of a life lived morally. Ethical arguements should not proceed from the premises of what is not permitted. True ethical behaviour is concerned with actions that are consistent with achieving values.

Ethically, I'm an advocate of moral reciprocity; "Do unto others..." being a positive declaration, and "Don't do unto others..." being a prohibitive declaration. Depending on how you evaluate your ethical expectation, what is not permitted is essentially rephrasing what is permitted to achieve the same value. For example, "Don't steal from others, because you wouldn't want others to steal from you", is just another way to say, "Respect others property, because you want others to respect your property."

In terms of this topic I'm saying, it's not appropriate to claim property one hasn't labored to create, as private property, when the result is to deny others the same right to claim property. Someone laboring to create a reservoir is one thing; someone being the first to arrive at a lake is another.

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The position you are in, however, is that if you are going to institutionalize this moral reciprocity so that leaves you with the task of explaining how you will do that. Who gets to decide what is acceptable, who gets to be judge and jury on this, and who gets to decide who will be punished or rewarded in this system?

I get where you are making the moral argument and in your oasis/desert scenario I think we would be working together quite well if it came down to helping some poor guy get water from some thug playing king of the hill. But if I were to accept the argument for this social contract as terms of entry into society then I would like to know how you intend to implement this requirement for people to “use it or lose it”. I have an image of Obama picking winners and losers dancing through my head so naturally you can see the concern.

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The point is that not all property owners are rational, thus some consideration towards the ethical justification of a right to claim exclusive ownership of a natural resource is appropriate.

I'll have to brush up on my Hobbes, but initially I don't see a contradiction with his view, “the true doctrine of the Lawes of Nature is the true Morall philosophie”.

One of the main criticisms of Oism is that much of what Rand said was tautology.(not a position I hold). That being said, I do not think Oism has in it the concept of an unethical right. And given the Hobbs reference you stated in a sense I would agree that morality is metaphysical , as in the metaphysical nature of man.

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The position you are in, however, is that if you are going to institutionalize this moral reciprocity so that leaves you with the task of explaining how you will do that. Who gets to decide what is acceptable, who gets to be judge and jury on this, and who gets to decide who will be punished or rewarded in this system?

The short answer is that I believe the institution of moral reciprocity in any given society is the recognition that all members of a community are personally responsible for the consequences of their own actions.

I get where you are making the moral argument and in your oasis/desert scenario I think we would be working together quite well if it came down to helping some poor guy get water from some thug playing king of the hill. But if I were to accept the argument for this social contract as terms of entry into society then I would like to know how you intend to implement this requirement for people to “use it or lose it”. I have an image of Obama picking winners and losers dancing through my head so naturally you can see the concern.

The principle of “use it or lose it” responds primarily to authoritarian bureaucracies. Members of even the toughest neighborhoods I've lived in tend to get along well enough, because knowing where you live and living where you live promotes a sense of live and let live. The premise I'm primarily arguing against, is the notion that a proprietor in the form of government or private enterprise is essential to managing natural resources in the first place. Neither entity labored to create the resource, so what actually justifies either claim to it?

In a true republic, the real threat is coercion; and one good way to avoid coercion is to promote information in lieu of regulation. Having a free press simply identifying deteriorating conditions, and naming the persons responsible, would be sufficient to generate the concern necessary for a community to manage their own resources; particularly if it was apparent there wasn't some bureaucracy responsible for cleaning up after them.

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What would be the disposition of a newly discovered, but heretofore unknown resevior constucted by someone but then abandoned, or would this fall back into the quality of natural resource?

Interesting...

I am bound by my position to say the discovery of such a reservoir is equivalent to finding treasure, therefore the discoverer is justified to claim it as his own. I don't believe man-made objects devolve into natural resources.

Good question ;)

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It actually wasn't meant to be a good question it was meant as tongue in cheek rhetoric. I'm new to this forum and have yet to get a sense of the usual bloggers. While I recognize that your,DA, reasoning is very methodic and your grammar, diction, syntax, ect. are also exemplary, it seems that you are applying those capacities to attack floating abstractions.

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The end result of this line of reasoning always legitimizes the regulation of morality; that people on their own can't be trusted to do the right thing. Do people really need a benevolent tyrant, or landlord, in order to survive?

It's not a line of reasoning, it's an economic fact. It doesn't imply that we need tyrants or landlords to survive; it implies that we need property rights (or more specifically, private property rights).

Some definitions are in order.

Property right: "the exclusive authority to determine how a resource is used, whether that resource is owned by government or by individuals."

"Private property rights have two other attributes in addition to determining the use of a resource. One is the exclusive right to the services of the resource," and the second is "the right to delegate, rent, or sell any portion of the rights by exchange or gift at whatever price the owner determines (provided someone is willing to pay that price)." [Source]

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Some definitions are in order.

"Bear in mind that the right to property is a right to action, like all the others: it is not the right to an object, but to the action and the consequences of producing or earning that object. It is not a guarantee that a man will earn any property, but only a guarantee that he will own it if he earns it. It is the right to gain, to keep, to use and to dispose of material values." ~ ARL, Property Rights

OK, so we know what actions and consequences are required for creating a man-made reservoir, and anyone who spends their time and labor to produce such an object is certainly justified to own it.

Now, enlighten me... As there are no actions or consequences required by man to produce or maintain a naturally formed lake, what justifies his claim to have earned that object?

Please be specific...

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Now, enlighten me...

I'll do my best.

When we are born, the mere fact that we need water and food to survive doesn't entitle us to water and food. By that, I mean that we aren't entitled to objects (food that farmer's grow, apple trees, lakes, etc). We don't have a right to an object just because we're alive and need it to continue being alive. I think we can agree on this.

We do have the right to act in order to gain those objects that we need or want for our survival. This means that if I want to own a lake, I have to buy it from its current owner. If I went up to a lake-owner and said, 'I'm entitled to the water in your lake because I'm alive and need it,' he would laugh at me and say, 'Michele, don't be silly. I bought this lake from the previous owner with my own hard-earned money. If you want any of it, you're going to have to pay for it.'

Now what if I tried to trap that lake-owner, by saying, 'Where did the previous owner get the lake? And the one before him, and the one before him? You see, lakes existed before men, and will probably go on existing after men. The first man who owned this lake had no right to take it for himself and profit off of it, because it's a natural resource.. so you don't have any right to own this lake and profit off of it, either'? The lake-owner would probably look at me and say, 'All I know is that I paid for this lake with the fruits of my own labor. It's mine, and that's all I need to know.'

Now it's an interesting question: what gave the first owner the right to own the lake? That's something I don't know- my guess is as good as yours.

But what I do know is that: 1) common pool goods are overused precisely because they are common pool goods. 2) If all natural resources (land, lakes, trees, mines, etc) were common pool goods, no one would privately own anything. Further, no one would be able to improve anything. We wouldn't be able to buy clean, purified water, because the man who invented water purifiers would only be able to take enough water to sustain himself. We wouldn't have pipes to pump that water into our kitchens and bathrooms, because pipes are made with a lot of metal ores, and those are natural resources that cannot be exploited. I wouldn't be able to make my living creating & selling dressers, because trees are natural resources that cannot be exploited.

That is my line of reasoning. Let me know if I've misunderstood anything.

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as to mdegges

I think I would agree with that line of reasoning. I think the crux of the arguement is more in line with the idea of what the concept 'right' means. I understand rights as only applicable in a societal context. By that I mean that your example of a regression to the original owner would most likely find a possessor, someone who uses the lake just because it's there. I think the first owner would be the possessor at the time of the development of a division of labor society.

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When we are born, the mere fact that we need water and food to survive doesn't entitle us to water and food. By that, I mean that we aren't entitled to objects (food that farmer's grow, apple trees, lakes, etc). We don't have a right to an object just because we're alive and need it to continue being alive. I think we can agree on this.

Yes; no one is entitled to the fruit of anothers labor. I would argue that newborns are entitled to mother's milk, but let's not go there...

We do have the right to act in order to gain those objects that we need or want for our survival. This means that if I want to own a lake, I have to buy it from its current owner. If I went up to a lake-owner and said, 'I'm entitled to the water in your lake because I'm alive and need it,' he would laugh at me and say, 'Michele, don't be silly. I bought this lake from the previous owner with my own hard-earned money. If you want any of it, you're going to have to pay for it.'

Now what if I tried to trap that lake-owner, by saying, 'Where did the previous owner get the lake? And the one before him, and the one before him? You see, lakes existed before men, and will probably go on existing after men. The first man who owned this lake had no right to take it for himself and profit off of it, because it's a natural resource.. so you don't have any right to own this lake and profit off of it, either'? The lake-owner would probably look at me and say, 'All I know is that I paid for this lake with the fruits of my own labor. It's mine, and that's all I need to know.'

Now it's an interesting question: what gave the first owner the right to own the lake? That's something I don't know- my guess is as good as yours.

OK, so here's the thing... We can presume that, without relying on God, no one provided title to the first acquisition of a natural resource; it was simply there for the taking. However it follows that there's no justification according to any definition of private property, that someone can in effect, call dibs on rainfall and deny it to their neighbor. Therefore we can presume that the current lake owner is at least the receiver of stolen goods... stolen, because the first acquisition prohibited anyone else from making a more just claim by labor to remove only a portion of something common to all, leaving an equal opportunity for others to follow suit.

But what I do know is that: 1) common pool goods are overused precisely because they are common pool goods. 2) If all natural resources (land, lakes, trees, mines, etc) were common pool goods, no one would privately own anything. Further, no one would be able to improve anything. We wouldn't be able to buy clean, purified water, because the man who invented water purifiers would only be able to take enough water to sustain himself. We wouldn't have pipes to pump that water into our kitchens and bathrooms, because pipes are made with a lot of metal ores, and those are natural resources that cannot be exploited. I wouldn't be able to make my living creating & selling dressers, because trees are natural resources that cannot be exploited.

Point #1 is debatable, but let's skip over that for now...

Point #2 is simply inaccurate. I refer you back to Locke for justifiable acquisition, by ones own labor, to a portion of what remains common to others.

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The obvious next frontier of property rights is space, and I found the following article filled with interesting and informative projections:

"In the coming years, it's reasonable, normal and perfectly sound to make claims in space, Nemitz said.

For an asteroid, plant a claim marker on the object, say, with a radio beacon. On the other hand, don’t go to the moon and claim the whole moon, perhaps just a 50,000-acre slice, something that is economically viable in size, he said. If you do that, eventually a regime of property rights will be invented, will be adopted, and probably grandfathered in within previous claims…because it will be the people that have those claims that will be clamoring to make a regime for property rights," Nemitz said.

'Law follows the actions of people, it does not lead,' he added."

... regarding acquisition prior to existing rights, the following statement is an interesting take:

"Today it is probably best to just carry forward with the engineering projects aiming to extract and use space resources and not worry too much about property rights," Nemitz said. "Property rights are officially recognized primarily to protect property from theft and vandalism. Space is vast and there aren’t any neighbors vying to steal your property, so don't worry too much about it."

Nemitz said that there's need to embrace the old Zen rubric: 'It is easier to receive forgiveness than permission.'"

http://www.space.com/16515-space-mining-asteroid-legal-issues.html

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