Lunch Links

Thursday, July 1st, 2010

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94 Responses to “Lunch Links”

  1. #1 |  celticdragonchick | 

    What if there were no teachers? How would you then claim your “right” to an education?

    What if there were no oxygen? What right to life would you have?

    This is silly, Radley. All human societies have some process by which children undergo enculturation and education, however informal. We have a stratified and highly specialized society that necessitates a more formal and codified mode of instruction for even minimal functioning. If we cannot agree that instruction in minimal functioning skills for being in a society is a right, then we cannot have a fucntioning conversation, in truth.

  2. #2 |  Robert Chambers | 

    I have often found those who oppose public education are those who are in need of much education themselves.

    Here in Reality World, Radley, we support education for everyone, regardless of income, because we do not want to hire and employ those who are only capable of getting in “ummm…,” “yes, sir” and “sorry” between their latest fuckup. They do not need to be fucking Ph.D candidates, but they need to be smart enough to think and do things on their on their own. I have a business to run — I cannot be bothered to watch Shithead all the damn time. If that means paying him an extra dollar an hour, whoop-de-fucking do.

  3. #3 |  BSK | 

    Radley, by the education logic, NO rights exist. Sure, I have a right to maintain my property. But who protects that right? The police and military. Well, that needs to be paid for.

    What rights are guaranteed without the blood/sweat/tears of someone? Someone has to protect/ensure rights.

  4. #4 |  DPirate | 

    We can also argue that non-access to the internet is detrimental to the political process (whatever that means) or to democracy. After all, the internet is I think first and foremost education. Second to that it is commerce, and third entertainment (or I should hope this is how we view it).

    Without access to internet we could not, for instance, read Radley Balko. I would never have heard of him, nor perhaps begun to understand libertarianism. I could not inform myself of candidates beyond the words they buy in newspapers. I could not easily begin to sort through the aims of our government.

    More regarding education, one reason we recognize education as a right is to keep others from denying us education. England outlawed schoolmasters in Ireland, for instance, once upon a time, or so I am told. Rights do not simply have to do with who is paying, but with access, primarily.

    Take gun rights. So you have the right to bear arms, but I don’t know anyone demanding the government buy them a handgun. It is a non-issue.

  5. #5 |  awp | 

    It is possible to disagree with something being a right, and still believe that it is good public policy for the government to subsidized, fund or provide that something for all.

  6. #6 |  perlhaqr | 

    Damn. And after the Finns had done such a magnificent job of fighting off the Commies, too.

  7. #7 |  Alex | 

    52- Why this strange false dichotomy – you can support universal education without calling it a right, no?

    53- Someone having to protect/ensure rights has nothing to do with what those rights are. I don’t have the right to kill you or steal your property – but if I do, you don’t have the right to force someone else to go after me or to protect you. Again, what if nobody wanted to do that? You have a right to force someone to?

  8. #8 |  Mattocracy | 

    What if there was no oxygen? Then I guess this whole argument is moot. I’m not sure what that was supposed to convey.

    Radley is right. Rights don’t cost anyone else anything. It doesn’t cost me anything for others to say what they want, believe what they want, keep all of the fruits of their labor. Universal healthcare, education, access to broadband internet, etc. are entitlements. Someone is paying for these things via taxes even if they aren’t partaking in it. If you believe in entitlements, fine, just call them what they are. And don’t be so upset when people don’t appreciate having their income used for services that they may not be taking part in or administered in a way that they don’t like.

    I really wish there was a way people could choose what their tax dollars paid for. If I could send all my tax dollars to the public defender offices, I’d do it in a heart beat.

  9. #9 |  Joe | 

    Do you seriously think that education for children isn’t a right, but an “entitlement”?

    It is not even an entitlement, well at least for the kids supposedly served, since the government is less concerned about the kids beging taught and more concerned about the demands of the teachers and administration/staff that make up a school. Seriously, would a kid in Newark, NJ or Washington, D.C. be better off with a voucher for $25,000 (the approximate cost per pupil per year in those districts) or the education they are offered now? Heck, you could make the voucher $8,000 and they would be better off attending some local parochial or private school.

    So no, education is not a right. As a matter of public policy we did it to help create a better citizenry. But we seem to have forgotten what the goal was.

  10. #10 |  frequent lurker | 

    Never woulda suspected the positive-rights crowd to be here. The cognitive dissonance is amazing.

    Glad you’re here, though. You know all that police-brutality stuff that you probably like to abhore? Well, that’s the only place for your positive rights to come from – rights that depend on taking from another can only be said exist as a function of state brutality.

  11. #11 |  Sam | 

    Claiming that rights are a real thing is no different than claiming that God exists. There’s no evidence for it, and the conception of rights/God always equals exactly what the claimer wants it to. It is an absurdity to suggest anything else particularly if you’re analyzing the real world where things actually happen. Anything is hypothetically possible in the fantasy land of political theory, but all that matters is what really happens.

  12. #12 |  BSK | 


    So how do we ensure that rights are protected? We can’t FORCE people to be police officers. What if no one wants to do it? What if no one cares if your house gets vandalized or your property stolen? How are your property rights maintained?

  13. #13 |  qwints | 

    The reason the distinction between positive right and entitlement is importmant lies in the difficulty of taking them away. I can assert my right to counsel in a much more powerful way than I can seek an entitlement. You can get kicked out of public housing, the government can’t take away your counsel.

    Additionally, congress can just pass a law to repeal social security. It takes a constitutional amendment to deprive someone of a right.

  14. #14 |  Grenadier1 | 

    Yes we really can go to town with your assesment. This is exactly whats wrong with our whole goddamn country. Your statement is false ats its very core because you assume that the current progressive tax system itself is equal and moral. IT IS NOT! You do not have a right to use a gun and force your neighbor to pay upkeep on your property. Since you do not have that right you cannot delegate that power to the government to do for you. It is your responsibility to protect your own property. How you do that is your own choice. If you want to pay others to do it for you fine hire private security. Odds are you cant afford that because you are paying god awful amounts of taxes.

  15. #15 |  Grenadier1 | 

    Read the right to council as it was originally intended. In historical context the Government of England had a habit of bringing colonist up for trial who had no concept of the laws they were being charged with but also not allowing the colonist to have anyone present to speak for them who did know the law. The right to council only protects your right to have someone else present that can speak in court for you. You can find lawyers who work for free. Of course you can also represent yourself although our current system of justice has been transformed into nothing more than workfare for lawyers so you take your chances going that route. The current practice of a court appointed lawyer is simply the logical result of that workfare system and well beyond the idea of what is right.

  16. #16 |  BSK | 


    The problem with your argument is that the current system has promoted the inequities that the progressive tax code attempts to account for. You can’t have one without the other. Now, if you want to tear down the whole system, you might get my support. But we have to account for the inequities that this system was deliberately built to promote and protect. If we can’t correct for that, then we don’t have an equal starting point from which to build.

  17. #17 |  qwints | 

    Grenaider, believe me when I tell you that very few lawyers making money from representing indigents. It is much more akin to county call for doctors.

    Your discussion of the right to counsel, regardless of its validity, ignores the fact that the 6th amendment also gauarantees the right to trial. Trials cost money which comes from taxes.

  18. #18 |  Mike T | 


    A lot of people recognize a right to at least a basic education – something else that costs money. Positive rights exist and are distinct from entitlements.

    Semantics. One person’s entitlement is another person’s essential positive human right. One liberal may say welfare is a positive right, another an entitlement.

  19. #19 |  Joe | 

    Education should not be an entitlement. It is a product. We spend on primary education as a society because most of us think there is value in having a citizenry who can think, read and write. We compel kids to actually go. Just like we spend money on aircraft carriers, jet military planes and other things we deem worth having. We have all heard stories of military and government spending more than $1,000 for a hammer or a toilet seat.

    Well public education is much much worse than that. The way we do it is very inefficient and often poorly performed.

  20. #20 |  Nick T | 

    I suppose I agree, Radley, the internet is not a right, but I think we should be careful to then (seemingly retroactively) define rights so as to narrow the definition.

    I think any good libertarian views rights as expansively as possible. You have the right to speech and thought and the fruits of your labor, but also to be treated euqally by your government, and to be provided access to the things it does without having to pay $5 for a page of city council meetings. Most rights exist with respect to the government, so we should deifne them as exansively as possible to limit government as much as possible.

  21. #21 |  Alex | 

    BSK- If nobody wants to ensure that rights are protected, and we forced somebody to do it, then of course that would be a violation of their rights. That’s all I’m claiming. That doesn’t mean that if the police don’t feel like protecting your house, then they shouldn’t have to – you just don’t have a *right* for them to protect it.

  22. #22 |  InMd | 

    Right to an attorney is one other people pay for if you’re indigent. I’d think that one would be pretty popular around here considering what we all know about the justice system.

  23. #23 |  qwints | 

    Mike, those semantics have a very real impact. Governments can deprive people of entitlements much easier than they can take away rights.

  24. #24 |  Mattocracy | 

    The mindset of any entitlement comes from the idea that the gains outway the costs.

    “Yeah you may not have kids of your own, but your taxes being spent on educating other people’s children is a real benefit because it indirectly adds to your standard of living. Its a gain in the end.”

    In a lot of ways I agree with that and so do a lot others. So why should it compulsory? Won’t people fork out the money for aultruism if it has such a value to it? I’ve just never understood why so many think that the people who want to do good can only do it in the public sector. Why should the means matter in the end and why should one path involve less freedom of choice?

    “The right thing to do” is very subjective idea and we will never reach a concensus as to what that really is. Our individual morals and values dictate how we see those things. Forcing individual morals and values onto others has led to a lot of conflict in the past, even when it comes to high speed internet.

  25. #25 |  BSK | 


    So how do we ensure that rights are protected? Every man for himself? Suppose I steal your car. Are you entitled to steal it back? To bash me over the head? To shoot me dead?

  26. #26 |  Mike T | 

    Mike, those semantics have a very real impact. Governments can deprive people of entitlements much easier than they can take away rights.

    The only way a government can take away your “right to heating fuel” is to send armed men over to the utility and tell them to turn it off.

    Not providing you with heating fuel is not the same as taking away your rights. That goes with every other positive right.

    So, in summary, failure to provide != taken away because taken away implies they have actually prevented you from acquiring those rights.

  27. #27 |  Mike T | 

    *those things.

  28. #28 |  SamK | 

    Mike, I’m not sure if that was supposed to be an analogy or…well…not sure what that was. Armed men aren’t required to shut off gas supply…in lots of little towns utilities are provided by the city gov’t (like in mine) who may produce it themselves or contract with an outside gas company. Even if they don’t own it they can usually just send a letter to someone saying “shut it off” and claiming they have a good reason.

    That’s just the first two lines and I’m not sure what you think from the rest of that post. If we define rights as only those actions an individual takes and the right to not be interfered with except where interfering with the rights of another we miss the entire concept of group rights such as having borders. I know some of us here are happy with that definition, where borders essentially do not exist and you can cross them so long as you don’t do it on property owned by an individual, but it doesn’t work in practice. The problem with group rights is that they easily become entitlements. You have the right to be paid for work you contract to do with someone else but what happens when they don’t? In this society we agree to a group right to have legal decisions decided by courts as opposed to “mountain justice” (usually anyway). Each of us contributes to that society and receives many benefits from it, some in the form of “rights” defined by that society. We do a terrible job of defining what those rights really mean, however. What the hell does the right to privacy mean? It means one thing to me, but something else to another…attempt to narrow that shit down and you find yourself writing longer shit than this. Write it any shorter and some asshole comes along and pokes holes in your definition. This is why the legal system is so jacked up while still being the best we can offer…most of the adjustments we talk about making to it are important but come down to fine tuning. Part of the point of government is to prevent others from taking your “rights” from you. That government ends up taking your rights is ironic but also difficult to avoid. Government is the best way we’ve come up with so far to prevent other individuals and small groups from taking your rights from you. That’s the primary group right (protection) you gain by joining a society whether or not it fails in that purpose. You can argue your definition to the end of days but please stop pretending that just ‘cuz you said so makes it true and everyone else is a retard, it’s ridiculous and demeaning to your opponent and yourself.

    TL;DR: Rights are what we call them, with the possible exception of natural rights, and every one of them (natural or not) can be taken from you. This entire thing has dissolved into semantic circle jerking.

  29. #29 |  celticdragonchick | 

    Radley is right. Rights don’t cost anyone else anything.

    Did you make that up or get it out of a cereal box?

    Rights always come with obligations because you live in a society (maybe you don’t want to, but you are stuck with it!) that has interdependency.

    Take an anthropology class some time, and you see where pie in the sky extreme libertarianism gets you. You either have to live in a hunter gatherer society without specialization or class distinction at all and you can live by yourself if you like, or you have to suppose a Vernor Vinge sci-fi scenario where technology allows people to be a law unto themselves and you can produce everything you like (a Deux Ex Machina if there ever was one)

    We have several thousand years of human history to look at, and the closest thing to the libertarian ideal only seems to work out in very low density populations with low resource usage and not much technology base. God knows I’m sympathetic to the theory, but the practicality is not there at all.

    Rights are a reality for our society, and you do have to live with that and pay for it with social obligation. You can whine, bitch, mutter and sulk in the corner, but it does not change any more than does the half life of Radium.

  30. #30 |  Radley Balko | 

    We have several thousand years of human history to look at, and the closest thing to the libertarian ideal only seems to work out in very low density populations with low resource usage and not much technology base. God knows I’m sympathetic to the theory, but the practicality is not there at all.

    Your entire comment historically ignorant. Specialization and natural rights theory go hand in hand. Both are Enlightenment ideas. Up until the Enlightenment, we had short lifespans, and most people endured them with hunger and suffering. We have Enlightenment theory to thank for the industrial revolution, the emergence of capital markets, and concepts like compound interest, all of which have given us the most comfortable standard of living in the history of the world. The “closest thing to libertarian society” we’ve ever had is what we have now. It’s unlike anything else in human history, which is rife with kings, emperors, and failed central planning.

    You’re right that we’ve never had a purely libertarian society. But the most libertarian attempt to date has brought us the most success, comfort, and prosperity, across all classes.

  31. #31 |  celticdragonchick | 

    Your entire comment historically ignorant.


    Specialization and natural rights theory go hand in hand. Both are Enlightenment ideas.

    Wow. Just wow. For a brilliant man that I admire, that is amazingly inaccurate and shows surprising ignorance. Specialization is a product of the agricultural revolution some 10,000 years ago.
    Food production increases allowed role specialization since one person could produce enough food to feed several others. This allowed enough time for people to begin other technological innovations that could increase efficiency in hunting, food storage etc, and you could have dedicated pottery makers, weapon makers and so on instead of a culture with generalists where each person supplied his or her own necessities by themselves. This has nothing at all to do with the Enlightenment, and I can only assume then that we are talking past each other about entirely different things.

    Anthropologically speaking there is no situation I have seen where increasing social specialization and social stratification leads to less inter-dependence with attendant rules, obligations, tribute, taxes or whatever. Quite the opposite. (yeah, yeah, I know we are getting into functionalism, but parts of it have some validity. The interdependence becomes less personal and more abstract in modern societies. You are dependent on other people you will never meet to supply your power, obtain your food and thousands of other activities you cannot immediately think of but would miss if lacked for any reason)

    If you know of any, I am certainly interested.

    The “closest thing to libertarian society” we’ve ever had is what we have now.

    I think that is debatable.

  32. #32 |  celticdragonchick | 

    Full disclosure…

    I am a geology major (with a minor in American History) in my senior yea at Guilford College, and have had course work in anthropology. It is not my major, however, and I will happily defer to anybody here better qualified.

  33. #33 |  Alex | 

    BSK- The same way you think we should. I just wouldn’t call it a right, for the reasons I’ve given. I’m not saying there’s any danger with calling it a right, but I think it’s an interesting argument philosophically. Practically it probably doesn’t matter.

  34. #34 |  DPirate | 

    Do I have the right to oxygen? Someone owns all the oxygen-producing land. Are they allowed to pave it all? Do I need to swim out into the ocean and perform electrolysis in order to get my air without being a burden on society?

    If Queen Elisabeth is the largest land-owner in the world, does this mean she is by definition the most benevolent?

  35. #35 |  Mattocracy | 

    “Take an anthropology class some time, and you see where pie in the sky extreme libertarianism gets you.”

    Oh, you took an anthropology class, huh? Well, I guess you’re just a fucking expert on everything all of a sudden. Glad you came here to enlighten us, most of us got degrees in subjects that actually relate to the real world and got us jobs in the private sector where all the wealth and technological progress is created. Seriously, get over yourself.

    The specialization from the agricultural revolution is not comparable to the enlightenment age. We’re talking about specialized agriculture to specialized industry, commercial, and technological activity. In a lot of ways, I guess this is the most libertarian period we have lived in. And what’s sad, is it still kind of sucks.

    With all the enlightenment giving us freedom, liberty, the free market-it also came with a whole assortment of ideas of why someone somewhere should be able to deny us those very things. We might be interconnected via the market, but it’s consensual. Previously, it was through serfdom and indentured servitude. Some people felt they were owed free shit from their fellow citizens. We don’t need to revert to that lifestyle by saying that everyone is still owed something from everyone else. I guess somethings never change.

  36. #36 |  Jake_Witmer | 

    There appear to be two threads here, one to make sure we’re all either librarians or federal agents pretending to be librarians, and the other to talk about what Ayn Rand might have called “rare and exotic drinks”. LOL

    OK, I’m going to say I’m a librarian, and you’ll all just have to take my word for it. Now, for the exotic drink comment: I take umbrage with the idea that the universe is not mine to rearrange! Why should “vodka not taste like anything”?

    This is the same argument that people trying to outlaw nuclear reactors inside of wombs, and “turducken” use!

    I say, if people want to use masticated and fermented skunkmeat, ostrich eggs with sweet basil, and peat moss smoke to flavor their alcohol, they should be completely free to do so.

    I love exotic flavors. I am often disappointed in the lack of imagination in the alcohol wizards. I would love to see more variety. I only recently picked up several bags of apricot kernels and used them to flavor my Di Saronno, to a harsher (and much more enjoyable) super-high laetrile content. (Interestingly, I contacted bacardi, which produces Di Saronno Amaretto, and they claim that they do flavor the beveridge in apricot kernels. It makes me wonder if Di Saronno prevents trophoblasts from implanting as cancer cells, since that’s allegedly how apricot kernel extract laetrile acts to prevent cancer.)

    The extremely bitter and almond-like flavor of the apricot kernels is wonderful. Equally wonderful are the bitter, whole roasted cacao beans from several internet sources (such as sweet riot, etc…). (BTW: Cacao in its pure minimally processed –roasted only– form has been found to dramatically reduce the risk of heart attack, and to improve blood pressure.)

    That said, it does seem to be a trend to focus on bacon lately. Bacon isn’t the be-all-end-all of flavor, people. Also, bacon contains some bad things (arachidonic acid) that appears to increase silent inflammation.

    As a parting note, although the comment on fermented skunk and ostrich eggs was facetious, fresh sweet basil is a wonderful aromatic.



  37. #37 |  Jake_Witmer | 

    Fuck, I spelled beverage wrong in the above post, this making myself look like a dilletante. Oh well. Me and the dickheads are all going to knock back some kernel-laced Di Saronno while we blast off some “illegals”. (fireworks, not people…)

  38. #38 |  BSK | 

    “The same way you think we should. I just wouldn’t call it a right, for the reasons I’ve given. I’m not saying there’s any danger with calling it a right, but I think it’s an interesting argument philosophically. Practically it probably doesn’t matter.”

    Alex… you wouldn’t call WHAT a right? You’ve lost me. What “it” are you referring to?

  39. #39 |  Sam | 

    Seems a bit difficult to simultaneously claim that we’re as close now as we’ve ever been to a fully realized libertarian society while simultaneously a governing behemoth sprawling out of control. Aren’t those concepts mutually exclusive?

  40. #40 |  JS | 

    Sam “Seems a bit difficult to simultaneously claim that we’re as close now as we’ve ever been to a fully realized libertarian society while simultaneously a governing behemoth sprawling out of control. Aren’t those concepts mutually exclusive?”

    That’s kind of what I was thinking. Simplified, as close as we can get to a libertarian society would be the time when we had the most freedom and that sure as hell ain’t now. The early days of the settling of the west, maybe? The colonial period in the east maybe? I don’t know. I once read a book about London that pointed out that police began in the 1700’s and the citizens of London were horrified at the idea of government agents walking among them with power to arrest them. Evidently they didn’t have regular cops before then so maybe that was the closest there was to a libertarian society?

  41. #41 |  markm | 

    The “right to a lawyer” is actually one part of the right to a fair trial, which is more accurately described as the right not to be punished by the government without a fair trial. The government can respect that by not arresting you in the first place, by dropping the charges and releasing you, or by providing a fair trial. Paying for competent counsel[1] is not the heaviest cost of a fair trial – the prosecution’s salaries and expenses would be higher, plus there are court costs, laboratory fees if any physical evidence was analyzed, and all the government witnesses are being paid for their day in court. If fair trials for all the accused,including public defenders are too financially burdensome, there are too many laws.

    [1] I’ve seen some unjustified sneers at Public Defenders on this thread. Professional PD offices usually provide fairly good and highly experienced lawyers. Not as good as the ones OJ Simpson hired for several millions each, but generally good enough to get a factually innocent person off, and much better than you are likely to find by picking a lawyer out of the phone book. The problem is that usually the PD offices are underfunded, if they even exist. Then you either have PD’s hastily trying to read the documents and talk to their client for the first time as they wait to get called up for court, or judges drafting the first lawyer that doesn’t look too busy – often one that’s never tried a criminal case.

  42. #42 |  markm | 

    “we’re as close now as we’ve ever been to a fully realized libertarian society”

    It depends on your gender, color, and nationality. For white English and American men, the early 1800’s were the most libertarian period, and we’ve been losing freedoms ever since. For blacks and women, the story is a little different. It’s as if every time the powers that be lose their grip on one set of slaves, they compensate by enslaving the rest of us a little bit more.

  43. #43 |  Grenadier1 | 

    Yes I do advocate tearing down the entire tax system and the massive federal spending system to boot.

    I was not really clear. I dont doubt that appointed lawyers are making very little as “public defenders” my comments about workfare was directed at the system in general. I call it workfare because the politicians (lawyers) craft the law so that only lawyers can effectively operate within it and the average man can no longer understand the legal ramifications of his actions. The system no longer concerns itself with what is right or wrong based on the effects at an individual level.

  44. #44 |  Grenadier1 | 

    The right to a trial is in place to prevent the government from secreting you away with no due process. That right is not depriving others of their life liberty or property. If the government does not initiate a charge against you then you have no need to execrise this right. It is a check on government excess not a claim on the rights of others.