Morning Links

Monday, February 20th, 2012

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112 Responses to “Morning Links”

  1. #1 |  Deoxy | 

    Note that I do not object to government power being force simply because it is violence, as I do believe that answering evil with violence is necessary at times.

    I second this – acknowledging that government power is force (that is, backed by violence) does not mean it should not be used, only that you should be willing to use violence to enforce something before you advocate the government do it.

    That’s a fairly short list, IMO.

  2. #2 |  Bruce S | 

    Hi Woog and Deoxy,

    Thanks for the detailed responses. A couple more questions, is there anything whose ownership can be properly restricted by the government? Or even in the case of things like mustard gas, it should not be a crime or misdemeanor to simply own as long as one does not hurt anyone with it?

    Similarly, how reckless does one’s behavior have to be before the state is justified in stepping in? Say my backyard butts up against my neighbors. Can I set up a firing range with the targets by the fence? If yes, should there be a minimum level of safety in terms of making sure that no bullets can end up flying into his backyard? Or is the only role of the government to prosecute me if one of those bullets ends up hurting someone or damaging my neighbors’ property?

    And, I don’t think we’re going to end up agreeing that at its base, government’s authority relies solely on the use of force. I think it ultimately rests on the consent of the governed and ideally one can trust most citizens to comply based on their consent. Yes, this is a radically optimistic view of human nature, but I do believe it has power.

    To give an example from Quaker history, during the English Civil War, George Fox was imprisoned for speaking his religious beliefs. Not only did he refuse the offer of release on the condition that he accept a position as an officer in the New Model Army, but he refused to be released until the government acknowledged that the imprisonment was unjust. At the end of the day, the government did not truly have any power over him. They might be able to keep him locked up or even take his life, but they could not force him to change his beliefs. Much of our tradition of religious toleration comes from Quakers refusing to compromise their beliefs and then suffering the consequences. This spiritual warfare did much to bring official religious toleration to England.

    I don’t necessarily expect you to agree and my guess is you think this is extremely naive. But I do hold these beliefs strongly. And the notion of consent underlies my conviction that a society may justly choose to regulate activity that may impinge on individuals’ rights for the broader good.

    Yes, the idea of the broader good is very dangerous and has been used to justify many horrendous actions. Thus we must be humble and cautious in our attempts. And listen and honor strong-held objections and not move forward until they are tenderly answered. The community must be united in its heart, though not necessarily in its head. No, this is not easy and can definitely be slow. But it has had some amazing results (Quakers rejected slavery among them 100 years before the civil war. It was after years of activism by impassioned Friends, but the community as a whole eventually took the step forward together. Also, I think it might be the only religion in which conservative evangelicals and liberal atheists can comfortably worship together).

    So, given our different fundamental beliefs, I doubt we’ll ever agree on the validity of things like gun control. But I do want to honor your beliefs. Out of the various ills affecting our country today, how serious do you rank the current state of gun control? More strongly than police reform? An absolutely essential piece of that reform? Is it such a fundamental problem that nothing else can be done until we get rid of all restrictions? Is it an issue where we could acknowledge our fundamental differences while still collaborating on problems in which we have a common interest?

    -Bruce

  3. #3 |  Woog | 

    Bruce, the matter of arms possession boils down to property rights, and property rights are also the means by which injury to others’ property is addressed. Bluntly, the federal government has no legal authority to restrict the private possession of weapons of any type, be they handguns, long rifles, knives, swords, cannons, mortars, artillery, grenades, rockets, poison gases, or nuclear devices. The issuance of Letters of Marque is one of the legal powers granted the federal government under Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution; what use would such a power be if private individuals did not have ships of war along with all their accompaniments?

    No, the proper level for any restrictions on such arms is either at the level of the humble property owner (though I’ve heard spirited arguments in favor of the State-level government which may ultimately have some merit).

    Within a given town, there are property owners. Almost all property which can be occupied by private individuals is owned by private individuals. Such individuals have contracts they draw up and sign along with their tenants, and almost all already prohibit the keeping and storage of dangerous chemicals and the like, outside of facilities designed to safely contain such materials. To a certain extent, ironically, I do support a form of gun control, which is the property owner’s ability to declare the terms by which the owned property is used. As far as the extent of a threshold of injury, it largely amounts to trespass. If anything at all from neighboring property comes within the bounds of another’s property, it is trespass and must stop immediately upon the trespassed property owner’s demand. If damage or a spill is the result, the costs to cease the trespass could be considerable, hence a deterrent effect for negligence. In some cases, criminal charges would also be in order, depending upon the nature of the trespass or other crimes committed afterwards.

    Many of the problems which can be raised regarding public property can largely be dealt with in the manner suggested by Walter Block in his book,
    The Privatization of Roads and Highways.

    mises.org/books/roads_web.pdf
    mises.org/document/4084

    If private possession of mustard gas and the like illustrates your worst fears, then I’m sorry to have to inform you that they have already come to pass and have been lurking in the shadows since before you were even born. The typical household contains chemicals which, if mixed together, produce a very poisonous gas. Anyone with the motivation could produce it in any quantity they liked. What stops them? The same “radically optimistic view” of human nature, perhaps – that, and knowledge of the fact that it is historically an exceedingly rare event.

    As far as the source of government power, it’s twofold. Its legitimacy rests upon the consent of the governed (an interesting side question is what happens when consent is withdrawn, by an individual, a minority, or a majority) – its actual method of operation relies strictly on force and the threat of force. Even dog ordinances are backed by force, as Radley had a story posted on this very site in which a park ranger tasered a man who wasn’t obeying a recently-changed dog-related ordinance. The exact same result – the use of force – would have resulted should there have been a ticket issued which went unpaid, a warrant issued to show cause, the warrant resisted, etc. That a single person chooses non-violent resistence in the face of government force does NOT negate the fact that government force was used or threatened. I do not dismiss non-violent resistence as useless, but I do object to demands that all others must also rely only on non-violent resistence or face more government force.

    The issue of gun control, like many of the wedge issues in the united States, is a distraction – a symptom of a larger underlying problem which is of the most critical importance to deal with: the departure from the rule of law and from equality under the law. Almost every single issue we deal with today has sprouted from this single two-headed weed.

    Gun control
    School prayer
    War on Drugs
    Illegal, undeclared foreign wars
    Police abuses gone unpunished
    Destruction of money (97%+ devalued since 1934)
    Illegal immigration
    Healthcare
    Entitlements (Social Security, ad nauseum)
    Economy (fraud in all markets, stocks, commodities, mortgages, etc.)
    Energy
    Ownership of private property (Kelo case)
    Education

    Return to the rule of law and equality under the law is of such importance that ALL other causes are of no importance by contrast. However, to attempt to answer your question, among that meager pile of unimportant concerns, I do rate gun control highly, merely because it is the one item that, if nothing else, restricts a free human being from being able to enforce his non-consent.

    Agreement on such matters isn’t required, even though it is desired. All that is necessary is for neither of us to use force on the other. I do hope that my key arguments involving government being force is logically considered, as too many individuals seem to think of government as a big, huggable teddy bear that is all laughter and joy and can make everything better with its song about “the law”. Considering this discussion started due to a matter of police violence, the tail end of all government enforcement, I should think it would be easy to see as a false premise, if not acknowledge it as such. It took me years to come around to this realization, and thus I don’t expect others to change their minds overnight. I do hope that I’ve managed to plant a seed of truth, that if examined critically, will eventually blossom into the idea that government is not the solution to problems, and in fact is currently the cause of most problems we face today due to its departure from the rule of law and from equality under the law.

  4. #4 |  Deoxy | 

    And, I don’t think we’re going to end up agreeing that at its base, government’s authority relies solely on the use of force. I think it ultimately rests on the consent of the governed and ideally one can trust most citizens to comply based on their consent.

    I don’t care about “most” citizens. “Most” citizens don’t go around murdering people (for a obvious example). “Most” citizens (in most cases) already agree on most of the (commonly known) laws.

    The problem is when one does NOT agree with the law – that is, when choice “A) convince them with reason” has failed. What is the backup plan when you can’t convince someone? I assure that 300+ million people are never going to all be convinced to the point of agreement on more than a very VERY few things.

    The backup plan is force. Go back and read the second portion of my post #98, starting with “I am fined for not picking up after my dog.” Really, I don’t think I should have to. And I don’t think I should have to listen to you trying to convince me. What can the government do about it that is not force, that does not rely on the threat of violence?

    Woog

    The fear or and desire to regulate/restrict chemical weapons (and nuclear weapons) has to do with the fact that one stupid person with such a thing could cause huge damages, including their own death – that the guy playing around with the nuke in his backyard accidentally blows up the whole town. There’s not really any level of compensation that even shows up on that scale. And people do really dumb things, eh? Even an accidental discharge of military grade artillery doesn’t register on that scale, either.

    Arguments that those should be in private hands are going to be an absolute non-starter with the vast majority of people unless you have some way to address that. Seriously, I appreciate the honesty and consistent ethical approach (and this is the place you can do that, yay!), but that will immediately get you classified as “stark raving, bat-shit insane” with a very large number of people. Not helpful, eh?

  5. #5 |  Woog | 

    Deoxy, oh, I’m well aware of the problems with freedom. However, I did point out that property owners already restrict what others can do with their property, and that dangerous chemicals, materials, and explosives are already prohibited by their owners. No need for illegal laws when there are already practical, legal, prohibitions in place.

    Further, individuals have already made bulk poison gas as well as nuclear materials (the most famous being the “nuclear Boy Scout”), so the mere fact that there are federal laws against such activity doesn’t deter everyone.

    The problem of most people not comprehending the basic legal framework of the country they live in has little to do with the framework, but is again largely due to government straying from the rule of law by effectively destroying the educational systems.

  6. #6 |  Deoxy | 

    However, I did point out that property owners already restrict what others can do with their property, and that dangerous chemicals, materials, and explosives are already prohibited by their owners

    Which does absolutely nothing about the guy next door who owns his home.

    Now, I think I agree with you on the federal/state issue here (states should regulate this, not the feds), but I still found it very easy to read what you wrote as “we get to do these things, and no one should stop us!” In order to be clear to those who are not already on your side, you need to be very careful how you write stuff on this topic.

    Emphasizing that states should be the ones doing this instead of the feds instead of just that the feds shouldn’t be doing it would get you a long way with a lot of people, I think.

  7. #7 |  Woog | 

    Deoxy, there’s a maze of law at the local level which already prevents “the guy next door who owns his home” from say, erecting an oil derrick, digging a well, storing more than an arbitary amount of gasoline in tanks, and many other such things. Though pesky city and State bureaucrats can be as tyrannical as any, they’re much less insulated from the electorate.

    It’s not that I’m stating “we get to do these things, and no one should stop us”, it’s that an individual can already do these things, and the law can’t stop the act until afterwards”. It’s an extension of the Warren vs DC problem where YOU are responsible for yourself. That works in reverse, too: you are NOT responsible for your neighbor.

    The ultimate answer to the question of arms control is still that the militia, the “whole people”, are to cover many contingencies, one of which is to guard against their own government going overtly rogue. While it’s certainly not impossible to win against tanks with a deer rifle (see the Polish solution of shooting tankers when they leave the tank), having the means to directly counter weaponry that has been and will be used against the populace is the core purpose of the Second Amendment.

    Such facts might not be popular, and not even all that important in light of the underlying problem of the departure from the rule of law, but it is the truth.

    If potential allies aren’t interested in the rule of law and equality under the law, then I’m not interested in such allies.

  8. #8 |  Deoxy | 

    I did get that was what you meant, but I had to go back and re-read it… and I’m sympathetic to your position. That’s all I was trying to point out.

    If potential allies aren’t interested in the rule of law and equality under the law, then I’m not interested in such allies.

    That is a foolish, short-sighted, and counter-productive approach.

    To give a very shallow and silly example, there are 2 entities engaged in hostilities – one attempting to take the world by force and rule with tyrannical evilness, and the other is a happy, perfect, libertarian paradise just defending itself. A third group nearby is willing to join the hostilities on either side… they just like killing people, and any excuse will do. They have sufficient forces to swing the battle either way. Should the “good guys” eschew the help of the third party because they don’t hold the same morals?

    Yes, that’s a silly and simple example, but I think you can see my point. In the long term, we want to convince as many people as we can of the underlying ethical positions, but really, if someone supports the same positions I do, then their underlying ethics aren’t really that important in the short term. That’s a good ally – not a friend, not family, not a permanent attachment at the hip, just someone with the same goals in the current situation.

    Any many of those “third party” types are not committed to any specific position on gun control, property rights, etc – they have a goal (lower body count is the most common relating to gun rights), and they will support the group that best convinces them it can best achieve that goal. The underlying ethics (beyond the goal they have set, which is usually an ethical concern) don’t really matter to them… but they DO have a reason to be involved, to vote.

    So, given that many of them WILL have a say in the matter (by voting), I don’t think it’s wise to right them off because their underlying reasons don’t match yours or mine.

  9. #9 |  Woog | 

    Deoxy, your example is similar to one I would use to illustrate the same situation, but I’d include a question: what would stop the third group from turning on the peaceable defenders the very instant the situation looked advantageous to the killers?

    Compromising on foundational principles to get a mostly-palatable candidate based on low-priority concerns (abortion, taxes, foreign policy, etc.) has led us to where we are now, where enemies of the rule of law are deeply entrenched in every corner of the bureaucracy, backed up by brainwashed enforcers who actually believe that “protect and serve” means using deadly force against peaceful cooperating individuals. We’ve played this game and folks like you and I have lost.

    Rather, insisting on nothing but absolute respect and adherence to the rule of law and equality under the law will produce either a situation that eliminates the vast majority of the low-priority issues (that most people mistakenly believe are of very high importance) by bringing these matters down to their proper level of government (which can include self-government), or else a violent crisis initiated by those who wish to enslave others and opposed by their would-be slaves. A very-current example of this is the “health care mandate” which demands that a person, by merit of being alive, MUST perform an action – it is a claim of ownership on a person, otherwise known as slavery.

    Resisting such evil, even with violence, is the proper course of action, even if it means the defenders lose. As John Stark said, “Live free or die. Death is not the worst of evils.”

    Thankfully, we’re not at the stalemate you seem to imply we are. The law-breaking establishment is on its last legs, with even sitting Congressmen now stating we have no more than three years to respect the laws of mathematics (i.e. stop spending more than what is taken in by government) before the united States comes to a screeching halt ala Greece.

    There are about 40 million people on government food stamp assistance (according to the WSJ) right now; imagine what would happen if the government checks just stopped going out one day. Forty MILLION soon-to-be starving people, no government funds, no capacity in existing charities to care for that many people… digest that body count for a moment, and realize that it will come about due to the failure to follow the rule of law. Of course, adding in all the other entitlements which will disappear at the same time (social security, unemployment, medicaid/care, money to States for similar purposes) will make the number of victims even more horrific.

    So, trading in principles for allies who have historically turned around and stabbed us in the back at the earliest opportunity is a poor choice. If common ground on core principles can be found, excellent, our numbers have increased; if not, why insist upon attempting to call a known enemy a friend?

  10. #10 |  Deoxy | 

    Compromising on foundational principles to get a mostly-palatable candidate based on low-priority concerns (abortion, taxes, foreign policy, etc.) has led us to where we are now

    I said nothing about compromising core principles, and I would say that insisting on ideological purity (as you suggest) has been just as much a culprit as the other way around – the Libertarian party, for instance, is widely viewed as a joke. Libertarians in general suffer from this to a lesser degree, and not without reason (as I have experienced on this very board).

    If common ground on core principles can be found, excellent, our numbers have increased; if not, why insist upon attempting to call a known enemy a friend?

    And this is what I’m talking about. The problem is that such a person is NOT necessarily an enemy – that is, they are not OPPOSED to us, in most cases, they simply don’t consider the deeper ethical points beyond, for instance, “lower body count”.

    what would stop the third group from turning on the peaceable defenders the very instant the situation looked advantageous to the killers?

    Nothing… so let’s just PUSH them into the other camp right now, all together, and get wiped out at the very beginning, eh?

    To go back to the example I gave, the 2 main groups are both small – that is, the third party is larger than the two of them together. The group which makes best use of this third party wins.

    Exceedingly few of that third party will ever actually join EITHER of the main 2 groups – they will not put in the required introspection and thought to come to any solid ethical conclusions that will guide their actions. I don’t mean this as an insult – doing so is hard mental work with little obvious payoff, and most human beings simply don’t ever do it.

    Most people either never get involved, drift aimlessly from one group to another practically at random, or stick with one group long enough to become friends with them and so stay for that reason.

    DON’T compromise principles, but DO make every effort to bring people as far down the path (at least in terms of concrete actions) as you can, and DON’T gratuitously alienate them – they outnumber us by so much that even the ones that reliably vote outnumber us.

    YES, without a principled stand, they may well stab us in the back (often unintentionally), but that’s not any worse than just getting wiped out immediately by overwhelming force, eh?

    Concrete example: gun control. The most common reason to support gun control is desire for a lower body count. If you can convince people (logically, and with solid data) that gun control has a HIGHER body count, then they will no longer support gun control. Sure, it would be BETTER if they understood the ethical concerns underneath, but for gun control purposes, that doesn’t really matter… you get what you want, they get what they want, EVERYONE ends up better off.

    That doesn’t work in every case, but in the cases that it does, USE IT.

  11. #11 |  Woog | 

    Deoxy, amusing, is it not, the “sound and fury” we’ve expended at eachother when we’re in close agreement on the core issues of freedom.

    I concede this particular matter to you.

    Meanwhile, I’ll continue to state the plain truth as plainly as I can; if I manage to convince some to come around to support our side of the core issues, that’s wonderful. If not, I won’t consider them allies, but will fully acknowledge your freedom of association to do so for yourself.

  12. #12 |  Deoxy | 

    Heh – good point.

    I will cede that “ally” is too strong a term – I see your point there. What’s a better term for “partners of convenience”? It’s something they make movies of from time to time – hated enemies who get, say, stranded in some hostile environment together, who have to work together to both survive.

    So it is with this, sometimes.

    Meanwhile, I’ll continue to state the plain truth as plainly as I can

    GOOD. If anything, my original complaint was that you weren’t clear enough, such that it would be easy for someone to think they should oppose you when their goals lined up with yours well enough to work together.

    “Work together” – that’s actually a better term, perhaps. Like the people I work with, I don’t necessarily share values with them, but they’re still worth working with… we all have the same goal (keep the company doing well enough to continue to pay us).