The Dim-Post

October 8, 2009

Straw Dogs

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 6:20 am

When I’m arguing with libertarians (I know, I know) I usually bring up the issue of dog control. When you visit countries that have poor local government there are usually packs of wild dogs roaming around. This is because there’s no free market model that makes a profit out of controlling them, even though they attack and kill people and keep everyone awake at night howling and fighting. (This argument often takes libertarians aback – few of them have actually been to places without robust local government, they just assume that if you get rid of the institution that provides you with drinking water and sewerage disposal you’re in paradise – and they generally conclude that they’ll take responsibility for themselves and shoot wild dogs on their property. Apparently utopia is wandering around your yard with a gun shooting dogs.)

I walk to work most days and there are a couple of houses on my route where there are big dogs that run out into the yard and bark at everyone that walks or jogs past. The houses are fenced – by law – so there’s no danger but this always takes me back to my childhood in the slums of Plimmerton when there weren’t any laws about containing dogs and walking to school always involved having a couple of big dogs run out into the street snarling at you. I was never bitten but every year there were stories about children being mauled by uncontrolled dogs.

The current laws seem like a great argument in favor of the nanny state: dog attacks are now quite rare – the last bad one took place in a rural area where confinement of the animals isn’t really possible. The days of children being routinely savaged in their own backyards seem to be over. Enter Rodney Hide:

Local Government Minister Rodney Hide plans a complete review of dog laws, saying dogs are subject to more controls than ever, and their owners’ rights to enjoy them are overly restricted.

Mr Hide said he had asked officials to look at a “first principles” review of all dog laws, describing present legislation as an “onerous muddle,” much of it created through emotion after of individual high-profile dog attacks rather than after clear thinking.

He was concerned councils were taking their powers too far, and said they needed to remember dog ownership was a property right and good reasons were needed to fetter it.

“I believe dog owners should be free to enjoy the companionship of their dogs and that their freedom should be constrained only if they or their dog interfere with the rights of others.

“I would go further, in fact, to say ‘significantly interferes with the rights of others’.”

Good old ACT. Always looking out for our freedom to be torn apart by a pack of savage animals. Bless them.

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173 Comments »

  1. Comment by andy — October 8, 2009 @ 6:51 am

  2. And you start off with a straw man. Libertarians argue for good laws, well enforced, not anarchy. (And ACT are NOT libertarian party, just like the Greens aren’t really an environmental party).

    Vast chunks of infrastructure in the western world are built and maintained by companies (or SOEs, which are just companies that happen to be owned by the state at the mo’).

    “When you visit countries that have poor local government” I suspect they are poor countries, full stop. Life for ordinary folk can be shit in a poor country. Best to ensure you have good laws, good governance and a healthy attitude toward free enterprise: a simple recipe to help avoid being poor.

    Comment by Clunking Fist — October 8, 2009 @ 6:55 am

  3. But what is the free market response to wild dogs?

    Comment by JD — October 8, 2009 @ 7:36 am

  4. Nice you know weird countries Danyl. But do you know your neighbours, i.e. the ones who are being controlled (all for your safety of course, so who cares)?

    Perhaps read this: http://www.canpoorpeopleowndogs.org.nz/mahia

    And this: http://www.canpoorpeopleowndogs.org.nz/fido-and-warrior

    There are just dozens of such stories. But it all doesn’t matter. Dog control works! Danyl doesn’t read about children being mauled anymore, so there mustn’t be any.

    Comment by Berend de Boer — October 8, 2009 @ 7:38 am

  5. DESTROY ALL LAWBREAKERS

    INCREASE ALL PENALTIES

    BROKEN WINDOWS, ZERO TOLERANCE

    (except for cute kids with dogs)

    Always nice to take a trip to Lolbertopia.

    Comment by JD — October 8, 2009 @ 8:09 am

  6. “But what is the free market response to wild dogs?”
    More Tongans

    Comment by Adhominem — October 8, 2009 @ 8:10 am

  7. CF – so what do you think of Rodney’s proposal?

    (as an aside, I do wonder if there’s any point responding to the posts of someone who uses the term “ZanuLiarboour” on their own blog)

    Comment by Eddie Clark — October 8, 2009 @ 8:13 am

  8. Libertarians like to pick and choose which impositions on liberty they want. Like most people holding an extreme position, consistency is difficult.

    When I was younger I used to do paper runs in South Auckland, and dogs would in fact roam the streets. It was awful. And then the council stepped in. And it was good.

    The libertarian response would be that you sue the dog owner for imposing on your liberty. But this ignores the fact that transaction costs in taking court cases are high, and that they’re imperfect at making decisions, and that you’d rather just avoid getting bit in the first place (apparently, for a libertarian, the fear of litigation post-facto is a better deterrent than having a law).

    Comment by George Darroch — October 8, 2009 @ 8:33 am

  9. “When you visit countries that have poor local government” I suspect they are poor countries, full stop. Life for ordinary folk can be shit in a poor country. Best to ensure you have good laws, good governance and a healthy attitude toward free enterprise: a simple recipe to help avoid being poor.

    Poverty has nothing to do with dog control. If you have a rich libertarian utopia then some people will own dogs, some will runaway, some will breed and before long you’ll have large packs of wild hungry dogs in your utopia.

    It’s the same with sewerage. It doesn’t matter how rich the society is, if there’s no law preventing people from piping their sewerage into the streets then a non-zero percentage of the population will pipe their sewerage directly into the streets.

    Comment by danylmc — October 8, 2009 @ 8:41 am

  10. Can poor people own dogs – of course not, as if genuinely poor then the cost of dogfood would be too considerable for their weekly budget… (hence being unable to save money for actual emergencies)…

    Comment by Sam — October 8, 2009 @ 8:41 am

  11. I’m pretty sure I saw Hide on the news last night saying dog owners should be licensed as well as dogs. This seems like a good idea, but also a bit ‘nanny state’ by Act standards. I can imagine if Labour had suggested that all Act’s followers going ‘why should Helen Clark stop me from owning a dog, this is just more govt interference in decent law abiding people’s lives, another tax grab, more pointless bureaucracy, etc etc etc’.

    Comment by Helen — October 8, 2009 @ 8:45 am

  12. What an absolute rubbish argument. In a truly free society there wouldn’t be attacking dogs, they’d be shot (yes shot) in no time.

    Comment by dimmocrazy — October 8, 2009 @ 9:06 am

  13. You shoota my dog, I shoota your face.

    Comment by Adam — October 8, 2009 @ 9:12 am

  14. I’ve got to agree with lightening the regulations.
    Noone wants another dog attack
    but the more restrained a dog is,
    the more unsocialised it becomes.

    Comment by Adhominem — October 8, 2009 @ 9:16 am

  15. So freedom is just another word for citizens walking the streets with shotguns readied at dog level.

    I’m not convinced dimmocrazy.

    Comment by Sean — October 8, 2009 @ 9:18 am

  16. In that case, Adam, if your dog bites me, I shoot you.

    Comment by Sam — October 8, 2009 @ 9:26 am

  17. What an absolute rubbish argument. In a truly free society there wouldn’t be attacking dogs, they’d be shot (yes shot) in no time.

    So, how do we know the dog is going to attack? I’m going to shoot your dog just in case. I’m also going to shoot your cat in case it eats my goldfish, and your rabbit in case it eats my lawn.

    Comment by George Darroch — October 8, 2009 @ 9:35 am

  18. In that case Sam, in a truly free society, my brother shoots you (or my uncle or maybe just the guy down the street I play pool with). I mean why bother with a justice system when you are clearly guilty.

    Comment by Adam — October 8, 2009 @ 9:42 am

  19. Adam – that was kinda the same point that i was making against your own statement at 9:12. Perhaps we are just on the same page of absurdity…

    Comment by Sam — October 8, 2009 @ 10:10 am

  20. Hey George, when I was younger and used to do paper runs in South Auckland, the council’s response then was the same as the libertarian response would be: your dog bites me, your dog gets destroyed by Dog Control.

    It’s hardly complicated. Doesn’t need to be.

    Oh, and just to reinforce CF’s comment above: Libertarians aren’t anarchists. If they were, then that’s what they’d call themselves.

    Comment by Peter Cresswell — October 8, 2009 @ 10:12 am

  21. when I was younger and used to do paper runs in South Auckland, the council’s response then was the same as the libertarian response would be: your dog bites me, your dog gets destroyed by Dog Control.

    It’s hardly complicated.

    Actually it sounds a lot messier and more complicated than the current situation, which is that the dog is confined behind a fence so that nobody gets bitten and nobody’s dog needs to be shot.

    Comment by danylmc — October 8, 2009 @ 10:15 am

  22. I don’t see dog ownership as a property right. It’s more like driving a car. A privilege to be taken away if the person is a danger to others.

    People are seldom mauled to death by houses.

    Comment by Neil — October 8, 2009 @ 10:17 am

  23. The best thing about libertarians is how it usually takes them less than twenty posts to go from principled opposition to a dog-eat-dog fantasy world in which paperboys prowl the streets armed with rifles to protect themselves from wild animals.

    Comment by JD — October 8, 2009 @ 10:18 am

  24. Yep – as this thread shows, so called libertarianism descends into anarchy pretty quickly. The next stage is that powerful individuals and groups emerge to impose their interests on everyone else. That’s why true “freedom” (no government) inevitably results in the rule of warlords. With luck they evolve into kings or pharaohs over a few hundred years.

    Fact is, our political structures are the result of thousands of years of social evolution, and they are better than they have ever been. These latent calls for the “freedom” are simply political luddite-ism. It’s the freedom to be murdered by your neighbour in a dispute over a dog. But that’s okay, with luck the local Black-Power chief will demand were-gild for your widow. Or you could appeal to lord Rodney for justice.

    Comment by vibenna — October 8, 2009 @ 10:33 am

  25. @VIBENA: True freedom is not “no government.” Which part of “libertarians are not anarchists” did you not understand?

    @JD: Rather sad you can’t identify the difference between Council’s Dog Control and a paper boy with a rifle. Who exactly is it who’s living in your fantasy world?

    @DANYL: As a matter of fact, it used to work rather well. Number of times I got bitten by dogs while delivering papers in South Auckland: None.

    Comment by Peter Cresswell — October 8, 2009 @ 10:46 am

  26. True freedom is not “no government.” Which part of “libertarians are not anarchists” did you not understand?

    Most anarchists I know believe in self-government through free mutual association. The difference between an anarchist and a libertarian is the value they give to property rights.

    Comment by George Darroch — October 8, 2009 @ 10:54 am

  27. And that’s the problem with liberatarianism, in a nutshell. It’s not even who enforces the property rights. It’s who decides what they will be.

    Comment by vibenna — October 8, 2009 @ 11:12 am

  28. @GEORGE: Well, no. By definition, the difference between an anarchist and a libertarian is their support for the existence or non-existence of government.

    Anarchy is the absence of government and law. Libertarianism is not.

    Anarchists are necessarily anti-state. Libertarians are not.

    Comment by Peter Cresswell — October 8, 2009 @ 11:16 am

  29. Go on, admit it Vibenna. You just make stuff up, don’t you.

    Comment by Peter Cresswell — October 8, 2009 @ 11:18 am

  30. But, PC? Who does decide what property rights will be?

    Comment by Deborah — October 8, 2009 @ 11:32 am

  31. @Deborah:

    Who decides? In a word: Reality.

    In a few more words: Essentially, you’re entitled to whatever new values you’ve brought into the world. As my favourite lady says, “Since man has to sustain his life by his own effort, the man who has no right to the product of his effort has no means to sustain his life. The man who produces while others dispose of his product, is a slave.”

    You in favour of slavery?

    Comment by Peter Cresswell — October 8, 2009 @ 11:38 am

  32. Would you KINDLY kill that stray dog?

    Comment by JD — October 8, 2009 @ 11:45 am

  33. Peter – ah, so you are in favour of warlordism, then. Or have I misinterpreted you?

    Comment by vibenna — October 8, 2009 @ 11:46 am

  34. @Peter Cresswell:

    “Who decides? In a word: Reality.”

    Nonsense – property rights are a social construct. A useful social construct to have, but still a social construct.

    Comment by kahikatea — October 8, 2009 @ 11:47 am

  35. “man who produces while others dispose of his product, is a slave.”

    Interesting quote. I guess it logically follows that if an invester buys resources at $1 a kilo, then pays his workers $1 a kilo to transform the resources into a product, then sells that product at $4 a kilo – the $2 profit per kilo pocketed by the invester is actually $2 worth of labour of his workers to the consumer without paying them for it?

    Would you say that capitalism is based on capitalists selling the product of workers without recompensating the worker adquately for their labour. Thereby, enslaving the worker. So capitalists are slave drivers?

    Therefore, we all best collectivise the means of production, then we can all be set free in an equal society.

    “The people’s flag is darkest red…”

    Comment by Sean — October 8, 2009 @ 11:56 am

  36. Glibertarians, going Gault anytime soon? Please?

    Glibertarian—a portmanteau of glib and libertarian, a person who affects libertarianism when it’s convenient. Used by those not ready to admit that all libertarian philosophy can be boiled down to “I got mine, fuck you”, or by those attempting to be polite to libertarians.

    Dosen’t reality have a well known liberal bias, just askin?

    Comment by andy — October 8, 2009 @ 11:57 am

  37. Excuse me, I’d been under the delusion that there was intelligent discussion going on here.

    Clearly, I’ve been misinformed.

    Comment by Peter Cresswell — October 8, 2009 @ 12:09 pm

  38. “…and your rabbit…” Lettuce commence with the killing.

    Comment by Tom Semmens — October 8, 2009 @ 12:12 pm

  39. Who let the dogmas out…

    Comment by Adhominem — October 8, 2009 @ 12:21 pm

  40. You in favour of slavery?

    ——

    Excuse me, I’d been under the delusion that there was intelligent discussion going on here.

    Clearly, I’ve been misinformed.

    you have misinformed yourself, maybe.

    Comment by andy — October 8, 2009 @ 12:50 pm

  41. “Nonsense – property rights are a social construct. A useful social construct to have, but still a social construct.”

    No, a “right” to a benefit paid to you for getting pregnant and having a baby is a social construct.

    “But what is the free market response to wild dogs?”
    Same as for wild pigs, deer and horses, I would have thought: hunting, round-ups and sale/bbq/dogfood. Now, for domestic dogs that have roamed, the answer would be somewhat the same. If you want to remain the owner of a dog, label it in case of loss and for heavens-sake fence it in or tie it up so it can’t get lost (or stolen). In my last sentance, there were no laws, just common sense. At the mo’, we have some rules around who is and who is NOT allowed to enforce the commonsense.

    Commonsense ends, however, when talking about water safetly. I have a fence around by property and have no children (say), but the sweaty men with clipboards and photochromatic lenses say I still have to have another fence around my pool. This pisses me off no end, as the rivers, streams, culverts and oceans nearby are not required to be similarly fenced.

    Comment by Clunking Fist — October 8, 2009 @ 12:53 pm

  42. “I’d been under the delusion that there was intelligent discussion going on here”

    Having brought Ayn Rand into this, intelligent discussion is clearly not the worst delusion you’re under…

    Comment by nommopilot — October 8, 2009 @ 1:00 pm

  43. “Would you say that capitalism is based on capitalists selling the product of workers without recompensating the worker adquately for their labour. Thereby, enslaving the worker. So capitalists are slave drivers?”

    Well, Sean, the worker can go on strike for better wages or change employer, change career, but at no point can they opt out of paying for that solo mum’s $720 per week “entitlement”.

    You are, of course, describing piece rates. $1 per kilo might be good, exactly how many kilos can the average worker process in an hour? If I bought her a steam-powered stampy/pressy/churny thing, by what magnitude could she increase her output, allowing me to sell more items for less, making all my customers more smiley? Capitalism is what makes Sean’s life in this country quite comfortable, compared to the anarchist state of, say, Somalia.

    Comment by Clunking Fist — October 8, 2009 @ 1:03 pm

  44. I guess you could argue that property laws were a Kantian categorical imperitive but to argue that they exist ab aeterno seems pretty crazy. Were there property laws before our species existed? Who enforced them? Bah.

    Comment by danylmc — October 8, 2009 @ 1:09 pm

  45. Who invented land? What is their right to monopolise it?
    It’s just a bit more peaceful that way.

    Comment by Adhominem — October 8, 2009 @ 1:16 pm

  46. “Same as for wild pigs, deer and horses, I would have thought: hunting, round-ups and sale/bbq/dogfood.”

    Ah yes, but how would this operate if there isn’t much of a local market for barbecued dog, dog-flavoured dogfood, or freerange mongrels to a good home?

    And if there *was* a sustainable industry in wild-dog trapping, wouldn’t rational economic behaviour by the trappers (ie, not shooting/trapping all the dogs) just ensure that the wild dog population and its nasty externalities remain forever – dead native birds, dog crap everywhere, mauled toddlers?

    Just thinking into the keyboard here.

    Comment by Sam Finnemore — October 8, 2009 @ 1:22 pm

  47. Capitalism is what makes Sean’s life in this country quite comfortable, compared to the anarchist state of, say, Somalia.

    No, war is what makes Somalia uncomfortable. Somalia is a great example of what a state without an effective and recognised government looks like (in this case, due to civil war – in Puntland, and where the Islamic Courts Union have established unchallenged government, things aren’t so bad).

    Comment by George Darroch — October 8, 2009 @ 1:25 pm

  48. Sam, if someone causes you an externality, you sue them. So you could sue them for your loss of enjoyment of native birdsong, and your mauled toddler. Sound appealing? Either that, or you shoot the trappers, I can’t remember which.

    Comment by George Darroch — October 8, 2009 @ 1:28 pm

  49. I keep telling everyone to play Bioshock to get an idea of what a Libertarian/Randian utopia would look like, but no one listens. Forget wild pigs and dogs, everything’s more fun with mutants.

    Comment by Eddie Clark — October 8, 2009 @ 1:33 pm

  50. everything’s more fun with mutants.

    Mutant libertarians! eek!

    Comment by andy — October 8, 2009 @ 1:37 pm

  51. Ayn Rand? We’re talking dogs here. Rodney’s running the Scooby Doo hypothesis. If it weren’t for those pesky kids, everyone could have a mystery mansion.

    Comment by joew — October 8, 2009 @ 1:39 pm

  52. “Mutant libertarians! eek!”

    You have just described the plot of Bioshock :).

    Comment by Eddie Clark — October 8, 2009 @ 1:39 pm

  53. “if someone causes you an externality, you sue them.”
    How will Libs cope with global warming?
    We may as well just give everything to the lawyers.

    Comment by Adhominem — October 8, 2009 @ 1:44 pm

  54. All rights are social constructs, including property and the right not to starve to death.

    Dog ownership is a property right, the issue is not whether or not you can own a dog. A dog owner can enjoy his dog almost as much as he wants. The issue is how much the dog can enjoy communial property (eg parks, streets etc) and whether restrictions are attached to the enjoyment of these.

    @CF Capitalism is an economic construct not a political one.

    It could be argued that speculation, socialism and debt creation is as big a contributors to the comfortable life in NZ as is capitalism.

    Near full employment is what creates the labour shotages that drives up the wages to current market equilibrium. In turn you pay extra tax on your extra income to support some people.

    The level of your current income is a byproduct of inter alia the welfare policies that exist in this market, irrespetive of whether you are an employee or run your own business which receive benefit from the welfare dollar being spend.

    Comment by cj_nza — October 8, 2009 @ 1:51 pm

  55. @AdHominem, you ask “How will [libertarians] cope with global warming?

    Well, you could either join in with everybody alse here and just make stuff up, or you could find out for yourself: What would a libertarian do about global warming?

    Comment by Peter Cresswell — October 8, 2009 @ 2:05 pm

  56. @cj_nza: “All rights are social constructs . . .”

    Well, no they’re not. Rights are a recognition of what is right — hence the name — an identification and protection of the right relationship between individuals and the things they value.

    Comment by Peter Cresswell — October 8, 2009 @ 2:07 pm

  57. “Well, Sean, the worker can go on strike for better wages…”

    They certainly can, if they are organised.

    “…but at no point can they opt out of paying for that solo mum’s $720 per week “entitlement”.”

    Interesting you should take this opportunity to attack beneficiaries Clunking Fist as I never brought the subject up. For the record I’m actually okay with the state intervening to support the children of the socially disadvantaged, as those children are destined to be citizens.

    “If I bought her a steam-powered stampy/pressy/churny thing, by what magnitude could she increase her output, allowing me to sell more items for less, making all my customers more smiley?”

    So, let’s say added to the cost of $1 kilo is a a cost of investment in productive machinery that works out at an additional $1 a kilo for the first year, but trailing off by 10 cents a kilo per year after that. I presume that over the decade, the investor is still going to still maintain their profits at least.

    So still there is some disparity between payment for labour, and value of product, this would indicate, by Ayn Rand’s logic (remember “man who produces while others dispose of his product, is a slave.”) the workers are slaves.

    “Capitalism is what makes Sean’s life in this country quite comfortable, compared to the anarchist state of, say, Somalia.”

    I’ve moved into the third person, goodness me. Any way, I would say it is the state of New Zealand that guarantees my rights and makes my life comfortable, compared to somewhere like Somalia, were people wildly seek profits by violence. Pirates and Warlords are looking for personal gain out of their ‘Transactions’ and are not restricted by laws.

    Thank God we have laws then. Bless the State.

    Comment by Sean — October 8, 2009 @ 2:08 pm

  58. Peter Cresswell, you could simply have argued, “dispute the science, do nothing”
    To the extent government regulations to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases thwart these free-market institutions and hands bureaucrats more power over individuals’ economic life, he cautions, the “cure” may well be worse than the disease.

    Too bad if you live in Bangladesh, Florida or Vietnam, regulating greenhouse emissions is worse than letting your country drown.

    Comment by George Darroch — October 8, 2009 @ 2:16 pm

  59. Playing libertarians is more fun than whackamole.

    Comment by George Darroch — October 8, 2009 @ 2:18 pm

  60. “Well, no they’re not. Rights are a recognition of what is right.”

    Yes, sorry my mistake “what is right” is a social construct.

    Comment by cj_nza — October 8, 2009 @ 2:24 pm

  61. cj_nza, there is only one version of “what is right”, and everyone agrees with it. I know this, because Peter Cresswell told me so.

    Seriously, you have to go back several hundred years to a point where ‘natural rights’ were unchallenged. Since then it’s been well established that no such things exist, and that rights are merely things that a lot of people strongly believe are important. That there are conflicts of rights is also now a given, for everyone except libertarians.

    Comment by George Darroch — October 8, 2009 @ 2:31 pm

  62. @cj_nza:

    Yes, I’m sorry for your mistakes too.

    No, “what is right” is not a social construct.

    Comment by Peter Cresswell — October 8, 2009 @ 2:32 pm

  63. “Yes, I’m sorry for your mistakes too.”

    You have no right!

    Comment by cj_nza — October 8, 2009 @ 2:42 pm

  64. “No, “what is right” is not a social construct.”

    Arse. Unless you’re going to point me to a specific divine being from whom the diktats of rightness come, how could the concept of ‘right’ be anything other than socially constructed. There are deeply shared conceptions of some aspects what is right that are shared across many socieities, but that doesn’t stop them being socially constructed.

    Comment by Eddie Clark — October 8, 2009 @ 2:44 pm

  65. ‘No, “what is right” is not a social construct.’

    I suppose it could be a non-social construct, constructed individually in Peter’s head.

    Comment by kahikatea — October 8, 2009 @ 2:46 pm

  66. PC, how is ‘the initiation of force or fraud’ (being the canonical ‘wrong’ from which the Libertarian state must protects its citizens) not a social construct? These things are inventions of society; they’re not magically extant in nature.

    L

    Comment by Lew — October 8, 2009 @ 2:48 pm

  67. Curses. Redundant again.

    L

    Comment by Lew — October 8, 2009 @ 2:49 pm

  68. Libertarians belive that rights emerge from rational observation, in the same way that the properties of (say) a geometric object can be observed by rational observation.

    The big problem with this argument is that if you get a bunch of mathematicians from different times and cultures together and ask them to draw an object in which all points on a plane are equidistant from the centre they’ll all draw the same circle. If you get a bunch of lawyers or philosophers from different cultures and ask them to draw up the ‘right’ property laws they’ll all come up with wildly different answers.

    Comment by danylmc — October 8, 2009 @ 2:56 pm

  69. @ Peter I read your
    “What would a libertarian do about global warming?”

    The only suggestion for solving climate change
    was everyone should become a Lib.

    Comment by Adhominem — October 8, 2009 @ 2:59 pm

  70. If you get a bunch of lawyers or philosophers from different cultures and ask them to draw up the ‘right’ property laws they’ll all come up with wildly different answers.

    Yes. The whole problem is that ‘right’ is a matter of judgement and perspective: right according to whom?

    Outside culture, there are no rights, there are no wrongs; to paraphrase Ingersoll, there are only consequences. Actions of initiating force and fraud aren’t right or wrong — one or other may be advantageous (have good consequences) or not, but that is not a question of morality or ethics, merely a question of what is.

    L

    Comment by Lew — October 8, 2009 @ 3:03 pm

  71. >Libertarians belive that rights emerge from rational observation, in the same way that the properties of (say) a geometric object can be observed by rational observation.

    >The big problem with this argument is that if you get a bunch of mathematicians from different times and cultures together and ask them to draw an object in which all points on a plane are equidistant from the centre they’ll all draw the same circle.

    Although if one was to get a bunch of mathematicians from different times and cultures together and ask them about non-Euclidean geometry, you wouldn’t get the same answer.

    Comment by JD — October 8, 2009 @ 3:09 pm

  72. JD: Whoclidean?

    L

    Comment by Lew — October 8, 2009 @ 3:13 pm

  73. Although if one was to get a bunch of mathematicians from different times and cultures together and ask them about non-Euclidean geometry, you wouldn’t get the same answer.

    True – but you can use non-Euclidean geometry to make highly accurate predictions about (say) the way the mass effects gravity so it can be said to have some degree of ‘truth’ in that sense.

    Comment by danylmc — October 8, 2009 @ 3:14 pm

  74. YOu know, the paucity of knowledge here about the subject you’re pretending to discuss is risible. If you want to play ‘Libertarian Whack-A-Mole’ properly, why not find out the rules first so you can have some proper sport?

    Let me just deal with the straw men first:

    Libertarians believe that rights emerge from rational observation, in the same way that the properties of a geometric object can be observed by rational observation.

    Well, not exactly.

    …how could the concept of ‘right’ be anything other than socially constructed?

    Because they’re a simple recognition and integration of the totality of what it needs for human beings to be free, and to flourish.

    Rights require “a specific divine being from whom the diktats of rightness come.

    Well, no they don’t. Not unless you’re a dumb-arse conservative.

    . . . how is ‘the initiation of force or fraud’ (being the canonical ‘wrong’ from which the Libertarian state must protects its citizens) not a social construct?

    Because it’s simply another application of <a href="http://pc.blogspot.com/2005/05/cue-card-libertarianism-rights.html"rights — the recognition that the precondition of what human beings need to in order to flourish is to be free from coercive force.

    So if rights aren’t grounded in your god or goddess, and they’re not just “arbitrary social constructs,” then how are they grounded you ask?

    Well, thanks for asking. They’re grounded in the recognition and integration of several important facts, chief among them being that respect for rights is a necesssary but not sufficient condition for individuals to achieve their own values. That to engage in the type of action in which her life and flourishing depend, a person must be free to decide, deduce and discover for themselves what those actions might be and are.

    In her book Moral Rights & Political Freedom (which I’d recommend if you’re at all serious about tackling the biggest opponents in your Whack-A-Mole), Tara Smith characterises the argument like this:

    “My contention is that respect for individual rights to freedom of action is a necessary condition for individuals’ attainment of their highest good. Each person’s own life is that person’s ultimate value. It can only be attained, though, when a person is free to rule her own life. If we wish to have the chance to achieve that value, then we must recognize rights. … The argument runs as follows:

    1. Human life requires productive effort.
    2. Productive effort requires reasoned action.
    3. Reasoned action is individual and self-authored.
    4. Reasoned action requires freedom.
    5. Thus, if we seek to live in a society in which individuals are to have a chance to maintain their lives, we must recognize individual rights to freedom.

    So there you go.

    Comment by Peter Cresswell — October 8, 2009 @ 3:22 pm

  75. @cj_nza: “Peter I read your
    “What would a libertarian do about global warming?” The only [libertarian] suggestion for solving climate change was everyone should become a Lib
    .”

    Well, no it isn’t. Nice try, but. :-)

    And in any case, the ‘argument’ to which I was responding was that libertarians have no solution to the problem, if it is a problem. You might disagree with some of the solutions you read, or choose to mischaracterise them, but you can’t now say there are none, or that libertarians don’t address the ‘problem.’

    The simplest way to look at it if it is a problem is this: that the “action” that’s always called for to “fix” the problem of global warming is government action to ban private action.

    But that’s hardly a solution to anything, is it. We know that socialism doesn’t work at fifteen degrees, so what would lead us to believe that socialism would work when it’s seventeen?

    Comment by Peter Cresswell — October 8, 2009 @ 3:29 pm

  76. So, anyone want to talk about dog control laws?

    Comment by Peter Cresswell — October 8, 2009 @ 3:30 pm

  77. 1. Human life requires productive effort.
    2. Productive effort requires reasoned action.
    3. Reasoned action is individual and self-authored.
    4. Reasoned action requires freedom.
    5. Thus, if we seek to live in a society in which individuals are to have a chance to maintain their lives, we must recognize individual rights to freedom.

    This seems very vulnerable to a reductio ad absurdum. How about if we replace the word ‘human life’ with ‘bacterial life’. Bacteria have to sustain themselves in much the same way humans do (get food, fight or avoid external threats etc). We then learn that this activity ‘requires reasoned action’, which is self-authored (sure, after all bacteria have both programmed and learned behaviour, same as we do). The bacteria is usually part of a colony but it is, a fairly autonomous unit, so we can accept that it ‘requires freedom’, all of which leads us to conclude that we must recognise that bacteria have individual rights to freedom and thus property rights, freedom of association and so on.

    Comment by danylmc — October 8, 2009 @ 3:37 pm

  78. @ Peter
    “What would a libertarian do about global warming?”

    In a nutshell:
    Everyone becomes a libertarian.
    Everyone becomes prosperous
    therefore everyone is able to adapt to climate change.
    We will all be polluters
    so we won’t have to sue each other.

    We just need more pollution.
    I think there will be some victims amongst us.

    Comment by Adhominem — October 8, 2009 @ 3:38 pm

  79. @Peter

    Are you now advocating the universal rigth to the freedom to place words in other people’s mouths?

    The comment attributed to me in your last response is not mine.

    Comment by cj_nza — October 8, 2009 @ 3:40 pm

  80. Oops, sorry cj_nza.

    I should have attributed it to Adhominem.

    Apologies.

    Comment by Peter Cresswell — October 8, 2009 @ 3:50 pm

  81. Peter Creswell wrote: “The simplest way to look at it if it is a problem is this: that the “action” that’s always called for to “fix” the problem of global warming is government action to ban private action.

    But that’s hardly a solution to anything, is it. We know that socialism doesn’t work at fifteen degrees, so what would lead us to believe that socialism would work when it’s seventeen?”

    Nonsense. There are plenty of examples of government action to ban private action being effective in solving problems. In most countries that have banned slavery, the rate of slavery went down significantly. OECD countries with tough gun-control laws typically have lower murder rates than OECD countries that don’t. Lots of cities around the world have reduced their localised air pollution significantly through tougher emissions standards for cars. I could probably go on for ever with examples like this.

    The idea that government intervention never works may be a crucial tenet of your ideology, but that doesn’t make it true.

    Comment by kahikatea — October 8, 2009 @ 3:52 pm

  82. In a country of infinite potential, where we have observed decades of left/right political swings & with ever increasing decline of morals and economy, would you not think that reasoned, open exploration of the limitations of status quo and democracy be considered?
    I learnt at an early age that if I hit my head against something hard – it would hurt. I am like most of us, pretty good at avoiding it.
    Judging by the ignorance of and disregard for non-left/right wing approaches to politics (such as Libertarianism), one can only conclude that there are going to be lumpy heads out there for some time.

    Comment by Shane Pleasance — October 8, 2009 @ 3:53 pm

  83. @danylmc: Well, it was you who first used the word “absurd.”

    Do you really need me to explain the universe of difference between the nature of a parasitical amoeba and the way it survives and flourishes, and the nature of a conceptual, reasoning human being and the reasoned action by which she survives?

    Bugs, bacteria and insects (and most other animals as well) survive by adapting themselves to reality — and they’ve developed physical adaptations over aeons to make their survival by those means possible.

    By contrast, man comes to this earth naked; he must survive by adapting nature to himself — which first requires the reasoned activity, the long-range planning, the conceptual thought combined with practical action, that is somewhat beyond your average amoeba.

    Comment by Peter Cresswell — October 8, 2009 @ 3:57 pm

  84. @ Shane Pleasance:

    “ever increasing decline of morals and economy”

    We can have an argument about the economy, but I’m curious: in what way do you think NZ is a worse country, morally, than it was in… lets say the 70s? Or is the quote just code for how the lesbian feminazis are taking over?

    Comment by Eddie Clark — October 8, 2009 @ 3:58 pm

  85. Well, in the end dog control “laws” should be based on the same fundamental principles that all laws are based upon, the most important principle being to always ask the question whether a specific law is actually required, i.e. why not solve the problem on first principles?

    One must realize that any and all forms of local authority rules (including dog laws), are created for one purpose only, to REMOVE rights, not to create any.
    The common by-product of the desire to remove rights is that it always leads to removal of responsibilities as well, with the general effect that sub-groups are created that effectively escape responsibilities and assume ‘rights’, while the general population is saddled with paying for the associated ever-increasing regulation and normative control in two ways (a) financially and (b) by continuously losing more and more control over their own affairs.

    Simply working ones way through basic property rights can completely resolve any dog related (legal) issue, but unfortunately we have already allowed the cardigan crowd to infest this issue……………

    Comment by dimmocrazy — October 8, 2009 @ 4:00 pm

  86. kahikatea: Yeas, I agree that sentence was sloppily written.

    It should have said, “But beyond banning the initiation of force, government action is hardly a solution to anything, is it.”

    The idea that government intervention never works may be a crucial tenet of your ideology . . .

    Well, as I’ve been at pains to explain above, it’s not.

    Comment by Peter Cresswell — October 8, 2009 @ 4:07 pm

  87. @ Peter
    “What would a libertarian do about global warming?”

    What subterfuge!
    Direct someone to a load of links full of twaddle.

    Libs don’t have a solution to Global Warming,
    just some very slick moves.

    Nice try, but.

    Comment by Adhominem — October 8, 2009 @ 4:10 pm

  88. “Thus, if we seek to live in a society in which individuals are to have a chance to maintain their lives, we must recognize individual rights to freedom.”

    Yes we must, but, once again there are no specific rights that can be drawn as existing outside human social conception and convention. Individuals “maintain their lives” in societies with all sorts of different levels of ‘freedom’. The vague statements you post above are not a reasoned argument, they are just a paraphrase of the fountainhead.

    If you grant people freedom to believe what they believe then you have to grant them the right to believe that you are wrong.

    Comment by nommopilot — October 8, 2009 @ 4:11 pm

  89. @ Eddie Clark,
    Economy: http://www.economicgrowth.org.nz/artman/publish/index.shtml
    Morals: well, yes, I guess feminazis, http://lindsaymitchell.blogspot.com/ & also answered by dimmocrazy in comment 85.

    Cheers, Shane

    Comment by Shane Pleasance — October 8, 2009 @ 4:14 pm

  90. “would you not think that reasoned, open exploration of the limitations of status quo and democracy be considered?”

    How about the limitations of a political philosophy that is concerned only with the rights of the individual?

    Such an approach to creating a social structure will certainly lead to those individuals with greater economic and political power dominating those with less. How could it be any other way?

    Comment by nommopilot — October 8, 2009 @ 4:23 pm

  91. Shane – fair enough.

    I tend to think that people who see minority groups being treated better than they had been previously as moral decline are being mean-spirited.

    Dimmocrazy says: “The common by-product of the desire to remove rights is that it always leads to removal of responsibilities as well, with the general effect that sub-groups are created that effectively escape responsibilities and assume ‘rights’, while the general population is saddled with paying for the associated ever-increasing regulation and normative control”

    If for ‘general populace’ here you substitute ‘straight white people with a chip on their shoulder’, then I think it reads better.

    Comment by Eddie Clark — October 8, 2009 @ 4:23 pm

  92. @ Eddie Clark: you don’t get no bites from me on that sort of generalities, Eddie (or should I say ‘Foucault’ given your earlier postings?).

    Comment by dimmocrazy — October 8, 2009 @ 4:43 pm

  93. PC,

    Do you really need me to explain the universe of difference between the nature of a parasitical amoeba and the way it survives and flourishes, and the nature of a conceptual, reasoning human being and the reasoned action by which she survives?

    If a thing is categorical, then it must apply in even the smallest case — while differences of kind matter, differences of degree do not.

    If the right to freedom accrues on the grounds of individual and self-authored reasoned action (per Tara Smith), then you have three possible courses of action regarding Danyl’s reductio: either you accept that it isn’t categorical after all; or you argue that bacteria are different in kind (they don’t take reasoned, self-authored individual action); or you accept that bacteria also have a right to freedom, which would make something of a mockery. You might be right about bacteria, but to be right, you would have to repair to the constructs built into the definitions about what is reasoned, self-authored and individual, which draw the argument ever closer to angels and pin-heads. This is what I mean when I say it doesn’t exist outside culture: the determination of marginal cases is made on culturally (or socially, if you prefer, there’s a whole other argument there) -constructed grounds.

    In any case, even if the bacterium case fails to qualify for the right to freedom on these grounds, what of a less-marginal example? A slightly more advanced critter which clearly exhibits autonomous action? Farm animals? Great apes? Chimaerae? At some point the distinction of kind breaks down and you’re left staring into the logical proposition that all — or most — critters are entitled to the same fundamental rights of freedom from coercive force. Perhaps this is true, but at some point (such as when we decide to imprison a cow to expropriate its milk, for instance, or when we want to violate a frog’s property rights by drainign its home to build apartments) it will come into conflict with humanity’s right to freedom, and so a determination must be made — on cultural grounds — as to which set of rights take precedence.

    And if you hold that there is a difference in kind — human exceptionalism — well, that’s a cultural construct too.

    It is a constant source of irony to me that much Libertarian and Objectivist rhetoric employs this fundamental line of argument (that differences of degree are irrelevant, only differences of kind matter) to argue, i.a., that taxation is the same as theft; productive moral hazard equals slavery; and the smallest impingements on freedom are tantamount to totalitarianism; and yet the difference of degree between human action and any other action is somehow magically different.

    L

    Comment by Lew — October 8, 2009 @ 5:01 pm

  94. Danyl says “44.I guess you could argue that property laws were a Kantian categorical imperitive but to argue that they exist ab aeterno seems pretty crazy. Were there property laws before our species existed? Who enforced them? Bah.”

    Many animals mark their territory, often with scent. There were consequences if you didn’t respect the wee-wee.

    Comment by Clunking Fist — October 8, 2009 @ 5:05 pm

  95. Hi Sean @ 57.
    “Interesting you should take this opportunity to attack beneficiaries Clunking Fist as I never brought the subject up.”
    Well, you were talking about slavery. You think working for the man is slavery. I think working for beneficiaries is slavery. We’ll probably not agree, though.

    “For the record I’m actually okay with the state intervening to support the children of the socially disadvantaged, as those children are destined to be citizens.”
    Good for you, but there’s a school of thought that says perhaps you should only have children if you are prepared to provide for them. It’s the reason I have only 2 even though I’m sure I’d enjoy the company of 10. If you only have the number of children you can afford, there would be no need to pay WFF, housing allowances, etc and then perhaps GST could be abolished.

    “So still there is some disparity between payment for labour, and value of product,”
    Could that disparity perhaps be attributed to the intellectual property of the capitalist? A reward for inventing clever stuff? A payment to reflect she risked her capital to create employment?

    “Any way, I would say it is the state of New Zealand that guarantees my rights and makes my life comfortable, [yah, so you can agree with libertarians on that point!] compared to somewhere like Somalia, were people wildly seek profits by violence [oh, but then you bring up this anarchist state again for some reason]. Pirates and Warlords are looking for personal gain out of their ‘Transactions’ and are not restricted by laws [hmmm, still fixated on anarchy. A ploy to avoid having to focus on what libertarians say and have some scales fall from your oculi].

    Comment by Clunking Fist — October 8, 2009 @ 5:06 pm

  96. @Lew: You’re off on another straw man, I’m afraid.

    The argument is that a conceptual consciousness is different to one that is chiefly perceptual. One thinks and plans long range, the others don’t.

    Coupled with that is the universe of difference viz. adaptation. Non-human animals have wings and scales and claws and fur and feathers that mean they can adapt themselves to their environment. Man doesn’t. Man can’t. Man is different. Non-human animals adapt themselves to their environment; man adapts his environment to himself.

    That’s the essential means of survival of a conceptual being. Mind applied to long-range purpose is the essential human tool of survival, and isn’t found elsewhere.

    Comment by Peter Cresswell — October 8, 2009 @ 5:20 pm

  97. Eh? For all we know bacteria DO regulate behaviour between themselves and have a system of enforce and punishment. But there are no cross-species rights: I don’t have to respect the right-to-life of bacteria and thus refrain from taking an antibiotic, just like a lion has no need to respect my right-to-life and refrain from eating me if I stray into his territory.

    A spider does not respect my home and enters at will, even though I tried signs. I mow my lawn and I’m sure it pisses off the earwigs, but you can’t expect them to file a suit. That’s enough difference between kind and degree for me.

    Comment by Clunking Fist — October 8, 2009 @ 5:26 pm

  98. @ Peter
    Bees store honey.
    They will also protect their nest, by stinginging and giving their life.
    Is that not purpose.

    I think you really refer to an Aristotlian Hierarchy.
    Which original had Rich Greek men at the top.

    Comment by Adhominem — October 8, 2009 @ 5:30 pm

  99. Re libertarians and global warming – FWIW as a libertarian sympatiser I don’t see that 6 billion humans couldn’t have an impact on the Earth’s climate. What bothers me most about the discussion of AGW is the consistent political alignment on the matter. Denialists are acting very much like Creationists: camping outside the mainstream, holding themselves accountable only to each other, and pitching their arguments to people not qualified to judge the issue.

    I think the most rational choice is to accept the idea that we are in part causing climate change and to support action against it.

    By simply opening the energy market in the right way we could vastly reduce power costs and greenhouse pollution at the same time. Only problem is that regulations protect monopolies, making it hard for more efficient options to emerge. Loosen the restrictions and you’ll see a lot less global warming pollution.

    Comment by Ruth — October 8, 2009 @ 5:46 pm

  100. “Bees store honey, etc” well, until they mutiny and set off with a new queen to form a new kingdom. I mean colony. Monarchists want us to be like the bees, everyone in their place, unquestioning. Just like the communists really!

    Now, hippie communes, where folk CHOOSE to pool their efforts and assets, that’s another thing.

    Comment by Clunking Fist — October 8, 2009 @ 5:48 pm

  101. @ Clunker
    What about the dogs.
    Can we set them free?

    Comment by Adhominem — October 8, 2009 @ 5:54 pm

  102. Beavers build dams, they adapt the environment to themselves. But I know for a fact they can’t fill in the forms for a Working For Families entitlements or lodge a a claim in a court.

    Nice fur for coats tho!

    Comment by andy — October 8, 2009 @ 6:01 pm

  103. “Denialists are acting very much like Creationists: camping outside the mainstream”
    Or are warmists in fact like flat-earthers: refusing to listen to evidence challenging the orthodox..?
    Why do warmists pretend that there is no body of evidence casting doubt on AGW? That there are not legions of scientists say “whoa”?

    “pitching their arguments to people not qualified to judge the issue.”
    Yes, it’s best that only the government has the right to judge the issue.

    Comment by Clunking Fist — October 8, 2009 @ 6:20 pm

  104. “Clunker What about the dogs. Can we set them free?”

    No WAY dude, not after all that money on shots and fixing. Actually, they are PROPERTY, so you can do what you like, as long as they don’t end up round at my place shitting on my lawn and chewing my kids. Give them away, eat them, bury them without eating them, cremate them, feed them to your other dogs, sell them to my Tongan neighbour. That’s your right.

    Comment by Clunking Fist — October 8, 2009 @ 6:23 pm

  105. The simple solution is to exterminate all domestic dogs and cats (pure evil) and replace them with cute Chincillas.

    Comment by hefevice — October 8, 2009 @ 6:54 pm

  106. How can you defend property rights without the use of coercive force?

    Comment by vibenna — October 8, 2009 @ 7:00 pm

  107. Sean said:
    For the record I’m actually okay with the state intervening to support the children of the socially disadvantaged, as those children are destined to be citizens.

    and Clunking Fist said:
    there’s a school of thought that says perhaps you should only have children if you are prepared to provide for them.

    But children are citizens. They’re not just potential citizens; they are actual citizens. They don’t have all the rights of citizens who are also adults (for example, they can’t vote), but they have most of the same rights as adult citizens.

    It’s not the child’s fault that her dad is a deadbeat who leaves her mother in the lurch, with dependent mouths to feed. So by all means go after the adults and demand that they be responsible, but don’t punish the child for the faults of her parents. Unless you would prefer to see children starving because they had the misfortune to be born to the wrong parents…

    Comment by Deborah — October 8, 2009 @ 7:23 pm

  108. @Vibenna: ultimately, you can’t and hence there arises one of the few main purposes of the state, the regulated use of coercive force to protect property rights.

    Comment by dimmocrazy — October 8, 2009 @ 7:24 pm

  109. @Deborah: that’s a topic I’d like to have some serious debate about, but not on this site, maybe PC can facilitate, he seems concerned about early childhood education at the moment.

    Comment by dimmocrazy — October 8, 2009 @ 7:30 pm

  110. Danyl – 110 comments in 13 hours. Is that a record, or should we keep going?

    Comment by vibenna — October 8, 2009 @ 7:35 pm

  111. I’m still waiting for Lib’s Policy on Global Warning.
    That less regulation will fix it… sounds dubious to me.

    Comment by Adhominem — October 8, 2009 @ 8:23 pm

  112. Coupled with that is the universe of difference viz. adaptation. Non-human animals have wings and scales and claws and fur and feathers that mean they can adapt themselves to their environment. Man doesn’t. Man can’t. Man is different. Non-human animals adapt themselves to their environment; man adapts his environment to himself.

    This is simply wrong. Humans are still subject to evolutionary pressures the same way other organisms are. Many, many species express what they call an extended phenotype and adapt their environment to themselves.

    As Lew has pointed out this is a specist argument – if we were butterflies you would be be dismissing the notion that humans should have rights on the grounds that they don’t have patterned wings. And a specist argument is a cultural construct. If you’re making an argument from first principles you can’t just make up arbitrary rules that invoke highly subjective terms like conciousness. (Define conciousness!).

    There’s a reason western philosophy essentially abandoned the search for an objective morality several hundred years ago. It is really hard (thus far impossible) to find an argument for one that makes sense.

    Comment by Danyl Mclauchlan — October 8, 2009 @ 8:33 pm

  113. Peter, Danyl has essentially made my argument for me, and being a biologist rather better. Humans may not have fangs and claws and fur (in fact, we do, but that’s by the by), but we have opposable thumbs and very specialised sensory organs and an extremely versatile alimentary system and other features which are just as good as those possessed by animals — which is as it must be, since humans lived in what we would now consider animalistic conditions for millions of years, with tools and social organisation and so on no better than those employed by animals nowadays.

    The difference between species in this regard is not an impassable gulf, it is a series of incremental steps. The difference in the ability to adapt to ones’ surroundings between (say) bacteria at one end and humanity at the other is more like a cline, where adjacent organisms are so similar as to be practically identical, while organisms more widely spaced are dissimilar — while remaining nearly identical to those to which they are adjacent. It’s a matter of degree, and arguments that it is a matter of kind, that we are different, represent simply an unscientific fetishisation of humanity; no different in principle to any other sort of mysticism, except that this one forms the core of objectivist philosophy (and its aesthetic tradition).

    CF,

    Many animals mark their territory, often with scent. There were consequences if you didn’t respect the wee-wee.

    But (supposing that this constituted a property right), it isn’t enforced by anyone — nobody has a duty to enforce that right, as in a Libertarian society the state would. In nature there is no state. If it’s an argument for anything, this is an argument for anarchism, as exists in nature. I thought you said libertarians weren’t like anarchists? Or are you just taking the piss?

    But there are no cross-species rights: I don’t have to respect the right-to-life of bacteria and thus refrain from taking an antibiotic, just like a lion has no need to respect my right-to-life and refrain from eating me if I stray into his territory.

    There are no rights except those granted by society to its members or those others it deems fit; cross-speciation is irrelevant. You have no right to protection from the lions, but nor does another lion except if the lions deem it so. However, if we’re going to pretend that rights should be assigned on the basis of objective traits such as the ability to take reasoned self-authored personal action, shouldn’t it be consistent? If another creature fulfils these criteria, upon what grounds should we deny it the same rights accorded others?

    Rights don’t exist in nature, outside a cultural structure. Rights are discretionary, and arbitrarily assigned. We should not shy away from our ability to define and enforce rights, and our responsibility to do so, by pretending that they are magically inherent. It is a cop-out.

    L

    Comment by Lew — October 8, 2009 @ 9:34 pm

  114. Dimmocrazy – you’re free to call me whatever you like. I don’t quite see why you’d want to call me Foucault, however, unless its a cheap dig to try to dismiss the points I made about social construction.

    I happen think he takes postmodern theory way too far, but you don’t have to be a disciple of Foucault or Derrida to argue that concepts of right are socially constructed

    Comment by Eddie Clark — October 8, 2009 @ 9:58 pm

  115. “If it’s an argument for anything, this is an argument for anarchism, as exists in nature.”

    Lions don’t eat each other, they play by rules and refrain from fighting for no reason. Just becuase they haven’t yet outsourced their enforcement and rule setting to a state created by themselves…

    Comment by Clunking Fist — October 9, 2009 @ 4:51 am

  116. CF,

    Lions don’t eat each other, they play by rules and refrain from fighting for no reason. Just becuase they haven’t yet outsourced their enforcement and rule setting to a state created by themselves…

    Yes. No state, but somehow it works anyway. Anarchism. Not libertarianism.

    L

    Comment by Lew — October 9, 2009 @ 6:48 am

  117. Is nobody else astonished by this, from PC?

    Hey George, when I was younger and used to do paper runs in South Auckland, the council’s response then was the same as the libertarian response would be: your dog bites me, your dog gets destroyed by Dog Control.

    I’d always understood the libertopia would endure the existence of a public sector only as required to prevent individual initiation of force – ie, only Defence, Police, Courts and Corrections would be left. Apparently I was wrong: Dog Control officers would also still exist. Presumably these essential public servants would now be an arm of the state, as local authorities would be unnecessary? Hmm – how about Noise Control? Same deal, surely? Necessary state enforcers, armed and bearing the authority to destroy your stereo? You know, suddenly this libertopia ain’t sounding so flash…

    Comment by Psycho Milt — October 9, 2009 @ 6:55 am

  118. “they play by rules and refrain from fighting for no reason”

    No I think Lions have good reasons for not fighting that are in fact similar to the fundamental reasons why any society exists – because if we were constantly fighting over things nothing would ever get done… We’d be composing blog comments all day…

    Comment by nommopilot — October 9, 2009 @ 7:21 am

  119. Hello Clunking Fist, thank you for your reply of numbers 43 and 95

    Addressing your points in turn.

    “. I think working for beneficiaries is slavery. We’ll probably not agree, though.” Post 95.

    Quite right there Clunking Fist. I address this point in a couple of paragraphs.

    “there’s a school of thought that says perhaps you should only have children if you are prepared to provide for them…. …. If you only have the number of children you can afford, there would be no need to pay WFF, housing allowances, etc and then perhaps GST could be abolished.” Post 95

    This school of thought is based entirely on the idea that children are a private good, therefore chatal to the parents. I don’t go with that one. This does not take into account that a child today is to be an adult in 18 years time, and therefore a boon to society for 50 plus years.

    Any child born in New Zealand is extremely likely to be living in the country for much of their lives and therefore it makes sense to invest in the child’s welfare at an early stage to enable the child to be as socially productive as possible. It is kind of like your idea of investing in productive machinery producing better outcomes, except in people. If people are not invested in, then the individual taxpayer is hit with extra costs in the areas of health, law enforcement, and wild dog protection.

    “Could that disparity perhaps be attributed to the intellectual property of the capitalist? A reward for inventing clever stuff? A payment to reflect she risked her capital to create employment?” Post 95

    True, but I’m still working off the Ayn Rand quote “man who produces while others dispose of his product, is a slave.” According to her logic, freedom is self employment, so the inventive capitalist would need to need to cut his workers in on a profit-sharing arrangement, you could call it a collective, to realise his dream, unless he wanted to be a slave driver.

    “Any way, I would say it is the state of New Zealand that guarantees my rights and makes my life comfortable, [yah, so you can agree with libertarians on that point!]” Post 95

    Perhaps, but I’m still disagreeing with you, your last post, what you actually wrote was “Capitalism is what makes Sean’s life in this country quite comfortable…”Post 43

    See, you said Capitalism not State- good go at moving the goal post though, many people wouldn’t have spotted it.

    “compared to somewhere like Somalia, were people wildly seek profits by violence [oh, but then you bring up this anarchist state again for some reason].” Post 95

    Again, you brought it up, “….compared to the anarchist state of, say, Somalia.”Post 43

    Do you have short-term memory problems Clunking Fist? Have you considered getting checked out?

    “Pirates and Warlords are looking for personal gain out of their ‘Transactions’ and are not restricted by laws [hmmm, still fixated on anarchy. A ploy to avoid having to focus on what libertarians say and have some scales fall from your oculi].” Post 95

    Not a ploy of fixation Clunking Fist – I’m still working with the examples you gave me. Perhaps if there was a functioning Libertarian state out there you could produce some more relevant examples, could be there is such a place, have you checked on the map near Xanadu?

    The deconstruction of your reply was quite annoying, fairly cheap tactics used to move the ground of argument. You are not encouraging me to read any material about libertarianism.

    Comment by Sean — October 9, 2009 @ 9:09 am

  120. Clunking Fist – animals like lions maintain order through the threat of violence. When you can no longer win fights you are displaced, to howl in the wilderness until the jackals gnaw on your bones.

    Comment by vibenna — October 9, 2009 @ 10:18 am

  121. God….just shoot all dogs and dog owners…simple!

    Dog control isnt very successful in controlling dogs owned by scum…….they tend to hide them away and sleep with them!

    Comment by kerry — October 9, 2009 @ 11:41 am

  122. Guys, If you want to go on maintaining that a beaver’s dam is an achievements on the same order of magnitude as the Agricultural and Industrial Revolutions — that a bee’s honeycomb is a construction on the same order of complexity as a cyclotron — that an insect’s mind, or a lion’s, functions in the same way and on the same scale as the conceptual mind of a human being — then it would seem that the arguments you are mounting here apply to some reality other than this one.

    Identification of the facts is the first step in integrating them. A few of you have failed here right at the very first step — by a failure of self-induced blindness.

    Comment by Peter Cresswell — October 9, 2009 @ 11:49 am

  123. “I’m still waiting for Lib’s Policy on Global Warning.
    That less regulation will fix it… sounds dubious to me.”

    Ah but you see, libertarianism is so firmly and soundly grounded in objective reason, that if a problem like global warming can’t be solved by pure libertarian approaches then it obviously doesn’t exist. It’s *knowledge*, bro.

    Comment by Sam Finnemore — October 9, 2009 @ 11:59 am

  124. “Guys, If you want to go on maintaining that a beaver’s dam is an achievements on the same order of magnitude as the Agricultural and Industrial Revolutions — that a bee’s honeycomb is a construction on the same order of complexity as a cyclotron — that an insect’s mind, or a lion’s, functions in the same way and on the same scale as the conceptual mind of a human being — then it would seem that the arguments you are mounting here apply to some reality other than this one.”

    Peter, it would seem that the arguments you are mounting here apply to some comments thread other than this one. Unless I’ve misread I don’t think anyone here is maintaining that these things are on the same level of magnitude, complexity or scale as the human mind or human actions, just that they have qualities which make your mooted total separation of human actions from those of animals a bit absurd.

    Also, as with what Sean has said to Clunking Fist at #119, I doubt you’re going to win any converts here by just throwing your hands up in theatrical despair and calling us all self-blinded sheeple.

    Comment by Sam Finnemore — October 9, 2009 @ 12:09 pm

  125. @Sam Finnemore, 11:59: ““I’m still waiting for Lib’s Policy on Global Warming./i>”

    If I thought that were a serious question I’d send you here, to read Chapter Five.

    @Sam Finnemore 12:09: “Peter, it would seem that the arguments you are mounting here apply to some comments thread other than this one.

    Clearly we are.

    Comment by Peter Cresswell — October 9, 2009 @ 12:13 pm

  126. Peter,

    Guys, If you want to go on maintaining that a beaver’s dam is an achievements on the same order of magnitude as the Agricultural and Industrial Revolutions — that a bee’s honeycomb is a construction on the same order of complexity as a cyclotron — that an insect’s mind, or a lion’s, functions in the same way and on the same scale as the conceptual mind of a human being — then it would seem that the arguments you are mounting here apply to some reality other than this one.

    For the record, I’m fine with the idea that they’re not of the same order of magnitude — but not fine with the idea that the import of this distinction is self-evident and extant in nature. My point is that the determination is a matter of cultural construction. That is really my only bone of contention here: that the human right to freedom is innate in nature. It isn’t; it can’t be, because the means by which we distinguish the qualities or value of actions can’t be.

    That’s all.

    L

    Comment by Lew — October 9, 2009 @ 12:58 pm

  127. A few of you have failed here right at the very first step . . .

    More a case of choosing not to enrol in Intellectual Pretension 101.

    Comment by joew — October 9, 2009 @ 12:59 pm

  128. Danyl, in your wildest dreams did you ever think you would have 128 responses to a post on stray dogs?

    Comment by mjl — October 9, 2009 @ 1:03 pm

  129. I iz to unedumacated to be Libertarian :(

    Thats it I am off to download Atlas Shrugged as an audio book so I can see the light.

    Comment by andy — October 9, 2009 @ 1:08 pm

  130. mjl, it’s not a post about stray dogs — it’s a post about freedom.

    L

    Comment by Lew — October 9, 2009 @ 1:17 pm

  131. @ Peter Cresswell
    Thank you for your link to your policy statement on Global Warming
    “ENVIRONMENTAL JUDO: Seven easy steps to beat back the socialist wildlife”.
    I will read it, and weep.

    Comment by Adhominem — October 9, 2009 @ 1:21 pm

  132. @Lew: “For the record, I’m fine with the idea that they’re not of the same order of magnitude.

    Very pleased to hear it. :-)

    My only bone of contention here [is] that the human right to freedom is innate in nature.

    But I don’t argue anywhere that rights are innate in nature. They’re not written in the sky or in tablets of stone.

    Just kike any other idea, the idea of rights was a discovery — just like the ideas of “culture” and “logic” and “knowledge.”

    Its discovery represented a mental integration — just the way you can integrate those ideas into the overarching field of “philosophy.”

    And like any new ethical principle, the idea of rights embodied an integration of known facts and observations — just like any other advanced abstract concept like “justice” or “freedom” or “love.”

    So the idea of rights is an ethical principle that links ethics and politics, but as an abstract concept it’s no more innate in nature than dark beer, or good whiskey — it had to be discovered. And imbibed.

    And like any other ethical principle, you have to keep in mind its context. Or as Aristotle might have put it, but didn’t, “What’s it good for then?”

    So what are rights good for? They’re good for setting our rightful boundaries in a social context. They’re good for giving us our moral space, within which we’re free to act as we wish. They’re good for letting us know our ‘side constraints,’ where others’ rights impinge on us.

    And they’re good for reminding us that it’s as wrong to spit on someone else’s rights as it is to spit in his beer. :-)

    Comment by Peter Cresswell — October 9, 2009 @ 1:23 pm

  133. @mjl: “Danyl, in your wildest dreams did you ever think you would have 128 responses to a post on stray dogs?

    I suspect he knew what he was doing.

    Comment by Peter Cresswell — October 9, 2009 @ 1:24 pm

  134. “Cry ‘Havoc!’, and let slip the dogs of war”

    Comment by Adhominem — October 9, 2009 @ 1:27 pm

  135. Peter – your original claim was that you could produce an objective morality free of cultural constructs. And you said:

    1. Human life requires productive effort.
    2. Productive effort requires reasoned action.
    3. Reasoned action is individual and self-authored.
    4. Reasoned action requires freedom.
    5. Thus, if we seek to live in a society in which individuals are to have a chance to maintain their lives, we must recognize individual rights to freedom.

    And my point is that the very first premise – that human life is special, so this argument only applies to members of our species – is a cultural construct. Sure, humans are different from other species in many interesting ways, but the differences are really hard to categorise. You claim that humans are special because they can build cyclotrons. Can you build a cyclotron? I can’t – does that mean that I’m not human, or that only humans who can build cyclotrons have property rights?

    Besides which, while the ability to build a cyclotron is pretty cool the ability to, say, fix molecular nitrogen is also pretty cool. This is a biochemical process carried out by bacteria without which there would be no life on Earth, so by any criteria it is WAY more important than being able to build a cyclotron, or write a symphony, or all those other things that make humans special that very, very few humans are actually able to do.

    So if you’re starting from first principles with no cultural constructs you really have to deal with problems like species bias. The argument that humans are simply more awesome than all the other species just doesn’t hold water, because it’s easy to demonstrate ways in which other organisms – like nitrogen fixing bacteria – are a lot more awesome.

    Comment by danylmc — October 9, 2009 @ 1:33 pm

  136. Hi Sean
    This does not take into account that a child today is to be an adult in 18 years time, and therefore a boon to society for 50 plus years.
    makes sense to invest in the child’s welfare at an early stage to enable the child to be as socially productive as possible.

    Except when you “invest” in machinery early on, you don’t get the machinery thinking “this is sweet, I’ll just sit back and let these guys “invest” in me for the rest of my life!” Thinking here of that lovely couple that haven’t worked for 15 years so had time to produce 10 children. It would be “fun” to watch those 10 children and see if collectively they ever pay in tax what was spent on their upbringing.

    You quote Rand “man who produces while others dispose of his product, is a slave.” You fail to understand that the “others” she refers to are those who consume (dispose) without fair consideration? I.e. bludgers, thieves, NZ on Air. If you sell your labour to an employer, you get paid. We have laws and enforcement mechanisms in our western industrialist country that ensure the worker gets paid as promised when he struck the bargain with his employer. An employer may or may not offer a profit-share agreement. They may also offer health insurance, gym membership, cellphones, a car, enhanced superannuation, extra week of holiday, flexi-hours, overtime, etc, doesn’t change the fact that the workers are selling their labour and the employer is purchasing it.
    What an employer makes of (and with) that labour is kind-of their business. i.e., they make in-demand products with healthy margins, or near-commodity products in a competitive market and so barely makes a profit.
    The employer that manufactures MP3 players cannot demand more money from customers that use the player 10 hours a day and have a full harddrive and less from the customer with only a few albums loaded and who listens only on the bus on the way to work.

    “Capitalism is what makes Sean’s life in this country quite comfortable…”Post 43 See, you said Capitalism not State- good go at moving the goal post though, many people wouldn’t have spotted it. Sorry, I didn’t intend to move goal posts, I’m just pointing out that it is capitalism that feeds and clothes you, produces the car, bus or bicycle you move around on at prices that you may be able to afford. The stuff provided by the state has been paid for by taxes on the productive sector (which includes the workers in that sector). That was my point, not “state bad”. Libertarians argue that too much state is bad, not that state is bad. Perhaps it is you who is moving the goal post?

    I don’t mean to offend you by mentioning Somalia so often, I only did it because of andy’s great video at 1. It was genuinely funny, but made the mistake (accidentily, I hope) of thinking that libertarianism and anarchy is the same. You are getting a bit personal with the mental thing, but I feel fine, thank you, just coming off a cold.
    Sure there are not too many examples of Libertarian paradises around the place, but is this because it’s a bad idea, or because that politicians cannot bring themselves to “do nothing” when confronted with a “burning issue”? The problem is they get their hands (or arses) on the treasury benches and then our money burns a hole in their pocket.
    I’m sorry I annoyed you, but paying a third of my income across to the state to then have them waste a great deal of it annoys me. You can stop reading my dribble, but I can’t stop paying my taxes… unless I go Gault I guess!

    Comment by Clunking Fist — October 9, 2009 @ 1:34 pm

  137. Peter,

    Progress! :)

    But I don’t argue anywhere that rights are innate in nature. They’re not written in the sky or in tablets of stone.

    Just kike any other idea, the idea of rights was a discovery — just like the ideas of “culture” and “logic” and “knowledge.”

    Indeed. This means they are culturally constructed, contradicting the original statements of your with which I took issue:

    @cj_nza: “All rights are social constructs . . .”

    Well, no they’re not. Rights are a recognition of what is right — hence the name — an identification and protection of the right relationship between individuals and the things they value.

    and

    No, “what is right” is not a social construct.

    This seems indefensible. If it’s not extant in nature, and it’s not a social construct, what is it? From where does it draw its authority? What is its context? Most critically, how can this context bypass social construction altogether? You’re arguing Galt’s Speech — A is A, it is because it is. This begs the question of whether a thing can be the font of its own authority.

    For what it’s worth I agree with your assessment of what rights are good for — just not of their origin.

    L

    Comment by Lew — October 9, 2009 @ 1:40 pm

  138. @Danyl: “…the ability to build a cyclotron is pretty cool the ability to, say, fix molecular nitrogen is also pretty cool. This is a biochemical process carried out by bacteria…

    Which was part of my earlier point: that bacteria, amoeba and beavers are equipped to do that stuff automatically; whereas to build a cyclotron we have to think.

    That’s the important difference.

    For a possum to be productive they just do what they’ve always done — and by instinct; for human beings however, we have to think and re-think. We have to apply our uniquely long-range, conceptual brain to looking at existence and seeing how it might be altered. We have to identify how things are, and work out how to change them to how they ought to be.

    No cyclotron’s going to get built if you’ve got your brain switched off – and that’s the same with all of man’s productivity: when you boil it down it’s reason applied to survival.

    So, in that sense (and with apologies to Bobby McGee), freedom is just another word for “making the world safe for reason.” ;^)

    Can you build a cyclotron? I can’t – does that mean that I’m not human, or that only humans who can build cyclotrons have property rights?

    No, human(s) who build what they build have rights in what they build. So whatever you build, you have rights in that; and whoever builds a cyclotron, she has rights in that. The rest of us just get the benefits of all the cool science that the new cyclotron can do.

    Comment by Peter Cresswell — October 9, 2009 @ 1:49 pm

  139. @Lew: Progress indeed!

    Now, you ask about “right” “If it’s not extant in nature, and it’s not a social construct, what is it?” And you imply that it’s either one or the other — that it’s either intrinsic or subjective; either “out there” or “in here.”

    But I argue (well, Objectivism argues) that like all moral principles, the idea of “right” is a mental integration (done “in here”) of what’s out there. And despite what you say about ideas being “socially constructed,” we each have to do that thinking for ourselves — there’s no collective brain any more than there’s a collective stomach.

    But that’s how we arrive at all good moral principles, right? We think for ourselves. We don’t do stuff just because our neighbour tells us it’s good (which is what it would really mean to have our ideas “socially constructed”)

    Instead, we look for ourselves at the facts being presented (our neighbour says it’s a good bar we should go to), we integrate the facts into our context (we like good bars), and then work out whether it’s the right thing to do or not (let’s go).

    After a while, after a few visits, after a few more top recommendations from your neighbour, you might figure he knows what he’s talking about and you develop a new principle: Listen to that man when he says “go to that bar.” But you still had to to do all that thinking for yourself.

    The principle wasn’t “socially constructed” and neither was it innate. It was simply a mental integration of what exists, and what to do about it.

    Comment by Peter Cresswell — October 9, 2009 @ 2:05 pm

  140. Re cyclotrons
    Cyclotrons are built by collaborative groups of scientists and engineers employed by governments. And they’re really cool.

    Comment by Adhominem — October 9, 2009 @ 2:10 pm

  141. Re objectivism
    Are you born an objectivist, or did you have to read a book first?

    Comment by Adhominem — October 9, 2009 @ 2:19 pm

  142. Peter,

    But I argue (well, Objectivism argues) that like all moral principles, the idea of “right” is a mental integration (done “in here”) of what’s out there. And despite what you say about ideas being “socially constructed,” we each have to do that thinking for ourselves — there’s no collective brain any more than there’s a collective stomach.

    And this is the crux of the matter. You don’t (or Objectivism doesn’t) accept that peoples’ minds or thoughts or behaviour are influenced by their social context. Y/O believe that every man is indeed an island, and the conclusions which each individual reaches are her own, and that members of a given society tend to reach similar conclusions by — what? coincidence? — rather than due to their shared social and experiential context, common philosophical and conceptual background and linguistic expressions of the same. You can’t simply ignore (or discount to 0) the impact of these factors on the process of integrating what’s ‘out there'; or more correctly, you can’t do so for things which are culturally or socially non-trivial. It gets back to Danyl’s original allegory about the difference between the circle and the concept of rights — a circle is culturally trivial; the canonical description (a figure where all points on the plain are equidistant from the centre) is exact and unambiguous. The concept of ‘right’ is not; there is no such transparent agreement on it. The integration of ‘what is’ into ‘what is right’ results in (legitimately) different conceptions. So you need to resolve these differences in some way; Objectivists, apparently unaware of the irony, tend to do so by saying ‘that’s wrong because it’s subjective’. Well, the second bit is unarguable. The first bit is.

    L

    Comment by Lew — October 9, 2009 @ 2:21 pm

  143. Plane, not plain. Bah.

    L

    Comment by Lew — October 9, 2009 @ 2:23 pm

  144. Truly interesting discussion, and will just add this as a late comer – it’s fascinating how non-religious Satanism comes to very similar “moral” conclusions as Objectivism (individualism, eye-for-eye etc etc). And it is written down in The Satanic Bible in the same way Objectivism is in Fountainhead etc…

    Comment by garethw — October 9, 2009 @ 3:24 pm

  145. It seems basically to be like a religion with the self taking the place of god…

    Comment by nommopilot — October 9, 2009 @ 3:25 pm

  146. “self taking the place of god” as a moral basis is not neccessarily a bad thing.

    Comment by Adhominem — October 9, 2009 @ 3:33 pm

  147. ““self taking the place of god” as a moral basis is not neccessarily a bad thing.”

    You’d hope that it’s tempered by seeing some similar value in others too, and not in regarding them as a pesky barrier to your own gratification.

    Comment by Sam Finnemore — October 9, 2009 @ 3:46 pm

  148. “145. It seems basically to be like a religion with the self taking the place of god…”

    Well an objectivst would argue Rand was specifically railing against all that religious gumph like empathy and humility and hence the reduction to “reason as the purest sense of man”. The problem is that they seem to think empathy is bad because religion (or other “social” structures) at some point said it was good.

    Comment by garethw — October 9, 2009 @ 3:50 pm

  149. Lew:If it’s not extant in nature, and it’s not a social construct, what is it?

    You can say the same thing about numbers or the meanings of words. The ontological status of abstract conecpts is a tricky issue. Are numbers a social construct? Are meanings?

    Comment by chiz — October 9, 2009 @ 3:56 pm

  150. gareth,

    The problem is that they seem to think empathy is bad because religion (or other “social” structures) at some point said it was good.

    Well, while I don’t subscribe to the objectivist viewpoint, this is a misstatement of it. They don’t object to anything on the basis that religion advocates it (although the outcomes of religion advocating for it is often used as an example of why it’s bad). And they don’t object to empathy; it’s all well (and good) to try to understand other peoples’ position, but not to act for their benefit rather than your own (altruism). This is a fine distinction; for example, if it is worth it to you that Homeless Person X should be housed and fed, then you should take responsibility for making it so — for your sake rather than for their sake. It might be worth it because you value having said person off the street, or you want them to be safe and well, or you think it’s the right way to treat your fellow man, but what’s key is that it’s a matter of your choice.

    Now, this system has its flaws, in my view — but blind anti-religiosity ain’t one of them.

    L

    Comment by Lew — October 9, 2009 @ 4:00 pm

  151. Thanks for the discussion everyone. I’m just about away for the weekend so can’t continue it now — maybe we’ll re-engage later?

    Anyway, I’m gratified about the points of agreement — if not any final agreement — and at least I think we’re all clearer now on where we all differ.

    Cheers,
    PC

    Comment by Peter Cresswell — October 9, 2009 @ 4:01 pm

  152. chiz,

    The ontological status of abstract conecpts is a tricky issue.

    Yes.

    Are numbers a social construct?

    Yes and no. Numbers in the abstract aren’t (mathematics works whether you believe it does or not), but numbers in usage are, because the usage requires rendition into a system of symbols and referents (‘language’ to stretch the term). It’s often stated that numbers are a human universal; this can be falsified by examining human societies whose culture contains number-signifiers for ‘none’, ‘one’, ‘two’, ‘three’ and ‘many’, for instance, with no strong concept of ‘more than three but less than many’.

    Are meanings?

    Yes. Meanings, to be agreed upon, must be made of language, and language is socially constructed.

    L

    Comment by Lew — October 9, 2009 @ 4:07 pm

  153. @Lew “Now, this system has its flaws, in my view — but blind anti-religiosity ain’t one of them.”
    Please don’t take my simple one-liner as suggesting Objectivism is based on anti-religiosity. But the parts I’ve read (no expert) do have a tendency to, as you said, use the outcomes of religion advocating for it as an example of why it’s bad. But that seems to avoid the moral intent of whichever story that religion took up.
    Your point on empathy is a good one – but they don’t believe empathy in itself is a worthwhile virtue.

    Comment by garethw — October 9, 2009 @ 4:13 pm

  154. Lew:Numbers in the abstract aren’t (mathematics works whether you believe it does or not), but numbers in usage are..

    Except that this isn’t universally believed. Finitists for example believe that real numbers don’t really exist but are an instrumentalist fiction (that happens to be useful). And intuitionists have their doubts about some mathematics.

    More to the point, where do these abstract concepts exist? If you’re a materialist and you don’t subscribe to platonism or any other form of externalism then you presumably believe that numbers, meanings, rights, etc all exist in our brains. So why are some, numbers, not a social construct and others are?

    Comment by chiz — October 9, 2009 @ 6:45 pm

  155. Chiz,

    You’re right, and thinking again I should have been more precise. I ought to have said something like: amounts are not cultural constructs — they just are — whereas numbers hold meaning, as a culturally-constructed referent of an amount.

    I’m sorry if I’ve given the impression that I’m a philosopher. I’m not; I’m a political scientist and a discourse analyst. I’m concerned with usage more than I am with epistemology, and so tend to discount theoretical and abstract concerns until they materialise in action or language.

    L

    Comment by Lew — October 9, 2009 @ 9:20 pm

  156. I think Rand’s philosophy is a synthesis between Kant’s deontic categorical imperitive and Stirner’s moral egotism. Kant’s logical argument, where “altruism” is replaced with “self-interest”.

    Rand equated altruism to self-interest (help people only if it’s in your self-interest), and self-interest to altruism (the invisible hand).

    It’s a cold war philosophy in reaction to Stalinism, and it’s also an atheist’s response to Kant’s goal of rationalising the existence of a god.

    The problem with a deontic set of principles is it’s actual practice in context. We all want liberty, but the systems we create to enable this always has victims.

    That’s why I’m interested in the Lib’s position on global warming. They know that capitalism cannot fix it, so they have to deny it’s existence. Solving the is-ought problem with an ought-is solution. Justifying their position with their claim of objective realism, even if that means denying science.

    So bring on postmodern pragmatism. “Fuck the metaphysics”.
    Why can’t we just find agreeable solutions to our problems?

    Comment by Adhominem — October 10, 2009 @ 7:01 am

  157. @ Adhominem

    “Why can’t we just find agreeable solutions to our problems?”

    because (as you answered it yourself)

    “the systems we create … always has victims”

    Comment by cj_nza — October 10, 2009 @ 9:00 am

  158. @ cj_nza
    Anarchism, Capitalism and Socialism are all systems.

    Comment by Adhominem — October 10, 2009 @ 9:06 am

  159. Adhominem – because our interests diverge.

    Comment by vibenna — October 10, 2009 @ 9:20 am

  160. Hello Clunking Fist, thank you for your reply of 136, I haven’t been free to reply until now.

    “Thinking here of that lovely couple that haven’t worked for 15 years so had time to produce 10 children. It would be “fun” to watch those 10 children and see if collectively they ever pay in tax what was spent on their upbringing.”

    You have a very jaundice view of the public, and people who require state assistance. Sure there are a minority of people who abuse the system, just as there would be with any kind of system. The answer to this is effective law enforcement.

    Not everyone who receives state assistance ends up unproductive. In my experience the overwhelming majority take that assistance and become better citizens, productive citizens. At a guess, the most prominent examples of the state getting paid back on its investment in social support right now is former State House boy John Key, and Paula Bennett.

    Now I don’t like either of them, or their party, or their policies, but neither would be where they are if the state hadn’t invested in their futures. Like the stock market, the social support provided by the state is a gamble based on best overall return. The state invests in citizens for the best average pay off, some investments go bad, but on the whole the pay off is worth the time and money.

    “You quote Rand “man who produces while others dispose of his product, is a slave.” You fail to understand that the “others” she refers to are those who consume (dispose) without fair consideration? I.e. bludgers, thieves, NZ on Air. If you sell your labour to an employer, you get paid.”

    I admit I was just working on the bare quote, but I’m not surprised that was the meaning she inferred. Assuming by bludgers you mean beneficiaries, you have already got my view on them. How do you feel about employers who deliver loses to their shareholders, yet still pulldown enormous salaries or bonuses? Or CEOs who gut their organisation’s internal capability but bolt with a nice settlement package before the damage becomes apparent?

    I’ve had good employers, very good employers, and I have had bosses so bad they were just this side of wearing a clown suit to work (in fact, it would have improved things). Then there were the out right exploitative employers. In my experience, the innovators are a minority, the majority of employers held their position based in the value of their beginning capital, how they came by it is another matter. I just don’t see capital as the best selector of who should be in charge. I also don’t see labour as being mobile enough to enable freedom for the employee: sometimes the options are “work here” versus “work no where”.

    “I’m just pointing out that it is capitalism that feeds and clothes you, produces the car, bus or bicycle you move around on at prices that you may be able to afford. The stuff provided by the state has been paid for by taxes on the productive sector (which includes the workers in that sector).”

    My view is without sufficient strength from the state, Capitalism will naturally spiral into rampant exploitation, very self destructively eating society for short term gain. You probably believe this process will end with the market will correct these issues: I believe the process will work itself into a dark hole and die, taking everyone down with it because Capitalism insufficiently fettered will eat its own market if it meant short-term profit.

    “That was my point, not “state bad”. Libertarians argue that too much state is bad, not that state is bad. Perhaps it is you who is moving the goal post?”

    Not moving the goal post Clunking Fist, just working on what you give me. It is clear, however, that the level of state involvement we each think is appropriate varies.

    “You are getting a bit personal with the mental thing,”

    Sorry about the mental condition crack In my defence, you were repeatedly misquoting yourself, then attacking me over it.

    “Sure there are not too many examples of Libertarian paradises around the place, but is this because it’s a bad idea, or because that politicians cannot bring themselves to “do nothing” when confronted with a “burning issue”?”

    I guess this may offend you, but this argument is familiar to me. I have a good friend, a very good friend – top mate, who is an Anarchist-Communist. He uses precisely the same argument, that there aren’t examples of Anarchist-Communism because politicians are too short sighted and self interested to allow the creation of a proper society, which does not in itself invalidate the idea.

    Sure it doesn’t invalidate the idea, but it doesn’t give it any support either. He hasn’t convince me either.

    Comment by Sean — October 10, 2009 @ 9:44 am

  161. It’s bad dog owners which we never target.

    Unregistered dogs, non chip dogs who if the owner is asked it’s not my dog.

    This is a law that blames good owners of dogs but does nothing about the bad owners out there.

    If the law said if your dog is not registered or micro-chipped then it’s a death for the dog and a massive fine for the owner, I think ACT would agree.

    But the current law as it stands still allows bad dog owners to snub the law and not face up to the consequences.

    Comment by Mark — October 10, 2009 @ 2:41 pm

  162. Politics only exists because people who want to force and control others exist.Libertarianism enacted makes politics redundant as initiated State force is made redundant.With politicians who campaign on taxing some to enrich others nutered by the fact that the State cannot enforce this plan we arrive at a civilised society…or at least one far more civilised than we currently have.

    So skeptics… if Libertarianism isn’t the answer then what is…? Put up a system that you can show with historical evidence provides better outcomes for man AS man than free market Capitalism and Government limited to the protection of individual rights.

    Comment by James — October 11, 2009 @ 12:15 am

  163. @ James: Show me a country that does not have a mixed economy?

    Comment by Adhominem — October 11, 2009 @ 5:00 am

  164. James- our current balanced democracies with separation of powers, having a capitalist free-market tempered by regulation and social welfare is fantastic. People are living longer, are wealthier and with less crime than ever before. It has developed from thousands of years of political, economic and social evolution, and it works brilliantly. It’s not perfect. But then neither are you or I.

    Comment by vibenna — October 11, 2009 @ 9:28 am

  165. James,

    No data exists for the system you describe, so it can’t be compared to existing systems. We can compare between systems which have been tried, but for a new, untested system the burden of proof rests with those who want to change, not those who want to retain the status quo. Prove that libertarianism can work, if you can. Patri Friedman and others have realised this and are acting positively, rather than negatively. Their experiments, if they ever get off the ground, will be keenly watched.

    L

    Comment by Lew — October 11, 2009 @ 9:32 am

  166. I can’t decide if Rodney is sniffing the wrong end of the dog or licking the wrong bollock.

    Comment by Mr February — October 11, 2009 @ 11:13 am

  167. A summary of Peter Cresswell’s referenced solution for global warming:

    “A carbon tax, calibrated to the average temperature of the region of the tropical troposphere, predicted by climatologists to be most sensitive to CO2.”

    Sounds good to me. Why don’t the Libs advocate for it?

    Comment by Adhominem — October 11, 2009 @ 3:27 pm

  168. I WANT the State to apply force. Do you know what happens when the police go on strike?

    Comment by ropata — October 11, 2009 @ 3:53 pm

  169. Is Ropata’s name ironic? Look at what happens when the Police DON’T go on strike…

    Public outcry followed the police raids at Ruatoki in the Eastern Bay of Plenty. Similar raids were carried out in Whakatane, Palmerston North, Auckland and Wellington.

    Hi Sean
    “You have a very jaundice view of the public, and people who require state assistance. Sure there are a minority of people who abuse the system”
    With the DPB, are we sure it’s a minority? What right should that family have to $720+ a week, when the children get a free state education? I HOPE the 720 includes the effect of housing allowances…
    I think of the situation of another family where a breadwinner gets a long-term illness and is unable to either work or look after the children, leaving the other spouse unable to work or at best taking part-time work. What benefit would that family be entitled to? I stand to be corrected, but I assume a lot less that the DPB family. And would they get ANY benefit if the healthy spouse worked part-time? A perverse incentive for that spouse to take no work.
    My own family was in a somewhat similar situation: my father was unable to work for a period of time due to illness. My parents worked out that he could be entitled to either the unemployment or sickness benefit, and my mother could likely get the DPB if my father moved out to live with his bachelor brother. Luckily my father recovered sufficiently to find another job before we needed to put all this to the test. Again a perverse incentive.

    Bludgers are not all beneficiaries, they are the subset of beneficiaries that either:
    take a benefit they are not entitled to
    turn down work rather than place a benefit at risk

    “Like the stock market, the social support provided by the state is a gamble based on best overall return. The state invests in citizens for the best average pay off, some investments go bad, but on the whole the pay off is worth the time and money.” Well, is it the state’s role to make investments? Fibre Optic pron anyone? Paying folk to have children is not investment. Arguably education is. There are enough people in the world (in some people’s opinion) to not need to ensure the survival of the species through subsidies. The welfare state arguably should only be there to pick up the pieces when someone dies or gets sick. It’s not there to fund lifestyles. And by lifestyles I include the multitudes that live off the back of the taxpayer in the public “service”. Do we really need 9and can we afford) Min Womens affairs, Families Commission, Fibre Optics to the home, local council building inspector (let insurance companies do the job), NZ on Air, etc.

    http://pacificempire.org.nz/2008/10/08/how-big-is-big-government/

    “How do you feel about employers who deliver loses to their shareholders, yet still pulldown enormous salaries or bonuses?”
    Well, if I were a shareholder in that business, I’d make sure I understood the reasons it got paid, that is, the basis of the calculation, what was happening in the rest of the market. Is it the CEO’s fault that there’s a recession and custom has fallen 10%, but the entire sector is 20% down? Now, if I am NOT a shareholder in that business, it’s none of my business. This is the bit you probably struggle to understand! So here’s an analogy: two men are in love and what to spend the rest of their life together. God-botherers and suppressed homosexuals are upset at this “perversion”. But here liberals and libertarians agree: it’s none of their fucking business.

    The CEO who bolt’s is almost the same. In both examples you give, there is an employment contract that the Board needs to be all-over, at bit like your call for “better enforcement”. Boards are getting better at drawing up these contracts, unfortunately, some shareholders don’t take their role too seriously: they need to be all over the directors like a rash if those directors let them down. I don’t see a role here for government except in the provision of the court system, and perhaps the drafting of the Companies Act (those things that you probably think Libertarians would wipe in favour of anarchy).
    “I just don’t see capital as the best selector of who should be in charge.” You’d think differently if it were your capital. The money to set up the business has to come from SOMEWHERE. And for a lot of small businesses there is no real capital to speak of, just a cast-iron work ethic, a loan secured over the family home and some gumption, the capital coming later from accumulated profits reinvested into the business. And if you are referring to bigger business, the capital is often the collected savings of ordinary folk. That’s where the share market comes in, and you can join or stay away, your choice. But to say that somehow the government should have a say in how those savings are invested, then you open yourself up to having National say where those savings should be invested, so be careful what you wish for, LOL! At the mo’, they what superfast pron to everyhome.
    “sometimes the options are “work here” versus “work no where”.” Well, if you’d paid better attention at school, you might be in a better position to pick and choose employers. Or perhaps your local state school failed you and didn’t pick up that you were dyslexic, etc.
    My view is without sufficient strength from the state, Capitalism will naturally spiral into rampant exploitation, very self destructively eating society for short term gain. Well, that’s why libertarianism like’s a good strong, albeit small state. Remember the days when the state had a say on your sexual practices? Why give these bastards any more power than they need?
    “Sorry about the mental condition crack In my defence, you were repeatedly misquoting yourself, then attacking me over it.” I haven’t found those mis-quotes, so I assume you mean that I am trying to put the words “anarchy” in your mouth. But the way you describe what I believe, it does sound like you think I believe in anarchy. I ironically mention Somalia, as this is often held up as a libertarian paradise!

    I don’t know what your anarchist communist believes in, so couldn’t comment. The libertarian way provides ample opportunity for folk to organise themselves into communes should they wish. They could choose only to transact with other collectives for their food and clothing, etc. The state would only get involved through the Land Registry (should they pool their capital to buy some land) and the police should they have trouble from trespassers or burglars. But at the moment, your communes would be subject to building codes, the RMA, etc. so if your collective was all about NZ flora and fauna, you’d be prosecuted for chopping down an english oak and other absurdities on your own land. But your friend may seek to impose communism on everyone? Have you tried pointing out that Somalia may be a good example of anarchist-communism?

    Comment by Clunking Fist — October 12, 2009 @ 1:42 pm

  170. @ Clunker: You put some thought into that previous post, so I respond.

    Re: DPB
    No-one likes a free rider. But a social welfare system doesn’t operate with a principle of “fair share”. It’s a safety net for people who fall upon hard times.

    The Domestic Purposes Benefit is deserving of review. It was created in the 1970’s when the domestic relationship between men and women was being re-evaluated, divorce became socially acceptable, domestic violence became unacceptable, war-widows weren’t prevalent. Men with children can go on the DPB, but we never hear about them as “bludgers on the DPB”, it is always women.

    36 years later the roles of women have changed. Previously their primary role in society was seen as motherhood. Today, motherhood is seen as just another role, along with a career. And that can be a really tough call for any solo parent. The “choice to have children” sounds good on paper, but we shouldn’t forget that it is a biological function we are primed for. A lot of people just wind up with kids.

    Re: Libertarian Paradise.
    If you could hold up one historical instance of a society where your libertarian principles were enacted, and it worked out, then it would be a lot easier to discuss. The fact that there has been no occurrence of your ideal libertarian society is revealing. Perhaps you could say that after the US war of independence there was the promise of one, but let’s not forget Jefferson was a slave-owner, his agrarian paradise was not even realised on his own plantation.

    Anarcho-capitalistic societies have existed at various times. Perhaps Somalia can be described as one. Amongst all the gun-fire and explosions, a lot of people are just trying to get on with there lives (a lot of solo mums). Whether your libertarian society would develop into that is hypothetical. All you can claim historically is that it could develop into a system like the US. Jefferson had no idea that one day there would be huge swathes of industrial urbanisation on each coast of his land, or that huge corporate conglomerates would control it’s major activities. Americans were meant to be a group of “right-neighbourly” farmers, and Hamiltonian New Yorkers just shook there heads.

    I see one of the main problem with libertarianism is the “free rider” problem. When a group of people aspire to a shared goal, but someone does not wish to contribute and still reaps the benefits. It could end up pretty messy.

    Comment by Adhominem — October 13, 2009 @ 7:09 am

  171. Hi Adhominem “You put some thought into that previous post, so I respond” Cheers, brother!

    “The “choice to have children” sounds good on paper, but we shouldn’t forget that it is a biological function we are primed for. A lot of people just wind up with kids.” What, ten freaking kids on no income?

    60% of the 5 women I know on the DPB are undesrving: 2 have live-in lovers with a good wage, the third choose to get herself pregnant “cos she wanted a baby”. (Of the other 40%, both worked/are working hard to get back to work as soon as possible.) I doubt that the stats for the whole country would be 60% undesrving, but it pisses me off that I’m paying for those who make a choice to have these children, or make a choice to break the law and steal off others. Sure $723 a week is not likely to get mum & the three kids to Disneyland, but then my parents worked their arses off all their working lives and we could not afford it, either. Life without wealth is shitty, get over it!

    My birth mother was young and unmarried, so gave me up for adoption. I’m sure (?!) she’d have loved to have kept me, but she sure as shit didn’t expect others to pay for her folly.

    “Re: Libertarian Paradise. If you could hold up one historical instance of a society where your libertarian principles were enacted, and it worked out, then it would be a lot easier to discuss.”

    Well, I guess we can only point to societies where “to each according to his needs” has been fully implemented and see how that panned-out (Soviet Russia, in case I’m not clear enough).

    “Anarcho-capitalistic societies have existed at various times…Somalia…” I AM smashing my head against a brick wall, aren’t I?

    “I see one of the main problem with libertarianism is the “free rider” problem.”
    Funny, because that’s the problem that libertarians have with forced collectivism! I.e. I pay taxes so other folks kids can be educated. I pay taxes for a world cup that I may not care about. I pay rates so some poncey scoccer star can be brought over from LA. I pay rates so my neighbour can leave his sprinkler on all night, every other night. I pay taxes so that some guy or gal with a clipboard can tell me what lightbulbs I can buy. I pay taxes so some chick up the road can have a nice lifestyle on the DPB that includes his and her motorbikes.

    “When a group of people aspire”, they can exclude the free riders by charging for entry/services rendered…if they so choose. You do know one of the founders of Wikipedia is an objectivist?
    You seem to think being a libertarian means you can no longer hold the lift for colleagues, donate to charity, do voluntary work or lend a hand when someone trips in the street.
    I’m also wary of the “group of people [who] aspire” that take your land to build an irrigation canal, or seek to demolish your home of many years to build a motorway, to amalgamate your friendly local body into some bureaucratic behemoth.
    And what of those freeloaders who want to enjoy the trees on my land, preventing me from chopping them down when I see fit? If they enjoy them so much, shouldn’t they offer to buy my land?
    The problem with “groups who aspire” is that there are groups with competing aspirations, just look at the differences between the blues, the reds, yellows and greens. They ALL aspire to take a good part of my earnings off me to pay for their fricking aspirations, aspirations that involve me often not just in paying, but also in conforming.

    Comment by Clunking Fist — October 13, 2009 @ 12:25 pm

  172. “You’re arguing Galt’s Speech — A is A, it is because it is”

    Funny how Randian logic resembles that of your average self-obsessed toddler.

    Comment by Sacha — June 1, 2011 @ 1:00 am

  173. And Sacha’s “logic” just….isn’t.

    Comment by James — June 1, 2011 @ 1:52 am


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