Archive for the ‘Political Philosophy’ category

On Human Rights (a rant)

July 3, 2014

I don’t believe in men’s, women’s, gay’s, hetero’s, or whatever rights you’ll arbitrarily put upon the table. I only agree with the rights of human beings themselves, as body-owners of their selves, and as the first appropriators of unowned property, or property transferred by way of legitimate title-transfer (contract).

So yeah, my sense of rights is entirely universal no matter who you are; there is no ambiguousness on the matter! I can care less about collectivist battles about “muh rights”, because at the end of the day, whenever a group is screaming about their ‘collective’ rights, you need only to hold tight to your wallet in order to put them all into a petulant frenzy.

And it is this that is quite instructive of the world of which we live in today … to quote Bastiat, “the state is the great fiction whereby everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everybody else”.

If there is not a more instructive and objective case in order to prove such a thing–other than the world in which we live today–then I will never endeavor to find another case.

The preponderance of folks that argue over who will pay for their own expenses, ad infinitum? It grows tiresome.

However, I would tend to think that in my current years, that I’ve identified an understanding that precedes my time by many years and ages, one that was just as true as before, and one that has permeated the essence of human liberty … We are all social beings, but we must also understand [that] our individual natures are the essence of our cooperation. It is not our equality that makes us whole, but rather it is our cooperation in the truths of our inequalities–that which one can do that the other cannot, but where cooperation ensues–that brings us all that single step forward from where we were before.

To disregard that is to disregard the actuality of one’s being in this world that we call humanity.

My Appearance on ‘Live All Your Life’ with Cody Limbaugh (Part 3)

July 2, 2014

My Appearance on ‘Live All Your Life’ with Cody Limbaugh (Part 1)

June 19, 2014

On Government and the State

April 28, 2014

In political philosophy circles it is often said that it is very important to define your terms so that confusion can be minimized. One instance where I think that this is of the utmost importance–which also happens to be a certain pet peeve of mine– is in the case that presents itself when speaking about government and the state. It is often the case that these two terms are used as synonyms, but I believe this to be incorrect.

The terms themselves have very important conceptual implications, and conflating the terms ignores their grammatical nature and can lead to faulty conclusions. That the state has served the role of government in society for much of human history is no implication upon the term government with regard to the term’s meaning. Since many continue to use the terms state and government synonymously, I must address this error.

While almost everybody in political philosophy circles knows that the state is an entity that serves as the monopoly of governance in a particular region, most do not take notice of the fact that governance occurs in many other areas of human thought beyond that of the state, as well as the fact that in referring to the state we can also separately refer to the concept of governance.

Please, let me give just a few examples …

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If you have any sort of normative order that is under discussion, say, that of property rights itself (or more specifically, that of libertarian property rights), then that is a governing order, it’s a system of government that prevails in a society. The only difference is that these norms (or ought statements) are generally apodictic rather than simply dictated statements in their justification (though this is not always the case, it is the goal in the theorizing about such things). Obviously, in the case of the state, this is entirely reversed, the laws that are dictated are merely statements–more specifically they are dictates (statutes) by the monopoly on governance; the state–but they are certainly not apodictically true, nor is that even the goal, thus they do not meet the criteria of laws at all; they are arbitrary dictates.

The same dynamic also finds itself present in the realm of positive statements, such as those of economic theory. Economics itself relies upon certain laws and understandings, that of which are always grounded in positive or is statements. Certainly the laws of economics govern (steer/guide) the actions of men in a world of scarce resources, this is necessarily the case because such laws are apodictically true. Economics is nothing other than the study of the government of humans acting in a world of scarcity, and indeed, one cannot violate the laws of economics: It’s literally impossible to do so. One could certainly say that the laws of economics comprise a government of human affairs (that these laws govern the reality of man vs nature, that they are apodictically true laws, one cannot contradict them in action). In contrast, it makes little sense to, say, propose the statement that the law of scarcity has no economic impact, or that something is scarce merely because it has been made so by policy functions (e.g. a shortage due to such a policy).

The difference between dictates and policies on the one hand, should never be confused with laws and governance on the other. This distinction between root concepts and foundational ideals cannot be overstated, because it is often the case that in one realm of human thought where these things are entirely understood, that in another realm of thought the understandings of the prior gets tossed to the wayside in favor of very bad ideas. 

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One must ultimately understand the etymology of words, as well as the evolution of language, in order to find meaning in the same. In the case of the term govern, it is a verb that simply means to steer or guide people or things. At its root, it is formed from the idea that certain laws prevail or are true in reality. For instance, it would not be too bold to say that the law of supply and demand governs prices, or that the law of gravity governs the attractive relationship of bodies. This is obviously true. However, for some reason, the verb govern takes a twisted turn in many people’s mind once you modify it with the suffix –ment to become a noun.

It is this noun-character (as well as the reality of the state) that often leads people to conflate government with the state as synonyms. They are both nouns, after all, and certainly the state has undertaken the government of society throughout a great part of human history. But it takes one of more astute care and attention to realize what is going on here.

The state is an actual entity (at least it is linguistically referred to as an entity), so it is a concrete noun, whereas government is an abstract noun, which is a concept. So right here we can see can see a pretty large difference between the two grammatically, but the real interesting part is in the root word to suffix transition that occurs (from govern to government).

Probably the best words to use as analogues to the word govern are those of the words excite and entice. These are transitive verbs, just like that of the word govern, and they require a certain object (or objects) in order for reference to them. One simply cannot use a transitive verb without referring to some thing. So let’s modify them into abstract nouns!

In order to stay consistent, I will modify all of these transitive verbs into abstract nouns by the usage of the modifying suffix –ment (which is defined as, “forming nouns expressing the result or means of action”). Since English grammar is the governing structure that gives meaning to the words of English, the point should be quite clear.

The transitive verbs excite and entice are modified into the abstract nouns excitement and enticement. Clearly, we could not conflate these abstract nouns with concrete nouns, such that we could call the state “the excitement” or “the enticement”, rather we are left with resorting to using the preposition of to combine the two. So it is perfectly acceptable to say something like “the excitement/enticement of the state”, but it is not acceptable to refer to the state as “the excitement/enticement”. The same is true of the word government, it cannot be used as a synonym for an entity because of its grammatical nature (i.e. abstract nouns vs concrete nouns).

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Anarcho-libertarians often run into problems when discussing their chosen political philosophy with statists, and this is often due to this very dynamic of conflating the terms state and government. This leads one to believe that what the anarchist is saying is that they do not believe in law or order, when it is exactly the opposite that is true. Certainly anarcho-libertarians do believe in laws, they just do not believe in arbitrary laws (such as legislated statutes, or mere dictates); and just as much, they also believe in governance, they just do not believe in monopoly governance, such as the state. The anarcho-libertarian’s system of laws is based upon libertarian property rights in conjunction with the non-aggression principle, which together form a rather robust system of government.

For the anarcho-libertarian to deny government, this only plays into the claims by statists that anarchy is chaotic and lawless (a Hobbesian state of nature of all against all, thus justifying the need for Leviathan; the state) when this is very clearly far from being the actual case. As I am often fond of saying: “I’m all for big government, but I have zero tolerance for the state”. Let a statist try that one on for size.

Curious Inconsistencies of the Left

November 28, 2012

Now, don’t go thinking that because I am picking on the left here that I am some sort of right-wing ideologue. No! I don’t like either the left or right of the American political spectrum (which, as Tom Woods likes to say, is about the width of about 2 inches, and one shouldn’t stray from this 2 inches lest you be a radical). However, I must admit that I often find a greater preponderance of inconsistencies from the left.

The idea of equality is often bandied about by those of the leftist persuasion as a noble goal, a highly sought end. Now, of course, I know that actual and real equality is an impossibility, and that if such a thing were to be a reality, that no progress would ever exist in the world (after all, progress is achieved by straying from the norm, by being unequal– this is especially true of economic matters). However, even with all of this talk about “equality”, those same people who praise this idea also like to talk a lot about diversity and such things as multi-culturalism.

So, which is it? Should we embrace equality or diversity? Apparently they haven’t quite thought this through with much rigor.

Also, here’s a bonus thought. Those that preach the virtues of equality also have a great fondness of democracy (a most horrid institution, if I do say so myself). If everybody was truly equal, then wouldn’t this pretty much make democracy a pointless exercise? Possibly democracy is viewed as the means to the end, but then the means is entirely antithetical to the ends, because democracy is all about having one’s individual “voice heard” (which implies differentiation and distinctness). There is also the case of democracy being inherently anti-minority, which implies that the majority is not only correct and just, but also that it is favored above (or superior to) that of the minority.

I’m just a fleshy sock puppet of an intellectual, but even I can see the gaping holes in this logic.

Oh Brother

September 13, 2012

Socialism is the American way.

Why I Will Never Vote

August 26, 2012

Ok, so I may vote on what to have for dinner or something along those lines. What I mean here is that I will never vote in the political sense.

Most people who don’t vote will often give such reasons for their decision as “it is a waste of time”. “my voice won’t be heard”, “it legitimizes the state”, etc. While all of these are certainly true, that is not the reason that I do not vote. The reason that I do not vote is that by engaging in the act of voting you’re explicitly attempting to rule over your fellow man, and in almost all cases it is done against their will and is promulgated by violence. To put a twist on an old Mises quote, voters are merely disguised dictators. Tyrants!

Most people don’t seem to have a problem with that. Well, I do. I would never want to do that to you.

Force Is A Must

August 10, 2012

Many times in the blogosphere I will see a libertarian make the claim that only voluntary actions are just, and I agree with this to a point. However, the contradiction that I find here is that in order to enforce the laws of any society, they must be enforced by force, otherwise they will be disregarded. A law is meaningless without force.

The deeper question is really when such force is to be considered just, and when it is not to be considered just. This is what libertarianism sets out to do, to define the just use of force in a world without a universal ethic, but many libertarians seem to forget this.

We can easily see why such things as the rule of force by majority-status is both unethical and illogical, but we shouldn’t do this by making a blanket statement such as “only voluntary actions are just”, because it only makes you look the fool in the face of reality. Defining the framework to determine which actions are just and which are not is the purview of libertarianism, not the rejection of force altogether.

Without force, all that will exist in society is a state of lawlessness. There is no justice in that.

Robert Higgs On The State

August 6, 2012

One of my favorite living Austrian economists talks about the state.

Lew Rockwell Talks with Mike Adams

July 14, 2012

This is probably one of Lew’s better interviews. Take a listen.

The Philosophers of ‘Circle Blogosphere’

July 7, 2012

Ok, ok.  So I am not a philosopher, I only play one of the internet.  However, some of these guys are philosophers; or, at least they are the contextual equivalents.

Here’s a little background to get everybody up to speed (so, strap in, there’s a lot of ground to cover):

Last week, after the Supreme Court decision, Daniel Kuehn over at ‘Facts and Other Stubborn Things‘ basically said, “Everybody and their brother is going to be weighing in on this, and rightly so.  But, one should be weary of bad arguments.”   I completely agreed with this, but I did so on specific grounds.  I said that if we are going to give credence to the theory of “social contract”, then surely even the lowest dullard should weigh in. Daniel sensed exactly what I was getting at and immediately replied, “But social contract theory is silly”. Yes, more agreement, but this is where it starts to get a little more interesting.

Leave it to Mattheus von Guttenberg at ‘Economic Thought‘ to see the deeper context of what I was saying. He asks, “what’s the alternative” and reasons his position thusly:

…I’d always assumed that social contract theory was held by most or all non-libertarians as the justification for a state. Some type of Hobbesian “understanding” was reached and everyone agreed it was proper for some men to have power over others. Something like that. But silly? How can Daniel reject it without simultaneously granting the argument that the state is illegitimate? Without a contract (social or not) between state and citizen, there is no “self-governance.” It is impossible to “give consent” to the state. The myth of government as an agent on behalf of the people (who ushered in its existence) must be thrown away if social contract theory is wrong.

I was also under the same impression as von Guttenberg.  In a democratic system, is social contract not the justification for the state itself?  Apparently not, because both Daniel Kuehn and Dr. Gene Callahan disagreed, as well as did Jonathan Finegold Catalán (which surprised me a bit).

While Daniel disagreed, he also never made it explicitly clear as to what his position is, and instead made a blog post that I saw as more of a phishing-for-an-answer venture than anything else. Therein I speculated as to what justifications there could be for a state other than social contract, and what I came up with is what I call the “old republican” justification: that some people are meant to rule while others are subordinate, that this is the natural order of things. Of course, I don’t agree with this (or any) justification for the state, but it does represent a compromise between the social contract (democratic) and sovereign (autocratic) forms thus it is a valid justification given the context.

Ok, now that you’re up to speed, let’s get into the nitty gritty.

Dr. Callahan mentioned that I was discounting both the classical and Christian theory regarding this topic. I must admit, I did do this regarding the theological justification, but it was more out of rejection than anything else (that’s another issue altogether). I don’t think that I discounted the classical justifications so much as I merely didn’t mention them in detail. I’ll admit, I am not the most well-read on some of the older theory. I mean, I’ve read some of the Greeks, some of the Renaissance thinkers, the Scholastics, etc; but certainly I am far better read from the Enlightenment period and onward. So, I was actually pretty happy to see Dr. Callahan post a quote from Giambattista Vico (an Enlightenment critic), that reads:

Legislation considers man as he is in order to turn him to good uses in human society. Out of ferocity, avarice, and ambition, the three vices which run throughout the human race, it creates the military, merchant, and governing classes, and thus the strength, riches, and wisdom of commonwealths. Out of these three great vices, which could certainly destroy all mankind on theface of the earth, it makes civil happiness.

To this I asked whether this means that the state is magical.  That seems like the only justification for the state that could be gleaned from this particular quote.  And while I missed the opportunity,  Hieromonk Enoch asked:

But, if these vices are in men, do not men compose government also?

Enoch essentially put into better form what I was already doubting with my statement, whether or not a state can actually restrict the vices of men when the state is merely composed of men.  This is why I asked whether the state was magical, because it seems to me that if you merely give power to those of the same vices, you aren’t correcting the problem of vices, rather you are merely concentrating them in the form of the state.  This is when Gene pulls out a very good analogy, one that puts the state into the position of referee over a game of basketball.  I’ll let Dr. Callahan explain:

Let us imagine a time when the basketball referee had not yet been thought of. Play was dirty — nasty and brutish, we might even say. The team that won was usually the team that cheated the most. Fans who wanted to see basketball played, rather than a wrestling match, grew disgusted. Players anger and greed and ambition continually got the better of them, prompting them to flout the rules. Violence and injuries were rampant.

Finally, someone hit on the idea of having referees. The idea is that they would not be part of the competition themselves, but merely enforcers of the rules of the competition. But a number of people pooh-poohed this idea: What, are referees supposed to bemagical creatures who could mysteriously rise above the conflict on the court? Aren’t the referees themselves human beings who are subject to the very vices to which the players are prone?

Of course, the usefulness of having referees does not at all depend on their being magical, or free of vice. It does not depend on them being a better person in any sense than is the average player. Rather, they are expected to act differently than the players do because they have been given a distinct role in the game: they are not (by the design of their role) interested in the outcome of the game, but only in seeing that the rules of the game are observed, or, if they are not, that the proper penalties are enforced.

I must admit, I really thought that Gene got me on this one, but I still had a sense that something just wasn’t quite right.  Then it dawned on me:  I completely agree with Dr. Callahan!

You see, I don’t disagree that referees are needed to maintain order in society, because to do so would be to take the utopian position that Rothbard might have called a “revolt against nature” (i.e. to revolt against the nature of man).  What I do take issue with is that we should have a monopoly power-center in the form of a state to serve this function of governance.

Unlike many libertarians, I do make a distinction between “government” and the “state”.  To me, government is more of a system or process, not an entity in itself.  Whereas the state is an actual entity that serves as the government (i.e. the state is a form of government).  I completely agree that government is necessary, but I disagree in how such government should be undertaken.  To attempt to use Gene’s own analogy , I don’t think that we should have a monopoly referee, nor do I think that the players of the game should be chosen by the electoral vote of the spectators every few years, as I think that this would surely make for a corrupt and unfair situation.  Rather, I believe that the referees and players should be chosen by all involved, and in real-time.  In other words, I believe that the government should be chosen by the market in what is called an “emergent governance” (a term that I borrow from Ryan Faulk).  In only this way can we have a government (or, more likely governments) that not only serves to restrict the vices of men, but it does so at all levels of society (including that of the government itself).  For without best serving society any such government would surely fail and be replaced by a more efficient and just government as the market dictates, and in an emergent order as dictated by all involved.  It also entirely decentralizes power such that no single entity can maintain a monopoly, because its legitimacy is based upon voluntary means and it must compete against other governments that may arise in the marketplace.  Dr. Callahan did hint at what he thought the libertarian response might be when he linked to Dr. Murphy’s ‘Chaos Theory’ article, but he still didn’t quite get the substance of it (I don’t think).

Now, after this long-winded explanation of events, one might notice that we are now back at square one:  what is the justification for the state?  I can identify at least three of which most others are derived:  social contract (democratic), the old republican (aristocratic), and sovereign entity (autocratic).  However, I still maintain that none of these justifications hold a candle to the justification for the stateless society, and I don’t think that any ever will.