Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Does Free Will Matter?


In his thoughtful reply to my recent review of his book Encountering Naturalism, Tom Clark narrowed the differences between us on how naturalism changes the way we should think. We agree on even more than I suspected. But important differences remain, and one is so important it warrants an entire blog of its own.

In Sense and Goodness without God I make a point of the fact that what people say they mean is often in fact not what they mean (pp. 33-35). We can't trust human self-reporting about their own reasons and motives, either, because so few people examine themselves enough to truly know themselves that well. I don't emphasize it much beyond that, but perhaps in future I should: psychologists have consistently shown that we can't trust most human self-reporting, in just about every sphere of inquiry. I would argue that's because of my observation that to accurately report about yourself, especially your reasons and motives, you have to know yourself exceptionally well, which requires considerable directed effort, which almost no one engages (hence it is my own number one recommendation: pp. 23-26). This has ramifications for how we respond to people in arguments and debates, and how we analyze the consequences of particular beliefs in the general population.

What follows is an in-line response to some of Tom’s comments (Part 1 and Part 2), which are worth reading in full, particularly with his very interesting links there. But here I just cut to the chase of one issue...

Tom Clark said... ...many, perhaps most folks think we do need supernatural, contra-causal free will for individual responsibility (and many other basic desiderata), and showing we don't need it was a major focus of the sections on morality and responsibility in [my] book.

Which is one of those many areas of agreement between us (after all, I do the same in my own chapter on free will). But once you have shown that individual responsibility not only can be, but in practice already is, based on compatibilist free will, the result is nearly zero net change in human behavior--unless the supernaturalists have yet other irrational beliefs that in actual fact weren't based on their views of free will, regardless of what they claim.

Laymen very often claim one thing, but just observe them and in practice it is clear what they said is not in fact what they really think or believe--just as they will often claim one reason or motive, when in fact their actual reasons or motives are entirely different, which is why we must observe how people behave in practice, and not rely only on what they say. Linguistic superstitions are commonplace (as I describe in my book). And people who do not live the self-examined life rarely know the real reasons for their feelings, opinions, and beliefs. As scientists have proven, when people are in that position, they unconsciously invent reasons that sound attractive or make superficial sense to them, and that's what they report. It takes considerable effort for anyone to realize that they are wrong even about their own reasons and motives, and to discover what their real reasons and motives are. And most people don't even know they should exert that effort, much less how.

Accordingly, for instance, hearing someone explain that they want the death penalty because of contra-causal free will does not warrant concluding that's actually their reason. It almost always is not. Getting at their real reasons is far more important. Of course, it's also more important to point out that this is a non sequitur to begin with ("he had contra-causal free will, therefore we should execute him" is completely devoid of logic), and that there are sound and overwhelming reasons to abolish the death penalty (at least in most cases) even if people have contra-causal free will (which they can't have anyway, since such a thing is logically incoherent and therefore logically impossible, but one need not prove that to establish the other two points--in fact those are easier to prove, because most people are daft at logic, and some resist even hearing it out because they think it's a trick or a bore).

Tom Clark said... It seems we disagree on the extent of the connection between American individualism and other central attitudes and beliefs and the belief in contra-causal free will. If as you say the connection is a red herring, then Americans won't mind being corrected about free will. But in my experience they hold onto it tooth and nail--they really dislike they idea that they're fully caused.

But the question you should be asking is “Why?” And you shouldn't trust their answer. Because they don't really know why it bugs them, so their brains will make up a reason, then you spend your time rebutting that reason, but since that isn't the real reason, you find them unresponsive to your rebuttal, and then interpret this as "hanging on tooth and nail." That's my point. You have to begin with getting people to confront the question of what they actually want, for themselves and for their society. Why does lacking 'free will' bother them at all? [See my remarks in The Ontology of Time]

That query (if they take it seriously) gets them to their real worries, the real reasons, which actually aren't about contra-causal free will. They are about much more reasonable fears, but which are only irrationally linked with contra-causal free will, such as a fear of losing control over their fate (which is fatalism, not determinism--as I explain in my book these are not the same thing, and it is their conflation that is responsible for the public attitude you encounter) and a fear of criminals escaping justice (which is based on a complete ignorance of the actual criteria of fault in law, which are, and have long been, entirely compatibilist and thus are under no actual threat from determinism, which is why I also demonstrate that point in my book, too).

By analogy, consider people who crash town-hall meetings and shout down arguments for a public health insurance company because of unintelligible reasons they can barely articulate. Even their ostensible reasons are based on complete falsehoods ("death panels," "it will ruin the quality of American health care," "it will turn America into a communist state," yadayada), which are so easily rebutted you may wonder why they persist in citing those reasons but "hang on to them tooth and nail" anyway, even after they've seen all the evidence to the contrary (or why they often simply refuse even to look at that evidence or make any effort to find out what it is). But in unguarded moments you'll hear one of them say "Because we're afraid of Obama" and "Obama has taken my America away and I want it back," which exposes the real reasons people won't listen to reason. And it's a reason they refuse to confront. Yet until they do, no logical or empirical refutations are going to change their mind.

That's because it's not really about death panels and communism or any such nonsense. It's about an uppity Negro being smarter, better educated, and more powerful than they are, and a nation that, by choosing such a man as their leader, is a nation they don't understand anymore (and is therefore no longer "their America," the one they "want back"). They will deny this (because being a 'racist' is so stigmatized they will invent any excuse to tell themselves they aren't one). But that doesn't mean I'm wrong.

Getting at the real reasons is crucial. Getting people to confront them is essential. Debating the facts, apart from that, is useless.

Tom Clark said... So whether most folks will agree with you about the sufficiency of compatibilism is an open question, see for instance this paper concerning recent research on beliefs about free will: ["The Value of Believing in Free Will" by Vohs and Schooler in Psychological Science 19.1, 2008]

Those results are irrelevant, because the study lacked the required control group: students made to read works on compatibilist free will. It thus tested fatalism, not determinism, a conflation I expect scientists to make, because scientists are lousy philosophers, having next to no training in the subject, which is why there were so many false remarks by scientists on this matter that the researchers could find to have their test subjects read, and why these very scientists doing the study were utterly oblivious to the distinction themselves. This is precisely an example of my point: determinism is a red herring. This is additionally proved, IMO, by the fact that so many test subjects were in fact not affected by the test conditions (thus refuting any notion that the effect reflects "popular" reality, when only comparatively few even present the behavior).

Tom Clark said... You're right that I focus on free will a lot (which adds to the impression of redundancy no doubt), since the book is largely about naturalizing our ideas about self and agency and what follows from that.

I do understand that's what you believe. But the point of my criticism is this: because you think that, I think you slight other issues--not by ignoring them, but by giving them far less attention and treatment. For example, not having a supernatural soul means a lot more than not having "contra-causal freewill." How we approach the death of loved ones and the treatment of criminals (and how we construct our entire understanding of reward and punishment) are as much affected by the fact of the lack of an afterlife, as by the lack of CCF. How naturalism affects our prima facie hypotheses (and ultimately the hypotheses that prove out) is another example, e.g. how it affects our reaction to claims of supernatural phenomena; our reaction to natural disasters, or even manmade ones (e.g. replacing "God saved me from that airplane crash" with "I was more fortunate than all those others who sadly died" and "how can we prevent that happening again?"); or how we decide on which solutions to problems we should try first, which is just as much affected by the fact that only naturalistic solutions are available (which requires understanding nature well, including our own human nature), as by the lack of CCF. Naturalism, for example, entails that our brains were not intelligently designed but ad hoc and imperfect and grafted onto an animal brain, which entails that we need to understand better the errors and flaws and internal and external influences our brain's reason is subject to, in order to better understand ourselves and how to solve our own problems and improve our own lives. That means reading up on the psychology of mistakes of reason, on the science of emotion, and so on. All quite apart from any question of CCF.

Again, I don't think you ignore these matters (you treat many of them in Encountering Naturalism), but you could spend a fifth as much time on CCF and have 4/5ths more time to spend on so much more that is actually, IMO, far more important. I would rather someone know all the ways our brains err and deceive us, for example, as science has ascertained, than reject CCF (hence my sections and bibliographies on reason and emotion, including what I have on p. 55, which I would now expand considerably as there has been a raft of excellent books on this lately).

People who learn those things will reject CCF eventually anyway, while knowing those things will actually make them better people, more reasonable, more effective, more self-correcting and self-examining. Whereas abandoning CCF won't change them at all, or hardly at all, since much of what they believe is warranted by CCF is just as warranted on determinism. Hence erroneously believing in CCF is much less a problem than being ignorant of how our brains err and deceive us. At least, IMO. Again, that would seem to be one of our differences.

Tom Clark said... There's plenty of literature debunking God, but not that much debunking the soul (what I call the little god) and its supernatural free will.

I agree. My point is only that there is so much more to all the superstitions of the soul than supernatural free will (and so many more ways naturalism changes things than have to do with superstitions of the soul).

Tom Clark said... You say I'm "trying too hard to show how things change when we abandon popular superstitions about free will, when in reality anyone who takes a rational position on any issue in the first place will find that it doesn't matter what you think of free will." But the belief in contra-causal free will (CCFW) is irrational, hence needs correcting...

I agree. My point is that our difference is one of emphasis and relative importance. I think you far over-estimate the importance of CCF as an issue, so much so as to be conspicuously redundant, and as a result under-explore so many other things, things I personally believe are considerably more important.

Tom Clark said... ...and I argue that correcting [that irrational belief in contra-causal free will] has considerable implications because it's so central to our self-conception (this gets discussed in a recent interview at Point of Inquiry).

Actually, that's the very red herring I'm talking about. CCF really isn't central to our self-conception. I suspect you are being deceived by what people say, and not paying attention to what in fact they do. Psychologists have long known that you can't trust self-reporting to get at the real causes and belief structures in a human mind. You need corroborating evidence, and the truth very often turns out quite differently than the individual reports.

This is a case in point: what is central to our self-conception is that we are not puppets, that we control our fate by the decisions we make, that we can change, that we can choose to make carefully reasoned decisions rather than irrational or thoughtless ones, that we are not slaves to our emotions, that we can rise above the circumstances we were born into, that we can therefore correct ourselves and improve ourselves and get out of bad environments, that our emotions belong to us and not someone else, that our actions demonstrate our character, that we are responsible for the choices we make, and so on. And yet, every single thing on that list is true. CCF in actual fact has nothing to do with any of it.

That people think CCF has something to do with it is irrational. But removing that irrational belief has very little effect, precisely because almost everything we believe is connected to CCF remains true without CCF. Contrast that with the popular superstition that our brains are innately rational and reliable instruments. The significance of abandoning the latter superstition is far, far greater. Similarly, the popular superstition that reason should always override emotion, or the opposite superstition, that our emotions are more reliable than our reason, or the even more bizarre superstition, that God talks to us and guides us and this guidance is more reliable than our own reason or emotion, these are all far more important to correct and dispel, yet have nothing to do with CCF.

Tom Clark said... Even though as you say retributive justice is immoral whether or not we have CCFW, the belief in CCFW helps support retributive attitudes and policies, so changing that belief should help move us toward a consequentialist criminal justice system.

I disagree. In fact, that is perhaps the most central disagreement between us. Because that's what people will tell you. But you shouldn't believe them. They would much sooner improve the world, in fact, if they would stop believing this excuse themselves, because they are only preventing themselves from confronting the real reasons they support retributive punishment--most prominently, the fact that it makes them feel good. And it makes them feel good because as social animals they evolved that emotional vengeance response, due to its utility in regulating behavior in social animals that can't regulate their behavior based on reason (because, being animals, they are pre-rational, and weren't intelligently designed to begin with, and thus stumbled onto whatever "fix" was easy to randomly develop that produced differential reproductive success).

As apes or hominids it served us well to "feel good" at seeing or causing retribution, because this emotional response motivated (and thus caused) behavior that just happened to have the effect of deterring antisocial behaviors or removing antisocial members from the group. But as rational, conscious animals now, we can recognize why that primitive brain mechanism was (and therefore is) naive and flawed (just as we recognize much of animal behavior as irrational or nonrational, yet, just as with retributive emotions, not always without a measure of utility) and served interests we no longer consider of overriding importance, since we now see the value of happiness as much greater than differential reproductive success, yet retributive emotions evolved because they served the latter, not because they served the former (other than derivatively).

Understanding all that is far more important than attacking CCF without convincing anyone of that other stuff first. If you want to change things, you need to educate them about why retribution makes them feel good and why it isn't always in their best interests to trust that emotion and why it makes far more practical sense to channel and satisfy that emotion in ways more productive than mere retribution. All of that can be explained and accepted even by someone who believes in CCF. And in the end, once they understand all that, they will eventually fail to see any use in CCF. You won't even have to argue them out of it. But if you focus solely on the logic of CCF, they won't have learned any of those other things, and consequently will have learned nothing. And I suspect that is the reason you find so much push-back against debunking CCF.

68 comments:

Matt D. said...

Thanks, for another great read!

WAR_ON_ERROR said...

Totally agree. There's a million stand alone factoids of psychology out there that can be fully understood apart from superstitious spins on philosophy. It's what made the transition from Christianity into humanism so easy for me. I was educated and took all that information seriously already (i.e. I was already trying to accommodate the facts of psychology into my Christian moral paradigm) and so there were only a handful of foggy meaningless superstitious issues to clear up with unfettered logic. It's often surprising to me that people do get so tripped up on some of this stuff, since it has little to no practical application if you've been actually paying attention to life.

Ben

Steven Carr said...

Totally agree with all of that.

Tom Clark said...

Richard,

Thanks for this, always good to get your take. There are three questions in play it seems: that my focus on free will leads to ignoring other issues, that people really aren’t worried about free will, and that nothing much will change once people no longer believe that they are causal exceptions to nature. So I’ll address these in order, which will require two posts.

About my focus on free will leading to ignoring other issues: People are indeed worried about avoiding fatalism, having control, justice being done, etc, and as you say some folks irrationally think that these things (and other important things) are only possible if we have contra-causal free will (CCFW). In explaining to someone why the concept of CCFW is untenable, it helps to explain the causal antecedents of persons, the ubiquity of cause and effect relations, the role of environment and heredity, the evolutionary basis for retributive emotions, etc., in other words various aspect of the naturalistic worldview. In reassuring them that their fears about not having CCFW are unfounded (a lot of what I do), I explain that human agents have as much causal power as the factors that cause them, that morality stays intact, that determinism is necessary for responsibility, not a hindrance, that rationality doesn’t depend on being causally disconnected from the world, and many other facts of life from a naturalistic perspective. This is just to say that debunking CCFW effectively involves explaining the naturalistic alternative, so debunking it isn’t a waste of time, as I see it. This is not at all to discount the importance of the other issues you raise with respect to how naturalism changes our view of things (no intelligent design, no afterlife, how our brains deceive us, etc.) and the importance of getting people to see the light about all this. In the big picture of naturalism, the absence of CCFW is just one piece, as a glance at various overviews of naturalism as I present it will show, see here and here.

(to be continued)

Tom Clark said...

(continuing my response to Richard)

What people are really worried about: You’re pretty sure that people aren’t *really* worried about determinism, but other things (e.g., fatalism, control, justice, self-change, being rational and responsible) and that they confabulate determinism as the problem (perhaps having heard that determinism threatens free will). This may be the case, but it’s an empirical question about which there’s considerable debate. As you probably know, experimental philosophers are now conducting research on this, and lots of data are coming in on folk beliefs about the self, free will, determinism, moral responsibility, fatalism, mental epiphenomenalism, etc. Worries about determinism may or may not be a red herring, and as you say we need corroborating evidence. The idea of CCFW may or may not be central to someone’s self-conception, depending on who you’re talking to. It undoubtedly varies depending on religious beliefs, education and other demographic factors. In my experience (which isn’t hard data, obviously) many folks including many secularists take vigorous exception to the idea that we are not exceptions to causal laws because they irrationally believe it’s the necessary precondition for central human desiderata (“what people actually want”).

Does nothing change if people stop believing in CCFW? To the extent certain attitudes and behaviors are premised on the irrational belief in CCFW (an empirical question), it may not be the case that virtually nothing changes once that belief is let go. Justifications for punishment, social inequality, and punitive attitudes towards the poor, addicts and the obese that hinge on the idea that they could have done otherwise given their circumstances are no longer tenable. This might help change beliefs, attitudes and policies in a more compassionate direction and in ways that take into account the wider causal network that shapes cultures and individuals, giving us more power and control. See here about some research that suggests that shifting belief toward determinism makes people less retributive.

Pikemann Urge said...

I am not sure that I understood that very well. So I'll re-read it later. I do have a few things to say about 'free will.'

Everyone admits to having preferences. Perhaps this is a good place to start.

I have the free will to choose the paint on my new hypothetical Maserati. But my preferences will result in metallic navy blue.

I have the free will to choose yellow but I don't like that idea. I could choose yellow for the sake of it to prove that free will exists, and that we can over-ride our preferences.

Buddhism teaches detachment. By being detached we can more calmly reach decisions. Detachment is an antidote to reactionism. Our default state is reactionary. But by being consciencious we can bypass that. We can force ourselves, for long term benefit, not to hit someone because they're being a fucking annoying dickhead.

And yes, people do have control over their weight, their education, their attitude, their manners. But instead of persecution we need enlightenment. Once a person has their light switched on it will rarely go out!

Richard Carrier said...

Pikemann Urge said... I am not sure that I understood that very well. So I'll re-read it later.

Just FYI, it might help to read the comments to the previous blog (where Tom and I discuss that further), which set the background for the above. It might help even more to read Tom’s book (Encountering Naturalism), and then return to these two blogs.

Pikemann Urge said... Buddhism teaches detachment. By being detached we can more calmly reach decisions. Detachment is an antidote to reactionism.

Western philosophy teaches self-reflection, basically the same thing, with the same effect. IMO Western approaches tend to be more sophisticated, anticipating more of what psychology has since confirmed. See Seneca’s On Anger for example.

In general, the solution to fatalism is to deterministically cause people to take control of their lives. Which you do by telling them they can do it and showing them how, information that causes them to do it. As you put it, it turns on the light bulb from then on out.

urbster1 said...

Thanks for this great read!

I was wondering if you had any thoughts on the moral theory of Desire Utilitarianism proposed by Alonzo Fyfe? I have read the sections about morality in your book and would appreciate if you could address this topic.

Richard Carrier said...

Urbster1 said... I was wondering if you had any thoughts on the moral theory of Desire Utilitarianism proposed by Alonzo Fyfe?

He and I have discussed it on his blog, where he critiques my goal theory, to which I commented extensively. My goal theory (GT) is nearly identical to his desire utilitarianism (DU), and the only defect I see in the latter is that it does not adequately ground moral facts, which I argue requires his DU to be reformulated as my GT. Thus, I would say his DU is an incomplete GT, and in that respect we are in agreement.

To catch up on all that:

Richard Carrier's Satisfaction Theory of Value

Carrier, Happiness, and Types of Persons

Internal State Theories

Parsimony and Internalist Theories of Value

urbster1 said...

Great! Thanks a lot Richard!

Richard Carrier said...

Tom, thanks for your well composed replies. Some clarifications first...

Tom Clark said... There are three questions in play it seems: [1] that my focus on free will leads to ignoring other issues

...I said downplaying, not ignoring. You do treat many of these issues in your book, as I said, and I would want more of that--because I think people need more of that, and because I think you would develop your worldview more clearly if you thought more about these other issues more than it seems you have (e.g. if you thought more about the warrant for anger even in the context of your own worldview, which again is not to say you haven't thought about this at all, but it seems you need to get this nailed down better, in your mind, and in your book).

Tom Clark said... [2] that people really aren’t worried about free will

...to be precise, they may think they are, but get at the root of the matter, and you'll find they really are worried about other things, which they have mistakenly associated with contra-causal free will.

Apart from the analogy I already gave, here's another: people hear "your neighbor is an atheist" and immediately express fears their neighbor is a communist. They have mistakenly associated one thing (commies/CCF) with another (atheism/control). Show them the atheist is not a communist, and it doesn't matter what they think about commies. Show them having control over their own lives has nothing to do with CCF and it doesn't matter what they think about CCF. They can go on believing false things about commies or CCF (until you want to bother taking those false beliefs on, perhaps just for the fun of it).

Tom Clark said... [3] and that nothing much will change once people no longer believe that they are causal exceptions to nature

If we assume no other premise has changed (i.e. the only premise that has changed is their belief vis-a-vis CCF), then yes, the effect will be (at least nearly) no net change in conclusions about behavior, etc. But when people change their conclusions about, e.g., how to react to a criminal, they will have done so not because they changed their beliefs about CCF, but because they changed their beliefs about the utility of their behaviors and the nature of criminals and the causes of criminality. This will be the case even if those other changes piggybacked on a change in view regarding CCF. But since those exact same changes can be observed without any change regarding CCF, clearly CCF is the red herring as far as causing people to think and act differently.

Tom Clark said... In explaining to someone why the concept of CCFW is untenable, it helps to explain the causal antecedents of persons, the ubiquity of cause and effect relations, the role of environment and heredity, the evolutionary basis for retributive emotions, etc., in other words various aspect of the naturalistic worldview.

I agree. In fact, I think their knowing that stuff is far more important, and will have the full intended effect entirely without any need of changing their view on CCF (though IMO it will have the inevitable consequence of changing that anyway, even if you never even mention it, which is also my point--once people understand how the world works, they will realize, all on their own, the irrelevance of CCF).

Richard Carrier said...

Tom Clark said... ...debunking CCFW effectively involves explaining the naturalistic alternative, so debunking it isn’t a waste of time, as I see it.

I just don't see it efficiently doing that in your case. To the contrary, I think you could cut 4/5ths of what you say about CCF and fill all that up with useful information about the psychology of human reason and emotion, the social-anthropological causes of behavior, the metaphysical and empirical basis for testing the truth of moral propositions, and so on.

Though, of course, all of that would (even if covertly) support your conclusion about CCF, it would still be true regardless of the CCF issue so the reader doesn't need to decide on CCF before coming to accept those other facts. Whereas, coming to accept those other facts will have softened them up, making CCF eventually easier to understand and accept. I think it is thus more efficient to focus on those things first, and to a greater extent (not least because there are many such subjects, while CCF is itself just one isolated topic).

Of course, the way your book is written, I also got the impression that your views of CCF have misled you to incorrect conclusions, but that's a matter for our previous discussion.

Richard Carrier said...

Getting the Science Right

Tom Clark said... As you probably know, experimental philosophers are now conducting research on this, and lots of data are coming in on folk beliefs about the self, free will, determinism, moral responsibility, fatalism, mental epiphenomenalism, etc.

Much of which is, unfortunately, crap, precisely because scientists ignore philosophy and completely mis-formulate their studies and mis-interpret the results. As I showed for the Vohs and Schooler report you relied on (in my blog remarks above).

Another example is the bogus interpretation of the delayed perception finding: science has proved you only become consciously aware of making a decision about a fifth of a second after you already made it. This is interpreted as "proving" your decision is an illusion, you make no decisions, you only think you do, and therefore you have no free will (I have read more than one scientist saying essentially this, including the researchers who published the study). But that is a monstrous category error: it falsely equates consciousness of self, with the actual self of which you are conscious. This results from failing to philosophically define the word "you" in the sentence "you didn't really make the decision."

As I show in Sense and Goodness, "you" is actually defined (in actual practice, by everyone the world over) not as the perception of you, but as the database of memories, character traits, reasoning abilities and other skills, that defines you as a person, and of which you are conscious, but the consciousness of these things is not the things themselves. So yes, it takes time for "you" (the brain) to compute a conscious perception of what "you" (your brain) are doing, but it was still "you" that did it: your reasoning, your memories, your desires, your character, your knowledge and skills all caused the decision, a process your brain then perceives and represents in conscious experience, so you can use that output as an input in further reasoning and decision making. Once you get the facts and semantics right, the conclusion from the study that "you" aren't making decisions and therefore "you" don't have free will, is complete bollocks.

In study after study, scientists ignore any proper philosophical effort to properly define or demarcate terms, or to ascertain what terms mean in practice, and thus they completely mishandle data (like mistaking the consciousness of you for the actual you) and completely screw up the design of their experiments (like forgetting to include the proper control group of persons reading compatibilist literature). For similar observations about botched attempts to define terms like "belief" and "truth" see my remarks under Giving the Churchlands a Fairer Shake.

Thus, caution is in order when relying on scientific studies that purport to resolve philosophical issues in psychology. As a young science, psychology just hasn't gotten its game on yet. It's got the best methods in every other respect, it just needs to do better philosophy at the stages of experimental design and interpretation. Or so it seems to me so far.

Richard Carrier said...

Arguing from Personal Experience

Tom Clark said... ...many folks including many secularists take vigorous exception to the idea that we are not exceptions to causal laws...

I think you may be succumbing to selection bias or distorted experience (seeing what you want or expect to see, or focusing only on that and shutting out the rest). My experience is exactly the opposite. It is very rare that I ever hear anyone say "I take vigorous exception to the idea that I am not an exception to causal laws" or anything the equivalent (actually, I can't right now recall even a single occasion). And I travel the country speaking to hundreds of people of many different faiths and faith backgrounds. What I hear, and have heard hundreds of times, is much more down-to-earth and practical: "I take vigorous exception to the idea that I am not the one making my decisions"; "I take vigorous exception to the idea that I am not in control of what I do"; "I take vigorous exception to the idea that I am not responsible for my actions"; "I take vigorous exception to the idea that all my beliefs are the outcome of irrational causes"; and so on (not those exact words, of course, I mean the same sentiment, expressed countless different ways).

Just look at what even pro-CCF philosophers say: the argument is never "I know I am an exception to causal laws, because I have true and false beliefs," but "if I were not an exception to causal laws, I would not know whether any beliefs were true or false, because I would be caused to believe false things were true and true things false and I could never be the wiser." The argument is always premised on the fear, not the metaphysics. "Oh My God, I won't know if anything I believe is true unless I have CCF! I'm like totally freaking out!" If they didn't have that fear, they wouldn't give a sh*t about CCF. Thus, dispel the fear, and what they think about CCF won't matter anymore.

Trust me. You will almost never hear anyone express concerns over CCF unconnected to any subsidiary fear. I predict you will see this more rarely than 1 in 100 people you will ever meet who even have thoughts on this issue. The other 99 will always link their opinions of CCF to some fear or other. And that's the giveaway.

Richard Carrier said...

Missing the Causes for the Trees

Tom Clark said... Does nothing change if people stop believing in CCFW? To the extent certain attitudes and behaviors are premised on the irrational belief in CCFW (an empirical question), it may not be the case that virtually nothing changes once that belief is let go.

As I am arguing is the case: all the "attitudes and behaviors" you claim are "premised on the irrational belief in CCFW" are already demonstrated to be premised instead on other emotions and beliefs (as is demonstrated by direct empirical observation of what people say, by direct personal interrogation of those people, and by scientific studies, both sociological and psychological). They are not premised on CCF at all. The passion to defend (and fear the deprivation of) retributive justice is not premised on CCF, it is premised on the feeling of pleasure it gives (and the fear of being told you are defective for feeling it) and the fear of criminals escaping justice (and crime increasing in consequence).

Pick anything, anything you think people believe because they believe CCF, and I will prove either that they are right (that belief is true even if CCF is not) and therefore abandoning CCF should have no effect on that belief, or there are obvious or empirically demonstrable reasons that that belief is held, that have nothing to do with CCF. The burden would then fall on you to prove that those "other" reasons are the red herring and CCF is the real cause of the belief. I predict any money you sink into that research program will be wasted: you won't find any evidence of any such belief (at least with any significant frequency). In contrast, I predict you will always find "other" reasons for a belief, and that once you remove those reasons, that belief will change (and change in fact to align with a belief that would remain correct even if CCF is false), even if their belief in CCF does not.

Cases in point...

Tom Clark said... [1] Justifications for punishment

Most are true on ~CCF and therefore unchanged by ~CCF. The remainder are only really held for emotional reasons that have in fact nothing to do with CCF. As I have amply discussed already.

[2] social inequality

Many are true on ~CCF (e.g. it is actually a fact that many--not most, but many--people are poor because they lack frugality and a strong work ethic, and therefore people who claim poverty would partly be solved if more among the poor embraced frugality and a strong work ethic are actually telling the truth--if there is any flaw in their thinking, it's in thinking that merely saying that will somehow cause more among the poor to take up frugality and a strong work ethic, but that's a false belief about the causal power of words, and ignorance of the actual causal mechanisms that educate and transform public attitudes, which are still false regardless of whether one believes in CCF). The remainder are only really held for emotional reasons that have in fact nothing to do with CCF (e.g. fear of losing one's economic station motivates most resistance to redressing inequities, as is most obvious in battles over affirmative action or free trade agreements).

[3] punitive attitudes towards the poor

Some are true on ~CCF (e.g. one should punish laziness or criminality, two of many causes of poverty, precisely so as to deter it, and some people are indeed poor because of their lazy or illegal behavior and it would not be wrong to tell them so), and the rest are held for emotional reasons that have in fact nothing to do with CCF (e.g. most people hate the poor quite simply because they are dirty or uncouth and disrespectful of neighborhoods and business property, or are all unjustly assumed to be criminals or lazy, etc., which are beliefs that have nothing to do with CCF).

Richard Carrier said...

Missing the Causes for the Trees II

That's three counts down. By not thinking of these facts yourself, or not emphasizing them in your book, you reiterate my very criticism: this is the result of defectively obsessing over CCF. You miss completely, or improperly downplay, the real causes of such things as a result. I cannot approve.

And to really bring the point home, here's the forth count down...

[4] [punitive attitudes towards] addicts and the obese that hinge on the idea that they could have done otherwise

But they could have done otherwise. That's my point. Lacking CCF does not change that. In fact, they will remain addicts and obese until they do otherwise, and they will never do otherwise unless we tell them they had better do otherwise or they will deserve the consequences of failing to do so. Otherwise, if they do not deserve those consequences, then de facto there are no consequences to their behavior, and therefore no reason to do otherwise, and they will remain addicts or obese.

Thus, again, telling people "only you are to blame for remaining an addict or fat" is not telling a lie: the power to change does indeed only reside with them. We can't magically teleport their fat or their addiction away--they have to make decisions that change their behavior. They are not puppets that we can control, they have to motivate themselves (unless we plan to herd them into concentration camps and force them at gunpoint to get thin and sober).

Though there are genetic and environmental factors, that is information they can use to better improve their own decision making, it is not information that justifies being an addict or obese--since no matter what excuses you make, both will do substantial harm to your life and eventually outright kill you, and no matter what genetic or environmental factors contribute, the only way they can ever change their fate is to decide to do so, on their own. All we can do is cause them to make that change by telling them exactly what I just said. Because what I just said is simply the truth. And no amount of philosophizing about CCF will change that.

Richard Carrier said...

All this is reiterated in the link you pointed to, where it is said teaching away CCF will cause people to "become aware of and resist covert influences on their thinking and behavior" because "knowing we're fully caused in our thoughts and actions will likely make us more vigilant in screening and vetting impinging influences. We don't want to be the dupes of skillful advertisers and political campaigns." But that's the red herring I'm talking about: many people who believe in CCF already agree we should "become aware of and resist covert influences on their thinking and behavior" and be "more vigilant in screening and vetting impinging influences" and "don't want to be the dupes of skillful advertisers and political campaigns." That's why Christians (despite being flagrant CCFers) fight so hard against bad language and pornography and to prevent their flock from being "infected" by reading atheist literature (or heretical literature of any imagined kind, a la the Papal list of forbidden books).

You thus don't need to bog someone down in the technical complexities of CCF debates to get them to grasp how they are manipulated by politicians and corporations and the media. You just have to show them the means of manipulation and evidence of its effectiveness, and the tools to defend against it. They will be fully on board, you won't have a hard time persuading them at all, and they will immediately benefit. CCF will have nothing whatever to do with it.

Thus, it is silly to say "teaching the lack of CCF will make people aware of tricks of media manipulation," as in fact that is false: you can only become aware of tricks of media manipulation by being made aware of tricks of media manipulation. Your views on CCF will have no effect either way (e.g. denying CCF will not magically teleport into your brain knowledge of tricks of media manipulation, and neither is denying CCF prerequisite to gaining such knowledge). Thus, if you think people "being made aware of tricks of media manipulation" is a public good, then make people aware of tricks of media manipulation. Don't waste time on CCF.

Similarly for the effect of "appreciating an offender's causal story" in enhancing forgiveness. That is a demonstrable fact wholly regardless of any position on CCF. If it will make people forgive more if they understand better, then promote that. You needn't convince someone they don't have CCF, in order to convince them of the value of understanding better those they intend to judge. Indeed, I can point to countless cases (even from Christian literature alone) where exactly that argument is made, and proven with real world examples, all without expecting the reader to deny CCF.

Tom Clark said...

Richard,

Thanks for all your critique, a few responses in the next 2 or 3 posts:

RC said: “…when people change their conclusions about, e.g., how to react to a criminal, they will have done so not because they changed their beliefs about CCF, but because they changed their beliefs about the utility of their behaviors and the nature of criminals and the causes of criminality.”

But sometimes it’s beliefs about free will that are central to beliefs about the nature of criminals and causes of criminality: e.g., George Pataki’s statement during a speech to the New York State District Attorney's Association that “The root causes of crime are the criminals who engage in it.” Therefore it isn’t the case that “those exact same changes can be observed without any change regarding CCF.” Same thing for beliefs about addicts, the obese, Hitler, etc: sometimes the central operating assumption about agency is that of the self-caused causer, the unmoved mover, so to challenge that concept directly is sometimes very helpful in changing beliefs about addicts, the obese and Hitler.


RC said: “Much of which [research] is, unfortunately, crap, precisely because scientists ignore philosophy and completely mis-formulate their studies and mis-interpret the results. As I showed for the Vohs and Schooler report you relied on (in my blog remarks above).”

Some of the research is getting pretty good because some of those conducting it are philosophers and psychologists who are well aware of the methodological and conceptual pitfalls that rightly concern you. For instance, see the papers here, for instance Eddy Nahmias et al. Surveying Freedom: Folk Intuitions about Free Will and Moral Responsibility.


RC said: “The argument [that we have CCFW] is always premised on the fear, not the metaphysics.”

Not always, since people often cite their *feeling* of being contra-causally free as evidence that they are. Of course such first-person data are unreliable, and a big part of getting people on board about naturalism is getting them to see that uncorroborated introspection (not to mention faith, tradition and clerical authority) isn’t good evidence for truths about the world. Many folks also believe in the soul and its supernatural freedom because of religious indoctrination, and as psychologist Paul Bloom argues in his book Descartes’ Baby, there’s evidence we are intuitive mind/body dualists from a very early age, which might predispose us to think that minds are free (self-caused causers) in a way that bodies aren’t.

Tom Clark said...

RC said: “The burden would then fall on you to prove that those "other" reasons are the red herring and CCF is the real cause of the belief. I predict any money you sink into that research program will be wasted: you won't find any evidence of any such belief (at least with any significant frequency).”

As I mentioned in earlier posts (and see the papers linked in the post above), this research program is getting underway, so we’ll see how the data pan out. My hypothesis is that belief in CCFW works as a folk-metaphysical justification for punitive and self-aggrandizing attitudes, behavior and policies, which when challenged has the effect of undermining those justifications. Others agree this might be the case, see here. You think it plays no such role. Whether it does or not is an empirical question. I’ve come across some research that supports my hypothesis, but we’re at the very beginning of the game on this so I readily admit I could be wrong.

RC said: “But [addicts] *could* have done otherwise. That's my point. Lacking CCF does *not* change that. In fact, they will remain addicts and obese *until* they do otherwise, and they will never do otherwise unless we tell them they had better do otherwise or they will deserve the consequences of failing to do so.”

Addicts couldn’t have done otherwise given their actual circumstances, but likely could have done otherwise (CHDO) had those circumstances been different (Dennett’s distinction between “narrow” and “wide” CHDO discussed here). Admonishing them to do otherwise, not usually that effective, is just one factor among many that might get them to change.


RC said: “Thus, again, telling people "only you are to blame for remaining an addict or fat" is not telling a lie: the power to change does indeed only reside with them. We can't magically teleport their fat or their addiction away--they have to make decisions that change their behavior. They are not puppets that we can control, they have to motivate themselves…”

Being good determinists, I think we agree that motivation is a fully a function of factors having to do with the addict’s physiology, psychology and situation, including drugs and drug policy (e.g., criminalization vs. legalization and regulation). The decision to change one’s behavior will arise in response to changes in these factors, which is why certain types of treatment work better than others, and indeed why many addicts quit using drugs without any treatment whatsoever but simply in response to changes in their life circumstances (see my review of Gene Heyman’s recent book Addiction: A Disorder of Choice). So the power to change resides not in the addict alone, but in the combination of circumstances that actually motivates change. Understanding the causal dynamics of addictive behavior, which always extends outside the individual, is the key to effective and humane treatment and policy. Same thing for poverty and criminal justice: understanding and acting in light of the full causal situation of the poor person and the criminal, not just blaming and admonishing them (which you seem to emphasize), is the key to effecting change.

Tom Clark said...

RC said: “Thus, if you think people "being made aware of tricks of media manipulation" is a public good, then make people aware of tricks of media manipulation. Don't waste time on CCF.”

Belief in CCFW might make people complacent about their capacity to resist influences, since they might suppose that the uncaused part of themselves is immune to influence. Pointing out that there is no such part might heighten their vigilance. Psychologist John Bargh suggests as much here.


RC said: “Similarly for the effect of "appreciating an offender's causal story" in enhancing forgiveness. That is a demonstrable fact wholly regardless of any position on CCF. If it will make people forgive more if they understand better, then promote that.”

I agree about promoting the understanding of the causal story, and I do it all the time, but what I’ve observed is that presenting that story has little effect if the person you’re talking to believes that something *besides* that story – the freely willing self – is the ultimate determiner of the offender’s behavior. Try telling George Pataki about the causal story: he’ll laugh in your face and say you’re just making excuses for the criminal, who he thinks *obviously* could have done otherwise in the exact circumstances as they transpired. Correcting Pataki on that score would transform his understanding of criminality.

In closing, I can see that for the time being we’re going to disagree about the importance and relevance of belief in contra-causal, libertarian free will, so I won’t try further to persuade you or defend my side. As you’ve argued at length, I may be dead wrong that it’s a central assumption about the self in American culture and about the role it plays in justifiying other beliefs, attitudes and policies (even if these have other sources, as I agree they often do). As you say, I might be biased in my view of the situation, overly sensitized to the free will issue. As a good empiricist, I reserve the right to be wrong should the data end up against me. But I don’t think the data are so unequivocally on your side as you seem to think. At any rate it’s a good thing to be challenged, so thanks!

Richard Carrier said...

Groovy. We've gotten to the nub of disagreement.

Tom Clark said... But sometimes it’s beliefs about free will that are central to beliefs about the nature of criminals and causes of criminality

I know you believe that. I just disagree. I've said enough about that issue that you can see why I disagree. I could leave it at that. The only movement that is possible from here is to get hard scientific data on the actual reasons people hold certain beliefs, and whether CCF is ever really a necessary cause of any of them (for any significant number of people).

Until then, we just have completely different personal experiences, and thus, evidently, two completely different data sets. Hence one of my criticisms of your book amounts to the claim that you are relying on what I suspect is a false prediction about what actually causes the beliefs you aim to dispel. There is no way to gainsay that prediction without going out and doing the science. So that pretty much ends that dispute for now.

But there were still other criticisms, which the following examples reiterate...

Richard Carrier said...

Pataki Said What? (Part I)

Tom Clark said... e.g., George Pataki’s statement during a speech to the New York State District Attorney's Association that “The root causes of crime are the criminals who engage in it.” Therefore it isn’t the case that “those exact same changes can be observed without any change regarding CCF.”

Again, you are seeing things that aren't there. Nothing in this remark says or even implies anything about contra-causal freewill. Remember, CCF is not the only kind of free will there is. There is also compatibilist free will, which you agree we have. So how do you know which Pataki believes in? Are you psychic? Remember, he can still have false beliefs about the causes of crime even if he is a free will compatibilist. So how do you know which it is?

He said the basis for his (entirely true) claim that criminals cause crime is that a criminal's actions do not stem entirely from ''a culmination of social factors beyond his control." And he is 100% correct about that: criminals are not mindless puppets, forced by social factors to commit crimes, all the while screaming inside their heads begging their bodies to stop (like the trapped soul of the lead character in the final scene of Being John Malkovich). Criminals choose to commit crimes: every last one of them does. Yes, societal factors create the conditions that cause those choices, but it is still a fact that if the criminal did not himself choose to commit a crime, the crime would not have been committed. Therefore, Pataki is right: the root cause of crime is criminals. He just doesn’t say what the root cause of criminals is.

Pataki says next that "we, as servants of the people, are not charged with carrying out a sociological study. We are charged with maintaining public order and saving lives." In other words, Pataki is saying that his job as governor is to catch criminals, because criminals cause crime, and he is 100% correct: remove all criminals, and you remove all crime. That's a decisive confirmation that his claimed causal relationship is correct. Where he is incorrect is in dismissing the tactical value of removing the causes of criminals. And many observers dinged him for that (read the New York Times article).

Did those critics point out he was wrong to dismiss the tactical value of solving root causes of criminals because they (unlike him) deny CCF? No. He and they no doubt have exactly the same beliefs about CCF. Thus, CCF is a red herring. The real issue is Pataki's (professed) false belief that you can't lower crime rates not only by removing criminals but also by preventing the creation of criminals in the first place. And just observe: anyone can be convinced that that belief is false, without convincing them to deny CCF. Likewise, convincing someone to deny CCF will not thereby "inform" them (as if by magic) how to reduce the causes of criminals, or even that that's possible.

Thus, if you want to combat moronic arguments like Pataki's, the solution is not to attack CCF. The solution is to show Pataki and his supporters the scientific evidence proving that reducing the causes of criminals also reduces crime, and in many cases does so more cheaply than his (supposed) solution would (his proposed solution being increased enforcement and incarceration--which actually does work by the way, extremely well, as Juliani proved as mayor of New York City, it's just expensive, which is one reason New York City alone has an annual budget larger than most nations). Anyone can be moved by that evidence, regardless of what they believe about CCF, as CCF makes no difference to the data.

The same analysis goes for any other example you put forward. And that your book does not sufficiently acknowledge this, remains my criticism of it.

Richard Carrier said...

Pataki Said What? (Part II)

Though now I must pause to undermine the example itself: Pataki was lying. He was speaking to a specific audience, and thus playing up the enforcement angle because his audience was in the enforcement business, and would thus expect more money coming their way. That’s a typical politician lying for votes. Why am I sure he was lying? Because he signed and agreed with the National Governors Association position paper on crime, which makes prevention of the formation of new criminals a major component of policy. Thus, in reality, Pataki knows full well there are social causes of crime, and in reality has acted accordingly. So much for his supposed CCF preventing that.

Additionally, his justifications for instituting the death penalty include most prominently its deterrence effect, which entails he believes societal conditions can indeed cause criminals to refrain from crime (he says so explicitly). Thus, believing in CCF (even if in fact he does—that is only your conjecture) does not prevent him from believing that criminals can be caused to behave differently. Thus, his problem is not believing CCF. His problem is in having false beliefs about what societal conditions have the desired causal effect. Those beliefs need correcting. And getting him to abandon CCF would not do that, because merely abandoning CCF does not magically teleport into your brain which societal changes actually cause fewer criminals.

Tom Clark said... Try telling George Pataki about the causal story: he’ll laugh in your face and say you’re just making excuses for the criminal, who he thinks *obviously* could have done otherwise in the exact circumstances as they transpired.

Now you are committing an entirely new fallacy, which perhaps I could have mentioned I think you might also commit in your book. You are conflating Pataki's estimation of a criminal's character, with his theory of criminal causation (I admit, it is entirely possible Pataki conflates these himself, but that's a matter of logic quite apart from the question of CCF).

When someone like Pataki says (again, this is your conjecture, not anything he actually said) that a criminal "could have done otherwise in the exact circumstances as they transpired" and therefore (as we are assuming Pataki would argue) deserves to go to jail, he is actually saying "had the criminal done otherwise, he would not deserve to go to jail," which is factually true. Thus, Pataki is saying the criminal, by choosing crime, thereby confirms he is bad.

I doubt Pataki believes that a bad man can "choose" to become a good man without any external causal factor motivating that change (I expect he would appeal to the role of churches and schools and the deterrence factor of Pataki's imagined law enforcement plan, and so on).

Hence my point: I could convince him that manipulating other external causal factors can reduce crime without convincing him CCF doesn't exist. In contrast, convincing him CCF doesn't exist won't teach him any method for how manipulating external causal factors can reduce crime. So how does CCF matter? It doesn't.

That's the conclusion you still don't seem to get.

Richard Carrier said...

Does All Psychology Suck?

Tom Clark said... Some of the research is getting pretty good because some of those conducting it are philosophers and psychologists who are well aware of the methodological and conceptual pitfalls that rightly concern you. For instance, see [Nahmias et al.]

True, and well worth mentioning--as I said, only "much" of the work like this sucks for the reasons I stated, some does not. The Nahmias paper on "The Phenomenology of Freewill" is an excellent example (thanks for that!), one that also simultaneously exposes the corollary defect of philosophers, that they tend to ignore science and scientific methods when making factual claims, making that paper a double whammy that reminds me a lot of Galen (who made exactly the same arguments two thousand years ago).

More importantly, that paper confirms my position: "compatibilist descriptions of the phenomenology" of free will more accurately track actual human beliefs "than libertarian descriptions." Amen. Most people are, in actual practice, compatibilists, not believers in CCF (regardless of what they may otherwise say), and Nahmias' metastudy confirms this. That's what I've been saying all along. Indeed, I think your book would have benefitted from summarizing this article. His later 2005 paper then puts it brilliantly: "if our ordinary intuitions do not demand
indeterminism, then why should our theories?" My point exactly.

But some of the other articles you point to confirm my original point: e.g. the Nichols paper is great, except for the fact that he erroneously dichotomizes determinism and agent causation, failing to see that they are not in fact contradictory at all (yet he concludes the paper by begging scientists to explain why we have contradictory notions of free will when in fact we do not, and accordingly, when we look, none of his data supports his conclusion that such a contradiction exists). Thus, bad philosophy plagues what would otherwise have been good science.

Tom Clark said... My hypothesis is that belief in CCFW works as a folk-metaphysical justification for punitive and self-aggrandizing attitudes, behavior and policies, which when challenged has the effect of undermining those justifications.

What you present in your book is more than this, namely the (implied) hypothesis that CCF is a necessary cause of bad beliefs, such that removing CCF will remove those beliefs. I am saying that is entirely wrong. Removing CCF will have no effect on those beliefs (because they are true even if CCF is not, or false even if CCF is true), nor is removing CCF prerequisite to removing those beliefs. Knowledge of the true causal relations in whatever system is in question (the economy, the criminal justice system, etc.) is what is prerequisite. Yet such knowledge does not require abandoning CCF, nor will abandoning CCF produce such knowledge.

You link to a study that shows a correlation between CCF belief and retributiveness, for example, but even you should know correlation is not causation: and my very point is that retributiveness causes CCF belief, not the other way around as you posit.

Even studies that claim to cause people to behave differently by supposedly causing them to believe something different about CCF are flawed by the basic fact that it is impossible to change someone’s beliefs that quickly and easily, therefore the claim that this has happened is surely bogus. Instead, these studies are simply measuring the power of suggestion. I’ll bet any other suggestive matrix would work just as well. Indeed, just have the test group read the words “you are not to blame for what you do” (which contains no reference to causation or free will) and I predict the effect will be identical.

Tom Clark said... I’ve come across some research that supports my hypothesis

The link didn't work, so I can't comment.

Richard Carrier said...

It's All about Fear

I said... The argument [that we have CCF] is always premised on the fear, not the metaphysics.

Tom Clark said... Not always, since people often cite their *feeling* of being contra-causally free as evidence that they are.

But their "feeling" isn't wrong: they are feeling the fact of compatibilist free will. Thus, only their conclusion that those feelings entail CCF exists is wrong. But I'm not talking about that. I'm talking about other beliefs, e.g. how to treat criminals, how to solve poverty, etc. I'm saying belief in CCF is in practice irrelevant to those beliefs.

If it were just about CCF, then when someone says "but I feel free," we'd answer, "of course, because you are free, in the compatibilist sense," and they'd go "ok" and move on. No muss. Hence CCF would be a non-issue. It's only those pesky fears that make CCF an issue--and which then inspire people to grope around desperately for proof, which leads them to test whether they feel free, and thus they say "but I feel free" to defend CCF. But they aren't defending CCF because they feel free, they are defending CCF because of ancillary fears, and then using what they feel as an excuse to quell those fears. That's my point. Remove the fears, and most people wouldn't even bother looking for emotive evidence for CCF, and even if by random chance they came across such evidence in their private musing, motivating them to ask about it, then just like someone asking why the sky is blue, for whom the answer "it isn't really, that's just light scattering from the sun" doesn't alarm them at all (they just say "cool" and are content), so, too, CCF.

To put it another way, you need to explain why people cite "I feel free" as evidence for CCF, rather than compatibilist free will, since objectively it equally proves both. Thus there must be some other cause motivating them to conclude "CCF" instead. Look for that other cause, and you'll find those fears I've been talking about. Thus, those fears are the real issue.

Tom Clark said... Many folks also believe in the soul and its supernatural freedom because of religious indoctrination

Yes, some few fear having to admit the force of the Argument from Evil (AfE), and as I mention in Sense and Goodness one use of CCF is as a dodge to delusionally avoid facing the conclusion of the AfE. Fear again. But it is also an example of illogical reasoning, since CCF doesn't in fact work as such a dodge, so the error isn't just in holding onto CCF out of this fear, it's in holding onto a completely illogical argument--so once again, it's not really about CCF.

Tom Clark said... and ... there’s evidence we are intuitive mind/body dualists from a very early age, which might predispose us to think that minds are free (self-caused causers) in a way that bodies aren’t.

This is why I warned you to be cautious: it is erroneous to assume that dualist intuitions align with philosophical dualist ontology. That's exactly the kind of boner mistake scientists make who don't do good philosophy. It is actually factually true that the mind is distinct and different from the body in the sense observed, because in that context what people mean by "body" is the external anatomy (skeletal-muscular action), not hidden organs like brains (which children don't even know about, nor relevantly comprehend even when they do). Thus, the fact that the mind and body are one and the same is a statement that uses a completely different definition of "body" than most people use in practice. That's exactly the kind of philosophical error I warn against in my book. Once we use the correct definitions (the ones the subjects we are observing are actually using in practice), mind-body dualism is actually factually true on naturalism (he mind is still categorically, phenomenally, and functionally different from the "body," it behaves differently, causes different things, etc.).

Richard Carrier said...

Putting This into Practical Effect (Part I)

Tom Clark said... Addicts couldn’t have done otherwise given their actual circumstances, but likely could have done otherwise (CHDO) had those circumstances been different ... Admonishing them to do otherwise, not usually that effective, is just one factor among many that might get them to change.

Actually, it is not just one factor, it is a necessary factor. That's my point. I did not say it was sufficient (I actually made the point that it is naive to think merely saying these things is a sufficient cause of reforming behavior). I am saying it is necessary, and that this is why I am criticizing your book: by making it sound like we shouldn't admonish because addicts have no CCF, you are denying the role of admonishment in causing reformed behavior. That's simply wrong.

Now, maybe you did not intend to give that impression, but your book certainly does this, at the very least by never mentioning or discussing the necessary and thus positive role of admonishment (and other forms of judgment and reaction, like sometimes anger, that have the same or similar causal effects). Just look at the actual, factual stories of addicts who got clean, and tabulate the causal factors they attest were responsible for their reform, and you will see what I mean: denying CCF has no relevant role, because all the things that cause reformed behavior are exactly the same things many CCF believers do, because, as I have repeatedly said, most behavioral beliefs held by CCF believers are actually still true even if CCF is not. Admonishing addicts is one such behavior. So is showing them how their choices are causing everything they dislike about their life (which is what it means to blame them for their addiction).

Being good determinists, I think we agree that motivation is a fully a function of factors having to do with the addict’s physiology, psychology and situation, including drugs and drug policy (e.g., criminalization vs. legalization and regulation).

No, not "fully" a function. These are just environmental factors, furniture if you will, that the addict must navigate or leverage to realize her will. It still comes down to decisions the addict must make herself--in other words, it comes down to the exercise of her will. Thus, educating the addict as to how all these factors are affecting them is indeed key to causing them to choose differently. But it still comes down to them choosing.

When we admit this, we will realize that even without CCF there is a real difference between an addict who reforms upon becoming thus informed, an an addict who does not: the one addict is, in actual physical fact, a better person than the other. And we are fully in our rights to say so, and to plan our own behavior in response to that fact. It does not matter that they were caused to be a worse person. They are still a worse person, and this attribute will have causal effects on their behavior that we have every right to anticipate and condemn.

So the power to change resides not in the addict alone, but in the combination of circumstances that actually motivates change.

I agree. But so do most CCF believers. Hence it's a moot point for the free will debate. That certain external conditions matter for the potential and effectiveness of personal reform is something anyone can agree with (especially when shown the data), no matter what their view of CCF.

Understanding the causal dynamics of addictive behavior, which always extends outside the individual, is the key to effective and humane treatment and policy.

Again, I fully agree. But again that has nothing to do with whether CCF exists.

Richard Carrier said...

Putting This into Practical Effect (Part II)

Tom Clark said... Belief in CCFW might make people complacent about their capacity to resist influences, since they might suppose that the uncaused part of themselves is immune to influence. Pointing out that there is no such part might heighten their vigilance. Psychologist John Bargh suggests as much here.

Yes, I know you believe this and that he says that. I'm just saying your both wrong.

Complacency is a product of ignorance (or apathy--e.g. many people don't bother learning about how they are manipulated because they think learning is boring), not belief in CCF. This is because even a stalwart CCFer will agree that they can be manipulated, so clearly their belief in CCF doesn't somehow cause them to feel invulnerable to manipulation. Thus both of you are operating on a demonstrably false premise.

That was my point earlier in citing the evidence of Christian CCFers acting to suppress perceived efforts to manipulate the public. Ask any CCFer you know and they'll say the same: yes, I can be manipulated if I'm not careful. Thus, the problem is not their belief in CCF, it's their ignorance of all the ways they are and can be manipulated. Hence my point: teach them that. You won't have to get them to agree CCF doesn't exist to produce that benefit. In contrast, if you get them to deny CCF, you haven't thereby taught them anything about all the ways they actually are and can be manipulated.

See what I mean?

Tom Clark said... what I’ve observed is that presenting that story has little effect if the person you’re talking to believes that something *besides* that story – the freely willing self – is the ultimate determiner of the offender’s behavior.

I've mentioned before that I don't trust your observations. I worry you are so obsessed with CCF you see it everywhere, even when it isn't there. You and I agree we need to rely on objective independent data. But not from bad science like the Vohs study. So until we get good and sound data, I suppose you will be trapped in your filter. I'm sorry I can't help with that.

Richard Carrier said...

Despite all the above, Tom, we've always agreed on a lot, even on this topic: free will compatibilism is an essential topic of study and discussion for any naturalist; many people appeal to CCF (for whatever actual reason) when seeking to justify certain things they believe; causing people to behave better (even just better for themselves) must involve controlling (or educating on) societal and environmental causes, as well as influencing the individual's own choices and self-motivation; understanding those causes (and individuals' personal causal histories) can lead to more sympathetic and constructive reactions to people whose behavior we condemn (to whatever degree); etc.

And whatever your position, you do a good job marshaling essays and materials on your website on this and other issues. I might wish to see more materials on your site, as in your book, on those "other issues," but IMO it looks like you are working on that (you've really expanded the linked resources there over the last four years, which is great). So I highly recommend your Center for Naturalism website to everyone, even more than the book--although your book sets the framework. As I said before, it's a great launching pad for debating and thinking about applied naturalism, even for those who may still disagree with you on one thing or another.

Benjamin said...

Dr. Carrier, I admire your works on history and metaphysical naturalism. They have given me much clarity and have served me well as information resources. In light of my high regard for your mind, I find your support of the state disappointing. Your low opinion of people who are against Obama's takeover of the health insurance industry, and your belittling of their arguments as "unintelligible"
leaves me thinking that you've either only been confronted with liberal straw-men versions, or are more psychologically predisposed to certain political ideas than you'd like to think.

Are you familiar with the works of any libertarian thinkers at all? Perhaps David Friedman, Murray Rothbard, or Ludwig von Mises? These are just a few of the prominent economists in the twentieth century who have helped shape the ideas of liberty and free-market capitalism . You should look into what they have to say; you might be surprised by how clear and reasonable they really are.

Richard Carrier said...

Benjamin said... In light of my high regard for your mind, I find your support of the state disappointing.

I hope you mean this particular state, and not just any state, as if supporting states in general is always bad. Society is impossible without government. Anyone who thinks otherwise doesn't know what they're talking about.

But if you mean just this particular state (or even this particular administration), I support it insofar as it works, and like any free citizen oppose it when it doesn't. As I've said in every blog about political issues here, I do not expect any administrator (Obama or anyone) to be flawless or always in agreement with me. All I can reasonably hope for is an overall balance of compassion, honesty, caution, and competence (none of which we had in the previous administration; while I give the current administration, so far, a grade of B-).

Otherwise, I have consistently argued even here that I don't trust governments to have more power than they require to effect their legitimate goals (which I lay out in my chapter on political theory in Sense and Goodness without God).

As to your specific complaint, I do not have a "low opinion of people who are against" the new health care law, I have a low opinion of people who do not check their facts and who make specious and fallacious arguments in defense of their views. That's not "support for the state," that's opposition to incompetence (among fellow citizens who should know better).

Your characterizing the health care law as "Obama's takeover of the health insurance industry" exemplifies my whole point: (1) Obama didn't write that law (so it's not "his" law), congress did (i.e. the very people American citizens elected to write laws), yet you wish to evoke a myth of a singular tyrant enforcing a law on us, which is nothing like the truth of the matter at all; (2) that law in no way constitutes a "takeover" of the health insurance industry (a takeover is when the government seizes all assets and manages them, i.e. actually "takes over" the industry), rather it merely regulates that industry, as it rightly does all industries (including the medical industry itself, which has been under local government regulation since even before the Revolutionary War).

I have no problem hearing factually correct complaints about the wisdom or effectiveness of the new health care law, as long as they are based on true empirical facts and correctly represent the content of that law.

Richard Carrier said...

Benjamin said... Are you familiar with the works of any libertarian thinkers at all? Perhaps David Friedman, Murray Rothbard, or Ludwig von Mises?

I'm familiar with many of the harebrained armchair ideas of Libertarian intellectuals, few of which are based on empirically tested ideas or scientifically confirmed facts. A sound method in political philosophy must be empirical, not ideological. Read my discussion of this point in Sense and Goodness, pp. 381-83.

For example, Friedman's idea that even police and military functions should be privatized has been proven numerous times to be a failure--yet he keeps advocating it against all empirical evidence. Private police and armies are always worse than well-run government organizations, unless they are under so much regulation as to make no practical difference between public and private ownership and management anyway (does Blackwater even ring a bell? Or the Sussex Borrough disaster?). Similar lessons have occurred in the privatization of education, which you won't hear about from those who only select or doctor the evidence to make private education look better than public--it isn't. In fact, on average, when controlled for quality of student, public outdoes private, and when the best private schools are compared with the best public schools, the latter prove cheaper and more efficient.

To persist in maintaining an ideological position when the empirical evidence proves him wrong fully discredits him as an authority on the subject. In case after case, across the world, the solution to bad government has routinely been better government, not privatization (I cite numerous sources in my book containing documented examples). Only occasionally does privatization work, and then only with good regulation (or when the service provided is not essential).

Rothbard was more extreme than Friedman, even going so far as to deny the evidence against his views (Friedman at least tried to explain that evidence away--always from the armchair, like a biblical creationist confronted with the discomfiting facts of geology), such as countless cases disproving his dogmatic assertion that unregulated markets always work (so far, we're 0 for 1000 on that one). Rothbard also believed taxes should be abolished (as if we could pay for all our private police and courts and armies without them) and that we should not have equality under the law (i.e. that the rich should get better justice than the poor, because they earned it). That's just retarded.

Notably neither of these guys ever ran a business or served in public office or had any experience with either. Armchair academics usually suck at understanding what really works and what doesn't.

Ludwig von Mises, by contrast, never argued any of this, nor was he a proponent of what you mean by Libertarianism. He supported lean, well-run governments and smartly conceived regulations. His defenses of free market capitalism were typically well-qualified and limited, and though often soundly based on empirical facts and real experience (including his own years as an administrator and wartime military officer), most of what he argued is now as obsolete as Freud. Mises wrote from his personal experience with an economic system that has radically changed in ways his writings did not anticipate, including the introduction of considerable scientific research into human institutions and the psychology of their organization, which he was never privy to, but which Libertarians now completely ignore; likewise the size and organization of corporations now is totally unlike anything he conceived, and such dangerous oddities as derivatives markets were beyond his imagining. Etc. His work is thus almost entirely obsolete.

Benjamin said...

I don't think government is necessary in order for society to exist, and to the contrary I think those who think otherwise don't know what they're talking about. But since you didn't go much in the way of explaining why, I won't either.

I support it insofar as it works, and like any free citizen oppose it when it doesn't. As I've said in every blog about political issues here, I do not expect any administrator (Obama or anyone) to be flawless or always in agreement with me. All I can reasonably hope for is an overall balance of compassion, honesty, caution, and competence

The war on drugs, public schooling, state welfare, immigration, deficit control, tax "reform," national defense, traffic, pensions, health-care, war, inflation, and the national debt are all direct testaments to the fact that politicians are the most incompetent people in our society. Give me an example of a state solution to a "problem" that you think works and I'll debunk it.

Otherwise, I have consistently argued even here that I don't trust governments to have more power than they require to effect their legitimate goals (which I lay out in my chapter on political theory in Sense and Goodness without God).

Do you not recognize the contradiction in saying that "I am doubtful of the merit of 'rights' to goods or other demands on the labor of others, since that is tantamount to slavery," and then supporting a group of thugs who take peoples' hard earned money from them against their will in order to pay for itself? How does taxation not amount to "the use of force to compel others to serve you?" How would government food, medicine, or education not "compel others to pay for them"?

By believing that a small group of people have the right to use force against you, or to use force against others on your behalf, you do believe on some level that you are a slave and that others should be your slaves - whether you're aware of it or not.

Your characterizing the health care law as "Obama's takeover of the health insurance industry" ... rather it merely regulates that industry, as it rightly does all industries...

I don't wish to evoke any myths. Whether or not Obama actually wrote the thing has nothing to do with the fact that he championed its existence and is doing everything in his power to force it down the throats of Americans in spite of the fact that opinion polls show that Americans don't want it, and want it less and less.

An asset is mine if I have jurisdiction over its use. If you come along and dictate my use of it, then it might as well be yours as far as I'm concerned. Obama's health care reform will fundamentally change nearly every aspect of health care, from insurance to the delivery of care.

I do not have a "low opinion of people who are against" the new health care law, I have a low opinion of people who do not check their facts and who make specious and fallacious arguments in defense of their views. That's not "support for the state," that's opposition to incompetence (among fellow citizens who should know better).

Well how are they supposed to know better when they're being educated by the state? I don't consider myself a person who doesn't check facts or makes fallacious arguments. And since I rely on reputable sources for my information, I'll refer you to an article by the Cato institute which should lay the truth about Obamacare plain and clear:

http://www.cato.org/pubs/wtpapers/BadMedicineWP.pdf

And I assure you, it's backed by lots of facts. ;)

Benjamin said...

I'm familiar with many of the harebrained armchair ideas of Libertarian intellectuals ... Read my discussion of this point in Sense and Goodness, pp. 381-83.

You must have your head buried in the ground if you think government solutions work where free-market capitalism supposedly does not. The empirical evidence has always attested to the contrary.

For example, Friedman's idea that even police and military functions should be privatized has been proven numerous times to be a failure ... the latter prove cheaper and more efficient.

Those claims are quite extraordinary. Especially when it comes to education. But I have the feeling that no matter what evidence I provide which refutes your outrageous claims, that you'll just accuse that the evidence has been doctored to make it look that way. It's so funny to me because I think that's precisely what liberals do who share your view.

I don't really see your point regarding Blackwater. They made a small mistake. Doesn't even compare to the "mistake" the United States made by going into Iraq in the first place which led to the deaths of 100,000 Iraqis and drove thousands more from their homes. But politicians aren't held accountable for their crimes at all, which is probably why unlike Blackwater, they're able to go on committing their evils. It's ludicrous. And I've never even heard of the "Sussex Borough disaster." Perhaps you can enlighten me, Dr. Carrier?

The theory behind why police services and education would be better if customers had the choice is quite solid. Like any other business, they would have to please us by doing a good job in order to get our money. But currently they're funded by politicians who take our money forcibly and spend it how they and other interest groups want - whether we like it or not. And since the government holds a monopoly on these services and prevents others from competing with them, we may never know just how much we're missing. All you can do in the mean time is point to an error here and an error there in systems that half-ass mimic a free-market solution, as if it actually means something regarding the big picture as a whole.

Benjamin said...

To persist in maintaining an ideological position when the empirical evidence proves him wrong fully discredits him as an authority on the subject. In case after case, across the world, the solution to bad government has routinely been better government, not privatization (I cite numerous sources in my book containing documented examples). Only occasionally does privatization work, and then only with good regulation (or when the service provided is not essential).

It's really funny to me how you think the most essential services can only be provided through force. If something is so good, I don't think people need to be forced into creating it, and paying for it. By your reasoning, government would do a hell of a better job at providing food for us. After all, I can hardly imagine you saying food is not essential.

Your citations regarding how much government should or shouldn't do for us isn't really tantilizing to me in light of your silly statements like "a free market does not cure poverty," especially alongside your lip-service to empircal fact. Are you mad? You say that a third world will always be miserably pressed to the bottom and paid barely enough not to die, but the only reason why these people can't life themselves out of poverty is because free-markets don't exist there, because they're oppressed by their governments.

At the present time, more than 50 countries are engaged in economic reform as they make the transition from inward-looking, autarchic economies to open, market-driven ones. India is one of them, and capitalism is the chief force responsible for lifting so much of that nation out of poverty during the 1990s. In fact, free-market capitalism is the only economic system proven to produce wealth, wherever it's allowed to fully work and flourish.

I'm not even going to bother with your thoughs about Rothbard or Mises. It's just silly.

Richard Carrier said...

Political Method

Benjamin said... I don't think government is necessary in order for society to exist

Then you are not an empiricist and have no interest in evidence or facts. To assert as true empirically untested hypotheses that contradict all known science and evidence is not a sound basis for political decision making.

Benjamin said... To the contrary I think those who think otherwise don't know what they're talking about.

How many books on the empirical psychology or sociology of human institutions and decision making have you read?

Because if you haven't read any, one of us knows what he's talking about. And it isn't you.

If you have read some, then we can start talking about how you infer from the scientific evidence in them that human societies don't need governments. Be ready to name titles and cite page numbers.

Richard Carrier said...

Political Facts Part I

Benjamin said... The war on drugs, public schooling, state welfare, immigration, deficit control, tax "reform," national defense, traffic, pensions, health-care, war, inflation, and the national debt are all direct testaments to the fact that politicians are the most incompetent people in our society.

This is yet again why I can't stand you people. You hyperbolize absurdly. Believe me, I've met the most incompetent people in our society, and they aren't running our government (thankfully). Your list isn't even factually intelligible as a litany of incompetence.

The war on drugs. This is actually run with passing competence. That it shouldn't be run, however, is a question voters must decide--so perhaps you can accuse American voters of being incompetent, but then, I would agree with you there.

Public schooling. Many public schools work very well. In fact, in the context of what they are told to do, most are run with more than passing competence and many with superlative competence. That they are being told to do the wrong things is, again, the consequence of what voters decided. The solution is more competent voters. But again, I agree with that.

Immigration. Again, voters are the ones who won't allow any solution to be developed. Some of the solutions proposed and actually floated in congress are in fact very smart solutions that would work brilliantly. Again, that voters incompetently don't see that and thus resist allowing them to pass is a problem I agree with.

Deficit control (and national debt). Voters again. That dirty little socialist Bill Clinton eliminated the deficit and even started running a surplus and began paying down the national debt. Al Gore was fully on board with continuing that and even had a very smartly laid out plan for doing so. The American people chose that retard George Bush instead. Who ballooned our deficit and debt to record levels, and still the voters were too incompetent to fire him. But again, I quite agree American voters are incompetent. Government as such is not. As the Clinton administration proved.

National defense. Funny how all the problems here are private sector (fraud and corruption in the pursuit of greed), not public sector, which when allowed to, runs with remarkable competence. Having served in the military, I saw the difference between competently run military hospitals and bases and operations, and incompetently run ones--always the difference was the management personnel chosen to direct things, not government itself; government itself often worked superbly well. If the Coast Guard can run every operation ten times more efficiently and competently than the Navy, the solution is obvious: direct the Navy to do what the Coast Guard is doing. Who does that? The President. Who hires the President? Guess who. Would they do a better job hiring him privately than by free vote? No. So why would you imagine the former will make a difference? I've known many a private company run very incompetently indeed. And contrary to popular wisdom, they don't go out of business. In fact, sometimes they defeat all competitors.

Traffic. No idea why you list this here. The American civil traffic system is run with near superlative competence (if you've ever driven in a third world country you'll know this). If you mean congestion in areas like Los Angeles, that's not an issue of competence. No one can do the physically impossible. Too many people. Though again, the only physically available solution--for people to leave and live and work somewhere else--isn't a government decision, but a private one. Thus, in fact, if traffic defects prove the failure of anything, they prove the failure of libertarianism, not government.

Richard Carrier said...

Political Facts Part II

(continuing your list...)

Pensions. Already a private business. No idea why you are trying to pin this on government. Or are you referring to Social Security? That actually works. Superbly well. In fact, with greater reliability than private pension systems. And if Congress didn't steal money from it to pay for pork, it would be entirely solvent in perpetuity. In fact, a huge chunk of our national debt actually consists of IOUs that congress owes to the social security trust fund--which charges congress interest, too, as right it should. That's over a trillion dollars of the national debt. But that congress does this stupid thing is not a government problem, it's a voter problem. Hence refer back to the deficit and debt issue above. Clinton had this solved. If only voters were competent enough to see that.

Health-care. Sussed. I see nothing to complain about at this point. When by 2017 the new laws have been in effect for a year, we can see what problems remain. So far, I see no public sector problem here, and if you are complaining about health care management and costs, those are private sector issues, so you can't blame government for them.

War. Voters decide when we go to war. Hell, they even decide whether to fight (our military is all-volunteer). We're not living in an autocracy. And when military officers are allowed to run our wars, they fight them very well (in fact, there is hardly any military on earth that rivals ours in operational competence at such scales). It's when voters elect retards to run them that we crash into problems. That's not a problem with government. It's a problem with voters.

Inflation. Since that's been under control for twenty years I don't fathom why it's on your list. Indeed, if anything, this evinces government's competence. It also evinces the value of government (if money were entirely privatized, individuals could manipulate markets and inflation by hoarding bullion, as in fact happened so routinely in the late 19th and early 20th century that states starting getting wise to the folly of relying on a gold standard). See the wiki graph on inflation in the U.S. over the past four hundred years: devastating volatility wracked markets until the government took control of the process, since then the scale of volatility has been hugely decreased (both the size of fluctuations and their rapidity have been reduced by several times).

When there is a problem (we have no inflation problem, and there is no government-related traffic problem, etc.), note how that problem is always voters. In other words, the same citizens you think can run their lives without government, yet you just conceded are so incompetent they can't even competently produce a government. You can't have it both ways. Either the people are incompetent or not. If not, then privatization will solve nothing--people will make all the same incompetent choices, producing all the same problems. It's not as if, say, "privatizing" immigration will make that problem go away--the problem will still require solution, and the only competent solution will be the exact same solutions congress has already proposed but the people refuse to allow. If they refuse to allow a public government to implement them, they will refuse to allow a private company to implement them, for all the same reasons. Conversely, if the people are competent to choose to pay a private company controlling immigration matters to implement a competent solution, then they are competent to elect a government to do so (and thus would have done so by now).

Richard Carrier said...

Stupid People Is as Stupid People Does

Well how are they supposed to know better when they're being educated by the state?

Wait a minute. I thought you believed people can freely and competently run their own lives? Now you're blaming the state for the people's failure to educate themselves?

I quite agree the key to improving voter competence is reform of the education system. But the private education system needs exactly the same reforms. In other words, if we were making the right choices to educate ourselves, then we would be making the right choices about how to run public schools. Thus, the problem is us not making the right choices; ultimately it's not government, or public schools, that is the actual problem.

That's why your fantasy ideology is so divorced from reality it makes no sense. It illogically posits that people will make the right choices when given no resources to implement them, but when given those resources will make the wrong ones. That simply makes no sense. If the solution is to persuade people to make the right choices, then that's what you should be advocating. The solution is thus not privatization or the abolition of government. The solution is better government, i.e. voters making better choices. In short, abolishing government will not cause people to make better choices. Thus it can't in any way be the solution to our problems.

Richard Carrier said...

Exam Number One

Benjamin said... Give me an example of a state solution to a "problem" that you think works and I'll debunk it.

Let's use the list above (minus health care, where changes in the system are underway so can't yet be assessed):

Inflation. Past fifty years vs. previous three hundred. Go.

War. Axis aggression worldwide in 1942. Go.

Pensions. Social security--if Congress hadn't drained its fund. Go.

Traffic. Maintaining an American Interstate Highway System. Go.

National defense. Piracy in the Aleutian Islands. Go.

Deficit and debt. Bill Clinton's fiscal policy as of 2000 A.D. Go.

Immigration. The Graham-Schumer Bill. Go.

Public Schooling. Per capita college graduation rate in California. Go.

War on drugs. The California proposition (going to public vote this November) legalizing the recreational sale and use of marijuana (just FYI, I will vote yes). Go.

Richard Carrier said...

A Social Contract Is an Agreement, Not Slavery

Benjamin said... Do you not recognize the contradiction in saying that "I am doubtful of the merit of 'rights' to goods or other demands on the labor of others, since that is tantamount to slavery," and then supporting a group of thugs who take peoples' hard earned money from them against their will in order to pay for itself?

There is no contradiction for me because your second proposition describes no actual fact. There are no "thugs" and no one's money is taken "against their will." There is a civilized system in place for adjudicating disputes. And there is no taxation without representation here. People chose to be taxed. And they are free to persuade their fellow citizens to change any tax law that's unjust. Hence the paragraph you quote (but fail to continue quoting) goes on to explain the difference between claiming we have a right to each other's resources, and mutually negotiating to share them, quid pro quo.

People are necessarily incurring a debt to their community when they use that community's resources (calling for their help, driving on their roads, drinking their water, breathing the air they expend resources to keep clean, profiting on the peace and lawfulness they pay to maintain, and so on), and that debt does have to be paid. But this is a right created by economic transaction: we use those things, so we have to pay for them. We get together as a community and decide what they will cost. Then we agree to pay what the community decides.

No matter what institutions we rely on, we're always going to have to pay for them. Letting the rich buy better cops and courts is not justice, nor will it produce a stable social system (just look at Syria or Mexico). The purpose of government is to ensure everyone is protected from fraud and harm, equally. If everyone is not thereby equally protected, disparities in power always result that are catastrophic in social effect (pick almost any state in Africa for a test case proving this). Thus, we have to have some system like ours. Though I believe there are many injustices in our present system we could and should fix, there is a just system we can produce, and our present system approaches it (more than it approaches shockingly unjust systems such as we find in third world countries, or of course Marxist states).

Hence in the very same book you quote I actually advocate the abolition of income and property tax and its replacement with other, fairer methods of generating revenue, but then you must know that. We must approach improvement by degrees.

Richard Carrier said...

Where the Right to Use Force Comes From

Benjamin said... How does taxation not amount to "the use of force to compel others to serve you?" How would government food, medicine, or education not "compel others to pay for them"?

Why do you ask that question, when the sentence you quote is immediately followed in my book with the answer--indeed, the answer to your second question almost verbatim? Was a snail crawling on the page blocking your view?

By believing that a small group of people have the right to use force against you, or to use force against others on your behalf, you do believe on some level that you are a slave and that others should be your slaves - whether you're aware of it or not.

That's a non sequitur, and indeed can't even be what you believe. Surely you believe you have the right to use force against an aggressor, and you wouldn't then condemn that use of force because it thereby "enslaves" your aggressor!?

It's patently obvious that there are circumstances in which we have the right to use force against you. And that does not make you a slave. To the contrary, it is because we have that right that we are at all able to prevent you becoming a slave (perhaps you remember this thing called the Civil War? What about modern American sex slavery? A ring was recently broken up on the East Coast. Etc. I mean, duh).

Likewise, if you agree to participate in using community resources for a fee, and then refuse to pay, we have the right to use force against you to force payment. First, if we didn't have that right, contracts would be impossible and thus there would be no economy or trade, ergo no sustainable society. Second, for that very reason, contracts imply agreement to enforcement of the terms, which entails agreement (from you) granting us the right to use force against you to enforce those terms. Only by tacitly consenting to that agreement will contracts of any sort be possible (even in a total anarchist community). Thus, you agreed to let us enforce the social contract on you the moment you started using our shit (and you can't not use it--you profit from our expenditures in every aspect of your life, even in the very clean air you breathe). If you didn't agree to that, then you're just a fucking thief, and obviously you are then an aggressor against us, and we're back to that basic right to attack those who attack us that surely even you must agree we all have.

Richard Carrier said...

Being "Fact Challenged"

Benjamin said... Whether or not Obama actually wrote the thing has nothing to do with the fact that he championed its existence and is doing everything in his power to force it down the throats of Americans in spite of the fact that opinion polls show that Americans don't want it, and want it less and less.

That's false. Polls show Americans, by large majorities, support every single measure of the bill individually. They only claim not to support it when it's phrased in bullshit terms like you just did. That's the difference between constructed fantasy and reality. I pay attention to reality. You prefer the constructed fantasy.

Not only are you wrong about the poll numbers, you're wrong about who is responsible. Obama is not "forcing it down our throats," precisely because he doesn't have the power to. Only congress can do that. So you could perhaps say congress is forcing it down your throat. All Obama is doing is his constitutionally mandated job: to enforce the laws passed by congress. But congress is elected by the American people. So the buck stops with them. Which means the people are ramming it down their own throats. If they don't like that, they can remove the law by electing a different congress. That's what it means to live in a free society. But I suspect the reverse will happen. Americans are going to like almost every aspect of the law, and only change the few aspects they don't. Gosh. Just like everything else. Funny how that works.

An asset is mine if I have jurisdiction over its use. If you come along and dictate my use of it, then it might as well be yours as far as I'm concerned.

That's a grand fallacy. There is a huge difference between my stealing all your shit and my only forcing you not to use it in a manner that causes other people harm. For example, much of the health care law constitutes prohibiting fraud or the causing of physical harm. That is not the same as taking control of the companies that sell medical insurance. To conflate the two is just irrational.

Yet that's what you did in characterizing the bill as "taking over" a whole industry, as if there were no actual difference, when the difference is huge.

Richard Carrier said...

Preferring Lies to the Truth

Benjamin said...

I don't consider myself a person who doesn't check facts and makes fallacious arguments. And since I rely on reputable sources for my information, I'll refer you to an article by the Cato institute which should lay the truth about Obamacare plain and clear: http://www.cato.org/pubs/wtpapers/BadMedicineWP.pdf

Thereby proving you are a person who doesn't check facts or makes fallacious arguments. Because that document is riddled with factually false statements. Indeed, it's very first claim to fact is emblematic of the whole document's strategy to misinform: "While the new law will increase the number of Americans with insurance coverage, it falls significantly short of universal coverage. By 2019, roughly 21 million Americans will still be uninsured." Hmmm. How do they know that? Quite a mystery. Did you even bother to ask? Did you even try to check if the claim was true? Or on what it was based?

No, you didn't. And that's why you are an irrational fantasist, and why I am an empiricist who believes that facts, not propaganda, should dictate our decisions and beliefs.

Where does that number come from? You won't find out in that Cato report (reports that make such fact claims but don't even tell you their sources or how they derived them are exactly the kinds of reports you should doubt the veracity of without verifying their claims). Google it. You'll find articles claiming it's the CBO estimate of how many people might not be covered by health insurance only in 2016. Hmmm. The claim is now getting wobbly. The Cato institute isn't even correctly telling you what the news articles claim. An "estimate" of a "maybe" and for only one year, has mysteriously become an asserted fact, and for the wrong year (the Cato institute "accidentally" flipped the 6 upside down to give us 2019 instead of 2016--the year the law goes fully into effect).

Oh don't worry. It gets worse. Turns out, what the CBO really said is even more parsed than that. Here is the actual CBO report. The 21 million uninsured that they only estimate there will be consists of illegal immigrants, Native Americans living in the Indian Nations, persons who specifically apply for exemption from health care for religious reasons, and rich people who choose not to be insured. These numbers are based on the CBO's 2009 estimate (reported here), in which we learn that fully a third of their estimates consist of illegal aliens, and that in fact the insured will constitute 96 percent of nonelderly Americans (and as all Elderly Americans are already insured by Medicare and will continue to be, the total percentage of insured Americans will be well above 96 percent), a drop of two thirds in the number of uninsured in America.

Funny how the Cato institute doesn't mention any of this. That's because they're liars, trying to manipulate you. They are counting on the fact that you won't check their claims. That makes you a dupe. Go ahead and check more of their claims. See what happens. Stop being a dupe.

And I assure you, it's backed by lots of facts.

As just demonstrated, it's probably not. Since you clearly didn't even check, why did you "assure" me it was backed by facts? That's exactly the kind of asinine irrationality I definitely despise. Act like a responsible person. Check the facts before claiming there are any.

Richard Carrier said...

Being "Fact Challenged" Redux

Benjamin said... You must have your head buried in the ground if you think government solutions work where free-market capitalism supposedly does not. The empirical evidence has always attested to the contrary.

As I have a large collection of documents containing that actual evidence, I can assure you the reverse is the case. But as we just proved, you don't check facts. So I can understand why you don't know what they are. You have an ideology, and then declare the facts to be in alignment. In contrast, I check the facts, and then align my ideology to them. It should be obvious which is the more responsible.

I don't really see your point regarding Blackwater. They made a small mistake.

Then you don't know much about them. Try actually doing some research. Believe me. These things called "facts" are actually useful stuff. Go get some and see.

Doesn't even compare to the "mistake" the United States made by going into Iraq in the first place which led to the deaths of 100,000 Iraqis and drove thousands more from their homes.

I agree. But that has nothing to do with this. Voters foolishly supported that war and then when it was proved their employee (the President) lied to them to get them to do that, they reelected him. That's not a failure of government. That's a failure of individual choice and common sense. Even if our army was entirely privatized, the American people would have done the same stupid thing. So clearly this example offers no support for Libertarianism.

But politicians aren't held accountable for their crimes at all.

Yes they are. By voters. If voters choose not to hold their employees accountable, the fault is not with government.

And I've never even heard of the "Sussex Borough disaster." Perhaps you can enlighten me, Dr. Carrier?

Perhaps you can click the link. That's why I put it there. Are you blind?

Richard Carrier said...

Exam Number II

Benjamin said... The theory behind why police services and education would be better if customers had the choice is quite solid.

Name one scientific study confirming this empirically.

Hell, just name even one well-documented example of its success (on a scale relevant to the point). Cite the documentation.

Richard Carrier said...

Not Getting It

Benjamin said... It's really funny to me how you think the most essential services can only be provided through force.

It's really funny to me how you can be so down the rabbit hole of fallacious hyperbole.

If something is so good, I don't think people need to be forced into creating it, and paying for it.

They aren't. They agree to create it and pay for it.

By your reasoning, government would do a hell of a better job at providing food for us. After all, I can hardly imagine you saying food is not essential.

That's a non sequitur. I said "only occasionally does privatization work, and then only with good regulation," which (A) means occasionally it works, precisely when well regulated (and our food industry is well-regulated, and could be even better regulated), and (B) refers only to privatization of bad government (I said "the solution to bad government has routinely been better government, not privatization"), which means turning into private enterprises functions the government already assumes but does poorly--but as our government does not assume the function of providing food, it can't privatize it--it's already private. It's thus not an example of bad government and thus not covered by my statement.

...your silly statements like "a free market does not cure poverty," especially alongside your lip-service to empircal fact. Are you mad? You say that a third world will always be miserably pressed to the bottom and paid barely enough not to die, but the only reason why these people can't life themselves out of poverty is because free-markets don't exist there, because they're oppressed by their governments.

I agree. I even say so in the book you quote. I also say there (curiously somehow you skip this) that free markets require governments to create them and enforce them, and then to protect the liberties and welfare of citizens against them. The reason third world governments oppress and exploit the masses is precisely because those governments are free markets: justice and power are sold to the highest bidder, a completely free and unregulated market. The third world nightmare is exactly what happens when you turn governments themselves into commodities to be sold and traded on the free market. And that's exactly why free markets alone cannot save people. As I explain in the very book you quote, in that very same section, we need both government and free markets, organized so as to act as checks and balances against each other, thereby reducing the evils of both and culling the benefits of each. Total government is as disastrous as total capitalism. The one gives us Marxism. The other gives us the Third World.

Benjamin said...

Thanks Dr. Carrier. I'll respond to you to the best of my abilities in due time. As much as I'd like to push out a response sooner than later, I don't want it to take a huge chunk out of my day to be as thorough.

Benjamin said...

Richard Carrier said...Then you are not an empiricist and have no interest in evidence or facts. To assert as true empirically untested hypotheses that contradict all known science and evidence is not a sound basis for political decision making.

Actually I am an empiricist and I do have interest in evidence and facts. My hypotheses only contradict your own inculcated preconceptions. I think you also likely have preconceptions about my ideology. For instance, just because I believe it's possible for a society to function without a government doesn't mean that I believe it is now or always has been. There are a lot of factors, but I ultimately support a society in which the initation is force is recognized as immoral always.

Richard Carrier said...How many books on the empirical psychology or sociology of human institutions and decision making have you read? Because if you haven't read any, one of us knows what he's talking about. And it isn't you.

Your appeal to authority is kind of cute.

Richard Carrier said...If you have read some, then we can start talking about how you infer from the scientific evidence in them that human societies don't need governments. Be ready to name titles and cite page numbers.

I'll do my best to help you understand where I'm coming from, but philosophy is important too.

Richard Carrier said...This is yet again why I can't stand you people. You hyperbolize absurdly. Believe me, I've met the most incompetent people in our society, and they aren't running our government (thankfully). Your list isn't even factually intelligible as a litany of incompetence.

The war on drugs. This is actually run with passing competence. That it shouldn't be run, however, is a question voters must decide--so perhaps you can accuse American voters of being incompetent, but then, I would agree with you there.


I wouldn't say the voters are incompetent - I would say that peoples' liberties are not up to others to vote on. The idea that the drug war is something voters must decide is absolutely unfounded ethically. Who are you to decide what plants a person can grow on their own property, or what chemicals they decide to put into their own body? By what right do you have to impose your view of the good onto others? The drug war represents an egregious violation of human rights, and as such also represents a tremendous waste of money.

And no, it's not run with passing competence. You hear news reports every day about the growing power of the drug cartels across the border, and "despite over $7 billion spent annually towards arresting and prosecuting nearly 800,000 people across the country for marijuana offenses in 2005 the federally-funded Monitoring the Future Survey reports about 85% of high school seniors find marijuana "easy to obtain." That figure has remained virtually unchanged since 1975, never dropping below 82.7% in three decades of national surveys." - Wikipedia.

Benjamin said...

Richard Carrier said...Many public schools work very well. In fact, in the context of what they are told to do, most are run with more than passing competence and many with superlative competence. That they are being told to do the wrong things is, again, the consequence of what voters decided. The solution is more competent voters. But again, I agree with that.

I'm actually quite surprised how ignorant you are of this issue especially. Everybody knows that the government education system in this country is not okay. Of all of the students who entered 1st grade 12 years ago, about 70% of them are going to graduate this year. By school's own metrics, that's like a C-. And out of those 70% that do graduate, how many of them actually have the functional skills they need? For more, I recommend John Stossel's 20/20 special "Stupid in America." It's available by parts on YouTube. Also, Brett Veinotte provides an excellent podcast series demonstrating the psychological destruction that public school wreaks upon children available at schoolsucksproject.com.

The solution is to get rid of the public education system, because it's funded through the initation of force and not a free market. By what right do you have to force other people to pay for education? By what right do other people have to decide what and how a child learns?

Richard Carrier said...Immigration. Again, voters are the ones who won't allow any solution to be developed. Some of the solutions proposed and actually floated in congress are in fact very smart solutions that would work brilliantly. Again, that voters incompetently don't see that and thus resist allowing them to pass is a problem I agree with.

Politics is force, and when there's a gun in the room and you refuse to point it out, people will flock to it in order to point it one way. It's why democracy sucks, and the discrimination against people just because of where they're born is a case in point.

Richard Carrier said...Deficit control (and national debt). Voters again. That dirty little socialist Bill Clinton eliminated the deficit and even started running a surplus and began paying down the national debt. Al Gore was fully on board with continuing that and even had a very smartly laid out plan for doing so. The American people chose that retard George Bush instead. Who ballooned our deficit and debt to record levels, and still the voters were too incompetent to fire him. But again, I quite agree American voters are incompetent. Government as such is not. As the Clinton administration proved.

You might want to check your "knowledge" of history. Bill Clinton had to submit revised budget plans several times before he finally caved in to match the GOP's budget plan. In fact, during the height of the budget wars in the summer of 1995, the Clinton administration admitted that "balancing the budget is not one of our top priorities." Just Google it to find out more.

Bush claimed to stand for free market principles, but he consistently acted against those principles. Obama has agreed with your blame game and has said we "cannot go back to policies that have failed us in the last decade." What failed policies? Bush signed a $700 billion financial bailout bill, Obama signed a bailout too. Bush signed a $152 billion stimulus package, Obama signed a stimulus package too. Bush signed a giant health care entitlement - Obama did too. Bush signed a giant financial regulation bill aimed at fraud in corporations - Obama signed similar financial regulations. Bush spent like mad - Obama did too. Now there's some 'change' to believe in. =P

Benjamin said...

All democracies are doomed to implode in debt because people become addicted to sucking on the government's tit and politicians encourage this addiction in order to get votes and get power. You hear all the time about how unions get in the way of progress and lobbyists corrupt those in power - it just goes on and on. You're truly a loon if you think it's just a matter of educating people to make them more competent. No, the problem is that there's a gun in the room. I understand you're from a previous generation, but have the courage to step up to the plate and see it for what it really is. And the national debt will never be paid, I can guarantee that.

Richard Carrier said...National defense. Funny how all the problems here are private sector (fraud and corruption in the pursuit of greed), not public sector, which when allowed to, runs with remarkable competence. Having served in the military, I saw the difference between competently run military hospitals and bases and operations, and incompetently run ones--always the difference was the management personnel chosen to direct things, not government itself; government itself often worked superbly well. If the Coast Guard can run every operation ten times more efficiently and competently than the Navy, the solution is obvious: direct the Navy to do what the Coast Guard is doing. Who does that? The President. Who hires the President? Guess who. Would they do a better job hiring him privately than by free vote? No. So why would you imagine the former will make a difference? I've known many a private company run very incompetently indeed. And contrary to popular wisdom, they don't go out of business. In fact, sometimes they defeat all competitors.

When I spoke of national "defense," I was referring to the many times that the government has aggressed against foreign people without sufficient cause - not to mention the unwarranted involvement in foreign affairs that has made America less safe. Off the top of my head there was Panama, the horrific Vietnam war, and currently the presence in Iraq. Despite the millions of deaths and millions more displaced from their homes, politicians get away with their crimes. People persist in their delusion that it's their duty to get the right guy behind the gun, and that if bad things happen - oh well it's their fault because it's democracy so they'll just have to try again. It's such bull.

There's no such thing as a company that doesn't fulfill some kind of demand and yet stays in business - at least not in a free market. You can't give me a counterexample to that.

Benjamin said...

Richard Carrier said...Traffic. No idea why you list this here. The American civil traffic system is run with near superlative competence (if you've ever driven in a third world country you'll know this). If you mean congestion in areas like Los Angeles, that's not an issue of competence. No one can do the physically impossible. Too many people. Though again, the only physically available solution--for people to leave and live and work somewhere else--isn't a government decision, but a private one. Thus, in fact, if traffic defects prove the failure of anything, they prove the failure of libertarianism, not government.

I do mean congestion in areas like Los Angeles, and yes the issue is incompetence. You see, in a free market resources are allocated according to supply and demand. When demand goes up, so do prices based on how much demand there is. If roads were privately owned and run, then they would probably be tolled and a price system would efficiently allocate traffic so that people who don't really need to drive on that road to get to where they want to won't, so that people for whom it's possible to arrange to travel at different times will. And perhaps there are simply too many cars on the road, in which case a price for roads would deter people from buying cars more and more and they would seek alternative forms of transportation. And we can only imagine what kind of supply would come along to fulfill that demand in a world where there are no government restrictions on production.

Richard Carrier saidOr are you referring to Social Security? That actually works. Superbly well. In fact, with greater reliability than private pension systems. And if Congress didn't steal money from it to pay for pork, it would be entirely solvent in perpetuity. In fact, a huge chunk of our national debt actually consists of IOUs that congress owes to the social security trust fund--which charges congress interest, too, as right it should. That's over a trillion dollars of the national debt. But that congress does this stupid thing is not a government problem, it's a voter problem. Hence refer back to the deficit and debt issue above. Clinton had this solved. If only voters were competent enough to see that.

See what I had to say about the inevitability of government debt and the driving force behind it. And I'll ask you: by what right do other people have to take my property to pay for other peoples' living expenses?

Richard Carrier said...Health-care. Sussed. I see nothing to complain about at this point. When by 2017 the new laws have been in effect for a year, we can see what problems remain. So far, I see no public sector problem here, and if you are complaining about health care management and costs, those are private sector issues, so you can't blame government for them.

Actually I can. All of the facts point to government as the lead cause of rising health care costs and decreased access. The laws increase access to care without putting in place the kinds of policies that will reduce cost. If you just increase access it becomes unsustainable and then the government will have to ration care. The cost of care can be reduced by cutting health care regulations, which will in turn expand coverage through free market competition. It really is that simple. The problem is that people are addicted to government freebies and want a bigger hit.

Benjamin said...

By what right do other people have to take my property to pay for other peoples' health care?

Richard Carrier said...War. Voters decide when we go to war. Hell, they even decide whether to fight (our military is all-volunteer). We're not living in an autocracy. And when military officers are allowed to run our wars, they fight them very well (in fact, there is hardly any military on earth that rivals ours in operational competence at such scales). It's when voters elect retards to run them that we crash into problems. That's not a problem with government. It's a problem with voters.

In theory but not in practice. In any case, war is immoral. Only an individual is capable of action, and therefore only an individual can legitimately act in self-defense. War pits gangs against gangs, which pit their flocks against one another even though none of these individuals have threatened or aggressed against one another. It is indeed a problem of government, because without such far-reaching powers, there would be virtually nothing for people on opposite sides of the globe to quarrel about. War is an evil of collectivism, and the idea that we are one people, one nation - as if that were an individual entity. It's not. That's an illusion that has to be fought and destroyed before you can even begin to have a rational discussion.

Richard Carrier said...Inflation. Since that's been under control for twenty years I don't fathom why it's on your list. Indeed, if anything, this evinces government's competence. It also evinces the value of government (if money were entirely privatized, individuals could manipulate markets and inflation by hoarding bullion, as in fact happened so routinely in the late 19th and early 20th century that states starting getting wise to the folly of relying on a gold standard). See the wiki graph on inflation in the U.S. over the past four hundred years: devastating volatility wracked markets until the government took control of the process, since then the scale of volatility has been hugely decreased (both the size of fluctuations and their rapidity have been reduced by several times).

I don't fathom how you figure it has been under control for twenty years, except through some extreme ignorance of economics (i.e. Keynesianism). Under the gold standard, high levels of inflation are rare and hyperinflation is impossible as the money supply can only grow at the rate that the gold supply increases. High levels of inflation under a gold standard are usually seen only when warfare destroys a large part of the economy, reducing the production of goods, or when a major new source of gold becomes available. The gold standard makes chronic deficit spending by governments more difficult, as it prevents governments from 'inflating away' the real value of their debts.

The gold standard was not abandoned for the sake of taking control of inflation - that's total nonsense. It was abandoned precisely because public demand for government freebies could not grow under such a system. It was time to enter the playing field of manipulating money itself if the government was to continue to grow like a cancer. The Federal Reserve has an explicit policy of inflating the currency, something they now like to disguise as "quantitative easing." The reason is to discourage people from saving money because they think that spending is what makes an economy run. But in fact, without people saving, banks have little investment capital for businesses to start and grow which makes the economy worse not better.

Benjamin said...

Richard Carrier said...When there is a problem (we have no inflation problem, and there is no government-related traffic problem, etc.), note how that problem is always voters. In other words, the same citizens you think can run their lives without government, yet you just conceded are so incompetent they can't even competently produce a government. You can't have it both ways.

What a complete non-sequitur. I believe that human beings have the potential to live their lives efficaciously, not as power-hungry sociopaths or parasites, but as individuals who can cooperate and achieve values and happiness. Politics is the opposite of that. It divides people into two categories and pits them at one another. It indoctrinates them with nationalism and the idea that the initiation of force is okay - that it's okay to decide how others can live their lives, where their money goes, and threaten them with a cage if they don't conform. When you get rid of the gun in the room, people do cooperate and live much more peacefully because there's an incentive to. But if there's an incentive to point guns at people, you get your world - filled with people who initiate force and much larger groups at each others' necks just to get their fingers on the trigger - the result of public schooling, indoctrination, and the evasion of philosophy. How many of these voters of yours ever stop and think - am I acting morally? Am I heeding the nonaggression principle, or am I aggressing against other peoples' property or wish to impose my version of the good on them? None of them. They're all caught up in a fantasy just like you.

Having said that, no I don't believe that people as they exist now can run their lives without government. I don't believe anarcho-capitalism is possible in America today. But there is potential for it in human nature, and I believe that philosophy has the power to bring it about some day.

Richard Carrier said...Either the people are incompetent or not. If not, then privatization will solve nothing--people will make all the same incompetent choices, producing all the same problems. It's not as if, say, "privatizing" immigration will make that problem go away--the problem will still require solution, and the only competent solution will be the exact same solutions congress has already proposed but the people refuse to allow. If they refuse to allow a public government to implement them, they will refuse to allow a private company to implement them, for all the same reasons. Conversely, if the people are competent to choose to pay a private company controlling immigration matters to implement a competent solution, then they are competent to elect a government to do so (and thus would have done so by now).

Here's your dilemma: if people are competent then they don't need government. If they are not, then a competent democracy is a contradiction in terms. Immigration is only a concern because of governments. In a free world, what difference would it make if I lived in Mexico? I'd be no less oppressed and I'd have just as much opportunity. The problem is exacerbated by the xenophobia that immigration brings out in people due to nationalist indoctrination at home, which makes them reach for the gun in the room in an effort to keep people out by making it more difficult for them to get in. In a free world, if I were to move far away who could possibly be upset by that? People would barely notice me because I wouldn't be part of a crowded effort, and I'd require no one's permission for fear of receiving services funded by other peoples' stolen money. It would be understood that I'm a sovereign individual that would fend for myself just like everyone else. Most people would welcome me as part of the competition.

Benjamin said...

I said...Well how are they supposed to know better when they're being educated by the state?
Richard Carrier said...Wait a minute. I thought you believed people can freely and competently run their own lives? Now you're blaming the state for the people's failure to educate themselves?

You act like people have the freedom to educate themselves. Do you want to know why kids look forward to watching tv so much? It's because school sucks. Who wants to be told what to learn, have to sit in an uncomfortable chair for hours a day, and have to raise their hand just to be able to use the bathroom? It's no wonder so many kids feel defeated by school - it's the authoritarian controls. And the abuse they endure in such a forced environment prevents them from living individually as adults. They become cogs for the state. To learn more about the psychological damage of public schooling, hear Brett Veinotte's podcast series at schoolsucksproject.com.

Richard Carrier said...I quite agree the key to improving voter competence is reform of the education system. But the private education system needs exactly the same reforms. In other words, if we were making the right choices to educate ourselves, then we would be making the right choices about how to run public schools. Thus, the problem is us not making the right choices; ultimately it's not government, or public schools, that is the actual problem.

What choice is there about public education? What choice do children have about being herded into a forced association that kills curiosity and demands conformity? What choice does a parent have about being forced to pay for an institution whether it provides good service or not (and for the record it does not)? The solution is getting rid of the gun in the room, to treat children with the respect they deserve, and allow the free market to work.

Richard Carrier said...That's why your fantasy ideology is so divorced from reality it makes no sense.

I suppose it somehow makes more sense to protect peoples' right to property by violating their right to property.

Richard Carrier said...It illogically posits that people will make the right choices when given no resources to implement them, but when given those resources will make the wrong ones.

Just listen to your statist language: "when given no resources." As if people are these things that have to be given stuff. No, people create stuff on their own, and government steals from them and redistributes it. I posit that unless the nonaggression principle is upheld by a culture - that when violence has an incentive - a society is unsustainable in the long term. For democracies, the inevitable result is crippling national debt.

Benjamin said...

Richard Carrier said...That simply makes no sense. If the solution is to persuade people to make the right choices, then that's what you should be advocating. The solution is thus not privatization or the abolition of government. The solution is better government, i.e. voters making better choices. In short, abolishing government will not cause people to make better choices. Thus it can't in any way be the solution to our problems.

Politics is the initiation of force. I advocate the philosophy of liberty. Privatization and the abolition of government are natural consequences.

Richard Carrier said...Let's use the list above (minus health care, where changes in the system are underway so can't yet be assessed):

Inflation. Past fifty years vs. previous three hundred. Go.


In a last ditch effort to postpone financial responsibility, the Federal Reserve has officially pledged to increase inflation under the guise of "quantitative easing." Done.

Richard Carrier said...War. Axis aggression worldwide in 1942. Go.

The result of the existence of governments. Done.

Richard Carrier said...Pensions. Social security--if Congress hadn't drained its fund. Go.

Said for me, done.

Richard Carrier said...Traffic. Maintaining an American Interstate Highway System. Go.

Poor allocation of traffic in high population areas due to lack of pricing system. Done.

Richard Carrier said...National defense. Piracy in the Aleutian Islands. Go.

Initiation of force against foreigners throughout history. Done.

Richard Carrier said...Deficit and debt. Bill Clinton's fiscal policy as of 2000 A.D. Go.

See how you're misinformed above - it was merely a fluke, a hiccup for lack of a better word as Clinton's true intentions as a politician belied what the GOP pressured him to do. Done.

Richard Carrier said...Immigration. The Graham-Schumer Bill. Go.

Oppressive governments in the world cause people to want to flock here, and the people here oppose it tooth and nail via government, representing a violation of human liberties on both fronts. Done.

Benjamin said...

Richard Carrier said...Public Schooling. Per capita college graduation rate in California. Go.

The unbelievable skyrocketing price of a college education due to government guaranteed loans and the diminishing quality of college education thanks to government controls that limit competition. Done.

Richard Carrier said...War on drugs. The California proposition (going to public vote this November) legalizing the recreational sale and use of marijuana (just FYI, I will vote yes). Go.

The drug war is inefficient at making drugs less accessible and represents a violation of human rights. Done.

I noticed that in the majority of these cases you attempted to provide a single instance of a good effect of a government cause. But it doesn't change the fact that fundamentally they're all immoral, and that they fail overall. For instance, who cares if there's a proposition to legalize marijuana? The drug war is a waste of money, and doesn't succeed in its goal.

SOCIAL CONTRACT THEORY IS MYSTICISM

Richard Carrier said...There is no contradiction for me because your second proposition describes no actual fact. There are no "thugs" and no one's money is taken "against their will." There is a civilized system in place for adjudicating disputes. And there is no taxation without representation here. People chose to be taxed. And they are free to persuade their fellow citizens to change any tax law that's unjust. Hence the paragraph you quote (but fail to continue quoting) goes on to explain the difference between claiming we have a right to each others resources, and mutually negotiating to share them, quid pro quo.

Actually there are thugs, and there is money taken against peoples' will. The system is not civilized because it initiates force against the minority. If 51% of people agree on taking money from everyone's pockets to pay for a service and 49% disagree, then the gun gets pointed at the 49%. They did not agree to it, and that is not choosing to be taxed nor is it mutual negotiation. I should not have to persuade someone not to take my property, it is my fundamental right to fight for it because it is mine according to my will and mine only. This is the fundamental problem with your philosophy: it's collectivist. You have no respect for individual rights or freedom.

Richard Carrier said...People are necessarily incurring a debt to their community when they use that community's resources (calling for their help, driving on their roads, drinking their water, breathing the air they expend resources to keep clean, profiting on the peace and lawfulness they pay to maintain, and so on), and that debt does have to be paid. But this is a right created by economic transaction: we use those things, so we have to pay for them. We get together as a community and decide what they will cost. Then we agree to pay what the community decides.

All of those services can be provided by a free market economy, on a truly voluntary basis.

Benjamin said...

Richard Carrier said...No matter what institutions we rely on, we're always going to have to pay for them. Letting the rich buy better cops and courts is not justice, nor will it produce a stable social system (just look at Syria or Mexico).

Governments initiate force to pay for themselves and to prevent competition. Pointing to Syria or Mexico as cases of free markets is plain stupid.

Richard Carrier said...The purpose of government is to ensure everyone is protected from fraud and harm, equally.

You can't protect peoples' property and freedom by violating property and freedom. That's called a contradiction.

Richard Carrier said...Hence in the very same book you quote I actually advocate the abolition of income and property tax and its replacement with other, fairer methods of generating revenue, but then you must know that. We must approach improvement by degrees.

Richard Carrier said...That's a non sequitur, and indeed can't even be what you believe. Surely you believe you have the right to use force against an aggressor, and you wouldn't then condemn that use of force because it thereby "enslaves" your aggressor!?

I never said that retaliatory force is immoral. The initiation of force is.

Richard Carrier said...It's patently obvious that there are circumstances in which we have the right to use force against you. And that does not make you a slave. To the contrary, it is because we have that right that we are at all able to prevent you becoming a slave (perhaps you remember this thing called the Civil War? What about modern American sex slavery? A ring was recently broken up on the East Coast. Etc. I mean, duh)."

Really? So when I'm forced to pay for someone else's retirement, someone else's health care, or someone else's education it's preventing me from becoming a slave? Did you just hear yourself?

Richard Carrier said...Likewise, if you agree to participate in using community resources for a fee, and then refuse to pay, we have the right to use force against you to force payment

I agree. That's called retaliatory force. Like, if someone takes something from my home and runs, I have the right to retrieve my property through whatever force is necessary. I also might be entitled to damages.

Richard Carrier said...First, if we didn't have that right, contracts would be impossible and thus there would be no economy or trade, ergo no sustainable society.

Agreed. You should read about these things called DROs (Dispute Resolution Organizations) to get a glimpse of how a free society could work.

Benjamin said...

Richard Carrier said...Second, for that very reason, contracts imply agreement to enforcement of the terms, which entails agreement (from you) granting us the right to use force against you to enforce those terms. Only by tacitly consenting to that agreement will contracts of any sort be possible (even in a total anarchist community).

Agreed.

Richard Carrier said...Thus, you agreed to let us enforce the social contract on you the moment you started using our shit (and you can't not use it--you profit from our expenditures in every aspect of your life, even in the very clean air you breathe). If you didn't agree to that, then you're just a fucking thief, and obviously you are then an aggressor against us, and we're back to that basic right to attack those who attack us that surely even you must agree we all have.

I never agreed to the "social contract." There's no agreement that comes with breathing or walking on a sidewalk because those are extremely basic things I have to do in order to survive - and it doesn't take sustained effort to produce those things either so by what homesteading principle does anyone really own them? Only with a state can such absurdities arise. My very act of breathing doesn't constitute theft because nobody owns the air. And in a free society, I doubt that anyone would see a person treading upon a sidewalk for instance as an act of aggression because sidewalks would be managed differently. With no big gun anywhere, communities would accept free-riders since walking on a sidewalk actually results in no loss on the part of the owner(s). A select few individuals would likely maintain them for actual trauma like earthquakes or road accidents - perhaps via contractual fees as part of a housing community or business association most affected by it. Whatever free market solutions arose, the nature of "aggression" would not be so clunky, and no one's money would be taken without the direct consent of the individual.

EVASION

I said...Whether or not Obama actually wrote the thing has nothing to do with the fact that he championed its existence and is doing everything in his power to force it down the throats of Americans in spite of the fact that opinion polls show that Americans don't want it, and want it less and less.

Richard Carrier said...That's false. Polls show Americans, by large majorities, support every single measure of the bill individually. They only claim not to support it when it's phrased in bullshit terms like you just did. That's the difference between constructed fantasy and reality. I pay attention to reality. You prefer the constructed fantasy.

Only 36% of Americans approve of Obama's health care policy. See for yourself:
http://www.gallup.com/poll/125678/Obama-Approval-Economy-Down-Foreign-Affairs-Up.aspx

And polls were showing the majority of Americans did not want Obamacare long before my last response.

Benjamin said...

Richard Carrier said...Not only are you wrong about the poll numbers, you're wrong about who is responsible. Obama is not "forcing it down our throats," precisely because he doesn't have the power to. Only congress can do that. So you could perhaps say congress is forcing it down your throat. All Obama is doing is his constitutionally mandated job: to enforce the laws passed by congress. But congress is elected by the American people. So the buck stops with them. Which means the people are ramming it down their own throats. If they don't like that, they can remove the law by electing a different congress. That's what it means to live in a free society. But I suspect the reverse will happen. Americans are going to like almost every aspect of the law, and only change the few aspects they don't. Gosh. Just like everything else. Funny how that works.

The Republicans took over the house and might end up getting it repealed. Read more here:
http://www.thenewamerican.com/index.php/usnews/health-care/5101-will-the-gop-keep-its-promise-to-repeal-obamacare

But they might not succeed, and in that case in spite of the attempt to remove the law by electing a different congress, it would still in every sense of the metaphor get "shoved down their throats." All Obama would have to do is suffer GOP deadlock in the rest of his agenda should he somehow see government takeover of health care as his crown accomplishment.

I said...An asset is mine if I have jurisdiction over its use. If you come along and dictate my use of it, then it might as well be yours as far as I'm concerned.

Richard Carrier said...That's a grand fallacy. There is a huge difference between my stealing all your shit and my only forcing you not to use it in a manner that causes other people harm. For example, much of the health care law constitutes prohibiting fraud or the causing of physical harm. That is not the same as taking control of the companies that sell medical insurance. To conflate the two is just irrational.

Oh my goodness - you're so ignorant it's mind-numbing. It has a mandate to enforce every American to purchase health insurance or face an IRS penalty. But even worse, it has a mandate that insurance companies have to accept those with preconditions. That means that people won't pay for insurance until they have conditions, which would then drive the cost of insurance up because the whole point of insurance has been defeated! This in turn will drive them out of business, leaving a single-payer government system. This has nothing to do with prohibiting fraud or causing physical harm. This is the government aggressing against the property of those who have hurt no one and aren't committing fraud.

Benjamin said...

I said...I don't consider myself a person who doesn't check facts and makes fallacious arguments. And since I rely on reputable sources for my information, I'll refer you to an article by the Cato institute which should lay the truth about Obamacare plain and clear: http://www.cato.org/pubs/wtpapers/BadMedicineWP.pdf

Richard Carrier said...Thereby proving you are a person who doesn't check facts or makes fallacious arguments. Because that document is riddled with factually false statements. Indeed, it's very first claim to fact is emblematic of the whole document's strategy to misinform: "While the new law will increase the number of Americans with insurance coverage, it falls significantly short of universal coverage. By 2019, roughly 21 million Americans will still be uninsured." Hmmm. How do they know that? Quite a mystery. Did you even bother to ask? Did you even try to check if the claim was true? Or on what it was based?

No I didn't. I trusted the Cato Institute based on their performance. If I fact-checked every little thing, I wouldn't have a life. No, when you understand philosophy, and especially economics you have a good sense of what sounds right or what is likely right and what doesn't/isn't.

Richard Carrier said...No, you didn't. And that's why you are an irrational fantasist, and why I am an empiricist who believes that facts, not propaganda, should dictate our decisions and beliefs.

Give yourself a pat on the back, Dr. Carrier.

Richard Carrier said...Where does that number come from? You won't find out in that Cato report (reports that make such fact claims but don't even tell you their sources or how they derived them are exactly the kinds of reports you should doubt the veracity of without verifying their claims).

You mean like the way they pretty much made it plain and clear on page 26? It came from the CBO.

Richard Carrier said..."Google it."

Okay.

Richard Carrier said...You'll find articles claiming it's the CBO estimate of how many people might not be covered by health insurance only in 2016.

Actually I found a CBO report that says exactly what they claimed. Here, let's compare shall we? Here are the links:
http://www.cbo.gov/ftpdocs/107xx/doc10731/Reid_letter_11_18_09.pdf
http://www.cato.org/pubs/wtpapers/BadMedicineWP.pdf

CBO Report: "By 2019, CBO and JCT estimate, the number of nonelderly people who are uninsured would be reduced by about 31 million, leaving about 24 million nonelderly residents uninsured (about one-third of whom would be unauthorized immigrants)." Cato on PG 26: "And even by 2019, CBO expects there to be more than 23 million uninsured. About one-third of the uninsured would be illegal immigrants. But that would still leave 15-16 million legal, non-elderly U.S. residents without health insurance.

Did you bump your head and suddenly think that the "256" superscript was a citation supporting a sentence on some other page as opposed to the ones immediately preceding it?

Benjamin said...

Nice try taking a CBO quote about 2016 and attempting to make Cato look like they were taking a "wobbly" claim and asserting it as fact when they were really just quoting CBO in a different report. And nice try attempting to make Cato look silly with your comical claim that they flipped the 6 upside down to give us 2019 instead of 2016. Perhaps you should ease up on your emotional investment in your Obama fantasy and give contrarians the benefit of the doubt for once.

Richard Carrier said..."Oh don't worry."

Oh I'm not.

Richard Carrier said...It gets worse. Turns out, what the CBO really said is even more parsed than that. Here is the actual CBO report. The 21 million uninsured that they only estimate there will be consists of illegal immigrants, Native Americans living in the Indian Nations, persons who specifically apply for exemption from health care for religious reasons, and rich people who choose not to be insured. These numbers are based on the CBO's 2009 estimate (reported here), in which we learn that fully a third of their estimates consist of illegal aliens, and that in fact the insured will constitute 96 percent of nonelderly Americans (and as all Elderly Americans are already insured by Medicare and will continue to be, the total percentage of insured Americans will be well above 96 percent), a drop of two thirds in the number of uninsured in America.

Funny how the Cato institute doesn't mention any of this.


You mean like the way they did on page 26, which paralleled the CBO article precisely?

Richard Carrier said...That's because they're liars, trying to manipulate you. They are counting on the fact that you won't check their claims. That makes you a dupe. Go ahead and check more of their claims. See what happens. Stop being a dupe.

Go ahead and keep at your pathetic attempt to evade reality and escape the responsibility of judgment. Funny how you have the gall to call me a dupe when you were dumb enough to actually credit Clinton for balancing the budget back in the 90s. Some fact-checker you are.

I said...And I assure you, it's backed by lots of facts

Richard Carrier said...As just demonstrated, it's probably not. Since you clearly didn't even check, why did you "assure" me it was backed by facts? That's exactly the kind of asinine irrationality I definitely despise. Act like a responsible person. Check the facts before claiming there are any.

It's not worth my time to check all facts. I trust Cato as a reliable source based on the facts I have checked, and you've given me no good reason not to. You didn't even try to see how CBO reached their conclusions independent of Cato. You just made a pathetic attempt to make Cato look unreliable and then stopped there.

Benjamin said...

I said...You must have your head buried in the ground if you think government solutions work where free-market capitalism supposedly does not. The empirical evidence has always attested to the contrary.

Richard Carrier said...As I have a large collection of documents containing that actual evidence, I can assure you the reverse is the case. But as we just proved, you don't check facts. So I can understand why you don't know what they are. You have an ideology, and then declare the facts to be in alignment. In contrast, I check the facts, and then align my ideology to them. It should be obvious which is the more responsible.

No, I have an ideology based on the facts of man and reality and since most ideologies in the world have been opposed to man and reality it's no surprise that reason so often runs up against the status-quo. I can understand how you think government is necessary since you clearly have a Keynsian understanding of economics and you adhere to secular humanism instead of rational egoism.

I said...I don't really see your point regarding Blackwater. They made a small mistake.

Richard Carrier said...Then you don't know much about them. Try actually doing some research. Believe me. These things called "facts" are actually useful stuff. Go get some and see.

I did, asshole. I understand what happened. But do you really expect me to take a tragic freak accident as a case in point against privatization being more efficient and attentive to the customer overall?

I work for a pest control company and we recently had to discontinue our goefer service because one of the chemicals that we use to kill them was banned by the government. It got banned because some idiot in another state ended up killing 2 children in a nearby home by not following safety precautions. He used over 10 times the correct dosage within 10 feet of a home - both of which are advised against. Does that mean that the product should have been banned? Not really - some politician probably just thought he could improve his public image by acting like he was willing to do something progressive: fight those evil capitalists who want to use dangerous chemicals around us. When in fact it's perfectly safe to use it in moderation and away from the home. But that's not a case for government takeover of the pest control industry. The world isn't perfect, and I don't suggest that anarchy would be. The important thing to recognize is that failure is not in a company's best interest, and for Blackwater such incidents are in fact not the norm.

This is quite the opposite for government for which death and suffering either via war, aggression, or unintended consequences IS the norm. The 20th century is plagued with instances of it, and that's not even considering how corrupt the police are, how often they abuse their power, and generally just how half-ass they do things. Do you really think I'd be hard pressed to find many more examples? And am I supposed to believe these problems can be resolved better by making requests of those pointing guns at me to fund it as opposed to choosing my services voluntarily? That makes no sense.

And the way you take the blame for all of the government's wrongs by saying "well... durrrr... this is demowcracy" makes you such a damned tool. Democracy is the illusion of freedom. Wake up!

Benjamin said...

I said...Doesn't even compare to the "mistake" the United States made by going into Iraq in the first place which led to the deaths of 100,000 Iraqis and drove thousands more from their homes.

Richard Carrier said...I agree. But that has nothing to do with this. Voters foolishly supported that war and then when it was proved their employee (the President) lied to them to get them to do that, they reelected him. That's not a failure of government. That's a failure of individual choice and common sense. Even if our army was entirely privatized, the American people would have done the same stupid thing. So clearly this example offers no support for Libertarianism.

No they wouldn't have. I've heard people talk about how they support the war and they support our troops - but if their money hadn't been stolen do you really think a great number of them would actually pull out their checkbooks and write out a nice amount to the military? Give me a break. If they were in control of their money, they sure as hell would have paid a lot more attention to Bush's claims in order to evaluate whether or not an attack from Iraq was really plausible. And even then most people wouldn't bother with it because it's too far away and too removed from their lives. After all, why would Iraq attack? It's not like our society gets involved in anyone's business in other corners of the world. (Sarcasm)

I said...But politicians aren't held accountable for their crimes at all.

Richard Carrier said...Yes they are. By voters. If voters choose not to hold their employees accountable, the fault is not with government.

Really? So the country going to war based on Bush's idiocy was somehow the voters' fault? Somehow they were supposed to be able to foretell that he would be so stupid / misinformed / conniving in this way? Had Bush been voted out, you think that would have counted as holding him accountable? Would he have gone to jail for crimes against humanity? Would he have been sentenced to death? If all that stands in the way of a politician is getting 'voted out' then what does he really have to fear in his position of power? Enlighten me Carrier.

Benjamin said...

I said...And I've never even heard of the "Sussex Borough disaster." Perhaps you can enlighten me, Dr. Carrier?

Richard Carrier said...Perhaps you can click the link. That's why I put it there. Are you blind?

No, asshole - I just didn't see it because your post by that point was about as vapid and mind-numbing an article by JP Holding. You can't expect privatizing something like police for a single little community to be the end-all-be-all testing ground. The author himself explicitly states "Is it legally possible to create a private police department? Probably. But, more important questions remain. Would such an arrangement work? ... The Sussex Borough experiment may have been too brief to fully answer these questions."

Notice that the question of a free-market of individuals isn't even considered - only the consideration of a contract between state and private company. Indeed there was no free-market mechanism in place during the experiment. For one, it was not possible for competitors to exist, nor did the mechanisms exist for people to vote with their dollars and come up with their own innovative solutions. There were just a couple of state officials that the community were conditioned to depend on, and the terms of their contract with the security company. When the security company itself was found to have flaws, there were no other institutional entrepreneurs to come along, no voting with dollars, no amending contracts in order to work out possible innovative solutions, none of that - there was just a spooked run back to the status quo.

This experiment says nothing about the success or failure of free-market services. I'm beginning to wonder whether or not you even have a clear conception of what a free market really is.

Benjamin said...

I saidThe theory behind why police services and education would be better if customers had the choice is quite solid.

Richard Carrier said...Name one scientific study confirming this empirically.

I didn't say there are plenty of scientific studies confirming it. I said the theory behind it is quite solid. You have not provided any free market counterexamples. And I don't blame you. It's not really possible because there are no free market examples of it in the first place.

For a historical example of an approximation of a free market, and for a glimpse of the principles by which it operates and how it could work today I highly recommend you read "The not so Wild, Wild, West - Property Rights on the Frontier" which describes the period of American western expansion and how society functioned. During this period, the east was statist, while the west was virtually anarcho-capitalist.

I said...It's really funny to me how you think the most essential services can only be provided through force.

Richard Carrier said...It's really funny to me how you can be so down the rabbit hole of fallacious hyperbole.

What's hyperbolic about what I said? Do you believe that services like police and health care can perform in a voluntary society or don't you?

I said...If something is so good, I don't think people need to be forced into creating it, and paying for it.

Richard Carrier said...They aren't. They agree to create it and pay for it.

I don't have a choice about paying for it. Nor did I create it (not that I need to).

Skipping the stuff about government producing food. I'll give you that.

Richard Carrier said...I agree. I even say so in the book you quote. I also say there (curiously somehow you skip this) that free markets require governments to create them and enforce them, and then to protect the liberties and welfare of citizens against them.

The history of the American West proves you wrong. See "The not so Wild Wild West - Property Rights on the Frontier."

Benjamin said...

Richard Carrier said...The reason third world governments oppress and exploit the masses is precisely because those governments are free markets: justice and power are sold to the highest bidder, a completely free and unregulated market.

Once again you display your lack of understanding. Governments are not paid for voluntarily, and they initiate force to prevent competition to effectively operate as a monopoly. That's not a free market. In a free market, an institution that grants political favors in exchange for bribes would lose customers and could not survive long. Short term bribes don't compare to the long-term profitability and sustainability of a company.

Richard Carrier said...The third world nightmare is exactly what happens when you turn governments themselves into commodities to be sold and traded on the free market. And that's exactly why free markets alone cannot save people. As I explain in the very book you quote, in that very same section, we need both government and free markets, organized so as to act as checks and balances against each other, thereby reducing the evils of both and culling the benefits of each. Total government is as disastrous as total capitalism. The one gives us Marxism. The other gives us the Third World.

Part of me wants to continue insulting you for your profound ignorance fueled by the insults we've already been flinging - and a more human part of me really wishes that you would just seriously read the Austrian economists. You would learn that free-markets always regulate themselves, and that the third-world remains crushed by the enemies of freedom not the proponents of it.

Richard Carrier said...

Because this has gotten inordinately long and is way off the topic of the original blog entry, I have composed a detailed and final reply to all the foregoing on political theory in a new blog entry here: Factual Politics.

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