Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Factual Politics (4)

(This is Part III of III of the conclusion to a crazy debate on political philosophy. For the back-story to what follows, jump back to Factual Politics to start the whole thread. Or click here to jump back to Part II)



6. The Social Contract:
You're Either In or Out

Benjamin said... SOCIAL CONTRACT THEORY IS MYSTICISM

No it's not. It's scientific fact, fully established by game theory and evolutionary biology. Learn something for a change: read up on the grounding science in Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, ed., Moral Psychology, vol. 1, pp. 53-119 and pp. 143-64 (MIT Press, 2008) and the grounding logic in Ken Binmore's Game Theory and the Social Contract: Vol. 1 (MIT Press, 1994), Vol. 2 (MIT Press, 1998).

Your life, liberty, and property only survive when there is a social system in place to sustain and protect them. Yet there are certain ways social systems must operate or else they fail. Period. You can't escape this reality, no matter how many halos of bullshit you attempt to surround yourself with. 


Civilized vs. Brute Force

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.

Benjamin said... Actually there are thugs, and there is money taken against peoples' will. The system is not civilized because it initiates force against the minority.

You are confused. There is a difference between a civilized use of force (law enforcement; constitutional democracy) and an uncivilized use of force (wanton murder; torture; anarchy--think Somalia, or street gangs). I'm talking about a civilized adjudication of how to employ shared resources and pay for shared benefits. The difference between that and "thugs taking what they want" is vast.

If you'd ever actually been raped or robbed by thugs you'd know this. But I suspect you are just a freeloading assclown who has never had a hard day in his life and takes all the goods you enjoy for granted, all the things that wouldn't exist for you if not for our armies and police and courts and sanitation laws and clean water and clean air and clean soil and every other thing. Try living a month in the slums of Mumbai. Then a month in Mogadishu. Then we'll talk about what's "civilized."


Voters Are All Club Toting Brutes?

Benjamin said... 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.

They certainly did agree to it: by agreeing to be a part of our community, they agreed to abide by community vote. If they no longer agree to abide by that social contract, then they are no longer agreeing to live in our community, in which case we have every right to kick them out. Because then they are criminals: literally thieves, stealing our joint resources (such as peace, clean air, clean water, and everything else we built together).

Your notion that all democratic votes entail "an initiation of force" against the minority is bullshit for two reasons.

First, the Constitution establishes rights that cannot be taken away from the minority (thus what the majority can do is not unlimited but in fact strongly circumscribed, which requires a government, specifically to protect those rights from the abuses of the majority, or anyone else), thus the use of force is regulated. That's the whole purpose of government. The alternative is wholly unregulated force, i.e. murderous chaos.

That difference remains even when the majority retains some rights over the minority. Because among the rights the minority retains are the right to complain (to seek "redress of grievances"), to persuade the majority to change their mind ("freedom of speech"), and to have available to them a peaceable and fair means of deciding who pays what and what laws govern whom (democracy and civil courts). See my complete discussion of the underlying logic of this in Sense and Goodness, pp. 375-79.

Second, the exact same principles obtain even in the free market. You cannot in fact have a free market without granting majorities the right to outvote minorities. The current paradigmatic example is the corporation: thousands of people own a corporation, each one having a certain number of shares of ownership. So how does the corporation decide to spend money? The shareholders have to vote on it (and like our representative democracy, this is typically wholly impractical in real life and hence the shareholders elect representatives, called a board of directors, to represent their wishes for them; but they can still vote new ones in if they don't like their decisions).

If the majority of shareholders vote one way (e.g. to sell the company at a specific price, or to borrow money, or to split the stock and thus halve the value of every share, thus in effect taking money and property away from the minority), the minority must abide by that vote. Their only recourse is to sell their shares and leave. Just like in a community: if you don't like the fact that the majority can outvote you, your only recourse is to leave (or, of course, you can declare war on us, but just see how that works out for you). It's exactly the same in a free market, when you must trade with others for all the things you need: you will not be able to dictate prices; the majority will always outvote you. You can't escape this reality. Unless you intend to outlaw all joint private ventures like corporations and business partnerships. But you couldn't do that anyway, since in your world there would be no government to outlaw them!

Indeed, even if somehow you could magically eliminate private joint enterprises, you still get stuck with commerce: if you need lumber and your neighbor won't come down on his price, according to your theory he is thus "initiating force" against you by deciding what you must pay for those goods (just as by voting on taxes we decide what you will pay for the community goods you enjoy). You don't get a say. You pay, or you don't get the goods. That's true in every private commercial interaction, no less than in a democratic government. So you can't escape that harsh reality by abolishing government. You are stuck with it no matter what. So the only rational decision left is how best to manage and navigate that reality. And that decision always comes down on the same conclusion: it is best managed and navigated by collective, cooperative enterprise. The alternative is Road Warrior.

Thus there is no escaping the use of force against you. Either you have unlimited use of force against you, or regulated force against you. Only a moron would prefer the former to the latter. And once you choose the latter, you have to answer the question: regulated how, by whom, and to what end? And that's politics. Which entails a government. Which entails accepting a common social contract among all members of a community. You might not like it. But Churchill's Law kicks you in the ass anyway.


Rights Are a Community Enterprise

Benjamin said... 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.

Notice your bullshit black-and-white hyperbole. You seem to pretend I must either oppose all government whatever, or support the total suppression of all rights and freedoms. That's a fallacy called a false dichotomy. A whole lot of reality exists in between those two extremes. And I live in reality. You, clearly, do not.

Indeed, your notion of "rights" is illogical. In what sense do you have a "right" to fight for "your" property? Only if the community sets up institutions to define and protect those rights. Otherwise you don't have a right to jack shit. The very notion of property, of things "belonging" to a person, is a social convention. Take away all government, and those conventions vanish. People can kill you, rape you, take any of your property they want. You can whine about your rights being violated but no one will give a shit. Try it. Go to Mogadishu and when your hand gets chopped off to steal your watch, shake your remaining fist at the guy and bitch about your rights. See how that works out for you.

Richard Carrier said... People are necessarily incurring a debt to their community when they use that community's resources... We get together as a community and decide what they will cost. Then we agree to pay what the community decides.

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

The end result of which is the Third World. The rich get laws and benefits, the poor get enslaved and impoverished, and rights become commodities that can only be bought and sold by those with means. It doesn't work. Misery is the universal result and everyone gets screwed. Even the rich, whose odds of survival and security plummet, until only the lucky get away with anything.

The mere fact that you would never choose to go live in the very governmentless world you desire (like Mogadishu) and instead freeload on the government-built world we maintain for you at our expense, is proof enough of your hypocrisy, and the complete bankruptcy of your political worldview. You can't walk the walk. And you know it. That's why you cower here. Instead of live there.


Governments Are All Just Club Toting Brutes?

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

No. It's fact. It's what happens when the rich get to buy the services they want (like law enforcement or roads) and the poor (being poor) don't. That's what a free market is...absent any reliable government as a check against it. Mexico and Syria are perfect models of this. You still don't realize that when there is no government to regulate force, the rich can buy anything they want, including all your rights, and including raping the land and robbing the people (who in such conditions get no real vote at all, much less the freedom to complain) precisely "to pay for themselves and to prevent competition."

In other words, the evil you decry, of "governments" simply avariciously paying for themselves and securing monopolies on all resources, is exactly what "individuals" do in the absence of government. So you can't avoid it. The only choice available to you is this: shall these decisions (of what to take and what to do with it) be regulated by democratic vote and civilized systems of debate, communication, and adjudication, or shall they be unregulated, and sold to the highest bidder or surrendered to the strongest spear? You want the latter. And that's foolish.

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

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

Then you don't even know what a contradiction is. Because not only can you protect people's property and freedom by violating property and freedom, you can only protect people's property and freedom by violating property and freedom. (Like I said before: you can only stop a murderer violating your right to life or liberty by violating his right to life or liberty--for if you don't, by definition you can do nothing to stop him.) 


Paying Our Debt to the Community

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

When you use our resources without paying for them (such as benefiting from our maintenance of peace and lawfulness and roads and clean air and water and soil and so on), you have initiated force against us. We therefore have the right to retaliate and take our stuff back. We settle for its equivalent in cash. In fact we're even nicer than that, since we only ask an amount commensurate with what you can afford, and we defend and thus provide you the right to talk about what this fair amount should be and to persuade others to agree and thus vote on what it should be, just as is the case in any joint private enterprise, like any corporation. And yet we're even nicer than that, because we don't give you the number of votes you can afford to buy (as happens in a free market, e.g. as decides the control of corporations), but give everyone, including you, the same number of votes (one man, one vote), no matter how rich others may be. And this in fact protects your rights--from the rich who could otherwise buy the right to violate them.

Benjamin said... 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?

You aren't doing any of those things. Any more than when you voluntarily pay car or home insurance you are "paying for someone else's cars and homes to be replaced." Sure, per the principles of fungible currency, that's what you are in a sense doing, but it's not what you are paying for. When you send a check to an insurance company you are paying for the right to claim payment when your car or house gets wrecked. If your house or car never get wrecked, you don't get your money back, because you were paying for the right to claim reimbursement only if they got wrecked. You enter that arrangement willingly and wisely (unless you are too foolish to buy insurance, which you may well be).

If you were a shareholder in a corporation and you opposed that corporation buying insurance on its new factory but the majority shareholders outvoted you, you would be compelled to accept that some of the income owed you will instead go to paying for that insurance you didn't want. But you have no rational grounds to complain...because you have no more right to oppose that payment than the other owners had to enforce it. But they outnumbered you. That's how it works even in a free market. It's also how it works in a government, but even more fairly (since everyone can only buy one share in the corporation: and that by simply standing up to be counted).

Fact is you are only able to make an income and keep property because we pay for the institutions that protect and foster the prosperity and property rights you depend on. Therefore you are taking our shit (which shit being: the services of the institutions that protect and foster the prosperity and property rights you depend on to have an income and keep property). Therefore we have a right to demand payment for what you took. Or else to lock you up as the thief you then are.

In other words, you have to pay a toll to use our economy. Otherwise you don't get to use it. Just like you said you would have it be for roads: don't pay the toll, don't get to use the road. It's just the same: don't pay the toll, don't get to use our country. It's irrational of you to argue for the former but against the latter. Because it's the same damn deal. You must pay your fair share, or else you're a thief. You are either in our social contract, or out of it. In it, you get rights. Out of it, you get nothing from us, not even a recognition of your liberty.

Your only recourse is to leave. Which you are welcome to do, BTW. Quite frankly I'd be relieved if you got the hell out of my country. At any rate, as in free markets, so in nations. We the people own this country. If you don't like what we're doing with it, leave. Because our nation is like a corporation, in which each one of us holds one share, which we inherited from the Founding Fathers, whose last will and testament (for the property--the American Colonies--that they seized by force from the King of England) is now called the Constitution. That's the agreement, the contract, you were born into, and inherited from your parents, which they inherited from their parents, and so on. Like any inheritance, you inherited the debts of this national family as well as a share of the corporate ownership of its goods, a share of the roads we built, the police we hired, and every other thing. You inherited the contractual privileges and obligations your parents inherited, and so on all the way back.

You should be thankful that this contract guaranteed you would always have the same share of this country as the rest of us (instead of the rich owning more and thus getting more say about what rights you will even get to keep), and that it guaranteed certain things could never be sold or bought, such as your right to speak freely or vote, and made arrangements for the people to pay for an army and legal system that would protect those rights and thus ensure you get to keep them.

So when we as a corporation vote to buy everyone insurance (whether health or retirement), you are bound by the agreement you inherited from your parents (or swore to voluntarily, if you are a naturalized citizen) to honor that vote, just as you would if you were a shareholder in a private company. But that same agreement also guarantees you the right to bitch about this and to persuade other voters to change their minds and no longer buy anyone insurance. Likewise when we as a corporation voted to buy everyone an education, which you probably benefited from (I suspect you were educated in a public school; probably a lousy one, given your incompetence so far), and thus owe us for, quite directly, but even if not, by living in our community you steal the benefits of universal education (such as lower crime rates and increased economic wealth, of yourself and the community you live in), and thus you still owe us for what you took, and continue to take. And the agreement establishing our right to claim what you owe us is the same agreement you inherited from your parents (or swore to upon naturalization).


Dispute Resolution Organizations

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

So when your neighbor refuses to abide by a DRO's ruling, what do you do then? Ooops. Doesn't work, does it? DRO's only function because governments exist to back them up, enforcing their contracts (ultimately, literally, with force), or enforce default protections (e.g. your rights to life, liberty, and property), when parties to DRO contracts refuse to honor them. That's why there are no DRO's in Somalia. And never will be, until Somalia gets a functioning government.

Indeed, you can't even know what you are talking about, since DRO's entail allowing the majority to outvote the minority, and thus allow the majority to use force against the minority, the very thing you were bitching about was unfair. This happens anytime a DRO arbitrates the interests of more than two people. Since every community consists of more than two people, if DRO's arbitrated how shared property like air and water and police got used, you'd be stuck in the same shit: the majority asking for their shit back, when you keep using it without paying for it. Sounds like a government, doesn't it? Indeed, expand a DRO to the point that it no longer needs a government to enforce its own contracts and guess what you'll end up with...a fucking government.


Paying for Sidewalks with Kneecaps or Taxes

Benjamin said... I never agreed to the "social contract."

Then you are a thief: someone who takes our stuff without being a party to our contract. We have the right to treat you accordingly.

Benjamin said... 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.

According to your principles (a la roads) you would not be allowed to walk on sidewalks without paying a toll. So whether it's a toll or a tax, there is no practical difference. You're still stealing if you use the sidewalk but refuse to pay for it.

Benjamin said... Communities would accept free-riders since walking on a sidewalk actually results in no loss on the part of the owner(s).

That's false. Even in the most obvious sense it causes wear and tear, which is a real and measurable economic loss. But that's not even the half of it. Surely you would not say I or anyone can just come in and sleep in your house any time we want as long as we don't damage anything. We are causing you a loss in economic terms in several ways: not only in causing wear-and-tear, but in causing you a loss through inconvenience, crowding, and usurping of your priority of access to goods like the bed, sheets, bathroom, etc. (thus we have laws regulating crowding and right of way on sidewalks, just as you would lay down rules for our use of your house).

Moreover, you spent all that money building and maintaining that house, yet we get to benefit from those expenses without paying any part of them? That's universally recognized as a form of theft: we are usurping your property rights by claiming benefits you paid for. As for your house, so for all our shit: sidewalks, roads, police, armies, sanitation, etc.

Benjamin said... 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.

Which would give them the right to tell you you can't walk on their sidewalks--until you join their social contract and pay your share. Exactly my point. Not only is that exactly what happens in private communities (where the sidewalks literally are owned privately and you literally are banned from walking on them without an owner's permission), but it's exactly what happens nationally: if you refuse to join our contract, we kick you out. You then don't get to walk on our sidewalks anymore.

So it's the same result whether public or private. Your bitching about it is retarded, since all you end up doing is replacing one obligation for exactly the same obligation, replacing one government (a city) for just another government (a "business association"). You can't escape the same result. So claiming you are "put upon" by a state requiring you to pay your fair share for the sidewalks you walk on is ridiculous. Without government, you'd just be "put upon" by the owner of a sidewalk to pay your fair share for walking on it.

So you really just seem to me to be a freeloading thief who only wants to complain about paying your fair share. Because your objections to government (a public sidewalk that you own one share of) would entail the exact same objections to the absence of government (a free market sidewalk you don't even own one share of). But if the outcome is the same, how can the latter be "better" than the former? It can't. And that's why your worldview is illogical.


Nations Are Joint Business Enterprises

Benjamin said... 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.

You also have to have medical care to survive. You have to have insurance against the inability to procure food and shelter to survive. You also need to be protected against fire. And criminals. And poisoning (via pollution of air or water--you need the air you breathe, and water you drink, not to be toxic). And so on. So how are you going to get those things? By stealing them? Or working your fair share for them? If the former, you are a thief. If the latter, you are a party to our social contract. In or out. Your call. That's how it is.

Instead of recognizing this reality, you make contradictory claims, such as that you should pay tolls to use someone else's roads, but you should be allowed to use someone else's sidewalk for free. How's that? You can force someone to lay and maintain a sidewalk for you, making them your slave, and somehow still claim this isn't an initiation of force against them? You can force us to clean the air you need to breathe, making us your slaves, and somehow still claim this isn't an initiation of force against us? That's bullshit. Plain and simple. We're not your slaves. You have to pay us for these things. Or else you don't get to live in our country.

In addition to the stupidity of all that, you ignore the reality of inherited contracts: if there were no governments, there would still be joint private enterprises, like businesses, which would incur privileges and obligations by contract, which the sons or daughters of the founders of those businesses would have inherited without ever having signed any of those contracts, and thus without having "agreed" to them, as you would say. Yet nevertheless they are bound by them, simply because they have no right to inherit that business unless they agree to abide by all its prior contracts. They can choose to disavow the business, and thus leave. But otherwise they must agree. They have no right to accept the inheritance and reject all the obligations that come with it.

Your nation is a business, with all its properties and rules and signed agreements, owned by all citizens. By accepting our recognition of your citizenship, in other words by accepting our recognition of your participation in joint ownership of this community (and all the rights and privileges that entails), you are accepting your inheritance of that business and all prior contracts attached thereto.

And just as in a private business to which you are a minority partner, you must agree to abide by the majority vote, or else leave the company. In other words, leave the country. Or make war upon it, thus becoming an outlaw. Which can at times be the moral thing to do (hence the Revolutionary War). But you don't really have such legitimate complaints here. Compared to the grievances listed in the Declaration of Independence, you're just a selfish wuss who doesn't have the balls to pay for what he takes but wants to enjoy all our benefits without paying for them.


Who Owns the Air?

Benjamin said... My very act of breathing doesn't constitute theft because nobody owns the air.

That's not true. We the People own the air (literally: it's common property, i.e owned by all people in common). That's why we have the right to prevent you poisoning it (or in any other way taking it away from us--a problem more obvious in the case of water, where public water literally can be taken away so no one gets it but the one guy who took it all, thus threatening everyone's life; poisoning, i.e. polluting, the air does the same thing in effect, just as poisoning the water supply also does).


So It All Comes Down to One Question:
Kneecaps or Taxes?

Benjamin said... 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.

Until you refused to pay the sidewalk toll and started walking on someone else's sidewalk. Then they would use "aggression" against you, to force you to pay (or restrict your liberty by force so you can't walk on the sidewalk until you do pay). Funny how that sounds exactly like what the government already does. The difference is that in a totally free market, force is unregulated, so they can break your kneecaps if they wanted, or take all your property and claim it's the "fee" for using their sidewalk. Only government can maintain a civilized system that regulates force, so you don't get kneecapped for using a sidewalk without permission, and you are only ever forced to pay what's really a fair fee for using a sidewalk.
 

7. Conclusion

I gave you two exams in our discussion (Exam One and Exam Two). You failed them both. In neither case did you even answer the question posed, nor present any solution to the actual problems addressed, nor point out how the government solutions I identified didn't work, or what possible alternative there could have been (or any evidence that one would work). In many cases you even declared as true what is exactly opposite the demonstrated facts in the matter.

Someone who refuses to accept reality or even try to find out what it is shall never make competent decisions in political theory or political reality. And such a person is a complete waste of time to converse with. Nevertheless, I expect you will fill my comments box with hundreds of thousands of words continuing your illogical, factually inaccurate ranting. You are clearly hopelessly delusional, and thus prevented by your insanity from grasping anything I have said. But I hope at least I've inoculated others from your madness. You I'm done with.
 

28 comments:

Pharmer Joshua said...

I would simply like you to define the following concepts: fair, property rights, and republic. There is absolutely no such thing as a social contract. A social contract is completely manufactured by the society through a government, which in the United States is represented by the US Constitution. The creators sought to create a limited government that existed almost solely to protect property rights, which includes your person. Private roads exist in the United States, and many of these do not require tolls or other forms of payment to use.

While you do not realize it yet, your atheism and your collectivism are at philosophical odds. You have simply replaced god with government and central planning, social engineering "experts." The US Constitution allows for the power of taxation simply to exercise the very limited powers listed in the Constitution. This also allows individual states to compete with others, which is why I don't have to suffer underneath the regulatory burden of California and can live in a place like Wyoming, New Hampshire, or Florida that don't infringe upon my property rights as much. This allows me to still enjoy the protections listed in the Bill of Rights (for the most part), while not having to spend almost 45% of my company's revenue due to state regulation and taxes. I left California years ago for a much more business friendly state, and I have never looked back. I encourage all to do the same, as well as invest in Washington, DC, area real estate. You can always rely on the federal government to grow and think of new ways to regulate and new programs to subsidize. Best of luck.

Richard Carrier said...

Pharmer Joshua said... I would simply like you to define the following concepts: fair, property rights, and republic.

(1) Fairness is already formally defined in social contract theory (a nice capsule version of which happens to be Kant's categorical imperative, only now it has a much more precise logical and scientific underpinning--see below).

(2) Property rights are defined by each cooperating society (and thus vary and can be changed by agreement; currently, the entire system of American property law constitutes the definition of property rights we are operating under now).

(3) I don't know which connotation of republic you are interested in (I don't recall using the term).

There is absolutely no such thing as a social contract. A social contract is completely manufactured by the society through a government, which in the United States is represented by the US Constitution.

A completely manufactured social contract is still a social contract. So there is no sense in which "there is absolutely no such thing as a social contract."

But the social contract we assent to (by not cutting our neighbors' throats and assassinating our presidents, for example) does not consist entirely in the Constitution. It's much broader and more complex than that. All social contracts are implicit, and in fact are in significant part biologically wired into our brains at birth, and in remainder emerge spontaneously from any functioning social system. Read the sources I cited on this very point in the blog entry above.

Richard Carrier said...

Pharmer Joshua said... The creators sought to create a limited government that existed almost solely to protect property rights, which includes your person.

That's anachronistic. They did not have such a developed philosophy. They had many more interests than property rights and their underlying philosophy was more diversely conceived than being merely about property (just read the Declaration of Independence).

Private roads exist in the United States, and many of these do not require tolls or other forms of payment to use.

Give me an example.



While you do not realize it yet, your atheism and your collectivism are at philosophical odds.

I am not a collectivist. You are confusing cooperative endeavors (like a business enterprise or a contract) with communism (where all resources are pooled into a collective and redistributed by vote or fiat). For my actual political and economic philosophy read Part VII of Sense and Goodness without God and my initial remarks and bibliography in Post 1 of the above series.

You have simply replaced god with government and central planning, social engineering "experts."

That's a lame straw man. Such fallacious polemics is typical of a Randroid (by which I mean a slavishly dogmatic Objectivist), and given your distinctive use of archaic Randian terminology and anachronistic Randian understanding of history, I worry that's what you are. One reason I dislike Objectivist philosophy is that it tends to turn people into illogical, factless nutcases. I hope that hasn't happened in your case.

Richard Carrier said...

Pharmer Joshua said... The US Constitution allows for the power of taxation simply to exercise the very limited powers listed in the Constitution.

I agree. Are you assuming I didn't?

I suspect you are assuming the powers granted by the Constitution are more limited than in fact they are. I already discuss this in my treatment of Obama Care.

This also allows individual states to compete with others

All quite fine. Indeed, nations compete with each other on these very same terms. I have no objection to someone moving to the umbrella of a different social contract, or to the granting them liberty to do so (provided they abide by all contracts in doing so).

You can always rely on the federal government to grow and think of new ways to regulate and new programs to subsidize.

There is a difference between what politicians seek to do and can accomplish, and what politicians ought to seek to do and accomplish. It is a fallacy to assume that because I support some regulation and subsidization, that I support any and all of it. The debate that the above blog post concludes began with my objections to extending too much power to the government (Does Free Will Matter). So you should take due care to attribute to me only views I have actually espoused.

DM said...

we're not interested in your BS, carrier....

you've already said enough to forfeit your life....

Pikemann Urge said...

I'd like to say 'thank you' for taking the time to explain so much in as concise a manner as possible. I think this 3-part blog post is a valuable resource.

While reading these posts - where liberty and well-being are discussed - I was reminded exactly why secular states are better than religious ones: religious beliefs are not the government's business: beliefs should not co-opt government and government should not favour or oppress religion, specifically or generally.

If one wants liberty, the secular state is an essential ingredient. It is a shame that 'secular' is confused with 'getting rid of religion' - by religious people!

jcm said...

I'm reminded of something that George Monbiot wrote a couple of years back:

...the outcome of both market fundamentalism and anarchism, if applied universally, is identical. The anarchists associate with the oppressed, the market fundamentalists with the oppressors. But by eliminating the state, both remove such restraints as prevent the strong from crushing the weak. Ours is not a choice between government and no government. It is a choice between government and the mafia.

That said, I think the real debate concerns which policies to adopt and enforce. On that point, I tend to share economist John Quiggin's view that "the best way to think about a whole range of public policy issues...[is] in terms of risk and risk management." A legitimate political debate, then (according to this view), concerns questions like: what qualifies as a risk? and which risks is the government particularly well-placed to manage? I have my own evidence-based answers in mind, and they are not: all or none.

Pharmer Joshua said...

Private roads, specifically St. Louis: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Private_road.
Hong Kong likely has the best example of private roads. They have surpassed the US in many ways, and this is only one of them.

I'll have to continue later with most of your responses, but the one that comes across as immediately incorrect is your expanded interpretation of the "general welfare" and "interstate commerce" clauses of the US Constitution. This is why the Affordable Care Act will fall apart. There is no justification or power to regulate economic INactivity. You cannot punish an individual for not purchasing a private product in the market. This has never been done before, and hopefully it never will in the United States. And if you say the phrase "car insurance", I'm leaving the site immediately.

From your interpretation, the government can literally regulate anything it chooses based upon the commerce clause. It can also create limitless powers underneath the general welfare clause. If you read the Constitution and Federalist papers, it is very clear that the US Constitution specifically mentions general welfare as in the entire country, NOT individual welfare, which was the interpretation expounded by FDR and many modern progressives. What is quite ironic is that the federal government is now using the precedent set by Gonzales v. Raich, a case supported by conservatives that allowed the government to regulate a private individual growing marijuana for themselves on their private property for private use.

You can try to manufacture scientific underpinnings all you want while leaning on Kant's imperative, but it doesn't make for an automatic social contract. The Constitution reflects what you probably most closely identify as a social contract, and they did so to include the minimum negative rights. These are the natural rights we believe should be protected just be simply existing, such as property rights. Basically, live me alone and let me do my thing as long as I don't infringe anthers' rights. Cooperative efforts are private, and do not need to be created within governments. This is why the protections for minorities, individuals, are so strong in the US Constitution. A perfect example is a majority of elected government officials ramming down an enormous piece of government down the throats of the "minority" called "The Affordable Care Act." I'll break down the lack of cost containment measures in the bill later, if you'd like. Just to start, there has been no reduction in provider payments as scored by the CBO, there have been reductions in states that offer child only plans, and there has been exits from the marketplace due to increase costs for smaller plans, leading to consolidation in the market. Although there is no public option, the legislation ultimately will lead to one if fully carried out, or at least mass consolidation with maybe only the Blues, United Healthcare, and the federal government managing care. This will obviously increase costs overall, as government-restricted competition typically does.

Mickey said...

Carrier says,

"If you'd ever actually been raped or robbed by thugs you'd know this. But I suspect you are just a freeloading pussy who has never had a hard day in his life and takes all the goods you enjoy for granted...."

Why speak like this? It's shameful.

Richard Carrier said...

Mickey said... Why speak like this? It's shameful.

No it isn't. It's purposeful.

Richard Carrier said...

JCM: I love your quote and comments! I quite agree.

Richard Carrier said...

Replacing Public Roads with Private?

Pharmer Joshua said... Private roads, specifically St. Louis [etc.]

Those are just the same homeowner's roads I already discussed. They are not public roads, municipal roads, or highways. No one can use them but their owners and their approved guests (which makes them useless for intercommunity traffic). And the owners all pay for them with their own system of taxation imposed on all members, so there is no practical difference between those and public roads. Just as I explain in the blog regarding sidewalks.

Richard Carrier said...

Commerce Clause

Pharmer Joshua said... immediately incorrect is your expanded interpretation of the "general welfare" and "interstate commerce" clauses of the US Constitution. This is why the Affordable Care Act will fall apart. There is no justification or power to regulate economic INactivity.

I already addressed these issues in Obamacare and subsequent comments (1, 2). But to reiterate and expand...

Richard Carrier said...

Commerce Clause

Pharmer Joshua said... immediately incorrect is your expanded interpretation of the "general welfare" and "interstate commerce" clauses of the US Constitution. This is why the Affordable Care Act will fall apart. There is no justification or power to regulate economic INactivity.

First, the commerce clause provides all the justification needed. The Constitution specifically grants power to enact all laws necessary to regulate interstate commerce--all laws necessary--it does not say "except taxing inactivity."

Second, we've been doing this for almost a century already: almost the whole income tax code consists of deductions and credits, which constitute taxing people for inactivity. For example, if you only rent a place to live, then you are being taxed for not paying interest on a mortgage (because that same tax on me is waived, in the form of a deduction). You are taxed for not going to college (because someone who does go gets a tax credit). You were probably taxed for not buying a house in 2010: we get an $8000 tax credit, which means you were taxed $8000 for not buying a house. If we don't upgrade our glass doors with an energy efficient replacement in 2011, we will be taxed $1500 (because if we do complete that renovation, we will instead get $1500 deducted from our tax bill). Businesses are taxed for not investing in their operations (because all expenses are deducted from income before tax is assessed, the less a business spends, the more it gets taxed, which amounts to taxing inactivity). If I don't build a house on a plot of land, I am taxed for keeping it vacant. And on and on.

So when you say "this has never been done before" that's simply not even remotely true. It's been done a million different ways for almost a century and running.

From your interpretation, the government can literally regulate anything it chooses based upon the commerce clause.

No, it can't. It can only regulate interstate commerce. That's explicitly stated. The states then can regulate commerce that occurs solely within their own borders (the Constitution in no way prevents them). That's why I oppose the Supreme Court's "indirect" interpretation of the Commerce Clause as sleazy and wrong: merely because legalizing pot in California might impact commerce across the border, the federal government was allowed to continue outlawing pot in California. But that is plainly unconstitutional: the constitution only gives the federal government power to prevent pot from crossing the California border. Beyond that, California should be free to regulate pot commerce within its borders however it wants.

It is very clear that the US Constitution specifically mentions general welfare as in the entire country, NOT individual welfare

It is not clear at all (nowhere does the Constitution say what you just said). Nor does any such precedent exist (the military receives state health care; in no way is that deemed unconstitutional). But it's also moot, since the justification for the health care law is the general welfare (not only in the collective sense of all citizens: protecting their health from foreign enemies is no different than protecting their health from diseases; but also in the commercial sense: the skyrocketing costs of health care threaten to bring down the entire national economy, which is in turn a real threat to our national security).

Basically, leave me alone and let me do my thing as long as I don't infringe anothers' rights.

That's not the ideology behind the Constitution. The Commerce Clause alone proves that. Indeed, the fact that it codified slavery pretty much puts the lie to any claim that it was based on dreams of a libertarian utopia.

Richard Carrier said...

Health Care Costs

Pharmer Joshua said...This will obviously increase costs overall, as government-restricted competition typically does.

History does not in fact support that generalization. See the bibliographies I provide in Sense and Goodness without God, pp. 391-95. The success and low cost of private postal companies is a classic example. And that's even with what I consider unjust interference laws (preventing competitors from providing certain services). Private schools are not substantially more expensive than comparable public schools, not even at the primary and secondary level, where public schools are free to all citizens, and still not even at the college level, even though public schools are typically half price.

Moreover, the Health Care Law does not "restrict competition" but in fact facilitates it, and in the way governments have traditionally facilitated free commerce: by establishing a central market in insurance products. Because the law applies equally to all players in the insurance market, no competition is restricted, but in fact the playing field is leveled (all players carry equal burdens, none is advantaged by the government).

Even if a public option launches, it will only appear if congress wants to undercut a still-elevated market price of insurance, which will have the direct effect of forcing competitors to lower their costs, not raise them, in any comparison of price-to-service (since they must lower their cost overall to compete with the public option, e.g. even if they compete by offering more services, those additional services have to be offered at a lower cost than can be obtained by ordinary supplemental insurance or direct personal payments, as otherwise no one will buy the costlier policies). This is the exact same effect that private competition will produce (competing insurance companies that undercut competitors will drive them out of business, too, unless they become competitively priced).

So there is no relevant difference, except (at most) the public option will have an unfair advantage, but that's exactly what the post office has and public schools have. And yet behold the success and comparable market cost of private postal services and schools.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Dr. Carrier,
There is SO much information in these posts that I will have to re-read it and digest it. But, one thing for sure, I will buy your book.
Thank you for being so vastly informed and informing the "publically ill-informed", like myself!

psychadelicfuse81 said...

Richard,

I wanted to get your take on this video (don't worry--it's less than 5 minutes). This guy Stefbot, a fanatic anarcho-capitalist with an almost cult-like following, claims to define and destroy the social contract in under 5 minutes.

Superficially, I don't find his argument very plausible, but it is probably due to my inherent bias against anarcho-capitalists. How do you evaluate it?

psychadelicfuse81 said...

Here's a transcript of Stefbot said:

The social contract is the idea that citizens who live in the country must obey their government. And if you remain in that country, the "love it or leave it" situation, you remain in that country and you have the right to vote ideally, this constitutes a form of voluntary contract between a citizen and his or her government.

Thus, a social contract is geographical or country-specific, unilateral (state to citizen in terms of taxation and laws - not citizen to state), and it is implicit. You do not sign it. It is not a formal agreement like a mortgage or something like that.

Now, any methodology which claims validity must itself must be subject to its own constraints. No one is above the law. The scientific method, as compared to something like religious revelation, must itself be subject to the scientific method. We can compare the results of the scientific method to other forms of "knowledge." Logic and evidence must, themselves, be subject to logic and evidence in the form of reality and consistency. And atheism cannot claim, as its own justification or truth, the fact that God told an atheist that there was no God. That would be a rank contradiction.

The government proposes itself as the highest and sole agency of justice in the land. The government claims that its justification is the social contract. Thus, the social contract must be the highest and most moral contract in existence since it's the root of all other contracts that are enforced by the state.

Thus, the opposite of the social contract must be unjust and immoral. It's just basic logic. If A is just, anti- or the opposite of A must be unjust.

The social contract is, as mentioned, geographical, unilateral and implicit. Thus, all contracts that fulfill these obligations must also be just if the social contract is just.

psychadelicfuse81 said...

......So, for example, let's have a look at the social contract car dealership. So I send a letter to every household in a 10-block radius telling the occupants that I have bought a car on their behalf, that they can choose a Volvo or BMW if they want. If they don't choose, I'm just going to send whatever the majority chooses. The car is delivered to them. Next week, the car cannot be returned. I'm enclosing a bill for $30,000. If they don't want the car, no problem. All they have to do is move to another neighborhood where they will have to choose another car.

So let's say I bring this contract from my social contract car dealership to the government and ask them to enforce it. What will the court's response be? Well, they'll call me insane and they will laugh me out of the court. If I then take a gun and say "well I'm going to go pick up this $30,000 that these people owe me, I'm considered an immoral aggressor. I'm going to get arrested and spend years and years in jail. Yet I am perfectly fulfilling the requirements of the social contract. It's geographical, it's unilateral, and it is implicit.

Since the government claims, as its justification, the universal validity of the social contract but will attack as evil and unjust anyone who attempts to enforce an identical contract, the social contract is, thus, considered to be the highest moral good in terms of the government's justification and the greatest moral evil simultaneously. Now if the social contract is the highest moral good, then the government should defend it for everyone. But the government does the opposite. The government attacks competing social contracts. Therefore, it is evil. If the social contract is the greatest evil then the government is, by definition, evil since that is what it claims is the justification for its power.

Ah, but perhaps we could amend the social contract to say "well no geographical overlapping." Ah... doesn't work. The government core geographically overlapping social contract's morally good - fed, local, municipal, and so on. Perhaps we say social contract only applies to governments but, by definition, the social contract, to be valid, must apply to everyone, especially the poor sap taxpayers.

Now if the social contract were to apply to everyone, everyone could create and enforce a social contract while the government would say "my social contract allows me to send you a bill for 10 grand for taxes." And I say, "OK, I'm going to send you back, through my social contract, a bill for 10 grand." Nothing is achieved. It all cancels out. Therefore, the social contract is only possible if it is the highest good and the greatest evil simultaneous. Good for government, evil for me.

If it's morally good for Person A to impose a social contract on Person B but morally evil to do the reverse, thus, exactly to the degree that the social contract is morally good, the government is morally evil for attacking competing impositions of a universally good moral contract. Exactly to the degree that the social contract is morally evil, the government is morally evil since that is what it uses to justify its own violent power. Thus, the social contract utterly and completely and totally invalidates the social contract.


Stefbot - "The Social Contract Defined and Demolished in Under 5 Minutes"

Richard Carrier said...

It's bogus right from the word go.

"The social contract is the idea that citizens who live in the country must obey their government."

That's not at all correct. The social contract is the idea that we have to negotiate a way to get along and that one of the ways to do this is to join by our actions a tacit (and in the case of "government," an explicit) tit-for-tat contract: I do things you want, if you do things I want, until everyone reaches an equilibrium of being as happy as they could be otherwise.

Government is merely one of the main mechanisms by which we seek to accomplish this (it simply renders more efficient the negotiation process among a very large number of people who need to live together), but by nature what government does and when or whether we "obey" it are in fact negotiable points (that's why it's a social "contract" not a social "mandate"), and indeed are often settled points in the other direction, e.g. it is actually a part of the social contract that we can resist or overthrow by force any government that starts unilaterally ignoring our contract.

That does not mean "any government that starts doing things we don't like" or "any government that violates the contract" because in the former case, by definition you must accept things you don't like (otherwise you are a tyrant and an advocate of fascism and autocracy, as then you believe only your will shall be done), and in the latter case, part of the contract includes systems we agreed to build and use to adjudicate contract violations, precisely because taking up arms at every violation doesn't work well for anyone and thus is not a viable term of any contract (just observe the difference between a professional and civilized criminal justice system, and family feuds and unregulated vigilante justice, e.g. Canada vs. Somalia).

Richard Carrier said...

That same fallacy then cascades to destroy the logic of every following argument. For example:

"...this constitutes a form of voluntary contract between a citizen and his or her government."

Not "his or her government." His or her neighbors. That is, it constitutes a voluntary contract to pay for the benefits you take from your neighbors (in all the ways my main blog posts in this series explain, so I won't repeat them). Government is merely the system we agreed to put in place to enforce this contract and negotiate changes to it, because we have hundreds of millions of neighbors and thus can't personally negotiate with every single one of them. More literally, "we" means our ancestors, from whom we inherited their contracted dues and obligations, unless we are naturalized, then we literally signed that contract on the dotted line ourselves. Either way, we are rightfully parties to that contract, just as we would be in any private contract inherited from our parents or that we ourselves signed.

"It is not a formal agreement like a mortgage or something like that."

Actually, it largely is. But not solely. For example, there are ways I behave with my immediate neighbors that imply an inherent social contract for which we don't need legislation or written contracts (e.g. I let him roll his garbage bins down my walkway because it benefits us both to let him and it costs me little). Likewise other behaviors you engage in in public for which there are no laws but nevertheless you agree we need to abide by to all get along.

However, quite a lot is a formal agreement. Beginning with the Constitution, which our founders signed, and which the states then ratified, by citizens chosen by shareholders (citizens of those states) to represent them, thus by selecting them agreeing that their signature would count for all. At that moment, one either agreed to the contract, or was still at war with the new government. By laying down arms, tacit agreement was established.

The Revolutionary War in fact established anarchy: no government but the strongest, in a raw contest of who could kill and cost the other the most. When we prevailed, people picked sides, and our side established a literal, actually signed contract. Which all subsequent laws were then created in accordance with. The descendants of those first citizens then inherit their parents' contract, just as they would have inherited a mortgage and all that goes with it (like easements, liens, terms, payments owed, homeowner's agreements, etc., everything literally in the mortgage and title contracts themselves). Or immigrants came: but they then were asked to sign the contract (by signing a contract stating that they agree to abide by the contract, and further even swearing to do so under verbal oath) and thus their descendants inherited the contract through them.

Richard Carrier said...

Notice how the fallacy keeps going...

The government proposes itself as the highest and sole agency of justice in the land. The government claims that its justification is the social contract.

Who in "the government" says these things? The government is just a bunch of people we chose to run things for us. So the government doesn't say these things. We say these things. You and I say "the government is justified by the contract we agreed to abide by," i.e. the government is what we agreed to. If it's not, we change it, if we can negotiate a change (and if we can't, we can't; the government has nothing to do with this). And you and I say "the government shall be the highest law in the land," i.e. you and I agree that neither you nor I can act unilaterally as if we are "above the law" (i.e. "above the government"), which even this anarchist agrees is a principle we're supposed to abide by. The government thus only gets its authority from that tacit agreement: we need a final authority; the one we choose to set up, we then call "government." It doesn't work the other way around.

"...the social contract must be the highest and most moral contract in existence since it's the root of all other contracts that are enforced by the state."

That's a non sequitur. Just because we end up with a contract we both consent to doesn't mean that's the best contract we could ever come up with or that it is the "most moral" contract conceivable (or even at all; perhaps we negotiated a completely evil contract, it's still the social contract we agreed to). We are always looking for ways to improve the contract, and we often face obstacles to producing that even when we know what would be better.

For example, political gridlock results when our negotiators stop negotiating rationally; and we choose our negotiators by voting for them, so we can't wash our hands of it and claim it's all their fault; and as we know, the people voting, e.g. Tea Partiers, are themselves just as irrational if not more so than the representatives they choose to vote for them in congress; which means an anarchy would be even worse because then each irrational person would be completely lawless in their decision making, wholly ungoverned by any contract with their neighbors, thus we end up with Somalia rather than the U.S. Thus even a shitty contract is vastly better than no contract.

This has nothing to do with "the opposite of a social contract must be immoral"; rather, it has everything to do with "the opposite of a social contract is a completely fucked society no one would want to live in." That's simply an empirical fact, not a "moral" judgment.

Richard Carrier said...

Finally, the "car buying" analogy is completely retarded. Because a government wouldn't just "suddenly" buy a community car. Somewhere down the line we must have asked it to. So let's fill out a real case:

We have a problem with wildfires in our area. They can kill hundreds and destroy thousands of homes. We all recognize we're all in the same boat: we're all fucked unless we do something to stop those fires. So we agree to buy a fire truck. We can't all walk down to the dealer and decide what truck to buy, whether it will be a Volvo or a BMW (I don't know if they make firetrucks but it doesn't matter). So we come to an agreement about how this decision will be made and who will make it: we decide we'll pick one person to do it. We'll call them the fire commissioner. We all vote. We thus choose a fire commissioner. The fire commissioner acts on our behalf and decides which fire truck to buy.

Only a goof-brained idiot could possibly think we could do this any other way. Not least because deciding on the best fire truck to buy requires expertise and research that almost none of us have or have time to accomplish, thus "directly voting" would be stupider than hiring (i.e. choosing, i.e. voting for) an expert to do it for us. Moreover, there are thousands of these decisions to make, each requiring hundreds of completely different skillsets, that's why we need lots of different experts who can spend all day doing nothing but making these decisions for us. Society couldn't function otherwise. Can you imagine if you had to vote on every single decision and purchase made by your local police, fire, and road service departments every day? Get real.

Now let's take a real anarchist example: a corporation operating in a completely ungoverned land. Suppose we're not a community, but shareholders in an oil company that has a refinery in an isolated fire prone region. So our company (our private, completely unregulated company) has to buy a fire engine to keep the refinery from being burned up. We each own one share of the company. Suppose 40% of us want the Volvo firetruck and 60% want the BMW. What then? We, together, can only buy one of them. Is there any rational argument by which we would choose the Volvo? No. On the principle that everyone is equal, no one is an autocrat, no one person's will or desires outweighs any other one, the 40% have to agree to do what the other 60% decide. Otherwise, the 40% are tyrants, not democrats, who believe their votes should count more than everyone else's. No decision could ever be made if we required unanimity. So only an idiot would fail to see that we rationally must agree to abide by decisions we were outvoted on. That's simply the only way any society of people could ever work, and by recognizing that, one will bitch about it a lot less.

Now, what about decisions we can't agree to, even if outvoted on? Like, say, basic liberties? Well, then we all agree that a majority vote should not be enough to take them away, precisely because we could not live without them. Lo and behold, that's the very agreement we signed into the Constitution (e.g. Bill of Rights; 14th Amendment; etc.).

That's how laws end up being created: by negotiation. And also how we end up being bound by them: we inherit the agreements our parents made, just as we inherit all their contracts and debts (as well as all their property and everything else they built and left behind).

Jan said...

Hi Mr. Carrier,

I had some thoughts about what you wrote.

1.
You said this about the social contract:
"It's scientific fact,<...>
Your life, liberty, and property only survive when there is a social system in place to sustain and protect them."

I agree, but this only explains that it is neccessary to associate with other people in order to survive. But that doesn't mean you automatically should be part of a specific group, e.g. all people within the geographical area known as The Netherlands (I'm dutch) and are subject to their rules and laws. It is not prescriptive. It only states that if you want to have a pleasant life, it is wise to be part of a community.
And don't get me wrong, I do feel very much part of a communities, and in a crude way that community can be called The Netherlands. But it is much more that just geography. It's culture, it's family and friendship, it's work relations, it's shared history, etc. Obviously these things transgress geographical borders to a certain extent. So a lot of being part of a community has got nothing to do with having a government or not. Rules can exist without a central government. My neighbours an I have a 'rule' that we do not hurt/kill eachother. That is not because of any government, but simply because we don't like violence and we respect and like eachother. I do agree that communities needs governance, but that is not the same thing as a central government. So sure we need some sort of protection against hostile individuals, but isn't the police more or less a bunch of people with guns that keep an eye open and come to help you if you call them? Seems like a fairly easy services to be provided by private protection agencies.

2.
Your analogy with the corporation is pretty good, I heard something like it before. But corporations come together on an voluntary basis. You do not have to be part of it. Once you are (and have signed a contract), you of course have to comply with the way things are run (which should be in the contract). It is also not the case that if you stop being part of a corporation (sell your shares) that you have to leave your home. It has less impact.
Now, if a group of people would put money together, buy lets say an island, and ran it like a corporation, then I would be completely on board with you. But is that the case with countries nowadays? Isn't it true that most countries were formed through war and colonisation? I don't see how that is a legitimate way to form a country/corporation. I know it's a long time ago, but it still seems unfair to me to force people to be part of a system with a centralised government (they will hold you to it of course, but in my view that's wrong).
And even in the island situation it would seem reasonable the me to give people the possibility to opt out. I'm not saying that people have an inherent right to it, but it would be nice to simply be left alone on the piece of land you have within the island corporation. Of course you would have to pay all kinds of things you'd like to use outside your small territory, like roads, etc., but that seems fair to me anyway. In The Netherlands there has been talk about charging car drivers per kilometer.
I do not mind that there is an institution LIKE the government. A lot of people simply like to have a government that runs a lot of things for them, and I may even choose to be part of it myself if it really operates smoothly. But I don't see why you would want to force people into it.
I'm not saying it's easy and I do not claim to have all the answers, but it seems to me that there are ways to let society run more in a bottom-up fashion, instead of the top-down system we pretty much have today.

I'm not an expert in any way, I'm also not a historian, so these are just my humble thoughts. Part of me would love to believe in social democracy again. Life was easier then.

Jan

Richard Carrier said...

The Main Issue...

Jan said... "Your life, liberty, and property only survive when there is a social system in place to sustain and protect them." I agree, but this only explains that it is neccessary to associate with other people in order to survive. But that doesn't mean you automatically should be part of a specific group, e.g. all people within the geographical area known as The Netherlands (I'm dutch) and are subject to their rules and laws. It is not prescriptive. It only states that if you want to have a pleasant life, it is wise to be part of a community.

That's only true when you can rely on that community. And history proves that that only happens when rules are enforced. Which requires someone to enforce them, plus some way to decide what rules to enforce, and some way to choose who will do the enforcing, and some way to police the enforcer. And you know what all of that is called? A government.

But it is much more that just geography. It's culture, it's family and friendship, it's work relations, it's shared history, etc.

Certainly. But all of that is not enough. Somalia has all of that. Would you want to live there?

My neighbours an I have a 'rule' that we do not hurt/kill eachother.

So what happens when one of them breaks that rule? If you are claiming no one ever does that, then you are describing a fantasy, not reality.

I do agree that communities needs governance, but that is not the same thing as a central government.

Semantically, sure. But not in practice. Because it entails a central government as an inevitable consequence. That's why you are a part of the EU, the UN and International Court, why you seek and maintain treaties with other nations, and depend on NATO, INTERPOL, embassies, extradition treaties, and other laws of protection for your citizens when they are harmed by actors abroad, or are harmed while abroad themselves. You could not do without these things. And these are all just different instruments of government.

Arguably, in fact, in direct proportion to how much you avoid them, you will be engaged in violent conflicts with other "neighbors" (called nations), which is why the U.S. is so often at war and so often targeted by terrorists: we keep resisting greater integration into, and creation of, an effective world government. To only some extent this is not our fault, since we (and not just us, but the entire first world) lack the actual resources to truly police criminal nations like Iran, China, North Korea, Somalia, etc., and we can't join in a government with such massive criminal enterprises. But if some day all these nations will have effective noncriminal governments, integration into a centralized world government will benefit everyone. Provided we do it smartly and not stupidly. That's exactly why you joined the EU. Its failures are only examples of why governments need to be better designed. Thus you need better government, not less of it. Which is exactly my point.

Richard Carrier said...

...and What It Means.

Jan said... So sure we need some sort of protection against hostile individuals, but isn't the police more or less a bunch of people with guns that keep an eye open and come to help you if you call them? Seems like a fairly easy services to be provided by private protection agencies.

Except that it is a lot harder to police a private company than a public one. Because you control who controls a public police force. With a private company you can't really do that, because as soon as they start ignoring any contracted terms you set, you have no recourse. There is no "other" police force you can use to force them to obey their contract. And when you try finding or establishing one, you just end up with what we call a civil war.

Unregulated free markets always tend toward monopolies. Thus you will always end up with only one police force. So your choice is simple: how much control will you have over it? When you decide on a level of control that actually works, what you will be staring at is a government. Because a government is just another private corporation, differing in only one singular fact: if it's a free democracy, then no one can ever own more or less than one share in it (that is the effect of the democratic principle of one citizen, one vote). Otherwise it's just one big company that you (as a citizen) own a share in, a share you can't lose or sell. And that's why in the historical process of trying different ways to run the "company" we call a government, free democracy has come out as the best so far. Everything else is an oligarchy (some people own shares but not others, or more shares than others) or an autocracy (only one person owns the company). And I think you know how those arrangements always turn out.

Richard Carrier said...

There’s No Escaping It...

Jan said... But corporations come together on an voluntary basis. You do not have to be part of it.

You don't have to be a part of a government either. You can be an outlaw. You can go live in the wilderness somewhere. You can go live on a boat in international waters. But you need clean water, food, roads, protection from violence and abuse and theft, and an endless list of other things. Those only come from corporations, whether free market or government. So you have to be a part of some corporation, either as a nonvoting customer (thus as the subject of an oligarchy) or a shareholder in one. The latter is obviously better than the former. And that leaves only one other choice: would you rather depend on a company that some people can own more shares in than you (and thus always outvote you, in effect creating another oligarchy; or if one person acquires a majority share, an autocracy), or a company in which everyone owns exactly one share and no more? The latter is a democracy. And there's a reason we've decided after all these millennia that it's better to be a part of one of those, than any other company arrangement.

It is also not the case that if you stop being part of a corporation (sell your shares) that you have to leave your home.

You don't have to leave your home. It's just that as soon as you are no longer part of any company that protects you from murder and theft, you'll just get kicked out of your home, there being no one to protect you, no one to enforce any law or contract on your behalf. That's the difference between owning shares in a company that makes widgets, and owning shares in a company that protects your life and property. And it's the latter we are talking about. You can't do without one of those. Period.

Now, if a group of people would put money together, buy lets say an island, and ran it like a corporation, then I would be completely on board with you.

Those exist. They're called governments.

I don't see how that is a legitimate way to form a country/corporation.

It doesn't matter how a corporation came to exist, precisely because there is no "higher" corporation in charge of policing that, thus no law governs it. All that matters is how the corporation is run now. Is it run like an oligarchy (Iran) or like a free democracy (The Netherlands)? And if it is a tyranny, what then? You either submit in misery or take up arms and start a new government. And so it goes.

In reality, there are no colonial governments anymore. All have been liberated and their shares surrendered to the inhabitants. The exceptions are ongoing tyrannies (like China). And that's the difference, between deciding to run a company like a democracy, or not, regardless of how it came to be formed in the first place.

But I don't see why you would want to force people into it.

When your parents die and you inherit their property, contracts, and debts, you are "forced" into it. That will happen in any possible world, even a completely unfettered free market. So it is not a problem caused by governments. It's a problem caused by reality. And you can't escape reality. No matter how hard you want to.

Richard Carrier said...

Note to all: I am soon retiring my blogger account and thus locking all posts, so no further comments can be made. I will announce my new blog location later this week. Anyone who wants to continue discussions unfinished here will have the opportunity to initiate them anew after my inaugural post. But you will have to wait out the delay as I close out this account and get the other up and running. I apologize for the inconvenience.