Dispatches from Future America: Nation Ratifies Reproductive Rights Amendment

[Editor's Note: The last dispatch I received in this ongoing series was particularly bleak. As if on cue, I got another message the other day, this one apparently originating from a very different, and much rosier, future. I get the strong impression that these two possible worlds are, in some manner, competing against each other.]

JACKSON, MISSISSIPPI (August 6, 2037) — The Thirty-fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified today after passing the Mississippi state legislature by more than the required two-thirds majority, making Mississippi the crucial thirty-eighth state to approve the proposal. The new amendment, which takes effect immediately, defines “the freedom to exercise control over one’s own reproductive system” as “an inviolable human right which may not be transgressed by any federal, state or local government or any employee thereof”.

Cheering crowds packed the halls of the statehouse where Gov. Jasmine Victoria Meredith symbolically signed the measure into law after its passage by the legislature. “From this day forward, Mississippi’s place in history as a champion of women’s rights is assured,” said the governor. “With these penstrokes, we erase the follies and crimes of the long-gone past – the anti-miscegenation laws, the shameful forced sterilizations, the hostility toward basic rights of reproductive choice – and step into a new era where the fundamental liberties of every human being will be respected and defended.”

Advocates of the measure traced the roots of their victory back to the early 2010s. “When the government issued regulations requiring that insurers cover contraception as part of the health-insurance overhaul, it galvanized the feminist movement nationwide,” said Feminist Majority Foundation president Amanda Marcotte. “The new generation of politically active women who emerged to defend that move turned out to play a major role in the progressive revolution of the early 2020s.”

Among other things, historians credit the revitalized feminist movement with securing the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment in 2023. “But in spite of the improvements that brought about, there was ground left uncovered,” added Marcotte. “That led to the National Childcare Act of 2026, which required all large employers to offer nine months of paid parental leave, finally bringing the U.S. into parity with the rest of the developed world. Ironically, it was these liberal measures that brought about the dramatic decline in the divorce rate that religious conservatives had so long wished for. When that became obvious, further reforms began to snowball. The most dramatic, of course, was the Congressional approval of a strong, comprehensive sex-ed curriculum for all public schools nationwide, and the effects of that silenced even the most stubborn naysayers. The rate of new HIV infections was already plummeting even before a vaccine was finally approved in 2031.”

The newly approved amendment is intended to build on these gains. One of its provisions defines access to safe and effective contraception as a “public good” which the government is obliged to provide. “In most areas of the country, this was a formality,” said CNN analyst Athena Jones. “Still, there are a few conservative regions that tried to keep out family-planning clinics with burdensome regulations and regular harassment from protesters. The passage of this amendment should offer a solid ground for a court challenge striking down those laws, as well as providing federal resources for clinic escorts where local officials are unwilling or unable to provide them.”

The decision was not without its critics. “This law constitutes grave heresy, the arrogant decision of a godless nation that presumes to place itself above the infallible will of God,” said a statement issued by Pope Honorius V. “It is not the place of man to declare that he controls his own body when Holy Mother Church clearly teaches otherwise. All those who voted in defiance of our earlier commandment on this matter are hereby declared to be anathema.”

Most political observers expected the papal blast to have no effect. “The last census found that the number of practicing Catholics in America is under 3 million and falling,” said CNN’s Jones. “The church’s membership has been declining for decades, driven by an exodus of young people reacting to Rome’s unbending bigotry on the the long-settled issue of same-sex marriage, its ongoing refusal to ordain women despite a crippling shortage of priests, and the continuing fallout from the convictions of top church officials in Poland, India and the Philippines for covering up child molestation. The Vatican has long since rendered itself irrelevant as a political force.”

With victory in hand, the backers of the new amendment have vowed to look abroad for their next steps. “Although America has guaranteed its citizens the right to education and sexual freedom, not every country in the world still enjoys those same privileges,” said Gov. Meredith. “Despite the dramatic slowing of the global birthrate, we have much work left to do before world population stabilizes at a sustainable level. With the momentum of today’s victory, I hope we can prevail upon Congress to do more to expand American support of family-planning and childhood vaccination efforts worldwide. The 1% of GDP we’re currently devoting to this problem isn’t nearly enough.”

About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Broken Ring, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • Erik

    I couldn’t finish this – I’m just a little too cynical for all that optimism. =(

  • Nathaniel

    Okay, my sceptical buzzer was on alert with these other dispatches supposedly from the future. With this though I must cry foul. This conclusively proves you are wrong or lying about the origin of these posts. There is no way this is ever happening in the future.

  • Tim

    So, if it were coming from the other direction, would you be okay with a vote that required you to pay for something that you find inappropriate for whatever reason? Say a supermajority of people vote to amend the constitution so that it makes forced sterilization of those convicted of a crime the law of the land. As a result, crime rates plummet. Would you be okay with your tax dollars going towards such a plan?

    I continually go back and forth on what the appropriate role for government is. Some people I know believe taxes to be no more than violence by the imposed will of the majority. Even if I agree with them, am I okay with accepting that? Should I be okay with it? Truly, if a single person or a group of people said “give me your money” and the response to “why?” is “protection”, I’d think of them as crooks, a mob running a racket. Why do we justify such a lean when it’s a much larger group saying something similar?

    Recognizing, as I do, the benefit of continued education, certain social backstops, et cetera to the stability of our country, I can appreciate the goal of such a program. However, are coercive means the rightful mechanism by which such a plan is enforced? Is it any more right for a large group to say “anything you make above x dollars”, regardless of the amount at which you set x, “is ours” than it is for a small group to do the same to ones earnings?

    The answers don’t seem simple to me, and certainly imposing a rule that contraception is a public good seems laughable. Would it be acceptable for your neighbor to demand you pay for his condoms? What changes when it goes from one neighbor to a billion neighbors? Personally, I’d rather keep donating to Planned Parenthood, where those who attend do so by choice, than propose to impose my will upon the nation merely because a lot of people say it’s fine to take what others have earned to pay for things they find to be “good”. When I consider the consequence of being in the nonreligious minority, I don’t think it’s such a hot idea.

  • http://www.whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    Tim,
    You’re comparing a statute that forces health insurance companies to cover a piece of health insurance to forced sterilization? Seriously?

  • http://daylightatheism.org J. James

    Tim,

    I believe that taxes and such paid by Christian “Scientists” and Jehova’s Witnesses goes to blood transfusions whether the approve of it or not.

    Ithink that this is one of those things, like paying taxes, that the government should really insist on. If they don’t like it, they can live like the Amish.

  • Sarah Jane Braasch-Joy

    Is it really necessary for me to point out that all of our federal tax dollars (in the US) go towards paying for illegal religious wars of aggression and extrajudicial covert assassinations across the globe?

    That doesn’t exactly give me a warm fuzzy.

  • http://darkenedstumbling.blogspot.com/ Leum

    Sarah, that’s not fair. Some of our federal tax dollars go to combating the evils of marijuana and to abstinence-only sex education.

  • Tim

    J. James, Sarah, Leum, that’s the basis of what I am still trying to resolve. What makes it acceptable for one group of people to insist upon your participation in a service you may not want, need, or even agree with, yet makes it wrong for another to do the same? Why is it illegal or wrong for a person to hold a gun to your head, or even just threaten to lock you in a room, if you don’t pay for something, yet another group may do so merely due to a large number agreeing to it? Why are we so accepting of paying for wars, abstinence-only education, banning drugs and all the baggage that comes with it, etc?

    If we agree that threats of violence are improper or immoral as a means for an individual or group to elicit compliance, what makes it change when that group is widened to include the whole of the voting populace? Imagine, if you will, that the numbers weren’t going the way they are. Instead of the believing population declining as time has gone on, a single religious group rose to political supermajority. Would sheer number of their votes make a particular action right or wrong? What if that group were JWs, and they decided to vote to make blood transfusion illegal, then enacted a constitutional amendment that tax dollars should be used to hunt and pursue those who engaged in the practice?

    OMGF, what’s the difference between one group doing something because they think it’s right and another doing the same thing, when the tactics used are the same? Do the ends justify the means?

  • Sarah Jane Braasch-Joy

    Fine, Tim, we can have this discussion, but answer me one question.

    When was that last time you used this argument for any other issue than women’s sexual and reproductive rights? When was the last time you felt compelled to comment on a thread to condemn US federal tax dollars going towards illegal religious wars of aggression?

    That’s what gets my goat.

    The Republican Christianists are all about small government and a free market and capital L Libertarian principles, which they seem to think are Christian precepts, except when it comes to making me pay for their illegal religious wars of aggression while uterus fisting me with their Christian Sharia in my doctor’s office.

    But, we’re going to hell in a hand basket if they have to pay one penny for someone’s birth control pills.

  • Sarah Jane Braasch-Joy

    And, not a hypothetical issue, like the JWs outlawing blood transfusions.

    But, when was the last time you said and commented that it is wrong for the government to force people to pay for something to which they are morally opposed, that had nothing to do with women’s sexual and reproductive rights?

    It’s not that I doubt that you have the courage of your convictions, but forgive me if I don’t hold my breath waiting.

  • Tim

    Sarah, me? I used it last week to comment on the ongoing conflicts we sponsor around the world. Used it to comment upon the drug war failures. And a version of it was the basis of why I was arguing prayer from the position of a public school podium should not be legal, when such prayer is under the editorial control of the school…

    The thing is, I support helping people stay healthy, educated, etc. I just don’t know what the best way to approach this is, in a manner I find both internally consistent and applicable if others were trying to enact things I don’t agree with.

  • Tim

    Ultimately, this isn’t about moral opposition to a single thing, but an overall question about what is appropriate in obtaining support for a proposition. Without appeal to tradition, how can I justify funding public schools to those who don’t want to? It’s not a simple proposition, because I am in a state of believing contradictory things: that taxes to pay for any governmental programs are a form of coercion, coercing a person to help someone else against their will is wrong, yet coercing those things can be very good for our society at large.

  • http://avoiceinthewilderness-mcc1789.blogspot.com/ Michael

    Sarah, personally I am completely opposed to our wars: the “war on drugs”, “war on terror,” “war on poverty”, etc. Declaring war on a problem is always destructive and costly. You’re right, people are hypocrites on these issues, the Religious Right Republicans especially. I hold the view that people should not have to pay for things of which they disapprove, whatever that may be. So, I should not have to pay for religious charities that discriminate, proselytize, etc. while others object to having their money go to Planned Parenthood. I try to make it a wholly consistent principle on my part. You are completely correct that many people simply use this idea to oppose things they disapprove of, like birth control. I believe in the right of every person to do as they wish with their body. That logically includes control over their actions, such as who they fund.

  • Sarah Jane Braasch-Joy

    Ok.

    Then, I’ll tell you why government administered social programs (providing healthcare, education, etc.) have nothing to do with morality and are also consistent with your libertarian principles (depending upon how closely you teeter towards the anarchy precipice).

    Government administered social programs are the cost of living in a secular liberal constitutional democratic republic. Do you like being free? Do you like being able to, by and large, make your own life choices?

    Government administered social programs make rule of law and individual human rights and all of your lovely individual liberties possible, including freedom of and from religion.

    How so?

    Well, first and foremost, how likely do you think it is that we would be able to maintain a secular, liberal, constitutional democratic republic if a sizable portion of our population is starving to death? Unable to feed or clothe or house or educate or medicate their kids and their families and themselves?

    How long do you think all of your vaunted individual liberties would last? How long before the government would be overthrown?

    Next. Government administered social programs make it possible for you to conduct your affairs and your life as you see fit, without government intrusion or interference.

    How so?

    The government doesn’t have to force you to do anything for anybody else, because they are assuming that responsibility.

    You are free to go about your business and live your life as you wish, without having to worry about stopping your day to take care of anyone else.

    Needless to say, this makes society possible.

    If you had to stop to take care of everyone else, as you went about your day, then you couldn’t feel confident that you would make it to work or the store or the bank.

    The government is relieving you of all responsibilities and attendant legal liabilities.

    Leaving you free to live your life as you wish.

    Government administered social programs make individual human rights possible.

    How so?

    I have lived in and visited nation-states that lack robust social safety nets. What happens in these societies?

    They become tribal and devolve into religious/moral communitarianism.

    And, no one suffers more under these systems than women and children.

    If you can’t rely upon the government, then you have to rely upon your tribe.

    Then, you get all of these power differentials coupled with a lack of transparency, which results in the most egregious human rights abuses.

    Without the government to protect individual human rights, groups usurp governmental authority.

    I don’t see these issues as moral issues.

    I see these issues as being a matter of defining our interpersonal relations with one another.

    Government administered social programs prevent us from imposing our personal moral world views upon one another.

    I don’t see defining society as a moral issue. It just is.

    We live in a society whether we like it or not.

    There are just too many of us living in a confined space for us to isolate ourselves from one another.

    This is also why I say that secularism should be defined not just as precluding the consideration of religious doctrine in the promulgation of civil law, but as also precluding the consideration of subjective moral opinion. And, when you think about it, what is religious doctrine, but just another subjective moral opinion?

    So, when you pay taxes, you are paying to be as free as possible.

    Don’t think of it as paying for someone else’s birth control pills.

    Think of it as paying to be a libertarian. You are paying for the luxury of living in a secular, liberal, constitutional democratic republic.

    And, personally, I think the price is fair. In fact, I’m happy to pay a little more.

    Now, if someone is an anarchist, that is a different issue.

    But, I’m pretty sure that you’re not an anarchist.

    And, no one gets the freedom to impose their personal moral world view upon others.

    When Republican Christianists talk about freedom — that’s really the freedom they want.

    But, that’s not really freedom now, is it?

    It’s sort of like when Sam Harris says that if someone refuses to engage with the scientific method, then they have removed themselves from any discussion of science.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org Ebonmuse

    Ultimately, this isn’t about moral opposition to a single thing, but an overall question about what is appropriate in obtaining support for a proposition. Without appeal to tradition, how can I justify funding public schools to those who don’t want to?

    My view is that it’s morally acceptable for society to democratically choose to support any activity or institution which can be rationally shown to benefit everyone in tangible ways. Public education, for example, benefits everyone in purely economic terms by producing educated citizens who have increased earning power. This makes people self-supporting, so we don’t have to pay to imprison or support them later, and makes all of society more prosperous, which benefits everyone in the long run.

    As I wrote in an earlier comment:

    Something has to be done to encourage people to be productive members of society: we can either commit to educating and helping them now, or we’ll end up having to incarcerate them later. Either way, society pays. But prison is nothing but cost, whereas as I showed earlier, people who have access to education and job training are actually a net bonus to society in the long run. Providing access to public education and other such goods is therefore the rational position.

  • Sarah Jane Braasch-Joy

    It’s a lot like with secularism.

    Sure, once in a while a secular law will get promulgated that contradicts someone’s personal interpretation of his or her religion.

    But, that’s just too bad, so sad. Someone’s personal interpretation of his or her religion does not trump secular law.

    This is what makes freedom of religion possible in the first place.

    Because no one’s personal interpretation of his or her religion trumps secular law.

    Same thing with morality and government administered social programs paid by tax dollars.

    Sure, once in a while, the government is going to enact a social program that contradicts someone’s personal moral worldview.

    But, that’s just too bad, so sad. You still have to pay your taxes.

    Because government administered social programs prevent us from imposing our personal moral world views upon one another — which makes rule of law and individual human rights and society and a secular, liberal, constitutional democratic republic possible.

  • Tim

    I would take exception to the claim that “The government doesn’t have to force you to do anything for anybody else, because they are assuming that responsibility.”

    They do so through the financing they extract. Again, this is akin to a protection racket. Your entire argument boils down to “if we didn’t do it, people would beat you up.” It’s the basis of why the comparison to a gang of thugs threatening violence for protection works. The threat is simply that the gang would be much larger, but it’s still no more than a coercive act. It’s appeal to the consequence of a belief, i.e. “if we don’t do this the masses will rise and institute terrible things”.

    The person I most often end up arguing with this about is an anarchist. You’re right in assuming I’m not; I tend towards the liberal libertarian. The bulk of your reasoning does appeal to me, as well. However, despite believing that, as you put it, “to maintain a secular, liberal, constitutional democratic republic” requires such actions, I cannot get away from the idea that I trade one threatener for another. While I may agree with what that ultimate outcome would be for not paying, it doesn’t alter the equation. Ultimately, forcing ourselves and others into such a system is done because, as another of my favorite blogs says, “you are not so smart.” We end up setting up a system to prevent us from destroying ourselves. However, that system does require taking a lesser of two evils approach.

    I only question whether we would be so willing to abide by that system if it weren’t going our way as often as it does.

  • Tim

    Ebonmuse, while I agree that public education is on the whole beneficial to society, isn’t your justification no more than “the ends justifies the means.” Going back to an earlier example, if it could be “rationally shown to benefit everyone in tangible ways” to castrate all convicted violent offenders, would that justify the act? That is, if it could be shown that it has the net effect of lowering crime rates to mere statistical anomalies, would it be okay?

    I say no, because the imposition upon another’s body is too great. Yet the argument in the primary blog post supposes that enough voters supporting something with a good enough end goal in mind makes such an act okay. It’s not as simple as saying “tough titties, now pay up”, at least not to me.

  • Sarah Jane Braasch-Joy

    Tim,

    So, no government then?

    Or, just no monetary system?

    Because I am all about doing away with our monetary system.

    I think government should simply provide a minimum threshold standard of living to all human beings.

    Free of charge.

    So, no taxes at all.

    I don’t think we’re there yet, but I also don’t think we’re as far away from being able to do away with our monetary system as we might think we are.

  • Tim

    How would such an entity provide anything? Without coercive power to take what it wants, “the government” could provide nothing.

  • Sarah Jane Braasch-Joy

    We can’t think of enough stupid jobs to pay people for, so that they can buy shit they don’t need.

    I’m not saying do away with private property.

    But, the government wouldn’t have to take anything.

    The government already owns lots and lots of stuff.

    I’m just thinking that we are near the point where, with technology being what it is, that it’s really stupid to have people work to make money to buy stuff that should be a right.

    It’s inefficient. It’s a stupid waste of resources.

  • Sarah Jane Braasch-Joy

    The thing that always gets me is that anarchists / big L Libertarians seem to think that less government makes us more free.

    How free do you think you would be in an anarchic system?

    Do you think that in an anarchy you’re free to do whatever you please? Spend your day as you wish? Really?

    I beg to differ. You would be subject to the whims of the powerful. Buffeted by the mercurial abandon of the mighty.

    The whole point of government is to make you free.

  • XPK

    @Tim – the problem I have with your example is that access to birth control in no way correlates to castrating violent offenders. If you think it does, then I don’t know what to say. Covering birth control grants MORE freedom to the individuals in a society. More choices equal more freedom. Castrating violent criminals DECREASES their freedom as individuals in society. (In my opinion so does our current criminal justice system, but I don’t want to digress the conversation down that road.)

    To my mind the resistance to the issue of government rests on people basing their freedoms on a negative. I should have the freedom to NOT pay for birth control/nuclear warheads/abortions/the community rec center that is 4 blocks too far away for me to use conveniently. The freedom to NOT is not more freedom. The freedom to NOT is an attempt to limit other’s freedoms.

    I’m hoping this part of my rant stays on topic. A lot of discussion about entitlement plans these days, and how can we pay for these entitlements. My question is whether 5% of the U.S. population is entitled to 60% of the wealth of the United States?

  • http://www.whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    Tim,

    OMGF, what’s the difference between one group doing something because they think it’s right and another doing the same thing, when the tactics used are the same? Do the ends justify the means?

    Because it’s not the same.

    XPK already pointed this out, but I want to add something. The case of the contraception is about service. If someone wants to provide a service, they must do so to certain legal levels. We’ve now decided that including contraception not only helps people (makes them more free) but shouldn’t be withheld as part of the service provided.

    Forced sterilization would be a direct action by the government upon citizens which would be a removal of rights. Surely you can see the difference.

    I understand that you have issues with taxes at all and think it’s all coercive, but don’t you think it’s fair to pay for the services that you receive? Even if you don’t agree with all of them, it’s a suite package.

  • Tim

    Sarah, I think you’re right about the result of anarchy being tribalism. My friend always does some handwaving about how it’s better such things aren’t institutionalized. I don’t agree, but doing so logically and self-consistently is more challenging than it appears at first blush. For example, you assert that “the government already owns lots and lots of stuff” while saying it “wouldn’t have to take anything.” The only way the government came to own so much stuff is by taking things, making those statements contradictory. Continued funding and upkeep of these things requires further taking, or the government would need to start running like a private enterprise. Neither are particularly savory options to me.

    XPX: that’s an artificial distinction. I could just as easily phrase your “freedom to NOT” as the lost opportunity cost. For example, I want the freedom to pay for the health club across town where my friends life, but that money has already been taken by my neighbors and used to build the local one. I want the freedom to buy a new EOTech with flip aside magnification for my AR15, but that money was taken from me to pay for nuclear weapons. I want the freedom to fly to visit my sick and dying family in another country, but that money has been taken to me to pay for birth control here. Your “freedom to not” is merely dismissing lost opportunity cost.

    As for the question of division of wealth, that’s its own huge discussion. I don’t think relative comparisons of owned wealth are meaningful. What matters more are the percentages of people who can own durable consumer goods, who can put food on the table, what portion of time is spent to provide for that, etc. It wouldn’t matter if .01% of the country owned 99.9% of the wealth, if the remaining 99.9% of the country all could afford housing, food, healthcare, etc. Trying to set up numbers like that in terms of percentages merely appeals to people’s fear that someone else has more than they do, but it doesn’t establish a meaningful metric for evaluating the rightness or wrongness of that division. My response to you is, are you entitled to take money from anybody, regardless of how much their net worth is?

    OMGF, you’re missing the forest for the trees. The idea is still that you would have issue with being forced by the will of the voting majority to engage in an act you disagree with. Also, your comment about “service” seems to be addressing an argument that hasn’t been put forth here. It’s an entirely different discussion to address what level of regulation the government can impose upon insurance providers than whether it is appropriate for an entity to threaten imprisonment if a person doesn’t pay up, regardless of what that money goes towards. The argument I’m seeing is that if the good parts can be shown to be good enough, the bad of the taking is justified. I don’t buy that as consistent, because I don’t think any of you would be accepting if the mafia required you to pay them because a member’s daughter was sick and needed treatment. If you don’t pay they would lock you up until you or your family could come up with the money.

    You ask if I think it’s fair to pay for the services I receive. I, personally, do. However, that doesn’t mean I can justify with internal consistency forcing others to pay. I also don’t think “it’s a suite package” is a compelling argument. By any chance do you work for Comcast cable? Because they keep saying the same stupid thing when asked about a la carte? ;) Such a description doesn’t pass the is-ought test. Merely because the status quo is that such things are a suite package, does not address whether they ought to be.

  • Nathaniel

    One of the most consistently confusing things is libertarians caterwauling simple society rules as they are great iron shackles.

    Tim, are you aware of an society that doesn’t use what you call “coercive force?” If not, not, outline a society that doesn’t use one that isn’t a utopia that requires people to stop being people.

  • Sarah Jane Braasch-Joy

    That’s the thing.

    We need to let go of the notion that we can or that we have to reinvent the wheel.

    Even if we wanted to, we can’t.

    Neither am I suggesting revolution.

    I often think that incremental change is best.

    But, whatever changes we make that will alter human civilization, we are starting from here and now.

    We live in a global society.

    We abide by an extraordinary web of rules, which define our interpersonal relations, both seemingly insignificant and grandiose.

    There is no turning back the dial on the annals of human history. (Think of language. We can’t reinvent human language, even if we wanted to. We can’t go back to the beginning. We can make a new language. But, we start with the building blocks we possess here and now.)

    All interaction is coercion, in one form or another.

    But, there is no avoiding it.

    I am suggesting that we define our interpersonal relations in such a way as to minimize this coercion.

  • Tim

    Nathaniel: is-ought, aka Hume’s guillotine. Don’t say what ought to be is justified by what is. Merely stating something like “nobody does that now” doesn’t mean what is done now is right or good or proper or ideal.

    I’m not really willing to spend the time to do so, maybe I’ll get the aforementioned anarchist friend on here (though this thread is already growing long in the tooth and a bit stale). He’s got much more patience for arguing that kind of stuff, though I’m guessing he’d start by point you to Practical Anarchy. I have my own issues with some of what is claimed therein (e.g. the aforementioned tribalism), but he does try to lay down why he doesn’t think it requires utopian thought.

  • http://www.whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    It’s an entirely different discussion to address what level of regulation the government can impose upon insurance providers than whether it is appropriate for an entity to threaten imprisonment if a person doesn’t pay up, regardless of what that money goes towards.

    I’m glad you see it that way. Maybe you’ll agree with me that your talk of comparing having health insurance companies cover the cost of contraceptions and forced sterlizations was indeed unwarranted?

    The argument I’m seeing is that if the good parts can be shown to be good enough, the bad of the taking is justified.

    Why is it bad for us to pay taxes? Perhaps you could justify that rationale, because it seems to be an assumption you are making that you think everyone agrees with.

    You ask if I think it’s fair to pay for the services I receive. I, personally, do.

    Then you should pay your taxes. Period.

  • http://kagerato.net kagerato

    [Tim]: I would take exception to the claim that “The government doesn’t have to force you to do anything for anybody else, because they are assuming that responsibility.”

    They do so through the financing they extract. Again, this is akin to a protection racket. Your entire argument boils down to “if we didn’t do it, people would beat you up.” It’s the basis of why the comparison to a gang of thugs threatening violence for protection works. The threat is simply that the gang would be much larger, but it’s still no more than a coercive act. It’s appeal to the consequence of a belief, i.e. “if we don’t do this the masses will rise and institute terrible things”.

    Comparing government to an extortion racket is a loaded analogy with obvious bias. The problem is that representative government is not functionally equivalent. Some of the differences are:

    (1) The government doesn’t threaten or commit acts of violence in response to refusal to pay taxes.

    (2) The statutory penalty for willfully defeating or evading taxes is capped at $100,000 and/or at most five years imprisonment. At trial, the prosecution will need to prove that the defendant knew that their behavior constituted an evasion and did it anyway. By way of comparison, dodging your payments to the mob is punishable by summary execution and/or permanent dismemberment.

    (3) Prosecutions for individual tax evasion are rare. Prison terms for evasion are especially rare. The mob, on the other hand, is not going to let your “minor” case slide by.

    (4) Penalties can be higher for corporations, and can be much higher in certain kinds of fraud. However, the basic maximum statutory penalties for an individuals’ fraudulent representation of taxable income is $100,000 and/or three years jail. This provision of the law is also rarely enforced. Lying to a criminal syndicate will most probably get your house set on fire.

    (5) No one outside of a small and privileged few gets a say in how organized crime is run. It’s very nepotistic and selective, much like a monarchy. Everyone past a certain age gets the chance to voice a selection in the policy of the government.

    (6) If you don’t like tax policy in the United States and aren’t willing to vote or organize to change it, you still have the capacity to leave the country. Renounce your citizenship and legally you are not required to pay our taxes any longer. On the other hand, mafia crime lords are not going to take your attempt to skip town with such light bemusement. Might want to prepare an oxygen tank for that long sleep with the fish.

    Oh, one other matter. You misunderstand the logical fallacy of Argument from Consequences. It’s only fallacious reasoning when the consequences are false or unproven. The historical record provides plenty of examples of how collapse of central government or other institutional powers leads to a chaotic vacuum where ordinary people have little to no rights or privileges.

    Rejecting actual consequences in a discussion of the proper structure of society is essentially declaring Utilitarian thought useless.

    [Sarah]: So, no government then?

    Or, just no monetary system?

    Because I am all about doing away with our monetary system.

    I think government should simply provide a minimum threshold standard of living to all human beings.

    Free of charge.

    So, no taxes at all.

    I don’t think we’re there yet, but I also don’t think we’re as far away from being able to do away with our monetary system as we might think we are.

    We don’t actually have to eliminate the monetary system to establish a nearly universal standard of living (at least, for food, shelter, and medicine). However, we won’t be able to have an absolute right to property nor a right to profit from investments (notably, neither exists today). The factors which prevent the rich and poor from converging toward a common level of wealth are many, but primarily you can classify them as differential access to key economic tools. Those include education, employment and advancement in growth sectors, political influence over economic policies, investment capacity, and free time to pursue discretionary goals (including entrepreneurship and self-employment).

    We can’t think of enough stupid jobs to pay people for, so that they can buy shit they don’t need.

    I’m not saying do away with private property.

    But, the government wouldn’t have to take anything.

    The government already owns lots and lots of stuff.

    I’m just thinking that we are near the point where, with technology being what it is, that it’s really stupid to have people work to make money to buy stuff that should be a right.

    It’s inefficient. It’s a stupid waste of resources.

    I agree wholly with the fact that the economy is inefficient and wastes resources on the largely pointless pursuits of the already wealthy, which mainly seem to involve controlling other people.

    We have reached a level of technological development where it is possible to feed, clothe, shelter, educate and medicate essentially everyone in society. The fact that this doesn’t happen means there must be a distortion in the values that control the economy, unless one is willing to declare that those are not the core priorities of civilization and the purpose of having an economic system.

    In my opinion, there is a clear disconnect between the process which governs the control of resources and the values above. It’s not so much about private property exactly as it is about exponential compounding growth. People owning their own assets doesn’t cause any direct interference with feeding, clothing, sheltering, educating, and healing them. It can be a double-edged blade, but it probably helps about as much as it hurts.

    The issue is that wealth creates wealth in proportion to its existing base. There is a built-in bias to resource control in the economy which favors the already powerful over those who have little to nothing. Those without bundles of capital to throw into investments, expensive higher education degrees, and so forth tend to stay where they are as a result of this. They have neither the reserve stock of money nor labor to proceed because all of their existing capacity is consumed merely to meet the essential needs outlined before.

    That is bad enough unto itself. However, now we introduce the beautiful scheme of banks and lending. The people don’t have enough money to buy X or do Y? Let’s give them the money! Great. Fantastic. Except it isn’t a gift. It’s the exchange of a short term temporary opportunity for a long term obligation. Significantly, the vast majority of loans made are used on necessities, especially housing and transportation. The return on “investment” made by spending a loan on these assets is far in the red. The best case scenario is typically that one receives a relatively low interest loan during a housing bubble and sells before the crash. If the rate of the bubble expansion exceeds the the interest rate enough, one may even walk away with a profit. It’s rare and a total gamble, though. Most people don’t sell their necessities, in any case.

    It’s not much different on average for entrepreneurial loans. A small number, which depending on industry is rarely more than five percent, succeed. The vast bulk fail, and the loan is not discharged or even reduced in event of failure.

    As a result, the net effect of the banking system is to create dependency between those who lack capital on those who have it. It’s entirely unclear why this should be the case, morally or socially. There seems to be a built-in assumption that all monetary benefits are fairly earned, now and in the past. However, that quickly decays into an argument for absolute property rights. All manner of absurdities abound; how is it that anyone compares investment opportunities of the already powerful with the basic essentials of life, as though they were level on the scale?

    Many (most?) people will spend close to their entire span of productive years working to acquire sufficient food, shelter, education, and medicine. Then, many of those will lose any assets they have from forces outside of their control, including sudden “market” (bank) crashes, the absurd year-over-year cost of extended medical treatment, large reorganizations of the labor market to replace older workers with younger and cheaper ones, and so on.

    This system has continued and will continue essentially indefinitely unless and until enough people realize that the process created the result. It was not a matter of chance, “hard times”, or the invisible hand of the market. The hands of the market are very visible once you know where to look for them.

  • http://avoiceinthewilderness-mcc1789.blogspot.com/ Michael

    Comment#14 Quote: “Now, if someone is an anarchist, that is a different issue.”

    I will “come out” here as an anarchist, although I prefer to define myself with what I do believe in, namely voluntary interaction, thus voluntaryism, which encompasses anarchism. I cannot claim to understand your moral anti-realism Sarah, though I’m still trying. In any case, I do not see how you can get away from this being a moral issue, at least to some people. It is for me. I am a voluntaryist chiefly on moral, not practical grounds. I believe an implicit assumption here (whether it is regarding law enforcement, education, health care, or anything else) would be that such things can only be provided by a central government. Regardless, I do not believe that the ends justify the means. I do not my ideal to be realized any time soon. Perhaps it never will, although I have hope that the future may bring change.

    Comment #27 Quote: “All interaction is coercion, in one form or another.”

    I have to disagree. We are interacting here, and where is the coercion?

    P.S. I’m not sure how to quote on here. Apparently blockquote is not it, or I must be doing it wrong.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org Ebonmuse

    We have reached a level of technological development where it is possible to feed, clothe, shelter, educate and medicate essentially everyone in society. The fact that this doesn’t happen means there must be a distortion in the values that control the economy, unless one is willing to declare that those are not the core priorities of civilization and the purpose of having an economic system.

    QFT. kagerato, that entire comment was outstanding. Anyone else who wants to contribute to the discussion in this thread, please read #30 first!

  • XPK

    @Tim – “I don’t think relative comparisons of owned wealth are meaningful.”

    You obviously didn’t take the time to read the paper then. I don’t think non-correlative examples without some real world data to back it up are meaningful.
    Fewer people controlling more of the wealth equals fewer people being able to buy more goods. More people controlling more of the wealth equals more people being able to buy more goods. Consumer driven economy. That’s what we are here in America.

    “but it doesn’t establish a meaningful metric for evaluating the rightness or wrongness of that division”

    It is fairness not “rightness or wrongness” that concerns me. In MN our governor tried to raise taxes on the top 1% of Minnesotans by 2 percentage points. Was this to punish them for earning so much money? No. It was because the middle and lower classes paid 2 percentage points more of their income in taxes than the richest Minnesotans. It’s not right or wrong, just less fair. I would like it to be more fair. Surprise, surprise…we borrowed money from the states public schools (AGAIN) to cover the deficit instead. Yay, Minnesota.

    “I want the freedom to pay for the health club across town where my friends life, but that money has already been taken by my neighbors and used to build the local one.”

    Yet you never complain about your neighbor the banking executive that takes that money and builds himself a cabin up north, a 2nd home in AZ, a yacht for the river, a private jet, and stows his money away in a Swiss bank account to avoid having to pay taxes on it. Whereas taxes used to build a community rec center that can be used and enjoyed by the entire community actually benefit the entire community. Why is it always the government taking the money from you? It’s not rich people (or banks or corporations) hoarding wealth that could be used to make our consumer driven economy run?

    “It wouldn’t matter if .01% of the country owned 99.9% of the wealth, if the remaining 99.9% of the country all could afford housing, food, healthcare, etc.”

    Again, it would be appreciated if you could provide an example where this scenario actually worked out for the good of the country and it’s citizenry.

  • Sarah Jane Braasch-Joy

    Michael,

    I am absolutely trying to coerce you. ;)

    I don’t know how to quote either.

  • Andrew G.

    P.S. I’m not sure how to quote on here. Apparently blockquote is not it, or I must be doing it wrong.

    blockquote is definitely it (at least it’s always worked for me)

    Like this:

    <blockquote>
    quoted stuff here
    </blockquote>

    (of course there’s probably some rule that says that the above will come out wrong, and there’s no edit function…)

  • http://avoiceinthewilderness-mcc1789.blogspot.com/ Michael

    @Comment#30 Quote: “(1) The government doesn’t threaten or commit acts of violence in response to refusal to pay taxes.”

    Arrest and imprisonment are not violence? (Whether justified in your view or not).

    Certainly the Mafia enforce harsher punishments for those who refuse to pay, whether protection rackets or loans. This is partly because they cannot make actual enforceable contracts offering protection or high interest rates. Additionally, governments in the past have been just as brutal about collecting on what they are “owed” for their protection and other services. Social conditions have the capacity to be worse, or better. Historically, all states began as monarchies/oligarchies living off their subjects, and ultimately remain so, whatever rubber-stamp democratic process is added to justify them. As Tolstoy wrote in his Parable, there are two farmers, one harsh who foolishly works his cattle to death. The other lets them graze on the open range, live in clean stalls and enjoy fresh air. He does so primarily for his own benefit (the better taken care of cattle are fatter and produce more milk) but it also helps to justify himself living off them. As they said the days of slavery, it was the kind masters that were the worst, because their kindness allowed people to justify bondage. Though people understandably prefer the kind over the cruel master, just as they generally pick a kind over a cruel god. For myself I want no gods, no masters. I know this may never happen, but it seems a goal worth striving for and dreaming about.

  • http://avoiceinthewilderness-mcc1789.blogspot.com/ Michael

    Michael,

    I am absolutely trying to coerce you. ;)

    Sarah,

    I think you mean convince me ;)

    By any chance are interested in the Zeitgeist Movement? (the economics part at least) Your proposals seemed kind of similar. I have to say I’m very skeptical about that whole “no money and we provide for you” bit. Well, maybe if (when?) we can invent a replicator it will work lol.

    P.S. Hey, it works to quote! Thanks so much, Andrew G. And there is an edit function-using it now in fact. It shows up when you post-Click to Edit, and Request Deletion. You just have to edit within four minutes from posting.

  • Andrew G.

    I think you missed the / in your closing blockquote tag.

    (edit function? wha? I don’t see it…)

    ETA: ah, I see it – it requires cookies.

  • http://avoiceinthewilderness-mcc1789.blogspot.com/ Michael

    Dang it… I deleted the closing blockquote tag by mistake. *Sighs* Next time.

    Yes, it would need cookies, greedy thing.

  • Scotlyn

    Tim, answering Sarah:

    you assert that “the government already owns lots and lots of stuff” while saying it “wouldn’t have to take anything.” The only way the government came to own so much stuff is by taking things

    Your view of this would also depend on if you think “government”=”other people” or if you think “government”=”us.” Most people wouldn’t have a problem with “us” owning lots and lots of stuff collectively. One example where this works really well is Norway, where everyone you talk to in the street knows that they personally own their oil and the fish in their sea, etc. and that it is simply the government’s job to manage it all properly on their behalf.

    Kagerato:

    Many (most?) people will spend close to their entire span of productive years working to acquire sufficient food, shelter, education, and medicine. Then, many of those will lose any assets they have from forces outside of their control, including sudden “market” (bank) crashes, the absurd year-over-year cost of extended medical treatment, large reorganizations of the labor market to replace older workers with younger and cheaper ones, and so on.

    This system has continued and will continue essentially indefinitely unless and until enough people realize that the process created the result. It was not a matter of chance, “hard times”, or the invisible hand of the market. The hands of the market are very visible once you know where to look for them.

    This is a brilliant analysis of the status quo, Kagerato. It always boggles my mind, the way that poor and middle class people in the US seem to think that this system is worth protecting (from “evil” socialists, for example).

    Libertarians, who seem to think even the status quo has far too much “government” in it, often seem to me to be uttering one long plea – “I’m rich, I’m powerful, therefore protect me, please, from the poor and the weak….PLEEEEEAASE HEELLPPP MMEEE!” How is it that this attitude has swept up so many people in Tea Party type movements – people who themselves are the poor and the weak that the rich want to keep at bay?

  • Scotlyn

    Tim, to the above, I would add that the only way rich people get to own lots and lots of stuff is by taking something that originally belonged to everyone – ie plundering/ringfencing the commons – eg. actual common land, the internet, genes, etc. Whereas government ownership (presuming that is is true “public” or “common” ownership – ie “us”) is the default position.

  • http://avoiceinthewilderness-mcc1789.blogspot.com/ Michael

    Your view of this would also depend on if you think “government”=”other people” or if you think “government”=”us.” Most people wouldn’t have a problem with “us” owning lots and lots of stuff collectively. One example where this works really well is Norway, where everyone you talk to in the street knows that they personally own their oil and the fish in their sea, etc. and that it is simply the government’s job to manage it all properly on their behalf.

    “Government”=”other people.” The idea of “we are the government” is ludicrous. Putting aside people who are not allowed to vote but must obey laws other people decided (minors, felons, aliens) if I am the government, why do things to myself I dislike? Because I am not the government. The majority elects others who claim to represent them, and these do not even make up most of the government, who are simply appointed by the representative or those they appoint to do the hiring. The idea that resources are collectively owned by the public similarly does not bear scrutiny. Yes, they are owned in our name, but “other people” decide how they get to be used. They are the actual owners. Still more “other people” often have their ear, with the public (us) footing the bill for, say, roads which allow loggers to cut down trees in forests “we” own at far less cost than otherwise if they were paying everything themselves. People that supposedly own it pay for others who do not to benefit, without regard to cost and overuse.

    Libertarians, who seem to think even the status quo has far too much “government” in it, often seem to me to be uttering one long plea – “I’m rich, I’m powerful, therefore protect me, please, from the poor and the weak….PLEEEEEAASE HEELLPPP MMEEE!” How is it that this attitude has swept up so many people in Tea Party type movements – people who themselves are the poor and the weak that the rich want to keep at bay?

    The status quo has more government in it that at any other time of US history. It has grown exponentially for almost eighty years. So…?

    I am not part of the Tea Party. I do not think most (if any) of the super rich got their wealth legitimately. In fact, I believe that government is not only the means they used to accumulate this much, but was its purpose originally. Though far too many libertarians are corporate apologists, I am not among them. Free market radicalism, you might say, which spares no sacred cows, especially not the rich. The Tea Party being used, along with certain libertarians, does not make all of them shills for the elite.

    I know it’s shocking that a lot of working-class people (such as myself) do not agree with progressives. False consciousness, I guess. Even as a former progressive, then socialist, it can be hard to explain. Calling it “false” consciousness is a matter of opinion, but people really do live on separate planets politically. If you want to know what people think, asking usually works best. Also read authors with whom you disagree-although I understand it can be difficult-I have never been able to finish any book by Anne Coulter. So start with someone less automatically bound to trigger your gag reflex.

    P.S. Still not getting these quotes right…

  • Andrew G.

    Looks like you’re still missing the / on the closing tag (making it another opening tag). The closing tag should look like </blockquote>

  • Scotlyn

    Hi Tim,
    The last, general, “libertarian” rant was unfair to direct at you. You haven’t actually expressed that particular moan. Apologies.

    (There are many apologists, including Ayn Rand, though, to whom it is entirely fair).

    I agree that in current fact, the government is vastly controlled by “them” not by “us”, (one of the common goods that rich people are stealing from everyone else is access to government ears) but surely that is a reason to campaign to take the control of the government, together with our common (though mis-managed) goods and assets back into our own, common, hands.

    You would seem, rather, to be arguing in favour of a campaign to place our common (though mis-managed) goods and assets forever beyond our common control in private (ie already wealthy, publicly unaccountable) hands – say what? Did I read this wrong?

  • http://avoiceinthewilderness-mcc1789.blogspot.com/ Michael

    Looks like you’re still missing the / on the closing tag (making it another opening tag). The closing tag should look like

    Aha, many thanks Andrew.

  • Scotlyn

    Sorry, Tim, sorry, Michael, got you both mixed up. Profuse apologies.

    Anyway, consider my libertarian caricature an ill-considered throw-away comment not directed at anyone here, arising from prior frustration in other encounters with this line of thinking.

    And consider comment 44 to be an answer to Michael.

    Thanks.

  • keddaw

    We have reached a level of technological development where it is possible to feed, clothe, shelter, educate and medicate essentially everyone in society. The fact that this doesn’t happen means there must be a distortion in the values that control the economy, unless one is willing to declare that those are not the core priorities of civilization and the purpose of having an economic system.

    Sorry, did someone find a magic book that defines what the core priorities of civilization are? I understand those are your values, and are part of the metric that most people have for what constitutes a civilized society, but I don’t think you get to declare it by fiat. Many people would value security, strength, economic growth, economic power, political influence, medical growth, technological growth etc. etc. as being more important. I happen to lean more towards your preferences but that doesn’t mean we are right, or even can be right, on something that is personal preference.

    The purpose of an economic system (like ours) is to enable the more efficient allocation of resources. Pretty much.

    Who says there are no taxes under a libertarian system? Government have some services that must be provided (outside of an anarchist state) and they must be funded. The real argument is about how far reaching those services are and how they are funded.

    When I apply to have my passport renewed (a government function) I have to pay to receive that service ($150?) and I think that is fair. When Bill Gates wants to do the same he pays the same as me. I also happen to think that is fair. Why is it some government functions cost Bill Gates more than me and others don’t? And is it right?

    Where I do agree with Sarah, and to a tiny degree kagerato, is that there should be a minimum standard that we allow people to live at. It should be a percentage of the median standard which would allow it to improve in good times and not bankrupt the country should we hit really bad times. I think it could be funded without an income tax but perhaps not, but charity should certainly increase to help out. But that’s just my opinion, Tim’s point stands, we forcing others, potentially against their will, to act in accordance with our values rather than their own.

    Without coercive power to take what it wants, “the government” could provide nothing.

    Not true, how about the government allows a limited corporation to exist in exchange for paying a percentage of it’s profits? That way owners no longer risks all their possessions if the corporation is sued. No coercion, but government gets significant revenue to pay for whatever schemes it has in mind.

    In my view a libertarian government is there to protect the common and personal rights that we cannot do individually – e.g. taxes/sues when a company pollutes. It also has access to our common rights and interests so when oil is discovered on common land (e.g. off shore) then it can sell it on our common behalf.

    It is fairness not “rightness or wrongness” that concerns me.

    And where do you think the idea of right and wrong comes from, biologically?
    Fair: Being in accordance with relative merit or significance
    Fair: Just to all parties; equitable

    The only problem I have with the 35th Amendment is that by declaring access to contraception a “public good” which the government is obliged to provide does that mean if I live in the middle of nowhere the government is obliged to place a centre giving me access to contraception reasonably close by as it is my Constitutional right which the government is obliged to protect?

  • Nathaniel

    If a government only exists to enforce contracts and protect rights, how would it do so?

    To put it simply, in a libertopia where the government only exists for the previously state purposes, then why would the necessarily even more powerful corporations give a shit about any such government about violated contracts or dumping toxins into the community lake? Its hard enough enforcing regulations as it is.

  • keddaw

    how would it do so?

    A reasonable question. With many answers depending on the libertarian you ask. My response would be they’d do it the same way I’d stop a fight outside a bar, go back inside, get a bunch of mates and stop it. Similarly, a government would have a posse, or some form of community orientated justice (or police, should such an entity exist). Of course, other people would say we simply cease dealing with that company and they’d go bust but I see that as incredibly naive – especially if they were exporting.

    Assuming you accept some version of the above, then corporations would be smaller than at present as current corporations require amazing amounts of state power to stay in the positions they are – from tax breaks/subsidies, government contracts, patents, protectionism, etc. etc. Smaller corporations would be less powerful. Many companies would also opt to remain privately owned due to much lower tax which makes them less powerful but also makes the owner able to be sued personally so the risks taken with safety etc. would often be less. Especially since the government and courts would pander to them less than at present.

  • http://kagerato.net kagerato

    [keddaw]: Sorry, did someone find a magic book that defines what the core priorities of civilization are? I understand those are your values, and are part of the metric that most people have for what constitutes a civilized society, but I don’t think you get to declare it by fiat. Many people would value security, strength, economic growth, economic power, political influence, medical growth, technological growth etc. etc. as being more important. I happen to lean more towards your preferences but that doesn’t mean we are right, or even can be right, on something that is personal preference.

    You reversed the order of events. I didn’t start out with the assumption that the values I presented were useful and important. I began with observations of the world around me as to what people appeared to need most. Hypothetically, if there was some bizzaro world where hardly anyone — let alone most people — prioritized food, shelter, and medicine as essentials, then it would be reasonable to focus on something else.

    The reason I don’t include security as part of a list of core priorities is that as far as I can tell, insecurity is caused in very large part by the inability to meet those essential needs. We are able to observe that societies in which poverty is higher also have greater levels of violence and malcontent. Outright rioting and even revolution also appear to occur precisely when one or more segments of society become so isolated from basic services and provisions that they are willing to risk their lives to change the situation.

    As to “strength” or “power”, I don’t know why anyone other than the already powerful would value that. Economic power and political influence are just more specific forms.

    There are people who value economic growth and technology development essentially intrinsically, because they get some kind of buzz from seeing numbers grow in the abstract. I’d like to know upon what basis an economy or technology can be seen as anything other than tools, means to various ends. I don’t recall anyone managing that philosophical leap in an intelligible manner before.

    As to the last part, not all moral and economic systems are equally useful. The only way to declare that and be consistent is to avoid holding any value premises whatsoever. No one actually behaves like they are equal in practice. Even nihilists express values through their actions, so I don’t see a need to justify this point further.

    The purpose of an economic system (like ours) is to enable the more efficient allocation of resources. Pretty much.

    What intelligible use would efficient allocation of resources have without a goal of any kind? That’s not independent purpose.

    More importantly, who decides how resources are allocated and what constitutes efficiency (and productivity)? My point is that as the economy actually works in practice, the answer to that question is very simple. It’s the rich. Indeed, the wealthier you are, the more influence you have over that allocation — by design. I contend that this is unjust, the philosophical equivalent of assigning a different number of votes to different classes of people according to predetermined criteria.

    Where I do agree with Sarah, and to a tiny degree kagerato, is that there should be a minimum standard that we allow people to live at. It should be a percentage of the median standard which would allow it to improve in good times and not bankrupt the country should we hit really bad times. I think it could be funded without an income tax but perhaps not, but charity should certainly increase to help out. But that’s just my opinion, Tim’s point stands, we forcing others, potentially against their will, to act in accordance with our values rather than their own.

    How do we decide what that minimum standard is? I believe it should be done democratically, based on one person, one vote. The reality is that disproportionate influence is wielded on the result by those with sufficient wealth to lobby massively toward particular self-interested results, both by distorting popular opinion with misinformation and lavishing gifts and other favors on elected officials.

    What is the alternative? Who will make the decisions about what the correct values and priorities of society are, if not everyone in equal proportion?

    My response would be they’d do it the same way I’d stop a fight outside a bar, go back inside, get a bunch of mates and stop it. Similarly, a government would have a posse, or some form of community orientated justice (or police, should such an entity exist).

    Stop it by force of number. Of course. That’s how the government already works. What does this change, actually?

    Libertarians of nearly all stripes do not actually decry the use of force generally to accomplish objectives. They only single out force when it is used to establish policies they disagree with. As soon as you start talking about enforcing contracts, policing the streets, maintaining order in the courts and government bodies, and so forth… force is suddenly all too legitimate again.

    [Michael]: Arrest and imprisonment are not violence? (Whether justified in your view or not).

    That conflates violence and coercion. Violence is a specific form of coercion; it is physical force. Coercion is the direction of influence against someone’s will. Coercion can absolutely be non-violent, and often is. The most common forms of coercion in our society are economic and social, rather than the physical bashing of heads.

    Sarah had an interesting point when saying that all interactions are coercion of some sort. I wouldn’t quite go that far, since by happy coincidence or a confluence of shared factors it may be the case that the interaction was mutually desired. However, all interactions do exert an influence (usually to some degree in both directions on both parties). In that sense, it is impossible to act on or with another person without potentially changing them in some manner. One can minimize that influence by being very careful about the particular behaviors used, but I don’t think influence ever actually reaches zero.

  • Andrew G.

    Assuming you accept some version of the above, then corporations would be smaller than at present as current corporations require amazing amounts of state power to stay in the positions they are – from tax breaks/subsidies, government contracts, patents, protectionism, etc. etc.

    I don’t think that follows at all. State power may sometimes make it easier for some corporations to remain large, but even without it, larger corporations still have an inherent competitive advantage over smaller ones in a lightly regulated or deregulated environment, and more importantly, there are areas which are completely closed to small corporations due to high startup costs. The most obvious example in a high-tech society being semiconductor fabrication – building a fab now requires a minimum initial investment on the order of two billion dollars, and if you want to maintain progress, you need to be able to build a new one every couple of years or so.

    Many companies would also opt to remain privately owned due to much lower tax which makes them less powerful but also makes the owner able to be sued personally

    wait, what?

    (The whole idea that safety can be enforced via fear of lawsuits is one that is so comprehensively fallacious that it’s hard to know where to start. Safety is hard enough to enforce using both regulation and lawsuits, and the historical evidence is all on the side of regulation as the most effective method of improving safety.)

  • Tim

    (1) The government doesn’t threaten or commit acts of violence in response to refusal to pay taxes.

    This is where I’ll agree with my anarchist/voluntaryist friend, and say “yes, they do.” The guy(s) that shows up with guns and handcuffs is(are) most certainly threatening you with an act of violence. Failing to acknowledge that a threat of locking you up or shooting you if you resist is violence is similar to those who “believe in jesus or go to hell” is a real choice, and not a threat of violence couched in the language of free choice.

    The remainder of your point is merely to compare organized crime to the government, showing that you, too, miss the forest for the trees. Consider instead of a mafia that summarily executes you, one that comes with guns to lock you up as a warning to other non payers. Or even drop the mafia, and just ask yourself if it would be okay for a group of people in your neighborhood to vote and determine that you need to pay their mortgages. If not, they get to send guys with guns to your house and chain you up. You try to avoid this by claiming it’s not violence, but coercion, yet I don’t buy that – a direct threat of violence is violence. You don’t do what they want, they most certainly commit violence upon you.

    Moreover, you claim that:

    We have reached a level of technological development where it is possible to feed, clothe, shelter, educate and medicate essentially everyone in society.

    Ebonmuse applauds you for this, but doesn’t see the irony in the initial post’s fear that the following is true:

    Despite the dramatic slowing of the global birthrate, we have much work left to do before world population stabilizes at a sustainable level

    Essentially, your claim is one of infinite resources or significantly altered reality. If we put a limit on the birth rate, prevented the population from growing, etc it may be true that we would have such an ability. However, we do live in a world of limited resources. A claim such as “medicate essentially everyone” requires limits, because such things are necessarily limited in their benefit/cost ratio. That doesn’t make the goal unworthy, it simply means the terms must be explicit so as to avoid the utopian trap…

    A lot more I could and would write, but things are really busy here right now as we gear up for this, so I’ll end with keddaw’s paraphrase of my point that sums it up succinctly:

    we [are] forcing others, potentially against their will, to act in accordance with our values rather than their own.

  • http://avoiceinthewilderness-mcc1789.blogspot.com/ Michael

    Sorry, Tim, sorry, Michael, got you both mixed up. Profuse apologies.
    Anyway, consider my libertarian caricature an ill-considered throw-away comment not directed at anyone here, arising from prior frustration in other encounters with this line of thinking.
    And consider comment 44 to be an answer to Michael.
    Thanks.

    That’s ok Scotlyn. I did think it was directed at me, but didn’t want to presume. I will reply now.

    The last, general, “libertarian” rant was unfair to direct at you. You haven’t actually expressed that particular moan. Apologies.(There are many apologists, including Ayn Rand, though, to whom it is entirely fair).

    You are certainly right. They deserve to be called on their vulgar apologism, just as religious apologists do. I have criticized them myself for this. Objectivists are not libertarians besides-Ayn Rand was very clear on that point. They are close in certain ways, but that is true of many political ideologies. Regardless, I am no fan of Rand.

    I agree that in current fact, the government is vastly controlled by “them” not by “us”, (one of the common goods that rich people are stealing from everyone else is access to government ears) but surely that is a reason to campaign to take the control of the government, together with our common (though mis-managed) goods and assets back into our own, common, hands.

    Well, my view is that government itself as an institution was the instrument of the few over the many to begin with. The problem is the larger an organization, the more information problems exist preventing effective communication “down the pyramid” so to speak. Unlike the all-seeing eye on the dollar bill pyramid, the “eyes” become increasingly myopic. Regardless, an elite group of managers at the top is removed from the people they supposedly represent. There is a reason for the saying “power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” No exception to this that I know of exists.

    You would seem, rather, to be arguing in favour of a campaign to place our common (though mis-managed) goods and assets forever beyond our common control in private (ie already wealthy, publicly unaccountable) hands – say what? Did I read this wrong?

    The assumption is, first of all, that they are common goods. Obviously everyone requires air, water, land, etc. However, that does not automatically make water and land individuals have never seen or done anything with “common” property. Nor does it automatically make them private property. It is no less absurd to simply declare that for instance all the mineral resources of the solar system belong to humanity, than for Columbus to claim all the land he could see in the name of Their Most Catholic Majesties Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain. Until they have done something to claim it (homesteading, mining, etc.) this resource belongs to no one. Not “everyone.” And if it did belong to everyone, how could resource use ever be decided? Should there be a referendum on whether to drill in the Alaska reserve? In my opinion despoiling natural resources is actually easier when they belong to “everyone.” After all, the despoiler or despoilers are among this “everyone,” and the managers of “common” resources have incentives to allow it, despite what others they supposedly represent want. To put it simply-land no one has touched, remains no one’s land. It is not the property of everyone in the world.

    [Michael]: Arrest and imprisonment are not violence? (Whether justified in your view or not).

    That conflates violence and coercion. Violence is a specific form of coercion; it is physical force. Coercion is the direction of influence against someone’s will. Coercion can absolutely be non-violent, and often is. The most common forms of coercion in our society are economic and social, rather than the physical bashing of heads.
    Sarah had an interesting point when saying that all interactions are coercion of some sort. I wouldn’t quite go that far, since by happy coincidence or a confluence of shared factors it may be the case that the interaction was mutually desired. However, all interactions do exert an influence (usually to some degree in both directions on both parties). In that sense, it is impossible to act on or with another person without potentially changing them in some manner. One can minimize that influence by being very careful about the particular behaviors used, but I don’t think influence ever actually reaches zero.

    I believe we have a misunderstanding of what coercion is here.

    co·er·cion 
    noun
    1.
    the act of coercing; use of force or intimidation to obtain compliance.
    2.
    force or the power to use force in gaining compliance, as by a government or police force.
    http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/coercion

    So, coercion is the use of force or the threat of force. The threat is generally enough, but it must be followed through or this becomes meaningless. There seems to be a confusion of “coercion” with “pressure.” Coercion is a form of pressure, though not all pressure is in fact coercive. Sarah attempting to convince me is not coercion, but a non-violent pressure. A mugger saying “your money or your life” is coercion. There is always the threat of violence, though it may not be carried out if the subject complies. Yes, economic and social pressures do exist. Not all equal coercion however. Boycotts are not coercive, although they exert social and economic pressure. Simply refusing to deal with someone (or something) does not, by itself, require or constitute violence. Jim Crow laws, however, did require the threat of force, or the use of it assuming the threat was not enough. I agree with Sarah in that we all exert influences and pressure. My disagreement lies in calling this coercion. Unless it constitutes force and the threat thereof, there is no coercion. Moreover, I think it can be dangerous to conflate “persuading” with “forcing or threatening.” I hope this makes sense.

  • http://avoiceinthewilderness-mcc1789.blogspot.com/ Michael

    Looking back, I realize that “force” may be too vague. A counter-argument could be that force is pressure, so my definition of coercion is wrong. Let us say “physical coercion” instead, meaning physical force or the threat thereof, to clarify.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org Ebonmuse

    Or even drop the mafia, and just ask yourself if it would be okay for a group of people in your neighborhood to vote and determine that you need to pay their mortgages. If not, they get to send guys with guns to your house and chain you up. You try to avoid this by claiming it’s not violence, but coercion, yet I don’t buy that – a direct threat of violence is violence. You don’t do what they want, they most certainly commit violence upon you.

    That’s a chilling scenario, Tim – except that even in a theoretically perfect libertarian utopia, this problem would still exist. After all, even if we abolish government entirely and create a society based entirely on private and voluntary associations, it’s safe to assume that there would still be gated communities and co-ops, just as there are in the real world. These bodies can set rules binding on all their members by a majority vote – they make agreeing to this a precondition of joining them. And therefore, we’d still have the problem that a hostile majority could vote that you had to pay their rent or cut their grass, and if you refuse, they’d send men with guns to your front door! (Insert dramatic musical stinger here.)

    What’s the escape hatch for this frightening possibility? Well, if you’re living in a perfect libertarian utopia and you don’t like the way your co-op board votes, you can always move out and find somewhere else to live. But that’s exactly the same option you have in this world. You don’t like your government? Leave the country and go find another one. Would you rather not live under any government at all? Well, there’s always Somalia. Given that the choices in our world are exactly the same choices you’d have in libertarian-utopia-land, I have to say that I don’t understand the basis of your objection.

  • http://avoiceinthewilderness-mcc1789.blogspot.com/ Michael

    [Tim]

    Or even drop the mafia, and just ask yourself if it would be okay for a group of people in your neighborhood to vote and determine that you need to pay their mortgages. If not, they get to send guys with guns to your house and chain you up. You try to avoid this by claiming it’s not violence, but coercion, yet I don’t buy that – a direct threat of violence is violence. You don’t do what they want, they most certainly commit violence upon you.

    [Ebonmuse]

    That’s a chilling scenario, Tim – except that even in a theoretically perfect libertarian utopia, this problem would still exist. After all, even if we abolish government entirely and create a society based entirely on private and voluntary associations, it’s safe to assume that there would still be gated communities and co-ops, just as there are in the real world. These bodies can set rules binding on all their members by a majority vote – they make agreeing to this a precondition of joining them. And therefore, we’d still have the problem that a hostile majority could vote that you had to pay their rent or cut their grass, and if you refuse, they’d send men with guns to your front door! (Insert dramatic musical stinger here.)
    What’s the escape hatch for this frightening possibility? Well, if you’re living in a perfect libertarian utopia and you don’t like the way your co-op board votes, you can always move out and find somewhere else to live. But that’s exactly the same option you have in this world. You don’t like your government? Leave the country and go find another one. Would you rather not live under any government at all? Well, there’s always Somalia. Given that the choices in our world are exactly the same choices you’d have in libertarian-utopia-land, I have to say that I don’t understand the basis of your objection.

    The difference is that HOAs and co-ops do not automatically, by fiat, apply to everyone, rather people have to sign on as you said. Comparing leaving your co-op with leaving a government is not at all the same. If you do not want to live in a co-op or HOA, fine. You do not get that option with government. Even assuming it was that easy to simply leave your country (in some it’s illegal), “love it or leave it” is no more an answer to this than for anti-war protesters in the 1960s. Somalia is also not stateless. An official government does exist (though admittedly controlling only a section of Mogadishu) other parts are controlled by Al-Shabaab, warlords, the breakaway Somaliland, Puntland, and in the north tribal lands that might be classed as anarchy, living under Xeer, the traditional customary law. I would like to point out that despite its problems, Somalia’s standard of living has in fact risen in nearly all categories since its dictator Siad Barre fell in 1991. Moreover, for nearly all of their history there has been no central government, and they have fought to stop one being placed on them. The choices in our world are not even close to the same.

  • keddaw

    Ebonmuse #55 – who said we were abolishing all government? That’s anarchy and that is a very small section of libertarianism.

    However, you run right past the greatest advantage libertarianism has over all other forms of government and treat it like it’s a bad thing:

    … a society based [almost] entirely on private and voluntary associations, it’s safe to assume that there would still be gated communities and co-ops, just as there are in the real world. These bodies can set rules binding on all their members by a majority vote – they make agreeing to this a precondition of joining them. And therefore, we’d still have the problem that a hostile majority could vote that you had to pay their rent or cut their grass, and if you refuse, they’d send men with guns to your front door!

    Now, assuming there was a minimal government with responsibilities for the most basic of rights, then people could enter into these agreements – whole communities could be organised on communist principles while others could be cut-throat free marketeers, others education-fixated, others like the US and some like Scandanavia. This would all be possible, and free* movement between them permissible, under a libertarian state but not under any other type of government.

    Should the men with guns come to your door you can shoot them, or call for state backup, as violence is not permitted, however there would be a financial, or similar, penalty for breach of contract – the reason they came to your door in the first place. And the majority vote you fear within that community may itself represent a breach of contract – or sufficient changes to the terms – such that you are no longer beholden to it.

    * Free, as in allowed to, not necessarily financially free since you have entered into a contract and so may have to pay to break it.

  • http://www.whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    So, what happens in libertarian utopia if you own a plot of land and someone hostile to you buys all the land around you, puts up large fences with signs that say, “No tresspassing, keep out,” and effectively blocks you in so that you can’t get out of your property? If you try to fight that person, you’re using force. They are not using force by putting up fences around their property and not allowing you access. Will you go to the government for help? What will they do? Do the ends justify the means? (Can I cue Ebon’s eerie music here too?)

  • keddaw

    OMGF, if you’re stupid enough to buy a plot of land with no route out then you’re an idiot who deserves little sympathy.

    I would suggest most people, in most situations, would arrange to communally buy land that could be used as transport for all. There is also the idea that land is open for transport unless by travelling over it you are causing damage to it. This causes some people some issues (what about the large fences etc.) but usually a community can come together to some kind of compromise.

    But I am answering for other people’s views because in my own view you should not be able to own land. Land is a limited resource that cannot be placed into private ownership since what right do you have to a piece of land over the next generation? Or over your neighbour? Who is doling out ownership and whence do they claim the right to do so? Land has to be held in common ownership with semi-regular reviews about who can use it and for what purposes. But the land issue is one that would take at least a book to do any justice to.

    Incidentally, you using force is entirely different to the state using force. While both can be justified for preserving people’s rights what (most) libertarians argue against is the state using force to their own ends, or on behalf of a subset of the people where their rights are not in jeopardy.

  • http://kagerato.net kagerato

    [Tim]: This is where I’ll agree with my anarchist/voluntaryist friend, and say “yes, they do.” The guy(s) that shows up with guns and handcuffs is(are) most certainly threatening you with an act of violence. Failing to acknowledge that a threat of locking you up or shooting you if you resist is violence is similar to those who “believe in jesus or go to hell” is a real choice, and not a threat of violence couched in the language of free choice.

    The police may drag you off if you refuse to go, but that only rises to the level of force, not violence. The way this situation turns violent is if you resist arrest with an obvious attempt to inflict harm. You are not within your rights to attack anyone, including the police, even if that is the only possible means by which you could evade arrest.

    Now, the police have and do abuse their authority. That is a different matter, though, because that is also illegal. If the cops were to start pummeling you during your passive resistance, that’s assault and battery. Likewise, pulling a taser on someone who’s done essentially nothing is abuse (in a few cases, deadly abuse). However, responding to a show of force in equal proportion is not an act of aggression so much as it is self defense.

    There’s one major loophole in the self-defense laws that is unjustified, in my view. It is that the escalation of violence is often considered reasonable merely based on a threatened state of mind. My view is that this is in principle unsupportable and a recipe for transforming bad into worse. For example, there have been quite a few cases in the past where it is clear the police actually shot first (and often with deadly results). Someone drawing a gun doesn’t give you the right to shoot them no matter how threatened you feel about it, and it especially doesn’t give you the right to summarily execute them. This runs both ways, depending on which party decides to escalate. One can easily understand why this happens, but that is not justification by any means.

    [keddaw]: But I am answering for other people’s views because in my own view you should not be able to own land. Land is a limited resource that cannot be placed into private ownership since what right do you have to a piece of land over the next generation? Or over your neighbour? Who is doling out ownership and whence do they claim the right to do so? Land has to be held in common ownership with semi-regular reviews about who can use it and for what purposes.

    Communal land ownership is to the left of my own views (and to some, that may be really saying something). I admit freely, however, that there are some serious disadvantages to private ownership of land. One is that what begins in one place may have far reaching environmental effects elsewhere; oil spills and mining runoff come to mind. Another is that there are some legitimate purposes (transportation, communications, water/sewer, and other infrastructure especially) for which the public may need to use land, and if the only appropriate locations are privately owned but the owner(s) refuses to sell we will have conflict. Usually we are able to resolve problems like this by making compromises short of giving up on private land ownership, provided that people do not see it as a absolute right.

  • http://www.whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    OMGF, if you’re stupid enough to buy a plot of land with no route out then you’re an idiot who deserves little sympathy.

    With no route out? When you bought it there was plenty of routes out, but the other person bought all those routes. I mean, what routes anyway? Who owns those routes? The government or public or something? Although you attempted to evade the question, there’s still issues. Do you see the problem yet?

    I would suggest most people, in most situations, would arrange to communally buy land that could be used as transport for all.

    And if a really wealthy person surrounds that community? You can’t buy routes to everywhere.

    But I am answering for other people’s views because in my own view you should not be able to own land.

    What kind of libertarian are you anyway? I don’t have the freedom to own my own land? Who’s going to own it, the government? And, I bet they’ll have to collect taxes or something to maintain it, and they’ll have to set up some sort of governing body to figure out what to do with the land and how to maintain it, etc. etc. etc.

    Land has to be held in common ownership with semi-regular reviews about who can use it and for what purposes.

    Reviewed by whom and with what authority? And, how is that authority binding?

    While both can be justified for preserving people’s rights what (most) libertarians argue against is the state using force to their own ends, or on behalf of a subset of the people where their rights are not in jeopardy.

    Your rights are in jeopardy when you have a toothless government that can’t actually govern.

  • http://avoiceinthewilderness-mcc1789.blogspot.com/ Michael

    [Tim]:

    This is where I’ll agree with my anarchist/voluntaryist friend, and say “yes, they do.” The guy(s) that shows up with guns and handcuffs is(are) most certainly threatening you with an act of violence. Failing to acknowledge that a threat of locking you up or shooting you if you resist is violence is similar to those who “believe in jesus or go to hell” is a real choice, and not a threat of violence couched in the language of free choice.

    I’m the anarchist/voluntaryist Tim mentioned.

    [Kegarto]:

    The police may drag you off if you refuse to go, but that only rises to the level of force, not violence. The way this situation turns violent is if you resist arrest with an obvious attempt to inflict harm. You are not within your rights to attack anyone, including the police, even if that is the only possible means by which you could evade arrest.

    vi·o·lence   
    noun
    1.
    swift and intense force: the violence of a storm.
    2.
    rough or injurious physical force, action, or treatment: to die by violence.
    3.
    an unjust or unwarranted exertion of force or power, as against rights or laws: to take over a government by violence.
    4.
    a violent act or proceeding.
    5.
    rough or immoderate vehemence, as of feeling or language: the violence of his hatred.

    http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/violence

    Violence is force, specifically, physical force. Now, this does not mean use of it can never be justified, but the point is this equals violence. The root of the word “violent” is in fact “force”-
    Origin:
    1300–50; Middle English < Latin violentus, equivalent to vi-, shortening (before a vowel) of base of vīs force, violence + -olentus, variant (after a vowel) of -ulentus-ulent

    http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/violent

    The police violence is acceptable within limits in your opinion; fine, but it remains violence. Calling it “force” does not change the fact, as violence is physical force.

  • http://kagerato.net kagerato

    @Michael:

    You don’t appear to have read and understood what I wrote.

    (1) Yes, violence is force. Nothing I said contradicts that; in fact it rather strongly implies it. Force is a broader class of which violence is one subset. Claiming that I’m playing semantics when the distinction is important is pretty obtuse.

    (2) Address one of my conclusions or premises if you want a discussion.

    (3) ka-ge-ra-to :: four syllables, not very difficult, highly pronounceable. Learn.

  • http://avoiceinthewilderness-mcc1789.blogspot.com/ Michael

    @kagerato:

    Where have I misunderstood?

    (1) My point was rather that violence is physical force, as seems clear from the post I made. Not all force is violence, no-however, you were attempting to distinguish them in a case that to me did not make sense.

    (2) I was addressing the distinction made between violence and force only.

    (3) Apologies for mispelling your name. Is that forgivable?

  • http://avoiceinthewilderness-mcc1789.blogspot.com/ Michael

    To recap, your post:

    [kagerato]:

    The police may drag you off if you refuse to go, but that only rises to the level of force, not violence. The way this situation turns violent is if you resist arrest with an obvious attempt to inflict harm. You are not within your rights to attack anyone, including the police, even if that is the only possible means by which you could evade arrest.

    I then provided evidence showing this is in fact violence, justified or not. This seems fairly unambiguous.

  • Scotlyn

    And therefore, we’d still have the problem that a hostile majority could vote that you had to pay their rent or cut their grass, and if you refuse, they’d send men with guns to your front door! (Insert dramatic musical stinger here.)

    What’s the escape hatch for this frightening possibility? Well, if you’re living in a perfect libertarian utopia and you don’t like the way your co-op board votes, you can always move out and find somewhere else to live. But that’s exactly the same option you have in this world. You don’t like your government? Leave the country and go find another one.

    Ebon, have you forgotten the “escape hatch” (or at least the provision) that was already inserted into the Constitution precisely to deal with this scenario – ie the possibility that a “democratic” majority vote could injure/dictate to a small minority? That was the very precaution that led to the Bill of Rights – to set strict limits on the ability of a “hostile majority” to vote in such a way as to damage or injure anyone else’s inalienable rights.

    The “escape hatch” which I think you are “tongue in cheek” suggesting here is really not a practical solution any more, as we have pretty much used up all the world’s remaining “wild frontiers.” If we cannot live with each other, and fight to keep a system that was designed to protect the rights of all citizens (and not to maximise profits, whatever the new right thinks about the Founding Fathers’ intentions), and to defend our common good, then we have little else to hope for other than “might makes right.”

  • Scotlyn

    But I am answering for other people’s views because in my own view you should not be able to own land. Land is a limited resource that cannot be placed into private ownership since what right do you have to a piece of land over the next generation? Or over your neighbour? Who is doling out ownership and whence do they claim the right to do so? Land has to be held in common ownership with semi-regular reviews about who can use it and for what purposes. But the land issue is one that would take at least a book to do any justice to.

    Keddaw, I find this comment fascinating – I certainly wouldn’t mind skimming another page or two from that book. (Incidentally, have you ever read the Mars trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson? – Lots of food for thought on alternative economic and political systems, along with a rolicking good story!)

    I would certainly have great sympathy for this point of view. Land is among many things which I absolutely agree could usefully be “held in common ownership with semi-regular reviews about who can use it and for what purposes.”

    Individual ownership of land in Europe, incidentally, was a new-fangled concept that was introduced a few hundred years or more ago, along with Christianity, and its new kinship rules, which antagonised, and ultimately triumphed over older, clan-based communal ownership and allocation of land. (The church’s kinship rules, which in medieval times forbade divorce, adoption and fostering – among other common practices – lead to the unprecedented situation of people dying heirless, and being persuaded, by means of the new-fangled, pagan-bashing moral precepts, to deed land to the Church – perhaps in exchange for “treasure in heaven.”)

    Europeans then took this concept of individual land ownership – along with Christianity – to impose on a new world, full of people already living there, who hadn’t yet thought up such things as fences, or, worse luck for them, visas.

  • Scotlyn

    And Michael, in that last comment is my problem with the idea that “no one” owns land that isn’t being used. The European settlers certainly figured the native Americans weren’t “using” the land, not in the way that they were used to using it, and so they didn’t think too long before deciding it was there to be taken and “used”. At least allocating unclaimed items to the “commons” can prevent such appropriation – WITH THE PROVISO that, as the Founding Fathers warned “the people are educated” – and they fully realise what it is they own in common, AND, as in places like Norway, they fully practice responsible communal ownership – by things like checking up on how things are being managed, and making it hot for anyone who would be such an enemy of the common good as to mis-manage common property.

  • http://avoiceinthewilderness-mcc1789.blogspot.com/ Michael

    I hear you, Scotlyn, but “unowned” does not refer to native land use. Sure, they may not have farmed it, but the land was still used and thus owned. I am talking about land which no one is using, whether for farming, hunting and gathering, whatever. Untamed nature untouched by man, that is. I reject the notion we own the oceans, the air, or wilderness. This smacks of “thou shalt have dominion over the earth” although you do not advocate the “and subdue it” part, I know. I do think humans enter this world owning it, except whatever is earned through labor, or inherited from other human beings.

  • http://kagerato.net kagerato

    [Michael]: I then provided evidence showing this is in fact violence, justified or not. This seems fairly unambiguous.

    Quoting the dictionary to isolate a distinction that reinforces, rather than contradicts, my point does not constitute evidence.

    Your argument thus far has been “all force is violence, so there”. You can’t simply declare something and expect it to be convincing.

    Start by showing how non-violent force and violent force have the same harms. If you can’t, you’ve accepted my first premise.

  • keddaw

    Ownership is entirely the wrong word, stewardship is what I meant to say.

    Scotlyn, http://archive.libertarianatheist.com/discussion/111 shows the thought processes I was having for this subject and some very valid concerns others raised and how I attempted to minimise them.

  • http://avoiceinthewilderness-mcc1789.blogspot.com/ Michael

    @Comment#70

    [kagerato]:

    Quoting the dictionary to isolate a distinction that reinforces, rather than contradicts, my point does not constitute evidence.

    You claimed that arrest by police is not violence. I gave the definition of violence disputing this, which contradicts your point. Thus, evidence.

    Your argument thus far has been “all force is violence, so there”. You can’t simply declare something and expect it to be convincing.

    No, I have not said that. However, use of physical force is violence. If the defition is not relevant, why even have definitions? In any case, why is your simple declaration of “the police doing it is force, not violence” any more convincing an argument?

    Start by showing how non-violent force and violent force have the same harms. If you can’t, you’ve accepted my first premise.

    First I have to know what is meant by “non-violent force” and “violent force” on your part as our disagreement lies there. Correct me if I am wrong, but your first premise is this:

    The police may drag you off if you refuse to go, but that only rises to the level of force, not violence. The way this situation turns violent is if you resist arrest with an obvious attempt to inflict harm. You are not within your rights to attack anyone, including the police, even if that is the only possible means by which you could evade arrest.

    I have disputed this, for the reasons you know. As I have argued repeatedly, whether or not it is justified, this still constitutes violence.

  • http://kagerato.net kagerato

    Michael, it is once again clear that you did not understand what I wrote. To drag is not some hidden synonym of “to beat”. It means to pull along the ground, as in passive resistance. Whether the police drag you off or carry you off, it’s not causing you any physical harm.

    The situation turns violent once you start resisting arrest, by kicking/stomping/punching/biting or whatever else your inclination is.

    If you fail to justify your conflation of non-violent force and violent force again, you’re not going to get any further responses out of me.

  • http://avoiceinthewilderness-mcc1789.blogspot.com/ Michael

    Kagerato, first of all, dragging may indeed cause physical harm. I do not see that violence depends on the level of harm anyway.

    I have said repeatedly that violence=physical force. This is very simple. If we suppose a suspect resists “by kicking/stomping/punching/biting or whatever your inclination is” as you said, then yes, they are committing violence. Police overcoming such resistance with strikes from their batons, tasering, or whatever, are committing violence as well, though it may be deemed justified depending on the case.
    A suspect that simply goes limp to resist is not violent, as you said. I cannot see how this act of passive resistance could equal violence, since there is no physical force being used against someone else. The point is that overcoming a suspect’s violent resistance with action in kind is still violence. Dragging a passively resisting suspect away is violent as well, though not at the same level. You do not have to respond, of course, but hopefully this makes the distinction clear.

  • keddaw

    Kagerato, moving someone against their will by force is a definite harm and is therefore absolutely violence. Likewise, locking someone up in confinement is violence. The legitimacy of the action is not relevant in describing the action as violence.

    I am somewhat confused in your resistance to this point – I understand why you’d want to view violence in such a narrow way, but ultimately anyone interfering with someone’s person against their will in a forceful way is using violence.

  • http://kagerato.net kagerato

    Fine. Call it violence, even if it’s neither “rough” nor “injurious”. These semantic games are pure distraction to begin with.

    The view to be explained was how society will be governed without the use of force. Are we to have laws or aren’t we? If we have laws and they are not enforced, what good are they? Finally, how would the law be enforced against those who vehemently refuse to cooperate without the use of force?

    Given no laws, we move on to problems with anarchy. They include all the same infringements of rights, except that one can’t accurately predict who the oppressor will be (nor on whose authority they decide to act, or when).

  • http://avoiceinthewilderness-mcc1789.blogspot.com/ Michael

    I think it can be rough and injurious, but that isn’t the point. I contend it’s still violence.

    I never said the use of violence is wrong in all cases. Rather, I disputed your specific distinction between violence and force. Violence (physical force) would have to be used for at least some cases.

    The assumption of no laws existing in anarchy is faulty. Many societies have been without a central state yet still possessing law and protection of individual rights. I personally believe this goes together. However, that is another topic entirely.