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A Future By Halves vs. A Future of Have-Nots

Voluntaryism vs Social Democracy

Two quick polls: First, all those who enjoy belonging to a society that provides some minimal safety net for the least among us, please raise your hands… Ahh, I see some hands going up. Very good. Second, all those who occasionally enjoy being forced to do something against their will by threat of a gun, please raise your hands… Right, masochists aside I see no hands raised. Very good. The problem is, you cannot have one without the other. Thus spoke the Voluntaryists.

On Monday night I was invited by fellow Bloodhound Brian Brady to attend a debate entitled Voluntaryism/Market Anarchy vs. Democratic-Socialism held in a little hot bed of thought and cafe called Cafe Libertalia. It was an engaging evening spent listening to the point / counter-point discussion on the very legitimacy of government itself. You can gain a more detailed understanding of Voluntaryism here and of Social Democracy here. (Although if you’re a regular reader of BHB you’ve no doubt gained quite a bit of free-market, Voluntaryism philosophy from our Greek emeritus: Greg Swann.)

I must be honest in admitting that I know quite a bit less about Social Democracy philosophy than I do Voluntaryism, and the debate was of little help. The team on the Social Democracy side presented a less than cogent argument for a society wherein free markets and democracy exist in ever changing ratios, as dictated by the people themselves. When asked, the speakers could not name a single  society where this system currently exists.  When pressed, they admitted that the countries currently attempting it are abysmal failures.  But this did not dissuade them from the idea that it could exist. Their logic – such as it was – stemmed from the idea of pure democracy (one man, one vote) and concluded that the majority would decide which means of production should be left to the free markets and which to the nurturing womb of centralized government. “How can you be against that?” they asked.  “We’re not advocating government take-over; we’re saying it should be up to the whole of the people to decide government’s role in the economy.”  When asked what coercion should be applied to those in the minority who might disagree with the majority decision, they answered by questioning the meaning of coercion. I’m not sure if that’s a straw man argument or circular logic, but it leads nowhere either way.

Their crowning point was that coercion exists in a free market too, just as it does in a system of government. Example? If you don’t pay your property taxes (system of government problem), you are eventually led from your home at the point of a gun. Similarly, if you don’t pay your mortgage (free market problem) you are also eventually led from your home at the point of a gun. When the spuriousness of comparing an involuntary agreement such as taxes with a voluntary agreement such as mortgages was pointed out, this was their response: “If I were to video the outcome of both events and show them to you, you would not know which was which; therefore, they are the same in the end.” (Leave it to a theoretical physicist to conceptualize an experiment wherein the proximate cause of events can be excluded from an analysis of the outcome.) Truly embarrassing.

The Voluntaryists drove home their main argument: each of us is solely and 100% the owner of our selves. By logical extension, we are then also the owners of the fruits of our efforts. Thus: property rights – which are the core of true free market philosophy. With this I have no quarrel. If, at any point, you believe you have the right to take from me against my will then you must necessarily believe that we are not the sole and 100% owners of our selves. This leads to an obvious question: “How much of me do you believe you rightfully control?” This is not a difficult argument to win and by my estimation the Voluntaryists did so, despite some rather clunky analogies.

If you’re still with me, you might ask why I am posting on such an esoteric subject. Two reasons: first and foremost, if you are in the real estate industry you are a business owner (at least to some degree) and so this should not be esoteric to you at all. This is a subject matter that cuts to the very heart of entrepreneurial effort and reward. Again, Greg does a much better job than I at making this link clear, but clear it should be. There is a growing and manifestly important debate growing in our country, and whether the terms are used or not, that debate is over Voluntaryism vs. Social Democracy. My second reason, however, is more direct. Based on my title it should be obvious what result I foresee if we are to follow the philosophy of Social Democracy: an eventual citizenry comprised of have-nots (with the possible – probable? – exception of those elite by whom the means of production are directed). But what about the end game of the Voluntaryist philosophy?

To be more precise: even if we were to all agree that an absolute free market system is the desired outcome, is it attainable? I cannot bring to mind any society that has existed over time – on any acceptable large scale (nuns in a convent live in a very direct form of communism, but that does not prove the viability of communism on any scale) – which has not formed a government in deed if not word. In other words, if Voluntaryism is the ideal to which we aspire, is it actually attainable or is it more accurately a yard stick by which to measure progress. A progress necessarily gained by halves, but never in total?

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  • 50 comments

    50 Comments so far

    1. Mike February 25th, 2010 10:39 am

      An absolute free market system may sound great in theory, but cannot ever work. There will always be people willing to do harm for personal profit. It’s more profitable to cancel health insurance for the really expensive patients. And some of those sub-prime mortgage brokers knew they were setting people up for financial ruin, but their commission checks were more important.

      What is the free market answer to these problems?

    2. Jim Klein February 25th, 2010 10:58 am

      > What is the free market answer to these problems?

      The one you used in your post—information.

    3. Teri Lussier February 25th, 2010 12:13 pm

      >There will always be people willing to do harm for personal profit.

      Always. Regardless of what system is in place, there are people who will try to do harm to others.

      Trot out any system that has ever existed and show me which one created altruistic citizens as a by-product. Doing away with evil isn’t the issue, dealing with evil is. We can deal with evil in a multitude of ways, but locking down freedom does not do away with evil.

      Beautiful post, Sean.

    4. Mike February 25th, 2010 1:06 pm

      Who said anything about locking down freedom?!

      My whole point was that evil and greed exist, and there aren’t any realistic free market solutions that I can think of to deal with them. Therefore, I think you need laws and regulations which can only be enforced by governments.

    5. Tommy Lorden February 25th, 2010 2:30 pm

      A free market can not and will not work for a situation such as this. Like previous comments have stated it is in human nature that greed, envy, and anger exist. The real estate market could not exist in a free market. It would turn into unorganized chaos. The answer is possibly out there somewhere we just haven’t found it yet.

    6. Greg Swann February 25th, 2010 3:22 pm

      > My whole point was that evil and greed exist, and there aren’t any realistic free market solutions that I can think of to deal with them.

      Poverty. Penury. Destitution. Governments are at war with these, too.

    7. Brian Brady February 25th, 2010 3:56 pm

      “The one you used in your post—information.”

      Exactly. Reputation is the most accurate way to vet out the bad guys.

      Let me give you an example- When was the last time you had a heart operation, done by a guy that telemarketed you during dinner, saying that you should “jump on the chance to get a bypass now before prices went up”? The answer is…never because you value your health so much that you insist on getting more than one opinion.

      “My whole point was that evil and greed exist, and there aren’t any realistic free market solutions that I can think of to deal with them.”

      May I ask you to cite the free market example that couldn’t deal with these problems in a more efficient way than the State?

      (HINT: Don’t say America post-1900- it would be the wrong answer)

    8. Sean Purcell February 25th, 2010 4:14 pm

      Thank you Teri.

      Interesting side note: at the debate one of the Social Democrats tried to show how free markets actually create coercion too. “In your free market system,” he said, “you end up with someone who has lots of money because they were born lucky, or whatever.” (Exposing both his ignorance of what “luck” is and his disdain for people with money.) “If that lucky person comes upon someone who is destitute, he can use his money to coerce them into doing almost anything.” I envisioned an old western movie where the townsfolk make the town drunkard dance before giving him money. This, of course, is not coercion. The town drunk doesn’t have to dance… he doesn’t even have to be a drunk. He may have any number of problems, but coercion isn’t one of them.

      This may, however, be an example of evil. What I find truly curious is the plan offered by Social Democrats (as well as some commentators on this post) for mitigating this potential for evil found in the hearts of man: empower some of them! …I know, it makes no sense to me either.

    9. Sean Purcell February 25th, 2010 4:18 pm

      Mike,

      Please address this contradiction:

      Who said anything about locking down freedom?!

      …I think you need laws and regulations which can only be enforced by governments.

    10. Greg Swann February 25th, 2010 4:35 pm

      > empower some of them!

      It is almost always the case that governments empower the worst sorts of people — megalomaniacs and malignant narcissists. Everyone says they want Andy Taylor. Once in a while, we’re lucky enough to get Barney Fife. But the people most attracted to government are more like Hillary Clinton or Barrack Obama — power-mad maniacs with no concern whatever for whom they hurt with their policies.

    11. Teri Lussier February 25th, 2010 5:59 pm

      >My whole point was that evil and greed exist, and there aren’t any realistic free market solutions that I can think of to deal with them.

      Right. I would agree, but I don’t believe the objective of government should ever be to make better humans- how could they?
      So how do you deal with evil and greed, which we know is always going to exist? I’m not 100% sure to be honest, but I’m thinking: What if, you removed the false protections that you believe government creates? Now we have to be responsible for our own behavior as we wouldn’t have third party regulations and rules. You and I determine our own contracts. Of course, if you are evil and I’m harmed, I have outlets for restitution (is that the word I’m looking for?), depending on our contract, the degree of harm, etc. It’s not really difficult to think of a myriad of ways to resolve issues, and we don’t need a standard (government), if we both agree to the outcome, do we?

    12. Brian Brady February 25th, 2010 6:48 pm

      “What if, you removed the false protections that you believe government creates?”

      People would shop for vacuum cleaners the same way they shop for heart surgeons

    13. Sean Purcell February 25th, 2010 7:24 pm

      Of course, if you are evil and I’m harmed, I have outlets for restitution (is that the word I’m looking for?), depending on our contract, the degree of harm, etc.

      The very essence of property rights in a nutshell. I have no rights to your property, which includes your person. By the same token, you have no rights to mine. I do have a right, however, to remedy the situation if you have violated, harmed, damaged, taken or otherwise infringed on my property (including me). The most obvious would be private mediation.

    14. Greg Swann February 25th, 2010 8:04 pm

      > I do have a right, however, to remedy the situation if you have violated, harmed, damaged, taken or otherwise infringed on my property (including me).

      You do? How? You have certain powers and capabilities, but to describe these as “rights” seems to me to invoke the supernatural. How much do your rights weigh?

      Looked at another way, you have a valid claim to your person and your property. But when you perceive yourself to have been violated, your presumed violator somehow lacks those exact same claims, at least temporarily. How can two identical specimens not have identical characteristics?

      Please understand, I do believe that, for a polity to be successful, almost everyone would have to have concluded that resolving disputes peacefully is overwhelmingly to be preferred. But such a consensus is simply the repeated expression of the capacity to act among many individuals. Each one of them has that capacity in isolation, and living among other people does not add to or subtact from the natural capabilities of any individual.

      But the interesting problem, in political philosophy, is the person who does not share your conclusions about peaceful dispute resolution — or at least affects not to. What “rights” do you have to coerce that person, to invade his property and to compel his person?

      My answer would be none — which is why I am the most radical libertarian you will ever meet. I don’t think a just polity can ever be built by deploying ideas like systemic coercion or allegedly-sanctioned involuntary social contract. The implication is that any just polity must be completely unilateral and non-coercive in its dispute-resolution systems. This is doable, but it is really, really unsatisfying to people who conflate justice with vengeance, retribution, deterrence or comeuppance.

      If you stub your toe, you don’t have a “right” not to experience pain, and if someone violates your person or property, you do not have a “right” to have your previous condition restored. You can take an aspirin for the pain, and you can try to restore your previous condition by peaceful means. But you do not ever have a “right” to another person’s life, time, labor or property, no matter how badly that person might have behaved. We are never slaves, no matter what.

      If you start there and ask how you can create a workable polity without ever trying to coerce your neighbors, you will arrive at a map to civilization — a country humanity has never yet discovered.

      How can this be made to work? Very simple: Do not cooperate — trade — with anyone who has not subscribed to your explicit compact of cooperation in every particular. Stop trading with anyone who violates that compact of cooperation until they make good any injuries they have been judged to have caused. In an actual civilization, people who have behaved badly would either change their ways or starve to death. That is justice.

      How extensive is your compact of cooperation? Very brief, I should think. If we’re only going to cooperate to the extent that every member of the polity is willing to consent in every particular, the list of particulars would have to be very, very short. And that — keeping your nose out of your neighbor’s business and your neighbor keeping his nose out of yours — is justice.

    15. Sean Purcell February 25th, 2010 8:45 pm

      Greg,

      If I have the right to myself and my property, does it not follow that I have the right to preserve myself and my property from violation by another? (I imagine, by the way, that my right to preserve my property weighs roughly the same as my right to own myself and my property.)

      1) You have walked up to me and, for no apparent reason, begun to punch me in the face. I have a right to my face as part of my property; by extension, I have a right to stop you from damaging my face, including the use of violence.

      2) I own the use of that part of a river running through my property, which I have homesteaded as a product of my labor. I feed my family with the fish I catch out of that river. It is the only method I have to feed my family. You dam the river upstream, on a part of the river whose use you own. You have every right to build a dam on your property – a simple exchange of labor for property. But you do not have the right to damage my property which, in this case, is my use of the river running through my property.

      I agree with you that civil polity prefers private forms of mediation. I also agree that I can not coerce anyone to use such mediation. But waiting for you to starve to death harms my property rights egregiously. How can I have any right to myself if I do not also have the right to preserve myself.

    16. bs February 25th, 2010 9:19 pm

      Voluntaryism vs Social Democracy

      10,000 years from now what will we be? I’d guess we will either be extinct or have a peaceful voluntaryist/stateless/libertarian society.

    17. Greg Swann February 25th, 2010 11:25 pm

      > does it not follow that I have the right to preserve myself and my property from violation by another?

      You bet. To the fullest extent of your ability and any way you choose. This has nothing to do with other people. It is true of every living organism, and the capacity to act in self-defense applies just as much to your response to rockslides and feral cats as it does to other people. But: What you can do with other people is a thing apart from what you should do.

      Moreover, this is a less than useful distinction, since you also have the capacity to offend other people. You have the natural capacity to attempt to dominate other people, to the extent of your ability. To call either of these capacities “rights” confuses more than it clarifies the issues at hand.

      Consider: If you lived in isolation, you could defend yourself from all perils, and you could dominate any other organisms in your surroundings — both of these to the extent of your ability.

      If you were joined by Teri, you could attempt to dominate her, or she you, but either before or after damaging each other, you could conclude that cooperating in peace better serves both of your interests. (This is a bright-line distinction: You cannot reach this kind of consensus with any other type of entity.)

      When I arrive on the scene, I can join your polity on the established terms, I can appeal for other terms, or I can try to dominate one or both of you or one or both of you can try to dominate me. This is all a matter of natural, in-born capacity — ontology.

      But politics is the science of ethics in a social context: What should I do to assure my own greatest attainable state of flourishing, according to my own standards of value?

      I can try to dominate you, but to do so I would have to deny our obvious equality as things, an act of mental self-destruction.

      Moreover, you can defend yourself against my predations, with your response being entirely unbounded by abstract limitations — and I might find it hard to flourish if I were dead.

      Moreover, Teri can conclude (correctly) that I represent a threat to her peace, and she may elect on her own to introduce me to her Peacemaker — another fatal mistake on my part.

      But look at it the other way: If I kick up a rock with my lawnmower and put out the windshield on your car, you can respond in three ways:

      1. You can treat the event like a minor rockslide and do nothing.

      2. You can negotiate with me or pursue me for damages in a free-market court. (Never forget, almost everything you think of as being normal is an artifact of statism.)

      3. You can storm my house with an AR-15 and stalk out with my wallet.

      Why should you not do number 3?

      As above, you would have to pretend that I am as a dog to you, an organism you have not just the capacity but the moral authority to dominate — an act of mental self-destruction.

      Or: I could defend myself from you, with my defense being whatever I might choose — and may you rest in peace, since you couldn’t learn to live that way.

      Or, again, Teri could decide that the threat you pose to her life is more serious than even a lawnmower accident. And I’ll bet she’s a good shot, too.

      You don’t have a “right” to self-defense. You have the capacity to act in self-defense, but every action that might be possible to you is not necessarily fruitful or productive in a social context. In particular, Teri is not likely to agree to any response on your part that might seem to her to be a greater peril to her own peaceful enjoyment of her life than whatever injury you might have suffered — or that she herself might suffer in the future.

      A mutually-consensual polity will be non-coercive as a matter of necessity. While you might be all in favor of breaking into my house in pursuit of what you believe to be your just compensation, you would never consent to anyone doing that to you — nor would Teri so consent. Systemic coercion is wrong as ontology and as ethics, but it also impractical in a civilization where no one claims dominance over anyone but himself.

      > You have walked up to me and, for no apparent reason, begun to punch me in the face.

      This concerns a response to injury in real time, as against after the fact. It’s a distinct issue, but the principles are the same. We can take this up again later, if you like.

      You should note that much of the when time you use the word “right,” you are making reference to a highly detailed contract of conduct that is not in evidence. That’s just a takeaway, something to think about: When did the other party agree to permit you to abuse him? Two wrongs make a right? Tu quoque? You should also think about how the word “right” connects to ideas of cosmic justice — the way things should work out, dammit! — possibly originating in religion. If you substitute the word “capacity” for “right,” you will see that half of your claims about “rights” are obvious statements of ontological fact, and the other half are entirely imaginary claims that other people have given you their consent to abuse them when they clearly have not. Half of the gametes that grow up to be tyranny start with those kinds of imaginary claims. The other half? The voluntary — if resentful — (tacit, unexplicated) consent of the victims.

      So: Like this:

      > I have a right to stop [an assailant] from damaging my face, including the use of violence.

      Capacity. Obvious. But what you can do is not the same as what you should do, as above. Moreover, if you cause incidental damage to uninvolved third parties, I would find against you. If you don’t see why, you can’t live anywhere near me: My goal is my flourishing, and your willingness to brawl suggests that you might be a greater peril to me, going forward, than your assailant. Are you thinking cosmically about the way things should work out, dammit! If so, I don’t want anything to do with you. Why? Because you’re insane, and insane people eventually undertake slaughter by the millions.

      > But you do not have the right to damage my property which, in this case, is my use of the river running through my property.

      Imaginary claim. I consented to this when? How? Produce the document. The water on my land is obviously mine in its entirety — while it on my land and so long as I can successfully capture, store and defend it. I can do with it as I choose — capacity — and your responses are the same three I named above:

      1. Do nothing.

      2. Negotiate.

      3. Try to dominate me.

      > How can I have any right to myself if I do not also have the right to preserve myself.

      Everything you might claim as being yours you possess to this precise extent: To the extent you can defend it. You can call this a matter of “right” — where right is not a political term but simply a cipher for some imaginary idea of cosmic justice. But once I have taken your land or your money or your life, your “right” might extend on to infinity, like a Euclidean line, but your possession of those values has been terminated. Moreover, it would be false to claim that I have ever consented to leave you in possession of your land, money and life if I have not so consented, by explicit contract. The artifacts of your imagination can be elaborate, beautiful, even noble — but they do not cause my consent, nor prevent my predation, nor restore your losses, nor matter in the smallest way to any sort of imaginary cosmic umpire. Yes, in damaging you I will have damaged myself, which I ought not do, and I will be imperiling my own life in the short run and thriving less well in the long run than I otherwise might. But as a matter of ontology, a “right” apart from an explicit contract is a meaningless term. You can either defend your life and property or you cannot. Your “right” to life may persist after your demise — but you won’t.

      Better than trying to dominate other people — either by force or with religious appeals to imaginary “rights” — is to figure out how to cooperate with them. Any agreement you can work out is fine, but I would find it very hard to believe that uncoerced volunteers would agree to systemic after-the-fact coercion. Not only is it an immediate peril to one’s own peaceful enjoyment of life, we know where that kind of thinking always ends up.

      (As an aside, I salute you for voyaging here with me. This is not easy stuff.)

    18. Sean Purcell February 26th, 2010 1:25 am

      Now that is a comment requiring multiple readings. I can not do it justice tonight (maybe ever), but tomorrow I will try. A most enjoyable voyage Greg…

    19. Teri Lussier February 26th, 2010 6:22 am

      Greg-
      Stunning. I’m like Sean, need time to digest.

      Sean-
      >To be more precise: even if we were to all agree that an absolute free market system is the desired outcome, is it attainable?

      I’ve been thinking about this stuff for 30+ years. I still don’t have an answer to that. I’ve never seen an answer to that. I’m not sure anyone has an answer to that, but I do believe, like Jim Klein said, information helps. Having this conversation, gently showing a different way, acting as if you are already there, not asking permission to be there, choosing to reject enslaving yourself whenever you can; just giving information through the way we live can help shed that “light of understanding”.

      These conversations tend to get shrill and angry and always end up with dominance as a key issue. I’d love to find a more gentle, feminine?, motherly?, way to talk about this. I don’t want to create a tangent here because what I’m thinking is about attaining this goal and is it possible? I’m thinking that women have such a powerful voice in our attitudes to freedom- the hand that rocks the cradle, you know? I haven’t figured this out yet- how to inform women that their kids really could grow up to be anything they wanted, that they don’t have to enslave themselves. I’m babbling… I guess what I’m saying is that I don’t know if you can get there without motherhood behind it.

    20. Mike February 26th, 2010 10:19 am

      >Mike,
      >
      >Please address this contradiction:
      >
      >Who said anything about locking down freedom?!
      >
      >…I think you need laws and regulations which can only be
      >enforced by governments.

      Sean,

      It’s only a contradiction if you equate anything short of 100% absolute freedom with “locking down freedom”. If the law says I can’t drink and drive 120mph on the freeway, it’s a bit dramatic to say my freedom is being taken away.

    21. Brian Brady February 26th, 2010 12:06 pm

      “If the law says I can’t drink and drive 120mph on the freeway, it’s a bit dramatic to say my freedom is being taken away.”

      I can think of a bunch of ways to take this but I’ll try three:

      1- Maybe you’re a good, drunken speed driver. Until you harm someone, you’ve committed no real offense. I can think of a half-dozen, more risky “legal behaviors”, that result in more offenses.

      2- The penalties associated with risky behavior, that harm others, may not be severe ENOUGH in a Statist society. Try an offense like that in an Amish community and you just may be shunned.

      3- All the more reason to get the State out of the highway business; the performance has been atrocious. Some 40,000 people are killed each year. A voluntaryist would assert that people with real liability (private property owner) would be better stewards of the roads than Government.

    22. Teri Lussier February 26th, 2010 12:11 pm

      >If the law says I can’t drink and drive 120mph on the freeway, it’s a bit dramatic to say my freedom is being taken away.

      That’s not dramatic at all, it’s just a statement of fact.
      You can say that law is for the good of all, and that might be true, but you have given away a little bit of your freedom by agreeing that it’s a good thing.

      I would hope that the goal is to rise to the place where people voluntarily choose to do good because it’s good to do, rather than have it chosen for them. That seems a truly worthwhile goal as humans.

    23. Jim Klein February 26th, 2010 12:49 pm

      As soon as I saw Sean’s comment about remedy, I saw this coming! I wondered if I should be a catalyst but I figured that if Greg wished to share, he would. I’ve been studying this stuff all my life (in my own way) and here’s my take.

      You’ve heard of Crick & Watson? Well, meet Greg Swann. You see, he /discovered/ something critically important. He may deny that he discovered it and quote some various Greeks in demonstration, but that’s like denying that Henry Ford brought the automobile to the world. The discoverer of something is he who brings it to the world, not the first who had the idea.

      Common sense tells us there /must/ be a faulty premise somewhere in our ethical thinking, as it relates to social interaction. Otherwise, how could it be that the USA, with the finest set of codified principles ever devised, and the most gung-ho population ever, possibly finds itself in the situation it presently is, and has been for a very long while now? And the same is true of all other super-civilized societies, from Rome at the time, to Germany in its time. The list goes on and on—no matter how decent the intent, no matter how careful the implementation, every society always ends up going down that dark road of collectivism and statism. There are simply no exceptions. So for myself, I always wondered…so what in the world is the problem? /Why/ is this so inevitable if, as is so obviously true, nearly everyone is just a decent, hard-working person who wants to be happy and enjoy life with those they love? Sure, there are always bad apples, but that’s like saying we can’t breathe because there are some gnats in the air. The bad apples don’t cause this problem; the /good/ apples do, and always with some sincere basis of “seeking to do what’s right” or something like that.

      Well, your colleague Greg Swann is the man who discovered the faulty premise. It’s all so incredibly simple that it’s hard to believe an entire species could be so fooled for so long. Indeed, it turns out that it’s the simplest of fallacies that we learn even before we know what a fallacy is. We learn it in the schoolyard, usually by the age of 7, which makes it even more incredulous that thousands of years of such profound thought on the matter, could possibly let this fallacy slip by.

      It is as Greg says it is—the fallacy of Tu Quoque. Good Apples don’t become Better Apples by following Bad Apples. It may take years to understand, but it really is quite that simple.

      The goal is not absence of Hurt; the goal is presence of Splendor. Achieve Splendor and the Hurt will disappear. Justice is not acting like the bad guy acted; it’s acting like the good guy acts. Reality and the nature of being human takes care of all the “punishment” that’s necessary. So it’s in that spirit that I offer this Justice—Crick & Watson were important, but they didn’t have anything over Greg Swann!

      “Further Deponent Sayeth Not.”

    24. Greg Swann February 26th, 2010 2:28 pm

      > As soon as I saw Sean’s comment about remedy, I saw this coming!

      I had a little nod to you in my response last night, but I cut it. I’m very proud to have you around to see this.

      Inlookers: Jim Klein is one of the smartest people I’ve ever had the thrill of debating with. He is rigorous and tenacious in his discourse, but sweet and even-tempered in his behavior. Truly a model Greek in the Agora of the nets.

    25. Mike February 26th, 2010 3:03 pm

      Brian and Teri,

      The fact that I can’t get drunk and weave through traffic at high speeds doesn’t take away any of my *real* freedoms – at least in my opinion. And the likelihood that I will kill or injure an innocent person while having my fun more than justifies this law – again just my opinion.

      But technically, you are both correct. Every law does take away some freedom.

      Maybe you’re a good, drunken speed driver. Until you harm someone, you’ve committed no real offense.

      By the same logic, if I fire my gun into the air every night, I haven’t committed a real offense until my bullets actually hit someone. Are you just speaking philosophically, or would you actually advocate legalizing these things?

    26. Teri Lussier February 26th, 2010 3:26 pm

      >would you actually advocate legalizing these things?

      Not tomorrow. ;-)

      My brain still hurts from reading Greg and Jim, but, I’ll make an attempt- I don’t think that legalization is the right question.

      I don’t believe it’s about legalizing things, because if you are thinking in terms of legal and not legal, you are missing the point? It’s outside of what you are conditioned to think? It’s more about… I can’t express this well… retraining? unlearning?

      Meh. I’m out of my league… I’ll leave it to the big thinkers…

    27. Greg Swann February 26th, 2010 3:26 pm

      > By the same logic, if I fire my gun into the air every night, I haven’t committed a real offense until my bullets actually hit someone.

      There is a colorable noise complaint, plus the possibility of property damage, but let’s ignore all that. Can you please tell me the names of the parties who were injured by your — I agree — irresponsible behavior?

      FWIW, I would almost certainly choose to shun you, should you elect to behave this way. But you have not injured anyone.

      I’ll give you a lens for understanding this, if you want: Almost all laws address offenses that are malum prohibitum — wrong because forbidden by law. The speed limit was changed, so what was wrong last week is not wrong this week. When you violate a law like this, there is no actual injured party. The state pretends to be injured for the sake of punishing you.

      The laws that we all can agree are useful concern events that are malum in se — wrong in itself. We don’t need legislation against rape. There is no one who would argue that rape is good. Tort law — ideally adjudicated in free-market courts — is more than adequate for addressing actual injuries to real people.

      > Every law does take away some freedom.

      The principles undergirding malum prohibitum legislation are a complete abrogation of your liberty. You are either sovereign or you are not. If the state can punish you for conduct that does not injure anyone, it can — and eventually will — punish you for just about anything.

    28. Mike February 26th, 2010 5:19 pm

      Can you please tell me the names of the parties who were injured by your — I agree — irresponsible behavior?

      Probably not. And they would probably never find me, either. That’s the problem. We know my behavior is irresponsible and dangerous, but it’s very hard to prove I’ve actually harmed anyone. (I don’t think Marquel Peters’ killer has been found.)

      Tort law — ideally adjudicated in free-market courts — is more than adequate for addressing actual injuries to real people.

      Only if you can find the shooter. I assume under this system, the victim would have to hire a private investigator?

    29. Greg Swann February 26th, 2010 5:43 pm

      > Only if you can find the shooter.

      What distinction are you making? Do the cops find bad guys by divination?

      > I assume under this system, the victim would have to hire a private investigator?

      When you accidentally drop your ice cream down the sewer, should I have to pay for the replacement scoop?

      It’s actually fun to listen to the ghouls in Washington talking about pre-existing conditions for health insurance. The claim is that it is so unfair that you should have to bear your own burdens that my child should not be able to go to a good university, so that I can be penalized for your misfortune.

      There is no justice in Rotarian Socialism, not ever.

    30. Brian Brady February 26th, 2010 10:46 pm

      Mike,

      Why may I speed at the Bondurant School of High Performance Driving but not on Interstate 10, which abuts that school? What gives Bob Bondurant the right to allow drivers to exceed the state speed limit?

    31. Sean Purcell February 27th, 2010 12:18 am

      Interesting Greg. Very interesting. This voyage is quite similar to a Slip-n-Slide. Each time I believe I have found my footing I begin to write… and slide further down the path.

      In reading and rereading your comments, I began to see the issue as one of whether or not right to ownership is absolute or not. If we agree to abide by arbitration, we are in fact ceding some of our right to ownership – or so it would seem. This is, however, an act of volition and there’s nothing that says I can’t voluntarily cede some of my rights. This is not enslavement just as agreeing to be an indentured servant was not enslavement. Purely free market bartering. Only in your case, the free market of arbitration leads to an interesting dilemma. We have agreed that our right to ownership is not absolute, it can be ceded voluntarily. But if someone were to disagree with the arbitrator’s findings and refuse to cede their right of ownership over some aspect of their property – even though they originally agreed to this – we must now grant them absolute ownership and declare that our only option is to shun them. That’s a strange system in which those who agree to arbitration, but then break that agreement,are rewarded with a higher level of rights. (Stipulated that in trade they now live a life of isolation.)

      On the other hand, the very idea of a person punching me in the face pre-supposes that we have not all agreed to act toward our own flourishing. Or to put it another way, the system of workable polity that I understand from you does not provide for a person punching me in the nose because that activity has been precluded by original agreement. That seems circular to me until I realize that the person who chooses to betray their word has made the leap from rights of ownership that may be ceded to rights of ownership that are absolute. This seems to create an incentive against flourishing. It might even be seen to reward behavior which must be shunned, leading to a world of individuals living in isolation.

      But then I realize that a world of individuals living in isolation is exactly where you lead. The idea that my right to something may extend beyond my actual ownership of it is an unsettling one. (No doubt due to the fact that it’s fighting against 45 years of education in enslavement.)

      I’m not disagreeing with you. At least I don’t believe I am. If I take from my neighbor, I now have the right of ownership over that property. My neighbor also maintains his right of ownership, albeit without that actual ownership. What my neighbor does not have, never had and did not gain even in the face of my destruction of the use of his property, is any claim against my right to ownership… even of that property which he still has an absolute, Euclidean-straight line right to own.

      The result of one person violating another’s right of ownership is isolation. There can be no other result; not even forgiveness. To forgive would be to say that my right of ownership is not absolute. I can cede it through forgiveness just as I can cede it through membership in a mediation group.

      So here’s my question: Once again you, Teri and I are on this deserted island. (Apologies to Teri for being thrust onto this island. I’m guessing that in a world not theoretical, Teri’s actual reaction would not be a contemplation of flourishing or even rights of ownership, but rather a cursing of her damned luck for being washed ashore with the two of us rather than peacefully drowned in the middle of the ocean.) If our right of ownership is absolute, we will eventually all live apart: a social system based on being non-social. Why? Because there are only three options:
      1. I decide that Teri has something of benefit to me. Knowing that her ownership may be absolute, but not her possession, I act. She must now either shun me or attempt to reacquire the use of her property now in my possession. Since my right is also absolute, her attempts require that I shun her. Either way, we live in isolation.

      2. No one takes property from anyone, but the knowledge that it can be done and, more importantly, I must allow it to happen without defense or settlement, causes us to live in isolation. Otherwise, I risk enslaving myself by destroying my belief that even you – the potential thief, has an absolute right to the ownership of that which you possess.
      3. No one takes or contemplates taking. No one destroys or contemplates destroying another’s right to ownership because they see it for what it is: their own enslavement. So, everyone lives on that island happily ever after.

      Of those three scenarios two end in isolation and one tells a story of human beings not in keeping with mankind.

      More succinctly, how do we reconcile the right to ownership that can be ceded, with the absolute right to ownership of those who choose not to agree, with the stated desire to live in a social setting rather than individual isolation?

    32. Greg Swann February 27th, 2010 8:41 am

      Urf.

      Stop using the word “rights.” Just stop it. Again and again you assert imaginary claims based on an imaginary contracts, then lament that they’re not binding on anyone. This is an error. A great and noble and ancient error, but still an error. Everything you are lamenting as being wrong is nevertheless indisputably true as ontology. If you insist that what cannot be otherwise — ontological fact — somehow must be otherwise — per your imaginary claims — you’re headed for insanity, tyranny or both.

      It’s Saturday and I’m showing. I’ll come back to this later. This much for now:

      1. You do not ever control other peoples’ purposive behavior. You can coerce their bodies or extinguish their lives, but you cannot ever cause another person to take any sort of purposive action. Never.

      2. You control your own purposive behavior exclusively. No one else can cause you to take any sort of purposive action. Not ever.

      Until now, political philosophy has consisted almost entirely of trying to contravene proposition number one — which cannot be done — all while busily ignoring proposition number two in its entirety.

      You want what you can’t have, but you don’t want what you can’t avoid having. This is why human civilizations have always been some flavor of insane tyranny. ;)

      Again: When you use the word “right” to mean something other than a completely obvious ontological fact, you are using it to mean this: An abstract precept of human behavior concocted by you in your imagination that you think ought to be binding on other peoples’ behavior. You can declare any number of such “rights” and all of them will be equally ineffective among anyone who does not already share your delusions in detail. You do not ever control other peoples’ purposive behavior. You should stop trying to do so.

      Civilization begins when we take responsibility for our own behavior — when we acknowledge that we cannot control other peoples’ behavior but that we control our own behavior, each of us as individuals, entirely.

    33. Sean Purcell February 27th, 2010 2:59 pm

      1. You do not ever control other peoples’ purposive behavior. You can coerce their bodies or extinguish their lives, but you cannot ever cause another person to take any sort of purposive action. Never.

      2. You control your own purposive behavior exclusively. No one else can cause you to take any sort of purposive action. Not ever.

      We are 100% agreed.

      Beyond that, my entire previous comment was an exploration of the rights you enumerated… on the island with Teri. I’m not sure where I’m introducing anything new.

      Let me make this simpler by listing the assumptions I am making, so that you can point out the false ones:

      1. Coercion exists now in many forms, but especially as a systemized form of government.

      2. Slavery exists now and especially as a voluntary act, ignorant of what freedom is.

      3. The objective is a day where man might live together with absolute ownership of themselves. This would obviate coercion in its entirety.

      4. That day will exist only when all of man self-realizes the benefit to themselves of their own ownership.

      5. Along the way to this day, those who already share this realization can approximate Goal #3 by agreement.

      6. If a party to the agreement is perceived to have broken the agreement, the most severe remedy would necessarily be to shun that party.

      I’ll leave it here, and delay my questions till you’ve commented on my assumptions and created a common ground.

    34. Greg Swann February 27th, 2010 4:50 pm

      > The objective is a day where man might live together with absolute ownership of themselves.

      That’s more than I need. I want to live in peace with my neighbors, pursuing my own values without interference. I don’t need much more than that from them.

      > This would obviate coercion in its entirety.

      Never. Put it out of your mind. What I’m talking about is a polity where there is no systemic after-the-fact coercion.

      > If a party to the agreement is perceived to have broken the agreement, the most severe remedy would necessarily be to shun that party.

      First, I don’t think you understand how comprehensive a boycott of a truly bad person would be. That much is my fault, since I haven’t talked about it in detail here. But second, I still think you have the idea that abstractions constrain behavior. They don’t.

      What should I do about a negligent neighbor who causes me injury? I should seek to have my previous condition restored in a way that does not cause me to do self-inflicted damage to my own ego. Ideally, I should work in such a way that we both emerge from our dispute as better people. That’s Splendor as Jim discussed it.

      What should Teri and I do if we decide that you are too much of a predator to be indulged? We should stop trading with you entirely — which means you would have no access to rights of way, to the trading medium, to the open marketplace in any way. We will wait patiently for you to reform your behavior, run away from our environs or starve to death — figure four days, tops, either way.

      What should Teri and I do if we decide that your continued existence presents a clear and present danger to our own survival? One or both of us should put a bullet between your eyes and then deal with the ensuing consequences after the fact.

      This is by now about deontology, ethics in pursuit of specific objectives. Teri and I are willing to live and trade in peace with anyone else who is willing to live and trade in peace with us. If you err, you need to make good the injury you have caused. If you err habitually or with malicious intent, we may have to refuse to associate with you, at least until you resolve to do better. If you are a genuine sick bastard, one or both us may elect to escort you into the next life, since you are so ill-suited to this one.

      My participation in any voluntary social arrangement is about nothing but my own pursuit of my own values. It’s not about some abstract ideal of justice, and it is most especially not about my sacrificing my own values in pursuit of some abstract ideal of justice.

    35. Greg Swann February 27th, 2010 5:44 pm

      > The idea that my right to something may extend beyond my actual ownership of it is an unsettling one.

      I don’t believe this. I was making fun of the idea of “rights.” A Euclidean line is not real, strictly abstract. So, too, “rights.” You either possess a value — by your continuous successful defense of it — or you do not.

      > If I take from my neighbor, I now have the right of ownership over that property.

      You have possession of it.

      > My neighbor also maintains his right of ownership, albeit without that actual ownership.

      Means nothing. What your neighbor has is a colorable claim to have his previous condition restored. If you borrowed his mitre-box saw and forgot to bring it back, there is no problem. If you swiped his Rolex and sold it, the other members of the polity would probably choose to join your neighbor in his boycott of you, since you represent a peril to them, as well.

      > What my neighbor does not have, never had and did not gain even in the face of my destruction of the use of his property, is any claim against my right to ownership… even of that property which he still has an absolute, Euclidean-straight line right to own.

      This doesn’t mean anything in reality. You need to stop thinking this way. This is what the Greeks called the noumenal realm, an imaginary place where entities and events correspond perfectly to abstract models. Thinking that way can be useful for understanding reality in a kind of masturbatory, academic way, but the noumenal map is not the phenomenological territory. Where the territory deviates from the map, it’s the map that is wrong.

      > She must now either shun me or attempt to reacquire the use of her property now in my possession.

      I’m thinking she should smoke you. Maybe I’ll do it first.

      > I must allow it to happen without defense or settlement

      There is no must. Human behavior cannot be “musted.” The topic of discussion, for successfully living in peace among other people, is should: What should you do to assure your best potential for flourishing in peace and plenty? In the circumstances you keep bringing up — assuredly 99+% alien from your actual experience of everyday human life — you make an excellent case that the only good Sean Purcell is a dead Sean Purcell. If it seems likely to me that the only way I can best assure my own optimal potential for flourishing in peace and plenty is to exterminate you, then this is what I should so. Same for cockroaches and termites, by the way.

      I keep bringing things back to real life, because this is the actual kind of dispute likely to arise among middle-class neighbors: I inadvertently broke your windshield. You forgot to return my mitre-box saw. If you live to adulthood in a free and well-armed society and still manage to act like a jackass, I’m taking you to Vegas. You’re lucky beyond all comprehension.

      > More succinctly, how do we reconcile the right to ownership that can be ceded, with the absolute right to ownership of those who choose not to agree, with the stated desire to live in a social setting rather than individual isolation?

      I can’t parse that question. What we are talking about is a polity where virtually everyone understands that predation makes one’s own life solitary, nasty, mean, brutish and short. All you want to talk about are bad guys, but genuinely bad people will not survive where their would-be victims are not legally and psychologically disarmed. Actual bad people will die young. We don’t need a dispute resolution system for actual bad people. We just need bullets. We need a dispute resolution system for addressing conflicts among people who do not seek, desire or hope to profit from conflict.

    36. Teri Lussier February 27th, 2010 6:56 pm

      >My participation in any voluntary social arrangement is about nothing but my own pursuit of my own values. It’s not about some abstract ideal of justice, and it is most especially not about my sacrificing my own values in pursuit of some abstract ideal of justice.

      That’s it. That’s lovely. Thank you, Greg.

      Sean, that’s what I’m thinking we are here for. I can’t really think of any other reason for being alive. I’ve given this a lot of thought. I mean, okay, probably not as much thought or well thought as others, but in my own way, I’ve wondered about the meaning of life. I’d never think of it as a Splendor Quest, but this is my idea of being your highest self, that’s the only reason to be alive.

      But Sean, your question, again, is this attainable? How do you get from here to there? I’ve always thought that I can only live my life, raise my kids best I can, towards that goal. But now I’m pondering: Can you move society there? And why hasn’t it been done? It ain’t brain surgery.

    37. Sean Purcell February 27th, 2010 7:46 pm

      Greg, you’re last two comments have, for me, taken this from academically interesting to damn interesting.

      You are right of course, I have not grounded my points in the world I know, because it seemed to me the world you are describing required me to place myself in a “noumenal” realm. (I have never heard of that before – love it.) In your idealized community (neighborhood?), we seem to enjoy the company of people who have divested themselves of all the basest human urges: jealousy, envy, avarice and so on. BUT, as you continue I see the light. This is not a utopia of impossible standards, this is not even a place of rights. As you asked, we must stop using that term. (As an aside, I would ask you in the same way to stop using “justice.” I have no interest in justice as a concept or an outcome and I am not espousing it here.) I wish merely to enjoy what I own without interference from others. This ongoing thread began with the notion that someone DID interfere with my use and enjoyment of my property. This is not justice I seek, but much simpler: I seek the use and enjoyment of my property without the interference of others!

      Since I am using the word “rights” here again (this far and no further), I understand your ultimate libertarianism possesses no rights. You are right, this is far, far down the path. Property rights (at the core of Voluntaryism) do in fact imply a “right.” You seem to be suggesting that there is only “possession,” and a claim should one be dispossessed. But never a “right” to the other person’s possessions, even if said possessions were just a moment ago mine. Nor do we have any right to another person’s life, although we do retain the capacity for self-defense. Ok, I think I’m getting this. But then I understand that you and Teri may decide my presence is disconcerting and shuffle off my mortal coil. Doesn’t all of this start to sound a lot like “might makes right”?

      You recognize that I’ve made the case the only good Sean Purcell is a dead Sean Purcell. More importantly, if you agree with me then you will off me. You and Teri may decide you should put a bullet between (my) eyes and then deal with the ensuing consequences after the fact. Again, I suggest that this utopia looks a lot like “might makes right.” And I have come to believe, in the end, that you would agree. The reason “might makes right” is supposed to be pejorative is based on an underlying ideology of some just and cosmic “right”. But the truth is, there is no right. There is only my desire to pursue my values free of yours. I may choose to live among others and share or I may not. My presence among others will be tolerated or shunned as each sees fit… in alignment with their own pursuit of their own values. Am I getting this?

    38. Sean Purcell February 27th, 2010 8:09 pm

      Sean, that’s what I’m thinking we are here for. I can’t really think of any other reason for being alive.

      Teri, that is probably the most asked and pondered question in the history of man. “Why am I here?”

      I agree that it’s an important question, though I find the “need” to ask it a basic biological impetus and not indicative of man’s “advance philosophical and intellectual development” as is so often assumed. The great leap forward for man is also his great downfall. Man’s great sin is Temporal Awareness . At some point in our evolution we developed a fore brain and with it came temporal awareness – the conscious understanding of time as a straight line with a “before,” a “present” and a “future.” This serves us well in many areas and was probably a key aspect of our early survival. But it comes with many thorns. Temporal awareness leads to dichotomy, which the Zen Buddhists hold as the reason we are not at peace. To achieve satori is to reach the enlightenment of being “one” with everything, a place where there is no time but the present. Temporal awareness causes us to regret and to worry. Both of those emotions deriving from something that does not exist: the past and the future. Another thorn – and the reason I began bloviating – is an awareness of finality – our own end. This is not acceptable to any life form. All living organisms have an innate will to live: “life will out.” Once brought into existence, the first and foremost driving force is to continue in existence.

      I first began to leave religion in order to become more spiritual. I don’t wish to offend anyone regarding their beliefs or religious practices. But I can only say what I have discovered thus far: we have a need for there to be an afterlife. This is a biological need based on Temporal Awareness. The cursed knowledge that we will end is not acceptable – so we have come to believe that we continue in another form (a form other than simply energy). This is a powerful motivator and has been used for tremendous good… and evil.

      Why do I bring all this up? Because the question “why am I here” originates in this contradictory space of temporal awareness and the urge to live. We know we will end and cannot accept that; yet the creation of an organized belief system leading to an afterlife does not satisfy. We are left to ponder, in those quiet moments when we are truly alone, what purpose we serve if we do not continue. Animals don’t concern themselves with such nonsense. They are just here; they are not aware of their impending doom and so don’t need to justify their present existence. There is no reason “why.”

      What is my function… my purpose. Variations of the same theme. The answer cannot be known. We can, however, find peace when we come to accept that “Goals… are the Goal.” As I progressed down my own particular path of spirituality, I began to meditate quite a bit. I also began to read a powerful little book called Effortless Prosperity by a man named Bijan. It is a book that has served me very well. But, I had one problem with it. Bijan believes that our purpose on earth is Peace (and the healing of ourselves and others). That never resonated with me. I don’t feel any drive whatsoever toward Peace; it is to be desired most definitely, but my purpose? No, my purpose must necessarily resonate with me. Your purpose must necessarily resonate with you too. Do we all have the same purpose? Doubtful. Unknowable in any case. The conclusion I have reached (thus far) is this: Your goals ARE your goal. You serve your function every day. We may never know what our function was on this earth. How we may have contributed or who we touched or whether we did in fact leave anything commonly understood to be positive. But we can trust that if we are oriented toward our goals and purposeful in our pursuit of them, we are serving our purpose. If we can remain present while doing this we enjoy quite a bit more peace and happiness along the way. Present, Oriented and Purposeful… A Life that POPs. (Shameless plug :) )

      In answer to your direct comment: “That’s what I am thinking we are here for.” I can’t say. I don’t know why we are here. I reject the question as a construct of our fear stemming from temporal awareness rather than a cosmic need to understand our place in the universe. In any case, a system based on man’s good will toward man may be highly desirable, but not at all grounded in man’s nature. The greatest economic system in the world has flourished, not because it harnesses man’s good nature, but because it doesn’t. Adam Smith realized that the invisible hand of self-interest and desire would be sufficient because it would describe the actions of man (rather than man’s lofty desire to become our highest self). The realization of our perfect selves is a divine journey and one I would never disparage. The perfection of the tea ceremony really says it all. But to base a “system” on that journey is to miss the nature of man.

    39. Teri Lussier February 27th, 2010 8:44 pm

      >we have a need for there to be an afterlife. This is a biological need based on Temporal Awareness. The cursed knowledge that we will end is not acceptable

      I’m a’tryin’ to keep up here, but I don’t agree with that, or from what I understand, I don’t agree. I think that the idea of an afterlife keeps us from fully being here in the present? How can you be here and there.

      >my purpose must necessarily resonate with me. Your purpose must necessarily resonate with you too. Do we all have the same purpose? Doubtful. Unknowable in any case. The conclusion I have reached (thus far) is this: Your goals ARE your goal. You serve your function every day.

      How is that different from this:

      Greg> My participation in any voluntary social arrangement is about nothing but my own pursuit of my own values. It’s not about some abstract ideal of justice, and it is most especially not about my sacrificing my own values in pursuit of some abstract ideal of justice.

    40. Sean Purcell February 27th, 2010 9:06 pm

      I think that the idea of an afterlife keeps us from fully being here in the present? How can you be here and there.

      YES! You are making my point exactly. The creation of an afterlife is based on a need borne of temporal awareness and takes us from our natural perfection.

      How (are these two statements) different?

      These are both the same statements in that they both express the pursuit of one’s goals as the end game itself. The difference is in effect. The former statement (mine) reflects a response to the big “why” question, whereas the latter (Greg’s statement) also encompasses the entire surrounding philosophy. For instance, you can make the former statement and still enslave yourself. For a while I certainly did. You could even make the former statement and endeavor to enslave others: e.g. “My goals are the goal… and I serve my function by taxing you in order to bring about my goal of social justice.” (I think I just threw up a little in my mouth.)

      Greg’s statement is much more encompassing. I don’t believe it’s an either / or problem. I think my little treatise on man’s desire to answer “why” is some of the best stuff I’ve ever written, and it fits perfectly within what Greg is saying. It just doesn’t say nearly enough of what Greg is saying. See what I’m saying?

    41. Teri Lussier February 27th, 2010 9:57 pm

      Yes, I see what you are saying, I see what Greg’s saying, but isn’t your original question whether or not our little island of three can be expanded out into the real world.

      This is where I am always stumped. How do you get from three people on an island to the bigger world? How do you get from here to there?

      Oh wait- Is it information?

      Okay, I’m going to throw this out there. Something that is very vague in my own mind, so we’ll see if I can cough up a coherent idea.

      Information. We start there. It’s not happened before in our history because we’ve never had the means to communicate these memes so quickly and thoroughly and continuously as we do now, with computers. We can cover ground now. Look at this post- a perfect example.

      We are made- humans are created- to share information. That’s what makes us human and not monkeys. We can share complex ideas, but up until now, we’ve not had the means to share them easily, quickly, with anyone and everyone.

      So maybe that’s why we are not in that island bliss yet? Is that making sense?

    42. Teri Lussier February 27th, 2010 10:02 pm

      Oh wait, there’s more.

      So when we think, “If this is such a great idea, why hasn’t it happened?” which is what we think, it might really be because we’ve never had the ability. Computers make it possible, or closer to possible?

      If we can remain in communication with each other, we can move forward faster?

    43. Teri Lussier February 27th, 2010 10:12 pm

      So when I think of a purpose, or goals, it’s completely individualized, but it’s also independent, but maybe it’s also simultaneously dependent on my ability to share what I’m thinking with those around me? Kinda sorta?

      Am I making any sense?

      So if I’m communicating with you and Greg- here’s what I’m doing, here’s what I need, here’s my goal, I don’t necessarily need you to help, I might, and I don’t need your permission, but by communicating… by sharing information… I’m certainly more likely to get closer to that goal? Maybe not. This isn’t all the way fleshed out.

      Ruminating.

    44. Greg Swann February 27th, 2010 10:13 pm

      Everything scales. Think credit reporting system. This is all eminently doable. We just haven’t done it yet.

    45. Sean Purcell February 27th, 2010 11:09 pm

      Teri, I was waiting for Greg to chime in, but you are taking this right back to where I wanted to go. First, I don’t know that I believe this is the first time in history we can share information like this. The American revolution benefited greatly by information. Think Thomas Paine. This may, however, be the first time in a long time we can share information in a way commensurate with the size of the population we now encounter.

      This brings us full circle to my original post. Is this end game attainable or a yard stick by which to measure progress? Take our current national debate and political turmoil. Is the island ideal you speak of a direction on which to base our “votes”? Do I vote for a policy that leads to a halving of the distance toward that island? Or does my own desire to maintain continuity of ego cause me to only “vote” for policies that represent the end game itself? Cutting taxes by 50% would do wonders for our economy and, in my opinion, move us further rather than farther from the ideals we’ve been discussing. Yet, a vote for any type of taxation (all of which I disagree with) is a vote for slavery. Can you gain by half while still enslaving? Doesn’t this fall under the tu quoque fallacy.

      I think of a Zen Buddhist monk who has achieved satori. Can he step out of the monastery and communicate with the “lay” person, in a way the “lay” person can understand? Can he hope to show – by example or word – another way? Or does he go off with others who share his enlightenment, unable to communicate without losing the very peace he has found?

    46. Sean Purcell February 28th, 2010 1:38 am

      Following up, this raises another set of questions for me. Constitutionally speaking, there is an interesting discussion regarding the purpose of a federal government. I’m not sure yet how the discussion here fits into that. At its most conservative level, the purpose of a national government is VERY limited. Let’s take one of those responsibilities: national defense. (Just to preclude some obvious points, national defense does not include our influence in the affairs of other nations. It is, to put it in my interpretation of Greg’s words: the capacity to defend.) Should that even exist? How is it paid for?

      Or, let’s take it to a neighborhood level. If we are on the island and find others that we decide are not in alignment with our philosophy, we may decide to shun them. (Let’s assume for this exercise that we are all in agreement based on our individual pursuit of our own values.) Shall we build a fence? Who builds and who gets water? Who feeds the builders? Must all of this be worked out beforehand? What if some in our group agree with the fence but choose not to contribute? Should that matter? Should we shun them and put them outside the fence? I have decided that the fence serves me, but it may bother me that others benefit without contribution. (Or is that a question that has already been understood? None of us live under any pretense of “fairness,” as that is a construct that makes no sense in a the world of individual splendor. We do that which we think is best for ourselves and possess no emotional disregard for those who disagree?) I understand that I have the capacity to coerce them, but that would be destructive to myself. I contribute to the fence because I choose to make that trade of my labor for the benefit to myself I perceive.

      I guess I’m asking how this philosophy does in fact scale up.

      There’s a popular saying: “my rights end where your nose begins.” But as I understand this discussion, rights are not the correct word. They presuppose some sense of cosmic justice. More appropriate would be to say “my control ends where my nose ends.” In that regard, how do we account for agreed upon group dynamic?

      Much of this is obviously not thought out. At this point I, like Teri, am ruminating.

    47. Sean Purcell February 28th, 2010 1:48 am

      Greg, as I go through this discussion I make notes; I think, I write, then I find myself thinking again for the very effort of writing. (The great gift of writing is the clarity it eventually provides the writer, not the reader.) In my analogy of the Zen Buddhist monk, this equates me with the villager working on understanding. Greg, do you go through that process or does the philosophy, fully realized, allow you immediately to see the philosophical response? Do you think the monk, coming out of the monastery, interacts and rethinks? Or does he understand and see clearly? If you find yourself in the latter position, can you provide the simplified framework of thought that creates that clarity?

    48. Teri Lussier February 28th, 2010 4:40 am

      >Is this end game attainable or a yard stick by which to measure progress? Take our current national debate and political turmoil. Is the island ideal you speak of a direction on which to base our “votes”?

      What end game? I can’t see an end game. Honestly, I would think, that’s an always changing idea- ideal? I would say I’d like to be free to move in any direction, gladly willingly lovingly taking the responsibility for the consequences of my own actions, and I want that for you as well, but there is no finish line that I’m able to see.

    49. Teri Lussier February 28th, 2010 4:53 am

      >Or, let’s take it to a neighborhood level. If we are on the island and find others that we decide are not in alignment with our philosophy, we may decide to shun them. (Let’s assume for this exercise that we are all in agreement based on our individual pursuit of our own values.) Shall we build a fence? Who builds and who gets water? Who feeds the builders? Must all of this be worked out beforehand? What if some in our group agree with the fence but choose not to contribute? Should that matter? Should we shun them and put them outside the fence?

      Sean, this gets worked out as it comes up. You have the freedom to make this up as you go along. I think that’s why people voluntarily enslaves themselves. Just pay the fence builder people ahead of time and they’ll make all those pesky decisions for us. Phew. I can get back to watching my reality TV.

      >I have decided that the fence serves me, but it may bother me that others benefit without contribution.

      Why?

    50. Teri Lussier February 28th, 2010 6:37 am

      Okay, one more thing, then I’m off to money work-

      Remember when you were a kid and all the other neighbor kids got together after school for a pick up game? And you never knew who was going to show up, and you didn’t know before you got to that empty lot, what game you were going to play? So you all show up and you decide what game, and it’s not because the bully decided for you, in fact, you were all likely to band together to shun the bully, right? No parents around to make that decision for you? And the bully had a choice- play or go home- and probably depending on what drama was going on at home, he made that decision, and you all happily went on with the game? Remember that?

      So Bill’s scrawny little brother shows up and geez the kid is pretty useless and you can’t stand his always runny nose, so since you are playing baseball today, he’s in right field. But y’all also rmember when you were scrawny snot nosed kids so when it’s his turn to bat, the pitcher steps forward a bit, and lobs it softly- you know how that used to work, right?

      You were all their to accomplish a goal, a selfish goal- I want to play a game. You didn’t care who showed up or who else benefited. Sometimes you had to join together, sometimes you didn’t. Sometimes you joined together to increase someones’ skills and sometimes it was to keep some behavior out. Sometimes it was about besting your own personal best, sometimes it was just goofy fun, but it was never ever rocket science.

      Is this where the Lord of the Flies reference enters the conversation?