A Moral Argument for Minarchy

Have philosophical discussions about politics, law, and government.
Featured Article: Definition of Freedom - What Freedom Means to Me
GE Morton
Posts: 234
Joined: February 1st, 2017, 1:06 am

Re: A Moral Argument for Minarchy

Post by GE Morton » April 19th, 2018, 2:50 pm

Fooloso4 wrote:
April 17th, 2018, 1:19 pm

Once again you miss the point. Your appeal to what is reasonable and moral is determined by the fiction you call the natural condition.
No, it is not. The natural condition has nothing to do with those. That quibble is a tangent. My claim that humans are naturally free was simply a response to your claim that that they are "naturally" subject to political constraints. That question has no bearing on the argument of the OP.

A conclusion is rational if it follows from true premises. An action is rational if it has a plausible chance of accomplishing a desired end; it is moral if it is permitted by a sound moral theory.
This discussion and another on Burke led me to reread Strauss’s “Natural Right and Man”. Yesterday I found the following statements: . . .
I'll take your word for it. It's been a while since I read Strauss.
Er, no. You claim that human beings are born free, that this is the natural condition of all humans, and so any constraints on them must be justified by reason and morality. Reason and morality must take this as the natural starting point from which any "artificial" constraint must be justified.
No, that is NOT (and was not) the argument, which I've given in this thread at least twice. Constraints must be justified, not because they are not natural (which is actually quite irrelevant), but because they inhibit the ability of agents to maximize their good, which is contrary to the moral axiom which holds that the aim of moral theory is to generate rules which enable all agents in a moral field to maximize their welfare. To the extent an agent's actions are constrained by other agents, means and opportunities to improve his welfare are denied to him. Since all agents have equal moral status, any means of improving the welfare of a given agent must satisfy the Pareto criterion, i.e., it may not make another agent worse off. Hence the only constraints permitted are those which enforce that criterion (which is equivalent to securing everyone's rights).

Can we now set aside this "natural/unnatural" sidetrack?
We do not, however, have a priori obligations to assume responsibility for everyone else's welfare. We do not arrive in the world burdened by an infinite set of unassumed obligations. But if you disagree, please supply an argument showing how such obligations are derived from moral first principles.
The problem is your assumption that our relationships to each other are properly determined by a priori obligations and abstract moral first principles. This is completely out of touch with flesh and blood human relationships, which are guided by such things as care and empathy not a priori obligations or abstract principles.
Well, it sounds like you're suggesting that emotional states and responses should replace moral philosophy as the basis for moral rules. Do you really want to go there? If we're doing moral or political philosphy here, then we will seek rules we can derive from fundamental moral principles together with known features of the human condition, not from volatile, idiosyncratic, and subjective personal feelings. The latter have no more role to play in moral philosophy than they do in physics.
I need a minute to put on my muck boots to wade through this. In response to the problem of children in your society living in abject poverty unless they are helped by volunteers your concern it that you will be made a slave if you are compelled to help?
Yes. Someone who is forced to work for another's benefit is a slave, by definition (unless to compensate an injury previously inflicted by the person forced). It does not cease to be slavery because the slave is force to work only, say, 1 hour per day rather than 12 hours.
What would be the consequences if the only help to those in need came from volunteer sources?
There would be more volunteers and less poverty. People need not volunteer when they know Big Brother will handle the problem. They are "humanitarians by proxy," i.e., persons willing to help --- provided someone else can be forced to pay the bill. There would be less poverty because, knowing there are no guaranteed free lunches, people would be less inclined to make the unproductive and destructive lifestyle choices they can now make without consequence.

(more later)

Fooloso4
Moderator
Posts: 2970
Joined: February 28th, 2014, 4:50 pm

Re: A Moral Argument for Minarchy

Post by Fooloso4 » April 19th, 2018, 4:51 pm

GE Morton:
I would deny that Strauss does.

I'll take your word for it. It's been a while since I read Strauss.
This is characteristic of your mode of argument. Just one of many examples of unfounded assertions posing as matters of fact.
Can we now set aside this "natural/unnatural" sidetrack?
Yes, you would do well to do so. I suggested as much a few posts ago but you persisted even though your argument had became incoherent and contrary to the facts. But let me remind you of where this “tangent” started:
Er, no. Alfie is free because he was born free; that is the natural condition of all humans.
Like many of your claims it is one that is free of facts and evidence.
Constraints must be justified, not because they are not natural (which is actually quite irrelevant), but because they inhibit the ability of agents to maximize their good, which is contrary to the moral axiom which holds that the aim of moral theory is to generate rules which enable all agents in a moral field to maximize their welfare. Hence the only constraints permitted are those which enforce that criterion (which is equivalent to securing everyone's rights).
It may be that it is contrary to your axiom but you give no reason as to why such an axiom should be accepted. The assumption is that one has a moral responsibility only to maximize his own welfare, that his welfare is independent of the welfare of others, and that decreasing his welfare by an insignificant amount is moral justification for not helping others who would benefit far more than his welfare would be decreased.
Well, it sounds like you're suggesting that emotional states and responses should replace moral philosophy as the basis for moral rules.
Well, you might characterize the bonds between people as an emotional state but since the term has a wide range of meanings it really does not say much. In addition, the alternatives are not your moral axiom or emotional states. Morality requires reasoned deliberation, but reasoned deliberation need not be axiomatic. Prudential reason certainly is not.
If we're doing moral or political philosphy here, then we will seek rules we can derive from fundamental moral principles …
That is one approach, but because of its failures there has been other approaches that many think are more promising, including virtue ethics, the ethics of care, and consequentialism.
Yes. Someone who is forced to work for another's benefit is a slave, by definition …
Hyperbole is not a satisfactory substitute for reasoned discussion.
What would be the consequences if the only help to those in need came from volunteer sources?
There would be more volunteers and less poverty. People need not volunteer when they know Big Brother will handle the problem.
Well, according to your moral axiom there is no moral reason for more volunteers. Since there is still poverty why not more volunteers now? If there would be more volunteers and less poverty where did the need for government aid come from in the first place? It was not in response to a nonexistent problem.
There would be less poverty because, knowing there are no guaranteed free lunches, people would be less inclined to make the unproductive and destructive lifestyle choices they can now make without consequence.
Once again you make claims without any factual basis. Infants and young children are not making “unproductive and destructive lifestyle choices”. A family that loses everything in order to pay catastrophic medical bills did not make “unproductive and destructive lifestyle choices”. People who have lost their jobs and cannot make ends meet working minimum wage jobs have not made “unproductive and destructive lifestyle choices”. Although there are some who would rather have a free lunch than work, the solution to poverty is not to refuse to feed the hungry.

I see no benefit in continuing to correct your myopic views of human society and relationships. I’m done.

GE Morton
Posts: 234
Joined: February 1st, 2017, 1:06 am

Re: A Moral Argument for Minarchy

Post by GE Morton » April 19th, 2018, 9:52 pm

Fooloso4 wrote:
April 19th, 2018, 4:51 pm

Yes, you would do well to do so. I suggested as much a few posts ago but you persisted even though your argument had became incoherent and contrary to the facts. But let me remind you of where this “tangent” started:
Er, no. Alfie is free because he was born free; that is the natural condition of all humans.
No, that is not where it started. It started here:
Alfie is free because he lives in a society that has determined that living free is the way people ought to live.
My comment (above) was a response to that claim of yours. From there you offered the non sequitur that because humans are naturally social, constraints imposed by "society" are also natural.

And like the previous sidetrack regarding the fundamental question of political philosophy it continued to wander in the woods from there.
Constraints must be justified, not because they are not natural (which is actually quite irrelevant), but because they inhibit the ability of agents to maximize their good, which is contrary to the moral axiom which holds that the aim of moral theory is to generate rules which enable all agents in a moral field to maximize their welfare. Hence the only constraints permitted are those which enforce that criterion (which is equivalent to securing everyone's rights).
It may be that it is contrary to your axiom but you give no reason as to why such an axiom should be accepted.
You left out two sentences in the para from which you're quoting, namely, "To the extent an agent's actions are constrained by other agents, means and opportunities to improve his welfare are denied to him. Since all agents have equal moral status, any means of improving the welfare of a given agent must satisfy the Pareto criterion, i.e., it may not make another agent worse off."

And, no, I cannot, and need not, give a reason for accepting the moral axiom that moral rules be chosen so as to maximize welfare for all agents in the moral field. Axioms are propositions accepted without proof. All moral theories, indeed all theories in any field, must begin with one or more, else you launch an infinite regress of justifications. There is a second unargued postulate as well: the Postulate of Equal Agency, which holds that all agents in the field have equal status in the eyes of the theory; i.e., that the welfares of all agents have equal weight and the same rules apply in the same way to all. You are, of course, free to reject one or both of those postulates. If you reject the Axiom, you must either believe maximizing welfare is not the purpose of a moral theory --- perhaps it is pleasing God, or codifying one's intuitions --- or, if you concede that the purpose of moral rules has something to do with improving welfare, that only the welfares of some need be considered (a la Rawls). That is, you reject the Kantian universality requirement ("act only in accordance with that maxim through which you can at the same time will that it become a universal law"). By rejecting the Axiom you seem to be left with some variety of theistic morality or intuitionism, or perhaps nihilism. If you reject the Equal Agency postulate you're left with some sort of elitism, or egoism.

Those axioms were chosen because they are simple, transparent, universal, and seem to capture the aim of moral philosophy as understood by most philosophers throughout history. But feel free to propose another Axiom(s) if you think mine misguided.
. . . The assumption is that one has a moral responsibility only to maximize his own welfare, that his welfare is independent of the welfare of others, and that decreasing his welfare by an insignificant amount is moral justification for not helping others who would benefit far more than his welfare would be decreased.
No, there is no assumption that "one has a moral responsibility only to maximize his own welfare." The theory generates a duty to aid. But given the Equal Agency postulate, the judgment of every agent as to who is deserving of aid, and to what extent, carries equal weight (whether a given agent's welfare is dependent upon that of another agent is one of the factors the first will take into account when deciding whether to render the other aid). No agent may impose his judgments upon other agents. As for decreasing one agent's welfare "by an insignificant amount" to benefit someone else "far more," that is a calculation that cannot be done, because it involves interpersonal rankings of goods. Suppose a well-off family wishes to send their bright child to MIT, where she has been accepted. But, due to taxes, they cannot afford it, unless they sell their house and plunder their retirement investments. Suppose the taxes are spent on housing subsidies for 5 families for a year. Any claim that the subsidies yield more welfare than sending the child to MIT would be baseless and arbitrary.

I do, of course, deny that anyone has an a priori responsibility for anyone else's welfare --- meaning a responsibility not freely taken on by the agent through some act of his own. If you disagree then making the argument falls to you --- the burden of proof rests with he who holds the affirmative. Without a convincing argument --- one grounded in a sound moral theory -- your claim can be dismissed as groundless and arbitrary. Feelings or expressions of empathy and care do not qualify as arguments.
Yes. Someone who is forced to work for another's benefit is a slave, by definition …
Hyperbole is not a satisfactory substitute for reasoned discussion.
My statement was not hyperbole. It is precisely literal and perfectly satisifies the definition of slavery. Forced labor does not cease to be slavery because we deem the products of that labor "good," and our desire for or approval of that product does not entitle us to turn a blind eye to it.
Well, according to your moral axiom there is no moral reason for more volunteers. Since there is still poverty why not more volunteers now? If there would be more volunteers and less poverty where did the need for government aid come from in the first place? It was not in response to a nonexistent problem.
There was no "need" for government aid. The poverty rate had been declining steadily in the US since its founding, and in most Western countries since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. There is every reason to think it would have continued to decline on its own (though it will never be entirely eradicated). Instead, the "War on Poverty" --- the brainchild of a consummate political demagogue inspired by a polemical book trendy at the time --- institutionalized it into a lifestyle. Despite having spent ~ $20 trillion fighting poverty since 1966, the rate is virtually unchanged from that year.
Once again you make claims without any factual basis. Infants and young children are not making “unproductive and destructive lifestyle choices”.
No, they aren't. But their parents are.
Although there are some who would rather have a free lunch than work, the solution to poverty is not to refuse to feed the hungry.


It depends on why they are hungry. If because they have made a series of poor choices, then refusing to feed them will motivate others to make better ones, reducing the poverty rate in the future.

Gertie
Posts: 534
Joined: January 7th, 2015, 7:09 am

Re: A Moral Argument for Minarchy

Post by Gertie » April 21st, 2018, 4:17 am

GE imo you need to step back from the picture you're painting and try to look at it afresh, because it's not pretty.

GE Morton
Posts: 234
Joined: February 1st, 2017, 1:06 am

Re: A Moral Argument for Minarchy

Post by GE Morton » April 21st, 2018, 11:32 am

Gertie wrote:
April 21st, 2018, 4:17 am
GE imo you need to step back from the picture you're painting and try to look at it afresh, because it's not pretty.
Well, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Surely moral agents are not permitted to impose their aesthetic preferences on others by force.

I am disappointed that none of the commenters have tackled the actual argument of the OP in a philosophically respectable way, i.e., by refuting a premise or pointing out logical flaws. Instead they reject the conclusion because it offends their sensibilities or challenges the "conventional wisdom" they have absorbed through early conditioning or cultural osmosis and embraced as a religion but which, like religious views, lacks any rational basis. Like the devotees to a religion they perceive any challenge to those beliefs as heresy and blasphemy.

If you accept the Axiom that the aim of a moral theory is to generate rules which allow all agents in a moral field to maximize their welfare, and the postulate that all agents in the field have equal moral status, then you cannot rationally support forcibly reducing the welfare of some to benefit others, or forcing some agents into servitude to benefit others. Those who perceive poverty and material equality to be problems (both are natural conditions among all animals, BTW) must devise other means of solving them --- by devoting more of their own time and resources to that effort, or by persuading others of the worthiness of their cause, instead of forcing them to support it.

Post Reply