A Moral Argument for Minarchy

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GE Morton
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A Moral Argument for Minarchy

Post by GE Morton » April 7th, 2018, 11:18 am

The fundamental question for political philosophers is, What is the proper role of government in a free society?

I shall take “proper” in the above question to mean “morally justifiable.”

I also take a “free” society to be one in which each member thereof is free to live his life as he pleases, provided his acts do not inflict loss or injury upon any other person or threaten to do so, or in some other way violate others' rights. E.g., every citizen is free to speak his mind on any subject, practice the religion or personal morality of his choice, travel to any place he wishes, pursue any honest occupation or trade, enter into any desired relationship with any other willing person (and decline to enter into any undesired relationship), pursue any interest or goal, indulge any preference or taste, without interference from any third party, including the government. Indeed, in the classical liberal tradition the whole raison d'etre for government is to deter and rectify violations of these and other rights, and to restrain and punish those who violate them.

As the term suggests, minarchy is the theory of government, derived from Hobbes1 and Locke2, which holds its proper role to be minimal, typically limited to the rights-defending functions just mentioned, particularly by providing a collective defense against foreign aggressors and a rule of law to secure domestic order and peace (e.g., police, courts, and prisons). Thomas Jefferson embraced their view of the purpose of government when he wrote in the Declaration of Independence, “ . . . all men . . . are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these rights governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed . . .” [Italics added].

So according to these architects of liberalism the purpose of government is to defend citizens from the “invasion of foreigners and the injuries of one another” (Hobbes); “set down what punishments are appropriate for what crimes that members of society commit, and the power to punish any harm done to any of its members by anyone who isn't a member . . . all this being done for the preservation of the property of all members of the society . . . “ (Locke); or secure its citizens' rights (Jefferson). I assume everyone will agree that these three formulations are substantively equivalent.

It could be argued that while protection of the lives, liberties, and property of citizens is the chief raison d'etre for government, that is not necessarily its only justifiable role. And indeed I will suggest a few other functions shortly which are, arguably, also morally defensible. But Jefferson, at least, appeared to construe the minarchist view strictly. In his First Inaugural Address he wrote, “What more is necessary to make us a happy and a prosperous people? Still one thing more, fellow-citizens -- a wise and frugal Government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government . . . “3

Modern governments, of course, exercise many more functions than merely providing a common defense and a rule of law. A few of these are, plausibly, not only morally defensible, but necessary, namely, managing natural commons and supplying certain public goods.4 Unless competently managed natural commons such as public lands, the atmosphere, and major bodies of water succumb to the “tragedy of the commons,” and without certain public goods, such as public rights of way and a sound money supply, many of the advantages of social living are unattainable.5 Let us call this slightly more extensive role for government the Augmented Minimal State. These additional functions are morally defensible because their exercise does not require violation of anyone's rights –– the assumptions being that no one has a stronger claim to natural commons than anyone else, and with respect to public goods, that citizens are compelled to support them only to the extent they benefit from them.

But since the early 20th century governments in the developed world have also, incrementally, assumed a paternalistic responsibility for the personal welfare of their citizens, taking upon themselves obligations to supply them with food, housing, health care, employment, education, pensions, and even entertainments. In addition they now dole out subsidies to every interest group resourceful and persistent enough to gain the ear of a politician –– for everything from local transit and sewer systems to farmers to favored businesses to rail passengers and television viewers to scientists conducting research of marginal or dubious value to opera companies and dance troupes. Between 1789 and 1930 governments at all levels in the U.S. consumed, on average, about 7% of GDP. They now consume 36%, and the trend continues upward.6

Image

(The percentage has declined some since 2010. See graph at note).

An old admonition of uncertain origin declares that, “Government is not reason, it is not eloquence. It is force, and like fire, it makes a dangerous servant and a fearsome master.” Lobbyists for interest groups do not seek government support for the various projects and goals and causes of their patrons and employers and clients because they desire its praise or endorsement or moral approval. They seek it in the hope that government will exercise force on their behalf –– that it will force taxpayers to underwrite their projects, restrain by force anyone who would thwart their goals, force citizens to join in their causes. If an entrepreneur cannot persuade willing investors to capitalize his project he will try to persuade politicians to force taxpayers to do so; if local politicians are wary of taxing their constituents for some pet project, they'll seek a federal subsidy, thus forcing the costs on taxpayers elsewhere; if “progressive” ideologues cannot persuade some merchants to cater to gay weddings or some employers to hire convicted felons, they'll demand laws forcing them to do so.

The extent of government power, and the purposes for which it is exercised, raise moral issues because that power consists in force exerted against moral agents. I take it as uncontroversial that force exerted by one moral agent against another always requires justification. I assume there is also broad agreement, at least among those who profess to be “liberals,” that force is justified in only a few circumstances.

If so, then the question of what powers may governments properly exercise resolves to the question, For what purposes, and in what circumstances, may one moral agent exert force against another moral agent?

Political liberalism is defined by its enshrinement of two ideals: liberty and equality.7 Although the definitions of these terms and the relationship between them –– and even the question of whether the two ideals are compatible –– has been a topic of endless debate, not only among philosophers but also among the public, everyone who considers himself a “liberal” embraces both, in some form or sense.

With respect to liberty the central controversy revolves around the distinction between what Isaiah Berlin called “negative liberty” and “positive liberty.”8 The former is “freedom from” –– the absence of constraints upon one's actions, other than those required to protect others' rights, imposed by the State or other third parties. “Positive liberty” is “freedom to” –– freedom to do what one wishes to do to achieve one's goals and realize one's potential –– without impediments or limitations, whether imposed by other men, Nature, or circumstances.

The controversy surrounding equality is related. The chief issue there is whether the equality sought is equality of moral status, or “formal” equality –– i.e., the precept that moral principles and rules, and any positive laws codifying them, must apply equally to all agents in a moral field –– or material or “substantive” equality, i.e., that all persons must be afforded equal opportunities to achieve their goals, regardless of any disadvantages imposed by Nature or circumstances.

Classically, of course, liberty was understood only in the “negative” sense –– the absence of restraints imposed by other moral agents, including government, and equality meant only equal moral status –– equality in the eyes of the law (or of God); it was a rejection of the formal class structure of 18th century European societies. Not until the early 20th century did advocates for “positive” liberty and material equality begin to appear.9 The adoption of these novel interpretations of liberty and equality by entrepreneurial politicians and resultant acceptance by the public fostered the spectacular growth of government power in the following decades.

It is worth pointing out that the conflicts alleged between liberty and equality arise only with respect to “positive” liberty and material equality. There is no conflict between those two concepts as understood classically.

Robert Nozick observed that while “there is no lack of unsupported presumptions in favor of [material] equality . . . there is a surprising dearth of arguments” justifying that presumption.10 But we need not speculate on what those arguments might be and refute them –– because nearly all advocates for material equality also affirm and advocate formal equality. They view material equality to be an elaboration or logical implication of formal equality.11 Whatever else material egalitarians may wish to equalize –– opportunities, incomes, welfare –– they all affirm equality of moral agency and status, and equal protection of the law.

I shall be making an argument that no State more extensive than the Augmented Minimal State defined above is reconcilable with the “formal” conception of equality. One consequence of this is that the material conception of equality is unattainable, because attaining it requires a State more extensive than the Augmented Minimal State. Hence one cannot consistently advocate formal equality and material equality; they are mutually exclusive.

Herewith, the argument:

The first premise is:

1. Government is force.

I'm sure everyone understands by “government” an institution which promulgates and enforces laws. An institution which was not allowed or not able to enforce whatever laws it promulgated would not be government. Governments enforce their laws by threatening, and when threats fail imposing, punishments which can range from monetary fines to confiscation of property to imprisonment to whippings and other forms of torture to death.

The second premise is:

2. The use of force by one moral agent against another is morally wrongful, unless the force is applied to resist force being brought against oneself or another moral agent, or to prevent the imminent or further use of force or to rectify or secure restitution for a loss or injury previously inflicted by force, by the agent currently being forced.

The third premise is:

3. Any wrongful use of force by one moral agent against another creates a master-slave relationship between the agents involved.

The agent exerting the force assumes the role of master, imposing his will upon the agent forced, thus relegating the latter to the role of slave.

4. A master-slave relationship is a prima facie violation of formal equality.

Conclusion:

No government more extensive than the Augmented Minimal State is compatible with the principle of formal equality. Anyone who seeks a more extensive State will have, per force, abandoned that principle.

Authoritarian ideologues and demagogues of all all stripes necessarily, and often expressly, dismiss the liberal ideal of individual liberty. For Mussolini and the Fascists the only meaningful liberty was the “liberty of the State and the individual within the State.”12 Marxists typically adopt the “positive” conception of liberty, and reject the classical, “negative” conception as “alienating.”13 But most of them do embrace –– or at least publicly affirm –– the ideal of formal equality. To do so they will require the talents of Lewis Carrolls' White Queen, who declared, “Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast."

(Notes follow)

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Notes for: A Moral Argument for Minarchy

Post by GE Morton » April 7th, 2018, 11:22 am

NOTES

1. “The only way to establish a common power that can defend them from the invasion of foreigners and the injuries of one another, and thereby make them secure enough to be able to nourish themselves and live contentedly through their own labours and the fruits of the earth, is to confer all their power and strength on one man, or one assembly of men . . .” (Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan, Ch. 17).

http://www.gutenberg.org/files/3207/3207-h/3207-h.htm

2. “That’s how it comes about that the commonwealth has the power of making laws: that is, the power to set down what punishments are appropriate for what crimes that members of the society commit; and the power of war and peace: that is, the power to punish any harm done to any of its members by anyone who isn’t a member; all this being done for the preservation of the property [by “property” Locke means “life, liberty, and possessions”] of all the members of the society, as far as is possible. “ (John Locke, Second Essay on Civil Government, Ch. 7. Sec. 88).

http://www.liberty1.org/2dtreat.htm

3. Thomas Jefferson, First Inaugural Address (1804)

http://avalon.law.yale.edu/19th_century/jefinau1.asp

4. https://www.economicshelp.org/micro-eco ... lic-goods/


5. Many public goods can be provided through private, voluntary arrangements. But not all.

http://www.econlib.org/library/Enc/PublicGoods.html

6. https://www.forbes.com/sites/joshbarro/ ... 40fff12720

7. https://study.com/academy/lesson/libera ... uence.html

8. Isaiah Berlin, Two Concepts of Liberty (1969)

http://faculty.www.umb.edu/steven.levin ... Berlin.pdf

9. Playwright George Bernard Shaw was once of the earliest advocates for equality of income. “As both the era’s leading dramatist and leader of the Fabian Society, Shaw proposed his radical postulate of equal incomes as a solution to those twin scourges of a modern industrial society: poverty and inequality. Set against the backdrop of Beatrice Webb’s famous Minority Report of the Royal Commission on the Poor Law 1905-1909 – a publication which led to grass-roots campaigns against destitution and eventually the Welfare State – this book considers how Shaw worked with Fabian colleagues, Sidney and Beatrice Webb, and H. G. Wells to explore through a series of major lectures, prefaces and plays, the social, economic, political, and even religious implications of human equality as the basis for modern democracy.” (Thomas Gahan, abstract from Bernard Shaw and Beatrice Webb on Poverty and Equality in the Modern World, 1905–1914 (2017))

https://www.palgrave.com/us/book/9783319484419

10. Robert Nozick, Anarchy, State, and Utopia, p. 233, Basic Books (New York, 1974)

11. Richard Arneson, Liberalism and Equality, proof draft, (UCSD. 2014)

12. “And if liberty is to he the attribute of living men and not of abstract dummies invented by individualistic liberalism, then Fascism stands for liberty, and for the only liberty worth having, the liberty of the State and of the individual within the State.” (Benito Mussolini, The Doctrine of Fascism (1932)

http://www.worldfuturefund.org/wffmaste ... solini.htm

13. “Liberal rights and ideas of justice are premised on the idea that each of us needs protection from other human beings who are a threat to our liberty and security. Therefore liberal rights are rights of separation, designed to protect us from such perceived threats. Freedom on such a view, is freedom from interference. What this view overlooks is the possibility — for Marx, the fact — that real freedom is to be found positively in our relations with other people. It is to be found in human community, not in isolation. Accordingly, insisting on a regime of rights encourages us to view each other in ways that undermine the possibility of the real freedom we may find in human emancipation.” ––Jonathan Wolff, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (2017)

https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/marx/

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Re: A Moral Argument for Minarchy

Post by Greta » April 8th, 2018, 2:09 am

I think your ideas are dated, as though multinationals had not effectively become governing bodies in their own right, as if there was not a revolution in train with human workers rapidly being replaced by automation.

In a high density society there is either very limited freedom or unsustainable chaos. This new world, with every less privacy and ever more surveillance and monitoring by autonomous machines, will have precious little liberty. It's not a matter of politics, but circumstance.

Whether the limits of this increasingly restricted society are imposed by government or corporations is increasingly moot because governments now focus their efforts on benefitting corporations over people anyway.

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Re: A Moral Argument for Minarchy

Post by Fooloso4 » April 8th, 2018, 8:33 am

GE Morton:
The fundamental question for political philosophers is, What is the proper role of government in a free society?
The fundamental question of political philosophy is, How ought we to live? Any question about the role of government is grounded by that question. What is the relationship between the question of how I ought to live and how we ought to live? What does a free society mean? What are the constraints on its members? What are its obligations to its members? What are the obligations of its members to it and each other? Is freedom the ultimate goal of or a condition for the best society?

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Re: A Moral Argument for Minarchy

Post by GE Morton » April 8th, 2018, 10:52 am

Fooloso4 wrote:
April 8th, 2018, 8:33 am

The fundamental question of political philosophy is, How ought we to live?
Er, no. That question is misconceived, as it uses the plural pronoun, "we," and thereby presumes that there is a certain way in which everyone should live. Which there is not.
Any question about the role of government is grounded by that question.
Er, no. If that question made sense (which it does not), then it would be a question for a theory of private morality (as opposed to public morality). Political philosophy is the inquiry into the form and function of government:

"Political philosophy is the study of fundamental questions about the state, government, politics, liberty, justice and the enforcement of a legal code by authority."

https://www.philosophybasics.com/branch_political.html

"Political philosophy, branch of philosophy that is concerned, at the most abstract level, with the concepts and arguments involved in political opinion. The meaning of the term political is itself one of the major problems of political philosophy. Broadly, however, one may characterize as political all those practices and institutions that are concerned with government."

https://www.britannica.com/topic/political-philosophy
What does a free society mean?
Answered at some length in the 3rd paragraph.
What are the constraints on its members? [and] What are its obligations to its members?
Those are equivalent to asking, "What is the proper role of government?"
What are the obligations of its members to it and each other?
That is a good question, but it belongs to ethics generally, not to political philosophy.
Is freedom the ultimate goal of or a condition for the best society?
No, it is not the ultimate goal. It is a means to an end, the end being maximizing welfare for all persons.

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Re: A Moral Argument for Minarchy

Post by GE Morton » April 8th, 2018, 11:03 am

Greta wrote:
April 8th, 2018, 2:09 am
I think your ideas are dated, as though multinationals had not effectively become governing bodies in their own right, as if there was not a revolution in train with human workers rapidly being replaced by automation.
Huh? Are you speaking metaphorically, or just indulging in hyperbole? I know of no corporation that promulgates and enforces laws, imposes punishments, or maintains armies, navies, or prisons --- all defining characteristics of governments.

And I have no idea what the advance of automation has to do with the issues raised in the essay.

Calling the ideas discussed "dated," BTW, does not address, much less refute, the argument made in the essay.

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Re: A Moral Argument for Minarchy

Post by Fooloso4 » April 8th, 2018, 12:03 pm

GE Morton:
Er, no. That question is misconceived, as it uses the plural pronoun, "we," and thereby presumes that there is a certain way in which everyone should live. Which there is not.
Er, no. The question is addressed to we, that is those who ask about the fundamental question of philosophy. It does not presume that everyone will or should answer it in the same way or that there is a certain way in which everyone should live. That is part of the question itself. In my opinion there is no one way in which everyone should live.
Er, no. If that question made sense (which it does not), then it would be a question for a theory of private morality (as opposed to public morality)
Er, no. It does make sense. It is what guided political philosophy from Socrates to Aristotle to those today who look to them for the proper foundation. You have gone from accusing me of claiming that there is a certain way that everyone should live to claiming that political philosophy is private morality.

Aristotle begins his Politics:
Every state is a community of some kind, and every community is established with a view to some good; for mankind always act in order to obtain that which they think good. But, if all communities aim at some good, the state or political community, which is the highest of all, and which embraces all the rest, aims at good in a greater degree than any other, and at the highest good.
Obviously he puts the fundamental question of political philosophy at a more fundamental level than the question of how the state is to be administered.
What does a free society mean?
Answered at some length in the 3rd paragraph.
The question, which is being posed as part of the fundamental question of political philosophy and how you answer it are two different things. It is your answer to this question that helps determine your answer to the question of the role of government.
What are the constraints on its members? [and] What are its obligations to its members?
Those are equivalent to asking, "What is the proper role of government?"
They are not equivalent. For those concerned with the questions of political philosophy the constraints may be seen as justly and necessarily self-imposed, even though in practice some members will have to have constraints imposed on them. Those constraints need not be imposed by government but by society.
That is a good question, but it belongs to ethics generally, not to political philosophy.
This shows why the fundamental question does not bottom out at the role of government. The following describes clearly and succinctly the relationship between ethics and politics according to Aristotle :
In his Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle (384-322 B.C.E.) describes the happy life intended for man by nature as one lived in accordance with virtue, and, in his Politics, he describes the role that politics and the political community must play in bringing about the virtuous life in the citizenry. (http://www.iep.utm.edu/aris-pol/)
It is easy to misunderstand this if one does not know what Aristotle meant by "the happy life" and "virtue". For the moment I will only caution against assuming he is using them in the way we might. Eudemonia (the happy life) is akin to the welfare of a person or a people. Virtue is related to excellence, power, and the actualization of one's potential.
No, it is not the ultimate goal. It is a means to an end, the end being maximizing welfare for all persons.
Is it your answer to that question that helps determine the role of government or is it the role of government that determines the answer the question? The role of government is predicated on certain assumptions. Political philosophy must uncover and examine those assumptions.

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Re: A Moral Argument for Minarchy

Post by Greta » April 8th, 2018, 4:36 pm

GE Morton wrote:
April 8th, 2018, 11:03 am
Greta wrote:
April 8th, 2018, 2:09 am
I think your ideas are dated, as though multinationals had not effectively become governing bodies in their own right, as if there was not a revolution in train with human workers rapidly being replaced by automation.
Huh? Are you speaking metaphorically, or just indulging in hyperbole? I know of no corporation that promulgates and enforces laws, imposes punishments, or maintains armies, navies, or prisons --- all defining characteristics of governments.

And I have no idea what the advance of automation has to do with the issues raised in the essay.

Calling the ideas discussed "dated," BTW, does not address, much less refute, the argument made in the essay.
However, ignoring the ways in which your essay is dated ensures that it remains an irrelevant political trinket.

When governments are reduced, as they have been for decades, who fills the power void? God? Santa? No, multinational companies. To ignore the intertwined nature of the relationship today between governments and corporations in this context is a critical error - like considering climate change issues without mention of fossil fuels.

To ignore the impact of shifting power balances and automation in the workplace in an essay about the best form of governance in 2018 is another critical error. In a matter of decades, governments will largely consist of robots other than staff - networked with the robots of corporations that will be needed to provide essential feedback (since most functions have now been privatised, and no doubt more will be so). How will your "small government" be looking then? More like a small nucleus with ever greater and more controlling tendrils as the various databases are increasingly consolidated.

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Re: A Moral Argument for Minarchy

Post by Count Lucanor » April 8th, 2018, 8:35 pm

GE Morton wrote:
April 7th, 2018, 11:18 am
The fundamental question for political philosophers is, What is the proper role of government in a free society?

I shall take “proper” in the above question to mean “morally justifiable.”

I also take a “free” society to be one in which each member thereof is free to live his life as he pleases, provided his acts do not inflict loss or injury upon any other person or threaten to do so, or in some other way violate others' rights. E.g., every citizen is free to speak his mind on any subject, practice the religion or personal morality of his choice, travel to any place he wishes, pursue any honest occupation or trade, enter into any desired relationship with any other willing person (and decline to enter into any undesired relationship), pursue any interest or goal, indulge any preference or taste, without interference from any third party, including the government. Indeed, in the classical liberal tradition the whole raison d'etre for government is to deter and rectify violations of these and other rights, and to restrain and punish those who violate them.
I understand that this definition of a "free society" is to be taken as a mere ideal, since none of it seems to occur or have occurred ever, but nevertheless it can be accepted as a necessary theoretical construction to work in the abstract. However, isn't it possible that the idea of government belongs already to the grim reality that deviates from the ideal construction? I mean, what would convince us that government is an institution that belongs to the essence of our ideal society, and thus, can only be improved, but not eradicated?

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Re: A Moral Argument for Minarchy

Post by GE Morton » April 8th, 2018, 9:35 pm

Greta wrote:
April 8th, 2018, 4:36 pm

However, ignoring the ways in which your essay is dated ensures that it remains an irrelevant political trinket.
What is being ignored here is the argument of the essay. And you are the one doing the ignoring, Greta.
When governments are reduced, as they have been for decades, who fills the power void?
Er, no. Governments certainly have not been "reduced for decades." Their powers and budgets have grown for decades --- as the charts I gave you show. The trend, BTW, for Australia is very similar to that of the US.:

https://www.theglobaleconomy.com/Austra ... ment_size/

I assume that graph reflects only federal spending in Oz. This one probably includes state and local government spending as well:

https://tradingeconomics.com/australia/ ... ing-to-gdp

There is no such thing as a "power void." That is a rhetorical fiction. The only type of power relevant to this discussion --- or relevant in any discussion of morality --- is the power to exert force against moral agents with impunity, and only governments hold that power.
To ignore the impact of shifting power balances and automation in the workplace in an essay about the best form of governance in 2018 is another critical error.
The essay is not about "best forms of governance." It is an argument that a government more extensive than the Minimal State conflicts with the moral precept of equal agency.

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Re: A Moral Argument for Minarchy

Post by GE Morton » April 8th, 2018, 10:35 pm

Count Lucanor wrote:
April 8th, 2018, 8:35 pm

However, isn't it possible that the idea of government belongs already to the grim reality that deviates from the ideal construction? I mean, what would convince us that government is an institution that belongs to the essence of our ideal society, and thus, can only be improved, but not eradicated?
Well, I'm not sure what would count as an "ideal" society, but I think government is necessary for a workable society. What convinces me are the arguments made by Hobbes, Locke, and most philosophers since, and also our experience with societies lacking functioning governments.

Anarchism is an appealing idea, but as long as there are predators and parasites among us, and conflicts among the rest of us, some means of dealing with them will be required.

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Re: A Moral Argument for Minarchy

Post by Greta » April 8th, 2018, 11:10 pm

GE Morton wrote:
April 8th, 2018, 9:35 pm
[
When governments are reduced, as they have been for decades, who fills the power void?
Er, no. Governments certainly have not been "reduced for decades." Their powers and budgets have grown for decades --- as the charts I gave you show. The trend, BTW, for Australia is very similar to that of the US.:

https://www.theglobaleconomy.com/Austra ... ment_size/

I assume that graph reflects only federal spending in Oz. This one probably includes state and local government spending as well:

https://tradingeconomics.com/australia/ ... ing-to-gdp
Er, no. Government services certainly have indeed been stripped for decades. I take it you have never spoken with a public servant away from the workplace. Most of the increases came from ballooning welfare costs - largely due to the issue you choose to ignore - automation.
GE Morton wrote:There is no such thing as a "power void." That is a rhetorical fiction. The only type of power relevant to this discussion --- or relevant in any discussion of morality --- is the power to exert force against moral agents with impunity, and only governments hold that power.
Er no. There's no point insisting on technical terms on a forum and pretending not to understand common use language - it's just stubborn and looks naive. I was not aware that corporations had lost their ability to exert force against moral agents with impunity. When did that happen? You are operating in theoretical realms and ignoring the Realpolitik.

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Re: A Moral Argument for Minarchy

Post by GE Morton » April 8th, 2018, 11:15 pm

Fooloso4 wrote:
April 8th, 2018, 12:03 pm
Er, no. That question is misconceived, as it uses the plural pronoun, "we," and thereby presumes that there is a certain way in which everyone should live. Which there is not.
Er, no. The question is addressed to we, that is those who ask about the fundamental question of philosophy.
Heh. So you are claiming that the "we" refers only to those doing political philosophy? If so, your statement ("The fundamental question of political philosophy is, How ought we to live?") is very strangely worded. And I strongly doubt that many philosophers would agree that the fundamental question of political philosphy is how those doing political philosophy wish to live.
Er, no. It does make sense. It is what guided political philosophy from Socrates to Aristotle to those today who look to them for the proper foundation. You have gone from accusing me of claiming that there is a certain way that everyone should live to claiming that political philosophy is private morality.
You need to cease distorting what I said into straw men, Fooloso. I did not say, or imply, that "political philosophy is private morality." I said that the question, "How do we wish to live?" is a matter of private morality. It is not a question for political philosophy, which, as the links I gave you indicated, deals with the form and functions of government.
Aristotle begins his Politics:
Every state is a community of some kind, and every community is established with a view to some good; for mankind always act in order to obtain that which they think good. But, if all communities aim at some good, the state or political community, which is the highest of all, and which embraces all the rest, aims at good in a greater degree than any other, and at the highest good.
Obviously he puts the fundamental question of political philosophy at a more fundamental level than the question of how the state is to be administered.
I see nothing there about how anyone wishes to live. And the question I asked --- "What is the proper role of government in a free society?" --- is not a question about how that government is administered.
The question, which is being posed as part of the fundamental question of political philosophy and how you answer it are two different things. It is your answer to this question that helps determine your answer to the question of the role of government.
Yes, that is true. Do you have some alternative interpretation of "free society" --- one that is consistent with the historical understanding of that term?
They are not equivalent. For those concerned with the questions of political philosophy the constraints may be seen as justly and necessarily self-imposed, even though in practice some members will have to have constraints imposed on them. Those constraints need not be imposed by government but by society.
Er, how does "society" impose those constraints, other than via government?
That is a good question, but it belongs to ethics generally, not to political philosophy.
This shows why the fundamental question does not bottom out at the role of government. The following describes clearly and succinctly the relationship between ethics and politics according to Aristotle :
In his Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle (384-322 B.C.E.) describes the happy life intended for man by nature as one lived in accordance with virtue, and, in his Politics, he describes the role that politics and the political community must play in bringing about the virtuous life in the citizenry. (http://www.iep.utm.edu/aris-pol/)
It is easy to misunderstand this if one does not know what Aristotle meant by "the happy life" and "virtue". For the moment I will only caution against assuming he is using them in the way we might. Eudemonia (the happy life) is akin to the welfare of a person or a people. Virtue is related to excellence, power, and the actualization of one's potential.
The question in question was, you might recall, "What are the obligations of its members to each other?" Nothing in your comments there relates to that question or my response.
No, it is not the ultimate goal. It is a means to an end, the end being maximizing welfare for all persons.
Is it your answer to that question that helps determine the role of government or is it the role of government that determines the answer the question? The role of government is predicated on certain assumptions. Political philosophy must uncover and examine those assumptions.
I'm not sure to which question you're referring. The statement of mine to which you are apparently responding did not contain a question. It was an answer to a question you asked.

GE Morton
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Re: A Moral Argument for Minarchy

Post by GE Morton » April 8th, 2018, 11:44 pm

Greta wrote:
April 8th, 2018, 11:10 pm

Er, no. Government services certainly have indeed been stripped for decades. I take it you have never spoken with a public servant away from the workplace. Most of the increases came from ballooning welfare costs - largely due to the issue you choose to ignore - automation.
No, Greta. We do not estimate the scope or growth of government by speaking to public servants --- all of whom have a rather obvious vested interest in increasing government budgets. We do it by examining government spending, or by comparing the numbers of pages in the Code of Federal Regulations (in the US; I'm sure there is a comparable database in Australia).

"Back in 1960, the CFR contained 22,877 pages in 68 volumes . . . The CFR stood at 71,224 pages by year-end 1975, in 133 volumes. Now, new data from the National Archives shows that the CFR stands at 175,496 at year-end 2013, including the 1,170-page index."

https://cei.org/blog/new-data-code-fede ... nder-obama

You're also chasing a phantom with respect to automation:

"New artificial intelligence and robotic technologies are fueling fears that automation will cause widespread unemployment. Yet unemployment in the US is at its lowest level in 16 years. Some economists see this as evidence that recent technological change is not so great after all (Gordon). But there is another explanation that is supported by growing evidence: while automation today is associated with job losses in manufacturing, it is associated with overall job growth in other sectors . . . A new research paper, 'Automation and Jobs: When technology boosts employment,' by James Bessen, explores why automation often boosts employment in affected industries and presents evidence about where this is happening today. The analysis suggests that major new advances in technology, while possibly disruptive, are not on course to create major unemployment overall in the near future."

http://sites.bu.edu/tpri/2017/07/06/why ... mployment/

Sorry to slay your bogeyman.
I was not aware that corporations had lost their ability to exert force against moral agents with impunity. When did that happen? You are operating in theoretical realms and ignoring the Realpolitik.
I was not aware that any corporations had ever had that ability, at least in the developed world. Which corporations have it, and how do they exercise it? Do some of them maintain armies, police, prisons, gas chambers?

I suspect your claim rests on a metaphorical use of "force," such that a corporation who fires an employee, or closes a factory and lays off workers, has used "force" against them. Or something along those lines. That is not "force" in the morally relevant sense.

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Greta
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Re: A Moral Argument for Minarchy

Post by Greta » April 9th, 2018, 12:07 am

I note that you ignore the statistic regarding the increased proportion of welfare spending. With that alone you entire argument falls to bits there. Government services are rationalising. Unlike you, who is just guessing and plucking out convenient figures I actually know through experience because for years I produced data and statistics that was used for several restructures in the public sector and reported on the changes. That was until my entire uni was replaced by machines - and I provided them with the info needed to do that too.

Your employment statistics are disingenuous. No mention of under-employment. Another own goal.

As for not believing that corporations are taking on governance roles and lack coercive capacities, I will leave you at this point because you are operating in some rarefied theoretical realm that does not take reality into account, so there's not much to say but let you weave your theoretical web undisturbed.

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