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A Moral Argument for Minarchy

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GE Morton
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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.

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ThomasHobbes
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Re: A Moral Argument for Minarchy

Post by ThomasHobbes » September 30th, 2018, 6:57 am

GE Morton wrote:
April 7th, 2018, 11:18 am

Image
This parallels an increase in literacy, health, standard of living and longevity of the population. The only exception are the war years which were a simple tragic waste of material and human resources.

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Burning ghost
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Re: A Moral Argument for Minarchy

Post by Burning ghost » September 30th, 2018, 9:59 am

GE Morton wrote:
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.
I’ll address the OP directly asap. This looks like a juicy topic :D
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Re: A Moral Argument for Minarchy

Post by Iapetus » October 4th, 2018, 4:13 pm

Reply to GE Morton:

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 …

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.


I see this as a fundamental weakness in your proposition. You seem to be working on the assumption that there is ‘a moral theory’ rather than thousands of differing ones. You, personally, may be concerned with maximising welfare but that may not be the case, necessarily, for somebody who believes that their ’moral theory’ is dictated by what can be found in a holy book. Or for somebody who believes that their racial superiority dictates a destiny to dominate.

If everybody genuinely shared a common ‘moral theory’ which asserted that “all agents in the field have equal moral status”, then there may be prospects for a degree of peace and prosperity. But they don’t.

Even if I choose to accept the concept of a common ‘moral theory’, I am unable to follow your reasoning when you state, "you cannot rationally support forcibly reducing the welfare of some to benefit others, or forcing some agents into servitude to benefit others". You quoted Thomas Jefferson in your original post as calling for, “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 . . . “. A man who owned hundreds of slaves, most of whom he never freed. The government in his case certainly seems to have allowed him to reduce the welfare of others for his own personal benefit and to sustain slavery as an institution.

Perhaps Jefferson was simply a product of his time and the government also. Perhaps they did not regard slaves as ‘agents’. Perhaps not even as ‘true’ human beings. And certainly not as deserving of such foibles as life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. In which case, Jefferson is actually saying that government should remain ‘frugal’ and not interfere in the dominance of privileged people over those who are already less privileged.

Yet you have also stated that, “A master-slave relationship is a prima facieviolation of formal equality”. In that case, the government of Jeffersons’s time, of whose principles he had considerable influence in formulating, could have acted against him, rather than continuing to sustain the institution of slavery. If that government purported to have ‘moral principles’, then those principles were manipulated to ensure that they were applied unequally or not at all to certain members of the governed. So they were self-contradictory.

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.


By what terms do you recognise ‘poverty’ among animals? Do you regard a starving lion with a broken leg as being in a state of ‘material equality’? In what sense is material equality a problem which needs to be solved? I really don’t know what you are trying to get at.

If you think that a government must rely on persuasion to achieve ‘moral’ objectives, then do laws have no place in society? And if laws exist, must all enforcement of those laws depend on persuasion? How long would it have taken to persuade slave owners to give up that particular system of repression? And, given your assertion that, “A master-slave relationship is a prima facieviolation of formal equality”, is persuasion ‘morally justifiable’? Or a moral contradiction?

Returning to your very first question:

What is the proper role of government in a free society?


Has there ever existed a society which you regard as free? If any society was truly free – and I do not see how that would be possible – then, presumably, the role of ‘government’ would be to sit back and admire. To me the far more relevant question is:

What is the proper role of government in a society which is not free?

GE Morton
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Re: A Moral Argument for Minarchy

Post by GE Morton » October 4th, 2018, 11:11 pm

I replied to this post a couple of hours ago. It appeared at the time, but has now disappeared. Here is the gist:
Iapetus wrote:
October 4th, 2018, 4:13 pm

I see this as a fundamental weakness in your proposition. You seem to be working on the assumption that there is ‘a moral theory’ rather than thousands of differing ones. You, personally, may be concerned with maximising welfare but that may not be the case, necessarily, for somebody who believes that their ’moral theory’ is dictated by what can be found in a holy book. Or for somebody who believes that their racial superiority dictates a destiny to dominate.
You need to read the backthread. Most of your points have already been addressed. You might also peruse the "Does society need prisons?" thread.

Re: Jefferson & slaves: Jefferson advocated abolition of slavery his entire life.

https://www.monticello.org/site/plantat ... rd-slavery

But every path to abolition had a downside, and Jefferson believed --- or perhaps rationalized --- that his slaves were better off where they were than they would be if emancipated into the prejudiced society and hostile legal environment at the time.

In any case, that argument is an ad hominem. Jefferson's personal behavior has no bearing on the soundness of his theory of government.
If you think that a government must rely on persuasion to achieve ‘moral’ objectives, then do laws have no place in society?
Of course they do --- their purpose is to protect individual rights. One need not rely on persuasion to do that --- force may always be used to resist force or redress its previous use. But not for any other purpose.
What is the proper role of government in a society which is not free?
It has no legitimate role. The role of the people in that case is to overthrow that government and establish a new one that secures their freedom.

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Re: A Moral Argument for Minarchy

Post by Iapetus » October 5th, 2018, 5:20 am

Reply to GE Morton:
You need to read the backthread. Most of your points have already been addressed. You might also peruse the "Does society need prisons?" thread.
I have read the backthread. I was trying to clarify your position in relation to points which I do not consider to have been fully addressed. On your own admission; “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 …”.

I started by refuting a premise; “You seem to be working on the assumption that there is ‘a moral theory’ rather than thousands of differing ones”. You have not responded to this.

But every path to abolition had a downside, and Jefferson believed --- or perhaps rationalized --- that his slaves were better off where they were than they would be if emancipated into the prejudiced society and hostile legal environment at the time.

In any case, that argument is an ad hominem. Jefferson's personal behavior has no bearing on the soundness of his theory of government.


I know a fair bit about Jefferson’s life and I certainly understand that his views about slavery were complex and nuanced. That is beside the point. Neither did I make an ad hominem attack. My point was that a man who who advocated freedom personally deprived hundreds of people of freedom. There is inbuilt hypocrisy in the argument. Regardless at your attempts to defend the man, he never freed the vast proportion of the slaves of whom he had the capacity to do so. I applied my statements to Jefferson and to the government to which he was a significant contributor. Furthermore, as I explained, if one of the guiding principles of that particular government was the pursuit of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, then how could it possibly sustain slavery? You have not responded to this. Neither did you respond to my point that ‘frugal’ government could not possibly meet its own stated aims. There is a logical flaw in the argument.

I asked, “If you think that a government must rely on persuasion to achieve ‘moral’ objectives, then do laws have no place in society?” You responded:

Of course they do --- their purpose is to protect individual rights. One need not rely on persuasion to do that --- force may always be used to resist force or redress its previous use. But not for any other purpose.


As I said, I have read the backthread. I am unable to find clarification of what you mean in this particular paragraph. I am, in fact, more confused than ever. You have used the term, ‘moral’ in the title to the thread but I am unclear what that may mean in terms of the aims and purpose of government. I, personally, find the term very confusing and prefer not to use it. Nonetheless, you have suggested particular aims of government, though these, too, leave me confused. You started by talking about freedom in society but then shifted to ‘maximising welfare’. Are these separate aims? Is one a subset of the other? Are there no other aims? Are ‘individual rights’ derived automatically (I avoid the term, ‘naturally’) or confered by government? If they are confered, then how does the government guarantee those rights in a minarchy?

I asked, "What is the proper role of government in a society which is not free?" You replied:
It has no legitimate role. The role of the people in that case is to overthrow that government and establish a new one that secures their freedom.
I cannot make any sense of that statement. If you are refering to perpetual revolution then you are not advocating government. Government takes time to initiate change. Freedom is not achieved in a day. Absolute freedom is never achieved. Improvements are possible but they need to be verified. If a revolution overthrows a government before it has had the opportunity to achieve improvement, then what is the likelihood that the next government is going to do any better? And if a government targets a particular achievement to improve freedom, what is the likelihood of it achieving that target in a minarchy, particularly if you say that it has no legitimate role?

GE Morton
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Re: A Moral Argument for Minarchy

Post by GE Morton » October 5th, 2018, 12:30 pm

Iapetus wrote:
October 5th, 2018, 5:20 am

I started by refuting a premise; “You seem to be working on the assumption that there is ‘a moral theory’ rather than thousands of differing ones”. You have not responded to this.
The argument presented in the OP makes no such assumption. It argues that if you accept the principle of formal equality, you cannot embrace material equality without contradiction.

There are, of course, many moral theories --- nearly as many as there are moral philosophers (not to mention those encountered among the rest of humanity). To be sure, if you favor some moral theory which does not hold welfare maximization for all agents to be the aim of the theory, or does not include an Equal Agency postulate, then my argument will be irrelevant.
I know a fair bit about Jefferson’s life and I certainly understand that his views about slavery were complex and nuanced. That is beside the point. Neither did I make an ad hominem attack. My point was that a man who who advocated freedom personally deprived hundreds of people of freedom. There is inbuilt hypocrisy in the argument.
Sorry, but accusing the exponent of an argument with hypocrisy is and ad hominem argument, even if the accusation is true. Whether Jefferson's theory of government, or its implicit moral theory, is sound does not depend upon how consistent his actions were with those theories.
Furthermore, as I explained, if one of the guiding principles of that particular government was the pursuit of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, then how could it possibly sustain slavery?
It did so because it did not adhere consistently to its declared principles, for pragmatic reasons that seemed compelling at the time --- a failing to which most moral agents succumb from time to time (and sometimes with justification). Again, however, such failings do not invalidate the principles.
Neither did you respond to my point that ‘frugal’ government could not possibly meet its own stated aims. There is a logical flaw in the argument.
I'm not following that one. Can you explain this "impossibility"? And point out the logical flaw? Be sure you understand the Declaration's statement of the role of government correctly: it is to secure the people's rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; it is not to guarantee those things to anyone. E.g., it's role is to prevent someone from murdering you (violating your right to life). It is not to provide you with any of the necessities of life, your mere lack of which (probably) does not involve any violation of your rights.
I asked, “If you think that a government must rely on persuasion to achieve ‘moral’ objectives, then do laws have no place in society?” You responded:

Of course they do --- their purpose is to protect individual rights. One need not rely on persuasion to do that --- force may always be used to resist force or redress its previous use. But not for any other purpose.


As I said, I have read the backthread. I am unable to find clarification of what you mean in this particular paragraph. I am, in fact, more confused than ever. You have used the term, ‘moral’ in the title to the thread but I am unclear what that may mean in terms of the aims and purpose of government. I, personally, find the term very confusing and prefer not to use it. Nonetheless, you have suggested particular aims of government, though these, too, leave me confused.
Several good questions there. Again, you might wish to read the "Does soceity need prisons?" thread, which will answer many of them. You might begin about here:

viewtopic.php?f=5&t=346&start=255
You started by talking about freedom in society but then shifted to ‘maximising welfare’. Are these separate aims? Is one a subset of the other?
Freedom is a necessary condition for maximizing welfare. To the extent an agent is not free (due to constraints imposed by other agents) opportunities to improve his welfare are denied to him.
Are there no other aims?
A couple of others are mentioned in the OP --- supplying certain public goods and managing natural commons.
Are ‘individual rights’ derived automatically (I avoid the term, ‘naturally’) or confered by government? If they are confered, then how does the government guarantee those rights in a minarchy?
Individual rights originate with first possession. I.e., the creator or discoverer of a good has a right to it. Why is that? Well, because a first possessor has necessarily acquired his good without inflicting loss on anyone else. I.e., he has acquired it righteously. But if anyone takes it from him they thereby impose a loss on him, violating the maximization principle or the equal agency principle, or both. BTW, "natural rights" are rights to things one has naturally, things one brings with one into the world, such as one's life, one's body, one's various talents and abilities. "Common rights" are rights to things one righteously acquires afterwards.

Government guarantees those rights by 1) removing violators from the society, and 2) forcing those violators to make restitution for the losses they have imposed or the damages they have done.

Iapetus
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Re: A Moral Argument for Minarchy

Post by Iapetus » October 6th, 2018, 7:55 am

Reply to GE Morton:

…To be sure, if you favor some moral theory which does not hold welfare maximization for all agents to be the aim of the theory, or does not include an Equal Agency postulate, then my argument will be irrelevant.


That is the precise point; government must serve all people, whatever their beliefs. That is why I object to assigning it a particular moral purpose. That does not mean that it should not have clear guiding principles, such as those outlined in a constitution. But those guiding principles are not easily encompassed by broad and incredibly vague terms such as ‘welfare’ or ‘freedom’. It is also the case that those guiding principles are likely to change over time in response to changes in the broad patterns of belief of the population.

Sorry, but accusing the exponent of an argument with hypocrisy is and ad hominem argument, even if the accusation is true. Whether Jefferson's theory of government, or its implicit moral theory, is sound does not depend upon how consistent his actions were with those theories.


An argument can be espoused through words and through actions. If the two are in contradiction, then the effectiveness of the argument is diminished. This is not an ad hominem attack. It is a criticism of the command, ‘don’t do what I do; do what I say’. I applied the criticism to an individual and to the government as a whole. Moreover, I offered an alternative interpretation; “In which case, Jefferson is actually saying that government should remain ‘frugal’ and not interfere in the dominance of privileged people over those who are already less privileged”. I was commenting on the quality of the argument, not of the man.

… Again, however, such failings (not adhering to declared principles) do not invalidate the principles.


You are quite right. But it is highly likely to provide opportunities for valid criticism of the government. And of individuals who act similarly.

I stated; “Neither did you respond to my point that ‘frugal’ government could not possibly meet its own stated aims. There is a logical flaw in the argument”.

I'm not following that one. Can you explain this "impossibility"? And point out the logical flaw?


If a government commits itself to a particular aim, such as improving some aspect of ‘welfare’, then it needs to devote resources to achieving that aim. If, however, that government is also driven by the imperative of frugality, then the two purposes are in conflict. Either you allocate sufficient resources or you don’t. If a particular aim is achieved, then the urge to frugality requires that the range of other aims must be necessarily limited. This is not the same thing as working with limited resources. By specifying frugality, a counteracting factor has been introduced. There is a contradiction and a logical flaw.

Be sure you understand the Declaration's statement of the role of government correctly: it is to secure the people's rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; it is not to guarantee those things to anyone. E.g., it's role is to prevent someone from murdering you (violating your right to life). It is not to provide you with any of the necessities of life, your mere lack of which (probably) does not involve any violation of your rights.


Liberty? Pursuit of happiness? I picked up on the example of Jefferson simply because you quoted him in your original post. It does not follow that our conversation must be directed purely to the example of the USA. My assumption was that you were making statements about governments in general and I hope that is the case. Nonetheless, I shall note your assertion that it is not the purpose of government to guarantee such rights to its people and I shall save it for later.

I then wrote, “You have used the term, ‘moral’ in the title to the thread but I am unclear what that may mean in terms of the aims and purpose of government. I, personally, find the term very confusing and prefer not to use it. Nonetheless, you have suggested particular aims of government, though these, too, leave me confused”.

You have not answered these points. You directed me to a discussion in relation to the purpose of prison, predominantly with Thomas Hobbes. I don’t agree with much of what you say and it doesn’t clear up anything for me. I wish you would answer the question directly.

Freedom is a necessary condition for maximizing welfare. To the extent an agent is not free (due to constraints imposed by other agents) opportunities to improve his welfare are denied to him.


I could say so much about the uselessness of ‘welfare’ as a criterion because it can be interpreted in so many different – and often conflicting – ways. It has little more use than, ‘good’. To say that freedom contributes to welfare is saying precious little.

I asked, “Are there no other aims (of government)?"

A couple of others are mentioned in the OP --- supplying certain public goods and managing natural commons.


You leave me aghast. Apart from no definition of ‘public goods’ or ‘natural commons’, where does that leave your ‘welfare’? Health? Education? Are you suggesting that there is no role in government for gathering information to inform itself of the ‘needs’ of its population? The census? Nothing to do with promotion or defence of the economy? Controls on financial systems? Roads? Bridges? Infrastructure? Research? Do you imagine that governments had no input into information systems or the global positioning satellites which are such a vital part of modern economies? Should they not have done so? You have mentioned ‘a couple of others’. I feel that further explanation is required.

Individual rights originate with first possession. I.e., the creator or discoverer of a good has a right to it.


That is your opinion and you have only asserted it, not argued its validity. Are you suggesting, for example that Tim Berners-Lee, should ‘own’ the worldwide web because he invented the concept? Regardless of who else – individuals and corporations – was responsible for the systems which enabled its use? Should the discoverer of Pluto own Pluto? Why, if your argument is valid, do Norwegians or, more specifically, the descendents of Roald Amundsen, not own the South Pole?

Why is that? Well, because a first possessor has necessarily acquired his good without inflicting loss on anyone else. I.e., he has acquired it righteously.


I think this is extraordinarily simplistic and silly beyond belief.

But if anyone takes it from him they thereby impose a loss on him, violating the maximization principle or the equal agency principle, or both. BTW, "natural rights" are rights to things one has naturally, things one brings with one into the world, such as one's life, one's body, one's various talents and abilities. "Common rights" are rights to things one righteously acquires afterwards.


You seem to be using ‘righteously’ in a very strange context which does very little to aid understanding.

Government guarantees those rights by 1) removing violators from the society, and 2) forcing those violators to make restitution for the losses they have imposed or the damages they have done.


You have written many words on this thread but I cannot find anything to suggest that your view is other than incredibly narrow and I am left with little idea of the practicalities of what you are trying to argue, including the actual functions of government. Is your argument that the world pays too many taxes? Or that governments spend irresponsibily? Are you a survivalist? It sounds as if you are.

Iapetus
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Re: A Moral Argument for Minarchy

Post by Iapetus » October 6th, 2018, 8:44 am

Reply to GE Morton (2):

A couple of extra points:

You wrote – about rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness:

it is not to guarantee those things to anyone.


Yet previously, when I asked you if laws had a place in society, you replied:

Of course they do --- their purpose is to protect individual rights.


If the laws are not there as a form of guarantee, then what is their purpose?

I asked, "What is the proper role of government in a society which is not free?" You replied:

It has no legitimate role. The role of the people in that case is to overthrow that government and establish a new one that secures their freedom.


I explained, “I cannot make any sense of that statement. If you are refering to perpetual revolution then you are not advocating government. Government takes time to initiate change. Freedom is not achieved in a day. Absolute freedom is never achieved. Improvements are possible but they need to be verified. If a revolution overthrows a government before it has had the opportunity to achieve improvement, then what is the likelihood that the next government is going to do any better? And if a government targets a particular achievement to improve freedom, what is the likelihood of it achieving that target in a minarchy, particularly if you say that it has no legitimate role?”

We have barely touched on the concept of minarchy, even though it is in the title of the thread. You seem to have avoided my questions on this point and I need a response in order to understand your position in relation to the ‘proper role of government in society’, a term which you introduced.

GE Morton
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Re: A Moral Argument for Minarchy

Post by GE Morton » October 6th, 2018, 2:49 pm

Iapetus wrote:
October 6th, 2018, 7:55 am
Reply to GE Morton:

…To be sure, if you favor some moral theory which does not hold welfare maximization for all agents to be the aim of the theory, or does not include an Equal Agency postulate, then my argument will be irrelevant.


That is the precise point; government must serve all people, whatever their beliefs.
Well, that depends upon what you mean by "serve." It must serve them all by protecting everyone's rights and offering all equal protection of the law. It may not serve anyone in the sense of meeting their personal needs and desires. It cannot do the latter without violating someone's rights.
That is why I object to assigning it a particular moral purpose. That does not mean that it should not have clear guiding principles, such as those outlined in a constitution. But those guiding principles are not easily encompassed by broad and incredibly vague terms such as ‘welfare’ or ‘freedom’. It is also the case that those guiding principles are likely to change over time in response to changes in the broad patterns of belief of the population.
Government has a "moral purpose" in the sense that its "guiding principles," and its actions, must be morally justifiable, just as are the principles followed and the actions of all persons. Humans are moral agents, and as such their actions are always subject to moral scrutiny. Whether a guiding principle is or is not morally justifiable does not depend a whit upon anyone's beliefs, or upon public opinion. It does depend, of course, upon the moral theory against which it is being tested. So we need to be confident that the moral theory we're applying is rationally defensible.

I'm not quite sure what you're arguing here. Are you advocating some sort of moral relativism? Moral nihilism? Or that somehow government is exempt from moral scrutiny?

Perhaps I should re-introduce the distinction (made elsewhere on this forum) between public moralities and private moralities. Historically, moral philosophy has covered a lot of ground, and embraced everything from the foundations of law to cultivation of virtues to one's relationship with God to self-improvement tips. I take a theory of public morality to be concerned with one issue only: rules governing interactions between agents in a moral field. All other questions regarding acceptable or desirable personal behavior --- whether one should eat meat on Fridays, attend church on Sunday, donate to this or that charity, "turn the other cheek" if smote, refrain from sex outside marriage, smoke marijuana, peruse pornography, etc., etc., fall within the purview of private moralities. Government should take no notice, neither promoting or suppressing, any private morality, unless one of them conflicts with a rule of public morality --- a rule generated by a sound, rationally defensible moral theory.
An argument can be espoused through words and through actions.
No, it can't. An argument is a verbal construct consisting of propositions --- some premises and a conclusion --- in which the conclusion is claimed to follow logically from the premises. The only actions involved in making an argument are the acts of uttering or writing it.
This is not an ad hominem attack. It is a criticism of the command, ‘don’t do what I do; do what I say’.
A criticism of "don't do what I do; do what I say" is not a criticism of what was said. Jefferson uttered no such command. That is an inference drawn by you from the speaker's actions, not from any proposition in his argument. Thus it is an ad hominem.
I applied the criticism to an individual and to the government as a whole. Moreover, I offered an alternative interpretation; “In which case, Jefferson is actually saying that government should remain ‘frugal’ and not interfere in the dominance of privileged people over those who are already less privileged”. I was commenting on the quality of the argument, not of the man.
That "interpretation" is contrived and spurious. "Frugality" has no connotations of "dominance." It simply means one ought not spend money unnecessarily or unwisely.

https://www.macmillandictionary.com/dic ... can/frugal
If a government commits itself to a particular aim, such as improving some aspect of ‘welfare’, then it needs to devote resources to achieving that aim. If, however, that government is also driven by the imperative of frugality, then the two purposes are in conflict.
No, they are not. Frugality means not spending money unwisely or unnecessarily. Spending it as necessary to achieve a desired aim is not a failure to be frugal.
Be sure you understand the Declaration's statement of the role of government correctly: it is to secure the people's rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; it is not to guarantee those things to anyone. E.g., it's role is to prevent someone from murdering you (violating your right to life). It is not to provide you with any of the necessities of life, your mere lack of which (probably) does not involve any violation of your rights.


Liberty? Pursuit of happiness? I picked up on the example of Jefferson simply because you quoted him in your original post. It does not follow that our conversation must be directed purely to the example of the USA. My assumption was that you were making statements about governments in general and I hope that is the case.
Yes, it is.
Nonetheless, I shall note your assertion that it is not the purpose of government to guarantee such rights to its people and I shall save it for later.
No --- it is indeed to guarantee their rights to those and other things. Guaranteeing one's right to X is not, however, a guarantee that one will have X. It is only a guarantee that if Alfie has X, and has a right to it, it will not be taken from him --- or at least, that the government will strive to honor that guarantee.
Freedom is a necessary condition for maximizing welfare. To the extent an agent is not free (due to constraints imposed by other agents) opportunities to improve his welfare are denied to him.


I could say so much about the uselessness of ‘welfare’ as a criterion because it can be interpreted in so many different – and often conflicting – ways. It has little more use than, ‘good’. To say that freedom contributes to welfare is saying precious little.
Let me amplify on my meaning of "welfare." All persons have interests --- things they desire to acquire or retain ("goods") and things they desire to avoid, or be rid of ("evils"). These terms are to be understood broadly, to encompass not only physical things, like food, houses and big-screen teevees, but knowledge, skills, various experiences, attaining goals, companionship, etc. --- in short, anything a person invests any effort or resource to acquire (or avoid). These are things which, for each person, fulfill some sort of need (natural or instrumental), or deliver some sort of satisfaction or contentment or pleasure. Each interest has a rank in a hierarchy (a "hierarchy of values"); each person's hierarchy is unique, differing from that of every other person, and rational persons will always trade a good with lower rank in the hierarchy for one of higher rank. A person's welfare is a measure of the extent to which he has attained the goods in his hierarchy --- the more of them he has secured, the better off he is. (This is essentially the understanding of "welfare" accepted in welfare economics).
You leave me aghast. Apart from no definition of ‘public goods’ or ‘natural commons’ . . .
Both of those terms have been defined elsewhere in the thread, or perhaps in the "Prisons" thread. In any case, a "public good" is a good which, in economics, is non-rivalrous and non-excludable:

https://www.investopedia.com/terms/p/public-good.asp

"Natural commons" are natural goods or resources which have been used in common by all near them since time immemorial, e.g., the oceans (for navigation and fishing), the atmosphere, certain lands, etc.
. . . where does that leave your ‘welfare’? Health? Education? Are you suggesting that there is no role in government for gathering information to inform itself of the ‘needs’ of its population? The census? Nothing to do with promotion or defence of the economy? Controls on financial systems? Roads? Bridges? Infrastructure? Research? Do you imagine that governments had no input into information systems or the global positioning satellites which are such a vital part of modern economies? Should they not have done so? You have mentioned ‘a couple of others’. I feel that further explanation is required.
Health and education are private, not public, goods. They are certainly elements of welfare, but not of "public welfare," or "the general welfare," as that phrase is used in the US Constitution. Here are the definitions of those terms in Webster's 1828 dictionary:

"1. Exemption from misfortune, sickness, calamity or evil; the enjoyment of health and the common blessings of life; prosperity; happiness; applied to persons.

2. Exemption from any unusual evil or calamity; the enjoyment of peace and prosperity, or the ordinary blessings of society and civil government; applied to states."

http://webstersdictionary1828.com/Dictionary/welfare

The second definition is the meaning of "general welfare" in the Constititution.

Some of the other things you list are public goods (roads, financial or other laws) are are public goods, and properly provided by government. I'm not sure what you have in mind with, "defense of the economy."
Individual rights originate with first possession. I.e., the creator or discoverer of a good has a right to it.


That is your opinion and you have only asserted it, not argued its validity.
That is actually how the term originated --- it originated in the common law (and earlier) courts of England, and denoted which of the parties in dispute over some property (a wagon, a cow, a section of land) had a "right" to it, which meant he had acquired it righteously and was rightfully in possession of it. It also denoted liberty rights --- "rights" to act, for acts which caused no harms. Generally, property disputes --- who had the right to the wagon --- were settled via the first possession rule: the rightful owner was the person who built the wagon or who acquired it via a "chain of consent" from the builder. Or if the dispute was over a natural good, such as a mineral deposit or a wild animal --- the rightful possessor was whoever discovered the deposit or bagged the animal.

I did, BTW, provide a brief argument for the moral basis of that rule, which you dismiss below: the first possession rule is morally sound because a first possessor has necessarily acquired his good without inflicting harm or loss on anyone else --- a morally significant fact.
Are you suggesting, for example that Tim Berners-Lee, should ‘own’ the worldwide web because he invented the concept?
Under the patent laws of most countries "ideas" are not patentable. Nor are goods freely released into the public domain.
Regardless of who else – individuals and corporations – was responsible for the systems which enabled its use?
Of course not. If others contributed to the discovery or devised applications of it or improvements to it they are entitled to shares in its profits.
Should the discoverer of Pluto own Pluto? Why, if your argument is valid, do Norwegians or, more specifically, the descendents of Roald Amundsen, not own the South Pole?
There is a further condition to the first possession rule --- the claimant must derive some demonstrable benefit from it. E.g., the Vikings or Columbus could not have laid claim to the entire New World. They could have laid claim to any portion of it they homesteaded, farmed, or otherwise derived tangible benefits.
Why is that? Well, because a first possessor has necessarily acquired his good without inflicting loss on anyone else. I.e., he has acquired it righteously.


I think this is extraordinarily simplistic and silly beyond belief.

But if anyone takes it from him they thereby impose a loss on him, violating the maximization principle or the equal agency principle, or both. BTW, "natural rights" are rights to things one has naturally, things one brings with one into the world, such as one's life, one's body, one's various talents and abilities. "Common rights" are rights to things one righteously acquires afterwards.


You seem to be using ‘righteously’ in a very strange context which does very little to aid understanding.
Well, some substantive objections would be helpful. "Silly" and "strange" are non-responsive.

Government guarantees those rights by 1) removing violators from the society, and 2) forcing those violators to make restitution for the losses they have imposed or the damages they have done.

You have written many words on this thread but I cannot find anything to suggest that your view is other than incredibly narrow and I am left with little idea of the practicalities of what you are trying to argue, including the actual functions of government. Is your argument that the world pays too many taxes? Or that governments spend irresponsibily? Are you a survivalist? It sounds as if you are.
I've outlined the legitimate functions of government in considerable detail, and supported that view with extensive argument. You need to rebut those arguments. Ignoring them or dismissing them with sophomoric ad hominems ("silly," "strange," "narrow," "are you a survivalist?") are admissions that you cannot.

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

Re: A Moral Argument for Minarchy

Post by GE Morton » October 6th, 2018, 3:25 pm

Iapetus wrote:
October 6th, 2018, 8:44 am

You wrote – about rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness:

it is not to guarantee those things to anyone.


Yet previously, when I asked you if laws had a place in society, you replied:

Of course they do --- their purpose is to protect individual rights.


If the laws are not there as a form of guarantee, then what is their purpose?
I think I answered that in the previous comment. The governments role is to guarantee each person's rights to those things. It is not to guarantee possession of the things. You can only have rights to things you already possess and acquired righteously (and also to things once rightfully possessed but were stolen). No one has any "right" that others provide him with anything --- except as restitution for losses or damages another has previously inflicted.

The world does not owe anyone a living.
I asked, "What is the proper role of government in a society which is not free?" You replied:

It has no legitimate role. The role of the people in that case is to overthrow that government and establish a new one that secures their freedom.


I explained, “I cannot make any sense of that statement. If you are refering to perpetual revolution then you are not advocating government. Government takes time to initiate change. Freedom is not achieved in a day. Absolute freedom is never achieved.
Well, I'm not sure what you mean by "absolute freedom." In political philosophy the only sort of freedom considered is the absence of constraints on one's actions imposed by other moral agents. It doesn't imply freedom from the laws of nature or from the "fickle finger of fate." But there is no reason why freedom in the relevant sense cannot be perfectly, and immediately, achieved.
We have barely touched on the concept of minarchy, even though it is in the title of the thread. You seem to have avoided my questions on this point and I need a response in order to understand your position in relation to the ‘proper role of government in society’, a term which you introduced.
The OP gives a detailed definition of minarchy, and a step-by-step moral argument for it.

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