A Moral Argument for Minarchy

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Iapetus
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Re: A Moral Argument for Minarchy

Post by Iapetus » October 13th, 2018, 7:42 am

Reply to GE Morton:

You denied the existence of axioms as self-evident propositions, and declared that they must be demonstrated:


I went to some lengths to explain that they need to be agreed upon in the context of the discussion. Your requoting my comments about the Quran did that job for me. Many muslims – though I can’t speak for all of them - might well accept as self-evident – and therefore axiomatic - that the Quran is a revelation from Allah. Unbelievers would probably not. In a conversation between muslims and unbelievers, such a statement would not be accepted as axiomatic. I addressed the interpretation of axiomatic and the interpretation of self-evident. It is beyond me how you think I have changed my mind.

Your assertion that something is axiomatic is no guarantee that it is axiomatic. Your saying that axioms do not have to be demonstrated opens the gate for anything to be regarded as self-evident or axiomatic. I don’t agree to that.

In philosophy, and in English common speech, "thing" is the universal noun. It can be used to denote utterly anything. For the purposes of that proposition a "thing" is whatever an agent desires, seeks, pursues, assigns a value. I.e., whatever he invests any effort, time, or resource to acquire or retain. Everything from a earning college degree to climbing Mt Everest to visiting New Zealand to buying a beach house to marrying his sweetheart to winning a Gold Medal in the Olympics to becoming a father to owning an original Picasso. Or just watching a certain movie. Or anything else.

As I suggested, such arguments could occupy a whole post. Yes, ‘thing’ can denote ‘anything’. Or ‘something’. Or ‘everything’. And you have ignored the overall point that, by requiring a discussion to clarify such finesses of the language, the statement is not self-evident. It requires clearing up. We could continue to try to do do so at length. You have demonstrated my point. If I was prepared to accept the statement as self-evident for the purposes of the discussion, it does not follow that everybody would.

I answered that question earlier (more than once, I think). An act is morally justifiable if is permitted by a sound, rational moral theory. A government is morally justifiable to the extent its acts are permitted by a sound, rational moral theory. A sound, rational moral theory is one which begins from premises that are either self-evident (the axioms) or are empirically verifiable, and the theorems of which are logically derivable from the verifiable premises or the axioms.

My ‘moral theory’ does not match your ‘moral theory’ and I have given you plenty of indications of that. We could have an extremely long conversation about what constitutes sound and rational and reference, as a focus, acts such as the Holocaust, bombing of Hiroshima and abortion. In all such cases there are people who have argued the cases for and against from ‘moral’ points of reference. What one person calls morally justifiable another person condemns. If you have an axiom which covers all these points of disagreement then I would like to hear it.

If you are claiming that your theory is ‘morally sound’ because of the ‘moral context’ in which you set it, then your theory is dependent on that moral context. Somebody who agrees with that context may judge it as moral. Somebody who disagrees with that context may judge it otherwise.

Regarding "Government is force”:

The premise quoted ("Government is force") is not a definition of government. It is a statement of its essential property --- the property which distinguishes it from all other social institutions, which property is implied by every one of the other characterizations you list. Look at them again: "direction," "controlling," "power," "rule" --- all of them imply force. Hence, an inquiry into when the use of force is morally justifiable is not just reasonable, it is morally mandatory.


No, it is certainly not a definition of government. That would require an examination of its purposes, which you are obviously keen to avoid. Nor it is at all a statement of its “essential property” which distinguishes it from all other social institutions.

How about, ‘an army is force’, ‘a police force is force’, ‘a compulsory education system is force’, ‘a transport system is force’ (acquiring land), ‘a census is force’, ‘a boxing match is force’, ‘crowd control’ is force’, ‘the employment of exams is force’? Do I need to go on? I swear that, if you quibble with individual examples without addressing the point as a whole, then we are done.

On the other hand, if, by “its essential property”, you mean its only essential property, then what about, ‘government is bureacracy’, ‘government is decision-making’, government is ‘problem-solving’, ‘government is administration’, ‘government is planning’, ‘government is direction’, ‘government is discussion’, ‘government is regulation’, ‘government is protection’?

You might have had the vaguest excuse to examine force as an example of something. But you didn’t. Or as the product of something. But you didn’t. Even if force was a manifestation of all of the various functions of governments – which it clearly isn’t – you are ignoring any and all possible purposes and benefits.

You didn’t relate the force to any purpose. So how could you possibly consider “when the use of force is morally justifiable is not just reasonable, it is morally mandatory”, when you have made no attempt to put your examination of force in any social setting? Your total development of the premise is, “an institution which promulgates and enforces laws”. It is set in a vacuum.

Moreover, you have made no attempt to examine society without government. Would that then require no possible use of force? Would that mean there would be no attempt to establish a ‘master-slave’ relationship? No rampaging bandits or armies? No thefts? No violence? If force is the ‘essential property’ of government, then is it that which distinguishes it from anarchy or any other system which does not involve government?

You have also made the assumption that the use of force automatically disrupts all possiblities for ‘formal equality’. You have not considered any possibility that it may be necessary to ensure that, “all persons must be afforded equal opportunities to achieve their goals, regardless of any disadvantages imposed by Nature or circumstances”. If ‘persons must be afforded opportunities’, then that requires a government to provide those opportunities which you have completely ignored by refusing to examine the function of governments in your argument. And not only provide, but to ensure.

Yet you have ignored all possible functions of government, taken one effect or tactic (don’t quibble!) out of many, and interpreted it in an entirely negative way. From this you have concluded that:

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.


The argument starts with nonsense and it ends with nonsense.

There are several points which I have not yet addressed but, since this is your primary premise, we need to address this first.

GE Morton
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Re: A Moral Argument for Minarchy

Post by GE Morton » October 13th, 2018, 9:47 pm

Iapetus wrote:
October 13th, 2018, 7:42 am

You denied the existence of axioms as self-evident propositions, and declared that they must be demonstrated:


I went to some lengths to explain that they need to be agreed upon in the context of the discussion. Your requoting my comments about the Quran did that job for me. Many muslims – though I can’t speak for all of them - might well accept as self-evident – and therefore axiomatic - that the Quran is a revelation from Allah. Unbelievers would probably not. In a conversation between muslims and unbelievers, such a statement would not be accepted as axiomatic. I addressed the interpretation of axiomatic and the interpretation of self-evident. It is beyond me how you think I have changed my mind.
You still don't seem to get it, Iapetus. Whether or not a proposition is self-evident is not subjective and does not depend upon any agreement. That the Quran is a revelation from Alla is not self-evident, no matter who or how many believe it to be so. It is not an axiom in the logical sense, whether or not is accepted as "axiomatic" by someone. A self-evident proposition is one which cannot be coherently and honesty denied, either because the denial would be self-contradictory, or because it is contrary to all experience, or because no falsifying scenario can be conceived. No religious beliefs satisfy those criteria.
Your assertion that something is axiomatic is no guarantee that it is axiomatic.
You're absolutely right. My assertions and beliefs have nothing to do with whether a proposition is self-evident. It is self-evident only if it satisfies the conditions above.
Your saying that axioms do not have to be demonstrated opens the gate for anything to be regarded as self-evident or axiomatic.
You're just being obtuse, there, Iapetus. It certainly does not "open the gate for anything to be regarded as self-evident." An axiom does not have to be demonstrated, but it does have to satisy one of those criteria. Claiming that axioms must be "demonstrated" reveals that you just don't understand what "self-evident" means. "Self-evident" means no proof is necessary, i.e., it is proof in itself.
Yes, ‘thing’ can denote ‘anything’. Or ‘something’. Or ‘everything’. And you have ignored the overall point that, by requiring a discussion to clarify such finesses of the language, the statement is not self-evident. It requires clearing up.
What requires clarification? What requires "clearing up"? What vagueness or ambiguities do you see in that proposition that prevent it from being self-evident? Before we can do any "clearing up," Iapetus, you need to spell out what you think is not clear. Are you still claiming that "thing" is not clear, despite the elaboration in my previous comment?
I answered that question earlier (more than once, I think). An act is morally justifiable if is permitted by a sound, rational moral theory. A government is morally justifiable to the extent its acts are permitted by a sound, rational moral theory. A sound, rational moral theory is one which begins from premises that are either self-evident (the axioms) or are empirically verifiable, and the theorems of which are logically derivable from the verifiable premises or the axioms.
My ‘moral theory’ does not match your ‘moral theory’ and I have given you plenty of indications of that.
Yes, you have. What you have not given are any arguments, derived from self-evident premises, supporting your moral theory. Or even outlined that theory.
We could have an extremely long conversation about what constitutes sound and rational and reference, as a focus, acts such as the Holocaust, bombing of Hiroshima and abortion. In all such cases there are people who have argued the cases for and against from ‘moral’ points of reference. What one person calls morally justifiable another person condemns. If you have an axiom which covers all these points of disagreement then I would like to hear it.
An argument or theory is sound if its premises are true and the conclusion or theorems follow logically from them. Anyone who claims that the Holocaust, the Hiroshima bombing, etc., were moral (or immoral, for that matter) needs to produce an argument supporting his claim. Then we can decide whether that argument is sound, i.e., whether the premises are true and the conclusion follows from them.
Regarding "Government is force”:

The premise quoted ("Government is force") is not a definition of government. It is a statement of its essential property --- the property which distinguishes it from all other social institutions, which property is implied by every one of the other characterizations you list. Look at them again: "direction," "controlling," "power," "rule" --- all of them imply force. Hence, an inquiry into when the use of force is morally justifiable is not just reasonable, it is morally mandatory.


No, it is certainly not a definition of government. That would require an examination of its purposes, which you are obviously keen to avoid. Nor it is at all a statement of its “essential property” which distinguishes it from all other social institutions.
Perhaps you don't understand what an "essential property" is. An essential property is a property which, if an X lacks it or loses it, it is no longer an X. E.g., a triangle is a closed plane figure with three sides. If a plane figure has more or less than 3 sides it is not a triangle. As stated in the essay, a government is an institution which promulgates and enforces laws. A social institution which lacked the authority or the will or the power to enforce its laws would not be a government. The authority and power to use force to accomplish its aims, whatever those may be, is what distinguishes government from all other social institutions --- many of which pursue parallel aims.
How about, ‘an army is force’, ‘a police force is force’, ‘a compulsory education system is force’, ‘a transport system is force’ (acquiring land), ‘a census is force’, ‘a boxing match is force’, ‘crowd control’ is force’, ‘the employment of exams is force’? Do I need to go on? I swear that, if you quibble with individual examples without addressing the point as a whole, then we are done.
What IS the "point as a whole"? You list several specific government activities that exert force. How does that respond to the premise? Perhaps you're reading, "Government is force," as though it read, "Government is nothing but force." That, of course, would be false. But "Government is force" is certainly true, just as "Rain is wet" is true. If something falling from the sky was not wet, it would not be rain.

But we could substitute the longer version (above), for "Government is force." I.e., "Government is an institution which promulgates and enforces laws." That would serve just as well for that premise. Would that make you happier?
On the other hand, if, by “its essential property”, you mean its only essential property, then what about, ‘government is bureacracy’, ‘government is decision-making’, government is ‘problem-solving’, ‘government is administration’, ‘government is planning’, ‘government is direction’, ‘government is discussion’, ‘government is regulation’, ‘government is protection’?
I didn't claim that use of force was government's only essential property, nor does the argument require that, although some of the properties you mention are not essential to it. Nor are any of them are exclusive to goverment (they apply to many other organizations also), as is government's claimed authority to exert force to accomplish its goals.
You might have had the vaguest excuse to examine force as an example of something. But you didn’t. Or as the product of something. But you didn’t. Even if force was a manifestation of all of the various functions of governments – which it clearly isn’t – you are ignoring any and all possible purposes and benefits.
Not at all. You are suggesting there that certain benefits might justify the use of force. That would mean you reject premise #2:

"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. "

If you are claiming that certain "benefits" also justify the use of force, then you need some moral argument establishing that.
You didn’t relate the force to any purpose. So how could you possibly consider “when the use of force is morally justifiable is not just reasonable, it is morally mandatory”, when you have made no attempt to put your examination of force in any social setting? Your total development of the premise is, “an institution which promulgates and enforces laws”. It is set in a vacuum.
That is contradictory. The entire theory presumes a social setting. A social setting is not a "vacuum." But if there are features of certain social settings that justify force in addition to the justifications listed in premise #2, you need to spell them out and argue for them.
Moreover, you have made no attempt to examine society without government. Would that then require no possible use of force? Would that mean there would be no attempt to establish a ‘master-slave’ relationship? No rampaging bandits or armies? No thefts? No violence? If force is the ‘essential property’ of government, then is it that which distinguishes it from anarchy or any other system which does not involve government?
Now you're ignoring premise #2. Per that premise force is justified for some purposes in some circumstances. So a government that exerted force for those purposes would be moral. (A minarchy is a government which only exerts force consistently with the constraints of premise #2).
You have also made the assumption that the use of force automatically disrupts all possiblities for ‘formal equality’.
Not true. Force constained by premise #2 does not violate formal equality.
You have not considered any possibility that it may be necessary to ensure that, “all persons must be afforded equal opportunities to achieve their goals, regardless of any disadvantages imposed by Nature or circumstances”. If ‘persons must be afforded opportunities’, then that requires a government to provide those opportunities which you have completely ignored by refusing to examine the function of governments in your argument. And not only provide, but to ensure.
Yes; that is the "progressive" view. But government cannot provide or ensure those opportunities without violating formal equality. That is the thrust of the argument. It can only accomplish that goal by forcing some people to serve others, thus creating master-slave relationships.

As I said previously, to rebut an argument you need to show one or more of its premises to be false, or show some logical error in drawing the conclusion from them. You seem to be rejecting premise #2. Care to articulate your objections? And set aside the pointless quibbling over standard terminology?

Iapetus
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Re: A Moral Argument for Minarchy

Post by Iapetus » October 15th, 2018, 3:23 am

Reply to GE Morton:

I had written a longish response and, during the process, done a fair bit of reading. I had never come across the work of Robert Nozick and his Thoughts on Justice. I was familiar with John Rawls and there are, clearly, many comparisons and contrasts to make.

It has become clear to me that Nozick has ideas which are robust enough to merit serious study, including the idea of minimalist intervention. I doubt that I would ever have come to that realisation from your explanations alone and your premises still baffle me. Nonetheless, I now appreciate that there is a case to be made for minimalist government and I thank you for introducing me to it.

Given the little I currently know, It would be a nonsense for me to continue along the lines I was following but I am not sufficiently informed to rationalise my arguments in the light of the new information.

I need to do a lot more reading so I shall, therefore, discontinue the discussion at this point and thank you for the conversation.

GE Morton
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Re: A Moral Argument for Minarchy

Post by GE Morton » October 15th, 2018, 12:53 pm

Burning ghost wrote:
October 13th, 2018, 4:27 am

I cannot see anything I outright disagree with in what you’re saying. What is, to your mind, the most common opposition to what you’re saying, and/or what do you believe to be the weakest point in what you’re saying?
The most common opposition has been visceral rejection of the conclusion, without any analysis and rebuttal of the premises. A classic example of, "My mind's made up; don't confuse me with the facts!"

I can't recall any disagreement between us. Has there been one?

GE Morton
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Re: A Moral Argument for Minarchy

Post by GE Morton » October 15th, 2018, 12:54 pm

Burning ghost wrote:
October 13th, 2018, 4:35 am
I do additonal question in reference to “master” and “slave.” Are you in any way taking this idea from Aristotle’s “Politics”?
No. I'm using those terms with their common contemporary meanings.

Burning ghost
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Re: A Moral Argument for Minarchy

Post by Burning ghost » October 15th, 2018, 1:00 pm

GE Morton wrote:
October 15th, 2018, 12:53 pm
Burning ghost wrote:
October 13th, 2018, 4:27 am

I cannot see anything I outright disagree with in what you’re saying. What is, to your mind, the most common opposition to what you’re saying, and/or what do you believe to be the weakest point in what you’re saying?
The most common opposition has been visceral rejection of the conclusion, without any analysis and rebuttal of the premises. A classic example of, "My mind's made up; don't confuse me with the facts!"

I can't recall any disagreement between us. Has there been one?
Yes, I am sure there was. Maybe it was more or less about one of us pressing home a point by using an extreme example, or going into the land where the pedantic dwell? Whatever it was maybe it will resurface again - if there is one thing I cannot stand it is agreeing with people I want to do some verbal sparring with ... I’ll try and pretend to be opposed to something you say asap (without reverting to some poor form of pedantry.) haha! :P

Note: pretty sure we’ll find something to thrash out regarding the topic of “religion” somewhere.
AKA badgerjelly

GE Morton
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Re: A Moral Argument for Minarchy

Post by GE Morton » October 15th, 2018, 7:30 pm

Iapetus wrote:
October 15th, 2018, 3:23 am
Reply to GE Morton:

I had written a longish response and, during the process, done a fair bit of reading. I had never come across the work of Robert Nozick and his Thoughts on Justice. I was familiar with John Rawls and there are, clearly, many comparisons and contrasts to make.

It has become clear to me that Nozick has ideas which are robust enough to merit serious study, including the idea of minimalist intervention. I doubt that I would ever have come to that realisation from your explanations alone and your premises still baffle me. Nonetheless, I now appreciate that there is a case to be made for minimalist government and I thank you for introducing me to it.
Here are a couple of summaries of the positions of Rawls v. Nozick (though it would be best to read both Rawl's Theory of Justice and Nozick's Anarchy, State, and Utopia in their entirety:

http://documents.routledge-interactive. ... Nozick.pdf

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/summary- ... tice-drake

In the first essay above you will find this statement:

"Rawls challenges Nozick’s defence of property rights. Much of what people own is the result of people’s social position and their natural talents, both of which are morally arbitrary. Therefore, any inequalities in ownership are unjust."

Much of the defense of the Rawlsian argument, and the criticism of Nozick's argument, turns on arguments equivalent to the above. But that argument is fallacious, and the conclusion ---- "Therefore, any inequalities in ownership are unjust --- is a non sequitur.

It is fallacious because it blatantly pretends to derive an "ought" from an 'is" (a normative conclusion from factual premises).

It is true that differences in wealth depend to a great extent upon differences in natural talents and "social position." And sometimes upon nothing but pure luck. It is also true that all those are morally "arbitrary." They are so because they are morally neutral, being matters of fact devoid of moral significance. "Moral" and "immoral" apply only to the acts of moral agents, not to "acts of God" or the outcomes of natural processes or the results of chance. Moral properties such as "unjust," unfair," "immoral" do not apply to such events. A lightning strike that kills Alfie but spares Bruno, standing only 10 feet away, may be capricious and the result tragic, but it is not "unfair" or "unjust."

Justice consists in securing to each person what he is due, by virtue of his acts and accomplishments. It does not presume or entail equality, except when what is due by virtue of their acts and accomplishments is equal.

In the Theory of Justice Rawls says, "The outcomes of the natural lottery are neither just nor unjust. It is what we do about them that is just or unjust." But he gives no reason why we must --- morally --- do anything about a state of affairs that is neither just nor unjust.

Iapetus
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Re: A Moral Argument for Minarchy

Post by Iapetus » October 16th, 2018, 2:17 pm

Reply to GE Morton:

Thanks. I have already discovered a range of very useful commentaries. They are not, of course, all of a like mind. But there is plenty to keep me occupied.

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ThomasHobbes
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Re: A Moral Argument for Minarchy

Post by ThomasHobbes » October 16th, 2018, 6:06 pm

Iapetus wrote:
October 16th, 2018, 2:17 pm
Reply to GE Morton:

Thanks. I have already discovered a range of very useful commentaries. They are not, of course, all of a like mind. But there is plenty to keep me occupied.
Yes thanks for poisoning my mind with your amoral crap Mr Morton.

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