Explaining Rights to Libertarians (e.g. Bill Glod)

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GE Morton
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Re: Explaining Rights to Libertarians (e.g. Bill Glod)

Post by GE Morton » May 20th, 2020, 11:08 am

Ecurb wrote:
May 19th, 2020, 9:26 am

I'll agree that property rights suggest the legitimacy of the owner's control over other people vis a vis the property. In reality, property confers obligations (legal and possibly moral) on the owner, as well as on everyone else. I own a house. I am obliged to pay property taxes; I am obliged not to raise pigs in my back yard; etc. etc.
Owning the property doesn't impose those obligations, it only triggers them. Your obligation not to raise pigs in a residential neighborhood is simply an instance of your broader obligation not act in ways that injure others. The obligation to pay property taxes is an instance of your general obligation to pay for what you get.
I'm not sure I buy your "creator or discoverer" notion. Unless we interpret these words in abstract and abstruse ways, I didn't create or discover any of my property (with a few minor exceptions). Instead, I bought it. If I had built it myself, it wouldn't be up to code, and the government wouldn't let me live there.
You're overlooking the second part of the ownership criterion: acquisition by transfer. You have a right to a thing --- it is your property --- if you are either the first possessor of the thing, or acquired it via a chain of consent from the first possessor. Most property rights are alienable --- they can be conveyed from person to person. Your title to a house you buy is as good as to one you built yourself (assuming the seller had a valid right to it).
This sounds reasonable, although one's "natural talents and abilities" are generally not natural at all. They are learned.
Well, that is not the way "talents and abilities" is normally understood. They denote native, innate capacities. Skills are learned. You need some native talents and abilities in order to acquire knowledge and expertise, and to learn a skill.
If we see further than others (acc. Isaac Newton) it is because we stand on the shoulders of giants. That's why "intellectual property" can be problematic. I'm not an expert in property law, but patents and copyrights are routinely doled out to those who BELIEVE they have created something new, and (in fact) HAVE created something, but have done so only with the assistance of tens of thousands of predecessors who don't reap the financial benefits.
That's true, but it doesn't refute the first possession criterion. As you say, virtually all inventions depend upon knowledge previously acquired by others. As long as that knowledge was transmitted to you by consent (because you paid a school for it, or because others freely conveyed it to you), then your title to it is clear. You owe no one anything more for it. Those predecessors, BTW, likely did reap the benefits ensuing at the time they were alive.

Typically, these claims that an innovator or inventor owes "society" for the skills and knowledge required to create the invention is a frivolous and devious rationalization for diverting a portion of the benefits it yields to persons who contributed nothing whatsoever to its creation.
My point here is not to suggest we eliminate intellectual property, but merely to suggest that the notion that it results from a "natural right" is dubious. We should allow intellectual property rights when we think they benefit society as a whole, not because we see them as some sort of moral imperative based on "natural rights".
Well, that is an odd, and disturbing, moral view. We should ignore rights if "society as a whole" will benefit? We may freely sacrifice a few in order to benefit the many? The entire concept of "rights" was developed precisely to counter that sort of "morality."

No public policy, BTW, ever benefits "society as a whole." They all benefit some, harm others, and have no discernible impact on yet others.

GE Morton
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Re: Explaining Rights to Libertarians (e.g. Bill Glod)

Post by GE Morton » May 20th, 2020, 12:43 pm

Marvin_Edwards wrote:
May 19th, 2020, 6:30 pm

I agree that "having the right to vote" does not imply that "it is right that everyone should vote". They are two distinct moral statements as to how things ought to be. My point is that both are moral assertions as to what is "right" and what is "wrong". The use of the term "right" in both cases carries the meaning of "how things ought to be".

When we say "Alfie has the right to vote" we are asserting that it would be morally wrong to prevent Alfie from voting.

When we say "it is right that everyone should vote" we are asserting that it would be morally wrong for Alfie to fail to vote.

Now, one may disagree with either moral assertion, nevertheless, the use of "right" in both cases carries a moral assertion as to "how things ought to be".
I don't think we're disagreeing about anything substantive here. A right --- the pseudo-property we attach to persons to denote something we should not take from him --- clearly does derive from the moral concept of right/wrong. To say that Alfie has a right to the cow is to say he is rightfully in possession of it, or that his claim to it is righteous. It is rightful or righteous because his claim or possession does or did not involve inflicting any loss or injury on others. That fact gives rise to the moral implications of "rights."
GE Morton wrote:
May 19th, 2020, 3:33 pm
Both of those rights do, however, involve a right to property --- namely, to your own body and mind, to use them as you choose (subject, of course, to the "do no harm" constraint). But perhaps a clarification of what counts as "property" is in order. "Property" is anything, tangible or intangible, to which you have a right, i.e., which you've acquired without inflicting loss or injury on anyone else, and which you have not abandoned or conveyed to someone else. Your mind, body, talents, skills, abilities physical or mental, are all your property.
But they are not property. And that is the problem with the libertarian theory of rights. It attempts to shoehorn every right we have, like the right to assemble and speak, into some form of property. Even the person's nose must be viewed as his property before it can be protected from harm.
"They are not property"? That seems a bit dogmatic. Apparently you are assuming some more restrictive, idiosyncratic definition of that word. Why do you find it objectionable to consider your nose your property? Body parts can be bought and sold; some legally (blood, plasma, marrow), some illegally (kidneys, livers). They have economic value.

But of course I agree that the loss of economic value is not the sole, or even primary, reason why busting someone's nose is immoral. It also inflicts pain and some disability --- harms in their own right. In any case, the defintion I gave above is pretty traditional:

5. By the Roman or civil law, things are either in patrimonio, capable of being possessed by single persons exclusive of others; or extra patrimonium, incapable of being so possessed.
6. Things in patrimonio are divided into corporeal and incorporeal, and the corporeal again into movable and immovable.
7. Corporeal things are those which are visible and tangible, as lands, houses, horses, jewels, and the like; incorporeal are not the object of sensation, but are the creatures of the mind, being rights issuing out of a thing corporeal, or concerning or exercisable within the same; as, an obligation, a hypothecation, a servitude, and, in general, that which consists only in a certain right.


https://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/Things
The contract I have in mind is not "hypothetical". The Constitution of the United States is an agreement to constitute a nation out of the several states. It says so right there in the beginning, "We the People ... yada yada yada ... do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America." It is a legal agreement (de jure) between each citizen and every other citizen, you know, we, the people. And each state has a similar agreement between their citizens.
The US Constitution is not hypothetical. But it is clearly not a contract or agreement "between each citizen and every other citizen," either. You simply cannot declare persons to be parties to a contract they have never signed, and perhaps never even read or heard of. I cannot enter into a contract with a couple of my neighbors to sweep the sidewalks on my block, declare everyone else on the block to be parties to it, and bill them for our services. No person is a party to a contract who has not freely, willfully, and expressly agreed to it, and is "of sound mind." The federal and state consitutions are real enough, but they are not "social contracts."
Nature confers no rights, respects no rights, and protects no rights. Nature would just as soon wash your property away in a flood or destroy it with a tornado.
You're right. But "natural rights" does not mean that nature conferred the rights. It denotes rights to one's natural possessions (which nature did confer). No one, BTW, "confers" rights on anyone. They are not gifts or boons granted by one person to another (except for property rights to alienable goods). By creating or discovering something you "confer" the right to it to yourself.
Your right to your property, if it is to exist at all, can only be conferred, respected, and protected by the rest of us.
That is false, with respect to a right's existence. It exists the moment something is first possessed and claimed; no third parties are involved in any way. That it is respected by others and that others help to protect it is welcome and beneficial to the holder, but not necessary for it to exist. It abides, regardless of anyone else's attitudes or actions, resting as it does on an unalterable historical fact.
It is not necessary that he personally benefit. He will share in the cost of building road and bridges even if he has no car. But he will usually benefit indirectly from the trucks that bring food to his grocery store. He may not have any kids in school, but he will benefit indirectly from an educated citizenry.
Yes, for someone to be charged for a good it is necessary that he directly benefit. No one may be charged for unsolicited indirect benefits (which the agent may not even regard as a benefit). To borrow an example from Nozick, if I set up a loudspeaker on power pole on our block and play classical music all day, I cannot charge you for that service --- even if I enjoy the music.

This claim of yours goes back to the belief, mentioned previously, that governments may morally do things individuals morally may not. That belief, in turn rests upon that imaginary "social contract" you (and many others) invoke. The "social contract" is an artifact of contemporary social mythology.

Most of the rest of your comments in this post reiterate and presume the social contract myth. I think we need to concentrate on the viability of those arguments.

Please explain how you think people can become bound by a contract, or agreement, they've never signed, perhaps never read, and if they've read it, with which they may even disagree and expressly disavow.

Ecurb
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Re: Explaining Rights to Libertarians (e.g. Bill Glod)

Post by Ecurb » May 20th, 2020, 4:52 pm

GE Morton wrote:
May 20th, 2020, 11:08 am


Well, that is not the way "talents and abilities" is normally understood. They denote native, innate capacities. Skills are learned. You need some native talents and abilities in order to acquire knowledge and expertise, and to learn a skill.

That's true, but it doesn't refute the first possession criterion. As you say, virtually all inventions depend upon knowledge previously acquired by others. As long as that knowledge was transmitted to you by consent (because you paid a school for it, or because others freely conveyed it to you), then your title to it is clear. You owe no one anything more for it. Those predecessors, BTW, likely did reap the benefits ensuing at the time they were alive.

Typically, these claims that an innovator or inventor owes "society" for the skills and knowledge required to create the invention is a frivolous and devious rationalization for diverting a portion of the benefits it yields to persons who contributed nothing whatsoever to its creation.


Well, that is an odd, and disturbing, moral view. We should ignore rights if "society as a whole" will benefit? We may freely sacrifice a few in order to benefit the many? The entire concept of "rights" was developed precisely to counter that sort of "morality."

No public policy, BTW, ever benefits "society as a whole." They all benefit some, harm others, and have no discernible impact on yet others.
Oh, bosh. Now you're simply dissembling. Of course a great many people think that we should give precedence to the good of society over individual rights (Communists, for example), but I'm not one of them. The question is: what constitutes an "individual right"? Why should a song writer have total control over other people vis a vis a song that he wrote? Doesn't that violate my freedom of speech? Should I be able to sing whatever I want in the shower, or should I have to pay a royalty for that activity? Maybe we should put cameras in every bathroom to make certain to compensate "owners' (who have created the song) when naked thieves sing in the shower.

That sounds ridiculous, but it's the logical conclusion of your notion of property as anything "created" by an individual. Fortunately, no reasonable person agrees with you. We don't see intellectual property as a "natural right"; we see it as something we voluntarily agree to honor in order to encourage invention and creativity. As with other property rights, different cultures have viewed intellectual property rights in diverse ways. Such rights are inevitably commercial; we can retell a joke without "stealing" unless cash changes hands.

In addition, many of the seemingly natural rights for which you argue contradict each other: the right to freedom of speech is incompatible with copyrights; the right to freedom of movement is incompatible with land ownership. I could go on and on. So if these are "natural rights',how do we determine which take precedence, if not by wondering which offer the greatest benefits to society (yes, "society" is composed of individuals, as every English speaker is aware)?

All so called "rights" directly limit freedom (although they may also indirectly enhance freedom). That's because a person's legal right is (and can be) nothing more than a limit on another person's freedom (as I explained earlier). This is true of ALL laws. Laws specifically limit freedom-- if you violate them, after all, you are thrown in jail, which has a remarkably limiting affect on your freedom.

"Talents", by the way, do not denote natural abilities. I never knew a talented piano player who had never practiced playing the piano, and neither did you.

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Marvin_Edwards
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Re: Explaining Rights to Libertarians (e.g. Bill Glod)

Post by Marvin_Edwards » May 20th, 2020, 8:34 pm

Let's start with what we both agree are the most important considerations.

About the Contract:
GE Morton wrote:
May 20th, 2020, 12:43 pm
This claim of yours goes back to the belief, mentioned previously, that governments may morally do things individuals morally may not. That belief, in turn rests upon that imaginary "social contract" you (and many others) invoke. The "social contract" is an artifact of contemporary social mythology.
GE Morton wrote:
May 20th, 2020, 12:43 pm
Please explain how you think people can become bound by a contract, or agreement, they've never signed, perhaps never read, and if they've read it, with which they may even disagree and expressly disavow.
Individuals are obligated to honor their contracts. If the Philosophy Club collected weekly dues to cover the cost of a monthly lunch, and the members voted to have kentucky fried chicken rather than pizza this month, does the person who voted for pizza get their dues refunded?

No. But why not?

Both the dues and the method of voting are described in the Philosophy Club's constitution. Every new member is given a copy when when they join the club. They were not required to sign anything. By agreeing to become a member of the club they tacitly agree to be governed by the Club's constitution.

The U.S. Constitution works exactly the same way. The members of this club are called "citizens". The founders of this club were the voting citizens of the states who ratified it.

Most people voted to ratify the new constitution.

Some people disagreed with parts of this contract, but were willing to ratify it nonetheless, seeing as it had an amendment process (through which the Bill of Rights was quickly added).

Other individuals may have refused to ratify it. Still, if they were to remain members they had to accept that they would be governed by it nonetheless. The only way to avoid that would be to leave the country.
GE Morton wrote:
May 20th, 2020, 12:43 pm
The US Constitution is not hypothetical. But it is clearly not a contract or agreement "between each citizen and every other citizen," either. You simply cannot declare persons to be parties to a contract they have never signed, and perhaps never even read or heard of. ...
The parents buy a house. When they die the house is inherited by the children (in patrimonio). Any future taxes on the property will be paid by the children, even though they did not personally spend a dime to buy the house.

The U.S. Constitution explicitly includes in its preamble
(a) Who is a party to the contract: "We the People of the United States"
(b) The purpose of the contract "in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare"
(c) That it is binding not just upon themselves but also upon their children, "and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity".

So, there can be no doubt that the constitution is a real contract between all the people who call themselves citizens of the United states, and that it is inherited by their children who become tacit "signers" the moment they call themselves a citizen of this country.

About Inflicting No Harm:
GE Morton wrote:
May 20th, 2020, 12:43 pm
... To say that Alfie has a right to the cow is to say he is rightfully in possession of it, or that his claim to it is righteous. It is rightful or righteous because his claim or possession does or did not involve inflicting any loss or injury on others. That fact gives rise to the moral implications of "rights."
But even the "use no force" principle used in Alfie's case fails to consistently define rightful ownership. There are contests in which loss or injury is a legitimate means to obtain ownership: the purse offered to two boxers, the trophy offered to the winner of a game of rugby or football, etc.

And the "use no force" principle fails us on the other side of the coin as well. Consider the pickpocket. He obtains your property by his hard won skills and his own efforts, just like any other wage earner. He secretly lifts your wallet from your pocket without your knowledge or consent. And without inflicting any injury to your person or your property, other than to deprive you of your money and to make it his own.

In both cases, what makes the acquisition right or wrong is the rules that we've agreed to. We have agreed that contests that may involve injury are legal means of obtaining fortune. And we have agreed that theft is an illegal means of obtaining what one desires.

It is the agreement that establishes the right to win money in a contest and the right to recover your money, even from the nonviolent pickpocket. Whether "inflicting any loss or injury on others" matters or not is entirely determined by the agreement.

The citizens agree to constitute a nation or state. The constitutional agreement specifies that further agreements will be negotiated by a legislature consisting of representatives elected by the citizens. This is spelled out in their contract with each other, the one by which they constituted the nation or state.

About What Is and Is Not Property:
GE Morton wrote:
May 20th, 2020, 12:43 pm
"They are not property"? That seems a bit dogmatic. Apparently you are assuming some more restrictive, idiosyncratic definition of that word. Why do you find it objectionable to consider your nose your property? Body parts can be bought and sold; some legally (blood, plasma, marrow), some illegally (kidneys, livers). They have economic value.
And yet the right to speak or to assemble or to worship has no such economic value. These rights we confer upon each other, and respect for each other, and protect for each other for the simple reason that we all desire to have them. So, by our mutual agreements, formalized in written laws, we confer, respect, and protect them for each other.

And we refer to these rights as "things" we "have" even if they are not actual "things" in the physical sense.

About First Possesion
GE Morton wrote:
May 20th, 2020, 12:43 pm
...with respect to a right's existence. It exists the moment something is first possessed and claimed; no third parties are involved in any way. That it is respected by others and that others help to protect it is welcome and beneficial to the holder, but not necessary for it to exist. It abides, regardless of anyone else's attitudes or actions, resting as it does on an unalterable historical fact.
Your claim to the gold your found on unowned property is purely rhetorical if the rest of us agree that it shall belong to all of us together rather than to any individual. One could easily argue that since you did not own the property that you do not own the gold found in it.

For example, suppose a thief steals my collection of rare coins, and buries it in a hole he digs in a national park. You come along and with a metal detector looking for treasure, and discover my coin collection.

Do you have a right of ownership to my coin collection? You acquired them legally, without inflicting any harm or loss upon me (the thief did that).

Or does it still belong to me? After all, I also acquired the coins legally and they were taken from me illegally. Why should they now become yours?

The chain of custody of these coins is uncertain. The fact that the coins were rare suggests that I am not the one who first possessed them. For all I know, some of these coins may have been stolen before they were sold to me. What are the rights of the person from whom they were originally stolen?

Frankly, I'm not a lawyer, and I really don't know how to answer those questions. There are likely some precedents set by earlier court cases that establish whose claims are valid and whether some claims become dismissed after certain time limits.

But the key fact here is that we have agreed that it will be the court, and its interpretation of the laws and the precedents, that will decide the issue. And it will be that method that we both implicitly agreed to as citizens of our nation or state that will satisfy both of us.

GE Morton
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Re: Explaining Rights to Libertarians (e.g. Bill Glod)

Post by GE Morton » May 21st, 2020, 11:06 am

Ecurb wrote:
May 20th, 2020, 4:52 pm

The question is: what constitutes an "individual right"?
I've answered that question several previous posts.
Why should a song writer have total control over other people vis a vis a song that he wrote? Doesn't that violate my freedom of speech? Should I be able to sing whatever I want in the shower, or should I have to pay a royalty for that activity? Maybe we should put cameras in every bathroom to make certain to compensate "owners' (who have created the song) when naked thieves sing in the shower.
A songwriter doesn't have total control over other people with respect to a song he wrote. He only has control over the commercial uses of it. You may sing his song in the shower, or on a street corner, as loudly and often as you like. But you may not sing it in a concert hall and charge for admission, or record it and sell the records, without paying royalties.
That sounds ridiculous, but it's the logical conclusion of your notion of property as anything "created" by an individual.
Well, that conclusion of yours derives from the false premise above.
We don't see intellectual property as a "natural right"; we see it as something we voluntarily agree to honor in order to encourage invention and creativity.
I didn't claim intellectual property is a natural right. Natural rights are your rights to your natural possessions (your life, body, native abilities, etc.). The right to intellectual property is a common right (rights to things acquired after one's arrival in the world, by creating or discovering them).
In addition, many of the seemingly natural rights for which you argue contradict each other: the right to freedom of speech is incompatible with copyrights; the right to freedom of movement is incompatible with land ownership. I could go on and on. So if these are "natural rights',how do we determine which take precedence, if not by wondering which offer the greatest benefits to society (yes, "society" is composed of individuals, as every English speaker is aware)?
The exercise of every right is limited by the similar rights of others. I.e., "my right to swing my fist ends where the other fellow's nose begins." In a social setting each person is surrounded by a "sphere of freedom" within which he may act in any way he pleases. The size of that sphere is bounded by the spheres of others in the neighborhood. Which is another way of saying that you may act as you please, as long as you inflict no loss or injury on another moral agent.
All so called "rights" directly limit freedom (although they may also indirectly enhance freedom).
Yes. All rights are limited by others' rights.
"Talents", by the way, do not denote natural abilities. I never knew a talented piano player who had never practiced playing the piano, and neither did you.
You're confounding a talent with a skill. The talent is the native capacity you have for acquiring a skill, and excelling at it. Someone without talent may practice for years, and his playing will remain labored, mechanical, uninspired. Any literate person can write out a grocery list. Only someone with talent can write Moby Dick.

Ecurb
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Re: Explaining Rights to Libertarians (e.g. Bill Glod)

Post by Ecurb » May 21st, 2020, 6:39 pm

OK, then. We agree on almost everything, except that nature of "talent", and whether, however we define talent, it is a form of property (in the "ownership" sense of the word). I wouldn't call someone who has never played the piano a talented piano player, or someone who has never written a poem a talented poet, but maybe that's just my idiosyncrasy. Besides, the nature vs. nurture controversy is insoluble and I have no desire to go down that rabbit hole. "Native abilities" are never innate; after all, without the influence of our environments and the support and care of our societes, none of us would live more than a couple of days, and the "talents" of 2-day-old babies are severely limited.

Personally, I favor freedom of speech, so I favor limiting intellectual property rights slightly more than we do now here in the U.S., although I'm not in favor of eliminating them.

GE Morton
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Re: Explaining Rights to Libertarians (e.g. Bill Glod)

Post by GE Morton » May 22nd, 2020, 11:08 am

Marvin_Edwards wrote:
May 20th, 2020, 8:34 pm
Let's start with what we both agree are the most important considerations.

Individuals are obligated to honor their contracts. If the Philosophy Club collected weekly dues to cover the cost of a monthly lunch, and the members voted to have kentucky fried chicken rather than pizza this month, does the person who voted for pizza get their dues refunded?
No. But all the members of Philosophy Club, or at least, of most clubs, sign a membership agreement which obliges them to abide by the club's by-laws. You seem to be missing the point here, or maybe just begging the question --- there is no contract which all members of society have signed.
Both the dues and the method of voting are described in the Philosophy Club's constitution. Every new member is given a copy when when they join the club. They were not required to sign anything. By agreeing to become a member of the club they tacitly agree to be governed by the Club's constitution.
You're defeating your own argument: "By agreeing to become a member of the club . . . " I grant that a contract can be verbal; it does not necessarily have to be written and signed. But persons born in a territory some government claims is within its jurisdiction have not agreed to anything, in writing or verbally. Unless they run for some public office they will likely never do so for their entire lives. They arrive in the world free agents, having no obligations to anyone and owing no allegiance to any political entity.
The U.S. Constitution works exactly the same way. The members of this club are called "citizens". The founders of this club were the voting citizens of the states who ratified it.
No it doesn't work the same way, Marvin. The members of your philosophy club have entered into an agreement. The citizens of a polity have not. I cannot form a club and declare everyone in my neighborhood to be a member of it, obliged to abide by my club's by-laws and pay dues. When I inform them of their new membership and demand the dues I have asssesed, most of them will surely tell me to go to hell.
GE Morton wrote:
May 20th, 2020, 12:43 pm
The US Constitution is not hypothetical. But it is clearly not a contract or agreement "between each citizen and every other citizen," either. You simply cannot declare persons to be parties to a contract they have never signed, and perhaps never even read or heard of. ...
The parents buy a house. When they die the house is inherited by the children (in patrimonio). Any future taxes on the property will be paid by the children, even though they did not personally spend a dime to buy the house.
Not sure of your point there. ??
The U.S. Constitution explicitly includes in its preamble
(a) Who is a party to the contract: "We the People of the United States" . . .
Alfie cannot declare Bruno to be a party to a contract he has proposed or entered into, Marvin. Bruno has to make that declaration for himself.
About Inflicting No Harm:
GE Morton wrote:
May 20th, 2020, 12:43 pm
... To say that Alfie has a right to the cow is to say he is rightfully in possession of it, or that his claim to it is righteous. It is rightful or righteous because his claim or possession does or did not involve inflicting any loss or injury on others. That fact gives rise to the moral implications of "rights."
But even the "use no force" principle used in Alfie's case fails to consistently define rightful ownership. There are contests in which loss or injury is a legitimate means to obtain ownership: the purse offered to two boxers, the trophy offered to the winner of a game of rugby or football, etc.
The risk of a physical injury, or of any other type of loss, which an agent has freely accepted in anticipation of offsetting rewards is not an injury in the moral sense. Many people accept such risks routinely. Risks have moral import only when they are imposed upon someone unwillingly.
And the "use no force" principle fails us on the other side of the coin as well. Consider the pickpocket. He obtains your property by his hard won skills and his own efforts, just like any other wage earner. He secretly lifts your wallet from your pocket without your knowledge or consent. And without inflicting any injury to your person or your property, other than to deprive you of your money and to make it his own.
The principle forbids injury or loss. The pickpocket certainly inflicts a loss. The "use no force" maxim, BTW, requires careful qualification. Force is sometimes morally justifiable.
In both cases, what makes the acquisition right or wrong is the rules that we've agreed to. We have agreed that contests that may involve injury are legal means of obtaining fortune. And we have agreed that theft is an illegal means of obtaining what one desires.
No. What makes an acquisition (morally) right or wrong is whether it involved loss or injury to a third party, which is a matter of fact. There is no universal agreement as to the rightness or wrongness of those acts (as discussed above), and whether or not there is one is irrelevant to the moral question. Moral questions are not resolved via ad populum arguments.
About What Is and Is Not Property:
GE Morton wrote:
May 20th, 2020, 12:43 pm
"They are not property"? That seems a bit dogmatic. Apparently you are assuming some more restrictive, idiosyncratic definition of that word. Why do you find it objectionable to consider your nose your property? Body parts can be bought and sold; some legally (blood, plasma, marrow), some illegally (kidneys, livers). They have economic value.
And yet the right to speak or to assemble or to worship has no such economic value. These rights we confer upon each other, and respect for each other, and protect for each other for the simple reason that we all desire to have them. So, by our mutual agreements, formalized in written laws, we confer, respect, and protect them for each other.
You seem to be changing the subject there. The (immediate) question was whether body parts are property. I've not claimed that to have a right to X, X must have economic value. But the rights you mention do involve property, namely, the use of your body and natural abilities, which are your property. The rights to speak, worship, travel freely, form associations with willing others, exchange one's goods or services with willing others, pursue a trade or occupation, etc., etc., are all natural rights, instances of your natural right to use your natural property as you see fit --- subject, of course, to the "do no harm" constraint. Whether those rights exist depends upon no agreements.
And we refer to these rights as "things" we "have" even if they are not actual "things" in the physical sense.
That reminds me of a discussion in another thread, concerning what is a "thing." "Thing" is the universal noun. Everything mentionable is a "thing."
About First Possesion
GE Morton wrote:
May 20th, 2020, 12:43 pm
...with respect to a right's existence. It exists the moment something is first possessed and claimed; no third parties are involved in any way. That it is respected by others and that others help to protect it is welcome and beneficial to the holder, but not necessary for it to exist. It abides, regardless of anyone else's attitudes or actions, resting as it does on an unalterable historical fact.
Your claim to the gold your found on unowned property is purely rhetorical if the rest of us agree that it shall belong to all of us together rather than to any individual. One could easily argue that since you did not own the property that you do not own the gold found in it.
The claim that I own the gold presupposes that the land upon which it was found is unowned (res nullius). If it is then I may claim it and anything I find on it.
For example, suppose a thief steals my collection of rare coins, and buries it in a hole he digs in a national park. You come along and with a metal detector looking for treasure, and discover my coin collection.

Do you have a right of ownership to my coin collection? You acquired them legally, without inflicting any harm or loss upon me (the thief did that).
No. I cannot plausibly assume that a found coin collection is unowned. Unlike an ore deposit, they are manufactured goods, and had to have been owned at some time by someone, giving rise to a title chain. My duty is to attempt to discover whether they were lost, stolen, or abandoned. I may keep them only if that title chain cannot be reconstructed or if evidence proves they were abandoned.
But the key fact here is that we have agreed that it will be the court, and its interpretation of the laws and the precedents, that will decide the issue. And it will be that method that we both implicitly agreed to as citizens of our nation or state that will satisfy both of us.
I agree. Someone will actually have to decide these issues. That is true of all moral issues in real-world cases. But if the decision-maker does not rely on the theoretical principles we've been discussing then he will decide the issue wrongly.

BTW, that persons arrive in the world with no a priori obligations or allegiances does not imply that he has no obligation to obey (some) laws or pay (some) taxes. He may well have those, but they will derive from other premises, not from an imaginary "social contract."

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Re: Explaining Rights to Libertarians (e.g. Bill Glod)

Post by Marvin_Edwards » May 22nd, 2020, 7:03 pm

About the Contract
GE Morton wrote:
May 22nd, 2020, 11:08 am

I grant that a contract can be verbal; it does not necessarily have to be written and signed. But persons born in a territory some government claims is within its jurisdiction have not agreed to anything, in writing or verbally. Unless they run for some public office they will likely never do so for their entire lives. They arrive in the world free agents, having no obligations to anyone and owing no allegiance to any political entity.
Have you ever referred to yourself as a "citizen"? Have you ever exercised any of your rights that come with citizenship, like casting a vote in an election? What is it that you are a citizen of?

The constitutional agreement literally creates that which you are a citizen of. So, are you a "man without a country"? Or do you claim citizenship in a nation?

If you do not claim citizenship then you're only a visitor. If you claim citizenship then you tacitly agree to the constitution that created that which you are a citizen of. And if you are born into any country and yet claim no allegiance to it, then you are potentially a traitor, and deserve to be treated with suspicion.
GE Morton wrote:
May 22nd, 2020, 11:08 am
The members of your philosophy club have entered into an agreement. The citizens of a polity have not. I cannot form a club and declare everyone in my neighborhood to be a member of it, obliged to abide by my club's by-laws and pay dues. When I inform them of their new membership and demand the dues I have asssesed, most of them will surely tell me to go to hell.
The citizens of the United States have entered into an agreement. One of the results of this agreement is that we govern the territory within our borders, with an elected legislature and a system of courts. Having agreed to make this contract binding upon our posterity, it is not necessary for anyone else to ratify or sign the agreement. If you're born here, you're a citizen, with all the benefits and rights that would acrue if you had actually put your own signature on the document.
GE Morton wrote:
May 22nd, 2020, 11:08 am
Alfie cannot declare Bruno to be a party to a contract he has proposed or entered into, Marvin. Bruno has to make that declaration for himself.
But if Bruno lives in Alfie's house, then Bruno must live by Alfie's rules. Everyone who resides in our nation is subject to the rules contained in the constitution and the laws created by the legislature that we agreed, in our contract, to create.


About Inflicting No Harm:
GE Morton wrote:
May 22nd, 2020, 11:08 am
The risk of a physical injury, or of any other type of loss, which an agent has freely accepted in anticipation of offsetting rewards is not an injury in the moral sense. Many people accept such risks routinely. Risks have moral import only when they are imposed upon someone unwillingly.
Exactly. The boxing match and the football game are governed by rules that all participants agree to in advance. The authority of those rules rests in that agreement.
GE Morton wrote:
May 22nd, 2020, 11:08 am
The principle forbids injury or loss. The pickpocket certainly inflicts a loss. The "use no force" maxim, BTW, requires careful qualification. Force is sometimes morally justifiable.
And we agreed to help you prevent that loss and to recover your money from the thief. That's what the law is, an agreement between citizens as to what rights they will respect and protect for each other. That agreement is what makes your right real, rather than just rhetorical.
GE Morton wrote:
May 22nd, 2020, 11:08 am

No. What makes an acquisition (morally) right or wrong is whether it involved loss or injury to a third party, which is a matter of fact. There is no universal agreement as to the rightness or wrongness of those acts (as discussed above), and whether or not there is one is irrelevant to the moral question. Moral questions are not resolved via ad populum arguments.
Moral questions are matters of conscience. And the court of conscience can sometimes reach a different decision than a court of law. People of conscience protest bad laws and seek to correct or remove them. Sometimes they perform acts of civil disobedience, as when Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on the bus, or when blacks sat down for lunch in a segregated restaurant and refused to leave, or when during the Viet Nam war many young men burnt their draft cards.

But people of conscience also write the laws. And when they disagree they must resolve their issues peacefully, through democratic means. The constitution provides those means.

About What Is and Is Not Property:
GE Morton wrote:
May 22nd, 2020, 11:08 am

But the rights you mention do involve property, namely, the use of your body and natural abilities, which are your property. The rights to speak, worship, travel freely, form associations with willing others, exchange one's goods or services with willing others, pursue a trade or occupation, etc., etc., are all natural rights, instances of your natural right to use your natural property as you see fit --- subject, of course, to the "do no harm" constraint. Whether those rights exist depends upon no agreements.
All rights depend upon agreements if they are to be respected and protected by others. If they are not respected and protected by mutual agreement, then they are only rhetorical, and unenforceable, claims.

For example, despite your claim that people have a "natural" right to associate with and exchange goods with "willing others", we will not allow you to post a "Whites Only" sign in your restaurant's window. We have agreed instead that every citizen, regardless of race, has a right to participate fully in our economy. Your "natural" right to use your property as you see fit is subject to the limits that the rest of us have agreed to.


About First Possession

Your claim to the gold you found on unowned property is purely rhetorical if the rest of us agree that it should belong to all of us in common rather than to any one individual.
GE Morton wrote:
May 22nd, 2020, 11:08 am

The claim that I own the gold presupposes that the land upon which it was found is unowned (res nullius). If it is then I may claim it and anything I find on it.
Once a nation is constituted, there is no unowned land. All of the unowned land in a newly formed nation becomes property of the nation, to be conserved or sold or leased in a way that meets the needs of the general public, rather than the needs of any individual.

The land you stumble upon and the gold ore you find there, is only yours if the rest of us agree that it should be yours.

If that were not the case, then you could theoretically build your own nation within ours. But that process will also depend upon an agreement (a treaty, as with the native Americans).
GE Morton wrote:
May 22nd, 2020, 11:08 am

BTW, that persons arrive in the world with no a priori obligations or allegiances does not imply that he has no obligation to obey (some) laws or pay (some) taxes. He may well have those, but they will derive from other premises, not from an imaginary "social contract."
Any "other premises" cannot be unilaterally claimed and enforced. Whatever premises you desire must be agreed to by the rest of us, if they are to have any practical weight at all.

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Re: Explaining Rights to Libertarians (e.g. Bill Glod)

Post by GE Morton » May 25th, 2020, 10:32 am

Marvin_Edwards wrote:
May 22nd, 2020, 7:03 pm

Have you ever referred to yourself as a "citizen"? Have you ever exercised any of your rights that come with citizenship, like casting a vote in an election? What is it that you are a citizen of?
Yes, of course. I'm a citizen of the USA by definition. But satisfying an arbitrary definition imposes no moral obligations on those who happen to satisfy it.
If you claim citizenship then you tacitly agree to the constitution that created that which you are a citizen of.
Oh, surely not. Anyone can define a set, e.g., I define "Elmers" to be members of the set of all bald-headed males in N. America. That Bruno finds that he is an Elmer imposes no obligations on him.
And if you are born into any country and yet claim no allegiance to it, then you are potentially a traitor, and deserve to be treated with suspicion.
"Potentially a traitor"? You're reaching there, Marvin. Everyone is "potentially" a traitor.
The citizens of the United States have entered into an agreement.
You can't make that true merely by repeating it. You need to produce some evidence of that agreement, on the part of every person you claim is a party to it. I'm quite sure you can't do that. Alfie does not become a party to some agreement or contract merely because Bruno declares him to be one. Surely you can see that. A breach of contract suit in which the plaintiff could not produce any evidence that the defendant had ever entered into the contract would be summarily dismissed, in any court in the world.
Alfie cannot declare Bruno to be a party to a contract he has proposed or entered into, Marvin. Bruno has to make that declaration for himself.
But if Bruno lives in Alfie's house, then Bruno must live by Alfie's rules. Everyone who resides in our nation is subject to the rules contained in the constitution and the laws created by the legislature that we agreed, in our contract, to create.
You're confusing two senses of the possessive forms ("Alfie's") and pronouns ("our"), Marvin. Those forms and pronouns have a proprietary (ownership) meaning, and a merely associational meaning. "Alfie's house" could have either meaning --- if he owns the house, then it is "his" in the proprietary sense. If he rents it, it is only his in the associational sense. Phrases like "our town," "our park," our hotel," "our nation" are all associational senses of that pronoun. They don't imply ownership of the town, the park, the hotel, etc. Alfie can make rules if the house is his in the proprietary sense, but not if it is only his in the associational sense, i.e., the town where he lives, the park he usually visits (note here that "Alfie's park" may not even be located in the town where he lives and pays taxes), the hotel where he is presently staying, etc. No one has an ownership interest in "the nation," though they may own some property within it (as may non-citizens, of course).

And, again, you're invoking --- postulating --- an agreement or contract binding upon people who have never signed it or assented to it, and perhaps never even seen it or heard of it.

You simply have to grasp that there is no such agreement, Marvin.
GE Morton wrote:
May 22nd, 2020, 11:08 am
The principle forbids injury or loss. The pickpocket certainly inflicts a loss. The "use no force" maxim, BTW, requires careful qualification. Force is sometimes morally justifiable.
And we agreed to help you prevent that loss and to recover your money from the thief. That's what the law is, an agreement between citizens as to what rights they will respect and protect for each other. That agreement is what makes your right real, rather than just rhetorical.
Laws are agreements among groups of legislators, not among citizens, Marvin. Some citizens will agree with some of them, disagree with others, which varies from citizen to citizen for each particular law. You'll not find universal agreement among citizens for any law.

And you're conflating "real" with "acknowledged" or "honored/respected", or perhaps "effective." We could delve into the meaning of "real," but that would lunch us into a tedious ontologlical debate. A right is "real" if it exists; it exists if propositions of the form, "P has a right to X" are true; propositions of that form are true IFF P is the first possessor of X or acquired X via a chain of consent from the first possessor; false otherwise. That truth condition for those propositions is entirely independent of anyone's beliefs, preferences, or agreement.
But people of conscience also write the laws. And when they disagree they must resolve their issues peacefully, through democratic means. The constitution provides those means.
I agree, in substance. But rights trump democracy (that is the premise of the Bill of Rights). Democratic decision-making is fine, as long as the decision does not involve violating anyone's rights. Who has --- real --- rights (as just defined) to what are objective facts with a moral basis, and are not dependent upon public opinion or subject to political horse-trading.
For example, despite your claim that people have a "natural" right to associate with and exchange goods with "willing others", we will not allow you to post a "Whites Only" sign in your restaurant's window. We have agreed instead that every citizen, regardless of race, has a right to participate fully in our economy. Your "natural" right to use your property as you see fit is subject to the limits that the rest of us have agreed to.
My natural right to use my property as I see fit extends to all uses which inflict no loss or injury on others, regardless of what some politicians have agreed to. Any futher restrictions they presume to impose will violate those rights.

BTW, there can be no "right to participate in our economy." You're attempting to obscure the moral issue with an abstraction, "our economy." An economy is nothing but an abstract term to collectively denote the myriad economic transactions that occur every day between specific individuals. No person has a "right" to do business, or enter into any other sort of relationship, with any person who does not desire to enter into that relationship. Forced relationships of any type are forms of slavery.

That "right" is one of the arbitrary "fiat rights" I mentioned. When they are not patently immoral they have no moral significance.
Your claim to the gold you found on unowned property is purely rhetorical if the rest of us agree that it should belong to all of us in common rather than to any one individual.
Oh, no. The right is quite real (see above). If the rest of you agree that it "should" belong to all of us, then you've agreed to become thieves. Burglars and bank robbers believe your jewelry and the bank's money "should" belong to them, too.
Once a nation is constituted, there is no unowned land. All of the unowned land in a newly formed nation becomes property of the nation, to be conserved or sold or leased in a way that meets the needs of the general public, rather than the needs of any individual.
It "becomes the property of the nation"? Per what principle of ownership? Mere decree? That is another example of the strange belief that governments have prerogative and powers not traceable to those of the persons who erect them. I cannot declare that I "own" a parcel of land on which I've never set foot, or acquired from someone who has, yet if join together with a few others, declare ourselves to be a government, I magically acquire that power? Might makes right?

BTW, having sovereignty over a territory --- the power to make laws applying within it --- is not the same as owning it. When the US purchased Louisiana, for example, many parts of that territory were already owned, by individuals, Indian tribes, homesteaders, etc., including the entire city of New Orleans. None of those titles were disturbed by the purchase.

The central disagreement here remains the "social contract" issue. You haven't answered in just what sense Alfie can be a party to a contract or agreement he's never signed or otherwise affirmed, or perhaps even seen, and upon what morally defensible grounds Bruno can insist that he is. Surely "might makes right" is not a morally defensible ground.

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Re: Explaining Rights to Libertarians (e.g. Bill Glod)

Post by Marvin_Edwards » May 25th, 2020, 2:06 pm

GE Morton wrote:
May 25th, 2020, 10:32 am
You can't make that true merely by repeating it. You need to produce some evidence of that agreement, on the part of every person you claim is a party to it. I'm quite sure you can't do that.
And yet I've done that. The Constitution is evidence of a contract. (1) It is evidence of a contract between "We the People" of the United States of America. (2) It is evidence of a continuing agreement that outlives those who ratified it, explicitly naming "Our Posterity" in the agreement. (3) No one is required to sign it personally for it to be binding, as everyone born here becomes a "citizen" of this thing which it creates, this Nation, automatically.

You keep repeating that the right of possession automatically falls to the person who happens to stumble upon it first. As if the Pilgrims landing in Plymouth became the original owners from ocean to ocean. Or, as if they had purchased the land from the natives, who didn't believe in the ownership of land.

We could also say that the British Monarchy owned all of America. After all, they chartered the original settlers. And they did stake a claim to the land which they defended with their armies during the American revolution.

But living under British rule was disagreeable to us. And we agreed that we should be free to establish our own Nation, and to defend the United States of America with our own armies, and to defend the rights of its citizens with our own laws and our own courts.

All rights arise by agreement.

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Re: Explaining Rights to Libertarians (e.g. Bill Glod)

Post by GE Morton » May 25th, 2020, 6:42 pm

Marvin_Edwards wrote:
May 25th, 2020, 2:06 pm
GE Morton wrote:
May 25th, 2020, 10:32 am
You can't make that true merely by repeating it. You need to produce some evidence of that agreement, on the part of every person you claim is a party to it. I'm quite sure you can't do that.
And yet I've done that. The Constitution is evidence of a contract. (1) It is evidence of a contract between "We the People" of the United States of America.
No it is not. It is a contract only between those who signed it and the legislators who ratified it --- the signatories to it, just as with any other contract. The parties to a contract cannot make other persons who have never signed it or otherwise assented to it, perhaps have never read it or even heard of it, parties to it by decree. Nor is an assertion within the contract to the effect that it is binding upon non-signatories "evidence" that it is binding upon them. Such a statement is presumptuous, gratuitous, and vacuous.

You speak as though you don't understand what a contract is. Yet I'm sure you do --- but you persist with this silliness because you need that imaginary contract to justify your political views.
(2) It is evidence of a continuing agreement that outlives those who ratified it, explicitly naming "Our Posterity" in the agreement. (3) No one is required to sign it personally for it to be binding, as everyone born here becomes a "citizen" of this thing which it creates, this Nation, automatically.
No person or persons who negotiate a contract among themselves can bind their posterity to it either. I cannot enter into a contract with you that binds my children, grandchildren, neighbors, or anyone else not a signatory to it.
You keep repeating that the right of possession automatically falls to the person who happens to stumble upon it first. As if the Pilgrims landing in Plymouth became the original owners from ocean to ocean. Or, as if they had purchased the land from the natives, who didn't believe in the ownership of land.
No. Per the first occupancy principle you can't claim possession of a continent "from ocean to ocean." Neither can an explorer claim it "in the name of the King of Spain." You may only claim that portion of it under your direct control and from which you derive tangible benefits, e.g., the 40 acres you've cleared, planted your beans, and can defend. I.e., your claim cannot exceed your grasp.

An alleged "agreement" between persons who have never expressly agreed to it, and who may well disagree with some or all of its substance, is oxymoronic, Marvin --- a contradiction. You need to give up that hypothesis; it is absurd.

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Re: Explaining Rights to Libertarians (e.g. Bill Glod)

Post by Marvin_Edwards » May 25th, 2020, 7:16 pm

GE Morton wrote:
May 25th, 2020, 6:42 pm
No. Per the first occupancy principle you can't claim possession of a continent "from ocean to ocean." Neither can an explorer claim it "in the name of the King of Spain." You may only claim that portion of it under your direct control and from which you derive tangible benefits, e.g., the 40 acres you've cleared, planted your beans, and can defend. I.e., your claim cannot exceed your grasp.
Well then I think you've got the idea there. The original settlers claimed the land in their settlements. And they defended it against the natives. The colonies created governments and expanded westward. And they defended it against the French and Indians. The colonies revolted against Great Britain, and Britain could not defend it.

One of the purposes of constituting the U.S.A. is also there in the preamble: "provide for the common defense".
GE Morton wrote:
May 25th, 2020, 6:42 pm
An alleged "agreement" between persons who have never expressly agreed to it, and who may well disagree with some or all of its substance, is oxymoronic, Marvin --- a contradiction. You need to give up that hypothesis; it is absurd.
And those who agreed to the contract that founded our nation also defend it against those who didn't agree. And we will continue to defend it against those who disagree today against any who claim that the constitutions and the laws enacted under it don't apply to them, whether they be criminals, traitors, or simply well meaning but misguided zealots.

In a way, it does boil down to might makes right. To resist a bully, whether living in a cave or seated on a throne, the victims agree to ban together to resist or even overthrow the bully. The bully is bigger and stronger than any individual, but not bigger and stronger than individuals working together to resist or overthrow the bully. That's what America did with King George III. And in order to get that done, they formed an alliance between all of the states, culminating in the Constitution of the United States of America.

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Re: Explaining Rights to Libertarians (e.g. Bill Glod)

Post by GE Morton » May 26th, 2020, 7:20 pm

Marvin_Edwards wrote:
May 25th, 2020, 7:16 pm

In a way, it does boil down to might makes right.
Might can sometimes achieve right, but it cannot determine what is right.

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Re: Explaining Rights to Libertarians (e.g. Bill Glod)

Post by Marvin_Edwards » May 26th, 2020, 7:35 pm

GE Morton wrote:
May 26th, 2020, 7:20 pm
Marvin_Edwards wrote:
May 25th, 2020, 7:16 pm

In a way, it does boil down to might makes right.
Might can sometimes achieve right, but it cannot determine what is right.
I agree. Might doesn't make anything right. But it can be employed to protect the rights we have agreed upon.

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