The 2nd amendment of the American Constitution gives U.S citizens the constitutional right to bear arms. Perhaps the most prominent justification given for the 2nd amendment is as a defense against tyrannical government, where citizens have a method of defending themselves against a corrupt government, and of taking their government back by force if needed by forming a citizen militia.
Great post! The balance of power between weapons available to individuals and those available to the state has been distinctly to the advantage of the state in recent years. The example of successful insurgencies is often raised, but it is hard to think of guerrilla campaigns that have been successful against a technologically advanced society on its own soil.
I am very uneasy about the prospect of the balance shifting back to the individual when it comes to “weapons of mass destruction.” Cruel and irresponsible as states can be when deploying violence, the ability of deranged or fanatical individuals to access biological, nuclear or nanotechnological weapons would be really frightening.
Posted by Blu3 on 08/13 at 05:54 PM
Though the original intention of the 2nd Amendment was to protect civilians from the military/government, I feel that Americans have forgotten the reason (you so correctly incite). Slogans such as “...only outlaws will have guns”, etc., induce another scenerio as projected in the film “The Purge”.
Where Cortese goes wrong is the assumption that the dramatic expansion of governmental power through advanced weapon systems renders an armed citizenry incapable of fighting back. Yet throughout the last few decades, we have had examples of lightly armed insurgencies successfully defeating or at least bringing to the negotiating table well-armed, modern technology governments. One example is the destruction of the Ceausescu government in Romania—a nation where not just guns were registered, but even TYPEWRITERS! Another is the IRA Provos who were never more than a few thousand combatants (and often less) who successfully forced the British government to the negotiating table—and on an island subject to strict gun control and import restrictions.
Finally, let me point out that any government attempting to defend itself is dependent on the tacit support of not only its population, but also its own security forces. If any significant fraction of those security forces turn against it, the government is finished. Many individuals within the security forces will continue to follow orders as long as they fear punishment for failing to follow orders—but what happens when the insurgents are able to make following orders dangerous? For at least some members of the security forces, the balance of terror may well cause them to become neutrals or change sides. The behavior of some National Guard units during the 1877 railroad strikes is instructive. When given what were perceived as unlawful orders against armed strikers, some units refused those orders; some changed sides.
Posted by rmk948 on 08/13 at 07:31 PM
Clayton Cramer makes some excellent points. I would agree that security forces changing sides or refusing orders are critical factors in an insurgency succeeding. However, the downfall of Communist governments in Eastern Europe, including Romania, was almost entirely due to nonviolent protests, strikes and similar actions. Violent resistance played little or no role until units of the security forces began to defect en masse.
Insurgency movements have been successful in defeating occupiers or forcing governments to the negotiating table, as in Northern Ireland. Generally, this has been the effect of the insurgents raising the cost of occupation beyond what the occupying country is willing to tolerate. In these cases, they are not confronting a powerful, technologically sophisticated government on its own soil. I am still of the opinion that it is hard to demonstrate a case where an armed insurgency has defeated such a government in its own country.
Posted by Intomorrow on 08/13 at 08:04 PM
“I am still of the opinion that it is hard to demonstrate a case where an armed insurgency has defeated such a government in its own country.”
Wasn’t Chiang Kai Shek well-armed? Didn’t Mao whup his ass?
Posted by rmk948 on 08/13 at 09:27 PM
“Wasn’t Chiang Kai-Shek well-armed? Didn’t Mao whup his ass?”
Good point. But 1) The Kuomintang government had been tremendously enfeebled by the war, losing huge areas even before the civil war began and 2) China at that time had a low level of technological sophistication. Chiang’s arms were imported, and remember that the People’s Army was receiving weapons too.
Posted by Intomorrow on 08/13 at 10:01 PM
“Back to weapons, don’t forget that nukes and air force are not of much help against a massive popular uprising.”
Depends on morale; force can be used against a home populace if military personnel are motivated. However if morale is low and defections are high, you wind up with Romania 1989; Egypt 2011.
Even in 1945, Hitler’s military was motivated to keep German defeatists down and out.
“However, the downfall of Communist governments in Eastern Europe, including Romania, was almost entirely due to nonviolent protests, strikes and similar actions.”
No, Romania was the Eastern European countries where violent battles were a substantial part of the downfall. I remember watching these battles at the time, some of which involved use of surprisingly antique firearms that had appeared out of deep storage, and one memorable battle between the secret police and the Romanian Olympic pistol team.
Of course, there is one country where armed insurgents defeated their own government: the United States. A long time ago, of course.
It is good to see the the rationale for the 2nd amendment clearly spelled out: a defense against tyrannical government, where citizens have a method of defending themselves against a corrupt government, and of taking their government back by force if needed by forming a citizen militia.
Governments, all governments, tend to become corrupt and oppressive if we, the people, don’t watch and keep them in check. Why? Because this is what governments do.
Thomas Jefferson knew that any government tends to grow large, authoritarian and oppressive. “A little rebellion now and then is a good thing and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical,” he said.
It is certainly true that, today, the government has much better weapons than the citizens, but this does not mean that we must abdicate the right, which is really a duty in a democracy, to watch the government and keep in check. Today’s peaceful, non-violent whistle-blowing movement is, I think, a step in the right direction.
Back to weapons, don’t forget that nukes and air force are not of much help against a massive popular uprising.
Posted by CygnusX1 on 08/14 at 08:15 AM
Selfishness > Greed > Status > Power > Corruption > Fear > Oppression > Surveillance
Root causes of unrest? Socioeconomics, inequality, austerity, poverty. What else?
Egypt’s peoples, (the majority?), have recently overthrown it’s own Representative and elected democratic government and replaced it with? And all in the name of democracy, or is this merely hypocrisy?
Do you really think the West would permit this type of uprising and revolt in their own nations? NYC Police are very liberal with use of their batons, the UK Police only ever attack unarmed citizens when they know they have the upper hand.
The 2nd Amendment should serve as a constant reminder of possibilities.
People should not be responsible nor accountable to their governments, (only to each other in building a peaceful and secure and respectful society). Where as governments should be responsible and accountable to their people? That’s what we hire and pay them for?
Along the way, governments seem to have forgotten who they were hired to serve, that is, until another crony election comes around, then they play act as the humble servants once more?
Posted by Henry Bowers on 08/14 at 08:50 AM
You’re wrong, Cygnus. Inequality and poverty are symptoms, not causes, of unrest. The cause is human brokenness known as original sin.
The 2nd Amendment was redundant the second it was penned, since the right to defend myself is a human right and requires no document or vote. One will notice that the rash of FBI over-reaches in the 90’s, against the Branch Davidians and Ruby Ridge, screeched to a halt when McVeigh concocted and used a WMD. I think the government would gladly and wisely let us keep our guns, and respect our autonomy, instead of squelching those human rights and facing more McVeigh’s.
Those kids in Boston clowned the nation. Way too many police were needed for a couple of greenhorns. Every family in the neighborhood should have had a rifle ready and surrounded the boat before the police did.
“Governments, all governments, tend to become corrupt and oppressive if we, the people, don’t watch and keep them in check. Why? Because this is what governments do.”
This is like saying, “A is true because A”. It doesn’t shed any light on the real reason why governments tend to become corrupt. A better explanation, in my view, is that governments are themselves composed of people, and people tend to look out for themselves and their loved ones first, and only then worry about people they know less well. This is the fundamental source of corruption, in my view.
But back to the 2nd amendment, beyond the general lessons that Franco has drawn, there remains the question of what to do with it. In fact, what I like about this article is not so much that it spells out the rationale for the 2nd amendment, is that it reminds us that the US is not a sacred document containing “self-evident truths”, any more than the Bible is the Word of God, and that it may actually need to be…well, amended.
Failing that, the lessons Franco has drawn are indeed the right ones, and especially the following: “we must be on constant guard against our precast foundations and preconceptions”.
“I think the government would gladly and wisely let us keep our guns, and respect our autonomy, instead of squelching those human rights and facing more McVeigh’s.”
Let us suppose for a moment that you are right in suggesting that McVeigh’s actions helped rein in “FBI overreach”. Are you seriously suggesting that this is now motivating government officials to support gun rights? It seems implausible to me. And why does it matter how many police were required to catch the Boston bombers? The bad thing is that the bombing happened, not that it took so many police to catch them.
As regards human rights requiring “no document and no vote”, that’s fine in principle but if you want those rights to be respected then there needs to be a mechanism for making them happen. If the 2nd amendment didn’t exist I’m sure the gun lobby would find other ways to carry on selling its products, but at least it would have one weapon less. The problem with the 2nd amendment is that it is, as Franco says, obsolete, not that it was “redundant the second it was penned”.
Posted by CygnusX1 on 08/14 at 12:28 PM
“The cause is human brokenness known as original sin.”
Well, I do not subscribe to this “original sin” , (and let that sin be originally described as pursuit of “knowledge” anyhow?).
However, if you mean that Humans are funda-mentally inhibited by their own Self-ishness, then I would agree. Yet you cannot value individualism without the Self? You cannot find worth in unity and communion without individuals and their tenacity of belief and faith.. in whatever you hold dear?
There’s “rational” Self interest and there’s Self-ishness. Oligarchs are wealthy beyond merely “rational Self interest”? And financial security does not seem to promote concern for others either, rather even more apathy - thus the real name of “evil” is not Satan, but Self-ishness?
And I think poverty and desperation lies at the heart of all conflicts and violence - save crimes of passion and jealousy?
“Those kids in Boston clowned the nation. Way too many police were needed for a couple of greenhorns. Every family in the neighborhood should have had a rifle ready and surrounded the boat before the police did.”
I’m a little surprised to hear you say this, as this is not so much expressing defence in the name of the 2nd Amendment, but rather motivation for vengeance? For Justice we must apply due process not mob mentality?
@Peter re “the real reason why governments tend to become corrupt. A better explanation, in my view, is that governments are themselves composed of people, and people tend to look out for themselves and their loved ones first, and only then worry about people they know less well.”
Of course this is true, but you make it sound bland and innocuous. It is not the nicest people who tend to rise to the top in a power structure, and some people in positions of power are very dangerous thugs, thieves, and worse. They want to eat the cake and send us the bill, and they have all the big guns. Trusting power is never a good idea (Jefferson again).
re “there remains the question of what to do with [the 2nd amendment]”
I think we should leave well enough alone.
re ““we must be on constant guard against our precast foundations and preconceptions”
I think there are much more dangerous things that we should be in constant guard against.
Are Barack Obama and Angela Merkel (for example) thugs? Personally I think not. Indeed, part of the point of democracy is to prevent thugs getting into power, and to some extent it works. I prefer our imperfect governments to be in charge than organised criminals, and before you protest that governments ARE organised criminals, let me point out that this is only really true in the more corrupt countries. And why do they get there? Because people in such cultures are too selfishly concerned with their own well-being, and insufficiently concerned with the well-being of society, to resist them.
Perhaps indeed there are more dangerous things than our precast foundations and preconceptions to be on constant guard against, but they certainly are dangerous. Any belief that you are not willing to question is dangerous.
Some politicians are there to make the world a better place, at least to make it better as they perceive it, but some are just there for the power for its own sake. If I could tell them apart, I’d have a future in politics.
As for the core thesis, I don’t think it does - weapons in the hands of civilians have at least four sociological effects, and deterrence is not to be underrated. As a bellwether, civilian held firearms are a lot like picket ships in a naval formation - you can’t afford to go straight for the carriers and battleships without defeating the frigates or you’ll be caught between a rock and a hard place, but engaging the picket ships first allows the most dangerous ships to wreak havoc for far longer, and with their ability to support the picket ships, the little ones are far more dangerous.
In World War 2, Admiral Yamamoto is widely quoted as saying that invading the US mainland was impossible for there would be a rifle behind every blade of grass. The Japanese could not afford to mount an effective assault. Similarly, a pair of wars in the mideast are doing their best to bankrupt the US; were her economy any less robust or her military any less powerful, a few hundred men with rifles and homemade explosives would have won a war against a nuclear armed superpower, and I’m not sure whether to find that comforting or terrifying.
The good part is that Stalin’s purges are unlikely to ever happen in the US, but the downside is, as Mr. Bowers mentions, people like McVeigh become capable of inflicting terribly disproportionate damage to the innocent. I’m inclined to believe, after reviewing the uniform crime report, that privately held weapons provide a net benefit to society.
Whatever happens, I just hope the discussion and remedies are DATA DRIVEN.
Giulio, I agree there is such a thing as too reasonable. As you say, Hitler was not stopped by people who thought he was perhaps a nice person. But what ARE we trying to do here? Prevent corruption and bureaucratic thuggery? Fine, I’m on board. Is supporting gun rights and the 2nd amendment the best way to go about it? I think not. As Franco says the 2nd amendment is obsolete (even if I largely agree with his implied suggestion that we have better things to do than try to get rid of it), and gun rights seem to be doing more harm than good. Similarly, stating it as inevitable that governments will be corrupt also seems counterproductive.
I’m not disagreeing with your (and Jefferson’s) suggestion that the people need to remain vigilant against over-reach, and be ready to react. But if we work from the assumption that government officials are necessarily venal then we will miss opportunities to promote good governance, leaving the space even more free for the real thugs. And this is not an academic issue, it is a real, practical issue, with consequences.
So if you want me to be less reasonable and more forthright then I can be, but it will be in the direction of railing against naïve libertarianism and how it plays into the hands of the real thugs. That is the treat that tends to rear its head in our discussions here, not governmental corruption.
@Peter re “So if you want me to be less reasonable and more forthright then I can be, but it will be in the direction of railing against naïve libertarianism and how it plays into the hands of the real thugs.”
I choose, instead, to suspend disbelief in naive liberalism. Sometimes one just has to follow his heart.
Posted by Intomorrow on 08/15 at 11:03 PM
“Of course, there is one country where armed insurgents defeated their own government: the United States. A long time ago, of course.”
This is academic, Clayton, but: it wasn’t technically their government until after the British packed up and went home after Cornwallis surrendered.
@Giulio, only* thing I dispute re libertarianism is how libertarians turn a blind eye to the state aiding their own people. Their families, friends, associates—when you add up the numbers that’s millions, tens of millions; scores of millions. Do you think there’s a non-simpleton in the year 2013 who doesn’t know this?
*like saying “aside from that Mrs. Lincoln, how did you enjoy the play?”
Back to guns: legitimate reasons, of course, exist to own firearms.. however many own guns out of paranoia. If a guy owns a gun because he thinks the CIA is sending messages through the fillings in his teeth, though he has a legal right to possess a gun he may not have a moral right to own that gun. It might even be a good idea for the authorities to keep an eye on him so he doesn’t kill twenty kids at a school in Connecticut or sumpin’.
You don’t think private individuals, groups, are going to be motivated enough to keep watch on potentially violent people? True, we cannot trust govt; but the default is because of liability as well. Would you spy on a potentially violent person? (is your insurance paid up, attorney on speedial?)
Libertarianism may not be *wrong* albeit it is not as of yet well thought-out. However if libertarianism happens to be well thought-out, you are doing a poor to fair job of convincing us.
I draw a distinction between liberalism and libertarianism, not only because ‘liberal’ tends to have a completely different meaning in the US to Europe, but also because even in a European context liberalism has never been strongly associated with noxious anti-government rhetoric. A belief that thenrole of government should be strictly limited is not the same as a rhetoric that suggests that governments are necessarily and inherently bad. It is the latter I find toxic, and I come across it in discussions with people with whom I otherwise share similar perspectives far too often.
Re following one’s heart: sure, ultimately this is what we are all doing, isn’t? Same with suspending disbelief, for example I choose to suspend disbelief in the two statements you referred to earlier (about being nice to children and racist hate crime). Another way of putting “follow one’s heart” is perhaps “operate on the basis of instinct”. But when does “following one’s heart”, or operating on the basis of instinct (rather than, for example, clearly thought-out normative principles) become problematic? Going back to those racist hate crimes, in what sense are the perpetrators not merely “following their heart”?
And what is the point in having online discussions if as soon as anyone disagrees we just hide behind “I’m just following my heart”?
Expanding on my comment of yesterday “I choose, instead, to suspend disbelief in naive libertarianism. Sometimes one just has to follow his heart.”
Some questions are easy. For example, most people with the exception of very few extremely insane persons would agree that shooting people at random in the street is bad.
But other questions are not so easy. This is the case of all real issues. The 2nd Amendment, the current situation in Egypt, the government spying on citizens, drug, alcohol and tobacco control, the economic crisis and structural unemployment, EU central control vs. autonomy of sovereign nations… these are all hard questions, and different persons have different and incompatible, but perfectly valid positions.
Nobody has all the Answers with uppercase A, but perhaps together we can get closer to workable answers with lowercase a.
But for that, it is necessary that we all speak our mind. Most mature persons know that every real issue in the real world can be looked at from (at least) two different but equally valid angles. But sometimes you must take side and adopt an easily legible position. Sometimes you must choose between conflicting values and support the value that is closer to your heart, even if you lose your nice intellectual “above the parts” aura in the process.
What position should you take between two conflicting values that are both close to your heart? A way to make this choice is to listen to what others say—and choose the minority position. This way, you can help re-establishing an healthy balance between conflicting values, which may then facilitate the identification of good and fair policies.
So when it comes to naive libertarianism—yes, I know that it is naive. And I know that, as Peter says, it may play into the hands of the real thugs. In another historic moment, I would perhaps make a different choice. But today, here and now, I choose to support “naive libertarianism” because I see a very disturbing (for me of course) anti-libertarian trend.
That’s all fine, Giulio, I don’t really have any issue with any of it. Except this, perhaps: if there is indeed an “anti-libertarian trend”, by which I assume you mean a trend towards less freedom and more tyranny, then there are (in my view) better ways to fight against it than supporting naïve libertarianism, especially by posting comments here. After all, IEET readers are hardly the ones responsible for the increased tyranny (if that is indeed happening), and I don’t see much evidence that your support for this position is gaining much traction even here.
So how DO we fight tyranny? According to our own individual strengths and preferences, obviously, but even within that general category some strategies are likely to be more effective than others. You obviously like posting comments here, as do I, and clearly you like to take opportunities to rail against government corruption and thuggery. My only request is that you show more explicit recognition that government itself is not the problem, but the behaviour of some people in (and outside, for that matter) government, some of the time. Too many people who could otherwise be very effective allies in the struggle against tyranny are infected by the “government is bad” meme, and we should not be encouraging this.
@Peter re “IEET readers are hardly the ones responsible for the increased tyranny”
But we are. We, the privileged and educated “intellectual elite,” are guilty of not standing up. We have let the control freaks take away our civil rights one little liberty at a time. Because, you see, we are too smart, too rational, too responsible, too sophisticated to stand up. But Yeats said it much better than I can:
“The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.”
re “My only request is that you show more explicit recognition that government itself is not the problem.”
The government is not the problem, because it is in the nature of governments to seek more control and more power. So this is not a problem that can be solved with a change of government. I am calling for a cultural shift, not a government change. WE are the problem, because seem to have abdicated our right/duty of watching the government.
@Peter re “So what are you suggesting we do exactly?”
I am suggesting that we (of course we = those who agree with me) stand up against the gradual erosion our civil rights one little liberty at a time.
It seems to me that the best course of action is to take a simple, clear, “naive” libertarian position, even if it comes bundled with a package that I don’t entirely agree with.
if I were an elected politician or an opinion maker I guess I would try to listen to all voices, form a balanced opinion, and contribute to defining a workable policy based on an optimal compromise between different values and priorities.
But I am just one of the people, and the only thing that I can do is to focus on what is important _for me_ and try to make a little difference. Others will focus on what is important _for them_ and try to make a little difference, and perhaps something good will emerge.
“It seems to me that the best course of action is to take a simple, clear, “naive” libertarian position, even if it comes bundled with a package that I don’t entirely agree with.”
This is the bit I’m disputing, Giulio. I think we can do better. I think we are in a much better position to fight tyranny when we make the effort to understand - and communicate - the true nature and root cause of corruption, whether governmental or non-governmental, than when we embrace naïve, flawed ideologies.
Posted by CygnusX1 on 08/17 at 11:55 AM
Ideologies are flawed because Humans are flawed, this seems to have been agreed here already? This includes miscommunication, misconceptions, ignorance, confusion and lack of education.
A Libertarian does not necessarily stand for NO Tax, but less Tax, (makes good sense, where Taxation is a necessary evil for a flawed system reliant on money?)
A Socialist believes in Unity, social responsibility, yet not to the point of oppression by state governance, yet is oft to slide in this direction?
An Anarchist believes in Less governance and reliance, but not to the breakdown of social order?
A Conservative believes in establishment, traditions, but not to the point of obstruction of progress?
Yet where is any ideology set in stone? All comprises of individuals. The root flaw is Self-ishness, (see all 7 deadly sins - also established in Greek philosophy)
Best ditch ideologies and “isms” from books all together, (labels-smabels)? What are you, (labelled)? is not even a sensible question nor greeting at social events? What do you stand for and against? Often goes without saying, (Universal, Human natures)?
Where ideology is concerned, the problem is “groupthink” and mob mentality directed by “laziness” to think for oneself, and for crises, waiting for others “to do” before we do anything ourselves?
There are still a few that stand up and “do”, (Snowden, Manning), whether motivated by morality or Social conscience or other - yet look at how “we” the “collective” treat them? Or rather how we permit “governments” to treat individuals?
Political dissidents the World over persecuted, bullied and imprisoned or given “absolutely no sanctuary” and treated as common criminals?
What of ideology? What is ideology, (but subjective understanding of morality and wants, all founded upon some Universal understanding of needs)?
CygnusX1, yes of course you can define labels so that they refer to something sensible. Indeed, I used the word “naïve” precisely to distinguish what I was objecting to from the more sensible versions of libertarianism/liberalism that one might imagine. I wasn’t objecting to some abstract, ill-defined thing called “libertarianism”, I was objecting to Giulio’s insistence on generally anti-government rhetoric (“That’s what governments do”). I chose to stick a label on it (not “libertarianism”, but “naïve libertarianism”), because Giulio felt I was being too “reasonable” (i.e. insufficiently government-hating), so to rise to his challenge (to be less reasonable) I decided to name the enemy I had chosen to fight.
The enemy that Giulio claims to want to fight, by contrast, is tyranny, and as I’ve mentioned I’m certainly on board for that fight as well. Where we still seem to disagree is how best to fight it. Giulio says that the best course of action is to embrace a clear, “naïve”, libertarian position, “even if it comes bundled with a package that [he doesn’t] entirely agree with”, whereas I think it’s better to try to come up with a sound, non-naïve (or at least as non-naïve as we can manage) understanding of what causes it. What about you?
@Peter re “The enemy that Giulio claims to want to fight, by contrast, is tyranny”
This is not entirely correct. Yes, of course I want to fight tyranny, but many people better than me are fighting it already. If our governments were to become real hardline tyrannies, like rounding people up in the street and sending them to gas chambers, I know that you would stand up with me, and (I hope) all IEET readers would do the same.
So I am focusing on those little tyrannies that others don’t seem to notice. Really, remember the world when you were a kid, and look at the world now. Soon you will have to wear a security belt when you sit on your toilet at home, and there will be cameras, which you can’t turn off, installed in your bathroom to watch if you comply.
Can’t happen? Just wait a few years, or just listen to your beloved nanny-state bureaucrats in Brussels.
NYC major wants to ban big CocaCola mugs. McDonalds and all those who eat there are demonized by the nanny-state. Really, I don’t like McDonalds burgers that much, but for me, these days, eating at McDonalds and putting a lot of salt on the fries is an important political statement.
I don’t think government is intrinsically bad. But I think _our_ governments, today, here and now, are bad, and it is the duty of the citizens to stand up.
There are degrees of badness, I guess. In some ways you seem to be even more optimistic about ‘our’ governments (i.e. governments in developed, democratic countries) than I am. OK they are not exactly rounding people up in the street and sending them to gas chambers, but I think many in positions of leadership are guilty of negligence, corruption or sheer bad policy that goes well beyond the nanny-state concerns you are citing. And conversely, while health and safety regs can of course be taken too far, I would far rather be obliged to wear a seat belt (in the car, that is, not on the toilet!) - after all in most systems I’ll be expecting the state to subsidise my healthcare at least to some extent if I get into an accident - than, say, be barred from practising safe, consensual sex in ways that infringe traditional social norms. And yet, until very recently, ‘our’ governments were obliging just that. So the idea that the state is getting more oppressive in small, insidious ways, while on the ‘big’ issues is more or less just fine, doesn’t seem to be very well supported by evidence.
Re “many people better than me are fighting [tyranny] already”: they need your help! To the extent that IEET readers are “guilty” in the sense you claimed above, it is precisely because we are buying into the tabloid drivel and focusing on trivial (but seemingly easy to understand) issues, rather than getting our heads round the big issues and being - what was it again? Oh yes: mature, adult, reasonable…
@Peter re “I would far rather be obliged to wear a seat belt (in the car, that is, not on the toilet!)”
My point is that today you are obliged to wear a seat belt in the car, and tomorrow you will be obliged to wear a seat belt in the toilet.
re “after all in most systems I’ll be expecting the state to subsidise my healthcare at least to some extent if I get into an accident.”
This is of course a good argument, but it can also be used in support of a mandatory security belt in the toilet (it seems that most home accidents happen in the bathroom).
And why should you be worried of a little unobtrusive surveillance camera in the bathroom to monitor your compliance with the law, if you have nothing to hide?
But to me, my (and your) right to privacy in the bathroom comes first.
re “than, say, be barred from practising safe, consensual sex in ways that infringe traditional social norms. And yet, until very recently, ‘our’ governments were obliging just that.”
I know, and I praise our governments for that. No, forget that. I praise the people, in this case LGTB activists, who _forced_ the governments to respect their rights.
re “focusing on trivial (but seemingly easy to understand) issues”
But these are not trivial issues. On the contrary, I consider them terribly important issues. While I can understand the typical nanny-state arguments, and recognize their validity up to some degree, to me the right to autonomy and privacy comes first.
Perhaps things would be different of we had a frontier. In history, frontiers have satisfied fundamental mental needs. If you wanted more autonomy and privacy, and less interference from the government, you could “go West.” But today there is no West, and we have no new frontiers. Therefore, we must build a workable society where personal rights are respected.
Perhaps most people today don’t seem to notice “that the state is getting more oppressive in small, insidious ways” but someday we will notice it, and react with explosions of discontent that will cause a lot of problems. I hope that we will address this problem before it becomes a big problem.
Posted by Henry Bowers on 08/19 at 12:24 PM
Giulio, you’re mistaken. LGBT’s already had the right to get into bed and hold gatherings that they wanted to call “marriage.” What they’ve done instead is to force other citizens, not governments, to call their type of community a marriage or a civil good, when it is neither of those things. LGBT’s settle for no libertarianism of any stripe, and they are not liberals who merely want permission. They want mass public coercion, and so are tyrants.
@Henry re “they’ve forced me to call those acts a marriage”
Does that mean that they will shoot or beat you if you don’t call “those acts” a marriage? Or that they can have you arrested by the police and put in jail? And which “acts” are you referring to?
Posted by CygnusX1 on 08/19 at 03:48 PM
“If you wanted more autonomy and privacy, and less interference from the government, you could “go West.” But today there is no West, and we have no new frontiers.”
No, there is no room left to travel West, yet the present frontier is symbolized by Money, (which buys you real estate and increased autonomy, freedoms and privacy) - even this freedom is swiftly becoming scarce in an emerging densely populated arena, (Hence the establishment of the “Lifeboat foundation” and it’s focus on escaping to Sea and Stars?)
The new frontier is, of course, Space!
Regarding Seat belts and toilets, it can be very dangerous to fall asleep on loos, so not the worst Liberal idea I’ve heard this year?
@ Henry, regarding marriage - this term means “nothing” in and of itself, I am presently married to a Squirrel named Horace, (purely Platonic relationship you understand), although Horace seems a little confused about the whole thing, and didn’t really understand the contract he was signing, (he was only interested in the nuts).
However, I do believe you have a point, and that the term and sanctity of marriage in a Christian Church needs to be respected, and thus LGBT folks should not “force” themselves or their beliefs on others or the Church in the name of Liberal ideology. Yet we must also remember that it is not for Humans to judge each other, but to “Love” and accept each other?
Rather my point was to dissuade from focus on labels, ideology and polarization altogether. In this way we can concentrate on the “Universal values” we Humans hold dear, and which are closely associated with the Human condition and it’s “hierarchy of needs”, (Maslow again - smart bloke)
Universal values are things we can all agree are worth protecting and fighting for, Freedoms and autonomy just two, and regardless of political ideology?
Posted by Intomorrow on 08/19 at 11:27 PM
when you discuss religion you have something new to say; you pointed out New Atheists are as dogmatic as the religion they reject. When you go into libertarianism, you repeat the same old same old:
The right to arm bears.
The right to smoke cigarettes and worship in the choich of your choice.
Right to die and be buried in the cemetery of your choice.
Don’t vote for the bastids, it only encourages ‘em.
If outlaws are gunned, only guns will be outlaws.
Let the bastads freeze in the dark.
Gas, grass and ass—nothing is free.
If you boil a frog by turning up the heat, the frog doesn’t notice it.
“A republic, Ma’am, if you can keep it”: http://daylightblogs.org/rubentlc10/files/2010/12/Benjamin_Franklin_109223202_std.jpg
Back to the 2nd Amendment: one is granted the privilege, not the right to bear arms. When a customer walks into a gun shop with his eyes bugging out, wearing a T-shirt that reads “kill ‘em all, let God sort ‘em out.” or “the tree of liberty must be watered with the blood of patriots,”
the hothead has a legal prerogative to purchase a gun—but no absolute right even if his record is clean.
@Cygnus re “Rather my point was to dissuade from focus on labels, ideology and polarization altogether.”
Yes, fair point, but I think that can be taken too far. Even if we were to agree on a set of “universal values…worth protecting or fighting for” (for example, let us imagine the UN Declaration or something similar came to be seen the world over as a universally accepted statement of values, something that is currently a very long way from being the case), we would still need working hypotheses about how to achieve our desired goals, and how to prioritise between them. And labels are useful in this context, in my view. Even polarisation has its uses, since it enables different ideas (or ‘ideologies’) to compete. When you debate with someone, first you set up a polarisation, then you fight it out, and see who wins. Creative competition.
Admittedly, to have a fair fight there still have to be rules of the game, and some mechanism for ensuring those rules are respected. So I guess the question is: what game are Giulio and I playing? And what game is Henry playing when he comes in from left field (well more right field, I suppose) and starts deploring the steady match of LGBT rights? In particularar, are we having an honest debate here, or just trying to defend entrenched positions? If the latter, then I agree that wold be BAD polarisation, because no-one would really be learning.
By the way on Giulio’s LGBT point, why NOT give some people in government a bit of credit as well? Unless, of course, the idea that government is inherently evil is so axiomatic in one’s thinking that to give them any credit at all feels like a betrayal.
In fact, one advantage of labels is that they serve as a short-cut. By characterising Giulio’s standpoint as “naïve libertarian” we can avoid having to repeat the same old arguments over and over and just ask, “Is this standpoint realistic or not, and what values values does it reflect?” In this context, it seems to me that Giulio’s standpoint is naïve because it is paranoid along one specific axis (namely the intrusive state), just assuming that we are on a slippery slope to hell in that respect, but based on very little in the way of analysis or evidence, while in other respects (issues that might, for example, remind us of the essential role tht government plays and tempt us to be just a little bit grateful for those who play it, often in very trying circumstances) there magically seems to be “nothing to worry about”. The truth is that there are ways to “go West” even today if one as the inclination and courage. One can start by disconnecting oneself for the Internet. So much easier, though, to use the Internet to demonise the “nanny state” that provides it.
By the way, is Giulio really saying something new when he “points out” (I would rather say claims, because I’m not at all sure I agree) that New Atheists are “as dogmatic as the religion they reject”)? I don’t see much that is new or original in that position. It’s just a defensive, knee-jerk reaction in the face of a perceived attack. Which comes back to the point about polarisation. By attacking religion the New Atheists have staked out a position around which some of us - especially those who are otherwise have been cowed or marginalised by a religious majority - can rally. In my experience those who deplore the New Atheists are generally scared, either of conflict or of the truth.
I too am willing to run the risk of being called naïve, deluded, “too reasonable” or whatever, as a price for standing up for my beliefs. That’s one thing I guess we all have in common, and it’s why we’re able to have this discussion. Henry as well: his views are eccentric in the context of this blog, and some of them downright offensive (for me, and for many other readers I would guess), but kudos to him for having the courage to state them unashamedly.
But having agreed that it’s good that we’re all standing up for what we believe in, for this debate to have any meaning (or usefulness) we still need to maintain some kind of connection with reality.
Are you just being called naïve, or are you actually being naïve?
Is the state really becoming more intrusive, and if so how dangerous is this trend really?
What value-based criteria are we using to determine how dangerous it is?
And if this trend is real, and dangerous, what other dangers - and also hopes, dream, aspirations - do we need to take account while fighting it?
What collateral damage, if any, might we incur, and/or inflict on others, by fighting it, and how, if at all, should this influence our strategy?
These are the kind of questions I think we need to keep in mind if we are to have a genuine debate, rather than just talking past each other. And I’m up for it if you are (or anyone else is for that matter).
@Peter re “These are the kind of questions I think we need to keep in mind if we are to have a genuine debate, rather than just talking past each other. And I’m up for it if you are (or anyone else is for that matter).”
I am afraid we can only talk past each other, because we don’t share the same values (or better, we do share them but don’t agree on priorities).
For me, personal autonomy and privacy come first. For you, safety and social security come first. I am willing to sacrifice your values for mine, and you are willing to sacrifice my values for yours.
Having said that, politics is the art of living in a society without having to resort to violence, and I hope we can still work together and try to define a good trade-off and compromise solution, fair to both sides.
But there must be concessions from both sides. Looking at today’s world, I think “my camp” has been forced to make too many concessions already, and I am not willing to make more unilateral concessions without a fight.
I think the really disastrous outcome of 9/11 is that it has persuaded us, at societal level, that we must make a binary (either or) choice between autonomy/privacy and safety/security. We seem to have chosen safety/security. I don’t agree with this choice, and I don’t agree that the choice must be binary.
I find it interesting that I’ve given you this impression, Giulio, but I also think you are mistaken. What I think has happened is that you have been expressing extreme (and tiresomely common) opinions about government, and I have been putting up the other side of the argument.
The reality is that I don’t believe the choice must be binary either, and I don’t altogether agree that 9/11 and the terrorist threat more generally has convinced society that it must be. Obviously there are trade-offs, and we may indeed have different priorities, but if you seriously think that I am making a binary choice in favour of safety and social security then you have seriously misunderstood my comments.
In any case, the questions I have suggested are only partly to do with values.
But just to be clear: I’m not interested in ‘correcting’ anyone just for the sale of correcting them. If posting comments here has any meaning at all (for me, that is - others’ motivations may of course differ) then it has to be because there is a real exchange of views and opportunity to learn from each other. There are certain cues that tend to trigger our urge to post comments, and coming across statements I disagree with certainly provides such a cue in my case, but this cannot be an end in itself.
And in that spirit, perhaps what I’ve found most interesting from this discussion so far is your comment about being too reasonable. As I’ve said, I agree that it’s possible to be too reasonable, and sometimes it really is better just to deplore. But I think this difference in sensitivity between us has to do with more than just having different polotical priorities. I think it also has to do with having a different understanding of the world, especially the role of government, and perhaps even more to do with differences in our respextive debating styles. You seem to mainly want to take easy opportunities to support the personal autonomy / privacy agenda, but without getting into too much detail and nuance. I think this maybe underpins the “too reasonable” comment.
Anyway, perhaps I need to look for different cues…
@Peter re “You seem to mainly want to take easy opportunities to support the personal autonomy / privacy agenda, but without getting into too much detail and nuance. I think this maybe underpins the “too reasonable” comment.”
Indeed, I think too much “intellectualism,” too much detail and nuance, weakens the immediate (and to me, commonsensical and self-evident) force of my points.
Some things are just bad, and no sophistry will make them good.
I don’t want to “correct” anyone either, so I guess I will leave things here, since we are repeating things that we already said many times.
Posted by CygnusX1 on 08/20 at 02:12 PM
David Miranda’s lawyers threaten legal action over ‘unlawful’ detention
“Lawyers for the partner of the Guardian journalist who exposed mass email surveillance have written to home secretary Theresa May and the head of the Metropolitan police warning them that they are set to take legal action over what they say amounted to his “unlawful” detention at Heathrow airport under anti-terror laws.”
“Miranda, whose partner Glenn Greenwald has been working since May with the National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden, was transiting in Heathrow airport en route from Berlin to Brazil on Sunday when he was detained under schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000.”
“He was questioned for nine hours and according to the letter had belongings including his mobile phone, laptop, memory sticks, smart-watch, DVDs and games consoles confiscated.
The letter says the decision to detain Miranda “amounted to a frustration of the legislative policy and objects of the Terrorism Act 2000” and was for “an improper purpose and was therefore unlawful”. “
“Inequality and poverty are symptoms, not causes, of unrest. The cause is human brokenness known as original sin.”
Henry, why stop there? why not go on to write it is because we are descended from apes and not angels? Because that wont play in Peoria; they want to be told we are made in the image of God. IMO there was no Fall, we were broken from the get-go millions of years ago.
Funny, the supposedly most advanced nation in the world is so retro it pines for an era six decades in the past, for a man who died around the time you were born, Pete. “I have seen the past- and it works!”
“By attacking religion the New Atheists have staked out a position around which some of us - especially those who are otherwise have been cowed or marginalised by a religious majority - can rally. In my experience those who deplore the New Atheists are generally scared, either of conflict or of the truth.”
It is true I fear the religious but not New Atheists. Nevertheless, New Atheists number in the thousands, or maybe a few millions whereas the religious number in the billions—which is to write in sheer numbers alone they are formidable. Reckoning with ulterior motives it may v. well be sensible to fear the religious; fear can and does motivate us to be cautious.
Giulio might be persuaded to write a full-length piece treating the subject of libertarianism. However it would be a monumental task, would end up being heavy on rhetoric, light on substance. Giulio possibly would not have time to write a full-blown article concerning libertarianism albeit he could collaborate on it if really wanted to. But to surmise, libertarianism has largely become reading room fantasy, a parlor game. What new can be written? We’d be better off with Pastor Alex returning to write that we have no rights, only responsibilities.
When it comes to govt. funding and services the public has accepted double standards completely. Let’s date it to the ‘30s. Since that time, rugged individualism has given way to accepting (not merely tolerating) statism while maintaining the pretense of independence; my understanding is libertarians expect the State to aid the reproductively fit. In other words one might say it is State subsidised rugged individualism. A farmer for instance can work 10 hrs a day but feel secure the State is backing him up—and if he is elderly, he gets much more. To sum it up, when you examine behavior, the interest in freedom is superseded by the interest in power, position.
If libertarianism is basically SF, then I accept it. The difficulty arises in not knowing how seriously to take libertarianism and if the libertarian in question is being serious or merely serving food for thought sans core beliefs.
Or being libercontrarian to score philosophical brownie points.
“By the way, is Giulio really saying something new when he ‘points out’ (I would rather say claims, because I’m not at all sure I agree) that New Atheists are ‘as dogmatic as the religion they reject’)? I don’t see much that is new or original in that position.”
There you go, Pete: there’s nothing new under the libertarian Sun. It’s not Giulio per se, he can write well on many topics. Unfortunately, here he fails; libertarianism references a vast subject including economics, sociology, political ‘science’, psychology, and so forth. Thus Giulio is not even doing justice to libertarianism whatever its flaws.
First heard of libertarianism in ‘73, a full four decades ago.. in that time have heard no new ideas- none. In fact it appears social ‘science’ as a whole made great progress from 1945- ‘70, and then leveled out. Perhaps social science developed as far as it could given hominid limitations: social science might have done better than it could have been expected to do given the limitations. At any rate, perhaps not only have our bottles and cans been recycled during the last four decades, but also our ideas, our ideologies.
All the same, libertarianism can be beneficial to newies. For example when I first talked to a libertarian in ‘73, it appeared fresh, exciting. Yet the downside was not discussed at all… for starters it was a simpler era. Then too, the consequences were not forseen. Just to begin with, the ‘73 libertarian said sex was free—but the STDs of the following decade partially disproved such a theory.
“It’s not Giulio per se, he can write well on many topics. Unfortunately, here he fails; libertarianism references a vast subject including economics, sociology, political ‘science’, psychology, and so forth. Thus Giulio is not even doing justice to libertarianism whatever its flaws.”
How could it be otherwise, when he sees “intellectualism, too much detail and nuance”, as “weaken[ing] the…commonsensical and self-evident…force of [his] points”?
Of course, Giulio is not entirely wrong to caution against ‘sophistry’, since it is always possible to use words to confuse and beguile, appearing to cast doubt on some “commonsensical and self-evident truth”, when in fact there is no genuinely good reason to doubt them. As Hume noticed it is possible to make a reasoned case to doubt anything, so all the sophist really has to do is to leverage that kernel of ‘reasonable doubt’ that (in philosophy, if not in law) always exists low it out of proportion, use some fancy rhetorical tricks, and hey presto. There are two types of defense against such sophistry: one is to get to know the tricks and identify them as and when they are used, the other is just to dig trenches to defend whatever ‘truths’ one has decided are ‘commonsensical and self-evident’ and keep repeating them over and over.
The problem with the second approach, of course, is that one risks issuing opportunities to learn. Clearly, Giulio has an opportunity to learn that the points he makes are not on fact as “self-evident” as they appear to be, to him (and to remember that “common sense” frequently leads us astray), but he prefers to remain behind his intellectual trench and simply block out any argument that might cause him to doubt them. I always find this kind of thing frustrating, but it’s the way it is…at least for now.
Giulio’s tactics would make more sense, though, if he was at least out on the streets protesting. There are, indeed, situations where considering detail and nuance is counterproductive, and one just needs repetition and rhetoric. But here at IEET? Does he seriously imagine that he is striking blows for personal autonomy and privacy by posting comments here and then refusing to debate them seriously? My guess is that he doesn’t, and it’s mainly just a pleasant pastime, or would be if there weren’t annoying people like me around to expose the essential vacuity of these “commonsensical and self-evident” points.
But back to this thing about cues. We’ve discussed before the extent to which our debates here can often go round in circles. We also intermittently discuss the rather limited (“white, male”) demographic scope of regular commentators here. What we don’t often discuss, though, is what motivates us to comment here, and how adequate that motivation is. In my case, I tend to be fascinated by entrenched beliefs that are obviously flawed, and to be curious about what ail, happen if I try to make the person who holds them aware of those flaws. Once again, it’s not that I want to ‘correct’ anyone just for the sake of correcting them, but rather to see what happens when I do. Doubtless my experience with religion is part of the reason for this, but perhaps it’s mostly just a coping strategy of someone whose extreme affinity for logic and reason hasn’t always served me particularly well in my practical, day-to-day life, for the simple reason that most people, most of the time, are just not that receptive to reason. I guess I’m still trying to find ways to leverage that capacity for reason that actually work.
Posted by Intomorrow on 08/21 at 03:15 AM
“Does he seriously imagine that he is striking blows for personal autonomy and privacy by posting comments here and then refusing to debate them seriously? My guess is that he doesn’t, and it’s mainly just a pleasant pastime, or would be if there weren’t annoying people like me around to expose the essential vacuity of these “commonsensical and self-evident” points… What we don’t often discuss, though, is what motivates us to comment here, and how adequate that motivation is. In my case, I tend to be fascinated by entrenched beliefs that are obviously flawed, and to be curious about what ail, happen if I try to make the person who holds them aware of those flaws. Once again, it’s not that I want to ‘correct’ anyone just for the sake of correcting them, but rather to see what happens when I do. Doubtless my experience with religion is part of the reason for this, but perhaps it’s mostly just a coping strategy of someone whose extreme affinity for logic and reason hasn’t always served me particularly well in my practical, day-to-day life, for the simple reason that most people, most of the time, are just not that receptive to reason. I guess I’m still trying to find ways to leverage that capacity for reason that actually work.”
If Giulio really wanted to, he could collaborate on an article with another libertarian, so that it wouldn’t be merely dribs and drabs. So far he has only written on the nanny state telling us what to eat and smoke, etc; and what to say in public—which sidesteps the obvious of how one cannot say ‘fire’ in a crowded theater (and not expect trampled and suffocated exiters).
As with Henry Bowers and Wesley Strong, there’re too many loose ends.
My motivation for coming to IEET is from wanting to be a futurist, more than anything else, for over 35 yrs. Would sure rather be a futurist than clean bedpans in a hospital or shovel manure in a barn!
Well there are other options as well! But yes, in a sense a futurist is the only rational thing to be, unless, one has entirely given up on the idea of being able to influence what will happen in the future. To put it simply: if we can’t influence the future, we certainly can’t influence anything else.
The loose ends are there for a reason, Intomorrow. We all like to think our beliefs are logically sound and evidence-based. To think otherwise is to cease to really believe them. But sometimes we come across evidence that they aren’t, and then we are faced with a choice: to change our beliefs, or to retreat behind a rejection of reason itself, and withdraw from the debate. And then what is left? You guessed it: loose ends.
We all do this, by the way. Precisely because we can always find reason to doubt our beliefs, always relying on reason is ultimately paralysing. Giulio is right: it IS possible to be too reasonable. But to me there is a world of difference between, “OK, enough questioning already, time for some action!” and “I’m not willing to question this belief because is is commonsensical and self-evident”. Giulio has cited the first reason for not wanting to question his beliefs, but this cannot be his only motivation, because there are countless more effective ways to support the personal autonomy and privacy agenda (and defend religion, as he has done on other threads) than arguing with the likes of us. I suspect it’s more like a reflexive identification with those “commonsensical and self-evident beliefs”, together with a subconscious belief - which we can of course see is absurd when we think about it, but which nonetheless wields massive influence over the way so many of us argue - that if we state something enough times, and with enough passion, it will become true. (Some beliefs really are self-fulfilling, of course, but in general we cannot make things true just by stating that they are.)
To be honest, I wouldn’t mind so much if it was just loose ends. It’s the way the same loose ends keep cropping up time and time again. With Pastor Alex it wasn’t just responsibility vs rights, it was his dogged insistence that Christian scripture really is a valuable source of guidance. With Cygnus it’s Universal Values and the need to eschew any kind of polarising language (Buddhist Right Speech on steroids). With Henry it’s a straightforward defence of RC doctrine (even to the point of declaring abstinence a form of contraception and therefore sinful), and with Wesley it’s the need to overthrow government and patriarchy. (He should go to the Ukraine and help out Femen, I gather they’ve run into difficulties.) With Giulio it’s the nanny state and people being nasty about religion (shock, horror).
But like I say, I’m fascinated as well as irritated. An that’s what draws me, as a fly is drawn to a lightbulb.
Giulio, I’d actually be quite interested if someone were to summarise some of my pet obsessions in this way. Of course it can be disturbing, and indeed annoying, to see how others perceive you, but useful nonetheless. And I can hardly complain that I haven’t asked for it. On the contrary, I want people to tell me if they think I have got something wrong in the sense that I have some belief that underpins my comments here and which I seem unwilling to question in spite of clear evidence that it is flawed. I won’t necessarily agree, of course, but I will certainly be curious.
In any case, I don’t want to discourage anyone from commenting here, but if my comments do have that effect, but also serve to raise the quality of the discussions here, then I would consider that a price worth paying. I don’t want to annoy people either, but to an extent I consider that to be a price worth paying as well, if it helps to interrupt the dreary repetition of same old, same old. I still see potential for these discussions to become a genuinely satisfying experience for all participants, including myself, and for the moment those loose ends that Intomorrow refers to are getting in the way.
Posted by Intomorrow on 08/21 at 05:27 AM
Pete, your question as to why someone comments is a good one.
Everyone has a combination of positive and negative motivations; my more positive motive is having wanted to be a futurist for going on 37 yrs. The negative motive is an intense suspicion men want power—the Will To Power—and that no man can be trusted.. only some women and children. So am always on-guard yet curious as to how men will camouflage their Will To Power.
Didn’t dislike, for random example, anything Pastor Alex wrote: it was a suspicion he wanted to guilt-trip for the purpose of gaining minor power by (not incorrectly) writing what matters is responsibility, not rights. He wasn’t ‘wrong’ but the suspicion was he was seeking minor power by utilising guilt.
No suspicion of Giulio and Henry Bowers. What I would like is for Giulio to write a full article on libertarianism—then it can be seen if there’s more to libertarianism than meets the eye. Henry Bowers knows theology and personally I like the RC Church: it is quite preferable to Westboro-type churches (churches of the “Poison Mind”, as Boy George referred to them). However when Henry apologetically wrote he is “new to this”, for some reason it wasn’t reassuring. Being new to something does not necessarily mean one will ultimately accept it.
As I wrote at Rick’s latest piece, we cannot be all things to everyone: it would probably be better to be rude than go along, temporise, with something one strongly disagrees with. Frustration soon builds up and I end up for instance making a snarky remark to Alex that the greening he is interested in is the green in the offering basket at church.
At any rate, to get back to the topic of the 2nd amendment, if guns are felt to be necessary for self-defense and thinning animal herds (to prevent overpopulation of game), no dispute.
@Intomorrow re “What I would like is for Giulio to write a full article on libertarianism - then it can be seen if there’s more to libertarianism than meets the eye.”
If you mean an article that mentions also the flaws of libertarianism, I would consider it a total waste of time. Not because I don’t realize that libertarianism has flaws (like everything), but because _in today’s cultural and political climate_ I prefer to make a firm commitment to libertarianism, even if naive.
Posted by CygnusX1 on 08/21 at 03:21 PM
God bless America, in God we trust
New Details Show Broader NSA Surveillance Reach
“WASHINGTON—The National Security Agency— which possesses only limited legal authority to spy on U.S. citizens—has built a surveillance network that covers more Americans’ Internet communications than officials have publicly disclosed, current and former officials say.
The system has the capacity to reach roughly 75% of all U.S. Internet traffic in the hunt for foreign intelligence, including a wide array of communications by foreigners and Americans. In some cases, it retains the written content of emails sent between citizens within the U.S. and also filters domestic phone calls made with Internet technology, these people say. “
Of course I want lots of things, but as for what I want from these discussions, I think I expressed it best thus: “If posting comments here has any meaning at all (for me, that is - others’ motivations may of course differ) then it has to be because there is a real exchange of views and opportunity to learn from each other.”
The bottom line is that there are plenty of things to do with one’s life, and posting comments at IEET is a long way from being the most important with regard to my personal priorities. If you are really curious to know what I want from these discussions, there is plenty of material in what I’ve written here and elsewhere to give you the clues you need. If you’d prefer I didn’t comment at all then that’s fine as well.
I think what Intomorrow had in mind was an article advocating libertarianism, or at least your version of it (perhaps you’d rather not use that label anyway). Personally I’m not that interested, because I don’t expect it to contain much new or interesting, but if someone drew my attention to it I’d at least give it a read.
Posted by CygnusX1 on 08/21 at 05:13 PM
But you haven’t answered the question, what do YOU want? It’s not a test, there are no right or wrong answers, and mostly no answers here at IEET at all anyway.
And yes, debating endlessly over the insignificance of labels is a total waste of time.
Posted by Intomorrow on 08/21 at 11:31 PM
Though I’m the most digressive commenter at IEET, will actually return to the topic(!) Franco’s piece is too large for my imagination- will stick to the discrete issue of the alleged American God-given right to own a firearm.
Now, wont go so far as to claim—Alexistically—no rights exist, only responsibilities; rather will write in this case prerogative exists, privilege exists, to own a firearm.. multiple firearms.
But no right, no absolute right to own firearms exists.
Therein lies the difference with libertarians: they overstate individual rights to their own detriment. Not that libertarianism itself is affected, only the trust vis a vis libertarians themselves. As ideologues in general, they are naturally carried away by their own rhetoric; they cannot possibly believe the right to possess a gun can be absolute anymore than one has an absolute right to wear a sword or keep a bazooka in the trunk of one’s motor vehicle. Libertarians, as if it needs to be said, are exaggerating for effect. In regards to weaponry, one has only a relative right.
One does possess an absolute right (whatever ‘absolute’ may signify) to own a toothbrush.. however no absolute right to own a weapon.
Agreed State monopoly of weaponry is something to fear, yet let’s not confuse issues by excessive insistence on individual rights whether it is a child’s right to own a zip gun, or a former South African white man’s right to own a Cat o’ Nine Tails. No rights are involved; only—again—preogatives/privileges.
This is to write Giulio is not *mistaken*, he is overstating. A lesser light than Giulio might stake the claim it is to ‘err on the side of individual rights’. More to it than that, obviously. In the 21st century we can see technologies can, are, and will be abused by the State. But it is paranoia to think the State is necessarily out to ‘get us’. Then we are similar to the rightist paranoids who think everyone is out to destroy America.
Men do crave power and nowhere can power be obtained more than via Statism. And of course the technologies are just beginning thus the future is if not entirely ominous, then certainly unknown. When the Cold War ended a wag wrote “the future is up for grabs”. His crystal ball was working. ————————-
Cygnus is right to draw our attention to the NSA. Last year, during the November general election, vice president Biden mouthed off the usual jingoistic line of how America is the greatest and other countries better beware because we aims to stay number one and we’ll clobber any nation getting in our way. After what happened the last decade, do we need a Democrat to feed us that garbage? We can flick on our radios five days a week to hear it from Lush Rimbaugh, Han Shaunity, and Ben Gleck.
Well I think I answered that question already, but as it happens I HAVE thought further, and can offer this. When I have demonstrated superior knowledge or understanding on a particular topic, it’s nice when that is recognised and appreciated. It’s not that I need a chorus of “Peter you are wonderful”, but some recognition and appreciation would certainly be welcome, and not just from one or two people.
Of course, generally speaking, this blog is not the place to express our personal,
parochial wishes. It’s not a wishing pond. And nobody has the slightest obligation to give me the kind of appreciation I’m looking for. But since you ask…
By the way it’s a good question, CygnusX1. I think a major source of frustration and suffering in the world is subconscious desires that are never really acknowledged. Looking back at my first reply to Giulio on this thread I can see that it already reflects a degree of frustration, because indeed I have made this kind of point to Giulio many times and yet still he comes back with the same nonsense, so doubtless I was subconsciously seeing this as a symptom of the more general problem that I’m not getting as much recognition and appreciation for my knowledge and expertise as I would like. And that, of course, is my problem, not Giulio’s. So thanks for asking it (and insisting).
@Intomorrow re “This is to write Giulio is not *mistaken*, he is overstating.”
I am overstating, indeed, because when there is a fire in the house, you must shout ***get the fuck out of here right now*** and push everyone out of the door.
Or you can be a cool intellectual and say, look, according to some observations that I have made, there is the possibility that the house is on fire, and you may wish to consider getting out, but of course there many other factors to consider, for example the fact that if you go outside you may catch a cold, and you shouldn’t forget that my observations may be not entirely accurate.
Thanks Giulio, appreciated. But I also think Cygnus has helped me towards a useful insight about what I want generally, and why I sometimes get frustrated in my interactions with others, both here at IEET and elsewhere. Frustation is part of life, of course, so we should not assume we are doing something wrong just because we get on each other’s nerves from time to time, but we must also be prepared to learn.
And of course, if I want more recognition and appreciation, then it is primarily up to me to behave in ways that attract it.
Posted by Intomorrow on 08/22 at 03:42 PM
To return yet again to the topic at hand (these must be the End Times if I’m the one attempting to stay on-topic), Giulio, and whomever else:
who/what ultimately backs up—guarantees would be too strong a word—the ‘right’ to own firearms? the State? In that case you are back where you started. This is what I meant by “loose ends”; writing on science matters you go into detail.. concerning libertarianism, Giulio, you are sketchy. Is the reason you do not wish to write an article on libertarianism because you are not able to fill in the details? Is your libertarianism too nebulous to be anything more than second rate at best? If you did try to do a piece on libertarianism, would you cross out sentences over ‘n over then finally give up and write about religion instead?
Posted by CygnusX1 on 08/22 at 03:55 PM
“If I had a hammer? I’d hammer in the mornin’ Hammer in the evening, all over this land?”
“This is the Libertarian Purity Test, which is intended to measure how libertarian you are. It isn’t intended to be any sort of McCarthyite purging device—just a form of entertainment, hopefully thought-provoking. “
There’s no difficulty with libertarianism, it’s the libertarians who are the problem. The majority are so old-fashioned they are more or less slightly souped-up Republicans (which I personally don’t mind much, as it gives a warm ‘n fuzzy feeling). Many of the future-oriented are buttondown old fashioned in their private lives, it makes you feel right at home.
Posted by CygnusX1 on 08/22 at 04:27 PM
What did you score?
Should drug addicts be sterilized?
Should you wait until you are falsely arrested and detained under Terrorism laws before you rant about liberty and freedoms?
Is Orange the suitable colored attire for enemies of the state?
Is it OK for Bradley Manning to be a Woman now.. or ever?
Taken at face value, Giulio’s thinking seems to be: we don’t have time for details and nuance, because there’s a fire raging. We need to stand up and fight.
Indeed, I don’t believe that Giulio wants to abolish the basic mechanisms of government (let us call these collectively, for simplicity, “the State”). I think he knows very well that he depends on it for much that he loves and treasures. At the same time, he doesn’t believe that “the State” (in the sense just mentioned) is in any immediate danger. On the contrary, he is far more worried - and indeed angry - about what he perceives (perhaps correctly?) as the erosion of liberties BY the State. Consequently, he doesn’t see a need to assert that the State is needed to back up our rights (whether to bear arms or, more fundamentally, basic security and property rights). Rather he sees a need to take a determinedly - and indeed overstatedly - libertarian position so as to act as a counterweight against what he sees as a dangerous trend. Right, Giulio?
I disagree with his analysis. Firstly I’m not at all sure that I agree with his assessment of the threat, but this is by no means my main disagreement. My main disagreement is that, unlike in a real fire, when literally every second counts and one really doesn’t have time for calm deliberation, calm deliberation is precisely what is needed to assess the extent and nature of the threat and design an effective mitigation strategy. Otherwise it’s just more haste, less speed.
But that’s my perspective, not Giulio’s. From Giulio’s perspective it really does seem to be a question of “every second counts”, and “we need to act, not think”. And I think this is the error he’s making. I think it’s not to so much that he wouldn’t be ABLE to fill in the details - of course Giulio is perfectly capable of sustaining rhetoric over the length of an article - as that by attempting to do so he would realise that he didn’t actually believe his own rhetoric, and it would start to seem pointless. The sense of urgency that fuels his stance on this kind of issue when it crops up would start to dissipate, and he would start to realise not only that the claims he’s making don’t stack up, but that making a virtue out of it doesn’t make much sense either.
Once again, I’m not (necessarily) saying that the threat he has identified isn’t real, but rather that the strategy that he is proposing (and implementing with his comments) seems to me to be counterproductive. Perhaps instead of imagining a fire in a house, he should rather imagine a fire in a crowded cinema, and then consider whether shouting “get the fuck out of here” is such a great idea.
Posted by Intomorrow on 08/22 at 05:05 PM
Don’t want to criticise Giulio excessively, as he writes well on other matters; and besides, IEET is probably a tiny part of his life. (I appreciate little ‘things’, the large evades me: consciousness for instance is more confusing the more I read about it). But in this case Giulio is being bolshie rather than libertarian; he probably wont admit he doesn’t want to write an article—a comprehensive one—on the subject because it would be too much effort for a subject he isn’t as interested in as he says he is. Libertarianism is almost certainly of minor interest to him. And if the subject isn’t important enough for him to write a real article on, his libertarianism is not substantial enough for me to take seriously.
“What did you score?
Should drug addicts be sterilized?
Should you wait until you are falsely arrested and detained under Terrorism laws before you rant about liberty and freedoms?”
Cygnus, I flunked the test, when it comes to freedom I’m clueless… do not know where freedom leaves off and licentiousness begins—plus as things become more complicated, the more feckless I become. Now, should drug addicts be forcibly sterilised. No; however being paid $300 to be sterilised isn’t fascistic.
#67 is well-taken. Right now is a bad time for civil liberties. Also it appears you were correct on Obama: he may be a bootlicking Uncle Tom, one of the reasons possibly being he wants his two daughters to become powerful; perhaps he even wouldn’t mind if they were to enter politics and run for offices. Such is why I’m obsessed with little ‘things’, it is the little things which add up.. little things we tend to bury and sublimate.
Yep, that looks about right. But I still want to come back to Cygnus’s “what do you want?” question, which is of course related to our earlier discussion about what motivates us all to comment here. One thing is clear: for all of us, without exception, one of our most powerful motivators is habit, and often habit is to a significant extent about staying in our comfort zone. I’m more in my comfort zone exploring the details and nuances, trying to get to the bottom of things, while Giulio seems to be more in his comfort zone deploring government intrusion and thuggery, or people being nasty about religion. And that’s fine. It’s just that staying in our comfort zone in the short term isn’t always the best recipe for happiness in the longer term.
Posted by Intomorrow on 08/22 at 05:43 PM
Isn’t happiness based on happenings? Am not sure happiness exists, only pleasure/temporary contentment. BTW, if we are happy while for so many life is dire, then we are more callous than we like to think. Not to be a sob sister and fret about starving widows and orphans, but being happy does involve shutting out unsavory realities.
If we are excessively happy we might just for example take the homeless for granted and the homeless (unless they are ‘tards) will surely take us for granted. They are after all more aware of the situation, being they are in the situation whereas we are ignoring it. At any rate, seeking pleasure, refined pleasure through art, say, is the way to go; if happiness comes into the picture then more the better. However it appears unlikely one can actively seek happiness; seeking happiness is similar to finding love through the want ads. Or chasing rainbows to gain the pot of gold at the end. But then, the thought just occurred—being at IEET—technologies may already be available to induce happiness. A game-changer.
“One thing is clear: for all of us, without exception, one of our most powerful motivators is habit, and often habit is to a significant extent about staying in our comfort zone.”
Aye to the above. Habit, comfort zone—and the avoidance of cleaning bedpans in hospitals and shoveling manure in barns!
My motive for being at IEET, to re-reiterate, is having wanted more than anything (even the arts) to be a futurist for going on four decades. Way back when, I was young, innocent… it seemed the future could in fact be predicted, now it appears as more of a Oujia Board-type thing. We want the future to move towards a certain trajectory and thus we slowly manipulate towards the trajectory. If Bill Gates had predicted (and perhaps he did) the Internet thirty years ago, he was in a position to do so as he was involved in manipulating to that end (or shall we say that means).
A lot of this depends on definitions. I guess by “happiness in the longer term” I’m thinking about how to tip the balance so that, over a period of years say (rather than seconds), we are experiencing less suffering and misery and more pleasure and temporary contentment. The individual happy-happenings may be fleeting, but we can at least try to make them more frequent and intense.
“if we are happy while for so many life is dire, then we are more callous than we like to think.”
Indeed. There is a general and well-studied tendency to want to think of ourselves as better, more altruistic, more valuable to society than we really are. But even to the extent that we have bought into the utilitarian project and are trying to maximise overall welfare, and not just our own, a degree of callousness - even if that isn’t a word we generally like to use as something positive - is clearly essential. Otherwise, useless fretting about starving widows - and a consequent increase, not decrease, in human suffering - is precisely the result. As you say, being happy requires us (to a certain extent) to shut out unsavoury realities, and increasing overall happiness requires us (to a certain extent) to be happy ourselves.
Perhaps my most fundamental disagreement with CygnusX1 is my lack of belief in absolute norms. To what extent we want to pursue our individual happiness, and to what extent we want to be altruistic…this is simply a choice. And ultimately, we will make whatever choice makes us most comfortable.
But whichever choice we make, wherever we choose to strike the balance, what can it possibly mean to believe that actively seeking happiness (one’s own or that of others) is futile? Even seeking pleasure through art, assuming there is any kind of conscious planning involved (such as buying the tickets), is a way of actively seeking happiness, even if we don’t admit it.
Some aspects of the future can be predicted. We can be pretty sure the sun will rise tomorrow (even of, as Giulio prefers us not to keep pointing out, this observation may not be entirely accurate). But for the most part, I agree that the Ouija-Board manipulation picture is the correct one. There are multiple futures, not one, and by acting with the intention of moving towards certain futures, and away from others, we make it more likely (not inevitable, but more likely), that this will indeed happen.
“The negative motive is an intense suspicion men want power—the Will To Power—and that no man can be trusted.. only some women and children. So am always on-guard yet curious as to how men will camouflage their Will To Power.”
We all want power, Intomorrow. Men, women, and especially children. (Is there any creature on earth more manipulative than a child?)
Is this bad? Depends what we want to do with that power. If someone has genuinely good intentions, then the sin is not to strive for power. Because then the future will be shaped by those with bad intentions.
Psychologists have a term for the failure of the Will to Power, namely “learned helplessness”. It’s why (some) adults are less manipulative than children. In our self-empowerment-obsessed culture, learned helplessness has come to be seen as a bad thing, but in reality of course it’s what stops us from tearing ourselves apart. It’s not just that we think murder is wrong, most of us cannot even imagine killing another person, at least not when we are in our “right mind”. We’ve learned to be helpless, in this, and so, so many other respects. And that is a good thing - as is, consequently, to some extent, your suspicion of the Will to Power.
But like all good ideas, learned helplessness can be taken too far, and it can also be misdirected. There are some options available to us that it might be best not to be aware of - the option of jumping out of a ten-story window, for example - but once you start to become aware of some of the options that you do need to be aware of, and were previously unaware of, you realise just how trapped you’ve been. And then you look around you, and realise just how trapped most other people still are. Combine that will good intentions, and you become part of the movement towards the best futures.
“Cygnus is right to draw our attention to the NSA. Last year, during the November general election, vice president Biden mouthed off the usual jingoistic line of how America is the greatest and other countries better beware because we aims to stay number one and we’ll clobber any nation getting in our way. After what happened the last decade, do we need a Democrat to feed us that garbage? We can flick on our radios five days a week to hear it from Lush Rimbaugh, Han Shaunity, and Ben Gleck.”
Perhaps they have to feed us that garbage in order for us to elect them and not someone worse.
We get the politicians (and bureaucrats) we deserve, Intomorrow. And THAT is the point that Giulio just doesn’t want to get.
Posted by Intomorrow on 08/22 at 10:02 PM
You covered a great deal above, Pete. None of it is mistaken, it’s filling in parts of the ‘puzzle’ (although it scarcely needs to be added the puzzle is as large as the cosmos itself).
“what can it possibly mean to believe that actively seeking happiness (one’s own or that of others) is futile? Even seeking pleasure through art, assuming there is any kind of conscious planning involved (such as buying the tickets), is a way of actively seeking happiness, even if we don’t admit it.”
Meant ‘futile’ in a Buddhist sense of nonattachment—if one tries excessively hard to be happy, as you know, diminished happiness is often the result. In love: a man doesn’t grab his spouse to say “dearest, you shall be mine forever” because then there’s no chance of her being his forever if there ever was in the first place! And not to say art is eternal, either. But we can both agree a fine restaurant and good symphony/theatre is preferable to us, aesthetically, to Porky’s Revenge and eating spam right out of the can. What I meant in writing to Rick Searle that we can’t be everything to everyone in this respect is we can be sympathetic without being sucked into bad taste/bad living (the two are relatable). We do not want to be snobs but neither ought we be condescending. The Buddhist factor is we don’t hold on tightly to love, to art, to snobbishness nor do we hold onto lapses in taste and other escapes. Though I’m sure about pleasure (as ‘sure’ as anything can be), happiness is more open to question IMO. Obviously, happiness is more subtle whereas pleasure naturally is immediate, unmistakable.
This may be to write as we don’t want to take pleasure too seriously, we don’t want to overrate happiness either. Where I am cynical is I do not think people can be truly compatible (when you examine behavior you see we are as actors in a play). So I look forward to ‘bots in the near future.
Good news is the artificial happiness that can be done via technologies—we’d have to ask Dick P. to get an idea of that. Keep in mind I’m colored by where I live (the where still counts). The Midwest is positive in its practicality.. its can-do sense. However the lack of taste, plus lapses in common sense due to alcoholism, makes me a bit negative—and who is not negative at times in different locations, situations? Though Mid America (which includes the South) is decidedly unruly, the East, the DC/NY region, is powermongering-manipulative. All my family live around that area and they are subconsciously manipulative, power-grasping 16 hrs of the waking day. They mimic those above them, which isn’t surprising since they are in the center of a federal system. [It all has to be reckoned with in seeking a 360 degree panoramic view].
“(Is there any creature on earth more manipulative than a child?)
Re the above we are in some disagreement. No one would suggest today children are born tabula rasa. However though jealousy is innate/universal, power-grasping and intensive manipulativeness are far more acquired. All children are jealous but not every one of them wants to be King of the Mountain… girls esp. are frequently content with not being queens. Don’t overestimate yet do not underestimate children: they get some truly bad advice from elders. And worse: very bad role models. With optimum upbringings, they can do extremely well. (Have never been Fliesian, Pete; neither optimistic nor pessimistic-am futuristic.. constantly looking at all the angles. Admittedly sometimes perceiving patterns not actually existing; but then there are always temporary cul de sacs in every endeavor).
“Perhaps they have to feed us that garbage in order for us to elect them and not someone worse.”
You are on the ball with this, thinking it all ‘round. Would you consider a career as a futurist? There’s no penalty for being wrong- no futurist has ever been sued for malpractice!
“. However though jealousy is innate/universal, power-grasping and intensive manipulativeness are far more acquired. All children are jealous but not every one of them wants to be King of the Mountain”
Largely agreed, though it’s not just jealousy. Even in the womb there is a struggle between mother and foetus, because the nature-given priorities - which genes get to be passed on to future generations - are different. 23 chromosomes of common cause, but also 23 (each) of cut-throat competition.
“(Have never been Fliesian, Pete; neither optimistic nor pessimistic-am futuristic.. constantly looking at all the angles. Admittedly sometimes perceiving patterns not actually existing; but then there are always temporary cul de sacs in every endeavor).”
Entirely agreed. Fliesianism, like existentialism and nihilism, are horrified lurches to the other extreme that happen when we realise that what we previously believed isn’t true. “We are not as good as we thought, therefore we must be bad.”
“Would you consider a career as a futurist?”
Most definitely. But I guess I’m still looking for my niche…
@Peter re “We get the politicians (and bureaucrats) we deserve, Intomorrow. And THAT is the point that Giulio just doesn’t want to get.
But I do. See above:
The government is not the problem, because it is in the nature of governments to seek more control and more power. So this is not a problem that can be solved with a change of government. I am calling for a cultural shift, not a government change. WE are the problem, because we seem to have abdicated our right/duty of watching the government.
Posted by Intomorrow on 08/23 at 04:30 AM
Long as men want power, they will turn to the State as the shortest route to that power—better think on it more, Giulio.
@Pete, long as happiness is a warm gun, the ‘definition’ (vision) of happiness is murky. 3,000 yrs of strong memes (plus weaker memes before 1,000 BCE) containing violence have given great happiness to countless.
The point I think you’re still not getting, Giulio, is that if we assume the worst of our politicians, and focus only on keeping them on a short leash, then our assumption will tend to be self-fulfilling and we will continue to get poor service from our elected representatives and governmental officials. We already scrutinise our politicians and civil servants a lot, and I really don’t think more scrutiny is the answer to poor governance. What we need is a realistic assessment of how they are behaving, and why.
“Long as men want power, they will turn to the State as the shortest route to that power”
And as I said above, when that will for power (and that really does include women, Intomorrow) is combined with good intentions, then it is a force for good. “The road to hell is paved with good intentions”, they say, and as a reminder that good intentions do not by themselves ensure a good outcome it is fine, but as long as there are people with power and bad intentions, and various threats that are more a result of nature and negligence than any kind of human intention, I shall continue to want those with good intentions to strive to become more powerful. Too many (otherwise) good people are so shackled by learned (or imposed) helplessness that they frankly might just as well be bad for all the difference they make, and that frustrates me.
Not that turning to the State is always the shortest route to power. It’s just one mechanism. Giulio and I are two people who have forsaken that path, for starters. Thankfully, there are others.
@Peter re “I shall continue to want those with good intentions to strive to become more powerful.”
I am afraid the vast majority of those who strive to become more powerful don’t have good intentions. They don’t have bad intentions either, they just don’t give a damn about society’s future as long as they have the power that they crave (and the money of course).
Of course there are also people with good intention, but…
re “Giulio and I are two people who have forsaken that path, for starters…”
... after having been hopelessly outclassed and outsmarted by the real thugs and sharks out there (never said they are stupid;-) I don’t know if that is your case, but it certainly is mine. Next time we meet face to face we must have a beer and trade stories;-)
Posted by CygnusX1 on 08/23 at 03:12 PM
The Miranda Warning
“When governments use terrorism laws to silence journalists, anti-terrorism has run its course.”
“Over the past decade, the United States has stretched the definition of “terrorism” to justify or disguise expansions of surveillance and war.”
“Now the United Kingdom has pushed the definition one step further. It detained David Miranda, the domestic partner of Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald, for nine hours at Heathrow Airport—threatening him, interrogating him, and confiscating his laptop and other storage devices—under an anti- terrorism law. “
“Next time we meet face to face we must have a beer and trade stories”
Posted by Intomorrow on 08/23 at 10:19 PM
“when that will for power (and that really does include women, Intomorrow)”
Yes, a smaller percentage of women than men; plus
we must reckon with how women who do want power
are aping men in that respect. Women generally
don’t appreciate guns very much… and power grows out of
the barrel of a gun. It is true boys are attracted to guns
yet the degree they are attracted is exacerbated by
adults who promote guns as being glamorous. Western films —for starters—to this day do just that.
Pete, not to single out govt. as being the culprit:
the private sector wants power as much as the public.
The Cosa Nostra, the Mafiya in Russia want power more
than anything. Power = greater security because one can dominate others without the reverse
being the case. People would rather be
the hammer than the nail. The higher up on the
Totem Pole, the more hammer one is, the less nail.
How long will such continue?: 25, 50, 75 yrs?
Giulio, I don’t detest libertarianism (though libertarians
are so feisty they drag each other down. Ever
attend a libertarian meeting? No wonder they
can’t elect their candidates; they’re too busy
shredding each other) if libertarianism is at this
time merely about selling books, no argument here.
Down by the spreading chestnut tree,
you plugged your book and then plugged me. —————————————
What appears quite unlikely is a socialist future:
people are socialist towards those they care about;
quasi-fascist to those they do not care for. If socialism,
Christianity make people happy, fine. But again, the
timeframe matters. Someone predicts,
“the world will be [socialist ; Christian; libertarian] in 75 yrs”,
you aren’t going to be terribly encouraged-
Posted by CygnusX1 on 08/24 at 04:49 AM
Obama STILL can’t submit to his own conscience, and be strong enough to INSIST upon Syria/Assad permitting UN access to investigate chemical weapons atrocities - how sad is that?
The MAN has now lost all international credibility!
What’s the difference between a Manager and a Leader? Any incompetent can be promoted to Manager!
Govts are rife with Self-serving incompetents!
(ps - I am assuming here that Obama still does possess a conscience - Absolute power corrupts Integrity absolutely)
What is a conscience, CygnusX1? A sense of right and wrong?
If so, then Obama certainly has one.
Perhaps it’s not that he “can’t submit to it”,
rather that his sense of right and wrong differs from yours, CygnusX1?
Or perhaps his perception of reality?
I can imagine several reasons why Obama might not be INSISTING IN CAPITAL LETTERS
on Assad permitting UN access to investigate chemical weapons atrocities,
that do not involve moral weakness.
Including, for example, a wish to preserve his international credibility.
Posted by CygnusX1 on 08/24 at 11:45 AM
“What is a conscience, CygnusX1? A sense of right and wrong?
I would say exactly this
” Perhaps it’s not that he “can’t submit to it”,
He can, his “choice” is not to
” I can imagine several reasons why Obama might not be INSISTING IN CAPITAL LETTERS on Assad permitting UN access to investigate chemical weapons atrocities,”
I cannot think of one that does not conflict with integrity, and that which does not support hypocrisy and duplicity?
Seems the only avenue open IS TO INSIST upon a UN inspection until Assad is humiliated and pressured into compliance? In fact the GREATEST weapon against Assad presently is TOTAL international condemnation, and which is the special remit of the President of the USA to pursue. Anything less only encourages more violence.
“I cannot think of one that does not conflict with integrity,
and that which does not support hypocrisy and duplicity?
Seems the only avenue open IS TO INSIST upon a UN inspection
until Assad is humiliated and pressured into compliance?
In fact the GREATEST weapon against Assad presently is TOTAL international
condemnation, and which is the special remit of the President of the USA to pursue.
Anything less only encourages more violence.”
I think it really depends what he wants to achieve. I am certainly not claiming that Obama is without “hypocrisy and duplicity”, he could not survive as a politician, let alone become POTUS, if he was. Clearly he has a will to power. Thankfully, I have the impression that he also has generally good intentions, and also a very sound grasp of reality.
One reason he might have for not wanting to insist is that such insistence would be empty, and indeed undermine not only his international but - more importantly - his domestic credibility, unless it was backed up by force, and I indeed think that Obama has excellent (perhaps not conclusive, but excellent nonetheless) reasons for not wanting to do so.
Not that I particularly want to get into details about this specific issue, which is somewhat off-topic and on which I have not yet formed particularly stable views in any case. I just thought you were assuming too much in your previous comment CygnusX1.
Building on some of my previous comments, though, according to my own “sense of right and wrong”, which as you know is essentially utilitarian (certainly more so than yours seems to be judging from your comments here), people with good intentions and generally sound judgement have a moral duty to seek power, and to compromise on principles such as integrity, to some extent, in order to get it. And yes, I know this is precisely the kind of thing a lot of people dislike about utilitarianism, but I also think it is essential if we are to steer our way towards the best possible futures.
Indeed, this is one reason why I want to get more recognition and appreciation when I have superior knowledge and understanding of specific topics. I think I have generally good intentions, and this will help put me in a position where I can wield greater influence.
PS Forgot to follow Intomorrow’s good example and use short lines.
Hopefully someone will fix the display problem on this thread soon.
In the mean time comments can be viewed using copy-and-paste.
Posted by CygnusX1 on 08/24 at 05:40 PM
“One reason he might have for not wanting to insist is that such insistence would be empty, and indeed undermine not only his international but - more importantly - his domestic credibility, unless it was backed up by force,”
On the contrary, he can only gain by openly condemning such an atrocity and thus encouraging worldwide cooperation and support. This insistence would be anything but empty rhetoric, and precisely what is required short of any application of force, and in arming Rebels, (which only escalates and perpetuates violence)?
Basically it is the very “least” he can do, and if only to ease his own conscience? He is the President of the Worlds greatest superpower state, not a puppet?
This is certainly not off-topic and drives to the heart of the incompetence displayed by govt individuals who readily promote a surveillance state, pursuit of whistleblowers with the full force of law, resources and international treaty, yet cannot find the integrity to openly condemn such atrocity?
“people with good intentions and generally sound judgement have a moral duty to seek power, and to compromise on principles such as integrity, to some extent, in order to get it. “
Not so, and anyone guilty of such should never be trusted!
You do not seem to be concerned about the murder of nearly 1,000 people - that is something I do find curious, and rather disturbing? This surely has nothing to do with application of Utilitarianism?
“You do not seem to be concerned about the murder of nearly 1,000 people
- that is something I do find curious, and rather disturbing?
This surely has nothing to do with application of Utilitarianism?”
CygnusX1, read the exchange I had with Intomorrow earlier in is thread
with regard to happiness, and how to be happy one has (to some extent)
to block out one’s awareness of other people’s suffering.
Generally speaking, I prefer to pay attention to issues I can do something about.
There is very little I can do about events in Syria.
And yes, it does have to do with the application of Utilitarianism.
A non-utilitarian might think, “Oh my God, so many people are suffering,
something needs to done! Or at the very least I need to feel bad about it!”
A utilitarian understands that (s)he might have better things to worry about.
“On the contrary, he can only gain by openly condemning such an atrocity
and thus encouraging worldwide cooperation and support. This insistence
would be anything but empty rhetoric, and precisely what is required short of any
application of force, and in arming Rebels, (which only escalates and perpetuates
The pronouncements of Obama regarding Syria are another example of something
I can’t do much about, but I am sceptical that the kind of “open condemnation” you
have in mind would increase his credibility, and I suspect that Obama and his advisers
know far better than you or me whether it would or wouldn’t, and what other kind of
consequences it would have.
“This is certainly not off-topic and drives to the heart of the incompetence displayed by govt
individuals who readily promote a surveillance state, pursuit of whistleblowers with the full
force of law, resources and international treaty, yet cannot find the integrity to openly
condemn such atrocity?”
OK, that’s a point of view I guess. Not a very insightful one in my view, but in any case I
don’t have a problem with this thread going somewhat off-topic (then I really would be a
hypocrite). But if you really want to convince readers (who are not already convinced) that
this is an example of governmental incompetence, then I think you need to at least come
up with some historical examples of the kind of thing you’re proposing actually working,
i.e. leading to an outcome that can reasonably be supposed to have been better than what
would have happened otherwise. Otherwise you are coming across as just as naïve as
Giulio on this issue, and while Giulio might be happy to wear his naïveté as a badge of
honour, it is hardly helping either of you to convince anyone else.
Posted by CygnusX1 on 08/24 at 08:01 PM
Obama: Syria chemical weapon
claim a ‘grave concern’
“US President Barack Obama has said the alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria in an attack on Wednesday is a “big event of grave concern”.
Every word that Obama utters is analysed by countless pundits, looking for signals as to what it might mean for a US response.
Obama: “But sometimes what we’ve seen is that folks will call for immediate action, jumping into stuff, that does not turn out well, gets us mired in very difficult situations, can result in us getting drawn into very expensive, difficult, costly interventions that actually breed more resentment in the region.”
Randall: “Mr Obama does not sound like a man gung ho for military action. It sounds like the pleading of a man being dragged, pushed and pulled by allies and world opinion to do something but wants to be certain it doesn’t end up in a new war.”
In a world full of insanity and global threats, it’s nice to have someone in the White House who seems to know what he’s doing. What will come after him is another question, of course.