Secular Right | Reality & Reason

Jan/09

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Who is pro-science, the Left or the Right?

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In the comments below I made an assertion to the effect that conservatives are more likely to notionally reject the authority of science, which is one reason that I sometimes focus on right-wing Denialism. On the Left the main analog I experience are feminists and racial minorities who reject science’s authority due to its white male character. On some issues, such as the contention that population level differences between races and sexes are not trivial, the Left is more rejectionist than the Right. But, aside from feminists and racial minorities who reject science as a valid paradigm, my personal experience with Leftists is that they can often be moved into positions which are less rejectionist leveraging the fact that in theory they accept the power and witness of the scientific methodology. The main problem with Creationists, and the reason I simply refuse to engage with them, is that they reject the primacy of the scientific methodology on principle,* so that there is simply no leverage for me to work with (though to be fair, pointing out that St. Augustine noted that much of scripture was allegorical in nature is the sort of leverage which can be used with Creationists on a one-to-one basis).

But I decided to double check my intuition here by looking at the GSS in terms of attitudes toward science. First, if you are curious about “moderates,” they’re less intelligent than those at the political extremes. That should make their results more intelligible. In any case, I am tempted to walk back down from the assertion I made in the comments below, as a wider sampling of variables shows that the reality is more complex, and I am now skeptical that my model captures enough nuance to salvage it.

* I am aware that many avowed Creationists claim to be “scientific.”  Scientific arguments are not the real core of their Creationist commitments. They know that, you know that, but for cultural & legalistic reasons they need to retain the transparent farce that their Creationism is rooted in a scientific basis.

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126 comments

  • ◄Dave► · January 9, 2009 at 9:16 pm

    @Grant Canyon

    Grant, if I am not the sovereign in my life, please explain; who is? I was born free in the land of the free and have not abdicated. I owe no allegiance to anyone. I am not a subject of, and in fact possess the selfsame natural rights of, any monarch. America is a constitutional republic, not a monarchy, democracy, or any other regime with authority to rule over freemen.

    All political power vested in the Federal government is loaned to them by the people, who are the sovereigns in our land. We sovereigns employ the civil servants in our government, from the buck private all the way down to the President, who is at the very bottom of the inverted pyramid, as the employee of the private.

    You may be confusing sovereignty with brute power. Perhaps you are alluding to the obvious truism that I would be unable to overpower a mob, or the armed employees of a mob, bent on incarcerating or killing me for refusing to submit to their demands. But, this is true of any sovereign, isn’t it?

    Does the King of Jordan lose his sovereignty because America could use our military might to depose him if we wished? Does he lose it because he recognizes that it is in his own best interest not to twist our tail or refuse to cooperate with us when asked? He can bob, weave, duck, lay low, and generally avoid confronting Uncle Sam, just like I do; but in the end, if push comes to shove, neither of us are suicidal – yet we remain sovereign – because we permit no rulers over us.

    It matters not that most humans simply accept the fate of being ruled by the will and whim of others, we don’t and that makes us sovereign. I invite you to join our rather exclusive club. There is no initiation fee, oaths, or rituals. All that is required is a free will, driving a free mind that is open enough to notice that your chains are an illusion.

    You keep referring to “society,” as if it mattered. There is no such thing as a society, it is merely an abstraction. It has no mind, no senses, no rights, no power, no sovereignty, no wants, no desires, no needs, no slaves, no serfs, nothing at all one could apprehend with one’s senses or any instrument. Those who try to anthropomorphize and empower this ephemeral abstraction as somehow being a ruler of freemen, are as guilty as the theists of magical thinking. ◄Dave►

  • Gotchaye · January 9, 2009 at 11:03 pm

    Dave, leaving the natural rights stuff aside for the moment, Grant’s position isn’t as simple as you think it is. There are many ways in which the King of Jordan is more of a sovereign than you, using sovereign in its power sense. There are degrees of sovereignty. That no man is omnipotent does not mean that all men are equally powerful. You can construct hypotheticals where someone bosses the King of Jordan around, but, in fact, he gets to do what he wants to do much more often than you do. He has much more power, defined as the ability to enact one’s will.

    Anyway, I think Grant’s point is more that your natural rights talk is pretty, but that it doesn’t seem to do very much. What does it mean, in terms of living your life, that you have the natural right to reject the government’s ability to tax you when the government is going to tax you anyway? When your notion of freedom is completely divorced from worldly concerns, then you can call yourself sovereign, but you can also call yourself a Jabberwock – it seems like nothing more than a nifty rhetorical tool for setting up your ‘rather exclusive club’.

    Grant – sorry if I’ve badly mischaracterized your views.

  • gene berman · January 10, 2009 at 6:22 am

    kurt9

    There’s no doubt in my mind (nor probably in anyone’s) that gov’t.-funded science produces much that is useful and much that is “worth it” even when compared against expenditure. An argument could be made that much of it (including that which has “paid off”) might never have been done or been done much differently. But those observations (let’s grant them as facts) do not change the argument against large-scale gov’t. science funding of science (except, perhaps, defense-related or pertaining to police powers, i.e., epidemiology).

    The argument against government involvement in science is the same as that against the provision of all other goods and services by coercive authority: it is incapable–completely!–of the economic rationalization exercised by entrepreneurial agents and which goes by the name of “economic calculation.” Though I shouldn’t have to reiterate, it’s the flaw in all socialist plans: the “planner” is completely without the aid of valuation of the assets concerned absent ownership and the data provided minute-by-minute on the market (stock) market. There’s no reason to expect government can provide more of what’s wanted in the “science” area than any other and plenty, theoretical and experiential, to expect that it won’t. The same may be true even of defense and police power but, in those, gov’t. is bound by charter responsibilities and by exclusivity in wielding violence.

    An ancilliary problem raised by gov’t. spending on science, even of the defense-related sort, is the classic problem called the “tragedy of the commons,” or the tendency to produce “external” costs and benefits over which but slight control may be exercised. The possession of nuclear weaponry in the hands of hostile nations or even of terroristic groups bent on destruction is, to a great extent, an external “cost” of our own WW II research. Significant fruits of our research in the fields of rocket science and guidance sysytems accrue to other nations’ military efforts as well as to the private pockets of firms all over the world in position to utilize them in their activities. Underwritten research in the field of health (and many other areas) benefit people all over the world without the slightest recompense to those who’ve “footed the bill.” I do not suggest we eliminate such expenditure simply because of the “free rider” effect; it’s just that the private provision of such goods and services will provide them, indeed, cannot avoid providing them, in far more rational relation to the “will of the people” as expressed by their everyday activities as consumers.

  • gene berman · January 10, 2009 at 6:28 am

    j:

    You may have read something by Rand but it doesn’t seem you’ve read anything by Mises. Is it fair of me to make that assumption?

  • gene berman · January 10, 2009 at 6:39 am

    j:

    It seems as though you’ve got your metaphors mixed. Mises could in no way be categorized as a mercantilist and would be closer to Jefferson and Madison and completely opposed to Hamilton.

    However, none of these early worthies (nor even more the economically literate Ricardo and Adam Smith) understood economics in the modern sense (since Menger’s discovery of the subjective origin of value and development of marginal utility theory).

  • J. · January 10, 2009 at 6:54 am

    No, it’s not, Mr. Gene. I don’t claim to have mastered the Von Mises/Hayek school but have breezed through Lew Clownwell’s site a few times when needing some laughs. Sir Karl Popster too: amusing.
    In effect, the austrians are alarmists, as well as ueber-libertarians: criticizing monetarism or vague “re-distribution policies” forms only a very small part of an economic analysis. Now reading a bit of history on the great depression, and why say the Glass-Steagall act came about, or even Fannie Mae: that’s closer to analysis.

    I don’t reject the idea that “some are more equal than others.” That’s one reason for like all those lib-rawl standardized tests, public education, even ye olde bell curve. Using the generalizations of the Bell Curve as a priori proof of some peoples’ unfitness: das ist verboten! Really, if you take that seriously, you should just fly a swazi, and shout some secular sieg heils, maybe hang at Dave Duke’s phunn zone.

  • Author comment by Caledonian · January 10, 2009 at 8:57 am

    “You can construct hypotheticals where someone bosses the King of Jordan around, but, in fact, he gets to do what he wants to do much more often than you do. He has much more power, defined as the ability to enact one’s will.”

    The King of Jordan has no more power than anyone else. It’s simply that many, many people choose to use their power according to his will.

    If they stopped doing this, for any reason, the King would lose the vast majority of ‘his’ power. Most people don’t even realize that his potence is an illusion, and many of those that do see maintaining this illusion as to their advantage.

  • J. · January 10, 2009 at 9:35 am

    Actually, I respect Ayn Rand’s more Lockean-libertarian views, to some extent, though her writing’s a popularization, and not the ding-an-sich. It’s the Aristotelian-pagan stuff and endless praise of individualism that’s a bit ooky. It’s difficult not to associate Objectivism with like L-Ron Hubbardism, if not some old-fashioned Cal-tech…. Fire dances.

  • gene berman · January 10, 2009 at 10:17 am

    j:

    Though you answered my direct question with the direct answer “No,” reading the balance of your answer confirms your disingenuousness.

    I’m not being hypercritical in maintaining to you that you’ve a remarkably(!) skewed understanding of Mises. Though my snap judgement is that you’re just another lefty hypocritical cynic with no more than a veneer of interest in honest inquiry, I’d rather be proven wrong by knowing that you’d actually read something by Mises himself, rather than poking around in the compost heap at the LRC site (that’s a little allusion to Mark Twain’s “A Note to M. Paul Bourget,” which I also recommend highly, though it’s almost 60 years since I read it.)

    The most outstanding selection, of course, would be HUMAN ACTION but it’s daunting–almost 900 pages or thereabout and tough slogging along the way (though with no graphs or equations). Mises wrote it as a comprehensive treatise because, as he noted, it’s impossible to separate economics into independent sections. But if you’d like to read something shorter and pithier by way of introduction, I’d suggest Henry Hazlitt’s ECONOMICS IN ONE LESSON, which I feel reasonably sure, will convince you that there’s more to the matter than you’ve been inclined to believe.

    Beside that, another fact disposing me toward a charitable view is, that had I not happened to read Mises 35 years ago, I’d probably sound just like you.

  • kurt9 · January 10, 2009 at 10:57 am

    No, Gene. I can tell you that very little government-funded science has lead to anything useful. You should trust me when I say this.

    I have been in the space and life-extension milieus for over 20 years. Some of my best friends have been in the government-funded R&D milieu for 25 plus years. Both my experiences as well as the experiences of my friends has been that government-funded science is been an almost complete waste of money. Some of my friends believe that government-funding of science should be completely eliminated. I agree with this position.

    99% of the bio-medical research has been a complete waste. Nixon’s war on cancer was started in the early 70’s. We still don’t have a cure for cancer. Much of the promising anti-aging stuff is being privately funded (because it appears to be politically incorrect to want to cure aging). NASA has been a complete boondoggle. We are no closer to Gerard O’Neill’s vision of space colonization than we were in 1975 when it was first proposed. Likewise, the Tokamak fusion program has been a complete waste of time and money. I met several former fusion researchers at a conference in the late 90’s. They were all of the opinion that the Tokamak could never work and, even if they did get it working, that the resulting reactor would be so huge that it would be impractical from an economics stand-point. They were of the opinion that an advanced fuel cycle (Boron-Hydrogen) had to be developed if fusion was to work and that, for technical reasons I will not get into here, Boron Hydrogen fusion is not possible in the Tokamak.

    It is true that Bussard’s polywell people got a small grant ($1.8 million) to develop and test their WB7 reactor to confirm Bussard’s findings in an earlier ractor (I am happy to say that the results are positive and that we may well have fusion power in the next 5-10 years). But this amount of money is peanuts compared to that put into the Tokamak over the past few decades.

    The only way government-funded science could work is if it was financed in the form of prizes. For example, a prize of $10 billion for the successful development of resuable launch, or a prize of $30 billion for landing men on Mars and returning them to Earth. The space X-prizes and the Methuselah Mouse prize (for curing aging) are examples of privately-funded prize systems.

  • gene berman · January 10, 2009 at 11:50 am

    Kurt:

    I’m aware of a few of these. Also of huge, astonishing successes like the plump-breated turkey, without which, we’d have probably had to abandon Thanksgiving completely. I only meant to emphasize that, though it (undisputed success) can occur, there are powerful forces arrrayed against the eventuality. I’m also for the complete elimination.

    And, though my understanding of the matter is the result of study of economics begun in 1972, an event occurred earlier that awakened me to the controversy.

    Reading the Philadephia Inquirer in ’69 or ’70, I read a Letter to the
    Editor from one Lorne Eisely, a prominent intellectual at Penn, in which he argued against the wastefulness of the gov’t-funded space program. It was very well written and well-argued. Within a day or two, another issue carried an editorial very critical of the man on a vartiety of grounds and ALL the letters were different samples of spleen directed against him. The matter itself was not so consciousness-raising to me as the enormity of the one-sidedness expressed: they included calls for imprisonment on charges of sedition or something akin. To me, Eisely was just a name I’d heard previously.

    I wrote a really scathing letter to the editor, supporting Eisely’s position, and especially his right to maintain such a position without receiving such a torrent of one-sided denunciation as had appeared in their paper. But I put it in a drawer in my desk and forgot to send it.
    Many years later, living in a new location, I found the letter, perhaps 20 years old. By that time, I had a fair knowledge of economicsa–plenty enough to know Eisely knew what he was talking about, whether on the space program or anything else. I ended by sending him the letter and an account of its circumstances.

    He wrote back, thanking me for the sentiments which had inspired the letter originally. But, he observed, what I’d seen in the paper was just
    par for the course. He admitted to writing many such letter but almost never sending one. It all boiled down, he said, to the fact that such controversies were what impelled a fair number of people to buy the paper in the first place, so he’d never expect “fair play” in any case and, rather, preferred not (usually) to write such letters in the first place.

    Memory note: it wasn’t a letter he’d written in the first place but a piece he’d written in some other publication of which they’d taken notice.

    He wrote back, thanking me for the expression of those sentiments. But, he also said, he rarely ever sent letter to editors, though he wrote many

  • J. · January 10, 2009 at 12:11 pm

    Those persons who think Von Mises has some axiomatic economic system are not merely a “rightys”, but a quacky (and austrians score fairly high on quackometer). Economics does not concern “morality,” nor is it a justification for aristocracy of whatever sort (I’m in favor of Jefferson’s aristocracy of the intellect anyway. We need Einsteins, not Eminems, or Imams. One reason for standardized tests, instead of like heriditary aristocracy: and keep in mind Jefferson and most FFs supported inheritance and estate taxes, unlike most ‘conservatives”).

    Econ’s about planning. The austrians offer their endless chant of “Keynesian intervention is Evil,” or whatever, but what that really means is intervention tends to take away from the very wealthy. Some not- wealthy might approve of it (just as they vote in Dems, however much that offends the right–or is voting another “lefty” plot too). I have read a fair amount of standard econ. and interventionism is hardly a radical position: even Adam Smith supported govt. action when a market became way out of whack.

    There’s an interesting epistle by Lakatos online which suggests that economic claims (even so called laws like supply-demand) be treated either as pseudo-science, or at best something like sociology: descriptive, and contingent. And it’s quite convincing.

  • ◄Dave► · January 10, 2009 at 1:37 pm

    @Gotchaye

    Dave, leaving the natural rights stuff aside for the moment…

    Whatever happened to my country? If our forefathers were as deferential, complacent, and compliant with tyrannical power, there wouldn’t even be a United States of America.

    Leave aside my Sovereign Rights and discuss brute power? Why? I am not claiming power over others; I am asserting my right to live my own life as I choose, without granting anyone legitimate authority to compel otherwise. It is those who lust for power that I am so opposed to; because they wish to use it to coerce me into supporting interests other than my own. I am singularly unimpressed, and certainly unbowed by power. I wouldn’t be willing to pay the price to get it, and I wouldn’t take the throne of Jordan if offered to me.

    I have much more freedom than a potentate. I can pretty much go where I want, when I want; without all the security and servants underfoot every step I take. I don’t have to attend to affairs of state, listen to boring speeches, or play kissy-face with other tyrants; all the while worrying that somebody is going to try to assassinate me. The attendant powers to decree laws, have somebody eliminated, or order others around, are just not my bag; so the negatives far outweigh the positives in my view. Let the powerful wallow in their glory; I’ll revel in my Liberty, thank you.

    I disagree with your notion of varying degrees of sovereignty. It is a binary proposition. One is either the ultimate authority or one is not sovereign. The moment one assents to the proposition that a higher authority has the legitimate right to compel a course of action not of one’s choosing, one has abdicated one’s sovereignty.

    As to the utility of my sovereignty, I suppose the most important value I receive from it is the personal power my independent sovereign mindset engenders. As I watch this once proud country devolve into a nation of sheeple, incessantly bleating about their victimhood and begging their shepherds for greener pastures, I understand that I am the sole architect of my own successes and responsible for my own failures. Unencumbered with the slightest desire to control the behavior of others, I can concentrate on the far more useful pursuit of crafting an interesting life of my own.

    Free of any desire to be accepted by the flock, I can unabashedly be my true self and unhesitatingly speak my mind. Sure, this turns off a great many people; but it works out rather well. I tend to attract friends who are like me and repel the tedious types I prefer not to waste my time with anyway. I’ll never win Ms. Congeniality and don’t get invited to a lot of parties; but I’d prefer to spend my time alone with Google, than pretend to nod approvingly while some over-schooled and undereducated blowhard waxes poetic about what a swell fellow he surely is for voting for Obama, and how those of us who rejected the notion of a Marxist President are really just racists.

    Unfettered by any faulty notion that the “will of the people” rules this land, and undaunted by the power of our rather feckless government, I am free to choose which laws, rules, and regulations I will abide, and which I can flout with relative impunity. If my circumspectly fashioned personal moral code does not intrude, my guilt-free choices are only regulated by the rational assessment of the chances of being caught, and whether I am prepared to pay the consequences if I am. A fine every year or two, is an insignificant price to pay for the utility and contumacious joy of daily playing with abandon, the delightful game of wily cops and vigilant speeders, and cheerfully bantering with the cop while he writes the ticket.

    Even politics is just a spectator sport for a sovereign, since our team is not permitted on the field in the big leagues. Although I will admit to occasional frustration at their refusal to grow up and notice more important matters, the eternal battle between the Politically Correct moralists and the Piously Correct moralists can be quite entertaining, for those of us who refuse to quaff the Kool-Aid of either. Uninvolved in the noisy morass, we can appreciate the skill and techniques of the players, applaud the good plays, boo the bad moves, and hiss at the villains with delight. All without the slightest concern for which team wins this match or the next; as long as neither grows dominant enough to get permanent control of the levers of coercive force, to infect our lives with their inane pathology.

    Enough… there is plenty more; but you should have the idea. Thanks for the question. I could probably write an essay on the advantages of sovereign thinking, and perhaps I will. ◄Dave►

  • B · January 10, 2009 at 5:10 pm

    J. :

    J.

    The GOPers complaints about FanMae/FredMac (a Nixon policy as well) are therefore quite misplaced: it was Gramm/GOP who pushed for more freedom for lenders to write loans to iffy borrowers.
    While I understand the Randian’s distrust of bureaucracy and sham liberalism to some extent, De-reg was Randian libertarianism, all the way: Ayn Randonomics arguably resulted in the lending crisis.

    It’s a mistake to call changes to regulations of an entity Randian. Rand’s position was that such entities shouldn’t exist in the first place. The nature and degree of regulation are irrelevant.

  • J. · January 10, 2009 at 8:06 pm

    Yes, had there been good Randian Czars in place, like everywhere–and the serfs kept in their place–what need for democracy at all.

    Randians want it both ways: they champion reason and freedom of some sort, yet dominate discussions with their hackneyed jargon–wall street embodies capitalist morality!, etc.–and in effect obstruct freedom–like the freedom to discuss the merits of laissez-faire vs. Keynes, or other economic models. It’s nearly a type of dogma.

    We should not forget the Aristotelian code that Ayn Rand borrowed, and tamed: Nicomachean ethics, however noble it might seem to the naive, was not about life liberty and the pursuit of happiness, but about like Caesar…

  • ◄Dave► · January 10, 2009 at 9:17 pm

    @gene berman

    “You may have read something by Rand…”

    I rather doubt it, Gene. There is a certain parrot like quality to the vacuous inanities, non sequiturs, and clichés he strings together, while ignoring direct challenges to his premises. When one eschews engaging one’s mind in independent rational thought, there is little point in doing independent study. Why clutter a feeble mind with unnecessary details, when the CliffsNotes will suffice? Or, better yet, simply cache and regurgitate the snide and trivial jabber that passes for dialogue on Leftist websites. Then, one can pose as an erudite intellectual with flippant drive-by comments, without having much of a clue about the topic being discussed. ◄Dave►

  • gene berman · January 11, 2009 at 7:08 pm

    Dave:

    Labor-and-time-saving reality-check noted.

  • Grant Canyon · January 12, 2009 at 7:45 am

    Gotchaye,

    I think you got it. Better than I could have framed it, actually.

  • Grant Canyon · January 12, 2009 at 7:50 am

    I should state that Gotchaye captured my argument. I’m still uncertain about where my opinion lies on these related questions, which is why I find such backs and forths to be so useful. Although I do believe this to be false:

    You keep referring to “society,” as if it mattered. There is no such thing as a society, it is merely an abstraction.

    I think that society not only exists, but that because the human brain is a powerful society-building tool, societies are inevitable once you put a few humans together.

  • Grant Canyon · January 12, 2009 at 7:56 am

    Dave:
    “I am asserting my right to live my own life as I choose, without granting anyone legitimate authority to compel otherwise.”
    I think the crux of our disagreement is the use of the word “legitimate” in this statement. One is not sovereign (under the commonly accepted definition of the word) if another has the authority to “compel otherwise” regardless of whether it is legitimate or not. The fact that one can assert brut force against you (even to point of making you make a cost-benefit analysis of whether the violate the law or not) is sufficient to show you don’t have soverignty.

  • ◄Dave► · January 12, 2009 at 9:21 am

    @Grant Canyon

    I think that society not only exists, but that because the human brain is a powerful society-building tool, societies are inevitable once you put a few humans together.

    Agreed… but it is still an abstraction that is not a concrete entity. The word “society” can be boiled down to the word “we.” “We” consists of two or more “I’s,” and the constituent “I’s” can and do change from moment to moment. An “I” refers to a real thing – a person. “We” is an abstraction that refers to an ephemeral group of “I’s,” any one of which can opt out on a moments notice if they have free will.

    The only way to force an “I” to remain a member of a “we” for one moment longer than it is in his best interest, is to metaphorically put chains around his ankles. The notion that Americans are not born freemen; but in servitude to the abstraction of a “society” where the majority rules over the minority is utterly alien to our Founders principles. That is why they crafted a constitutional republic; they abhorred the very idea of a democracy. As Franklin famously said, “A democracy is two wolves and a lamb discussing what to have for breakfast.” ◄Dave►

  • ◄Dave► · January 12, 2009 at 9:32 am

    @Grant Canyon

    One is not sovereign (under the commonly accepted definition of the word) if another has the authority to “compel otherwise” regardless of whether it is legitimate or not.

    Then, by your definition, there is no such thing as sovereignty, since there is always a bigger brute, or a stronger gang, or a coalition of gangs strong enough to overpower any individual or government. Forget the word sovereignty if it is a hang-up for you. I assert my right as a freeman to live my own life as I choose to live it, and I will bob, weave, dodge, fight, and kill to keep anyone from putting chains around my neck to enslave me. Call that what you will… perhaps simply “contumacious.” ◄Dave►

  • Grant Canyon · January 12, 2009 at 10:09 am

    Agreed… but it is still an abstraction that is not a concrete entity. The word “society” can be boiled down to the word “we.” “We” consists of two or more “I’s,” and the constituent “I’s” can and do change from moment to moment. An “I” refers to a real thing – a person. “We” is an abstraction that refers to an ephemeral group of “I’s,” any one of which can opt out on a moments notice if they have free will.

    That “society” is an ever-changing collection of discrete parts does not mean it is not concrete, merely that its ability to change is one of its features. A river is concrete, even though it can be broken down to molecules of water that are ever-changing. (And, indeed, the “I” that you reference is made up of cells, most all of which are replaced during the lifetime of the “I”, similar to the way the constituent parts of a society changes through time.)

    The notion that Americans are not born freemen; but in servitude to the abstraction of a “society” where the majority rules over the minority is utterly alien to our Founders principles. That is why they crafted a constitutional republic…

    Well, what the American Founding Fathers did or believed is interesting, but should not be dispositive on the issues of freedom and liberty by any rational, thinking adult, by forming a polity that permitted and protected chattel slavery.

    Then, by your definition, there is no such thing as sovereignty, since there is always a bigger brute, or a stronger gang, or a coalition of gangs strong enough to overpower any individual or government.

    No, because the notion of authority is key, not merely the exercise of power (although, granted, in many cases, the sustained exercise of power will result in authority, from the acceptance of society of authority of the powerful.) It is not only the power, but the authority to exercise that power that is important. And in the society in which you live, the government has non-exclusive authority to exercise certain power. Even if you choose not to recognize the legitimacy of that society, it is irrelevant to the question of authority.

    Forget the word sovereignty if it is a hang-up for you. I assert my right as a freeman to live my own life as I choose to live it, and I will bob, weave, dodge, fight, and kill to keep anyone from putting chains around my neck to enslave me. Call that what you will… perhaps simply “contumacious.”

    Well, the word isn’t a hang up for me. What you call “sovereignty” is merely you attempting to “reserve the right” to violate your society’s laws if you choose to do so and believe you are justified in doing it. However, the problem with that is that you don’t have that right in the first place (as rights are, functionally, how people within a society agree to treat each other), so you can’t reserve it.

    What you are saying is that you will live your life as you see fit. Fine. The society in which you live permits you to do that, until you violate one of the society’s norms and laws. At which point, you will be subject to the power of the sovereign. Which is simply a way of saying that you are not sovereign. *(Although contumacious is a good word.)

  • ◄Dave► · January 12, 2009 at 10:27 am

    However, the problem with that is that you don’t have that right in the first place (as rights are, functionally, how people within a society agree to treat each other), so you can’t reserve it.

    Grant, you do not seem to understand the concept of natural rights. I do wish I could talk you into taking the time to read my Sovereign Rights essay, and getting back to me. ◄Dave►

  • Grant Canyon · January 12, 2009 at 12:13 pm

    Dave,

    I read your essay. I do understand the concept of natural rights, I simply believe that it, along with a number of other things, they constitutes the United States’ foundational myths. By that I mean, things we believe because we have based our society on the assumption that they are true, not because they, necessarily, are true. They are axioms, nothing more.

    To take one small example from your essay. You are “sovereign” when on your own property for no other reason than the other members of the society have agreed to abide by that “rule”, not because you are in possession of a overriding natural right.

    If, tomorrow, the society were to agree (an by that I mean more than merely a 50% + 1 majority vote) that you do not have such “sovereignty” under certain circumstances (such as, for example, that you open your property to the public as a place of public accommodation), then your appeal to “natural rights” would do you all the good as an appeal to “the power of the dark side of the Force.”

    This is not to say that I disparage the things you would label “natural rights”, not at all. I merely recognize the fact that they are no more than society’s members collectively choosing to respect each other on certain subjects, in a certain manner. In fact, I think one of the reasons why we have these foundational myths is to protect them because of their fragility.

  • ◄Dave► · January 12, 2009 at 1:25 pm

    @Grant Canyon

    I read your essay.

    Thanks.

    I suppose all mental constructs are useful myths, just as “society” and your “authority” are. I have acknowledged that there is always a bigger brute and a stronger tribe that could conceivably coerce me out of my property. I have plenty of anecdotal evidence that in a community of independent self-reliant neighbors, my objectivist model of the world works splendidly; whether here in flyover country, or in the African bush.

    All cooperation there is voluntary; but it would be foolhardy not to be cooperative. When one lives 30 miles from the nearest cop shop, one calls a neighbor in an emergency, not 911. Yet, one doesn’t meddle in a neighbor’s affairs, because one doesn’t want to be meddled with. Widows and the infirm are quietly looked after, and survivors of tragedy freely given a hand-up – as long as they are grateful, don’t wallow in victimhood, and don’t expect a handout. Going to the aid of a neighbor is a very satisfying experience if it is done voluntarily. When couched as a duty, not so much.

    I think these are universal human traits, that are sadly corrupted and suppressed by the altruistic busybodies selfishly feeding their own egos, with their notion of “good works,” by demanding “entitlements” for the indigent. In any case, they are going to have to run me down, lasso, and hogtie me to ever get their chains on me. I’ll never don them voluntarily myself. Then, they better watch me 27/7 and never turn their back, because I will kill them with the damn things, given half the chance… and trust me, I am by no means alone out here. ◄Dave►

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