• Liberty and Justice and Rhetoric, oh my…

    by  • October 15, 2012 • Bad Personal Philosophy, Events, Family & Friends, Politics • 0 Comments

    I had the most amusing rhetorical debate the other day. Since it’s the election season and pontification is a la mode, I thought I’d share.

    The conversation didn’t end entirely satisfactorily — I thought we’d maneuvered to the place where some important points were on the edge of being hammered into “true” or “false” status, but then the whole thing just fizzled. It’s difficult to keep up the pursuit of Truth, Justice, and Authenticity when there are so many damn interesting cable television shows to watch. Also, I can pop up a bag of jiffy pop in less than the half-life of a good political debate. So who expects resolution anymore, anyway? It’s so old fashioned.

    With no further ado:

    Drew McDonald:If you’re not maxed out on your retirement contributions, why do you pay for cable tv?
    Kevin Nielsen:Better yet: WHY pay for Cable TV even if you ARE maxed out?
    Natashe Reynolds:Because tv is entertaining for the time being J
    Kevin Nielsen:Cable TV: paying marketers to clutter your subconscious with their ads. *shudder*
    Michael Eugene Holm:I don’t, we have satellite.
    Kevin Nielsen:Satellite TV: paying marketers to clutter your subconscious with their ads WHILE USING part of the frequency spectrum that could be used to deliver data to smartphones.
    Kyle Carpenter:Good thing I TiVo passed the advertisements boop boop boop
    Jim Ray:Because cable is entertaining right now and I might not live ’til retirement. Har!
    Aaron MostofiChoice.
    Drew McDonaldSocial security is a choice too
    Aaron MostofiNo, it’s not. I can’t opt out.
    Drew McDonaldYou can opt out of taking payments.
    Aaron Mostofi

    If there was no safety net, people would make better choices and you’d be less annoyed by other peoples’ bad ones. As a lover of freedom, I begrudge no man his choices… only those that deny me mine.

    That’s like saying you can opt of a prison sentence by suicide. I don’t think this means prison sentences are optional.

    Drew McDonald

    I’m not annoyed. It was a rhetorical question.

    There’s always another choice.

    Kevin Nielsen:“If there was no safety net, people would make better choices and you’d be less annoyed by other peoples’ bad ones.” I’m not sure history or my sense of human nature really support that assertion.
    Aaron Mostofi

    Then, with respect, you should study it.

    I could name many historical and even scientific studies that demonstrate that where there is much to lose, people take considerable care to avoid such a loss. Study the latest trend in traffic management, sir. Did you know there are a bunch of studies showing that the more safety devices and mechanisms there are to help drivers avoid accidents, the more accidents there are?

    Explain that… from your own sense of history and human nature, of course.

    Kevin Nielsen:
    Then you’re suggesting an aggregate improvement in the traffic system and its costs in human health could be achieved were we to remove the individual insurance mandate (which is effectively universal despite a few deep south holdouts) and completely deregulate the use of safety equipment? I will support your assertion insofar as admitting that, were I to be driving without insurance, seat belts, or air-bags, on a freeway system populated by people watching television and reading magazines while they drove… I would certainly drive more carefully.
    Aaron Mostofi
    Yes. Now, a lack of organization (such as traffic lights) can reduce efficiency of throughput, so I’m not saying I’m against responsible stewardship of assets such as roads, but my example is case-and-point that when we defer our safety to a 3rd party, as a race, we tend to become less safety-minded.
    Kevin Nielsen:
    Do you think that deregulating the traffic system would result in lower aggregate costs to society, or would you do it for the quanta of freedom it affords?
    Aaron Mostofi


    (Although either is sufficient)

    Would you trade freedom and efficacy for a false sense of safety? If so, you’ll love the TSA!

    Kevin Nielsen:

    Yet I see the number of fatalities descend quite markedly at the beginning of the 70s — coinciding with the beginning of seatbelt laws, the most definitive “deprivation of freedom” of the automotive era. Loss of life is a large part of the cost of the traffic system as a whole. Your argument that deregulation begets greater care on the part of individuals, and greater individual care begets more efficient stewardship of the system as a whole, seems to me to rest an an extremely unstable premise.

    And no, I would trade no one thing for any other thing. The freedom of individuals must always be balanced against the good of the system in which they exist. It’s simply pragmatic.

    Aaron Mostofi

    You switched topics. I never said “seatbelts don’t save lives”. Do you know how few inmates are involved in traffic accidents? Yet I don’t think incarcerating the country is a great solution to traffic fatalities despite its likely effectiveness.

    Your “pragmatic” view says that people can only be trusted to use their freedom in certain ways and they require someone smarter, like a regulatory body, to ensure their safety at the expense of their personal liberties. Where do you draw the line? How do you determine which freedoms are worth canning because of their danger? Who should determine which freedoms should be withheld by the government from the people for their own good?

    Kevin Nielsen:

    I apologize; I was responding in part to your implicit linkage of any sort of moderate position with the TSA (scoff). But I would nibble at your bait: people in groups are generally not good stewards of the group’s resources and well-being — not as good as they are of their own resources and well-being. We do not (and in this era, it seems, can not) live in isolation. So yes, I believe that social regulation is important and beneficial. I do not believe the line needs to be fixed beyond certain obvious rules (i.e., the group cannot take away the individual’s right to speak and think as it sees best, and the individual cannot wreak havok on social order without restraint). The line needs to be renegotiated, calibrated, argued over, and pushed back and forth. It needs to be challenged and enforced at the same time. Isn’t that what puts the life into participatory civics?

    Aaron Mostofi

    What people are in groups? People are individuals. A group need not be considered here. Any individual “wreaking havoc” is either doing something within his rights that you just don’t like (in which case you must learn the meaning of a free society) or is hurting someone elses rights or property… in which case we should and do have laws against that. How are those insufficient? Your systems removes freedom from the innocent in a hopeless and vain attempt to prevent folks from becoming guilty. My system (the one we started just over 200 years ago) says that you are free so long as you remain innocent.

    Also, we can we not live in isolation? Why do you require me to participate in your life? Why may I not choose isolation? Is that not covered under the third enumerated inallienable, God-given right?

    Kevin Nielsen:

    I see! There are no groups. How I have labored all these years in confusion! Nevertheless, I do feel compelled to point out that our federal system (the one we started two centuries ago) delegated additional governance beyond the constitution and the bill of rights to the states. You speak as though additional governance had been abolished or discouraged, but this is not so.

    Kevin Nielsen As far as living in isolation is concerned: you are more than free to crawl into the wilderness if you wish, of course. But if you are driving or boating on public thoroughfares, or drawing resources from utility grids maintained by and serving conglomerations of people commonly (and erroneously) called groups, then such participation — in varying degrees — entitles you to joint obligations and rights corresponding with that relationship. Can you be a Program Manager without a program? Can you be a manager of any sort without a company of people working together? In light of your dismissal of the significance of “groups,” these questions become somewhat more than merely rhetorical.

    Aaron Mostofi
    First, I didn’t say there aren’t groups. I said we need not think of people in groups.
    Kevin Nielsen:
    You said we need not think of people in groups with respect to the issue of governance and public good.
    Aaron Mostofi

    Second, the US Constitution does not delegate authority to the States. It has no right to do so. It restricts the federal government from impeding on the rights that the States already had. Remember, the States preceeded the federal government.

    Aaron Mostofi I’ve dismissed no groups. I’ve dismissed the concern you had for the intelligence of people as groups. No group of people are ever arrested, only individuals. No groups are incarcerated… only people.

    No groups violate laws or others’ rights… only individuals. Do you disagree?

    Kevin Nielsen:
    Your point with respect to the authority of states is well taken.
    Aaron Mostofi
    Please give me an example of an obligation I have while on a public road due to it being public. Feel free to contrast that obligation against private roads.
    Kevin Nielsen:

    I do disagree with your assertion that groups are not arrested or incarcerated, impede rights, or have their rights impeded. The individual is certainly the unit of legal action, but that doesn’t eliminate the significance of group affiliation. Consider the relative incarceration rates of minorities for marijuana possession as a banal example, or the systematic depletion of first nations’ fishing grounds by commercial fisheries, or the acidification of the Gulf of Mexico. The pattern of effect is invisible on an individual level, and thus the significance of the group cannot be safely disregarded. I believe it is irresponsible to do so.

    If you are on a private road (presuming it is yours, or you are friends with the own), you are free to drive — without clothes on. On a public road, you may be considered guilty of disturbing the peace. This may seem a flippant example, but my point is precisely that there is a peace or equilibrium due in spaces that are public. The same thing applies to sidewalks. You are less free to urinate on them than you are to urinate off the edge of your porch.

    Since my examples are clearly headed for the gutter, I must sign off for tonight — but I’d love to resume this tomorrow AM, bright-eyed and so forth.

    Aaron Mostofi

    “Incarceration of minorities” is a correlative point, not a legal implication. Each person was incarcerated for inidividual actions, arrested by an individual officer. I don’t know of anyone incarcerated because of their group membership apart from their actions. Do you?

    Permission can be granted to a group of individuals, but it is only actionable by individuals and enforced at the individual level. Again, groups cannot act in a legal fashion. They are individuals or groups whose actions are the result of individuals. If the Saints NFL team does something wrong, the individuals (like head coach Sean Peyton) are responsible and punished.

    Kevin, your example is not a limitation on driving. It is a limitation of public property. We deemed an action illegal on public property (no different than smoking) that is permissable on private property. I agree with this and don’t find it liberty-impeding because you are committing a crime as an individual. This is not an example of an obligation I have to society and more than my “obligation” to “not murder people”. That’s not an obligation but a limitation because of its affects on others’ rights. This is wholly proper for the state to enforce.

    So again, respectfully, I inquire: what obligation have I on a public road that prevents me from “living in isolation”? (Besides impeding on others’ rights which is me choosing to live outside of isolation since I’m not impacting others)

    Drew McDonald

    So…..cable tv….?

    A common tactic in debate is to point out the most extreme example to disprove the opposing view. Example: All government is bad! Counter, traffic lights must be bad? Well no traffic lights aren’t bad government. Disproving the example doesn’t disprove the premise.

    There are plenty of examples of groups being rounded up for reasons and groups dominating others. The point if Liberty is that the individual is capable of self control therefore groups could avoid being categorized and so treated. Part of human nature is selfish and there are examples. But part of our nature is to do good for self including family, then care for immediate neighbors/community then the greater good of our nation. Our colonies were a good example of this. Homesteading became farm communities and public servants and soldiers came from these to serve the founding of this nation. Because we were born of immigration some of the old ways did come with us and slavery/race ism have plagued us. However. America’s history is still the history of the seeds of freedom being sewn thorough out the world. Despite our mistakes, as a Nation we have contributed more to human liberty and human rights than any other nation or government or culture in history. Deciding people into groups has not contributed one positive iota to liberty. Our success is that America has utilized the best of all cultures, nations, people’s skills to become superior.

    This is reason number one why I’m a conservative. We don’t put people into groups despite what the left says. They say lies about us like “you’re on your own” “hate minorities” “want to control women’s bodies” “only for the rich” “haters” All are wrong at best and lies at worst. Obama divides people to win support. Rich/poor white/other smart/dumb. His and their way has been the way for centuries. Division has not made us great.

    Since we don’t group people the left says we don’t like people they put into groups. They try to make people special by classifying them. Well everyone is special to their mothers. So why don’t we just be Americans and feel special about being together?

    Kevin Nielsen:
    The population of the colonies at the time of the revolution was roughly 2.2 million. Since then, it has grown to 311 million even though its inhabited land area has only increased five-fold (and the interior doesn’t support the density of the coastal quintiles). So, very, very roughly, the weight and compression of American humanity has increased by something in the neighborhood of 3500%. My point of about living in isolation is that we cannot help but effect each other.

    Imagine that you’re the latest in a family of successful Illinois pigfarmers along the banks of the Mississipi — a quite successful one. You’re philanthropic within your community, you take care of your family and neighbors, and contribute positively to your local economy. On the other hand, your waste lagoon — kept pretty full by your 10,000 pigs! — leeches a quite remarkable amount of feces, ammonia, and bacteria into the Mississippi. These contaminants roll downstream into the Gulf of Mexico. Along the way, they poison a few folks who make the mistake of drinking the wrong water. They increase the treatment costs of various municipalities. Once in the Gulf, they join other waste products, concentrate, and poison marine life. Fisheries suffer. Over a long period of time, it contributes fractionally to an ongoing acidification process of the planet’s oceans. You’ve done nothing wrong, and the damage from your business is completely unintentional: it’s simply that being in the world effects the world in ways that are difficult to account for. When these relationships are uncovered, do we call it the cost of freedom and ignore them? Or do we act on them?

    I’m not advocating scientific dictatorship — freedom is too potent a force for good to succumb to overmanagement. But I’m not advocating the dissolution of authority, either — unleavened liberty is just anarchy with a big dose of optimism. They are both childish responses to a complex world. A dynamically negotiated compromise between the two extremes is the only rational solution — that’s all I’m saying.

    Ms. Rand… I believe you misinterpreted my meaning when I referred to living in isolation. You may feel isolated or asocial in your car, yet driving on public roads is a fundamentally “connected” activity in the sense that you are obligated not to collide with the car ahead of you nor delay the cars behind you beyond a reasonable degree (with that definition varying).

    Cast of Players:
    Drew McDonald as James Madison
    Kevin Nielsen as Friedrich Nietzsche
    Aaron Mostofi as Ayn Rand
    Socrates AS HIMSELF

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