(Where) default lies

December 2, 2013 § 83 Comments

My understanding of liberalism has been criticized over the years on what amounts to “no true Scotsman” grounds. The idea here seems to be that because most liberals – especially the right-liberals that in America we call “conservatives” – make unprincipled exceptions to their liberalism, relatively few people out on the extreme left wing of politics are liberal in a sense that falls under my critique. Everyone else – usually meaning “conservatives” – who supports political freedom and equality is simply being sensible and loyal to his heritage, as long as his liberalism doesn’t become ideological and trump common sense.

There are several problems with this view, but here I will just point out one.

Most human beings only have so much room in their personas for political policies that they care about passionately. One faction might care deeply about (say) abortion and sodomite parodies of marriage, while in the economic domain simply defaulting to the classical liberal view of property. Another group might care deeply about different things. In those areas where they are passionate, default liberalism does not trump common sense. But in all other areas they will default to supporting whatever cursorily seems to them to be most coherent with democratic values, equal rights, freedom, and other liberal slogans.

When this process is extrapolated to society as a whole, what happens is that liberalism – the default political doctrine for both right and left liberals – trumps whatever opposes liberalism. Illiberal values are isolated and steamrolled by the combination of leftist ideology with the great mass of liberal default.

So the enemies of the good, the true, and the beautiful aren’t just vehemently ideological liberals. The enemies of the good, the true, and the beautiful include everyone who will reflexively default to political freedom and equal rights in areas about which he is otherwise indifferent.

And that is almost everyone in modern Western societies.

§ 83 Responses to (Where) default lies

  • Scott says:

    Not sure I am tracking what the “classic liberal view of property is.”

    It appears to me that tradcons and liberals have the same position, varying only in degree. That is, ALL property (in fact, the whole world and everything in it) ultimately belongs to the state, which allows you to have some. (In this sense, income tax is not really a tax. It would be more accurate to think of the untaxed portion as the “amount the state lets you have.) Likewise, property taxes take this to a new level. How are property taxes (something no political party is trying to abolish) effectively different from rent? You pay us, year and year out, and we let you stay on the land you “own.”

    From my perspective, it appears I own nothing. I only own it if I can control it, destroy it, sell it or modify it as I see fit with no interference. There are so many laws preventing me from exerting that kind of power over my “property” that ownership is just a meaningless word.

  • Zippy says:

    The classical liberal view of property is that people are free to do what they will with their property, subject to not violating the equal rights of others.

    Your description of the tradcon position as “the state owns everything” bears no resemblance whatsoever to my own views. My views, such as they are, are posted here — searching on “property”, “usury”, and “currency” will probably produce appropriate posts.

    I’ve also made a couple of arguments that property taxes are intrinsically unjust, oddly enough.

  • Scott says:

    “The classical liberal view of property is that people are free to do what they will with their property, subject to not violating the equal rights of others.”

    This is peculiar, because it is close to mine, but not exactly. I am not sure how I would operationalize “equal rights of others” when it comes to say, the problem of property values (as addressed by Homeowners Associations).

    The Bible tells us about stewardship, which is (I admit I am biased) the best way to approach property, but no government will EVER concede ground to God. So until He returns to set up His form of government, we are stuck with all these competing interests. It’s why I think the libertarian understanding is about as good as it is going to get in this life.

  • Zippy says:

    Scott:
    It’s why I think the libertarian understanding is about as good as it is going to get in this life.

    It isn’t though, because liberalism (including classical) is incoherent, as I have explained many times before. And because it is incoherent it lead to modern liberalism. You have fallen in love with the puppy but you hate the full grown dog.

  • Scott says:

    “You have fallen in love with the puppy but you hate the full grown dog.”

    Correct me if I’m wrong, (I am reading this stuff at a break-neck pace) but isn’t this essentially the reactionary view position? Some of the reactionary sites describe it as “what you get when you allow libertarianism to grow to it’s logical conclusion.” Which by the way I have great sympathy for, but it is again a matter of “so now what?” The system in place now would have to collapse–utterly–and then so many other human variables would have to fall into place in order for something like that to replace the ruins. I’d rather just go off the grid and move to Montana.

  • Zippy says:

    Scott:
    but it is again a matter of “so now what?

    Speak and live in the truth, not lies.

    https://zippycatholic.wordpress.com/2012/11/17/whats-the-rallying-point/

  • Peter Blood says:

    It’s why I think the libertarian understanding is about as good as it is going to get in this life.

    Libertarianism is a parade of freaks like Jeffrey Tucker.

  • Scott says:

    “Libertarianism is a parade of freaks like Jeffrey Tucker.”

    I know. I don’t know what got into me.

  • Peter Blood says:

    I don’t know what got into me.

    Snap out of it.

  • sunshinemary says:

    Property exists when an owner exercises fungible authority over subjects with respect to one or more objects.

    Does this mean that property exists only if the owner has authority over other people? So, the responsibility for maintaining ownership falls on the owner, not the State?

    Just wondering…can a married woman (by which I mean a woman who accepts the biblical definition of marriage and its appropriate roles) ever be said to own anything then? I mean, if she agrees that she is in submission to her husband and that he has authority over her, then doesn’t he really own whatever she (thinks she) owns?

    I’m probably way off in left field picking daisies, and I only read the posts Zippy linked to and not the comment threads, but if anyone cares to give me a simple yes/no answer to my questions, I’d be grateful.

  • Gian says:

    Scott,
    “ALL property (in fact, the whole world and everything in it) ultimately belongs to the state, which allows you to have some.”

    The state, the family and the individual are three irreducible levels of human organization; none may be reduced to the others.

    States do not “own” property. They possess or occupy territories. The State of US, qua State, does not own anything. It may own things as a person though.

    Ownership is a right and a right is a conclusion to a series of arguments, the kind of arguments that are made in courts of law, and ultimately back to the moral premise that a man must eat of the sweat of his brow.

    Arguments, however, require a space of moral consensus, if they are to proceed to a conclusion. This moral space is defined by the State. A people that share certain moral premises form themselves into a State and that leads to conclusion of arguments that proceed in that State. Thus, people that share moral premises resolve their conflicts by words and not by blows.

  • Gian says:

    Scott,
    “ALL property (in fact, the whole world and everything in it) ultimately belongs to the state, which allows you to have some.”

    This formulation is essentially that of fascists. Liberals might share it but I do not know why a tradcon would.

    The errors herein have some basis in truth.
    1) State or the City or the Nation is not reducible to individuals.
    2) All commendable acts must be for the good of the City.
    3) Property (esp landed) is defined only within the context of the City.
    4) Sovereign Assertion is an unanswerable argument.

    But the good of the City itself includes freedom of individuals and families. The good of the City can not be fully known by any individual.
    We must never forget that the hierarchically complex organization of the City which modern ideologies hate and try to flatten.

    Now, the will of the State, aka Sovereign Assertion, is, indeed an unanswerable argument. But only as far as
    1) It is the will directed to the common good
    2) It is will informed by the reason. It can not be arbitrary.

    The proper acts of State are always directed to the common good by definition. This defines the state authority. Arbitrariness vitiates the just authority of the State.

  • Gian says:

    Zippy,
    “Jeffersonian/Lockean heresy that the legitimacy of government authority derives from the consent of the governed”.
    Is Locke heresy or error?
    Heresy can only be defined with respect to the truth. Otherwise ‘error’ is a better word.
    Since you also maintain that you don’t have a detailed theory of how legitimate authority arises.

    Anyway, there is a sense in which the Lockean proposition is correct. To accept a govt authority is to consent to it. It is a free act. The consent is on-going. All Americans today have consented to the American State otherwise the state would have evaporated in an instant. Those that deny consent are, of course, outlaws. In this sense consent leads to govt authority. If I do not consent, the State has no authority over me. It can punish me as a outlaw but not as a citizen.

    Thus, a person walking over the border can justly come as a sojourner (in which case he accepts the authority of state) or as an invader (if he does not accept the authority). “He does no wrong, per se, in not accepting the authority. ” This proposition I have been wondering over.

  • Zippy says:

    Gian:

    To accept a govt authority is to consent to it. It is a free act. The consent is on-going.

    Sure, those governed under a dictator, under all stable governments ever, do “consent” in a sense: in the same sense that a robbery victim “consents” to being robbed as long as he doesn’t offer violent resistance. And liberals will equivocate and call that “consent” when it suits their purposes.

  • Zippy says:

    Sunshine:

    Does this mean that property exists only if the owner has authority over other people?

    Yes. Property is a relation between owner, objects, and subjects.

    So, the responsibility for maintaining ownership falls [solely? -Z] on the owner, not the State?

    I don’t see how that follows.

    As for wives and children owning things, sure they do. Just because an authority can be overridden by a higher authority it doesn’t follow that the authority doesn’t exist at all. But modern people don’t think hierarchically.

  • Scott says:

    “This formulation is essentially that of fascists. Liberals might share it but I do not know why a tradcon would. ”

    I may be using “Tradcon” incorrectly (Pat Buchanan, Phyllis Schlafly, etc).

    But the reason I say this is based on their words/actions. All of them at some time or another have used phrases like “pay for a tax cut.”

    This peculiar use of language really means “give them a raise.”

  • Mike T says:

    Just because an authority can be overridden by a higher authority it doesn’t follow that the authority doesn’t exist at all. But modern people don’t think hierarchically.

    Often that may be true, but higher authorities tend to position themselves over time to abolish subsidiarity. As that happens, and we’ve seen it in spades in our constitutional system, the authority of the lesser authorities tends to exist only as an expression of the higher authority’s will.

  • Zippy says:

    What is subsidiarity? Hierarchical authority.

    How do we keep subsidiarity from being destroyed? Why, by doing away with hierarchical authority.

  • Mike T says:

    It may not be an argument for abolishing hierarchical authority, but in the modern mind a lesser authority cannot be said to be an authority if there is an authority above it that can categorically check its actions. To the modern mind, it is as though the lesser authority is merely a legal agent of the higher authority. There exists no hierarchy because the highest power is necessarily then the only power worth acknowledging since its actions are the only ones that count when there exists a dissent among authorities.

  • Scott says:

    “It may not be an argument for abolishing hierarchical authority, but in the modern mind a lesser authority cannot be said to be an authority if there is an authority above it that can categorically check its actions. To the modern mind, it is as though the lesser authority is merely a legal agent of the higher authority. There exists no hierarchy because the highest power is necessarily then the only power worth acknowledging since its actions are the only ones that count when there exists a dissent among authorities.”

    Fascinating. As a mid-level active duty Army officer, this perfectly describes my life. There are SOME things that are delegated to me, but my subordinates can always “check with the [real] boss” if they do not like the answer. Usually, they don’t because they know I am competent and would not lead them astray, but it does happen from time to time. “Leadership” then as taught from the command and staff college level and down necessarily includes a piece on “backing subordinate leaders” so as to not undermine their authority. In my case, both of my bosses are very good at this, so their impratur gives me credibility. But it doesn’t always work that way. I had never thought of this is a problem of the “modern” mind, but it makes sense now that I think about it. Very cool!

  • Scott says:

    Of course, trying to sound cool by using, and then ulitimately misspelling “imprimatur” completely undermines my authority anyway.

  • Zippy says:

    That’s one more way that the modern mind has to unlearn what it “knows”. It simply isn’t the case that higher authority nullifies lower authority or even that there exists one and only one hierarchy of authority.

  • Zippy says:

    This tendency in modern thought to view any authority at all as necessarily both plenary and omnicompetent affects how modern Christians view the Church too.

  • Gian says:

    Zippy,
    (1) “in the same sense that a robbery victim “consents” to being robbed as long as he doesn’t offer violent resistance.”

    Surely, nobody thinks being robbed a good thing and nobody is loyal to his robber.
    But, plenty of people, even a large majority I should guess in normal states, consider govt (or at least their State) to be a good thing and are loyal to it. I do not see how any State could continue to exist barring this loyalty.

    (2) “To accept a govt authority is to consent to it. It is a free act.”

    Consent, properly speaking, implies a judgment, that it is a good thing.
    Eg (1) I choose because I choose — really means I did not choose at all, It was chosen for me (by non-rational causes that is.)
    (2) I choose because it is good to choose so–is choice, properly speaking- a free act.

    People living under a dictator may make a judgment that it is better a dictator than anarchy. That would legitimize the govt (always to the extent the acts of govt are ordered to the common good)
    But it is still not analogous to the robbery since being robbed is never a good.

  • Gian says:

    Zippy,
    There are two propositions, one I think correct and another false.
    (1) The just powers of the govt are derived from the consent of the governed.
    This may be correct, properly understood. It is the relation of loyalty of the people towards the State that justifies the State, indeed causes the state to be.
    (2) The just powers of the govt are those delegated to it by the people, individually considered. That is, the govt has only those powers that are delegated to it by individuals.
    (2) is incorrect. The govt has powers deriving from the the non-reducible State level and these powers can not be delegated from individuals since no individual possesses these powers. Principally, this power is to judge people and punish them.
    No individual can, properly speaking, punish another. One can not punish a thief or even a murderer. What one can do, is to retrieve your property or kill someone in self-defense. But this is not punishment.

  • Gian says:

    Zippy,
    “Property exists when an owner exercises fungible authority over subjects with respect to one or more objects.”

    Would you agree that your view of property as an authority implies that property is what is secured by arguments and not by force?

    Since authority being a matter of rationality is justified by arguments and not by brute force.

    Or would you disagree?

  • […] Conquest’s second law; why do organizations become leftist? Related: Default liberalism and the liberal advance. […]

  • Mike T says:

    That’s one more way that the modern mind has to unlearn what it “knows”. It simply isn’t the case that higher authority nullifies lower authority or even that there exists one and only one hierarchy of authority.

    I think you are mistaken when you say that higher authority does not nullify lower authority if by that you mean when a higher authority speaks against the lower, the lower must necessary submit its will to the higher authority thus negating the authority to act of the lower authority.

  • Mike T says:

    No individual can, properly speaking, punish another. One can not punish a thief or even a murderer. What one can do, is to retrieve your property or kill someone in self-defense. But this is not punishment.

    Is it unjust for a Somali militia commander, during the times when Somalia has no formal state, to try and execute a murderer? I would say no, it is not unjust in the least. In the absence of a formal legal authority, the strong have every right to assume that power so long as they wield it justly in defense of their community.

  • Scott W. says:

    Is it unjust for a Somali militia commander, during the times when Somalia has no formal state, to try and execute a murderer?

    The key word in that question is “try”. That is, the commander isn’t just arbitrarily blowing someone away which is how I took Gian’s comment. The commander is using something like due process, evidence, etc.

  • Zippy says:

    Gian:
    Would you agree that your view of property as an authority implies that property is what is secured by arguments and not by force?

    No. Sometimes property is secured by force, sometimes by argument, sometimes by social convention, etc. But how property is secured is accidental not essential. This is true of authority in general, as far as I can tell: as with moral obligations in general, moral obligations to obey authority exist independent of enforcement, punishment, etc.

  • Zippy says:

    Mike T:
    I think you are mistaken when you say that higher authority does not nullify lower authority if by that you mean when a higher authority speaks against the lower, the lower must necessary submit its will to the higher authority thus negating the authority to act of the lower authority.

    I’m not really sure what this means, but every human authority has limited scope, and when it attempts to create moral obligations outside of its scope the attempt fails. So for example the existence of the magistrate’s authority to punish robbery doesn’t nullify a father’s authority over his children. Again there seems to be an assumption that authority is plenary and omnicompetent; but no human authority is plenary and omnicompetent.

  • Zippy says:

    Gian:
    It is the relation of loyalty of the people towards the State that justifies the State, indeed causes the state to be.

    That is definitely wrong. Subordinates cannot make authority illegitimate just by withdrawing their loyalty.

  • Mike T says:

    What I’m saying is that the modern mind tends to draw little distinction between legitimate override (ex the magistrate punishing a father for sexual abuse after the father tries to teach his kids it’s justifiable) versus usurpation (forcing kids to take sex ed classes that directly contradict parental moral values such as those on contraception). It sees mainly a display of power and gravitates to the authority that has the power more often than not. It’s quite pragmatic.

    Subordinates cannot make authority illegitimate just by withdrawing their loyalty.

    As evidenced by criminals being punished anyway. A criminal by his or her very nature has withdrawn consent to be governed in that particular way. The state gives precisely no excrements and punishes them anyway.

  • Mike T says:

    The key word in that question is “try”. That is, the commander isn’t just arbitrarily blowing someone away which is how I took Gian’s comment. The commander is using something like due process, evidence, etc.

    The level of formality is quite debatable. If he has a few decent witnesses, he can reasonably justify just shooting him on the spot. Similarly, if a man catches a fleeing rapist he’s justified in issuing a summary punishment. Or if he comes home to find his home being ransacked, he’s justified in shooting the robbers. Much can be justified simply by the lack of a formal state. It’s easy to say no man’s life is worth a piece of property, but in a state of anarchy the consequence of stopping a robber can easily be the son of a bitch comes back to murder you in your sleep as he fears no legal system punishing him for escalating the violence.

    Consequently, this is why Christians and secular conservatives who get hot and bothered about vigilantism by people thoroughly wronged by the system really get under my skin. They have all sorts of harsh words for the victim who decides to get justice at any price, but can never be found beforehand to demand the system work (or afterward to stridently demand reform and punishment for those in the system who failed). They are not defenders of civilization, but useful idiots for the barbarians. Vigilantism may be generally wrong, but in a state of civilization it is almost always the result of unethical or even criminal conduct by those in authority.

  • Zippy says:

    Mike T:
    It sees mainly a display of power and gravitates to the authority that has the power more often than not. It’s quite pragmatic.

    I’m not sure it is pragmatism as much as it is simply being unmoored from the natural law.

    Pragmatically speaking traditional hierarchical arrangements – with all their admitted flaws as human institutions – work better than the liberal ideal, which isn’t even rationally coherent.

    But in shifting emphasis from what is good to what is willed, liberalism leaves itself with nothing to contend with other than will. So the most powerful will always trumps the less powerful. If this ‘triumph of the will’ business starts to sound like national socialism that is because of the close congenital relation between liberalism and its modern cousins. And it is also an underlying reason why modern people seem largely unable to see authority as anything other than omnicompetent and plenary will.

  • Gian says:

    MikeT,
    “Is it unjust for a Somali militia commander, during the times when Somalia has no formal state, to try and execute a murderer?”

    The militia commander is acting as a Ruler and not as an Individual.

  • Gian says:

    Zippy,
    What do you think of this except from the first chapter of Belloc’s French Revolution?
    “that a political community pretending to sovereignty, that is, pretending to a moral right of defending its existence against all other communities, derives the civil and temporal authority of its laws not from its actual rulers, nor even from its magistracy, but from itself.”
    The Political Theory of the revolution.

  • Gian says:

    ScottW.
    “The commander is using something like due process, evidence, etc.”
    Suppose someone kills my kin. And I consider a due process, evidence etc and find out the killer and execute him. Am I justified, even in the absence of a formal state?
    I would say no.
    So it is not the due process as such that justifies, but, going to the Belloc’s definition above, the self-justifying thing is a “political community pretending to sovereignty”. The due process is a feature of a rational political community. However, I would still say that an absence of due process would render illegitimate acts of the govt of that political community.

  • Gian says:

    Zippy,
    ” how property is secured is accidental not essential”
    if I may interest you, if the essence of authority lies in reason and not in coercion, then this point is not accidental but essential to the very nature of property.

    Perhaps the word “secured” is not apt. May I rephrase as
    “Would you agree that your view of property as an authority implies that property is what is justified by arguments and not by force?”

    For I am unable to see how an authority, that is not justified by reason can be an authority and not merely a coercive power.

  • Zippy says:

    Gian:
    As you know, I don’t have an overarching theory of authority. (There are all sorts of things about which I don’t have an overarching theory).

    But I’m reluctant to sign on to the idea that reason is the cause of legitimate authority. That reason can recognize a thing isn’t the same as reason being the cause of that thing.

  • Gian says:

    Zippy,
    The notion of an ‘authority” as distinguished from brute coercive power whom it is good or just or rational to obey, does not this notion requires answers to the question Why?

    “reason is the cause of legitimate authority.”–not the cause, only that the authority needs to be justified. The word “justification” then implies that arguments would be given, arguments apart from the fear of brute coercion.
    In other words, authority requires apologetics.

  • Zippy says:

    Gian:
    Again, I disagree. A father’s authority or a proprietor’s authority – keeping in mind that an authority is the capacity to create genuinely binding moral obligations in those subject to the authority – exists independent of argument and independent of enforcement.

  • Zippy says:

    Saying that a father’s authority needs to be justified (where “justified” means “explained to reason”) is like saying that a turtle’s shell needs to be “justified”.

    No, it doesn’t. It exists prior to (that kind of) “justification”, and indeed using the term “justification” that way is a frame shift. Argument doesn’t produce turtle shells, and turtle shells don’t magically disappear just because they haven’t been supported by argument.

    So no, no, no: authority doesn’t have to be “justified” by argument. Argument may be capable of showing why some particular authority is justified. But argument does not produce the justification.

  • Mike T says:

    The militia commander is acting as a Ruler and not as an Individual.

    Except the militia commander is not in fact a sovereign, ruler, politician or anything in between.

  • Zippy says:

    The commander is arguably acting as the competent authority for two reasons (assuming both are the case): (1) he is acting on behalf of the common good, not his own interests, and (2) he is not in violation of the positive law of a competent authority to which he is subordinate.

  • Gian says:

    Zippy,
    Turtle shells, indeed, do not disappear but authority has a way of disappearing unless justified. Take a proprietor and his property. If he tells me that he has authority over this thing, that he owns this thing, the natural questions to ask are Why and How.
    And unless he is able to answer to general satisfaction, or at least to the satisfaction of a court of law, he can not be said to own that particular thing but at the most possess the thing, if he indeed possesses it.

    The economists too accept this idea–that ownership is generated through mixing of labor is an argument.

    Otherwise, what you have are mere assertions of proprietors and other authority-holders that they have authority over this or that, But assertions naturally invite counter-assertions. And there are only two ways to decide between rival assertions.
    A) Arguments
    B) Force.

    The idea is that individuals living in state of laws settle by arguments and this kind of authority is what we call “ownership”.
    The princes living in state of nature settle by force. Thus, they do not have authority over each other. They have possessions i.e. territories and it is not theft for a rival prince to take territory from a prince.

  • Gian says:

    Zippy,
    There is also need to consider how economists define “ownership”. Eg Hoppe. I believe, defines property by some kind of argumentation as well.

  • Zippy says:

    Gian:
    Again, I don’t agree that authority arises from argument. That is just flat out false. Authority is as organic and natural as a turtle shell, and in reality it almost never even appears to plausibly arise from argument. When a father exercises authority over his children he doesn’t first consult the philosophers or negotiate its legitimacy with his children; nor does the legitimacy of his authority depend upon him doing so.

  • Gian says:

    Parental authority is not a mere or pure assertion. Arguments justify it.

    I do not understand in what precisely you mean by “authority arising from argument”. It does not mean an argument between a father and his sons.

    Consider, moreover, that parental authority, like all authorities, is a defined and limited thing. How could it be if there were no arguments, no logic that justifies it in this and do not justify in that?

  • Zippy says:

    Gian:
    How can something – a moral capacity in this case – be limited if it isn’t caused by argument? Is that the question? Are things-not-caused-by-argument inherently unlimited?

    The whole thing is backward. Argument doesn’t create authority (where authority is a capacity to impose genuine moral obligations).

    You are conflating the explanation of a thing with the thing itself.

  • Gian says:

    Authority binds because of the logic of the thing such that it would be irrational not to recognize the authority-it would be acting out a lie.

    Thus, the authority of an owner exists because he has mixed his labor with an object. But it is the moral premise–that man must eat of the sweat of his brow-that connects the act (of mixing the labor) with the authority.
    This premise, the argument, is what justifies the authority, Without it, ownership devolves into mere control and possession, evaporating the concept of theft. Control and possession are non-rational things that require no justification. They are maintained or secured with force or coercion.
    It is with (bodily) force one possesses anything but to own it, one must have an argument.

  • Zippy says:

    Gian:
    I don’t really accept any of your premises, so I am not bound to your conclusions.

  • Gian says:

    Zippy,
    At December 5, 2013 at 9:22 am, you yourself justify the militia commander’s authority by giving two arguments. I am not claiming anything more than that.

  • Zippy says:

    Gian:
    My arguments are not what justifies his actions though. Explanation of why something is justified isn’t the source of justification (although we sometimes use the same word to mean both things); in general, explanation of a thing isn’t the cause of the thing. That’s all I am saying.

  • Zippy says:

    Gian:
    Suppose I say “darwinian evolution caused prokaryotes to become eukaryotes.”

    What I have provided, setting aside the question of veracity, is an explanation. I haven’t actually caused prokaryotes to become eukaryotes.

    When people use the term “justification” they use it in two senses. In ones sense they mean an explanation of why X is justified. In the other sense they mean the actual cause of X being justified. These two meanings are entirely distinct, because an explanation of the cause of a thing is not the cause of a thing. When I say “God created the world” my statement doesn’t create the world.

    Your arguments above (and the arguments of the folks you cite) appear to equivocate between these two entirely distinct meanings of “justification”.

  • Mike T says:

    The commander is arguably acting as the competent authority for two reasons (assuming both are the case): (1) he is acting on behalf of the common good, not his own interests, and (2) he is not in violation of the positive law of a competent authority to which he is subordinate.

    I get your point, but I think you’re feeding a fallacious argument by Gian here. In a state of anarchy, any man can morally issue a punishment for a crime because there is no legitimate political authority existent above them. So long as they punish justly, they are justified. I would add once again that justice takes on a mildly more extreme flavor in such a state due to the risk carried by enforcing any act against the common good against an unknown or known, but dangerous, criminal.

    That the commander is acting in the capacity as competent authority in this particular instance does not mean his immediate area of operations has a relationship with him that gives him legitimacy there any more than the next guy.

  • Zippy says:

    Mike T:
    I am not entirely sure that this things called “a state of anarchy” truly exists; and if it does exist, it is extremely rare and inapplicable to almost all moral questions anyone ever faces. It seems more of an idealization, rather like “state of nature”, that gets used as a launching pad for all sorts of different attacks on the legitimacy of authority.

  • Gian says:

    MikeT,
    The state exists by nature–Aristotle.
    People sponteously form states i.e. political organization. Thus true anarchy must be very rare.

    Zippy,
    The princes exist in a state of nature-Locke.
    It seems unobjectionable. There can not be a civil authority over a soverign, by definition. Why do you say this concept gets used as a launching pad against attacks on authority.
    PS The phrase that we are using ‘legitimacy of authority’ is somewhat redundent since authority is what is legitimate.

  • Zippy says:

    Gian:
    What is objectionable about Locke is that his account bears only the most superficial resemblance to reality: just enough resemblance to provide rationalizations to people who are hunting for reasons to defy authority.

    There can not be a civil authority over a soverign, by definition.

    Nonsense.

    The idea of an unconstrained political sovereign qua individual is a kind of mythology that infects the modern mind, especially of people low in the hierarchy. Unconstrained sovereigns make great villains in movies: the powerful CEO or dictator who can do just whatever he chooses.

    It is a myth. Even real-world actual dictators only approach the ideal very approximately.

  • Gian says:

    Zippy,
    “the idea of unconstrained political soverign qua individual”
    Soverieignity inheres in the political community not in any individual.This is from Belloc.
    The constraints on the soverignity are rational nature of man. Proper acts of soverign are ordered to the common good, that implies deliberation on the common good.

  • Zippy says:

    Gian:
    Are you suggesting that Belloc was a Lockean? Or perhaps that Locke’s philosophy can be ‘saved’ by replacing Locke’s ideas of sovereignty with Belloc’s? (Heck, I haven’t read everything by Belloc. It would seem out of character, but it is possible, from my state of ignorance about some of his corpus, that he himself thought he could ‘save’ Locke’s philosophy from itself).

    In any case, it simply isn’t true that authority arises from argument.

    The constraints on the soverignity are rational nature of man. Proper acts of soverign are ordered to the common good, that implies deliberation on the common good.

    Sure: that the legitimate authority of rulers serves the common good, is constrained by nature, and that those who rule are obligated to make reasoned choices in the exercise of authority, is unobjectionable.

    But once again notice the subtle frame shift: the idea that “authority arises from argument” implies that authority is illegitimate without an argument for why this person rules (say, the father) as opposed to that person (say, the mother or the children). That is a bunch of hooey. The fact that a father is morally obligated to exercise reason in service of the common good in exercising his authority does not imply that the legitimacy of his authority is “up for grabs”: that unless the university philosophy department can show that patriarchy is best by argument, the authority of fathers is illegitimate.

  • Gian says:

    Zippy,
    Rousseau, not Locke figures in Belloc’s French revolution. First couple of pages are devoted to the political theory of the revolution that Belloc calls true and eternal.

    “authority arises from argument.”
    Replace “argument” by “the logic of the thing”. Is it acceptable now?

  • Zippy says:

    Not really. “The shell arises from the logic of the turtle” is either outright wrong, or deceptively and perversely worded in such a way as to enable mischief.

  • Mike T says:

    Don’t know if you saw this thread, but it’s kinda amusing to see the reaction that “Howard” got. I’m starting to get a suspicion that I’m picking up on what may have been at least part of your motivation behind moving on from there.

  • Gian says:

    Per economists, a thing is owned when a person mixes his labor with a previously unowned thing.

    Assuming you accept this, how are we to understand this phenomenon?
    Do we take it as a brute fact, incapable of futher understanding or do we seek to derive it from more basic premises?

  • Gian says:

    Zippy,
    The turtle shell analogy is bad. We recognize and accept or deny authority because of our rational nature. The authority is entirely a spiritual or at least non-material. Turtle shells do not apply.

  • Zippy says:

    Gian:
    We recognize and accept or deny authority because of our rational nature.

    That might matter if the source of authority was the recognition and acceptance of the person under authority. But it isn’t.

    Moral obligations – including moral obligations to obey a legitimate authority – do not depend on the person under obligation recognizing and accepting them. Moral obligations do not ‘disappear’ when the obligated person fails to recognize and accept them.

    IOW, “consent” theories are a big lie of modernity.

  • Gian says:

    Obligations under authority are a particular sort of moral obligations. They are particular. The State of USA exerts no obligation on Indians, nor on Americans that choose to renounce their citizenship, and neither on Mexicans that choose to reclaim their lost territories.

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