Feel free to scrape the question-begging faux neutrality off your shoes

June 9, 2014 § 97 Comments

[11] And I saw another beast coming up out of the earth, and he had two horns, like a lamb, and he spoke as a dragon. [12] And he executed all the power of the former beast in his sight; and he caused the earth, and them that dwell therein, to adore the first beast, whose wound to death was healed. [13] And he did great signs, so that he made also fire to come down from heaven unto the earth in the sight of men. [14] And he seduced them that dwell on the earth, for the signs, which were given him to do in the sight of the beast, saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make the image of the beast, which had the wound by the sword, and lived. [15] And it was given him to give life to the image of the beast, and that the image of the beast should speak; and should cause, that whosoever will not adore the image of the beast, should be slain. – Revelations 13:11-15

Liberalism is a two-horned political beast, and the equality horn gets attacked by reactionaries regularly.  (More power to them).

However, many of those same reactionaries openly embrace the core liberal tenet of political freedom. Reactionary blog titles and subtitles invoke liberal slogans like “liberty” this and “anarcho” that, seemingly without irony.  Putative reactionaries argue in my own comboxes for “freedom of association” as some sort of absolute right that renders actions motivated by “freedom of association” intrinsically morally just.  Liturgical alternatives to democracy are proposed to preserve worship of the secular god Liberty. This appears to be a function in part of folks failing to scrape the libertarian fecal matter off their shoes when they supposedly leave their liberal indoctrination behind. So lately I’ve been focusing somewhat on the comparatively neglected freedom horn of the liberal beast.

In the previous post I proposed a definition of the liberal slogan “freedom”:

Comprehensively enforced societal approval of a particular permutation space of preferences, along with the claim that this particular set of preferences is metaphysically neutral.

Offhand this seems like the sort of thing with which a libertarian would agree: that is, the libertarian would agree that liberals do this and disapprove.  I think that is probably because consistent loyalty to libertarianism requires a rather acute lack of introspection, perhaps even moreso than other kinds of liberalism.  Another possible explanation is that because the American republic was founded on classical liberal ideals, and classical liberal capitalism has been around a bit longer than newer forms of liberalism, libertarians are as incapable of seeing the decidedly non-neutral ‘particular permutation space of preferences’ which they want government to initiate force to impose as a fish is of seeing water.

But psychological explanations aside, the particular permutation space of preferences that libertarians initiate force to impose on everyone is, obviously, the preferences of owners in the property regime of capitalism.  Many aspects of this property rights and contract regime represent novel, modern sets of liberal preferences (including such ‘innovations’ as usury) quite distinct from a classically grounded understanding of property as stewardship.  And the notion that capitalism is something which emerges spontaneously from nature, that it is not something built and sustained by big government, is as risible as the Marxist fantasy that the State will just ‘fade away’ once the class war ends and freedom and equality have been achieved.

§ 97 Responses to Feel free to scrape the question-begging faux neutrality off your shoes

  • donalgraeme says:

    I wrote a post a few weeks back Zippy which touches on this area, not sure if you saw it. I noted three distinct ideas (although given the religious fervor people have in this field perhaps deity is a better word) within the liberal “pantheon” which impact pretty much everyone. Including those who reject the label of “liberal.”

    Here is the link, in case you are curious:

    http://donalgraeme.wordpress.com/2014/05/28/the-sound-of-inevitability/

    If you read it already feel free to delete this comment.

  • Cane Caldo says:

    Revelations 13:11-15

    Liberalism is a two-horned political beast…

    You’re tugging at my heartstrings now, Zippy. Very good post.

  • Excellent post. This should be the last word on Nick Land’s crackpottery.

    Some idiot on my blog posted that Scott Alexander’s brilliant phrase ‘malicious inter-community transfer’ justifies the Berlin Wall, because in his monkey brain, the economic frownies = communism = Berlin Wall = barriers to emigration = barriers to immigration.

  • William Luse says:

    the particular permutation space of preferences that libertarians initiate force to impose on everyone is, obviously, the preferences of owners in the property regime of capitalism

    I hope this isn’t off topic, but don’t many libertarians bring this property principle to bear upon the human body?

  • vishmehr24 says:

    The slogan of French Revolution was Liberty.Equality, Solidarity. Thus, the French Revolution does not deny pre-existing human solidarity the way Locke does.
    So, was French Revolution liberalism in action or not?

  • Mike T says:

    libertarians are as incapable of seeing the decidedly non-neutral ‘particular permutation space of preferences’ which they want government to initiate force to impose as a fish is of seeing water.

    As I’ve said, most libertarians do not believe their actions are morally neutral. In fact, they find it morally good to give people the highest freedom possible within the realm of “do no harm to the life, liberty and property of others.” To that end, most of them will unapologetically support state force to protect that form of social organization because they consider it preferences worth imposing for good moral reasons.

  • Zippy says:

    Mike T:
    Frankly that is a load of hooey.

    Libertarianism’s core principle is frequently expressed as the idea that “the initiation of force” is always wrong. Then with their other face they initiate force while proclaiming that their imposition of their novel modern property rights regime (which as Bill suggests frequently includes the body) is not an initiation of force: that it is metaphysically neutral.

    Like all liberalisms, libertarianism pretends to stand politically above questions of morality and act as a “neutral” referee, where that “neutrality” is what gives them the right to tell everyone what to do and how to live. They express this in many ways, e.g. “everyone is free to do as he chooses as long as he doesn’t violate the equal rights of others”, etc.

    So this notion you have that libertarians are unequivocally comfortable imposing a particular morality on everyone without equivocating and claiming metaphysical neutrality is just tommyrot. The moment a libertarian concedes that government does and must and should initiate force to restrict freedom and impose a particular conception of the good on everyone, he has ceased to be a libertarian. He may equivocate and make all sorts of libertarianish noises afterward, but we’ve established what he is and are just haggling over the price.

  • Zippy says:

    donalgraeme:
    Good essay, I hadn’t read it.

    Cane:
    Thanks, I thought you might appreciate the epigraph.

  • josh says:

    Zippy,

    You can’t see me, but I am standing up and applauding you last four posts.

  • CJ says:

    Zippy,

    Where is the initiation of force by libertarians?

  • Zippy says:

    CJ:

    Where is the initiation of force by libertarians?

    Everywhere that they enforce what they claim as “rights”.

    Keep in mind that it is libertarians, not me, who (incoherently) believe in rights and simultaneously that the initiation of force is always morally wrong. They play this game of pretending that the particular basket of rights they insist upon is not an imposition: that it is merely a passive neutrality.

    But of course the property rights they are so fond of (even where I would agree with them in the particular judgement) are an imposition: property rights proactively discriminate between owner and trespasser, and are an initiation of force against trespassers. Just watch what happens when an innocent bystander strays onto their property.

  • Zippy says:

    The especially childish thing about libertarianism is that it claims the moral high ground based on a rubric of “you started it”, when precisely what is at issue in politics is who has what legitimate claims in a conflict.

  • JustSomeGuy says:

    The slogan of French Revolution was Liberty.Equality, Solidarity. Thus, the French Revolution does not deny pre-existing human solidarity the way Locke does.
    So, was French Revolution liberalism in action or not?

    If I say three things, say,

    1. Watermelons are round.
    2. Watermelons are purple.
    3. Watermelons are a fungus.

    The truth of the first statement doesn’t make the second two any less false. Affirming subsidiarity doesn’t make the notions of liberty and equality (which are really just the same essence re-framed anyway) any more valid.

    Of course the French Revolution was liberalism in action.

  • nathanjevans says:

    The especially childish thing about libertarianism is that it claims the moral high ground based on a rubric of “you started it”, when precisely what is at issue in politics is who has what legitimate claims in a conflict.

    I used to be a big Ron Paul nutter, when I was a teenager. When I ran across doctrinaire libertarians (I almost was one), it eventually struck me that they were naive liberals. That’s pretty difficult to be because the liberal project itself is pretty naive, but libertarians make other liberals look like hard-nosed realists. Like you point out with property rights, there does seem to be a limit where the person who owns the property is the aggressor on their own property, which is not consistent with libertarian philosophy.

    Virtually every liberal issue can be spun from a libertarian perspective. That’s why there are left-libertarians and the original libertarians were anarcho-socialists. Eventually, libertarianism breaks down. It can either become rational and start applying a conservative law and order perspective, or it can become radically liberal. The first happens because sometimes libertarians are conservative-minded people who are trying to justify their law and order conservatism to liberals with an appeal to a form of liberal ideology. This is why often the only “right-winger” in a liberal social group is a libertarian.

  • JustSomeGuy says:

    Basically, if a libertarian becomes rational, then he’s not a libertarian anymore.

    The problem is that classic libertarianism (that is, an earlier and less ‘pure’ version of modern liberalism) is about as distant as you can get from liberalism in a liberal society and still have people take you seriously.

    This all leads to a very large temptation to try and reconcile liberalism (and its little brother libertarianism) with rational thought, instead of just abandoning it as irrational. This is usually attempted by means of ultimately nonsensical language games. It seems to be the only way to make any practical progress short of violent revolution.

    But the truth is that the truth is the truth.

  • CJ says:

    And I saw another beast coming up out of the earth, and he had two horns, like a lamb, and he spoke as a dragon. . . .Liberalism is a two-horned political beast, and the equality horn gets attacked by reactionaries regularly.

    It may amuse you to know that in Seventh-Day Adventist theology, this beast is identified as the United States of America.

  • nathanjevans says:

    Basically, if a libertarian becomes rational, then he’s not a libertarian anymore.

    Yes. However, I would say that many libertarians in the Modern West are heart-conservatives who do not have the rational framework to combat liberalism. They were raised in a liberal society that liberalism is the only option, but they want to retain a conservative lifestyle for themselves. The only way to attempt to do that and still be acceptable to a liberal is to adopt a libertarian hands off approach to everything. It really isn’t rational or consistent, but it is a rationalization of two fundamentally competing ideals.

  • Ita Scripta Est says:

    Where is the initiation of force by libertarians

    Consider most of the great libertarian thinkers were radically pro-abortion. When libertarians claim they are against “violence” their definition of “violence” is a highly particular (and I would say peculiar )one. It is not somehow neutral and it obviously does not comport with Christian thinking despite some overlap. So-called “Catholic-libertarians” just sort of shrug this contradiction off if they even bother mentioning it

  • vishmehr24 says:

    Libertarians misconceive the nature of property and how it is acquired. Leaving aside the Catholic view, common sense alone should tell one that no property stands alone. No property is secured by the owner’s guns.

    All property exists within the nexus of laws of a particular state. It is the laws and the might of the State behind the laws that secure a property. Why else are property disputes resolved in Courts of law?

    And what occurs in the law courts? Arguments. Thus, ownership is proved by arguments, ultimately to the moral premise that man must eat of the sweat of his labor.

  • JustSomeGuy says:

    @ vishmehr24

    So, if I break the law (for the sake of the hypothetical scenario, let’s say I was morally justified in doing so) and have to go on the run as a fugitive, then I cannot possibly own any property – including the clothes on my back – because no “state” backs that ownership up?

    Forgive me for saying so, but I’m catching a whiff of B.S.

    Did Abel not own his farm because no “state” backed up said ownership?

  • vishmehr24 says:

    BY property I mean property in land specifically.
    Land is involved in the definition of State. Land along with the people forms the material cause of a State.

    And biblical singularities are irrelevant. Point me to a single instance where landed property is NOT ultimately backed by State might and justified by the laws of State,

  • vishmehr24 says:

    I would say that Abel owned the produce of his crops but not the land itself.

    What does it mean to “own” something? What precisely are you saying when you claim that Abel owned the land he was farming on?

  • JustSomeGuy says:

    Point me to a single instance where landed property is NOT ultimately backed by State might

    American pioneers staking out homesteads. They had no hope of state help if their land was encroached upon.

    and justified by the laws of State

    Just because a state recognizes and affirms an ownership doesn’t mean it is the cause of said ownership.

    What does it mean to “own” something?

    In the dictatorial sense, God owns everything. When a human owns something – like a piece of land – he is really a steward over it. Like with any stewardship, it comes with certain authorities and obligations.

  • JustSomeGuy says:

    For example, let’s say I’m a pioneer on the American frontier. I own the little farm I’ve staked out, along with the house I built for me and my family to live in. I have no state backing – the state has no prescence this far west.

    I have the authority to keep out such characters as thieves and squatters. However, I also have an obligation to provide shelter to the starving Indian who stumbled upon my doorstep near death.

  • You obviously haven’t bothered to look up the Homestead Act or even read the Little House books’ plot summaries. The pioneers only existed because of specific state intervention and use of force.

  • vishmehr24 says:

    “American pioneers staking out homesteads”

    I wonder why the English settlers only settled lands claimed by the English crown, the French settlers only settled lands claimed by the French crown, the Spanish settlers only settled lands claimed by the Spanish crown, the Portuguese settlers only settled lands claimed by the Portuguese crown?

    Why didn’t the American pioneer ever settle land that was claimed by Canada?. They did settle some Mexican land and strangely that land was later incorporated in USA.

    Is it true or false that all the land the pioneers ever settled was already claimed by either the American State or the Mexican State?

  • vishmehr24 says:

    JustSomeGuy,
    I would say that in your case, you are acting as the local representative of the State.

    The crucial thing is that you would need to prove your ownership in an American Court of law (were some dispute to arise).

    The thing that separates ownership from mere possession is that ownership can be proved or justified by words alone while mere possession is held by brute force.

    Animals do not own their territories. Men do (and then we should not call it territory but property).

  • vishmehr24 says:

    What is puzzling is simultaneous holding of the Lockean homesteading and disdain for Lockean individualism.

    I wonder if you homestead alone, not as a part of a movement of a People and entirely without State backing, then how come your homestead is ever incorporated in USA? Is it not a loss of your sovereignty and independence?

  • vishmehr24 says:

    To clear a possible confusion, my point is not that a State causes ownership, or even the State recognizes and affirms a pre-existing ownership.

    My point is that the concept of “ownership” makes sense only in a state of laws.

    In a state of nature, land can not be “owned”, only held by brute force.
    Such as various nations hold their territories by brute force. The nations, it should be clear, are in a state of nature with respect to each other.

  • Zippy says:

    Re: homesteading, it is probably worthwhile to distinguish between actual historical practices in a particular place and the natural law. I think it is probably incorrect to view property under the natural law as an authority which can only be derived from some superior authority — as nothing but (ahem) a derivation of the authority of the sovereign. This may be clearer by thinking of (e.g.) tools or weapons which become a man’s property when he makes them.

    Authority is organic, and I don’t have an overarching reductionist scientistic Darwinian theory of its origins. But that doesn’t mean we can’t observe it in the wild and come to know some things about it. I know some readers would be happier if I reduced authority to a simple theory of atoms, physical laws, and the void. But it doesn’t seem to have occurred to those positivist readers that a true reductive theory might not exist at all, or might inherently leave out important truths about the reality.

  • Cane Caldo says:

    Point of order:

    Abel was a shepherd, not a farmer. He roamed the land. Cain, who killed Abel in a fit of envy, was a farmer who worked a particular territory.

  • Zippy says:

    Peppermint:
    I just read a post that Free Northerner linked to in a “lightning round.” The poster agreed with me that “patchwork” is a form of liberalism, although he apparently approves.

    But what struck me about it was the credence given to computer games as a reasonable model of reality. It instantly brought to mind global warmist faith in their computer models. It really is a new kind of religion.

  • Cane Caldo says:

    @Zippy

    It really is a new kind of religion.

    A new shape, perhaps. Computers operate on GIGO, so a computer-based religion (which seems an accurate portrayal to me) is just idolatry of the self on a screen.

  • JustSomeGuy says:

    You obviously haven’t bothered to look up the Homestead Act or even read the Little House books’ plot summaries. The pioneers only existed because of specific state intervention and use of force.

    The Homestead Acts came more than a hundred years later than what I’m talking about.

    I’m talking about the settlers who couldn’t even point to their land on a map, because the land they settled had not yet been mapped.

    Nevertheless, the point isn’t the history. The point is natural law. Sorry to get all hypothetical on you, but consider the following situation:

    Me and my family are shipwrecked on a deserted island. We build a little house and cultivate a small plot of land. We own that house and that land, despite a lack of state backing.

    wonder why the English settlers only settled lands claimed by the English crown, the French settlers only settled lands claimed by the French crown, the Spanish settlers only settled lands claimed by the Spanish crown, the Portuguese settlers only settled lands claimed by the Portuguese crown?

    The claiming that went on in the time period I’m talking about was mostly a joke. Those countries you mentioned couldn’t even point to the territory they’d “claimed” on a map. They basically said, “I claim everything in a that-way-derly direction, and screw any claims to the land the indigenous people might have.”

    Besides, as I said before, the settlers had no hope of state help if their land was encroached upon. The state couldn’t even tell you where all the settlers were.

    There’s a big difference between the state affirming something and the state enforcing something.

    Just because the US affirms that Ukraine owns Crimea doesn’t mean the US is going to enforce that claim over Russia. Just because a government affirms that a settler owns a plot of land doesn’t mean it’s going to enforce that claim over an attacker.

    The thing that separates ownership from mere possession is that ownership can be proved or justified by words alone while mere possession is held by brute force.

    Guy1: “Whose land is this?”
    Guy2: “Mine.”
    Guy1: “Okay.”

    Note: Whether or not Guy1 decides to respect Guy2’s claim is independent of whether or not Guy2’s claim is legitimate.

    What is puzzling is simultaneous holding of the Lockean homesteading and disdain for Lockean individualism.

    First, I’d like to say that I’m unfamiliar with what Locke taught about homesteading, so I’m unaware of how congruent what I believe on the matter is with what he taught.

    Nevertheless, just because I agree with something a person taught doesn’t mean I agree with everything a person taught.

    I agree with a couple things Hitler taught, even though I disagree with him on almost everything.

    I disagree with a couple things Aquinas taught, even though I agree with him on almost everything.

    Is it not a loss of your sovereignty and independence?

    Clearly you’re not understanding the hierarchical nature of authority.

    My point is that the concept of “ownership” makes sense only in a state of laws.

    Natural Law is most definitely a state of laws. God wrote them.

    @Cane Caldo: Thanks for the correction. Cain is who I meant; I just accidentally used the wrong name.

  • You’re just shifting the terrain. Most Americans understand pioneers and homesteading to refer to Homestead Act era mass migrations westward. The people “a hundred years earlier” you now claim to be speaking of are not generally considered “the pioneers”.

  • JustSomeGuy says:

    The Unreal Woman: “I’m upset that JustSomeGuy made a valid point, so now I’m going to make a Red Herring fallacy by griping about the terminology he used.”

  • Zippy says:

    I’m no historian, but wasn’t Daniel Boone dead and gone a half century before the Homestead Acts?

  • vishmehr24 says:

    “Me and my family are shipwrecked on a deserted island. We build a little house and cultivate a small plot of land. We own that house and that land, despite a lack of state backing”

    I would say you do not own that land, but merely possess it.
    Land ownership is always political, even going back to biblical times.

    Your use of word “state backing” indicates my failure in conveying the essential difference between “owning” and “possessing”.

    You “own” something when you can convince other people that your possession is rightful. That, there is something in the logic of the situation that justifies the possession.
    It could be that (a) finding and picking up a fallen fruit lying in a public road
    (b) Picking up a fruit from an unowned tree
    (c) making a tool from unowned raw materials.
    etc

    The act of convincing others inevitably takes political complexion. The natural law is not monolithic. Things other than land can be “owned” that is their ownership can be discussed and argued with perfect strangers.
    That is, non-criminal reasonable strangers.

    BUT the ownership of land can not be so discussed. One needs a certain political relation between people so that land ownership can be argued.

    The plots of privately owned land ALWAYS exist within and have NEVER existed outside a political territory. A territory that was held by the might of the tribe and the nation.

    Thus, land ownership is relative to some given state of laws and is governed by those laws.
    So, the thing is not “State backing” but that the concept of land ownership itself makes sense only within a state of laws.

    Basically, you own something if the dispute as to the ownership can be resolved in a court of law. Otherwise, it is a mere possession.

  • vishmehr24 says:

    Just One Guy,
    Is it not a loss of your sovereignty and independence?

    Clearly you’re not understanding the hierarchical nature of authority.
    ————————-

    I understand the hierarchical nature of authority. The point was that to a pioneer, it was natural to be incorporated in the USA or an English colony since he always felt himself to be an American or an Englishman. Thus, his homestead was a part and parcel of the American territory.

    The pioneer would have resisted being incorporated in the Mexican hierarchy of authority, I am sure.

    Now, Zippy needs to ponder why the pioneer would welcome American hierarchy of authority and resist Mexican hierarchy.

  • vishmehr24 says:

    “Whether or not Guy1 decides to respect Guy2′s claim is independent of whether or not Guy2′s claim is legitimate. ”

    The legitimacy of ownership claims is always determined in the courts of law. There does not exist and never existed and would never exist any other way to determine the legitimacy.

  • vishmehr24 says:

    “wonder why the English settlers only settled lands claimed by the English crown,”

    The mere fact that the settlement of New World took place in a well-defined pattern tells us that settlement was an action of people as whole. It was not merely an agglomeration of individual processes but a collective, political process.

  • vishmehr24 says:

    Just One Guy,
    “just because I agree with something a person taught doesn’t mean I agree with everything a person taught.”

    True, but Locke’s homesteading argument is basic to his individualism.
    If you accept one, you are bound to accept the other.

  • JustSomeGuy says:

    I would say you do not own that land, but merely possess it.

    So I have no authority (keep in mind that authority is distinct from power) over that land at all? I cannot obligate the marauder to refrain from salting my field and burning my home? An exercise of power to prevent a marauder from doing these things would be unjust?

    Land ownership is always political, even going back to biblical times.

    I believe I already provided Cain and New World settlers as counter-examples to this notion.

    You “own” something when you can convince other people that your possession is rightful.

    Ownership is an authority. Part of the nature of a legitimate authority is that it is binding regardless of the consent of those it binds. Are the ten commandments any less binding to those people who have not been “convinced they are rightful”?

    Whether or not I legitimately own something in the first place has nothing at all to do with convincing other people of said ownership.

    The act of convincing others inevitably takes political complexion.

    And is also completely irrelevant to whether or not an authority (like ownership) exists in the first place.

    The plots of privately owned land ALWAYS exist within and have NEVER existed outside a political territory.

    I believe that’s already been demonstrated to be manifestly false.

    Basically, you own something if the dispute as to the ownership can be resolved in a court of law. Otherwise, it is a mere possession.

    Courts are great for proving things. A court can prove my ownership of a piece of land, but I still own what I own even if a court never proves it. The state doesn’t make things just by proclaiming them so – rather it is the state’s duty to figure out what is just.

    The pioneer would have resisted being incorporated in the Mexican hierarchy of authority, I am sure.

    Ignoratio Elenchi.

    Like I said, part of the nature of legitimate authority is that it is binding regardless of the consent of those it binds.

    The legitimacy of ownership claims is always determined in the courts of law.

    The legitimacy of ownership claims is not determined in courts of law. They may be proven in courts of law, but a claim does not become legitimate because a court says so, rather courts have a duty to figure out what claims are legitimate.

    Locke’s homesteading argument is basic to his individualism.
    If you accept one, you are bound to accept the other.

    Well that’s a pretty blatant non-sequiter.

    The argument that managing opportunity costs is fundamental to doing business is basic to the argument that profitable full-recourse loans are not usury. Just because I accept the first doesn’t mean I accept the second.

  • vishmehr24 says:

    Just One Guy,
    The ten commandments were explicitly justified by God Himself. The justification being the act of God that brought Hebrews out of bondage.

    Any assertion of authority has to be justified. That you distinguish Authority from mere coercion means that authority is a rational thing. Being rational means that arguments can be adduced to support the assertion of authority. If there are no arguments, that what you have is not an assertion of authority but an assertion of mere coercion.

    The Lockean homesteading argument is an ARGUMENT. It actually supports my contention. I only think that it is slightly lacking in not considering the political context of homesteading.

    Your example of shipwrecked family claiming land BECAUSE they developed it is an ARGUMENT and perfectly illustrates my contention that the assertions of authority must be rational and thus backed by ARGUMENTS.

    I only add a certain political context to Lockean arguments–my argument being that the sovereign assertion is an unanswerable argument.
    What the community decides overrides any individual claim. This is manifestly true. A community can ask for sacrifice of life from its soldiers, can seize any land. There is no nation in the world that disallows the State from adjusting private property for public good (as it thinks fit).

    Even CCC says that land has been given to all the people in common (Universal destination of goods).

  • vishmehr24 says:

    “Any assertion of authority has to be justified.”

    That is, must be capable of being justified.

  • vishmehr24 says:

    “I cannot obligate the marauder to refrain from salting my field and burning my home? An exercise of power to prevent a marauder from doing these things would be unjust?”

    You can defend yourself with guns. You are perfectly justified in replying to an invasion.

    I merely said that you do not own the “land”. But you still possess it and mere possession does not require arguments. China does not need to justify to UN its occupation of Tibet. Possession is defended by brute force and morality is not involved.

  • vishmehr24 says:

    Zippy,
    “This may be clearer by thinking of (e.g.) tools or weapons which become a man’s property when he makes them.”

    I contend that LAND is in a separate class by itself and its ownership is inextricable from the political context.

  • Zippy says:

    vishmehr24:

    I contend that LAND is in a separate class by itself and its ownership is inextricable from the political context.

    All property involves politics in a very broad sense, because politics is the art of resolving conflicts. If there are no even potentially conflicting claims then the issue of proprietorship never comes up.

  • vishmehr24 says:

    But landed property involves politics in an extremely narrow sense.
    There does not exist a landed property outside a political jurisdiction.

  • Zippy says:

    vishmehr24:

    There does not exist a landed property outside a political jurisdiction.

    JustSomeGuy provided counterexamples, which means that you probably ought to revisit your underlying assumptions.

  • James Kabala says:

    How does the issue where you made your name (opposition to torture) fit into all this? Most pre-liberal societies took the justifiability of torture for granted.

  • Marissa says:

    Now, Zippy needs to ponder why the pioneer would welcome American hierarchy of authority and resist Mexican hierarchy.

    In the case of Texas, the Mexican government was “tyrannical” which might just be a codeword for forbidding slavery.

  • Zippy says:

    James Kabala:
    I can interpret your rather general question a number of ways, so I guess I’ll pick two that come to mind.

    In my waterboarding series I specifically approached the subject from an understanding that positivism is false. Pro-waterboarding advocates leveraged the fact that most modern people are positivists in their arguments: that’s why there was all the hubbub over definitions. I turned their positivism against them quite deliberately in The Gasping Grimoire: see my discussion of “appeal to an incomplete definition”. Furthermore, my entire set of arguments takes for granted that there is no positivist theory of torture.

    Secondly and more generally, one reason I am more comfortable with things like development of doctrine than some other Catholics is precisely because I am not positivist. New understandings of old truths are inevitable; e.g. I’ve written here about how failure to hold the line on usury and other modern errors about property have made Christian rejection of chattel slavery seem more discontinuous than it truly is (sample post).

    It is probably fair, generally speaking, to characterize me as a reactionary. But at least I don’t make the novice reactionary mistake of assuming that everything new (or frequently just apparently new) is automatically wrong.

  • JustSomeGuy says:

    The ten commandments were explicitly justified by God Himself.

    As are all legitimate authorities.

    Were the ten commandments any less binding before God spelled them out to the Hebrews? Was “Thou shalt not kill” any less binding to Cain when he murdered his brother? Morality doesn’t change ever, but we can grow in our understanding of morality through both reason and revelation.

    I am just as bound to obey any legitimate authority as I am to the ten commandments.

    Any assertion of authority has to be justified.

    I’d edit this to say, “Any assertion of authority has to be just.”

    “Just” is in the very nature of legitimate authority. Authority is a capacity to create moral obligations. Creating an immoral moral obligation is metaphysically impossible – it’s a contradiction in terms.

    An exercise of legitimate authority – by definition – has to be just.

    What the community decides overrides any individual claim.

    And that may or may not be a legitimate exercise of authority. It depends on the particulars of the situation being discussed.

    You are perfectly justified in replying to an invasion.

    Well then I own my property. If you can make a positive moral statement about the land like I am “justified in replying to an invasion”, then obviously I have the authority to do so. The authority of ownership.

    Possession is defended by brute force and morality is not involved.

    Morality is always involved in an exercise of force. Either the exercise of force is just or it is unjust.

  • vishmehr24 says:

    From a reactionary perspective, the adherence to Lockean homesteading is inconsistent. The Lockean homesteading i.e. individual authority to land ownership WITHOUT consideration of the political context LEADS inevitably to liberalism. There is no way out.

    To see this, consider what is the difference between an individual’s ownership of his land and the occupation of American territory by American people.

    If you start with an individual, who by his own dint, has authority over his land,. he could only join a nation by surrendering some of his authority.

    BEGIN with isolated individuals, END in liberalism.
    To END in authoritarianism, you must BEGIN with the NATION.

  • vishmehr24 says:

    By not considering the political aspect of ownership and by NOT distinguishing between land ownership and territorial possession, Zippy would be obliged to say that Americans stole the Indian land but it does not matter since it was so long ago, and anyway all nations begin by an act of stealing.

    Apart from anything else, it is an abuse of language. Americans did not steal Indian land like a thief, but conquered it proudly. It is not something Americans should be ashamed of. And, indeed, no people have ever been ashamed of their territorial conquests and it is ONLY the liberals that ever say that Americans STOLE Indian land.

  • JustSomeGuy says:

    individual authority to land ownership WITHOUT consideration of the political context LEADS inevitably to liberalism.

    Who said the political context was irrelevant? I didn’t.

    It’s just not necessary.

    Plus, that’s limiting the concept of ‘politics’ to formal governments. As Zippy pointed out earlier when he said,

    All property involves politics in a very broad sense, because politics is the art of resolving conflicts. If there are no even potentially conflicting claims then the issue of proprietorship never comes up.

    politics is not limited to just formal governments. When a potential marauder arrives on my island and I talk him down, that’s politics. No formal governments were involved.

    Your disjointed raving about how either the ‘isolated individual’ or ‘the nation’ must be the absolute be-all-end-all in matters of the authority called ownership reveals that you actually don’t understand the hierarchical nature of authority, despite your claim otherwise.

  • vishmehr24 says:

    “JustSomeGuy provided counterexamples,”
    (1) A Hebrew fable dealing with entirely other matters
    (2) An hypothetical example of shipwrecked family landing on a deserted and unclaimed island.

    Not the examples I was asking.

  • JustSomeGuy says:

    A Hebrew fable

    vishmehr: “The bible! She lies!”

    An hypothetical example

    If you’re unhappy with the hypothetical, use this guy instead.

    Oh, and you forgot the New World settlers.

  • vishmehr24 says:

    ” politics is the art of resolving conflicts.”
    Politics comes from the polis meaning city. It does not mean and in particular, in political theory, it does not mean, art of resolving conflicts, whatever they may be. Would you include resolution of marital conflicts politics?

    Politics is the science of Polis, of understanding the City of Men. This is how the ancients understood it and I don’t see why I am obliged to follow idiosyncratic redefinitions.

  • JustSomeGuy says:

    I don’t see why I am obliged to follow idiosyncratic redefinitions.

    We can have a positivist debate over the definition of politics all day, but I’m afraid you’ve thrown a Red Herring.

    I believe I said,

    Who said the political context was irrelevant? I didn’t.

    It’s just not necessary.

  • vishmehr24 says:

    Ownership is a particular authority that exists in particular circumstances. It is not required for self-defense or to repel an invasion.
    Consider a roaming tribe that does not possess any particular bit of land. It is still perfectly justified to repel an invasion.

    I am not denying that people have lived marooned on islands for years. I question however, if they may be said to “own” their islands in the same sense a city-dweller may be said to own his house

    The New World settler example has been responded to but I see you do not appreciate the point that was made.

    PS This casual flinging about of “positivist” is getting ridiculous. Would you care to explain how precisely my comment on idiosyncratic redefinition of politics is “positivist”?

  • JustSomeGuy says:

    It is not required for self-defense

    Of course not. I’ve never argued that you must be standing on land that you own in order to justly defend yourself from an attack.

    or to repel an invasion.

    This is where we differ. Repelling invasion just is repulsing an intruder from that which you own.

    Alexander could have justly removed an intruder from his dwelling on Juan Fernández even if said intruder didn’t attack his person. He could do so because he owned his dwelling.

    Consider a roaming tribe that does not possess any particular bit of land. It is still perfectly justified to repel an invasion.

    Except that’s self-defense, not repelling invasion. They’re defending themselves, they’re not defending the land.

    I am not denying that people have lived marooned on islands for years. I question however, if they may be said to “own” their islands in the same sense a city-dweller may be said to own his house.

    Unless we’re talking about a truly tiny island, it’s unlikely that one could own the whole island. In the case of Alexander, I would say he most definitely owned at least the huts he built and their immediate surroundings.

    The New World settler example has been responded to

    And said response has been refuted.

    This casual flinging about of “positivist” is getting ridiculous.

    Have you considered the possibility that you only perceive it as a ‘casual flinging about’ because you have positivist tendencies?

    Your argument with Zippy in this thread has revealed that you do lean towards positivism on at least a subconscious level.

    Would you care to explain how precisely my comment on idiosyncratic redefinition of politics is “positivist”?

    Again referring to the other thread, you seem to be searching for a ‘line of demarcation’ between political problems and non-political problems.

  • Mike T says:

    I am not denying that people have lived marooned on islands for years. I question however, if they may be said to “own” their islands in the same sense a city-dweller may be said to own his house.

    Ownership has two facets here: moral and political claim. You staked a legitimate claim through moral means, that grants you a moral claim. The law (in a reasonable society) will immediately translate that into a political claim before the law. All title to a property is is a useful abstraction for aiding courts in resolving who owns what. Other abstractions allow for uses of property that are very difficult to enforce in a state of nature such as mineral rights because their very nature relies on partial grants of authority over the property.

    But eminent domain alone makes your case difficult. It’s a modern innovation that eminent domain must entail a fair market value for the seized land. For much of Western history, it was whatever the state wished to pay you–if anything. Who had a better claim to the land? A shipwrecked family on an island who probably never have to fight off marauders or a small homeowner ordered off his land for pennies on the dollar by the king?

    It’s all relative and comes back to the fact that the line between politics and the state of nature is not as profound as philosophers often think.

  • Zippy says:

    vishmehr24:

    Zippy would be obliged to say that Americans stole the Indian land but it does not matter since it was so long ago, and anyway all nations begin by an act of stealing.

    Whatever vocabulary is used, if being a bona fide reactionary requires me to ignore atrocities committed by my own people and sanctify the Trail of Tears as holy and proud conquest, you can definitely count me out.

    Trying to pin the label “liberal” on me of all people is another thing that ought to make you reexamine your premises, especially given how many words you’ve produced attempting to defend political freedom and equality from my criticisms.

  • Zippy says:

    Mike T:

    …the line between politics and the state of nature is not as profound as philosophers often think.

    In other words, there is no simple positive demarcation procedure or method which applies to all situations that allows us to turn the crank on the rule-interpretation machine and produce the right answer in every conceivable case.

    In still other words, positivism is incoherent.

  • JustSomeGuy says:

    Again referring to the other thread, you seem to be searching for a ‘line of demarcation’ between political problems and non-political problems.

    Allow me to extrapolate, in an attempt to head off some arguments before they’re even made.

    vishmehr, you said:

    Politics is the science of Polis, of understanding the City of Men.

    I think you’re trying to set the ‘line of demarcation’ between political problems and non-political problems at the city walls.

    My follow-up question is “What constitutes a city?”

    I think it can be likened to the Sorites Paradox.

    One man isn’t a city. Is two? Three? At what point does it stop to be a conglomeration of men and start to be a city? There is no absolutist line of demarcation that will tell us. To paraphrase Zippy:

    That doesn’t mean that there are no political statements and non-political statements. The fact that there is no non-arbitrary demarcation between a few grains of sand and a sand pile doesn’t mean that there is no such thing as sand piles, and the fact that there is no non-arbitrary demarcation between a few men and a city doesn’t mean that there is no such thing as a city.

  • jf12 says:

    fwiw fuzzy logic is “just as” logical as binary logic, and immediately cuts all of the merely linguistic demarcation problems, like the Sorites paradox.

  • Zippy says:

    If they are pertinent at all, fuzzy and other non-exploding logics are just a mathematical form of acknowledging the reality of the demarcation problem. Kind of like Feynman’s normalization “trick” to keep the mathematics of quantum electrodynamics from exploding.

  • jf12 says:

    Re: trick. If reality presents a real decision problem as a monotonically increasing sigmoidal function from “very probably not” to “very probably so”, then it was always a simplistic “trick” to approximate the decision problem as a binary step function, with predictably wearisome handwringing over where precisely to draw the line. THIS is the where the paradox arises: the fiction that an approximate model should be forced to have precise parameters.

  • Zippy says:

    jf12:
    Now you’ve entered into the metaphysical domain though by assuming that “probably true” means something about reality as distinct from our knowledge of reality. Math isn’t going to help you there.

  • jf12 says:

    It’s probably true that the 5 second rule applies kinda sorta in most of the situations in which it is purported to be probably true. It’s never true at all that the 5.00000000000000000000 second rule is a better rule than the 5 second rule.

  • Zippy says:

    jf12:
    And it is probably true that if you need to know which government you are morally obligated to obey, you just need the address of City Hall.

  • jf12 says:

    Re: address. Probably, if I was under the jurisdiction of a City, which I’m not, being in the County, but most people probably are in a City. Aren’t they?

  • Marissa says:

    Even counties have a county seat, which is typically a large, or the largest, town within that county. And that town has a city hall, or a “municipal administration building”.

  • jf12 says:

    The county commissioners tend to meet in the county admin building, if that helps. I guess what I’m saying is that the *physical* reality is that a lot of truths have degrees of truthiness, whether anyone wants them to or not. The government *tends* to meet *usually* *near* the county clerk’s *normal* office (except for recent renovations). Technically I think the official procedure for finding out the next planned location, if it differs which it can and has, is to ask the clerk or the judge if you can find him.

  • Cane Caldo says:

    This conversation reminds me of an episode of “Life”. According to my memory it goes something like:

    “Because particles are always in motion, and I’m made of particles, it would be incorrect for me to say I’m ‘here’. I’m only more likely to be here than somewhere else.”

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  • jf12 says:

    @Cane Caldo, you’re right in a sense. It’s merely ignorance, blindness, childishness, and a certain wistfully stubborn clinging to naivete that permits anyone to claim to believe in many simple truths and to say untruths handwavingly as if they were fuzzily true. “Let’s say for the sake of argument we are each in one location. You know what I mean.”

    The problem always arises when the person that said that then pretends his meaning changes so that he can make that fuzzy thing into so precise truth. “Hah! Then you admit I’m right! People are exactly like geometric points, having exact locations.”

  • Cane Caldo says:

    @jf12

    The problem always arises when the person that said that then pretends his meaning changes so that he can make that fuzzy thing into so precise truth. “Hah! Then you admit I’m right! People are exactly like geometric points, having exact locations.”

    The problem arises when the same cop who asked, “Is the Professor Here?”, later comes to shoot the professor. Bullets are not distracted by the precise but inaccurate argument that the Professor isn’t ‘here’.

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  • […] modernist initiatives, this cannot be ‘accomplished’ without being very careful to avoid seeing the whole picture.  As we saw in the neoreactionary discussion of exit versus voice, the substantive difference […]

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