The right to life, liberty, and cows

May 13, 2017 § 123 Comments

Modern people have been trained by centuries of usury (among other things) to have a hard time distinguishing between an actual thing and the mere idea of a thing.  

In the case of usury this failure to perceive the difference between real things and mere ideas shows up in how contracts for profit are secured: as St. Francis Xavier put it, “in the whole matter of security for contracts”.  A non-usurious contract for profit is secured by property which actually exists, and only that specifed property.  A usurious contract for profit is secured by (sometimes in addition to some actual property) the mere idea of property: by a personal IOU.

A pledge to give an investor a cow next year is not — the pledge is not — an actual cow.  It is not usurious to pledge to give an investor a cow next year as part of a contract for profit; but only so long as that pledge is secured by some property which actually does exist, which fully discharges the obligation.  The pledge is not to hand over a cow next year simpliciter, but to hand over either the actually existent security or a cow, thereby fully discharging the borrower’s obligation.  A well structured contract will incentivise but not guarantee the latter.

The term ‘right’ is (like many terms) multivocal, kind of like the term ‘cow’. A right which actually has teeth is a particular right: a specific exercise of discriminating authority which trumps all other claims in a particular instance, treating one specific claim as superior to all other claims. Bob is the owner and Fred is the trespasser, so Fred must depart Bob’s property or be dragged off to jail.

Other uses of the term ‘right’ include talking about abstract categories of rights as opposed to actual rights. Again, kind of like cows. The idea that everyone has an equal right to (e.g) property is like (indeed is a superset of) the idea that everyone has an equal right to cows.

If this right is actual as opposed to abstract then it pertains to a particular cow or cows; and no particular cow is equal to any other particular cow. If Fred slaughters and eats Bob’s beef, he goes to jail.  

Furthermore, many people don’t have a cow (other than metaphorically, when all of this is pointed out). The mere idea of beef is not a meal equivalent to actual beef.

There is nothing more authoritative and discriminatory than an actual right; nothing more empty and unreal than an abstract right with no instantiation.  Owning a hypothetical cow is categorically distinct from owning an actual cow.  Reality is categorically distinct from fiction.

It is sometimes suggested that my understanding of liberalism is flawed because it relies on a concept of rights which is “absolute”.  But what critics see as “absolute” in my criticism of liberalism is simply recognition that the difference between reality and fiction is a categorical distinction, not a matter of gradiation. The difference between the idea of a cow and an actual cow is not a matter of moving along some continuum of compromise with a possible happy medium. Being and non-being are absolutely distinct.

The liberal war on authoritative particularity arises from its commitment to political liberty framed in terms of rights: arises from the fact that nothing discriminates (contra equality) and constrains (contra liberty) like actual, real, existent particular things.  And conservative liberalism, as the more sane and commonsensical sphere of liberal societies, makes the mistake of believing that a happy medium is possible between reality and the void.

§ 123 Responses to The right to life, liberty, and cows

  • Scott W. says:

    There is nothing more authoritative and discriminatory than an actual right; nothing more empty and unreal than an abstract right with no instantiation

    Or as Monty Python put it:.

  • Zippy says:

    The introduction of Monty Python into the narrative makes this necessary:

  • “Being and non-being are absolutely distinct.”

    Well, that is somewhat reassuring. It is good to know there are still some absolutes in the world.

  • TomD says:

    I never noticed the cow with a rosary.

  • donalgraeme says:

    The difference between the idea of a cow and an actual cow is not a matter of moving along some continuum of compromise with a possible happy medium. Being and non-being are absolutely distinct.

    Money quote right here. Unfortunately I must admit that I bought into this idea in the past without even thinking about it. Which I suspect is the case with many.

  • This is one way to get a cow. Also, the idea of Sir Lancelot being in a giant wooden rabbit is not actually Sir Lancelot being in a giant wooden rabbit.

  • It’s symbolic of his struggle against reality.

    Beautiful quote right there.

  • Step2 says:

    Necessary Python quote – Dennis the Peasant: Listen, strange women lyin’ in ponds distributin’ swords is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony.

  • Step2 says:

    On topic, I welcome the idea that abstract ideas and personal contractual promises are entirely fictional and worthless and those abstract ideas (aka Forms) are categorically distinct from and provide no limits or requirements upon the exercise of particular instances.

  • Zippy says:

    Step2:

    You needn’t concern yourself with litanies of straw men. It only needs to be pointed out that the idea of a cow is not the same thing as an actual cow for the rest to follow.

    So unless you disagree with that, you are just shadow-boxing.

  • Step2 says:

    Zippy,
    The structural basis of your argument doesn’t even makes sense to me. Are you claiming the idea of owning a cow (even a particular cow) cannot become actual ownership? Because that is what you should be proving if you want to attack the abstract right (pursuit of property) in question.

  • Zippy says:

    Step2:

    Are you claiming the idea of owning a cow (even a particular cow) cannot become actual ownership?

    Substitute “is not” for “cannot become”, and you are close. Again, all I need stipulated is that the idea of a cow isn’t the same as an actual cow.

    Liberalism is a political doctrine: an understanding of the just exercise of authority which is contrary to the nature of every actual exercise of authority.

  • Step2 says:

    Zippy,
    Again, all I need stipulated is that the idea of a cow isn’t the same as an actual cow.

    I would say again that the abstract freedom you are attacking is freedom of pursuit of owning a cow, so trying to constrain the conceptual discussion to a present tense only time-frame makes it impossible to talk about the thing you are supposedly attacking.

  • Zippy says:

    Step2:

    Freedom to pursue owning a cow isn’t a well defined concept without specifying concrete means. It is like the freedom to dream big: it is entirely irrelevant to politics until it comes into conflict with other dreamers.

    Once you specify concrete means for particular persons, etc, you are back in the same soup. Fred’s freedom to pursue cows by rustling them off the plains conflicts with Bob’s freedom to pursue cows by breeding his herd. Only one of them is going to end up on the gallows.

    Every actual exercise of a right (whether of a right-to-pursue or a right-to-anything-else) asserts discriminatory authority.

    Politics – actual exercise of authority – is always social, always involves discriminating reciprocity, whereby certain persons and actions are authoritatively empowered while others are authoritatively restricted. That’s what politics-in-act is. Hermits living alone on distant planets don’t engage in (real) politics (though I suppose they might engage in imaginary politics or schizophrenic multiple personality disorder politics).

  • Zippy says:

    Here is Thomas Jefferson on liberty construed as equal rights:

    Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add ‘within the limits of the law’ because law is often but the tyrant’s will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual.

    Politics is precisely the point where controvertible cases are concretely resolved by authority, though, through actual decisions by authority. So liberty is unobstructed action according to our will except when our will is limited by the exercise of authority. Authority doesn’t operate except where it operates.

    Rephrasing the space in which authority actually operates as “limits drawn around us by the rights of others” is empty words: is just the same as noticing that politics is politics, authority is authority, and doesn’t operate where it doesn’t operate.

    Introducing the term ‘equal’ sends it down the rabbit hole, by proposing that all actual exercises of discriminating authority are valid only to the extent they don’t discriminate or exercise authority.

  • GJ says:

    Instead of concrete acts of discrimination by real authorities, the analysis of rights by liberals, such as it is, can at best describe rights as concepts that exist primarily (or only) abstractly, in the realm of ideas. For them, rights must primarily be construed as abstract, because of all the problems and mess that ensue when their ideas of rights are made concrete.

    For liberalism to have any teeth, liberal conceptions of rights must be actualised in reality to some degree. But of course, when these lead to messiness or worse, that is No True Liberalism.

  • GJ says:

    The analytical liberal approach is to banish real authorities from the discussion, claim the fact-value distinction, and then invoke just-so ‘rights’ from the ether to fill the moral vacuum.

    Real authorities must be banished, not only because they make unwanted demands, but because they would destroy the whole philosophical underpinning. The existence of authorities that are real destroys the ‘is-ought problem’: it is a brute fact that you exist in a subsidiary relationship to real authorities, and from that fact many oughts follow.

  • Mike T says:

    Freedom to pursue owning a cow isn’t a well defined concept without specifying concrete means. It is like the freedom to dream big: it is entirely irrelevant to politics until it comes into conflict with other dreamers.

    It’s not entirely irrelevant, as it does refer to a limited set of controvertible cases. It also refers to some situations that are not controvertible at all in a real sense. For example, if a rancher offers to sell another rancher who was the victim of a rustler a cow at a loss, there is no controversy. Even if a liberal screams “muh freedumbz, ima triggered by his rancher privilege on the lower price,” a legitimate authority should recognize that absent extenuating circumstances there is no real controversy here. There is just an interloper who should be thrown in jail for harassing two citizens engaging in a peaceful transaction that is compliance with ordinary regulations and excise taxation. Likewise, the authority, absent extenuating circumstances, has no legitimate authority to meddle in the transaction and just stop it or harass the two men trading.

  • Zippy says:

    I see we are back to the old Mike T, begging the very questions which are at issue in politics.

  • Mike T says:

    There is just an interloper who should be thrown in jail for harassing two citizens

    While it may be true that the interloper creates a controversy to be resolved, in a case like this the legitimate outcome is effectively predetermined. The authority is not operating in an open environment where they can justly side with the interloper as easily as side against them. There is still objective truth, and the shrieking and pointing by the interloper who is triggered that he couldn’t get the same deal in a private transaction and now seeks to punish the seller, is on the wrong side of it. The authority would likewise be acting in an evil way by siding with the interloper.

  • Zippy says:

    Mike T:
    You must be making those restrictive discriminations based on some substantive conception of the good.

  • Mike T says:

    begging the very questions which are at issue in politics

    Sometimes questions are raised that should not be raised, and when raised anyway should not be given the time of day.

  • Zippy says:

    Sometimes questions are raised that should not be raised, and when raised anyway should not be given the time of day.

    “As soon as the incoherence starts to become apparent, stop thinking” is the battle cry of the right liberal.

  • Mike T says:

    “As soon as the incoherence starts to become apparent, stop thinking” is the battle cry of the right liberal.

    A controvertible case must actually have controversy. It is true in a sense that you can raise a controversy on anything, but there is a legitimate outcome or set of outcomes and illegitimate ones. In the case I used, a legitimate authority, operating with an appreciation for the common good, would note that he is naturally limited in his response to the triggered interloper. The triggered interloper is an intruder. The act being appealed to the authority is one of charity. The act presents no danger to the common good, and indeed represents an act of relief to the common good in that a private citizen is personally bearing the cost so as to ensure the cost is not socialized. It certainly can become a controversy–in a sense–but the facts fundamentally constrain the choices the authority can make, and it must be remembered that his authority ultimately flows from God’s decrees. So to defend an assault on charity here would be to defend an assault on what God has deemed good. Indeed, as the second highest law is to love one’s neighbor, it is arguably impossible for a human authority to prevent any action that facilitates the second highest law.

  • Zippy says:

    Mike T:
    If there is no controversy over what ought to be done and not done then there is no choice for authority to make. Your model of a ‘triggered interloper’ represents an unprincipled exception: a non-controversy controversy which magically produces an authoritative choice about what to do or not do without actually invoking authority.
    Liberalism always rests on non-authority theories of authority.

  • Mike T says:

    Note that I did not say that there exists a real freedom of bovine procurement. What I said was that it is not irrelevant because it refers to a concrete set of cases, many that are legitimate controversies and others that are not. In the case of the latter, the authority is constrained by natural limits on authority to rule a particular way (unless they wish to commit sin).

    As a side note, that seems to be what the ancients and opponents of absolutism thought as well about “freedom.” Contra W4, the real sense in which freedom can exist is when a controversy is contrived. For example “I am barren, and I demand that my sister give me one of her children” is a contrived controversy. A human authority cannot resolve those particular facts except in one particular direction due to the limits imposed by God and nature: “no”

  • Zippy says:

    Mike T:
    Again, you are just engaging in the magical thinking of ‘conservative’ liberals about non-authoritative exercises of authority.

  • Mike T says:

    You model of a ‘triggered interloper’ represents an unprincipled exception: a non-controversy controversy which magically produces an authoritative choice about what to do or not do without actually invoking authority.

    It does not, and there is nothing magical about it. I am pointing out that in a contrived controversy (which are many given how often people mistake their butthurt feelings for legitimate grievances), the authority is naturally constrained to particular outcomes.

    Or not, if he wants to party down with Satan for eternity. But if he wants to go to Heaven, he might want to recognize that in a contrived (partially or completely) controversy, nature limits his list of choices to a particular subset outside of which he is doing evil and risking hellfire.

  • Mike T says:

    Again, you are just engaging in the magical thinking of ‘conservative’ liberals about non-authoritative exercises of authority.

    Once again, I am not referring to any such thing, but pointing out that if an authority wishes to avoid being damned to Hell for wicked use of authority outside of the limits imposed by God, he must recognize that God and nature impose particular limits, in particular cases. In the triggered interloper case, his “not being damned to Hell” choices are extremely narrow because if he stops the charitable actor he will have to explain to God why he felt the second highest commandment was less important for him to obey than the butthurt feelings of an interloper who wanted a discount because “muh equalitayyz”

  • Zippy says:

    Mike T:
    If all you are claiming is that when someone in authority make a decision it ought to be a good decision, well, so what?

    If on the other hand you are saying more than that, then the non-authority theory of authoritative decisions you are advancing is just typical right liberalism.

  • Mike T says:

    Part of what I am (probably inarticulately) trying to say here is in a liberal culture, it is common for authorities to all but deny the existence of a contrived controversy because to acknowledge the contrived nature would itself be a recognition that there exists an independent good and still higher authorities that provide the backstop for it. As liberalism is dependent on denying the existence of an independent good, and with it the particular set of natural limits on authority that obtain from it, liberalism must naturally seek to grant ever more insane, contrived controversies legitimacy. Hence why we are now at a point where an authority can feel justified in punishing you for simply asserting objective, scientific truth about the existence of two genders. (BTW, what is the wage gab between all 60 some genders? I feel oppressed that no one has figured that out yet)

    If a judge hears a case where a man is claiming a controversy because he identifies with “gender 35” (whatever it is on Facebook’s list), the judge has a choice. Give the aggrieved party the time of day or deny them a hearing. However, to let them pursue a claim for denying their identity as Gender 35 would be to impose unreality on the defendant. I don’t need to be authority to say that that is not a legitimate use of authority anymore than Chris Rock needs to be one to say in his infamous police instructional video “laws are that ‘#$%^ you ain’t supposed to do.'” I don’t need to be an authority to tell a judge that if he deprives a man of his livelihood to uphold a particularly ugly unreality that God is likely to have more than a few unkind things to say about that exercise of authority that may or may not result in damnation.

  • Mike T says:

    If all you are claiming is that when someone in authority make a decision it ought to be a good decision, well, so what?

    Well, slightly more than that. I am saying that in a contrived controversy, the extent to which a subject must obey the authoritative decision is the extent to which it is not a bad decision. That is because in a contrived controversy, the raised controversy is itself not a case of adjudicating between two evils or two goods, but between good and evil. In the case of the former, an authority is choose either which good in a dichotomy to choose or how to punish two men who have wronged each other. However, the defining trait of a contrived controversy is either claiming a fictitious good or attempting to call evil good.

  • Zippy says:

    Mike T:

    As liberalism is dependent on denying the existence of an independent good, and with it the particular set of natural limits on authority that obtain from it, liberalism must naturally seek to grant ever more insane, contrived controversies legitimacy.

    Agreed. But this arises from liberalism’s assertions of non-authoritative exercise of authority in the first place, so yielding the whole ‘contrived controversies’ ground just grants it a motte in which to metastasize. “Ridiculous, bro” is an unprincipled exception.

  • Zippy says:

    Mike T:

    … the extent to which a subject must obey the authoritative decision is the extent to which it is not a bad decision.

    In that case you are just wrong, and in a specifically liberal way. An authority you must obey only when you agree with it is no authority at all: a non-authoritative authority.

  • Mike T says:

    What I mean by bad is not “I don’t like it,” but “bad” in the sense that it is outside the range of choices the facts allow. An authority may not be personally aware of those limits, but the limits do exist. So that authority may not be personally guilty of a “moral sin” in their use of authority, but their bad decision amounts to an imposition of an injustice (and you have noted that one cannot be morally obligated to do evil).

    And it should be noted by everyone here that as Cthulhu swims left, the less authorities will be aware of the limits that nature, God and reason impose on their choices to resolve controversies. We are already at a point where a lot of people, in and out of authority, think that feelings == truth.

  • Zippy says:

    Mike T:

    What I mean by bad is not “I don’t like it,” but “bad” in the sense that it is outside the range of choices the facts allow.

    Yes: you are stipulating that someone else holds authority to make that call and then usurping that authority for yourself.

    I don’t have a comprehensive theory of when subjects are compelled to disobey authority, but I know that it doesn’t rest on whether you (the subject) agree that the decision is good. It rests on whether the choice-by-authority (attempts) to compel you (the subject) to do evil.

  • Mike T says:

    It rests on whether the choice-by-authority (attempts) to compel you (the subject) to do evil.

    So basically the charitable seller is effed if the authority decides that the butthurt of the interloper grants him a real controversy. By that same logic, it is perfectly reasonable to force Christian bakers to make wedding cakes for a gay couple because the fact is that making a wedding cake is a particular act independent of the use of the cake.

  • Mike T says:

    By you declaring that it is a formal cooperation with evil, you are imposing your own will and power of reason on the authority. Who are you to tell the local, woke progressive leadership that they are wrong in saying that one can divorce the act of baking a cake and selling it from the acts that follow with the cake?

  • Zippy says:

    Mike T:

    Yes, a decision to obey or disobey authority is also a decision.

    So what?

  • Mike T says:

    Yes: you are stipulating that someone else holds authority to make that call and then usurping that authority for yourself.

    Who are you to decide that the action is evil in any sense?

  • Zippy says:

    Every person is responsible for the good or evil in his own choices.

  • TomD says:

    The existence of bad authority no more requires the incoherent disestablishment of authority itself than the existence of bad priests requires the disestablishment of the Church.

  • “their bad decision amounts to an imposition of an injustice”

    Whenever we speak of “good, bad, limits, rights, or justice,” we are simply appealing to a Higher Authority, aren’t we? We cannot even define “injustice” without turning to God’s authority. Outside of His authority, there is no such thing as justice or injustice, there are simply the outcomes we like and the ones we don’t.

  • Zippy says:

    It is characteristic[*] of liberalism to distract subjects from the morality of their own choices. That is why it produces rebellious children, rebellious wives, and rebellious citizens. Every imposition by authority is abuse, and any abuse invalidates authority.

    [*] “Characteristic” doesn’t mean always present, essential, or never present in other contexts.

  • Mike T says:

    Outside of His authority, there is no such thing as justice or injustice, there are simply the outcomes we like and the ones we don’t.

    Outside of His authority, there is no natural human authority and thus rebellion would be impossible.

    The existence of an independent good and natural order constrains the will of the king to impose obligations just as it does the lowest subject. And that matters for everyone because there is an implicit wickedness in bringing a contrived controversy to an authority is evil because you are trying to get them to formally cooperate in your evil. The liberal view further puts the authority in danger here by making them less aware of the limitations of their own choices by having a greater inclination to view competing goods as equal.

  • Mike T says:

    just as it does the lowest subject

    Just as it does there on any issue involving the will of the lowest subject.

  • Zippy says:

    Mike T:

    I get it. Creating “contrived” controversies (that is, controversies where someone is really really in the wrong and just obviously so) is really really bad. Furthermore — this is the important bit — when someone creates a ‘contrived’ controversy and the sovereign responds in a way you (a subject) think is wrong, the rules of morality in general and authority in particular change in such a way that you are excused, in your own actions, from obedience. This isn’t a really real controverted case resolved by an authoritative decision it is a contrived controverted case, which grants you an authority-defiance license.

    When a husband tells his wife to wash the knives by hand this is a ‘contrived’ controversy. Who would pick a fight over something so stupid? Obviously this grants her license to defy his authority about the knife-washing, and divorce him if he doesn’t just suck it up.

  • Mike T says:

    The point about the rancher is that there is no just way the authority can make that interloper happy and use his authority in a morally sound way. That is not obvious to many people in a liberal context because liberalism demands that we be tolerant of others’ conception of the good and Cthulhu is swimming into some interesting waters now.

    In the case of the rancher being told to hand over his cattle because “muh equalitayz” the proper answer is “no” because it is theft by proxy. It is a thief conniving to get an authority figure to vouchsafe his thievery. Now the authority has a choice, he can reason with the man and possibly realize his position in support of the demand is an injustice or he can pull a Cartman and demand the man submit to theft.

    When men get hell bent on forcing evil on others, I say they’ve made their bed, now they can lie down in it. That is as true for a king, president, etc. as it is for a beggar.

  • Mike T says:

    When a husband tells his wife to wash the knives by hand this is a ‘contrived’ controversy. Who would pick a fight over something so stupid? Obviously this grants her license to defy his authority about the knife-washing, and divorce him if he doesn’t just suck it up.

    One could argue that if modesty permits, the husband could tell her he wants to have sex with her in the kitchen. The Bible even supports him to some extent there by telling wives that they are not to deny their husbands. However, she is well within her rights to defy him if the kids are in the house and the risk to modesty is too great. That doesn’t give her a license to divorce him, but suppose he starts beating her to enforce his authority. She’d be well within her right to club him like a seal with a rolling pin.

  • Zippy says:

    The important thing is to talk incessantly about how awful and abusive husbands, fathers, and sovereigns can be and how defying them is pretty much justified by default.

  • Zippy says:

    It is pretty easy to see how liberalism gets into an ungovernable citizens / nanny-state micromanagement feedback spiral.

  • Mike T:

    Relevant.

    The government deciding in favor of the party who’s act of discriminatory authority is valid in a particular case is mandatory. It is also voluntary.

  • “That doesn’t give her a license to divorce him, but suppose he starts beating her to enforce his authority. She’d be well within her right to club him like a seal with a rolling pin.”

    One problem in the world is that sin begets more sin. Or, fish tends to rot from the head down. Men never beat their wives to enforce their authority, they’re clubbing baby seals in a panic attack, usually stemming from a lack of perceived authority.

  • Mike T says:

    Men never beat their wives to enforce their authority

    Sure they do. There are plenty of abusive husbands out there, just as there are plenty of abusive wives. Humanity diversity is at its greatest when talking about how we choose to sin.

    The important thing is to talk incessantly about how awful and abusive husbands, fathers, and sovereigns can be and how defying them is pretty much justified by default.

    I guess I should start providing you with trigger warnings.

    As a matter of fact, my point here was not about abusive authority at all, but how liberalism puts an increasing burden on actual authorities while making it harder for authorities to make a morally sound decision. In other words, liberalism makes it easier for authorities to make the sort of decisions that put them risk at going to Hell.

    I have not been referring to abusive authorities, but the general, common authority who is a well-meaning person who wants to do right, keep the peace, etc. That is specifically the sort of person I have been describing as having particular problems that arise from what liberalism does to them, in part because they tend to not be the sort of person who has enough of a spine (as most people don’t) to really put their foot down and fight insane people making insane demands of them against another party. You see this time and again with moderate, decent people kowtowing to increasingly insane demands like “you will respect her self-identification as a trilobite. If she wants you to call her a Trilobite-American, by God you will respect her wishes and show respect to her people and their ancient way of life.” (Or you can identify as an attack helicopter)

    Disobeying a particular authority over a particular act does not dissolve their authority. By your own admission, we are responsible for the choices we make for good or evil. If you submit to an authority who demands you sign a statement saying there are 58 genders, you are cooperating with a lie. Refusing to obey them in that moment is not evil, does not terminate their authority generally and also does not give them a moral right to even punish your disobedience because the demand was wrong (there are two genders and no one can compel asset to the existence of even a third without scientific evidence proving that some species has a third gender)

  • Zippy says:

    Mike T:

    I guess I should start providing you with trigger warnings.

    You probably don’t even notice the irony. Any discussion of authority triggers an endless stream of comments from you about when authority must be defied.

    Addendum:
    It isn’t even on topic. This whole digression started with you insisting (apparently triggered once again by the subject of authority) that there is a super special kind of act-of-authority – an authoritative decision made in a “contrived case” — which doesn’t discriminate and restrict freedom. These are non-act acts, because contrived case.

    Which is self contradictory nonsense, but the really important thing was to skip past that and fill the thread with comments about how you really shouldn’t have to obey any decision by an authority unless you agree that it is a good decision, and lets be careful to obscure the difference between “isn’t a good decision” and “attempts to require you to do something immoral”.

    All capstoned by an ironic contention that anyone other than yourself needs a trigger warning. Next time I’ll try to remember to add one: “warning, Mike T, authority will be the subject matter, put on your safe space helmet”.

  • TomD says:

    I think many liberals first preference would be for them as individual to be King God Emperor of the Universe; second choice is modern “liberalism” as a compromise, because daring to admit that others rule over them frightens them.

    Fun fact: the Pope can effectively outlaw anything he wants for all Catholics; just as meat is forbidden on Fridays, he could forbid anything on anyday – it might be arguably unjust, but it would be entirely legitimate.

    Once you start to understand authority, you realize how little those with it exercised it (a current example is the Pope/Church). (Liberalism, of course, results in manic authority exercised on “every tiem”.)

  • Zippy says:

    TomD:

    For most people democracy is a LARP exercise. Actual governance isn’t going to be actually affected one way or another whether they live or die; but participation in the LARP gives them the holodeck experience of being a secular king, not subject to authority like those commoners or even aristocrats and not even subject, in the political domain, to God (except to the extent and in the manner in which they agree they are so subject, under a non-authority theory of God’s authority in which their own opinions are spoken in God’s voice). The political world inside the LARP consists of the sovereign individual, his ambassadors and agents, and other sovereign kings like him (whose authority over their own domains is perfectly legitimate as long as it never comes into conflict with the sovereign individual’s “rights”: as long as politics is abolished and replaced by faux-neutral procedures).

    Just read anything political by (e.g.) JC Wright. Plato was right about the dangers of too much immersion in fantasy.

  • Zippy;

    It’s a bit like political porn. The LARPers get the pleasure of being able to pretend to be a part of the actual authoritative decisions of government when really they don’t actually get to and in fact have no legitimate claim to the authority necessary to make those decisions (CCC 2354 actually says pornography immerses all involved in a fantasy world).

  • Mike, men do not beat their wives to enforce their authority.They do not. It’s an important concept to understand, because it speaks to the heart of the matter. Acts of violence, panic, reaction, are about an absence of authority, often a denial of it’s very existence. This is one reason why liberalism tends to become so destructive,violent even. It must enforce it’s non existent authority, its authority it cannot recognize, see, or embrace. In a manner of speaking,we are all battered spouses under liberalism.

  • Zippy says:

    insanitybytes22:

    Framing it as wife beating poisons the well, but those in authority quite often do have to use righteous violence to enforce their authority.

  • Zippy says:

    TimFinnegan:

    Good insight. Many errors are very like porn, inasmuch as they immerse the subject in a fantasy world: immerse him in a lie, in a disorder in relation to the truth about the good.

  • There is a reason that pornography is one of very few offenses that the CCC says should be outlawed by the government.

  • “Framing it as wife beating poisons the well, but those in authority quite often do have to use righteous violence to enforce their authority.”

    I’m all for righteous violence, but in the context of marriage we are speaking of love. There is no such thing as righteous violence against your own flesh. “Righteous” means morally right or justifiable; virtuous. In the context of love, it is grace that leads one to surrender to authority, not force. When the system becomes incoherent, when our perception of authority becomes perverted, we beat our spouses and pour grace all over Muslims, all in the name perceived virtue, righteousness.

    Usury too becomes virtue, because who will help the little people, who will provide them with invisible cows?

  • Zippy says:

    insanitybytes22:

    There is no such thing as righteous violence against your own flesh.

    Physically disciplining our own flesh is common, necessary, and a permanent part of the Christian (or any sane) tradition.

    Is any sort of corporal punishment of children always and without exception morally wrong?

  • donnie says:

    Physically disciplining our own flesh is common, necessary, and a permanent part of the Christian (or any sane) tradition.

    Is any sort of corporal punishment of children always and without exception morally wrong?

    I understand where you’re going with this but I am trying to think of a single instance where corporal punishment would be appropriate for one’s spouse and I’m coming up empty.

    Again, I see the point. Mortification of one’s flesh? Spanking or slapping an unruly child? I can conceive of a multitude of instances where those responses could be righteous.

    But righteous violence towards one’s spouse? Does not compute.

    I admit that this may be due to the fact that someone dear to me was beaten by her husband. But even setting that aside for the moment I am struggling to imagine an instance where corporal punishment is called for.

  • Zippy says:

    donnie:

    But righteous violence towards one’s spouse? Does not compute.

    There are obvious examples where it computes just fine: when your spouse poses immediate mortal danger to the children, for example.

    Once we are there we have established what we are and are just haggling over the price. The principle has been established.

    Keep in mind though that violence is rarely justified in general, and is always subject to the law of proportionality.

  • “Once we are there we have established what we are and are just haggling over the price. The principle has been established.”

    Okay, but I’m still going to haggle here over our definitions of “violence” as opposed to “discipline.” Violence is “physical force intended to hurt, damage, or kill someone or something.” Discipline means to teach, it is the same root word as disciple.

    Moral ambiguity around the nature of authority has created a culture just marinating in 50 shades of murky gray.

  • Zippy says:

    Nevertheless, authority comes with concomitant enforcement. Prison, gallows, etc are a part of that despite modern sensibilities. If we call the gallows “discipline” I think we are just doing the usual modern thing and averting our eyes from reality.

  • c matt says:

    Substitute “is not” for “cannot become”, and you are close. Again, all I need stipulated is that the idea of a cow isn’t the same as an actual cow.

    Reminds me of that joke about the economist stuck on a deserted island trying to open a coconut “First, assume a hammer.”

  • Step2 says:

    c matt,
    Can the economist open the coconut without having any idea of using something like a hammer? The idea is very often a motive and/or guide for the actualization of the reality. There is also an entire field of law devoted to intellectual property rights that would be meaningless if ideas (at some level of development or specificity) didn’t have any actuality to them. So I claim contra Zippy there can be a gradation between being and non-being (although labeling ideas as non-being is disputable especially if one is a Platonist).

  • Zippy says:

    I proposed a metaphysically realist understanding of intellectual property in this post.

  • Zippy says:

    Anyone who wants to trade all of their actual property for the idea of maybe acquiring some property should line up at door number three.

  • Step2 says:

    Or perhaps just invest some of your actual property in the intellectual property prospects of Disney. Tough call.

  • Zippy says:

    Equity in Disney isn’t an idea; and neither is intellectual property (see the post I already linked). The former is a claim against Disney’s balance sheet (all of the property owned by Disney), and the latter is exclusive use of sovereign marketplaces to sell particular products and services (like when Disney grants or sells Starbucks exclusive access to Disneyland for the sale of coffee in Disneyland).

    People who say that ideas can be property are at best speaking carelessly. Taken seriously, it is complete nonsense. The idea of coffee can’t be property; but a marketplace is property, as are securitized claims for specified uses of that property (e.g. exclusive access for the sale of coffee).

  • Mike T says:

    Are you calling copyrighted goods ideas? Patents are obviously ideas, but Disney doesn’t have nearly as much activity in the latter as the former.

    I see two areas where copyright law tends to run into moral problems today:

    1. It is increasingly focused not on the common good, but on the particular good of individuals to the detriment of society at large.
    2. It increasingly runs roughshod over some of the most basic natural property rights by prohibiting sweeping categories of modification and repair of physical property for no other reason than “if we let you repair your good, someone else might do evil.”

    As 3D printing and related technologies advance, you can expect this to get worse. Someone is going to buy a Ferrari, break it down and post the schematics online or offer to 3D print a perfectly acceptable replica for 20% the price. Probably the only thing that’ll keep us from there for at least 20 years is that 3D printers will probably take two generations before they can print ICs with any sort of reliability given the cleanliness standards required for production.

  • Zippy says:

    Patents are not ideas. Patents are – like all IP – secured exclusive access to particular markets for the sale of particular products. The notion that a patent is an idea is like the notion that money and other securities are paper: it involves truncated anti-realist thinking.

  • Mike T says:

    That is what patents are supposed to be, but there are a lot of patents being issued today that don’t cover a particular product, but an idea of what to do with a product. Business method patents are one such example. “One click and your customers can buy a product.” That’s an idea, not a particular product for a particular market.

  • Mike T says:

    In fact, how can you say that when so many patents actually cover a novel (hopefully) new way of making a product, but aren’t actually limited to a particular product design? That’s how most audio/video codecs fall afoul of the MPEG consortium and its allies. They aren’t ripping off particular products, but using ideas in a different way to achieve a competing, but not compatible, product.

  • Zippy says:

    Mike T:

    You aren’t thinking about this clearly, because you are caught up in how you think patents ought and ought not work. That isn’t even on topic. What is at issue is what patents (and other intellectual property) are.

    Suppose a particular patent says that you can’t sell beans unless you stand on your head naked while selling them and give 90% of the revenues to Bob.

    What is this “patent”? (Not “is it good and sane;” what is it?)

    It is a security owned by Bob granting usage rights in sovereign marketplaces. The underlying property – the property in which the security is rooted – is the sovereign-owned marketplace.

  • Mike T says:

    I misread what you meant by “patents are not ideas.” Yes, they are securities. Though they are an odd one because the sovereign’s agents now frequently securitize what they themselves have no authority to securitize under the law.

  • Zippy says:

    Mike T:

    …the sovereign’s agents now frequently securitize what they themselves have no authority to securitize under the law.

    Sometimes yes and sometimes no. Modern people can’t even think about these things properly because of pervasive metaphysical anti-realism, so what is amazing is that everything isn’t always completely dysfunctional all the time.

    And the reason for that is unprincipled exceptions.

  • Mike T says:

    And the reason for that is unprincipled exceptions.

    And the reason that works is that man is not a rational being by nature and human civilization has never been defined by reason. Irrationality and anti-reality can take many forms. In the cow example, you have two irrational actors: the interloper and the authority placating them. In a metaphysical realist-driven world, the authority would know that he lacks the authority to compel the rancher to give a free cow to someone who feels discriminated against by an act of charity. He would even suspect that any act that amounts to an oblique punishment of genuine charity would risk the wrath of God.

    The ability of liberalism to mutate like bacteria into increasingly varied forms will necessitate that any imposition of a particular vision of the good come in the form of a lot of defiance of particular liberal claims. In fact, it will probably make the multi-factional fighting in Syria look as organized as the NFL. And that is simply because given the irrational nature of liberalism and its commitment to elevating every perceived good to equal status, anyone who asserts a particular transcendent view of the good will necessarily have to say “no, I’m not going there” a lot more than most people who embrace liberalism.

  • Mike T says:

    He would even suspect that any act that amounts to an oblique punishment of genuine charity would risk the wrath of God.

    And that is because in a realist view, the laws of God are superior to any act of man. Therefore in all times, the second highest command is superior to any mandate given by man.

  • Zippy says:

    Mike T:
    I’ll prescind from your various particular claims and just observe that I’ve seen hundreds or thousands of posts from you about what authorities ought and ought not do, and very few posts about the duties of subjects. And in your posts about the duties of subjects themselves you seem primarily concerned with arguing that subjects have all sorts of latitude when it comes to defying flawed authorities.

  • Mike T says:

    I would like to remind you that you also saw many, many posts defending particular foreign policy decision such as the nuclear bombing of Japan and then I flat out told you that I changed to your way of thinking there that it was indefensible in the way it was done (nuking a Japanese Imperial Army base == OK; nuking a civilian city to hit targets != OK)

  • Zippy says:

    Sure; but those discussions were themselves about the moral duties of authorities.

    You seem to have a filter that doesn’t let you unequivocally affirm the duty that subjects have to obey flawed – even deeply flawed – authorities.

  • Mike T says:

    I think you are misunderstanding my perspective. I have not been saying the authority is dissolved by the flaws, but rather than in a particular case the authority does not exist. It is in that moment that the problem between subject and authority arises, for when the authority has no legitimacy in making the demand (and consequently no right to enforce it) they become a form of criminal under natural law depending on the particulars of the demand and what measures they use to enforce it.

    In the cow example, the local magistrate may be a totally fine man who is a valid authority who must be obeyed in general. The problem is whether or not the particular rancher must obey the particular demand to be asset stripped for no just reason to placate someone with no moral claim to the cow. The responses allowable are complicated, but it stands to reason that if a good, but flaws authority makes the bad decision to use force to violently compel obedience where obedience is not demanded that the subject may respond to that particular action in a defiant and forceful way. He may choose not to for other reasons of prudence, charity, etc.

    So when the local magistrate tells the rancher to pay his parking fine, he is legitimately capable of doing so (provided the law, higher authorities, etc. have created that situation). However, all of that is irrelevant in the particular case, in part because those other areas of require obedience are not actually at play in the particular situation at controversy and where ultimately, the fighting will happen.

    That is why I said it is important for authorities to seek the good and understand its implications for their own choices. Just as a subject can be imprisoned for 1 act out of 1000, there is an equivalent truth for authorities. You can be good 999 times out of 1000 as an authority, but that one time where you go hell-bent on making a man fear for his life and property to enforce a patently unjust decision you give him the one time he is justified in using force back on you.

  • Zippy says:

    Mike T:

    …for when the authority has no legitimacy in making the demand (and consequently no right to enforce it) they become a form of criminal under natural law…

    … the determination of which you arrogate to yourself qua subject. Talking about authority always triggers you into focusing on your own opinions about the duties and scope of authority, completely losing sight of your own duties as a subject.

    In short, you may or may not have unequivocally abandoned liberalism as a specific anti-realist philosophy of authority; but you are still in the grip of an anti-realism about authority. That-which-must-not-be-acknowledged is the duty that subjects have to obey flawed authorities despite those flaws. That-which-must-not-be-acknowledged is the morality of our own actions qua subjects.

  • Mike T says:

    … the determination of which you arrogate to yourself qua subject.

    There are plenty of cases throughout human history where the subject does not need the help of an outside authority to judge that the particular action put upon him or demand of him is wrong. You cannot simultaneously expect people to be accountable for their choices and then say that that no one except “an authority” can decide if obeying that particular act of authority was the right thing to do.

    That-which-must-not-be-acknowledged is the duty that subjects have to obey flawed authorities despite those flaws. That-which-must-not-be-acknowledged is the morality of our own actions qua subjects.

    I am acknowledging that duty. What I said is that that duty is a general duty that does not always apply to a particular situation. If a good ruler loses his #$%^ and tells you you must abort your next child, you are justified in telling him no. The extent of your disobedience to that order is justified in proportion to his will to enforce it. If he lets it go, you are clearly still obligated to obey him. If he sends armed men to kill you and force your wife to abort, you are morally justified in killing his men and probably killing him too in self-defense if he lets you know he intends to send more men to your home. In the latter case, he can obligate you to pay your taxes, but he would not be able to shield himself from your response by hiding behind the authority because authority is not a shield behind which evil can hide.

  • Mike T says:

    Two things:

    1. I am not defending any sort of notion of “men doing what is right in their own eyes,” but implicitly basing my notion here in actors aligning their opposition in some concrete notion of an independent good and natural order.

    2. The issue I have with your position is that it is fine, I agree with it, but I don’t think you can draw any substantial meaning from your general principle in particular acts except as a reminder that the general principle still stands. The principle itself does not overcome the facts of the particular situation. To argue otherwise would open room to a criminal whining (semi-legitimately) that apart from their one serious felony, they’ve done a mountain of good works so the entire life should be considered and override the one particular heinous felony.

  • “There are plenty of cases throughout human history where the subject does not need the help of an outside authority to judge that the particular action put upon him or demand of him is wrong.”

    Here is the piece that I think is missing, Mike. We are always appealing to a Higher Authority. What makes a particular action wrong? It violates God’s authority. You speak of being morally justified to kill in self defense, for example. But “morally justified” by Whom? That is an appeal to a Higher Authority.

    So, IMO, there are no cases in human history, “where the subject does not need the help of an outside authority to judge.” Absent God, we cannot judge anything at all.

  • Zippy says:

    Mike T:

    You articulated your position just fine upthread when you wrote:

    …the extent to which a subject must obey the authoritative decision is the extent to which it is not a bad decision.

    I replied to the contrary that the starting place for justified disobedience of flawed authority is not with whether his decision is bad (in your judgment), but with whether that flawed authority attempts to command you to do evil. Judging the former is not your place or competence; judging the latter is.

    That you don’t see a substantive difference there is precisely due to your own filters, as manifested in your posting pattern whenever authority is discussed.

  • Rhetocrates says:

    “The pledge is not to hand over a cow next year simpliciter, but to hand over either the actually existent security or a cow, thereby fully discharging the borrower’s obligation. A well structured contract will incentivise but not guarantee the latter.”

    Because examples help me, possible contracts that look like this include:

    Give me a cow next year, or at any time between now and next year give me your land.

    Give me a cow next year, or forfeit any ability you may have to trade in beef in the local market.

    Give me a cow next year, or I get to come take your rare coin collection.

    Give me a cow next year, or release to me the assets we jointly put in this interest-bearing escrow account.

    And put that way, it seems quite similar with rights. Rights must be spelled out clearly, and nicely delineated, or they are not rights, but potentially unprincipled exceptions.

    Which, if I’m understanding correctly, leads directly to the idea of authority. Authority is precisely that which does the spelling-out, by enforcing its (his) will in the matter of rights (and, while we’re at it, duties).

    Thus I have a right to shoot a man who breaks into my house, precisely because if I do this I have confidence the local authority will uphold my action as allowable. Or transexuals have the right to molest my wife in the public bathroom.

    (But they do not have a ‘right to molestation in bathrooms’ because that doesn’t involve specifics – even though we might, being lazy, describe it that way, because we assume, probably correctly, that the authority will generally uphold their ability to do this.)

    This gets us perhaps to a way to describe authority as just or unjust, though. Namely, an authority is unjust in two cases:

    a) its pronouncements contradict a higher authority (such as when the State insists you blaspheme against God or worship with heretics).

    b) its pronouncements take on a character of inconsistency with itself or long-held tradition, such as in the case of ex post facto laws.

    Even then I’m not sure about category b. And the subject only has a duty to disobedience in the case of a – which is better construed not as disobedience, but as obedience to the more-binding authority.

    Let me know if I’ve understood that rightly.

    It seems there is also the simply practical question, which confronts all rulers, that regardless of the justice or injustice of any authoritative act, how likely are they to be able to enforce it, given the character of the act and the people it affects or who do the sovereign’s bidding. Thus an authority may be wrongly (or rightly?) circumscribed, not by a higher authority, but simply de facto by the populace.

    It would be interesting to try to get at what authority actually -is- and how to recognize it. If it even has being, which is doubtful.

  • Step2 says:

    Zippy,
    Sorry to be gone most of the day, but I wanted to jump back in to note how weird it is an almost entirely theoretical (because bondholders have first dibs at assets) legal claim to the balance sheet of a company is treated as real property. Moreover the notion that a balance sheet corresponds to something real after Wall Street chicanery nearly crashed the world economy is at least contestable.

    The idea of coffee can’t be property; but a marketplace is property, as are securitized claims for specified uses of that property (e.g. exclusive access for the sale of coffee).

    First, this ignores what I previously wrote about specific and/or developed ideas. Second, your explanation doesn’t explain how nothing, non-being, can be treated as a specific use of a property.

  • Zippy says:

    Step2:

    …because bondholders have first dibs at assets…

    That holders of different kinds of securities have different kinds of claims against a balance sheet (which is merely my shorthand for “actual property the claims against which a balance sheet records”) does not imply the nonexistence of the property.

    Capital structure (a structure of different kinds of claims against actual property) does not imply the nonexistence of the actual underlying property.

    Moreover the notion that a balance sheet corresponds to something real after Wall Street chicanery nearly crashed the world economy is at least contestable.

    Hopefully upon further reflection you’ll see the irony in suggesting that usurious notes and self-referential securities constitute evidence against the contention that mere ideas are not property.

  • Zippy says:

    Step2:
    At first I didn’t reply to the last part of your comment because I found it unintelligible:

    First, this ignores what I previously wrote about specific and/or developed ideas. Second, your explanation doesn’t explain how nothing, non-being, can be treated as a specific use of a property.

    As for the first, you said nothing which is capable of incarnating an idea alone (whatever one may believe about ideas) into property.

    I still can’t really make sense of the second. Surely you grasp that 1) the idea of coffee, 2) some actual coffee, and 3) title to sell coffee in Disneyland, are different things; and that the latter two can be repossessed from a borrower whereas the first cannot. If you make a loan to me secured by the idea of coffee in my mind and I stop making payments, how can you repossess the idea of coffee from me?

  • Zippy says:

    That actually presents yet another way to concisely describe usury: if the security on a loan which requires repayment of anything more than the principal cannot be repossessed from the borrower, thereby fully discharging the borrower’s obligation to the lender, the loan is usurious.

  • Mike T says:

    Zippy,

    Interesting article on South Korea‘s culture and attitude toward authority.

    What is interesting about is that they reject liberalism and even reject rebellion in any real form, but have come to their own anti-realist understanding of the nature of authority as demonstrated by how they treat citizens who “betray their authorities on the job” by reporting them to the government. They are so tunnel-visioned by their cultural attitude of submission that they have their own illiberal monolithic authority.

  • Zippy says:

    Mike T:
    The idea that South Korea is an illiberal country is hilarious. Aren’t intramural sportsball contests fun?

  • TomD says:

    Zippy, any country that is not exactly like the “dream” USA (of fifty, nay, thirty years ago) is by definition illiberal, dontcha see?

    Theoretical dream-liberalism indeed.

  • Mike T says:

    The presence of a republican form of government does not make them a liberal state or society.

    Tom,

    Your snark is as well-developed as that of the average middle school girl channeling her inner bitch for the first time.

  • Mike T says:

    Zippy,

    South Korea is certainly becoming liberal. However, their attitude toward authority is still probably less liberal than ours was in 1776. So I don’t think it is fair to say they are liberal, versus are becoming.

  • Zippy says:

    Mike T:

    The presence of a republican form of government does not make them a liberal state or society.

    Hopefully you realize that the No True Liberalism gambit is a white flag. “It is only a flesh wound!”.

    And that “…So I don’t think it is fair to say they are liberal, versus are becoming…” is more than a wee retreat from “…they reject liberalism…”.

    A liberal society is a society with strong liberal commitments. South Korea is manifestly a liberal society notwithstanding its cultural and other differences from other liberal societies.

  • Zippy says:

    Rhetocrates:

    It would be interesting to try to get at what authority actually -is- and how to recognize it. If it even has being, which is doubtful.

    It depends on what you think about what we might call ‘social beings’: institutions or communities which are composed of individual human beings but which are not reducible to nothing but an aggregation of individual human beings.

    I don’t have an overarching theory, but I know that Italy is not reducible to the collection of all Italians, Catholicism is not reducible to the collection of all individual Catholics, etc. Authority is, I expect, an essential property or organ of these transcendent social beings much as the brain and nervous system are an essential property or organ of individual living embodied human beings.

    Liberalism then (as a specifically political doctrine, that is, an understanding of authority) is, at least in its more advanced forms, an attempt to reduce this transcendent social organ (authority) to nothing but the collected free and equal wills of the individuals who make up a polity.

    It is an attempt to build, if you will, a completely mindless society.

  • Mike T says:

    A liberal society is a society with strong liberal commitments. South Korea is manifestly a liberal society notwithstanding its cultural and other differences from other liberal societies.

    “Manifestly” in this context makes it sound like only a fool would think that South Korea is less liberal than us or Canada. I doubt you and I know enough from real experience to judge the truth of that. East Asian cultures tend to be very good at putting on the things that they find useful while cheerfully dropping the rest when adopting things from other cultures.

  • Zippy says:

    Mike T:

    “HIV positive” is a category like “pregnant”.

  • GJ says:

    Mike T:

    What is interesting about many right-liberals that they ‘reject’ liberalism; and even reject rebellion in any real form, but have come to their own understanding of the nature of authority as demonstrated by how they would want to tar and feather citizens who “betray their authorities on the job” (Snowden, Manning, etc.) They are so tunnel-visioned by their cultural attitude of submission…

  • Step2 says:

    Zippy,
    Capital structure (a structure of different kinds of claims against actual property) does not imply the nonexistence of the actual underlying property.

    It depends on the structure whether that is true. My own understanding of the infamous mortgage backed securities is that the tranches were consistently fraudulently rated, so that the property didn’t actually exist in anything like the way it was represented on the balance sheet. As you noted in your linked post other attempts were made afterwards to make it look better than it was but it was fraudulent from the start. Fraud and usury may have extensive overlap but as far as I can tell they aren’t always the same thing.

    If you make a loan to me secured by the idea of coffee in my mind and I stop making payments, how can you repossess the idea of coffee from me?

    I believe I’ve been careful to say that some ideas can become real yet I haven’t implied that they must be or will be real If it does become real it requires work and other activities that fall under the rubric of “pursuit” rather than just holding the idea in your mind. Second, instead of thinking about repossessing a vague or general idea like coffee think about taking somebody’s idea for a specific, detailed design like the business plan for Starbucks. For example, say the Chinese permit a business-casual coffeehouse called Astroyen, where everything from the typical building layout to the color scheme and cup design to the coffee bean suppliers are perfect or very close mimics of Starbucks. According to your interpretation the owners of Astroyen are not stealing the idea of Starbucks because it only exists as a part of the sovereign’s marketplace.

  • Zippy says:

    Step2:

    My own understanding of the infamous mortgage backed securities is that the tranches were consistently fraudulently rated, so that the property didn’t actually exist in anything like the way it was represented on the balance sheet.

    Agreed. Balance sheets, like contracts and securities in general, are subject to fraudulent misrepresentation.

    Fraud and usury may have extensive overlap but as far as I can tell they aren’t always the same thing.

    That was indeed one of the very points of that post. As I said in its opening paragraph, “it is important to acknowledge that usury is not the only way in which financiers create the fake appearance of wealth out of nothing”.

    If it does become real it requires work and other activities that fall under the rubric of “pursuit” rather than just holding the idea in your mind

    Correct, and it is possible for the products of that pursuit to give rise to actual property: property which might be used to secure a loan, as distinct from a personal IOU which cannot – by definition – be repossessed should the loan payments cease.

    According to your interpretation the owners of Astroyen are not stealing the idea of Starbucks because it only exists as a part of the sovereign’s marketplace.

    That is correct. A sovereign by definition only secures his own marketplaces, so IP secured by that sovereign is a security granting exclusive access to his marketplaces; and merely using an idea to produce property is not ‘stealing’.

    People who say ‘you stole my idea’ are speaking imprecisely: ideas are not the kind of thing that it is possible to steal.

    Now it is possible that, through channels of economic interdependence, one sovereign might indirectly influence the policy in another sovereign’s marketplaces. It is possible for example to apply for international patents. IRL I myself have several software patents to my name (the rights to which have changed hands several times, and some of which may have expired by now). These patents only apply to US markets, because we did not pursue international patents at the time.

    A security granted by a particular sovereign (IP is a kind of sovereign-granted security) only applies to the balance sheet[*] of that sovereign.

    [*] Again my shorthand for ‘property controlled by’: no modern sovereign actually records a balance sheet, and in fact we don’t even know how to record a sovereign balance sheet or what units to use in its various entries.

  • Step2 says:

    People who say ‘you stole my idea’ are speaking imprecisely: ideas are not the kind of thing that it is possible to steal.

    If you’ve ever given a hat tip to someone for their idea or even attributed a quote to someone, I would say it is because you want them to receive the recognition for their property instead of stealing it as your own – at least the specific formulation of the idea you are hat tipping or attributing.

  • Zippy says:

    Step2:

    Attributing an idea to its originator doesn’t transform that idea into property. You are trading on imprecision. “Hat tip to Tim Berners-Lee for inventing the Web” doesn’t enflesh the Web into the property of Tim Berners-Lee.

    I’ve been very precise about how to distinguish things-which-can-be-property from things-which-cannot-be-property. I can provide the links again, but I really shouldn’t have to.

  • Step2 says:

    Attributing an idea to its originator doesn’t transform that idea into property.

    From what I read Tim Berners-Lee was working on a public access and openly collaborative program and never showed the slightest interest in asserting a property claim on his idea. I mean inventors can give away their inventions for free if they wish, no reason they can’t. Bill Gates on the other hand always treated Windows as his property. This diversion is mostly besides the point unless someone is falsely claiming they invented the Web or Windows. That is the situation where the sense of stealing an idea is apparent.

  • Zippy says:

    Step2:

    I don’t see how any of that helps the contention that “stealing” a mere idea is the same sort of act as stealing a cow. Are you denying that cows can be repossessed? Are you contending that mere ideas can be repossessed?

  • c matt says:

    Can the economist open the coconut without having any idea of using something like a hammer?

    Assuming a hammer (the idea of a hammer) and actually having one are not the same thing.

  • Step2 says:

    Zippy,
    I don’t see how any of that helps the contention that “stealing” a mere idea is the same sort of act as stealing a cow.

    It isn’t the same but I do consider it a lesser type of theft.

    Are you denying that cows can be repossessed?

    Not for ordinary cows; holy cows cannot even be possessed 😉

    Are you contending that mere ideas can be repossessed?

    It depends on how transferable the specific intellectual property rights are. If they can be easily transferred then those rights can be part of or the entirety of the collateral.

  • Zippy says:

    Step2:

    It depends on how transferable the specific intellectual property rights are.

    I’ve already explained though that (and why) IP rights are not mere ideas.

  • Zippy says:

    One of the interesting thing about patents (unless the law has changed since I filed mine a couple decades ago) is that the invention must be “reduced to practice” before you can even apply for one: you have to have a concrete working implementation before the patent office will even accept your application. And once a patent is granted, what the patent holder actually receives – the patent itself – is enforceable commercial exclusivity within the jurisdiction of the patent authority.

    Similar things can be said about other forms of IP.

    So IP doesn’t count in favor of the contention that ideas can be property. It counts against that contention.

    As usual liberal modernity requires you to studiously avert your gaze once actual reality starts to come into view.

  • […] So IP doesn’t count in favor of the contention that ideas can be property. It counts against that contention. […]

  • […] though reality doesn’t really care about the daddy issues of modernity. Pervasive commitment to an […]

  • […] resolution of controvertible cases through the exercise of authority by those in authority – just is discriminatory restriction of freedom. Liberalism then is ultimately an attempt to nullify or […]

  • […] mean absolutely free speech.  Absolutely free speech is an obvious straw man, positing no middle ground between manifestly insane absolute rights and nice tame rights within due limits. Everyone who is […]

  • […] mean absolutely free chemistry.  Absolutely free chemistry is clearly a straw man, positing no middle ground between manifestly insane absolute rights and nice tame rights within due limits. Everyone who is […]

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You are currently reading The right to life, liberty, and cows at Zippy Catholic.

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