J Thomas wrote: Pfhorrest wrote:
Monika wrote:Do you only achieve things in the current world as it is with violence?
Quite the contrary.
And yet everything that is not done entirely by voluntary agreement is implicitly coerced.
Correct, and I try not to do anything to coerce (by threat of violence, however indirect) anyone who isn't doing likewise to me.
Of course, in our contemporary society, indirect threats of violence are everywhere, institutionalized, and I can't help but interact with those institutions, so I will leverage their rules (laws, contracts, etc) where I can to defend against those who would leverage them against me in turn. But that's just self-defense. If we lived in a time and place where people were regularly trying to kill me, I wouldn't have qualms about killing in self-defense either.
Agreed. Everything that is done by law is coerced. Including enforcement of contracts. If you agree to do something and then later you change your mind, by the same reasoning you just showed you can eventually get shot.
By Roman law, when you took out a loan you agreed that if you didn't pay it back you could be sold into slavery. You agreed to that when you took the loan. It was just enforcement of contracts.... Of course the Romans also enslaved lots of foreigners without agreed contracts, because they could.
I actually object to the moral validity of most contracts; ones which purport to create obligations other than to refrain from violence against a person or their property. Reassignment of property is fine, and who owns what changes who has what obligations to whom, but I don't really consider simple transfer of ownership to be a contract proper.
Note that I would not have contacts outlawed, per se; I would not have anyone punished for attempting to create one. I would have them merely not enforced.
When is the use of violence justified? Only to prevent unjustified violence, so goes the usual ethical answer. So by that standard, what can be legitimately outlawed? Violent acts, and nothing else; for to outlaw anything else is to endorse violence against a nonviolent act or omission.
Libertarians often take this position. But usually they also accept land rights as primary, and it eventually turns into pretzel-logic. If somebody comes onto your land and messes with your property then you have the right to make them stop, and if they defend themselves against your violence it eventually gets agreed you have the right to kill them.
I agree that mainstream libertarians (especially of the American variety) often twist their principles, particularly when it comes to contracts; my objection to contacts is derived from very libertarian principle, but most libertarians who hear it object vehemently to it.
However, property rights (not land rights specifically) are an abstraction of the same principles as bodily sovereignty, extended to conflicts over actions upon things which aren't a person's body. Put another way, our bodies are the archetype of property; they are the first things we own, and our rights over them constitute our ownership of them; that's what it is to own something, to have rights over it; and to violate such rights is the very definition of violence.
In other words: we accept that it is wrong for a person to act upon another person's body without their consent (battery), or withhold it from their own use (abduction), and that those can be violently stopped; and that a claim to have the right to do so if the person doesn't use his body as demanded (slavery) is illegitimate, and should not be violently enforced. But what about this nifty little tool I made out of some sticks. Is it ok if you smash it with a rock when I set it down for a moment, or if you run off with it? Or is it, for some reason, mine, and for you to do that is wrong just like if you were to smash my hand with a rock, or tie it down and prevent me from using it?
Trespass is an abstraction of battery; or, battery is a special case of trespass of one's body. Theft is an abstraction of abduction; or, abduction is a special case of theft of one's body. And (this part most libertarians protest, but I put forward) usury, as in rent or interest, is an abstraction of slavery; slavery is a special case of someone claiming ownership of and then "renting" you your own body, which you can keep and use so long as you do what they ask of you, but which they retain the "right" to take it back from your control at any time. But that's a long rant I won't go into here.
Point being, property just is having rights in things. That doesn't mean that the whole universe has to be carved up into domains of private
property. If we all have rights to something, like the air or the sea, that means that it is public
property, and we can each legitimately complain about it being abused or about us being denied its use just as we could our private property. If it were somehow nobody's property, then nobody would have any claims about it.
That's another thing I consider a common misconception of mainstream libertarians: that everything which is not private property is non-property, and nobody has any claim rights to it; it's free to be taken and destroyed. I say that everything is by default public property, and everybody has claim rights to it; but that some things can still become private property, which then functions much like libertarians say, except when it comes to all kinds of weird contractual obligations they think can be magically created by fiat.
Whatever we philosophers say is justifiable, most people think...
It's entirely possible and probably probable that most people are usually wrong about most things.
... that it's right to use violence to stop people from doing bad things
And I agree completely, where "bad things" equates to "violent things". Violence is justified to stop violence.
...or to require them to do the minimum good things that should be required of everybody.
Who is to say what the minimum good things are? What if you're not capable of doing them? Never mind even that, how the hell can you justify violence against someone for the heinous crime of sitting there doing nothing
? You may not owe them anything, and can feel free to cut them off from any support they might get from you unless they do as you ask; but you can't force them to do as you ask on threat of violence, unless you're just asking them not to be violent. Otherwise how are they not your slave?
Violence is justified against violence. What's justified against someone who doesn't do anything for anyone is doing nothing for them in return
In Singapore you can get a caning for dropping chewing gum on the sidewalk.
Are you putting this forth as a good thing, or even an acceptable thing?
Everything which is enforced is implicitly enforced by violence. Doesn't that include all our commercial interactions? Anything you take without paying for, can get you violence. You can face violence just for being someplace you "aren't supposed to be". How many human interactions do you have in a day that are not wrapped in coercion? Everything you do with your own children is constrained by laws about child abuse. (Of course good people would never consider doing anything that might be considered child abuse, but the laws are there, and anybody who wants to cause a parent trouble can file a child abuse report.) Etc.
These are all cases of the implicit threat of violence to stave off more violence, and therefore perfectly justifiable by my (and mainstream libertarian) standards.
You are being reasonable and logical in a way that in my experience has essentially nothing to do with the world that real people are living in.
Something being real doesn't make it moral. Immoral things are frequently realized. That doesn't excuse them.
I don't want to argue that in real life any slave owner has ever treated a slave better than the slave would have treated himself if he was free. I do want to argue that the possibility is there. For example, some people are drug addicts who do various hurtful and demeaning things to support their addictions. An owner who limited access to the drugs and required them to behave reasonably well might be a good thing, if it were to happen. It would be coercion, and you could argue that would make it wrong from the get-go. I claim the results could be good. I don't claim to know who needs to be a slave or who would make a good master etc.
The problem with forcing people to do things for their own good is, who are you to say what's good for them? Everyone is the arbiter of their own standard of what's good for them; we are sovereign over ourselves, and no others. So we can defend ourselves from others; we can defend others from each other; but we cannot defend another from themselves.
The master/slave relationship is not so different from the military-officer/enlisted-man relationship. Or the police/citizen one. Or parent/child.
I agree, and I object to those kinds of relationships equally. Well, not inherently as they are named, but as they often flesh out. Officer-enlisted would be fine if it were like any other employer-employee relationship. Police-citizen would be fine so long as the only difference between the two is that the police were being paid specifically to do a duty that any citizen could do if they liked, and only with the same powers that those citizens had. Parent-child is obviously inevitable so long as people keep breeding, and is fine so long as it doesn't have the authoritarian master-slave dynamic you're talking about; children are people too.
There are various government regulations on the dominant partner, and the coerced partner can get the other in trouble if he plays his cards just right.
And if you continue those kinds of regulations to their logical conclusion, you end up with entirely nonviolent versions of these relationships, at which point they are perfectly fine.
J Thomas wrote:The New Testament was widely understood to have an unambiguous "thou shalt not do usury", and we went right ahead and developed a banking system which now appears to have a stranglehold on the world economy. Banking or slavery. Which is worse? (I know, I know, people generally believe the propaganda and think slavery is the worst thing in the world and banking is just fine.) Christians as a whole did little to stop either one.
Actually, the Catholic church for the longest time was pretty strict on the "no usury" thing, and the destruction of that stricture during the Protestant Reformation was one of the things which lead to the era of modern capitalism. Muslims today still adhere to their own version of it (not derived from quite the same source of course), and Jews' religiously unrestricted use of it was one of the reasons they were hated in the middle ages (and is the origin of the "Jews run all the banks" meme).
There are/were bugs in the system, both the modern Muslim one and the old Catholic one, that allow(ed) people to work around it, but I think the principle is pretty good; as I mentioned above, I think usury is akin to slavery, and that it is the real failing of modern capitalism. Marx was on to something with the whole slavery-feudalism-capitalism gradual withering of the master-servant dynamic, but I think he misplaced the failings of modern capitalism (and his proposed solution was a cure worse than the disease).
So, you have some people starving. Not so far away there are people who can't defend their farmland. Come on now, if you don't take it somebody else will. So after you take that land from them, what happens to the survivors? These days when that topic comes up (Israel, Kosovo, etc) we call it "ethnic cleansing". Kill enough of them to scare the rest into fleeing. After they're gone they aren't your problem. In the old days lots of populations plain weren't very mobile. (Some were, like the Goths.) When a bunch of people who've never been 20 miles from home walk out with whatever you let them carry on their backs, what will happen to them? They wind up some place they don't speak the language, no friends, beggars, they'll be the poorest of the poor and they're likely to just starve. Unless somebody accepts them as slaves and feeds them. Or you can take them as slaves yourself.
In this and the surrounding paragraphs, you speak almost as though people voluntarily signed up to be slaves. Maybe that was even so in some ostensible sense (selling oneself into slavery), though of course once in slavery, nothing is voluntary, and you cannot own anything, so that was obviously a confused concept in use then.
But these problems you talk about can be solved in similar ways without being slavery per se. A bunch of destitute, desperate people come into your country begging for anything? You and they are free to work out an arrangement where you give them food and shelter in exchange for their service to you. You don't have to send them away or give them handouts; you can demand they work for your aide. And if they're desperate and you're poor yourself and you can arrange that they have to do a lot of work for not much pay, well that sucks, but it's not immoral, and it's not slavery, unless you then use violence to keep them from working for anybody else, or receiving anybody else's aide. If they're free to get more support for less work from someone else (given they can find someone else open to such arrangement), then they are not slaves. A servant may still be a servant, but so long as he can choose his master (or choose to have none), he is not a slave.