Thursday, March 26, 2009

United by Right

"Justice is the end of government. It is the end of civil society. It ever has been and ever will be pursued until it be obtained, or until liberty be lost in the pursuit." (Federalist, #51)

My friend Tom Hoefling, National chairman of America's Independent Party, called to my attention today a thoughtful piece by Ken Blackwell (former Ohio Secretary of State and recently among the candidates for chairman of the GOP) about the "politics of division…at play within the conservative movement." In his political career Ken has shown himself to be a man with considerable respect for principle, and one who is willing to give issues of moral principle, like respect for innocent life, the priority required for our survival as a free people. In his essay, he rightly admonishes conservatives to remember their common and unifying commitment to the primacy of individual rights. "The place of the individual vis-√†-vis the state is the root of commonality for all conservatives, and the basic disconnect between conservatives and collectivists. Government exists not to confer rights, but instead to secure rights." He rightly declares that "the common enemy of all conservatives is the centrality of the state instead of the individual in our political system." He admonishes conservatives to "wake up to this common opponent…"

There can be no doubt that unity is an essential ingredient for success in political, as in military, conflict. Recognizing the common enemy can certainly contribute to such unity. Of course, on the verge of route, when the forces of the enemy loom large in seeming triumph, such recognition can also be the source of discouragement and demoralization. At such times, it has often been more likely to contribute to unanimous retreat or surrender than to a determined stand against the exultant foe. But if, in the face of that exultation, one hardy soul picks up the fallen ensign of their cause, and braving the taunts and deadly missiles of the enemy lifts it again aloft, that reminder of the common good the soldiers fight for, and the common hope it represents, sometimes has been enough to turn the tide of war. People will stand, even against overwhelming odds, when roused by positive and deep commitment to the common good for which they stand.

In this regard I often think of Madison's words from Federalist #51, with their implied warning to the friends of liberty, that justice is the ultimate aim of political life, for the sake of which even liberty will be sacrificed. This should remind thoughtful advocates of individual rights that all such rights are rooted in a claim of right (that is to say, justice). If that claim is not successfully defended, rights will not be preserved.

Ironically, at least in their rhetoric the advocates of socialist collectivism seem never to forget the primacy of justice. Whatever the soporific density of his tendentious economic theories, there are passages in the writings of Karl Marx that burn hot from the fire of his outrage against the inhumane abuses of the Industrial Age. Though by and large they reject Christianity and deny divine authority any relevance to law or politics, the politicians of the left constantly appeal to the sense of justice as they demand programs for the poor, equity for the workers, and respect for the downtrodden and contemned. Leftist ideology often produces massive suffering and death precisely because it gives such weight to the political goal; the end that justifies any and every means; the requirement of justice so absolute that in its presence individual life and suffering lose any and all significance.

What has fueled the undeniable victories of the left, so costly to humanity? A false assertion of individual rights that acts without respect for the deep injustices caused by unbridled lust for wealth, pleasure and self-idolizing power. From the brutalized peasants and urban laborers carelessly offended by the old, so-called aristocracies, to the miners and industrial laborers callously abused by the builders of nineteenth and twentieth century industrial empires, the adroitly highlighted tragedy of these injustices recruited the strength of revolutionary movements around the world.

The socialist revolutionary sees government power as the only means to curtail these abuses. To end the exploitative repression of the many by the few they erect an overawing bureaucratic power that represses all equally. Those who will not conform to the paradigm of government repression, they simply eliminate. The toll goes beyond the many millions dead, however, to encompass the death of the human spirit, and the energy and creativity that fuels the search for knowledge and technological development. Government expands its control until the whole of society conforms to its requirements, and in the process becomes a cancerous mass, no longer living yet pulsating with life.

Between the extremes of dissolute individualism and cancerous government repression, the American founders made out a third alternative, a middle ground upon which individuals who respect the possibility of human community empower a government that respects the possibilities of individual existence. While admitting the necessity for government to restrain individual abuses of freedom, they respected the need for self-reliant individuals to restrain the abuses of government. The result is a form of government that relies upon the force of individual character to provide the motive power that constrains individuals from abuse. The just government of individuals (their freedom to act without abuse) achieved through self-government (their willingness to impose constraints upon themselves.)

Of course the idea of self-government makes no sense in the absence of an understanding of justice that makes clear the boundaries of freedom (that is, the actions that mark the limits beyond which freedom becomes abusive.)

The Declaration of Independence reflects the ingenious and elegant reasoning through which the founders expressed and established such an understanding. As justice is the freedom to act without fear of abuse, just government must derive its authority from a corresponding act of freedom, one that represents the pure self-determination of a will that in no way infringes upon the will of any other. But such a pure act of self-determination (acting of itself, and therefore in no way infringing upon another) is not possible for any contingent being. Only the being that is in and for itself is capable of such freedom. The conceptual possibility of justice therefore arises from our acknowledgment of the existence of such a being, authorizing the claim of freedom made by every individual. The Declaration refers to the self-subsistent being from whose existence the possibility of justice arises as the Creator. Yet because the existence of this self-determining being is essential to every individual claim of freedom, respect for the consequences of its existence becomes the limiting condition for that claim, the conceptual boundary within which every free individual must operate, or else surrender their claim to freedom. Every exercise of individual freedom must therefore show respect to and for the being whose existence accounts for the possibility of individual freedom. But where human beings are concerned, the individual is one of many, each of whom must be taken into account. The Declaration reflects the need for this accounting when it concludes that, to be legitimate, government must be based upon consent.

Of course, the Declaration's reasoning requires a concept of the Creator that goes beyond any simplistic analogy with the activity of human artisans. The Creator not only produces the result, He constitutes it, so that apart from Him its existence is inconceivable. The endowment of unalienable rights is therefore an act of sharing in a sense that goes beyond any merely objective exchange. It connotes, like all expressions of love, the active and continuous presence of the giver. But if the present in its very substance involves the presence of the giver, nothing can be made of it that is inconsistent with His being. The freedom that the Creator originates in this way continues to exist only insofar as it corresponds, in every way, to what He is. All else is not freedom, but abuse.

In light of this reasoning, freedom cannot be understood, much less respected and preserved, without reference to its source. People who say they care about freedom, but who reject the need to address the question of justice that arises from abuse open the way for leftists who exploit their apparent indifference to human misery to discredit the concern with individual rights, which they portray as a cover for greedy ambition. Such false proponents of freedom also encourage the neglect of character, and character education, which turns the dissolution of freedom from a conceptual consequence to a destructive reality.

During the Bush era Republicans suffered more and more acutely from this vulnerability, until it finally resulted in their decisive defeat. Such success as they enjoyed came mainly from the false impression that they cared about the just basis for freedom, though what they really cared for was the support they could harvest among voters who acted on their faith in the Creator God. When pushed to it, however, Republicans by and large tacitly ceded the high moral ground to the left. They do not act boldly because they cannot or will not rely on arguments that refer to and respect the origin of free will, the Creator God without whose authority human assertions of freedom are self-defeating.

Translated into common sense terms, this becomes an issue of trust. As a rule it makes no sense to trust that bad people will do good things, and this includes people who have no concept of good that goes beyond what gets them the goods they desire. In the hands of such people power is likely to be abused from the moment abuse serves their advantage, and the abuse is likely to continue until they themselves are disadvantaged by it. Under such circumstances, individual freedom seems good only to people who do not fear to suffer the tyranny of others who are sufficiently powerful to abuse it. This variety of courage is so narrowly distributed that I wonder if it has ever been displayed by the majority of any people. Most people want some assurance of security against the abuses of power. When that assurance takes the form of moral education and restraint, individual rights and liberty may flourish. When individual character is neglected, and the assumption of self-indulgence prevails, the desire for security against abuse feeds the expansion of government power and control.

Some conservatives pretend to want limited government, but reject the premise of justice that makes sense of rights and liberty. But it provides the only consistent foundation for a self-disciplined understanding of freedom that can serve as the basis for moral education. Moral education, in turn, builds the people's confidence in the prevalence of the sort of good character that, in the absence of a pervasive apparatus of enforcement, assures timid humanity against abuse.

In light of this I have understood for a long time why leftists promote every form of licentious desire and behavior. They know that the breakdown of moral constraint leads to the exultation of government power. It took longer for me to realize that conservatives who reject or downplay the importance of issues that affect moral self-discipline and character are the fifth column of totalitarian ideology among the sincere proponents of liberty. At best they see the forms of representative government based on individual rights as a pleasant mask for authoritarian paternalism: well intentioned elites nobly obliging themselves to decide what is good for the hapless masses. Where socialists aim for a world in which all adults will be slaves of the state, such so-called conservatives envisage a world in which all are its obedient children. Of course both groups exempt themselves from the perpetual dependency they will inflict on others.

There have been enough flourishing empires in human history to prove that many people are happy to be fairly well-treated slaves, and even more are pleased to live as well cared for children. Unfortunately I cannot think of one such despotic empire that did not in the end use the slaves or children as wolves use sheep. Americans have been free of the slaughter pens for long enough to be careless. They are giving in to the delusion that free individuals without moral conscience will respect those enslaved by passion or indolence, or that an all powerful government will serve rather than exploit the needs of disarmed and dependent subjects. But in a society of individuals who need such government power to control their abuses, where shall they be found who will not abuse its power, and for how long?

The crisis of our times demands that everyone think about that question. People who acknowledge the authority of the Creator should think especially hard. America's moral heart can still be rallied, but not by false premises of unity that leave the nation's standard of moral principle in the dust. Citizens must be found who will not run in the same the same direction as the pursuing enemies of freedom, whatever label those enemies claim to wear. We must turn, stand fast and rally round the standard which the Declaration blazons with God's name, for only beneath that standard may the meek rest assured that the rights we fight to save will justly serve the right He has ordained.

Worth considering? Then don't forget to DIGG IT!!!!

53 comments:

jim said...

Dr. Keyes, I was in on your call (AIP) tonight, 3/26/09, and wanted to share verbally so much more than I did but remained silent as to learn from yours and Tom's and the others knowledge.

I have to tell you that America will only come back to God if leaders like you and Brannon Howse of worldviewweekend.com come together and reach out together to the America people who are floundering wondering what is going on what is going wrong and what is going to be done about it all. I assume you will read this and hope very much so that you do. I want to be on board your ship more now than ever before, and hope we cross paths sometime in the near future. I want to go to a worldview weekend event in Memphis, Tn April 17 and 18, but don't know if it will happen or not, but I KNOW I CAN HELP PEOPLE LIKE YOU AND BRANNON HOWSE JOIN FORCES TO DEFEAT THE SCHEMES OF SATAN TO RULE OUR NATION'S LEADERS MOVES. THEIR MOVES CANNOT BE MADE B/C OF GOD AND I WANT TO DO ALL I CAN TO HELP.

I am interjecting here a message a friend of mine sent me the other day, the scripture and his words are always sweet to my ear, though sometimes difficult to hear. God Bless, Jim Cooke - I hope you will get in contact with me soon - Tom Hoefling has my e-mail and I am sure you could get it anyway.

Greetings stranger!

Where have you been hiding since Thanksgiving 2008? The last time I spoke with you was during the time you were planning to fly to Tennessee with your mother as she was needing assistance with flights and transportation to and from family.

Since we last spoke, the world has changed exponentially as it applies to economics, education, politics, religion, and the Constitution. My worldview has not changed one iota as it has been grounded in the Word of God. I am reminded of the scripture in Romans 11:33-36 where the Apostle Paul addresses the Church at Rome. He says, "O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God; how unsearchable are His judgements, and His ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? Or who hath been His counselor? Or who hath first given to Him, and it shall be recompensed unto Him again? For of Him, and through Him, and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. A-men

America will shortly be receiving redemptive judgement from God as He loves us too much to allow this nation to go whoring after the false gods of money, entertainment, fame, leisure, education, jobs, etc. Read Psalm 19:7-10 7 The law of the LORD is perfect,
reviving the soul.
The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy,
making wise the simple.

8 The precepts of the LORD are right,
giving joy to the heart.
The commands of the LORD are radiant,
giving light to the eyes.

9 The fear of the LORD is pure,
enduring forever.
The ordinances of the LORD are sure
and altogether righteous.

10 They are more precious than gold,
than much pure gold;
they are sweeter than honey,
than honey from the comb.

I was good to hear from you again, Jim. What has the Lord been speaking to you?I remember when we last communicated, you were mentioning some good things that the spirit of God was showing you.

Best wishes,
John

Pamela said...

I really liked the truths you have revealed in this post. I too have come to similar conclusions. These truths need to be shared more widely! Thank you for taking the time to write them down.

respectfully,
GaryT

The Silent Consensus said...

Ambassador Keyes,
A sincere question. You often speak for freedom, liberty, self-government and individual rights, but what about various actions that you and I may personally find immoral, but do not inherently infringe on anyone else: drugs, prostitution, gambling, porn, and euthanasia.

If any of those actions end up infringing on other people incidentally (i.e. commits a crime under the influence), then we should hold the actors accountable for their actions while leaving everyone else. Isn't such the hallmark of a free society?

To sum up: In all sincerity, I only find it logical that with freedom, liberty, and self-government that people be free to choose what to put in their body, what to do with their body, and how to spend their money provided they do not infringe on anyone else's individual rights. If we have freedom, liberty, self-government and individual rights, then why shouldn't individuals be allowed to make those decisions for themselves?

Terry Morris said...

Silent Consensus,

Not to answer for Mr. Keyes, but are you going to argue that drug abuse, pornography (including child pornography), prostitution, gambling, and one you didn't mention - homosexuality, are not inherently corrupt inordinate behaviorisms which are detrimental to the health of society? Don't tell me, you're going to argue that it is government interference that is responsible for the corruption in drug use and gambling and so forth, right?

Alan Keyes said...

Silent Consensus:
Unalienable rights do not involve the the freedom to do what we please. Properly understood, the assertion of right implies an obligation on the part of others to respect the right. But such an obligation can only arise on account of the authority by which we make the assertion. According to the Declaration's principles, unalienable rights are an aspect of our nature, which is to say they reflect the disposition (and therefore the authority) of our Creator. For example, He made us living things. It is right (that is, it accords with His will and therefore reflects His authority) to preserve the life with which He endowed us. We therefore have the right to do what serves this purpose so long as we do not infringe the similar activities of others. Actions that involve unalienable right can be justified by reference to the aspect of our nature they serve or preserve.
Except for issues that infringe the rights connected with procreation (all those that deal with what we call sexual matters)or those that could be construed as an assault against life (harmful drugs can be considered poisons, euthanasia as an act against our nature, a surrender of unalienable right) none of the things you mention can be justified or forbidden on these terms. That doesn't by itself mean that what remains should be allowed or prohibited. It does mean that the issues involved to not rise to the level of fundamental principle I have thus far mostly dealt with on this site.
This is the kind of thing I'll be exploring in depth in the seminars I'm hosting. Why don't you sign up?

chiu_chunling said...

In a nutshell, the basic problem is when people mistake the cause of freedom (which is also its object). To become good, rather than to obtain goods, is the fundamental driving first and final cause of all freedom.

All goods are temporary, and dependence on them leads into captivity and then destruction. More particularly, there are some "goods" which have no value except to those that have been trained to dependence on them. A person concerned with inculcating freedom has no excuse for permitting the promotion and distribution of those "goods" which promote increased dependency. But all goods external to the intrinsic character and abilities of the individual are fundamentally unreliable.

It is that good which resides in the decisions and commitments of a free person which produces and rewards freedom. This is the good which cannot be lost to accident, theft, or vandalism. But to believe this, it is necessary to believe in the eternal nature of the spirit, for otherwise the brute fact of death would reduce all such gains to the same irrelevance of the material goods which we must leave behind.

Whether or not this argument leads irrevocably to the existence of God is another argument altogether (of course it does logically imply God, which is why atheists reject the idea of the eternal nature of the spirit). While we may argue from the existence of God to the existence of the spirit, we needn't do so.

The truth is that all striving for something beyond the most brutish animal existence (with its swinish grubbing for material goods) must be informed by an idea of some eternal good which we can attain. Freedom is the process by which we lessen our dependence on external goods and develop our capacity to supply our needs out of our own abilities. Of course no human can be totally free, even the most free human still has basic needs like sunlight (technically any high energy source will do), air, water, soil, etc. But anything overtly detrimental to the self-reliance of humans is destructive to their freedom.

Thus a search for freedom is incoherent without belief in the primacy of seeking to become good rather than acquire goods. The claim that "freedom" means access to dependency inducing "goods" which contribute nothing to the ability or character reveals a complete lack of any real thought about what it means to be free. To claim that any being which exists only temporarily can ever pursue freedom is to reveal one has not thought seriously about what makes external goods different from intrinsic goodness.

I have often regarded God as...not exactly an enemy, but certainly an...inconvenience in my search for freedom. But logical thought would not permit me to deny His existence so long as I pursued what could only exist on the presumption that I had an eternal component to my own being. Over time I have learned that the teachings and activities of God are calculated to make unlimited freedom possible for any that earnestly seek it (though most men settle for some lesser degree of freedom). The prohibition of activities which will directly decrease individual freedom I learned easily to trust. More advanced mechanisms for the progressive development of freedom always initially struck me as unnecessarily costly, though I have yet to prove a case where they were not the most efficient means for advancing development of freedom in the spirit of men.

I haven't given up on holding God to task, but I have learned to expect not to catch Him slacking. In ordinary terms, you might almost call that trust. Certainly, if it comes to that, I 'trust' Him much more than I trust myself (I have learned to expect to discover sloth in myself). I am without excuse to deny His great work in declaring liberty to the captive, freedom to the oppressed, deliverance from death and hell.

But for all that, it is from my own pursuit of freedom, not my certain knowledge of divine assistance, that I can declare my understanding of the nature and necessities of freedom.

The Silent Consensus said...

Terry,
Correct. Society is not some entity apart from and superior to its individual members. Society is a large number of individuals who live together in the same area and deal with one another. Society cannot be a victim unless another individual is a victim. And yes, making certain acts illegal does result in more problems.

The Silent Consensus said...

Ambassador,
While I follow the logic, I have to disagree. Our inalienable rights are life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. Nowhere does it say anything that we are not allowed to pursue our happiness by being stupid.

Yes, rights to liberty and pursuit of happiness are simply corollaries of the right to life. Let's logically get to right to liberty and pursuit of happiness

1. We have a right to life
2. Life is a process of self-sustaining and self-generated action
1 + 2. We have a right to do self-sustaining and self-generated action
3. A right to such action requires the FREEDOM to do what's necessary for the sustainment, progression, fulfillment, and pleasure of our own life
4. Such action involves liberty and pursuit of happiness
3 + 4. We have a right to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness

As I have said before, my right to life means your right to life does not allow you to kill me. It's simply a line which keeps both our rights intact. The only inalienable rights we have are those which can exist in everyone at every place at all times. For example, if a right to life meant a right to murder, then no one really has a right to life and it would be self-defeating.

We have no right to initiate force against others. Within our own sphere, our rights to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness are absolute.

As far as your seminars, I think they are a good idea and I appreciate the offer. At the same time, I'm not prepared to pay for it

Alan Keyes said...

Silent Consensus:
That's too bad, though not unexpected. A serious effort to wrestle with the concepts our system of self-government is based on might do you some good. The American founding represented a unique breakthrough in the political thought of humankind. It produced a uniquely long lasting form of democratic self-government that may now be coming to an end. Thinking through what might help to save it from self-destruction takes more than stringing together a few inconsistent notions that strike us as useful. Actually wrestling with the serious ideas involved in a form of government on which the life and happiness or misery and deaths of millions depend may be worth the cost of a couple of movie tickets. Or not. We are each called to do what we can. God will let us know what it was worth, when the time comes.

The Silent Consensus said...

As expected, we have an honest disagreement. I completely agree that the American founding represented a unique breakthrough in the political thought of humankind. It was the full-fledged government founded based on individual rights. The funny thing is, I take issue with both the liberal and conservative notions of freedom and liberty.

In one of my podcasts, I talk about how rent control is an assault on freedom and liberty. Rent control does have practical problems and I share those concerns, but I'm against it even in principle. I also take issue with the liberal notion that health care is a "right" and for the same reason: Nobody has a right to another's property or service. If that were not the case, then everyone has a right to everyone's property and services, but then no one has a right to any property or liberty because anyone can just take it.

To better articulate my issue with the conservative notion of freedom and liberty, you said the assertion of right implies an obligation of others to respect the right. Fair enough. The obligation of others to respect means they cannot use force to infringe. People are obligated to respect my right to life, but that does not mean people are obligated to feed, clothe, and house me. It simply means no one can forcibly stop me from sustaining my own life through my own efforts.

Likewise, with your saying that an obligation to respect others' rights can only come from of the authority which we assert. You are essentially saying that we are not obligated to respect people's doing drugs, prostitution, gambling, etc...which is saying that we have a right to initiate force against those people to stop them and others are obligated to let us do so. I never meant to imply we are obligated to provide people drugs and so on, I just meant we don't have a right to use force against people doing it, and do not have a right to use force against anyone who doesn't initiate force against us.

Oh and Terry, my above comments to you do not include child porn. Child porn is an exploitation of children and a completely different subject from porn.

gilbertabrett said...

Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness comes with a price - responsibility. If you take that away you threaten everyone else's right. No man is an island - we have all heard that one?

If you do something that you think is not hurting anyone else you are just not too bright. And certainly not living in any kind of freedom. My dad taught me that years ago when I confessed of my drug abuse and said how could it hurt anyone in my family since I was doing drugs in another state, miles away from everyone I loved - the problem. I thought I was being sneaky and "kind" to not bring that lifestyle around my family like I saw so many other people do - stealing from their moms and grandmoms, sisters and brothers - I was "protecting" them. What I was doing was being selfish. I let my addiction take control of the life GOD had given me and steal time away from my family that will NEVER be replaced.

The problem with most people is the same problem that CHRIST described about the Pharisees - they make things too complicated. And they do it in order to keep people in bondage.

Our nation is in bondage and so is anyone that thinks they are "living" in "freedom" when they have no respect for life or the responsibilities that come with it.

Freedom does not give you the right to do anything you want. Of course, without GOD, you can justify anything - look at our "leaders" in DC...

I am reading a book published in 1981 called "Target America" by James L. Tyson. Amazingly the more I read, the more he sounds like he was writing just about what is going on with O'Drama and EVERYTHING I see coming out of this "administration."

Even when I watch TV now, it seems as if EVERYTHING is targeted to make us turn towards a communist government. Besides the fact that between our local newspaper and the TV, we have to see O'Drama rescuing us from the "falling house of cards the 8 years of Bush made," our "leaders" are running all over the world saying that everyone else's problems are our fault! That house of cards ad - what a STUPID commercial.

I hope for the sake of those coming behind us that you, Dr. Keyes, and many others that are becoming aware of your blog AND YOUR DETERMINATION to turn this country back to GOD, will continue to fight the good fight and perhaps GOD will have mercy and deliver us from this present evil.

HE does say that if those who are called by HIS name will humble THEMSELVES, he will forgive - HE never said anything about those who go around confessing the god of this world... we already know what awaits them...

The Silent Consensus said...

gilbertabrett,
I applaud your ability to share your drug past and I applaud your recovery. Having said that, so you are saying that our rights should be subject to other people's emotions, and if other people feel bad due to our actions, that's an infringement?

I wonder how far that could go. In your example, since when do our parents have jurisdiction over us past the age of 18? If their emotions determine our rights, let's outlaw doing any job they don't approve of. Let's force adults to live in the shadows of their parents' fears.

Or if we want to go further with the notion that hurting other people's emotions means infringing, let's say I'm uncomfortable with anyone carrying a gun. I now have a right to stop whoever is? Sure, on my own property I do, but not in public.

Saying that people have to be the slave to other people's emotions is anti-freedom.

Terry Morris said...

Well, to be fair to Gilbert, he admitted not merely to upsetting the feelings of his family members via his drug abuse, he admitted to stealing the wealth of others as well while he was strung out on drugs--most likely as a means of supporting his drug habit, I'm assuming.

He's saying, essentially, that in addition to causing his family emotional distress, he was also causing them economic loss via the (direct) taking of their property (without their consent) to support his addiction; that his drug habit inhibited him from making rational, morally right decisions respecting his duties in a reciprocal relationship with others, thus negatively affecting the ability of others to carry on normally with their lives and liberties, and to be secure in their properties, i.e., infringing on their rights.

So, Gilbert wasn't saying that simply causing others emotional distress is a good reason, in and of itself, for depriving someone of a right or a privelege he is otherwise protected in. No; he gave a concrete example of how his addiction resulted in his infringing on the rights of others. Interesting that you missed that, Silent Consensus.

Terry Morris said...

Silent Consensus wrote:

In your example, since when do our parents have jurisdiction over us past the age of 18?

Not since the ratification of the 26th Amendment, U.S. Constitution, July 5, 1971. How that has anything to do with the function and the proper role of the central government in a federal representative republic, I have no idea. But I imagine it must have something to do with the misapplication of the provisions of that pesky 14th Amendment. You know, the amendment that supposedly establishes so-called "birthright citizenship," imposing the concept on the legal citizens of every state in this union.

Speaking of which, Silent Consensus, and in case you haven't run across it yet, Snopes.com has a good article on Obama's eligibility issues in which the writer assumes that Obama was born in Hawaii as he says, and therefore is a natural born U.S. citizen irrespective of whether either of his parents were U.S. citizens at the time of his birth or not. The problems with that idea are simply too complicated to go into right now, but it doesn't take much of an imagination to recognize in such a notion the ability of a hostile foreign nation to elevate a "creature of its own" to the presidency.

Terry Morris said...

Silent Consensus wrote:

Oh and Terry, my above comments to you do not include child porn. Child porn is an exploitation of children and a completely different subject from porn.

Well, while I disagree with you that child porn and adult porn are completely different subjects, I'm happy to see that you recognize the particularly egregious nature of, and the assault on the conscience of a nation and its people, that child porn is all around. Many libertarians do not see this, all in the name of "liberty" and "self-determination," of course.

The Silent Consensus said...

Quick correction: People having to be the slave to other people's emotions is anti-freedom

Cathy said...

Silent Consensus,I think you just gave a good definition of tolerance, but I wonder if you can appreciate the impact of your statement.  For instance, Obama repealed the executive order denying Federal Funding for new embryonice stem cell research.  As part of the "appeal" he presented Christopher Reeve as the emotional component of his argument.  At the same time, he's promoting in health care a central actuarial component to determine by "quality of life"-an emotional ploy, and probable outcome whether the individual, you or I, are worthy of care-expense related outcome.  Please, ask yourself, under such a system, would Christopher Reeve have been "too expensive" to "be allowed to survive"?  Would his "quality of life", been too painful to endure? Would the medical staff caring for such a patient be required by government mandates to pull the plug, or remove a feeding tube?Don't worry, be happy, trust the government to decide!

chiu_chunling said...

Christopher Reeve was famous and instrumental to the advance of embryonic stem-cell research. Of course they wouldn't ever deny him care...were he still alive.

The more basic problem is that embryonic stem-cell research has not produced any care to offer, for basic medical reasons well understood by anyone who has actually bothered to look at the underlying science. Those cells are fundamentally programmed to turn into a distinct human being. It isn't readily possible to get them to do anything else.

On the subject of other people's emotions, I have to disagree. Developing my ability to understand and accommodate the emotions of other people has led me to dramatic increases in my own sentient potential. Accepting my role in shaping the emotional lives of those around me gives me intrinsic power and opens entirely new courses of action that I could not have imagined without such an understanding. Even in terms of the satisfaction obtained simply from the awareness of mental processes distinct from my own person, I regard myself as having benefited.

But of course Silent Consensus is so determinedly anti-sentient that he has no functional understanding of what freedom means. Hence the ludicrous argument that suffering deprivation of porn or drugs will make someone less free.

The Silent Consensus said...

Wow, ok one at a time

Terry,
1. I misread. In that case, it's his stealing that infringed on others, not his use of drugs

2. Illegal drugs is responsible for high drug prices which leads to more likelihood of stealing money. How often does someone hold up a cashier to get a pack of smokes? Practically never. The illegality of drugs enables its prices to go through the roof and people committing crimes to support their addiction. And, on top of that, any disputes settled with violence because courts don't handle black market disputes. I do share these practical concerns with those who argue it, but my main reason for legalization is the principle that in a free society, we should be able to put what we want in our own body

3. I have no idea what you're talking about with the 14th Amendment. Anyone born in America is a citizen. We don't have any imposition there

4. Child porn is different, and porn is not a gateway drug (pun intended) to child porn

Cathy,
1. I am not in favor of single-payer health care and the examples you just gave are reasons for it.

2. As far as embryonic stem cell research, the issue raised by those against it is an issue with in vitro fertilization. I wonder where all the outrage was when that started. The embryonic stem cell research that can get funded is of stem cells left over from in vitro fertilization that would otherwise be discarded or destroyed. If you someone is against in vitro fertilization then I understand, but I have yet to see anyone argue why it would somehow be ok to destroy them but not to use them for research that could save human lives

Chiu,
1. If embryonic stem cell research truly has no promise of finding cures, then scientists will stop pursuing it. We don't need a law to prevent it if that's the case. Like, we don't need to outlaw ineffective prescription drugs. People simply will not buy them if they are ineffective

2. We have no inalienable right not to be offended or feel uncomfortable. If I'm not comfortable with you carrying a gun, I don't have a right to stop you. If I'm offended by what you're saying, and it's not libel, slander, etc..., I don't have a right to shut you up

3. Taking away people's ability to decide for themselves what to do to sustain, fulfill, improve, and gratify their own life, within their own sphere, is anti-freedom. Realize who's saying this. I have never used a recreational drug, smoked a cigarette, or even been drunk, and that has been my personal decision. I believe the government and other people have zero right to make such decisions for me. The difference in our views is that I'm not asking that my OPINION be legislated.

Bottom line: illegal =/= immoral. Immoral is just that, immoral. Illegal means so wrong that it warrants pointing a gun to the person's head to prevent them from doing whatever it is.

To quote Ayn Rand, "Mind and force are opposites; morality ends where a gun begins." Such statement cuts both ways. Compliance in and of itself isn't endorsement. And, the only reason we would "need" force to prevent someone from doing something is if his/her mind dictates otherwise, in which case the law is an attempt to cover up much bigger problems

Alan Keyes said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Alan Keyes said...

Silent consensus refers to "the principle that in a free society, we should be able to put what we want in our own body." Is there such a principle? From what reasoning is it derived? Is it a self-evident truth? Or is it merely an assertion of appetite, like the child's desire to eat whatever sweets are handy. If this is a true principle, it leads inevitable to the right to suicide (putting poison into our own bodies). But as the current euthanasia movement shows, the right to suicide exonerates those to whom we give permission, when they help us to die. But if we can by our consent legitimize his act, then the bargain a conqueror offers to the vanquished (surrender to slavery or die) legitimizes the subsequent execution of any subject person who disobeys his will. The argument Locke and other philosophers of freedom used to refute the rights of conquest as any basis for legitimate government relied on the notion that human beings cannot consent to let a conqueror to do what we have no right to do ourselves (take our own life.) Superior power is therefore no basis for just government.
The failure to think through the consequences of adolescent notions of freedom may be why it took several thousand years before political philosophers clarified an understanding of freedom that did not inevitably legitimize tyrants.
This is the kind of food for thought I hope to share at the LTL seminars. Free people have to do more than exchange ill considered assertions if they want to avoid humanity's usual fate (some form of subjection.)

The Silent Consensus said...

Ambassador,
If that's the case, then I disagree with Locke on that. What people do to themselves is consenting, and the government imposing it is not consenting.
I view our rights as those which cannot be surrendered or taken away except by the person possessing them.

Aside from that, even if they cannot surrender it, why would the government or others have a right to force people not to disregard their own rights when these people have not initiated force against anyone?

Furthermore, how would your argument not invalidate the death penalty? I happen to be in favor of it, but I fail to see how the argument you just laid out doesn't extend to being against the death penalty, in fact any punishment at all.

Alan Keyes said...

Silent Con:
Locke's reasoning made a vital contribution to the establishment of constitutional self-government wherever it exists. I can't imagine why I would take his arguments more seriously than your assertions. You refuse every opportunity to think about what you're saying. You seem to have a good mind, but you let your unexamined opinions imprison it. If you really believe in liberty, stop enslaving your intellect to appetite driven assertions. Thomas Hobbes called reason the scout and spy of the passions. But he ultimately advocated despotism. In a free person (i.e., one not a slave to passion,) it answers to a higher calling. Why not at least try to see where it leads?

The Silent Consensus said...

It's nothing to do with appetite. It's everything to do with people's right to live for their own sake. I agree with Locke in general and applaud his contribution to a constitutional republic, that doesn't mean I'm not going to question anything he says.

If we want to talk about despotism, let's look at where the argument of not being allowed to put whatever one wants in their own body if it's harmful, or doing whatever they want with it if it's destructive, leads to. It's not just drugs, prostitution and porn. White sugar is harmful, trans fats are harmful, chemicals, hormones, and antibiotics in meat are harmful, smoking is harmful, pesticides are harmful, you name it. EVERYTHING is poison. Too much of of anything will kill you, the only difference is in degree of poison in what causes an overdose with the least amount. The question becomes whether we trust citizens, to decide for themselves how much of something to have, or whether we start mandating how much of a certain thing people are allowed to have. If the latter is not despotism I don't know what is.

And with body actions and destructive. Not exercising often is destructive, sleeping too little is destructive, eating at irregular times is destructive, I could go on and on. The same argument applies here

chiu_chunling said...

"If embryonic stem cell research truly has no promise of finding cures, then scientists will stop pursuing it."

I can't believe that anyone is really this dumb. This kind of statement is why I don't believe that Silent Consensus is telling the truth about anything (leaving aside the fact that he wouldn't know truth if it chewed off his tail).

"Illegal means so wrong that it warrants pointing a gun to the person's head to prevent them from doing whatever it is."

Thus declaims a person constantly arguing in favor of consolidation of government power, against any limitations on new law making, refusing the recognize our right to express dissent from the current regime...it just goes to show how easily someone with no intellectual integrity can mouth anything.

How is giving someone an addictive, mind-altering substance different from pointing a gun? Only in the same way that using a knife or a club would be different. The addict suffers from the bone-deep sensation of need for more of the drug, just as a drowning man desires air. So were laws only invented with the firearm? Or are there some things which, despite being superficially different, constitute a fundamental kind of compulsion?

I happen to be free enough that even with a gun to my head I'll still do as I please. It isn't that uncommon a thing, really. Many people learn this degree of freedom, the freedom to value something above our merely instinctive desire for life. But the fact of the matter is that most humans can't think well about what they really want if their lives are in danger, so making a direct physical threat to their safety really does impair their sentience, and thus acts as a restraint on their freedom.

The point at which you limit freedom isn't when you perform some external action but when you use the irrational urges (whether those natural to the human body or artificially inculcated ones) to limit sentience. It doesn't have anything to do with the particular method of instigating that urge nor even with the particular urge manipulated. The important point is that you exploit some weakness of body to destroy the ability to reason.

Of course, some people go to great lengths to destroy their own ability to reason properly. Nothing can be done about that, though.

gilbertabrett said...

Just in case anyone's still reading...

Let me first say I am ashamed that I DID, a couple of times, go with some "friends" when we were high to steal from showcase trailers. We "thought" it was alright because they were wealthy business people and "no one got hurt." WE WERE HIGH. While I am writing this, I am thinking (sorry, but it's true) that I and my "friends" acted a lot like O'Drama and the crew up in DC... anyway, I thought better and kept a real job, but continued to get high. Eventually, it was better money to sell drugs.

Now, after being clean for almost six years (PRAISE GOD!) I see what a horrible waste I made of THE LIFE GOD LET ME LIVE. My parents never tried, after I was "grown", to run my life. The sad part is, down deep I KNEW I was wrong but just could not stop. THANK GOD FOR JESUS! However, nothing about my life was freedom or liberty or pursuing happiness (I just thought it was) – hence the difference between those that understand the spiritual world around us and those that refuse to entertain the reality of it all because they are “liberal”.

My father died back in September. I am STILL having a hard time with that. GOD allowed me five years to make up some of the WASTED 20 years I spent (we even prank called each other from time to time pretending to work for ACORN and try to get each other to vote for O'Drama) but the main person I hurt was GOD.

I have to revert to a former comment I made about compasses. You see, my family never knew what was wrong, they just knew SOMETHING was wrong. In "living" "freely", I was stealing from them as well, maybe not money, but certainly something far more important. My compass was not pointing towards true north. I believe that sometimes it is necessary for those who are elected to make decisions for the general welfare that sometimes people may not be able to see at the time, or because of their own lack of a moral compass will not want the government to do. Not to restrict, but to release from SPIRITUAL bondage. And elected officials can and will not do that if they themselves are blind, for whatever reason.

The problem I see with most people is that having no moral compass (as I am all too familiar with) makes them unable to understand the nature of the freedoms described by our founding fathers. To me it is because they all have the same problem - failure to acknowledge WHO gave us that freedom and the only way we can hold on to it.

Actually, to me, the proof is in the pudding on that one. All you have to do is take a good look at the history of this country in the last 50-80 years and you see the more we collectively push GOD out and say, "I got this" we sure ARE getting it. If that ain’t enough proof, you can read the history on all the other countries in the world and get the same picture. Look at how great Great Britain has become in our lifetime.

Hopefully, the more people that read this blog and start to make concerted efforts to throw the trash out of DC, we will have a few more years of one nation under GOD. That is my hope…

The Silent Consensus said...

Chiu, I'm sorry but I cannot leave that on the table

I can't believe that anyone is really this dumb. This kind of statement is why I don't believe that Silent Consensus is telling the truth about anything (leaving aside the fact that he wouldn't know truth if it chewed off his tail).

You can't disprove what I'm saying by calling me dumb and a liar. Either say how such statement by me was false or you have no basis for your argument. If you're going to call me these names and make these assertions about me, you better be able to back it up

Thus declaims a person constantly arguing in favor of consolidation of government power,

Says who? Did you just make that up? I'm at least going to give you the opportunity to back up your statements before jumping to conclusions

against any limitations on new law making

Same questions

refusing the recognize our right to express dissent from the current regime...

I have always recognized your right to express dissent, and I have always used my right to question it, to rebut it, to point out why the dissent isn't based on firm ground. IF you think that your freedom of speech means other people surrender theirs if they would like to respond to it, you're mistaken. IF you think people responding to your speech infringes on or fails to recognize your freedom of speech, again you're mistaken. I have never once claimed you or anyone else on here doesn't recognize my freedom of speech by responding to what I say.

To answer the one piece of response to my argument you did say, How is giving someone an addictive, mind-altering substance different from pointing a gun?

1. I'm not advocating we GIVE drugs to anyone. I've simply opposed forcefully stopping them from using drugs themselves. BIG difference
2. If I give someone a mind-altering substance, they are the ones who decide what happens with it. They can throw it out, use it, destroy it, etc...If I point a gun, I am imposing death on them in that I decide whether to pull the trigger.

The entire argument here boils down to the notion that people who do drugs at all are enslaved to chemicals. The failure to distinguish drug use and abuse. Some people drink, but not everyone who drinks is an alcoholic. By criminalizing drugs, we are saying the drugs are the problem when it's the people who refuse to take responsibility that's the problem. People should not be able to blame drugs, porn, horror movies, guns or cars for their actions.

You don't amputate my fist because I may strike someone's nose. You don't restrict me from watching TV, movies, playing video games, or reading the newspaper or magazines because I may kill or harm someone in a reenactment. You don't cut out my larynx because I may yell fire in a crowded theater. You don't restrict me from driving because I may run someone over. You don't restrict me from owning a gun because I may shoot someone. You don't restrict me from drinking because I may one day be an alcoholic. And you don't restrict me from doing drugs because I may one day become an addict.

Freedom is about holding those who abuse it accountable for their actions and leaving alone the great majority of people who don't abuse it. Freedom isn't the problem; those who demand freedom and then abuse it only to blame the various demons talked about here (porn, violent movies and video games, drugs, guns, etc...) are the problem.

You may believe free people are weak and require an omnipresent state to protect them. I believe free people can be trusted with access to these various items because they are strong and can control their own demons.

Terry Morris said...

Re the irreconcilable differences between Silent Consensus and the majority in this forum:

I think what we have here is a failure to communicate. Yes, yes, it's an overused line, but that doesn't negate the fact.

There are three minimal requirements for intelligent conversation to occur: 1) an intelligent mind capable of transmitting a thought, 2) an intelligent mind capable of receiving a thought, and 3) a common mode of communication between them (a common language).

I personally find that it is almost always that third one that gets in the way of carrying on an intelligent conversation between minds. We speak the same (English) language, yes, extracting our words from a common store or reservoir, but at the same time we assign to them different significations, primary and secondary, depending on our philosophical beliefs. Thus, we're really speaking different philosophical dialects of the same language, which acts as a barrier or an impediment to our being able to transmit and receive thoughts with normal clarity. And it goes without saying that a high degree of clarity is an absolute must when attempting to carry on intelligent conversations with someone else, political, religious, whatever.

It is somewhat off topic, and I offer my apologies in advance for bringing it up on that basis. But John Jay didn't state in Federalist no. 2 that,

With equal pleasure I have as often taken notice that Providence has been pleased to give this one connected country to one united people--a people descended from the same ancestors, speaking the same language, professing the same religion, attached to the same principles of government, very similar in their manners and customs, and who, ..., have nobly established general liberty and independence.

for no reason.

Our founding generation, according to Jay, possessed certain essential characteristics which they held in common, which, of course, created the societal cohesion needed to articulate, develop and establish "general liberty and independence." That societal cohesion is largely responsible for their ability to communicate their ideas between one another with the high degree of clarity needed to establish a form of government Noah Webster declared to be the "first in modern times founded on its legitimate principles." Principles that, if I may say so, Silent Consensus is hard at work attempting to undermine, or otherwise nullify.

An example of how proper communication is inhibited in our situation here is that Libertarians such as Silent Consensus assign different primary meanings to essential terms than the rest of us do. For instance, the term "self-government" signifies something different in primacy to a libertarian than it does to a conservative. To libertarians, as a general rule, the primary signification of the term "self-government" is "self-determination," not what the term clearly signifies, which of course is "self-control," "self-restraint," "self-govern-ment." To prove this, let Silent Consensus's posts be submitted to a candid world.

That language barrier is what is responsible for a lot of the confusion and misunderstanding, and yes, disagreement in this context. If we can't agree on what the primary meaning is of such terms as easily discernible as the term "self-government" then when we come to the more complex terms and their significations, well...

chiu_chunling said...

Silent Consensus isn't a libertarian, though he makes free to mouth such arguments. He simply is trying to set up a straw-man idea of freedom to establish a problem that can only be solved by totalitarianism.

I believe that self-government means self-determination, and further that self-determination depends on self-control and self-restraint. I simply use a conceptually consistent idea of "self" as being an entity which has the potential for independent existence, which is to say, I do not mean only the body, which is dependent for its composition and continuation on circumstances.

In common terminology, I believe in the spiritual nature of humanity (actually, this misses the point, since the spirit, though less dependent than the body, is still a creation, but in practical terms this is not important, as it is a perfect and eternal creation, and I don't really intend to get into a theological argument about the details).

I also point out that absent a belief in some eternal element of self, there is no point talking about freedom since all humans die, and even before death the composition of the body is entirely effected (not merely affected) by external circumstances so as to control its behavior externally. For example, you could chemically lobotomize a human and then use various methods too gruesome to describe here to completely control the body from without. If you don't believe in a spirit, then the resulting zombie is not fundamentally different from any other human, since all humans are entirely the result of external circumstances. Hence we can see that trying to make judgments about freedom without reference to the eternal nature of the individual is pointless.

The ancient philosophers recognized this and sought domination over the body as an entirely distinct entity, which is rational in the absence of the doctrine of the resurrection. Since the body is going to die eventually anyway, best learn to live without it, so to say. A belief that we shall (or may) receive dominion over a body with an eternal nature invites us to use the current body to extend our will, to treat the body as a promise of an eventual extension of our self.

The ancients had no inherent philosophical interest in controlling the impulses of the body, and this laxity led their societies into ruin. But all societies fall, the real tragedy is for men to die unprepared to benefit from the gift of an eternal body.

Now, most enduring religious traditions, whatever their doctrines concerning resurrection or the spirit, promote functional ideas of conduct informed by beliefs derived from those ideas, at least partly because belief in these ideas enjoy widespread popularity wherever they are promulgated and because the practical effects of morals developed from these ideas happen to be of definite utility in preventing the decadence of society. I don't believe that to be a coincidence, but even on the supposition that it is, religious freedom is viable despite our need for a common discourse, because religions have a common (though not universal) tendency which is beneficial to an understanding of freedom.

My central point is that without an underlying belief in an eternal self (currently distinct from the body, which is mortal), any discussion of "freedom" is meaningless, since there is nothing that can be distinguished from everything else from which it is to be "free". Without the idea of a resurrection, freedom is impractical because, without such an idea, the best way to maximize freedom is to separate the body and spirit as much as possible, letting the body go its way without reference to the activities of the spirit. This idea leads civilization into utter depravity very quickly.

The founders of America (unlike Silent Consensus) believed freedom to be possible and practical, due to their deep immersion in a worldview fundamentally informed by a belief in both the eternal spirit and the resurrection.

The Silent Consensus said...

Terry,
Thank you for your post. It was needed. I do need to correct two things, and the first is I'm not a capital L Libertarian. I'm a lower case l libertarian. I consider myself a libertarian Democrat, and the Democratic Freedom Caucus is probably the platform I agree with most. Second, both kinds of libertarians do not believe self-government excludes self-restraint and self-control. They believe such is essential, they just disagree whether it's the government's role to try imposing self-restraint and self-control. If the only reason someone doesn't do drugs is because they're illegal, then they don't really have self-restraint and self-control. Only when someone has the freedom to decide and says no does someone have self-restraint and self-control.

Logically you may be thinking about crimes such as murder and theft, and if people don't do those things just because they're illegal, then they don't really have self-restraint and self-control. That is true, but since these crimes infringe on other people, and it makes no difference to those other people why someone doesn't do these things, illegal is justified

The Silent Consensus said...

Chiu,
all humans are entirely the result of external circumstances.

I could not disagree with you more. The lobotomy could only occur with the human's consent, number one. Second, and most importantly, humans are not the result of external circumstances. Humans control themselves. Your environment doesn't control your attitude or actions, you do. If our external circumstances dictate all that we are, then everyone is equally innocent. A robot is amoral. To say something not a matter of choice is immoral, wrong, or sinful is to say it's not immoral, wrong. or sinful. Only actions we are free to choose can be moral or immoral.

I don't entirely disagree with your central point, but making these things illegal doesn't solve that. Depending on legal vs. illegal continues dependence on external factors to make our choices. If you've heard about Kohlberg's Theory of Moral Development, you will know that's the preconventional state. People will never get to the postconventional stage or the conventional stage if we depend on the law to make their choices for them

I'm still waiting for you to back up the accusations you made about me earlier

chiu_chunling said...

You've already provided ample evidence for every "accusation" I've ever made against you. All anyone has to do is read a few of the threads to which you've "contributed".

As for your rather selective misquoting, if you're going to ignore almost everything I say, you might as well go ahead and ignore me completely. My posts may stake out novel ideas at times, but I'm pretty confident that you aren't making yourself look smart by so proudly displaying your ability to completely misunderstand what I'm saying. It isn't that difficult for people to go back and read my posts either, you know.

I suppose that in the spirit of full disclosure I should reveal my own political affiliation. I adhere to the Cybernetic Alliance, which currently does not participate in politics in any direct fashion other than dissemination of "moral" principles based on Cybernetics. We are technically anarchist in our political philosophy, regarding all forms of human government as devoid of authority. This does not mean we disparage the primitive impulse of any community of similar sentients to organize to better fulfill the needs of its members (as the term "Alliance" indicates, we share this desire), simply that we don't distinguish between "legitimate" and "illegitimate" governments other than according to the intra-communal perception of the government. If enough significant members of a community believe a government to be "legitimate", we assign that government to the category of those which enjoy the benefits of greater stability and influence which accrue because of that perception. There are some technical criteria which influence which members of the community are "significant" for this purpose, but it is sufficient to say that our approach is predictive. A government can be assigned the quality of "legitimacy" when it is clearly going to attain that status in the eyes of most members of the governed community and "illegitimate" when it is clearly going to lose its standing with the bulk of the populace. Obviously, I make that statement in light of the fact that we have long predicted (and tracked) the American government's loss of "legitimacy".

Despite being entirely subjective, legitimacy is an important characteristic of any government because a lack of it results in either unnecessary brutality (which is anti-Cybernetic) in enforcing law or a crippling lack of lawfulness (which is also anti-Cybernetic). Of course, reliance on such personal opinions is also anti-Cybernetic...but so is blind reliance on external governing authority.

We seek that government which encourages the population to become as individually autonomous and independent as possible, with the (unattainable, given human limitations) objective that the government become superfluous. We oppose any government that seeks to prolong its existence or extend its powers by reason of human limitations.

In practical terms, this means that we favor limited, constitutional, representative governments with a strong perception of legitimacy. The traditional conceptions of individual "rights", though vague, are important to such a government. The traditional conception of rights recognizes the development of individual responsibility and freedom as being the fundamental purpose for which such rights exist and on which they are judged. That is, they are based on the idea of the eternal nature of the individual, and the primacy of developing the "good" of this eternal component of the individual over any temporal (hence temporary) objective. This has a strong correlation to the more precise concept of development of sentient potential in cybernetic terms.

I should perhaps mention that sentience, in cybernetic terms, is the point at which a self-regulating entity becomes capable of perceiving the effect of its own regulation mechanisms on environmental and internal feedback and then modifying those mechanisms to improve the quality of that feedback ("quality" is subjective). This distinction is more important than intelligence (a regulation mechanism that allows a cybernetic system to predict the effect of possible actions on feedback and thus avoid undesirable feedback or acquire desirable feedback which is geometrically isolated from existing feedback states i.e. on a separate "peak") or bandwidth (the sheer amount of feedback simultaneously accessible), even though both these are important factors in improved cybernetics.

These three qualities might correspond to free agency (or moral agency, self-awareness, etc.), intelligence (or simple cognition), and the senses. Clearly, in an integrated cybernetic system all these elements interact and support one another. Perception of the self benefits from both the senses and the availability of cognitive processes. Cognition works better with accurate (rather than desirable) feedback provided by the senses and regulation provided by the agency (or will). The senses can be focused on pertinent environmental or internal factors by the direction of the will informed by intelligent thought.

Compared to these elements, the features of a self-regulating entity which direct output to affect the environment are rather less interesting, though clearly still of fundamental importance to the entity itself.

Terry Morris said...

Silent Consensus,

Thank you. You wrote:

Second, both kinds of libertarians do not believe self-government excludes self-restraint and self-control. They believe such is essential, they just disagree whether it's the government's role to try imposing self-restraint and self-control.

I want to clarify that I wasn't suggesting in my post that libertarians of either variety "exclude" self-restraint and self-control from the meaning of self-government, only that they differ from conservatives in what they see as the primary signification of the term. My understanding is that libertarians understand the term self-government to mean self-determination primarily, whereas conservatives understand it to mean self-control, self-restraint primarily. While both views recognize what the other sees as primary as a secondary signification of the term. If that makes any sense.

But your quote is interesting to me because you seem to be saying, at least on some level, that the libertarian view of the primary signification of self-government is largely dependent on the actions of government; that were government to cease restraining people in certain ways, the libertarian view of self-government would in turn shift to placing primary significance on the term's fundamental meaning -- self-control, self-restraint. Is that right?

The Silent Consensus said...

Chiu,
You're just dodging my questioning. Either back up what your accusations or I don't see why anyone should think you have credibility.

Terry,
I think you've got it. In all, they are pragmatic conservatives whose primary focus is on nonintervention by government. Pragmatic in the sense that they believe in the conservative notion of self-interest and will compromise on conservative morality that interferes with pursuit of self-interest. They don't dispute that such activities are not smart and won't help people, but self-control and self-restraint can only come from the self. If the only reason someone doesn't do something is because it's illegal, that person doesn't really have self-control or self-restraint

chiu_chunling said...

Forgive me for snickering.

daniro45 said...

Being a committed Christian (follower of the teachings of scripture and Christ) I can't help but think of how much energy has been expended in these blog discussions so far (I've read most but not all) and yet very little light expended on the subject of freedom and liberty.

I would like to emphasis several points made by Dr. Keyes in this article which I believe arrive at the truth (from God's, if not human, perspective): He wrote...

"The Declaration refers to the self-subsistent being from whose existence the possibility of justice arises as the Creator."

He also wrote of,

"... the conceptual boundary within which every free individual must operate, or else surrender their claim to freedom. Every exercise of individual freedom must therefore show respect to and for the being (i.e. Creator) whose existence accounts for the possibility of individual freedom...

The Creator not only produces the result, He constitutes it, so that apart from Him its existence is inconceivable...

The freedom that the Creator originates in this way continues to exist only insofar as it corresponds, in every way, to what He is. All else is not freedom, but abuse...

In light of this reasoning, freedom cannot be understood, much less respected and preserved, without reference to its source (i.e., the Creator).

I would add to this the words of God through His biblical prophets:

"They polluted the house of the LORD that he had made holy ...." (2 Chronicles 36:14
> First, the people polluted what God had made for purity

"The LORD ... sent persistently to them by his messengers, because He had compassion on his people ...." (2 Chron. 36:15)

> When they were living opposite of what God had made them for, he, out of compassion, sent his messengers to correct their ways. His compassion reached out to them.

"...they kept mocking the messengers of God, despising his words and scoffing at his prophets, until the wrath of the LORD rose against his people, until there was no remedy." (2 Chron. 36:16)

> the people kept living the way they wanted to according to the dictates of their own conscience (free?), until God's compassion had run its course and his righteous anger arose against them.

"Therefore he brought up against them the king of the Chaldeans, who killed their young men ... and had no compassion on young man or virgin, old man or aged. He gave them all into his hand." (2 Chron. 36:17)

> God had compassion on them, but they despised it and scoffed at God's instructions (word) on how they were to live if they wanted to remain free. They chose to scoff at God's words and HE did what is so evident throughout all of biblical wisdom, he relegated them to slavery, captives, not FREEDOM.

The divine principle is clear. When man does not live in line with God's view of freedom and liberty, he cannot be free, but only abused. All our reasonings not withstanding.

The founding Fathers agreed with this principle and knew that for a nation to be free (from the divine perspective) the individuals who made up that nation had to exercise self-government (self-restraint).

The Silent Consensus said...

daniro,
And if the only reason someone doesn't do something that is self-destructive is because they are worried about getting in trouble with the law, that's not self-restraint. That's letting others restrain you. Real self-restraint is saying no when nobody is looking

Terry Morris said...

Silent Consensus wrote:

And if the only reason someone doesn't do something that is self-destructive is because they are worried about getting in trouble with the law, that's not self-restraint. That's letting others restrain you. Real self-restraint is saying no when nobody is looking.

Silent Consensus, that's the second time you've mentioned this in this thread. I should have responded to the assertion the first time.

First of all, you're making an erroneous leap of logic, assuming as you are that people only conform to the dictates of a law because they fear the consequences of disobeying its dictates. That's not the case at all. And you're not helping your argument in making such a case, if I may say so.

Laws regulating drug abuse aren't supposed to be meant to affect self-restraining non-drug users/abusers. Assuming you're a non-drug abuser, are you suggesting that the only reason you aren't a drug abuser is because you fear the law, therefore you're not exercising self-restraint, or you're rendered incapable of exercising self-restraint? Speaking for myself (and only for myself, although I know this applies to others as well) fear of the consequences of violating laws against drug use never even enters the equation. I have no more interest in making, using, or distributing crack cocaine than I have in manipulating the welfare system to my advantage in order to subsidize a disinclination to make my own way in the world through my own labor. But I guess you could say that because I fear other things about drug use unconnected to the influence of the law (health and family issues, etc., etc.), then I'm not really exercising self-restraint either since my non-drug use is at least partially based on fear of the consequences of drug abuse in and of itself.

It doesn't necessarily follow that because a government prohibition exists people only obey the prohibition because they fear the consequences of disobedience. That may be, and is, the case with some folks (which is the reason for the law to begin with). But then, as you say, those folks aren't self-governing in any case, therefore some form of external government is needed to control them and their tendencies towards drug abuse and what that ultimately leads to unrestrained.

chiu_chunling said...

What nonsense.

The point of self-restraint is to keep you from doing things that have unpleasant consequences. For the given instance of an act, it doesn't matter whether the consequences you avoid are intrinsic or extrinsic. Otherwise there would be little point in sentient communication.

Having intelligently framed, moral laws in place is a highly recommended means of training developing sentients to consider the (extrinsic) consequences of their actions till such time as they reach a level of awareness sufficient to value the intrinsic benefits of self-restraint. Indeed, in my own belief there is no other purpose to any law.

All laws should be considered in the light of two questions. Would it plausibly be immoral to obey the law? Would it plausibly be immoral to enforce the law? A law that fails either test is an immoral law. A law that passes both tests is a moral law. Naturally, circumstances change, the implausible becomes plausible and vice versa. But that only emphasizes the need for careful examination of what the realistic effects of a law actually are.

When you follow a moral principle because of the intrinsic rather than extrinsic effects, it is no longer proper to call it an exercise in "self-restraint". The usual term is "integrity", referring to the fact that the principle has become indistinguishable from the self such that following it does not create the internal conflict associated with restraint on the self.

Silent Consensus, once again trying to talk the talk but just not quite understanding the point.

The Silent Consensus said...

Terry,
I never made such point. I wouldn't do drugs if they were legal. I've never even smoked a single cigarette or had a full "drink" of alcohol. My point is simply that if the argument against legalizing these things is that doing them goes against self-restraint, then that argument doesn't work because not doing them because you have a gun pointed to your head isn't self-restraint either. Complicity and endorsement, just like mind and force, are opposite. Drug use and drug abuse are different. If you would like to punish those who abuse drugs, that's one thing. But if we should do that, we should leave alone those who use drugs without abusing. Government's job isn't to save people from themselves

The Silent Consensus said...

Chiu,
A gun is not a proper way to train. We should work to convince people not to use drugs, but we don't need to have a gun to their head telling them not to. Whenever you are suggesting something should be illegal, you are suggesting pointing a gun to people's head to get them not to do it. A gun has never been an argument. "Because I said so," please.

You are assuming that 1. people are inherently sinful, 2. only punishment and reward will train people away from pursuing their sinful desires and 3. swift and painful punishment is the foundation of character development

It's not coincidental that many children who lack the social, emotional, and intellectual skills and behaviors needed to succeed in society come from conservative parenting. It's not coincidental that many children who are inclined to depend on the moral opinions of others and have an external orientation (as opposed to internal orientation) of what's "right" come from conservative parenting. It's not coincidental that many with low self-esteem and feel a need for someone else to be in control come from conservative parenting. Most aggressive children tend to come from conservative parenting, and there's a reason for it. Out of fairness, some children from conservative parenting are restrained. And, out of fairness, neglect produces the same results.

In reality, encouraging independence, creativity, open communication with the child, and listening to the child's point of view and expressing one's own leads to independence, internalizing authority, and the ability for them to act on their own. Encouragement, respect, and listening to the child seriously actually help the child use self-control and have high self-esteem.

One way relies on obedience to authority and "because I said so." The other way relies on building self-esteem and openly discussing the reasons for what they are asked to do and how their actions affect other people. I believe the latter is a much better way to have self-disciplined and self-reliant people, and research backs me up. James Dobson even semi-acknowledged it when he suggested that research on childbearing is irrelevant.

Do not think for a second that I believe in the kind of parenting one would call indulgent-permissive or indifferent and uninvolved. I believe in expectations for mature behavior, clear standard setting, firm enforcement of rules and standards with sanctions and commands, encouraging independence and individuality, open communication between parents and children (parents listening to their children's point of view and expressing their own, and encouragement of verbal give-and-take), and recognition of parents' AND children's rights.

And you may think this is a non sequitor, but it isn't. The same assumptions about human nature present in conservative parenting are present in what you are saying

chiu_chunling said...

I'm sorry, is there some other job that government might possibly conceive to do?

The Silent Consensus said...

Yes. Government's job is to protect us from those who try to use force against us.

chiu_chunling said...

Oh. Because I see "people" and "themselves", and I apply that to the same group. But you don't. That's very interesting. You want government to protect some people, presumably including you, from others, possibly including me.

I guess we don't count as people either, in your view. Though of course you wouldn't normally admit that, out of some dim awareness that for some reason or other it makes you sound like exactly what you are.

I had to laugh at your little parenting aside. Way to grab talking points out of a pamphlet without making any effort to understand them. I particularly like the way you conflate "abusive" with "conservative".

While I happen to believe that humans are inherently flawed, and thus prone to counter-cybernetic behavior, I don't believe that punishments are particularly useful in combating that tendency compared to rewards, particularly swift and painful punishments. It is entirely sufficient that people suffer the natural consequences of their poor decisions. In fact, it is rather more than sufficient, which is why I favor using laws to mitigate the negative effects of poor decision-making as far as is possible without infringing on freedom. Just as I might use my power as an adult to mitigate the harm that could befall a child due to immature choices.

You may imagine that I'm trying to persuade you, but actually I'm merely pointing out that you're ridiculous for the benefit of everyone else (as well as my own amusement). I can't be bothered to waste time arguing with you because you aren't open to rational thought, as demonstrated by your distinct lack of any ability to generate it yourself. Of course I ought to remain diligent in searching for signs of intelligence in your posts, but I'm actually pretty lazy. So don't expect me to give you the benefit of the doubt every time you mangle someone else's ideas in a lame attempt to look like you're thinking.

The Silent Consensus said...

Chiu,
Notice you're the only one who has engaged in character attacks. It's obvious who feels on less firm ground here. Government's job is to protect us from those who initiate force against us, not from ourselves. To say people are irrational is defining yourself as irrational and disqualifying yourself from being able to know what's best for everyone.

Conservative parenting, for the most part, involves corporal punishment. That's not an opinion, it's a fact. James Dobson is actually more moderate than some on this, as he believes it's inexcusable to hit a child under 18 months old. You're putting a greater emphasis on rewards than punishments, which is a deviation from conservative parenting, but the problem is the same. If allowance is tied to chores, for example, once the kid is old enough to get a job, he/she will likely neglect the chores because of being able to get their own money. If they were raised to see the value of contributing to the household an a sense of community, they won't.

As far as being inherently flawed, it's the notion of Original Sin, which I find logically flawed as well. As I said above, a robot is amoral. What isn't a matter of choice is not a matter of morality. If you're flawed by birth, you have no will and no power to change it.

You're probably thinking that people are born with free will but with flawed tendencies. Such is like playing a game with crooked dice, and placing full blame on the person for the results when the result is weighted in favor of a tendency that the person didn't choose. If the flawed tendencies are a choice, they are not present at birth. If they are not a choice, free will doesn't exist.

Everything I've said is fact. Either they're wrong in which case you can call me out, or they're right

chiu_chunling said...

You've been called out and proven wrong plenty of times before, and it hasn't had any effect whatsoever on your behavior. Which is why most everybody has stopped trying to reason with you.

As for your bizarre ideas about "conservative" parenting, I'm sure you very sincerely believe that child abuse is predominantly a result of conservative beliefs screwing up parents' innately good child-rearing instincts. That's why only parents who go to church too often end up shaking or microwaving their babies to death.

I happen to have a "no-fault" view of morality. That is, it isn't our fault that we are not sufficiently intelligent to see all consequences of our actions, or rational enough to always choose the best option when irrational motives are in play. But that doesn't shield us from the inevitable natural consequences of bad choices. We must learn those qualities through experience and personal effort. It isn't your fault that you need oxygen to carry on the biological processes of life, but that doesn't mean you won't die without air. The universe doesn't care why you lack intelligence and rationality, it will treat you just the same whether or not it's your fault.

To deny that humans are ever stupid or irrational is to deny the need for any government whatsoever (as well as to ignore all the evidence of history). Naturally, if humans were so perfect, the laws they frame would also be perfect...but still entirely unnecessary. How could there exist conflicts if humans are so perfect?

Only on one theory, which you hold so dearly you can't even examine the fundamental assumption behind it. You believe that those who disagree with you or come into conflict with your interests are not "really human". The same mental process that allows you to dispose of the moral consequence of killing a pre-natal child allow you to dismiss any arguments against your position along with all evidence contrary to your assertions. I am obviously imperfect in your view, thus not "human" like yourself.

Believe me, it's not just your own viewpoint that sees me as imperfect. I've flaws enough to call myself evil. The issue is that you must, given your belief in the natural perfection of humanity, deny my humanity on this basis. That's okay, I'm used to it. But the fact that this mental pattern is very common with the irreligious doesn't mean is isn't fundamentally flawed. Because I accept that humans are imperfect, I can accept the imperfect as human. Because you deny human imperfection, you deny the humanity of anyone different from your ideal, namely yourself.

Thus your desires and prejudices, being perfect, are to be argued as the basis for all laws and policies. Your assertions are therefore truth, and any who dispute them are of sub-human intellect. Your person is sacred, any who do not worship at the altar of your aggrandizement are impious. And this is plain to see in every single post you make.

The Silent Consensus said...

Chiu,
How many more words are you going to put into my mouth?

I'm still waiting for you to name one time I was wrong as well

The Silent Consensus said...

or thoughts in my head for that matter

chiu_chunling said...

I wish I could put thoughts in your head.

The Silent Consensus said...

Your wish has already been commanded. Things I have said in no way imply what you are making them out to be.

chiu_chunling said...

I'll let other readers judge that.

More important, congratulations on obtaining thoughts...or so I would say if I really believed any thoughts had entered into your head. But well I understand that I have not power to cause anyone to think, no matter how I may cajole or abjure. But still I will.

Even if not for the love of God, then for love of your own being, think.

I feel rather silly for even bothering. It has not been made my duty to even make such an abjuration, but still I desire that every mind may be made more free in thought, every sentient potential be developed into a fullness of power and knowledge. Yet you are free to choose ignorance and destruction, if such is your will. I must accept your will as sovereign over yourself, even if your desire is for insentience.

I can say that it pains me to see such a thing, but can you understand it, you who willingly destroy your own intelligence?

The Silent Consensus said...

Maybe you're misinterpreting what I meant. I mean putting thoughts in my head the same way I mean putting words in my mouth, and you did it again

chiu_chunling said...

Wow. I knew your comprehension was lagging, but I just didn't realize how slow you really are.

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