Natural Rights Collapse Into Consequentialism

Suppose someone favors restrictions on immigration and regulations on sweatshop labor. Why? I can see a few possible reasons:

  1. This person doesn't agree with the libertarian conception of self ownership, initial property aquisition, the right to exclude etc.
  2. This person doesn't fully grasp the concept of comparative advantage and the astronomical potential gains from trade.
  3. This person has a strong sense of tribalism, and places much greater importance on the welfare of people within the tribe than outside the tribe.

Given these three possibilities, I see #2 as the easiest and most likely path to lead to successful persuasion. The only response to #3 is shaming and ridicule. #1 has many points of failure, as the chain of argument is lengthy and complex, and many links in that chain are extremely weak without resorting to some sort of consequentialist underpinnings. For example, David Schmidtz asks "how [could we] justify any institution that recognizes a right to exclude"?

The way Judith Thomson puts it, if “the first labor-mixer must literally leave as much and as good for others who come along later, then no one can come to own anything, for there are only finitely many things in the world so that every taking leaves less for others”

[...]

Original appropriation diminishes the stock of what can be originally appropriated, at least in the case of land, but that is not the same thing as diminishing the stock of what can be owned. On the contrary, in taking control of resources and thereby removing those particular resources from the stock of goods that can be acquired by originally appropriation, people typically generate massive increases in the stock of goods that can be acquired by trade. The lesson is that appropriation typically is not a zero-sum game. It normally is a positive sum game. As Locke himself stressed, it creates the possibility of mutual benefit on a massive scale. It creates the possibility of society as a cooperative venture.

The argument is not merely that enough is produced in appropriation’s aftermath to compensate latecomers who lost out in the race to appropriate. The argument is that the bare fact of being an original appropriator is not the prize. The prize is prosperity, and latecomers win big, courtesy of those who got here first. If anyone had a right to be compensated, it would be the first appropriators.

This is the argument for property rights. This is the only good argument for property rights. At it's base, it is a consequentialist argument. If property rights - the right to exclude - were not the precondition for good consequences, they would not be justified. Intellectual property, better described by Tom Bell as Intellectual Privilege, offers a perfect example of this, as it is so clearly artificial. Intellectual Privileges to exclude others from use are only justified to the extent that these exclusions "promote[s] the Progress of Science and useful Arts". To the extent that they exclude more than they promote, they are not justified.

So dealing with problem #1 requires dealing with problem #2. Why not just cut out the middle man and start from economics?

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Other arguments for property rights

How important is it that the argument itself be principled as well as pragmatic?

In argument, one other approach to persuasion is to analogize existing beliefs of the counter-party to the conclusions you want him to accept. (Or, to lead someone to a conclusion using deductive reasoning, starting with that person's own premises.)

Most people accept property rights in some form. You can start with this acceptance or inquire into the foundation for this acceptance, and proceed accordingly. With regard to original appropriation, many many people believe in the moral legitimacy of "first come first serve."

The economics approach you advocate reflects an unstated premise--that the "astronomical potential gains from trade" are in fact desirable. Many people, unfortunately, do not accept this premise. Or, they have been deeply conditioned to believe that trade doesn't actually yield the desired gains. Given these challenges, I think the economic argument is actually more difficult than a property-based argument.

Say again?

>Suppose someone favors restrictions on immigration and regulations on sweatshop labor.

This person favors restrictions on immigration and also favors deregulation sweatshop labor? Or want to restrict immigration and wants more regulation of sweatshop labor? The first case computes and appears to be the popular libertarian position.

Say that immigration is regulated to zero and labor laws are eliminated. Whose kids will work in the sweat shops? You say there will be no sweat shops? What you smoking?

>This person doesn't agree with the libertarian conception of self ownership,

This is a crazy concept. You can think it all you want but nothing will change. At Central Washington University there is laboratory zoo with chimps who communicate with humans and with each other with American Sign Language. The argument is that they don't "really" think like "we" do, but I think that is an excuse to keep them in a cage. Say they were given access to the Declaration of Independence in ASL and the chimps decided that it applied to them. Would they be given their freedom?

> initial property aquisition,

Never heard this term and google doesn't help. "Initial" means what with respect to "property acquisition?" Finders, keepers?

>the right to exclude etc.

OK.

>This person doesn't fully grasp the concept of comparative advantage and the astronomical potential gains from trade.

As in mercantilism?

>This person has a strong sense of tribalism, and places much greater importance on the welfare of people within the tribe than outside the tribe.

Isn't this human nature? Is this a boundary setting problem?

Lumpy Labor

billwald,

This person favors restrictions on immigration and also favors deregulation sweatshop labor? Or want to restrict immigration and wants more regulation of sweatshop labor? The first case computes and appears to be the popular libertarian position.

The person in question opposes immigration and opposes sweatshops, and wants laws prohibiting both. The libertarian position on both issues, in my estimation, should be the opposite. The question I am interested in here is which argumentative strategies the libertarian should be using.

Say that immigration is regulated to zero and labor laws are eliminated. Whose kids will work in the sweat shops? You say there will be no sweat shops? What you smoking?

The implicit assumption here is that open immigration and elimination of labor laws would significantly lower wages, leading parents (who generally want what's best for their children) to take their children out of school and employ them, for additional family income. I do not grant this assumption. I believe this assumption is a result of committing the lump of labour fallacy, i.e. assuming that the number of jobs in an economy is fixed and not positive sum.

As Nicholas Kristof recently put it, sweatshops are only a symptom of poverty, not a cause. If there is poverty, there will be sweatshops. If there is no poverty, there will not be sweatshops. Laws prohibiting sweatshops do not prohibit, eliminate, or reduce poverty; they treat the symptom and indirectly fuel the cause, by closing off the best options available to poor people - by eliminating their best chance of getting out of poverty.

Say they were given access to the Declaration of Independence in ASL and the chimps decided that it applied to them. Would they be given their freedom?

Yes, absolutely. Communication and comprehension at this level would certainly morally oblige us to include chimps in our contractarian framework of mutual moral respect. Certainly more so than human fetuses or small infants.

Never heard this term and google doesn't help. "Initial" means what with respect to "property acquisition?" Finders, keepers?

Right, the question is what justifies a "finders, keepers" rule that excludes others from previously unowned property.

As in mercantilism?

Correct.

Isn't this human nature? Is this a boundary setting problem?

It is human nature, but it is a part of human nature that needs to be moderated by reason, just like the urge to acquire, consume, procreate, defecate, etc. It is natural and good that people feel a kinship to their immediate family members and to their neighbors. It is not natural and not good that people living in California feel a closer kinship to people living in Alaska than people living in Mexico.

"The only response to #3 is

"The only response to #3 is shaming and ridicule."

Shaming and ridicule are not means of persuasion; they are means of coercion. You may compel someone to conform by resorting to such means, but you won't change their minds.

Micha, the family is the

Micha, the family is the most fundamental "tribe". Most people value the lives and well-being of their family members above others. Ought we abolish this horrible unjust institution?

Well

You seem to have meant this as a reductio ad absurdum, but let's take it seriously. In both cases, we have an evolutionary instinct that served our genes in the ancestral environment. The instinct to tribalism is one that serves us poorly in the modern world. It is worth considering whether the family instinct serves us well (or just our genes). Shouldn't we be suspicious of an instinct so clearly and directly designed in the interests of our genes?

Suggesting that we should base our caring on overlapping interests or meritocratic grounds, rather than genetic overlap, doesn't seem so crazy to me. The main issue is that it is far more deeply wired into us, and will be much harder to change, and we should be careful about doing so as it may have far-reaching consequences. Tribalism can be hacked by getting people to have a larger concept of tribe - like all humanity.

Are such moralities are made

Are such moralities are made for men, or perfect beings of pure thought?

When we deny human nature in our contrived moralities, we separate happiness and a good life from doing what is right. In such an environment, moral feeling is insufficient incentive to adhere to the morality. People pay it lip service and then do what brings them happiness, such as caring for their families.

What makes us have better prospects than Marxists if we also deny human nature? Our societies will not last, and nobody will want to live in them.

A realist might seek to guide instinct, but not abolish it.

What makes us have better

What makes us have better prospects than Marxists if we also deny human nature? Our societies will not last, and nobody will want to live in them.

Just to note, yet again in this thread, that every ideology I have come across "denies" certain aspects of human nature, in the sense that these ideologies deny that just because a given urge is derived from human nature, it should be indulged, encouraged, or left uncriticized. That is what civilization means; we may be animals, but we do not wish to be animalistic.

A realist might seek to guide instinct, but not abolish it.

Yes, I agree. I seek to guide the instinct of in-group vs. out-group in healthy, peaceful ways. Perhaps sports rivalries fill this need in those people who feel it strongly.

How are you going to define

How are you going to define what we *should* value without relying on human nature in the first place ? What should we value and why?

I do not consider feelings

I do not consider feelings of kinship to family (and close friends and neighbors) to be unjust or arbitrary. I do consider feelings of kinship to fellow citizens of the same government at the expense of citizens of other governments to be unjust and arbitrary.

I follow Peter Singer's concept of the expanding moral circle. We care most about ourselves, then our immediate family, then friends and neighbors, then our fellow countrymen, then humanity, and then sentient beings. The fellow countrymen part is the only part I object to as unjust and arbitrary.

Some Singer snippets:

Why is it that "my country, right or wrong!" can be taken seriously? Why do we regard patriotism as a virtue at all? We disapprove of selfish behavior, but we encourage group selfishness, and gild it with the name "patriotism." We erect statues to those who fought and died for our country, irrespective of the merits of the war in which they fought. (One of the reasons why Robert E. Lee, leader of the Confederate Army in the Civil War, is such an admired figure in American history is that he put his loyalty to his native Virginia above his publicly stated moral doubts about slavery.)

Patriotism has had its critics, among them many of the most enlightened and progressive thinkers. Diogenes the Cynic declared himself to be the citizen not of one country but of the whole world. Stoic philosophers like Seneca and Marcus Aurelius also argued that our loyalty should be to the world community, not to the state in which we happen to be born. Voltaire, Goethe, and Schiller espoused similar ideals of world, rather than national, citizenship. Yet patriotism has proved difficult to dislodge from its high place among the conventionally accepted virtues. The explanation for this could be that patriotism rests, at least in part, on a biological basis; but the explanation could also be cultural. Culture can itself be a factor in the evolutionary process, those cultures prevailing which enhance the group's prospect of survival. The prevalence of patriotism could easily be explained in this manner.

That cultural and biological factors interact is something that should be borne in mind throughout our discussion of the biological basis of ethics. Biological and cultural explanations of human behavior are not inconsistent unless, foolishly, we try to insist that one of these two is the sole cause of a complex piece of behavior. With certain exceptions, that is unlikely. Culture may intensify, soften, or perhaps under special conditions altogether suppress genetically based tendencies. Earlier in this chapter I referred to the extent to which practices based on racial and ethnic group feeling have been softened or eliminated by changes in attitudes. Here we have a clear example of something that may well have some biological basis--but also contains a strong cultural component-being altered by a cultural change. In a multiracial society, strong racial feelings are a disadvantage; strong patriotic feelings, however, are not.

One other cautionary note before I bring this chapter to a close: Up to this point our discussion has been purely descriptive. I have been speculating about the origins of human ethics. No ethical conclusions flow from these speculations. In particular, the suggestion that an aspect of human ethics is universal, or nearly so, in no way justifies that aspect of human ethics. Nor does the suggestion that a particular aspect of human ethics has a biological basis do anything to justify it. Because there is so much misunderstanding of the connection between biological theories about ethics and ethical conclusions themselves, the task of examining claims about this connection needs a chapter to itself.

And also:

If I have seen that from an ethical point of view I am just one person among the many in my society, and my interests are no more important, from the point of view of the whole, than the similar interests of others within my society, I am ready to see that, from a still larger point of view, my society is just one among other societies, and the interests of members of my society are no more important, from that larger perspective, than the similar interests of members of other societies… Taking the impartial element in ethical reasoning to its logical conclusion means, first, accepting that we ought to have equal concern for all human beings.

"I follow Peter Singer's

"I follow Peter Singer's concept of the expanding moral circle. We care most about ourselves, then our immediate family, then friends and neighbors, then our fellow countrymen, then humanity, and then sentient beings. The fellow countrymen part is the only part I object to as unjust and arbitrary."

Why is it any more arbitrary than caring about one's family? Humans care about their family because of their instincts. It's not a rational decision, it's a feeling. Similarly humans care about those who they perceive as like (eg. their countrymen) because of their instincts. Are you arguing that caring about humanity and other sentient beings is instinctive while caring about your countrymen is not?

Are you arguing that caring

Are you arguing that caring about humanity and other sentient beings is instinctive while caring about your countrymen is not?

That's definitely part of the argument. It doesn't make any sense for our tribalism to extend to the scope of country or nation; that's just a misfiring of our tribalist impulses in an strange and new environment. And the tribalist implulse is socially beneficial at the friends and family level. It is not so beneficial at the national level.

You could call a craving for

You could call a craving for veal a la marsala a misfiring of our impulses for raw buffalo, yet the first is probably more nutritious than the second.

It doesn't make any sense

It doesn't make any sense for our tribalism to extend to the scope of country or nation; that's just a misfiring of our tribalist impulses in an strange and new environment. And the tribalist implulse is socially beneficial at the friends and family level. It is not so beneficial at the national level.

Why not?

Singer discusses both a genetic and cultural component to tribalism. But each component seems to rest on this idea: I want to help myself endure. And, except in certain extreme cases, I help myself (and perhaps my genes) to endure by helping those who are like me (that is, those who share my genes), and those who will reciprocate.

It's that "reciprocate" part that seems most important in larger and larger groups. Thus people join fraternities and the Rotary Club with an explicit idea that they will benefit by receiving special consideration from fellow club members, and that they will be expected to reciprocate. I sense that many people regard joining a church as a similar kind of exercise: They want to join a network of people who will check on each other's welfare and come to the aid in emergencies. As Singer might say, they're building another circle of intimacy, building one more basis upon which to discriminate between insiders and outsiders.

Now consider the high points and low points of the past US administration. One of the things that most pleased people about the Bush Administration was its leadership against those who attacked New York and DC on 9/11. The vast majority of us live a long way away from NY an DC, and by simple proximity would not seem to have much in common with them. Indeed, rural Republicans often revel in the distinctions they see between themselves and those in NY/DC. Yet people all over the country seemed to regard an attack on NY/DC as an attack no themselves -- most expecially people in rural Republican strongholds, who are about as unlikely a target for a terrorist attack as any American could be. This suggests to me that many Americans regard nationhood as a kind of mutual aid society, and these attacks on NY/DC triggered some kind of duty for people throughout the nation to come to the aid.

On the other side of this coin, one of the events that most offended people about the Bush Administration was the failure to organize effective aid for the victims of Hurricane Katrina. This again suggests to me that many people regard nationhood as a mutual aid society, and seem to regard the Bush Administration as violating a fundamental trust.

I understand that no everyone will share this view of nationhood. But for those that do, I see nothing irrational about extended aid to people who are likely to reciprocate. No, I don't regard reciprocity as the height of morality, but I don't see why we would regard it as so different than any other circle of intimacy Singer identifies.

Shaming and ridicule are not

Shaming and ridicule are not means of persuasion; they are means of coercion. You may compel someone to conform by resorting to such means, but you won't change their minds.

Coercion is the not the word I would choose to describe that situation. You may not change their minds, but eventually you will change their children's minds. Think about how white American society changed its views about the treatment of black people over the course of the century. A large portion of this change was due to shaming and ridicule, and when a critical mass of society agreed that anti-black bigotry was shameful and deserving of ridicule, it largely became so for the entire society.

Hopefully the same will happen some day with regard to birthplace.

My hopes are for a society

My hopes are for a society where people's beliefs and ideas are shaped through critical thinking. A society were people merely conform to the prevailing social norms seems dark and nightmarish to my eyes and so do any ideologies that seek to reshape the world through the power of conformity. Funny to see these trends in libertarianism.

It's a nice ideal, but this

It's a nice ideal, but this is one area where I agree with the genetic determinists: we can't dismiss the influence and power of culture and social norms precisely because, given "human nature", we are very unlikely to reach a point where all people's beliefs are solely shaped through their own independent critical thinking. Insofar as people are not independent critical thinkers, it would be wise for us to influence the social norms which in turn influence human behavior.

You forgot a fourth reason

You forgot a fourth reason why people might oppose lax immigration laws: people generally have a preference for living near others who share their culture, language, and values, especially in a world governed by democracies.

You may dismiss this as "tribalism". But if you do, you are denying 500,000 years of human nature. Human nature is notoriously difficult to change. I wish you luck constructing your "libertarian man" with no social group preferences, but I am not going to bet the viability of my politics on your efforts.

Immigration is contentious today because states and communities are forbidden from setting their own policies. Rather, we set one policy for a nation that spans a continent. So of course groups with different interests fight over that policy.

I expect that if immigration restrictions were more granular and flexible, then they would be less contentious. I also expect that they would have a far smaller negative economic effect on persons who are restricted from immigrating.

In an anarchist world, people would be free to form residential blocks with others that shared their culture, and I think they would. I expect the culture of Delhi Burbclave Inc. and New Shanghai Properties will take a long while to converge. If private property ruled the world, I expect that there would be some communities that wouldn't let me become a permanent resident for having too pale of a skin color, too European of a name, or not being fluent in Spanish. However, I think most would probably let me visit, do business, and shop, if they knew what was good for them economically. I don't see what is so bad about that.

I am sure that there would also be some open, metropolitan, mixed-culture communities that would be quite fun and popular among the youth. It's a viable market niche. The question is, why do you think that this is the only correct culture that should be imposed on the world? And by what evidence do you assume that a stronger role for private property will lead to a less segregated society?

Couldnt have put it any

Couldnt have put it any better.

This is basically the debate

This is basically the debate between "left" and "right" libertarianism, which we began discussing in another comment thread. The right accepts human nature, the left wants to change it.

There are more subtle and interesting distinctions, and I am sure that Micha can defend why group preferences should be met with derision and shaming. But for now I stake my claim on the right, since I do not begrudge the French for wanting to preserve a Francophone area of the world, and I do not oppose similar group preferences by other peoples. Moreover, I do not expect that propertarian anarchy will be kind to Micha's ideas. Without a central government forcing it on people, I doubt that a multi-cultural, multi-lingual, open immigration society will exist anywhere except maybe in a few large cities.

And I do not have much issue with that. To me, libertarianism is about having choice about what kind of society you live in, not forcing one "libertarian-approved" society on all. The problem with this choice is that some people might choose things which others do not approve of. Most of the time left-libertarians are fine with choice, but they get upset over the fact that people might have strong desires to make choices about which culture they live under.

This is basically the debate

This is basically the debate between "left" and "right" libertarianism, which we began discussing in another comment thread. The right accepts human nature, the left wants to change it.

Not sure i agree with that. While there is a distinction between left and right in this regard, i can come up with plenty of examples of the right not being very accepting of human nature.

In general, i doubt you can cleanly seperate left and right along one single axis. They are quite slippery terms.

But otherwise, we agree completely. Freedom of association and freedom of dissociation are two sides of the same coin. That we usually use the first label gives many the idea that there is some sort of cosmopolitian bias to the whole concept, but there is none.

Even though i have no interest in a society that selects its members by say, skin color, the existence of such societies would still be a positive to me. Id rather have the people who felt so strongly about not associating with me were able to act on that impulse rather than have them forced upon me.

The right accepts human

The right accepts human nature, the left wants to change it.

No. The right *selectively* accepts human nature when it fits their purposes, and rejects it when it doesn't. How does the right feel about polygamy? Inebriation? Promiscuity? Abstinence? The right wants to change "human nature" just as much as the left does; the left is at least intellectualy honest enough not to base all of their arguments on the always elusive and ever changing "human nature".

Human nature

How does the right feel about polygamy? Inebriation? Promiscuity? Abstinence? The right wants to change "human nature" just as much as the left does

"Just as much", eh? Neither more nor less, but "just as much"? How did you measure this? But of course you didn't measure it. It's just something that you need to be true in order to erase the distinction the other guy made and thereby reject his characterization of the left.

There are social taboos against polygamy, inebriation, and promiscuity. In certain contexts, when lucidity is strongly preferred, inebriation is frowned upon. Promiscuity is frowned upon. Polygamy is frowned upon. The "right" merely supports these taboos. To accuse the "right" of wanting to change human nature is effectively to accuse a taboo itself of being an attempt to change human nature. But is it, really? It is really accurate to characterize taboos as attempts to change human nature? On the contrary: a taboo is a manifestation of human nature. And it also displays a recognition of human nature (just as a lock on your front door displays a recognition of burglary).

In contrast, while excessive selfishness has often been frowned upon and therefore is taboo, the degree of selflessness desired by leftists goes far beyond the compassion and fellow feeling that humans historically have displayed. Leftists will be among the first to point out that bourgeois charity is most certainly not what they have in mind. No one is socialist man. Even voluntary communes filled with self-selected communists have a high failure rate, because even communists themselves fail to live up to their own expectations of man, demonstrating by their own failure that human nature is not the malleable thing they believed it to be.

You seem to assume that all

You seem to assume that all leftists are fully-blown, unapologetic communists? Who the hell are you, Rush Limbaugh or something?

How is the right's treatment of promiscuity as a taboo any different than the left's treatment of bigotry as a taboo? Both respond with shaming. Neither is willing to accept human nature as it is, but want to redirect, dampen, or guide it.

Conflict is not denial of human nature

You can prove anything you want with anecdotes (e.g. picking one taboo and contrasting it with another), so let's step back and look at the bigger picture.

A taboo is much like a law: a certain behavior is discouraged by the threat of punishment. If I lock my home or hire security then I am discouraging people from robbing me. If we apply your treatment of taboo to this action, then by locking my home I am showing that I am not willing to accept human nature as it is.

I believe this is incorrect. We do, of course, attempt to influence other people, but this is not the same thing as not accepting human nature as it is. On the contrary, when I lock my home I am taking human nature into account. I am making use of a person's human nature in order to affect his behavior. I am not trying to change his nature.

So by itself, neither taboo demonstrates that anybody is trying to change anybody else's nature.

Now, you might reply by saying, "leftists are just doing the same thing, they're making use of human nature in order to change behavior."

I think that that may be a fair point, if someone cared to make it. I don't know if you care to make it, since you're accusing right wingers of trying to change human nature. But if you did, then my reply would be that the left and the right differ about what humanity's nature is. Leftists, I claim, believe that people are much more malleable than non-leftists do. It is a notion that distinguishes the left, that distinguishes a person as leftist. Leftists see possibilities that non-leftists do not. Leftists believe that people and society can be shaped to a degree that non-leftists do not.

I've written a couple of entries about this.

One way this idea manifests itself is that leftists believe that attempts to shape society are likely to be successful. And one aspect of this belief is that leftists greatly downplay the phenomenon known to non-leftists as "the law of unintended consequences." If the unintended consequences are large, then the probability that intention plus effort will produce a result matching the intention is low.

All of this, by the way, was discussed very well years ago by Thomas Sowell in his A Conflict of Visions. I think he goes overboard in trying to fit too much into this framework, but for the most part I think he's on to something.

Now, you might reply by

Now, you might reply by saying, "leftists are just doing the same thing, they're making use of human nature in order to change behavior."

I think that that may be a fair point, if someone cared to make it.

I care to make it. Not at about all leftists, but about left-libertarianism properly understood.

I don't know if you care to make it, since you're accusing right wingers of trying to change human nature.

Only to the same (or similar) extent modern-day left wingers are trying to change/deny human nature.

Leftists, I claim, believe that people are much more malleable than non-leftists do. It is a notion that distinguishes the left, that distinguishes a person as leftist. Leftists see possibilities that non-leftists do not. Leftists believe that people and society can be shaped to a degree that non-leftists do not.

Perhaps true, but then libertarianism is a radical ideology (when compared to the status quo) and libertarians get this same accusation thrown at them from conservatives all the time. Libertarians see possibilities that non-libertarians do not. Libertarians believe that people and society can be structured in such a way (namely, the removal of formal structure and its replacement by informal, Hayekian structures) that non-libertarians no not.

And one aspect of this belief is that leftists greatly downplay the phenomenon known to non-leftists as "the law of unintended consequences."

But we also have to keep in mind that this same problem exists for conservatives: by keeping things the same, we are missing out on the unseen potential gains from trade that would have occurred had we not resisted change. See the precautionary principle for a perfect example of this, which, at its root, is a conservative doctrine. There are unintended consequences of implementing the precautionary principle in social policy (which is what conservatives attempt to do); but these unintended consequences are unseen for the most part, because we lose out on potential gains of a counterfactual scenario that never ends up occuring.

That only proves the point

Perhaps true, but then libertarianism is a radical ideology (when compared to the status quo) and libertarians get this same accusation thrown at them from conservatives all the time. Libertarians see possibilities that non-libertarians do not. Libertarians believe that people and society can be structured in such a way (namely, the removal of formal structure and its replacement by informal, Hayekian structures) that non-libertarians no not.

But that only proves the point. I didn't say that American conservatives are correct. What I've been saying is that - to use Sowell's terminology - conservatives have a much more constrained vision than do leftists. All you are pointing out here is that the vision of conservatives is even more constrained than that of libertarians. Maybe so. But that only serves to demonstrate just how wide the divide is.

As a libertarian, I might say that the conservative vision is overly constrained. But that still puts it at the opposite end of the unconstrained/constrained (i.e. malleable/rigid) spectrum from the leftist vision.

Just a quick comment...

This is basically the debate between "left" and "right" libertarianism, which we began discussing in another comment thread. The right accepts human nature, the left wants to change it.

...and it is very important that the specifics of human nature are understood. What causes and effects does this nature have? Darwinism has been used as a tool for all kinds of ridiculous logic and social theories. I find "Human Nature," also, such a topic for misunderstanding and abuse.

So by "accepting" Human Nature, the person(s) think they understand the cause and effects; but they probably don't.

Maybe it's ironic that I find Human Nature such an important topic, given that it also makes me nervous when people throw it around as if there is some kind of monopoly of thought on exactly what IT is.

For example: I find it laughable (and maybe I shouldn't) that people view a Lawless society as an improvement to what currently exists now. This is exactly because of Human Nature.

The point I'm making is the disconnect. I believe I understand Human Nature, and I'm sure many of "them" do too.

Bingo, exactly what I'm

Bingo, exactly what I'm saying. We lefty types don't deny human nature, but we dispute your "monopoly of thought on exactly what IT is," as ThePenileFamily put it so well.

And the science seems to support a cautious, wait-and-see attitude, as Steven Pinker's recent NYTimes piece admitted. We do not yet fully understand the interaction of genes and environment, nor do we fully understand the causes of differences in intelligence or other personality traits. So it always gets my goat when conservatives think they have "science" and "human nature" on their side. They don't; the science just isn't there yet.

Word games

We lefty types don't deny human nature, but we dispute your "monopoly of thought on exactly what IT is," as ThePenileFamily put it so well.

Word games. However you choose to express it, and however many complex subtleties you can work into it, the left is long associated with the idea that man is malleable and can be molded into New Socialist Man, and the anti-left[*] is, as the reverse side of the same coin, associated with the idea that this is wrong.

[*]("anti-left" is the best word for it, not "right", because that which has been labeled the "right" is in fact a diverse lot of enemies of the left who do not otherwise share an essence, e.g. Adolf Hitler and Milton Friedman; the concept of "the right", whatever its original meaning, has been corrupted by leftists into a blanket label for all its enemies, and a smear insofar as it associates them with each other)

You are playing word games if you quibble over whether this situation should be described as, "the left doesn't believe in human nature", or, "the left believes in human nature but believes that humans have the same nature as Play Dough."

I don't care how you talk about it. Talk about it however you like. Just don't deny that quibbling over the best way to express this difference amounts to a real objection to the claim.

And if, alternatively, you think that there is no substantial difference in the degree to which the left and the anti-left think that that humans are clay to be molded, if you don't think that the left has long dominated the "nurture" end of the "nature versus nurture" spectrum of opinion you're simply forgetting the long history of the left which began long before you were born.

There is a long record of this difference which is not easily swept under the rug.

And the science seems to support a cautious, wait-and-see attitude, as Steven Pinker's recent NYTimes piece admitted.

That supposed admission is sufficiently important, and sufficiently general as you have expressed it, that a link to the original text and possibly even a long quote is in order. While I do not closely follow Pinker's views, I believe that he tends to side with the evolutionary psychologists, who are strongly on the "nature" side of the "nature versus nurture" debate. And who are scientists. Pinker has put enough effort into arguing for his views that I am reluctant to conclude that he simply takes it all back, just on your say-so.

So it's okay to have a

So it's okay to have a blanket label for one side, the left, which include myself, Peter Singer, and Stalin, but not a blanket label for the other side, the right, which would include (to your estimate), yourself, Adolf Hitler, and Milton Friedman. Gotcha, that sounds reasonable and fair. Not.

After reading the linked Peter Singer essay (who self-describes as of the left), would you say that Peter Singer denies the existence of human nature or believes that it is infinitely malleable?

Pinker doesn't take it all back, but he is a cautious and careful evolutionary psychologist, who doesn't make grandiose claims based on specious or non-existent evidence. He admits the limits of the science. The original article I referenced is discussed here.

Here is a relevant money quote:

Looking to the genome for the nature of the person is far from innocuous. In the 20th century, many intellectuals embraced the idea that babies are blank slates that are inscribed by parents and society. It allowed them to distance themselves from toxic doctrines like that of a superior race, the eugenic breeding of a better species or a genetic version of the Twinkie Defense in which individuals or society could evade responsibility by saying that it’s all in the genes. When it came to human behavior, the attitude toward genetics was “Don’t go there.” Those who did go there found themselves picketed, tarred as Nazis and genetic determinists or, in the case of the biologist E. O. Wilson, doused with a pitcher of ice water at a scientific conference.

Today, as the lessons of history have become clearer, the taboo is fading. Though the 20th century saw horrific genocides inspired by Nazi pseudoscience about genetics and race, it also saw horrific genocides inspired by Marxist pseudoscience about the malleability of human nature. The real threat to humanity comes from totalizing ideologies and the denial of human rights, rather than a curiosity about nature and nurture. Today it is the humane democracies of Scandinavia that are hotbeds of research in behavioral genetics, and two of the groups who were historically most victimized by racial pseudoscience — Jews and African-Americans — are among the most avid consumers of information about their genes.

Nor should the scare word “determinism” get in the way of understanding our genetic roots. For some conditions, like Huntington’s disease, genetic determinism is simply correct: everyone with the defective gene who lives long enough will develop the condition. But for most other traits, any influence of the genes will be probabilistic. Having a version of a gene may change the odds, making you more or less likely to have a trait, all things being equal, but as we shall see, the actual outcome depends on a tangle of other circumstances as well.

It's your own fault

So it's okay to have a blanket label for one side, the left, which include myself, Peter Singer, and Stalin, but not a blanket label for the other side, the right, which would include (to your estimate), yourself, Adolf Hitler, and Milton Friedman. Gotcha, that sounds reasonable and fair. Not.

I am responding to you. I did not initiate this discussion. You have already, in this discussion, accepted the concept "left". I have rejected the concept "right". Should your acceptance of the concept "left" obligate me to accept the concept "right"? How would that be fair? Why do you unilaterally get to decide what the terms of discussion are going to be?

I've explained to you why I reject the concept of "right". You are perfectly welcome to reject the concept of "left" on similar grounds, if you like. However, you are simply mistaken if you believe that the left of today does not have a great deal in common ideologically with Stalin and Mao. You are looking at Stalin and Mao now through the lens of their methods and results, the murders and the famines and the economic disaster, but if you were to see them in the way that their Western leftist contemporaries viewed them then you would see much more clearly the kinship between Stalin and modern leftism. The brutal methods of Stalin and Mao were a consequence of their core ideas, because the only way to shape society as they hoped to shape it, the only way to put those ideas into practice, was by those brutal means. Modern leftists may be reluctant to apply those brutal means, but the ideas remain the same. Leftists today are impotent because they are unwilling to apply the brutal means that, back in the day, they (yes they, honestly, they) were willing to apply. For example, I had a professor from Yugoslavia who pointed out that amid all the disasters, Yugoslavia had accomplished one good thing: it had ended ethnic tension. It had created a unified, post ethnic society out of the groups that lived there. This was a few years before Yugoslavia broke up and the supposed post-ethnic unity dissolved. So anyway, here's one example of something modern day leftists have in common with communists. It's something you even brought up. Leftists want to end bigotry. Yugoslavian communists wanted to end bigotry. And - it appeared - they succeeded. I don't know how they did it, but it is probably a good guess that they applied coercive force to accomplish that goal.

Meanwhile, your Pinker quote doesn't seem to say what I was led to believe it said.

However, you are simply

However, you are simply mistaken if you believe that the left of today does not have a great deal in common ideologically with Stalin and Mao.

Would you say the same about the tribalist (anti-immigrant, my country right or wrong, anti-gay) right of today having a great deal in common ideologically with Hitler?

Hitler and the left and right

Would you say the same about the tribalist (anti-immigrant, my country right or wrong, anti-gay) right of today having a great deal in common ideologically with Hitler?

I mentioned the history of the Western left's reaction to Stalin and to communism. In today's world, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, leftists would like nothing better than to dissociate themselves with that sad but long chapter in the history of Western leftism of which they are very much the heirs. But it's really the same ideas, and the same group of people. For example, today's left loves Noam Chomsky, there's been quite a fad for his writing, but Noam Chomsky belongs to the old, tainted left, despite the mountains of rubbish that his fans have written in an attempt to clear his reputation. It is the same bunch of people. New individual faces, sure. The younger leftists today are physically too young to have actually done the things that people like Hanoi Jane did. But it's the same group of people, held together by intellectual tradition - an example of this being the reading of Chomsky by young leftists.

There is, in the United States, also an intellectual tradition, or a number of traditions, which are not leftist. I think that if you start with Von Mises and move outward to include his students and then people who appreciate him and them and are much influenced by them, you might have put your finger on one tradition. Another tradition, possibly overlapping, may be the one largely originating in Ayn Rand. To find traditions: start with any important thinker, and build outward.

Which of the major traditions in American thought has the longest and sorriest history of sympathy and support for Adolf Hitler? If the book Liberal Fascism is correct, that may actually be - leftists.

Hitler was Actually a Leftist

I know that the left says Adolf Hitler is on the right but when you look at his ideological evolution he arose from the left, he adhered to leftist propaganda, he even took on the programs of the left like eugenics, government control over industry and the like.

Heck, he even tried to mold human nature via both genetics and ideology. He thought man was malleable he just wanted to exterminate the poorer quality working material that was not as good a starting point.

The Germans had tried to reform the Jews long before Hitler and discovered that they were not malleable, like good Germans (ie. wouldn't convert). Seeing this reality they were talking about "The Jewish Problem" and "Final Solutions" long before Hitler. See the book "The End of Faith" for a discussion of this.

The left was very much into changing man via eugenics before Hitler. It's just that Hitler gave it a bad name.

For me, I'm not against sex. I'm just against forced sex. Likewise with eugenics.

Yes, Hitler was very much like the commies

I know that the left says Adolf Hitler is on the right but when you look at his ideological evolution he arose from the left, he adhered to leftist propaganda, he even took on the programs of the left like eugenics, government control over industry and the like.

I agree (and same with Mussolini), and yet in current usage Hitler is "on the right". It's a matter of usage. This, of course, means that "the right" is not really a kind of ideology but a mere label applied to dissimilar ideologies. Micha thinks that the same thing can be said of "the left" but I disagree. I think that the communists of the twentieth century had tremendous propaganda success, and I even see a lot of libertarians today echoing communist propaganda, not realizing that it is communist propaganda. Part of this propaganda is the labeling of things.

For me, I'm not against sex.

For me, I'm not against sex. I'm just against forced sex.

Wait, I though there was supposed to be forced mating with the libertarian avant-guard during the revolution... I feel so cheated now.

Forced mating

"I feel so cheated now."

I think "From each according to her sexual abilities. To each according to his needs." is more in line with other political parties.

Left and Right what?

Wait a second. I don't know who in this conversation did it but now you are talking about left and right in general. The original context was left libertarians vs. right libertarians. You can place the blame, I'm too lazy to go back and figure it out at the moment. I'm not saying it was you. Perhaps, I'll sort it out later. Just pointing it out for now.

And we conservatives don't

And we conservatives don't deny science, but we dispute your "monopoly of thought on exactly what evolution is". And the science seems to support a cautious, wait-and-see attitude. We have not yet seen macro-evolution take place before our eyes and don't fully understand the interaction of genes and environment, nor do we fully understand the causes of differences in form and function. So it always gets my goal when the reality based community think they have "evolution" on their side. They don't; the science just isn't there yet.

Examples please

And we conservatives don't deny science, but we dispute your "monopoly of thought on exactly what evolution is".

Pretend I'm in the "your" group. What are you questioning, specifically, about evolution?

Dear Fake Constant

I don't particularly like your tag. To similar to Constant. If Constant was ignorant then I'd warn you not to complain when I mistakenly respond to him thinking it was you.

Seeing however that you are a creationist I'll warn Constant, and apologize beforehand. I know I'll probably make that mistake.

"And we conservatives don't deny science, ..." says a guy denying science.

And the science seems to support a cautious, wait-and-see attitude."

Sorry, that's a incorrect characterization of science. Seeing as how you are a creationist that doesn't surprise. One of their main tactics is to dispute science via straw man caricatures.

Even granting your false characture one would think that 137 years of not merely "wait and see" but active attempts to disprove natural selection would be proven3.
That and all the successful predictions the theory has made.

"We have not yet seen macro-evolution take place before our eyes"

Nor have "we" seen macro-mountain growth, or macro-erosion. I guess you think the Grand Canyon was created by God.

"nor do we fully understand the causes of differences in form and function."

Well, if you understood scientific philosophy then you'd know that we really don't understand anything "fully", nor can we. Our understanding must always be finite, tentative, and based on imperfect models. We certainly aren't going to know the causes for every specific difference in form and function. Only some. You'll never "fully" understand anything. So the word "fully" here is setting unrealistic expectations. It's setting to high a bar.

I don't think that was your purpose however. You are not about high standards in your beliefs otherwise you wouldn't believe in god. What you actually wanted to do in your argument was to equivocate between "fully understanding" and "understanding". You wanted to be able to sneak in the belief that we do not understand any causes of differences in form and function. Obviously this is incorrect. We do understand some causes.

We know that some causes of differences in form and function are environmental and some causes are genetic. Thats for individuals. We also know that differences in form and function of species are caused by natural selection (which entails both self organization and random variation).

"So it always gets my goal when the reality based community think they have "evolution" on their side."

I hate to tell you this but many conservatives believe in evolution. So there is no "your side" on this issue. In so far as anyone believes they have "evolution on their side" then they are correct. It doesn't matter if it gets your goat or not. Since the theory of natural selection is correct to the best of our scientific knowledge there will be situations were operating as if it were not true will cause you to make errors. Just like with any other false belief.

Good point. Because we set

Good point. Because we set policies at such a coarse-grained level, cultural and economic interactions are treated similarly. In a more anarchic world where small groups suffered or gained from the consequences of their association decisions, we would likely see less economic tribalism, but more cultural and regional tribalism.

Anarchy = Tribalism

"... but more cultural and regional tribalism."

Including real honest to god tribes and clans of related individuals fighting it out on the basis of genetic relatedness. Where individualism is NOT the rule and free immigration not an option. As in Somalia.

You forgot a fourth reason

You forgot a fourth reason why people might oppose lax immigration laws: people generally have a preference for living near others who share their culture, language, and values, especially in a world governed by democracies.

Do I share more in common with highly-rural WASPs living in Wasilla, Alaska or with the Mexicans who live two miles away from me on Buford Highway and don't speak a word of English? Answer: I prefer the Mexicans.

You may dismiss this as "tribalism". But if you do, you are denying 500,000 years of human nature. Human nature is notoriously difficult to change. I wish you luck constructing your "libertarian man" with no social group preferences, but I am not going to bet the viability of my politics on your efforts.

500,000 years of human nature produced a lot of different things, some good, some bad, some cultural, some genetic. I don't think you are justified in concluding that hatred of foreigners is simply endogenous to human biology and impervious to change. Here is Kerry Howley on conservatives's "transparently selective acquiescence to nature."

I assume she believes we should resist certain “natural” impulses–defecating in public, sleeping with people to whom are not pair-bonded, slaughtering outsiders. But in the event that various impulses reinforce Hall’s politically conservative assumptions, resistance is suddenly an outrageous defiance of the natural order. We must have lots of babies because “that’s how our bodies are set up,” civilization be damned. I look forward to Hall’s argument in favor of giving up in the face heroin addiction, as an addict’s brain is “set up” to demand more of the same. And I assume that were her students at the Rochester Institute of Technology to start a hot class-wide orgy on the classroom floor, Ms. Hall would throw up her hands and say “It’s hormones!” Carry on, nothing to be done about it, you can’t be happy if you resist nature. Culture, after all, is a myth perpetuated by women’s studies departments.

The fatal flaw in this poor man’s evo psych is its suspicious willingness to view any current social pattern as the inevitable, immutable outcome of evolutionary logic. Hall’s argument could have been given at any point in history to justify any particular racial or gender inequity. Actual evolutionary psychologists understand that social construction and human nature play off of one another, which is why some women can don burqas, others monokinis, without creating massive confusion in the scientific community.

Back to your post:

The question is, why do you think that this is the only correct culture that should be imposed on the world?

I don't assume this at all. I am a radical pluralist, and do not think that closed, bigoted societies should be forced by outsiders to change their ways, even when they abuse their own members. I do think that bigotry is wrong, and that it is a good thing for those of us who care to do whatever is peaceful to eliminate bigotry wherever it is found.

"Do I share more in common

"Do I share more in common with highly-rural WASPs living in Wasilla, Alaska or with the Mexicans who live two miles away from me on Buford Highway and don't speak a word of English? Answer: I prefer the Mexicans."

Bigot! I've heard the same thing with blacks and Jews, and the phrase wasn't about loving Jews, but about hating blacks. You've probably don't even know any WASPs in Alaska.

Also, your answer doesn't address the question. The question is, "Does a urban Jewish American English speaking anarchist polygamist citizen from somewhere in the US share more in common with rural Protestant American English speaking conservative monogamists citizen from Alaska, or with rural Catholic Mexican Spanish speaking monogamists non-citizen from Guadalupe?"

Not sure you can actually answer that question. That however is NOT the commonalities that the argument is based on.

A WASP from the US is much more likely to share beliefs in individual liberty with you than the masses of say, Venezuela. The more the tide is tipped the more strength the argument has. Sure some of my neighbors are socialists, and if only a few then what problem a few more. However when 49% is already socialist then a few percent more can be quite a problem with a representative government.

I wonder if Micha agrees

I wonder if Micha agrees that shaming and ridicule would be more effective than persuasion on persons of type 1 and 2. If he does then I wonder why would he respond with shaming and ridicule only to persons of type 3?

I would not agree that

I would not agree that shaming and ridicule would be more effective than persuasion on persons of type 1 and 2, because there are logical, reasoned arguments to made in 1 and 2, where as 3 is much more emotional and inchoate, leaving the possibility for reasoned discourse very much at a disadvantage.

OK. However even some

OK. However even some persons of type 1 and 2 might fail to be persuaded no matter how hard you tried. Would you then use shaming and ridicule on them as well? If not, why not?

Only Good Argument?

Micha: "This is the argument for property rights. This is the only good argument for property rights."

I don't think it is a very good argument at all because it is not complete. It starts with flawed assumptions from the start:

"The way Judith Thomson puts it, if 'the first labor-mixer must literally leave as much and as good for others who come along later, then no one can come to own anything, for there are only finitely many things in the world so that every taking leaves less for others'"

When I catch a fish from a lake I am in a sense mixing my labor with the fish. Fish are goods but I have changed the nature of the good from a "free and hard to capture fish" to a "captured fish" by mixing the labor of catching the fish with the fish.

Now I have literally diminished the stock of fish by one, which literally does not leave as "much and as good" for everyone else. One can see this by merely iterating the process. I (and or others) could have continued until we have caught all the fish in the lake.

Yet at the same time if the the quantity of fish extracted remains below a certain level my taking of one fish will not diminish the total amount of fish that can be taken from the lake.

So my ownership of the fish really does leave as good and as much for others, given restraint in pulling fish out of the lake.

Now I think it should be clear at this point that the argument for my property rights in the fish should and could have a very different basis for my property rights in the lake. No improvement may be needed in the lake, and yet, someone needs to have control (ownership) over the lake in order to prevent a violation of the concept of "leaving as good and as much".

Nor is there any massive increase in the amount of goods under this scenario, and yet we still hold to the belief in property rights in the fish. So the rational expressed in this argument doesn't even apply, to the fish.

Nor does the argument apply to the lake. The issue here isn't some massive increase in the supply of fish. On the contrary the main concern in giving ownership over the lake seems to be in preventing the tragedy of the commons from occuring and diminishing the normal amount of fish produced by nature.

So I think I have proven that there must in fact be several other arguments for property rights on different types of property at the level of this supposed "only good argument". Furthermore, I do not think that this is neccesarily the only correct level at which to argue.

I think that one needs an entire accept an world view as a framework in which to justify property rights, and there may be several different variant world views with which property rights are consistent. After all world views are only models and it is possible that several different models of the world are equally competitive.

There is no reason why a normative world view couldn't be constructed in which property rights are justified. Sure it would have it's flaws as a model, but I see the same issue arising with a consequentialist model, which too would not be perfect. Certainly all models suffer when it comes to finding base justifications. One can always say " but what about X".

For instance, why should one care about massive production of goods? Maybe the person you are trying to make this argument to values the hunter gatherer lifestyle.

Why should such a person respect your decision to buy into this argument? Why shouldn't such a person destroy your attempts to improve the lake and fence him out? Sure total production might be more if you are allowed to add structure to the bottom of the lake (underwater shelter such as branches and rocks), add fertilizer, etc. But why should he care. Perhaps he doesn't view such additions as "natural", nor as an valid reason to exclude him from fishing the lake.