I loosely follow Mitchell Powel on FontWords.com. In a recent posting he commented on John Fensel’s ten Questions For Conservatives. He was having a bit of fun with it, and I”m trying to avoid finishing my chapter on Ideology, so I had a go at it.

Dear David. Here is a lengthy and detailed response to your Questionnaire for Conservatives.

THE MEANING OF THE WORD “CONSERVATIVE”
First, “Conservative” means simply “reaction to the status quo”. One must be conservative about something. In the case of americans, they are conservative about the anglo classical liberal institutions, the most important of which are rule of law that limits the actions of the state, and a division of labor and knowledge between the classes that are represented by two houses in an institutional arrangement that allows procedural exchange between groups (classes) with different interests (and abilities). They are conservative about the aristocratic manorial system (and therefore its modern instantiation in the corporation) because it is a meritocratic organizational structure. They are conservative about the nuclear family, since that is a unique institution that gives each man and woman leadership of the smallest tribe possible, and by dong so makes them visibly accountable for its success and failure. The nuclear family system with prohibition on near-breeding, is a bottom-up means of organizing society so that the fewest involuntary transfers are created, in an institution that trains people to be personally responsible due to the perfect transparency of the family. They are conservative with regard to human nature in that conservatism is first and foremost a warning against pervasive human hubris. They are conservative with regard to external threats, for which a hierarchy is necessary since it allows rapid response to threats and opportunities. They are conservative for good reason: they invented the one and only high trust society in the world with those traditions.

THE THREE TECHNOLOGIES OF COERCION NEEDED TO COMPOSE A SOCIAL ORDER
But even with that shared background, American conservatives fall into three camps, each of which favors using one of the three possible social forms of coercion:

1) Ostracization/inclusion at the cost of obeying norms: Social conservatives (The church, farmers and peasantry) give higher priority to the enforcement of the social order by way of norms which are indoctrinated by pedagogy and ritual under penalty of ostracization from the geography and the market.

2) The institution of property/honesty (law) under the threat of violence: Classical liberal conservatives (The Aristocracy and the military) prefer meritocratic rotation of a hierarchy whose membership is determined by demonstrated service of others in the market, where their only purpose is to maintain rules that apply equally to all, but where punishment rather than ostracization is the means of coercion.

3) Benefits from voluntary exchange under the treat of lost opportunity: Commercial conservatives (The bankers, small business owners and trade craftsmen) prefer anarchic market orders where commerce alone serves those according to their contribution.

ALLEGORICAL VS RATIO-EMPIRICAL LANGUAGE
The fact that conservatives speak in allegorical language rather than ratio-empirical language is immaterial other than the fact that it obscures the content and reasoning of their arguments. This unfortunately makes their arguments useless with liberals. And it is a convenient way of avoiding a meaningful conversation on the part of conservatives who themselves may not understand the content of their own traditions. (And who rarely do, actually.) Allegorical language is perfectly effective. It just isnt’ as useful in debate as it is in pedagogy. And it is demonstrably more effective in pedagogy than ratio-empirical language. So the test of any philosophy, regardless of its linguistic construct as either allegorical, ratio-empirical, is not its form – it’s the result of using it. It is pretty hard to argue against the European aristocratic achievement. Passing asian from far behind is pretty impressive.

THE CHURCH HAS TRADITIONALLY BEEN ALLIED WITH PROGRESSIVES
The alliance between religious conservatives, and the martial and commercial conservatives has been highly effective, but it is uncommon. The church tended to err on the side of progressives. So there are two conservative traditions: the aristocratic martial classical liberal, and the common and religious groups. WHile it serves the left to cast conservaties as religious, it is simply an argumentative device for the left.

THE OTHER LINGUISTIC TRADITIONS – CONSERVATIVE HISTORICISM AND PHILOSOPHICAL LIBERTARIANISM
The other tradition is the pragmatic aristocratic. Aristocratic Conservatives failed to develop a language capable of moral argumentation with the left. They stayed with historical analogy as their main form of argument. The libertarians developed that language that the conservatives failed to, which is why the libertarians have taken over all of conservative thought leadership. It is that libertarian language I”m using to discuss these topics. So the three movements use three languages: religious mystical allegory, conservative historical reasoning, and libertarian analytical philosophy supported by ratio-empiricism. The problem for the entire right, is that the extremist anarchists have appropriated the libertarian movement so conservatives have not adopted the lines of reasoning. (That’s what I’m doing for them.) Now, back to aristocratic manorialism.

THE DIRTY LITTLE SECRET OF THE ARISTOCRATIC MANORIAL MODEL
But there is a dirty little secret to the aristocratic model, that is not very tasteful. By requiring a man demonstrate his ability to perform in order to obtain a lease on the land from the landholder, where that lease was necessary to wed and support children, a natural eugenics program was put into place by delaying marriage and childbirth and preventing access to land to the lowest of the underclasses. There is a current argument that the nuclear family, prohibitions on inbreeding by the church, and property-manorialism is what created the higher IQ distribution among northern europeans that led to the enlightenment. There is a further argument that our IQ distribution has declined since 1850, taking europeans from parity with the ashkenazim, to a five point disadvantage. If this argument is true, and the dirty little secret is confirmed, there is even more to argue in support of the conservative model than we had thought. As distasteful as it may be to our current perceptions.

THE MANORIAL MODEL’S INABILITY TO PREDICT DARWIN AND THE IMPACT OF WOMEN
The other failure in conservatism has been the inability to predict the combination of the loss of the church as a separate entity responsible for norms, and the transfer of the management of norms to the state. As well as the unanticipated impact of women on the voting process and the consequential impact that women’s decidedly non-meritocratic preferences have had on those institutions, and the institution of property rights. Conservatives did not anticipate that the differences between female and male mating strategies, which was masked by the nuclear family, would be written large under democracy and the ability to legislatively and financially obligate males. As such, our political arguments are absurd, since the distribution of sentimental voting patterns between the genders guarantees that all decisions are merely reflections of gender participation in the voting process. Nothing more. Our arguments are tilting at demographic and biological windmills.

WE FUSS AND FUME BUT ITS JUST DIFFERENCES IN GENDER MATING STRATEGIES
Again, we would love it if all our political pontifications and justifications were of substance, but when aggregated by a process of voting they are no longer obscured by verbal artistry and are revealed as mere reflections of our primate past. And the difference in distribution between men and women — with men having wider and women having narrower distributions — and the difference between the majority male concept of creating a meritocratic tribe that can persist over time, and the majority desire of each woman to have her offspring persist regardless of merit to the tribe, are natural conflicts that our system does not account for. And perhaps cannot account for.

So with those definitions and contexts in mind, here are the answers to your questions articulated with greater granularity and precision than you will find among most conservatives. Which isn’t always a good thing. :)

THE TEN QUESTIONS FOR CONSERVATIVES

QUESTION 1. “Do first world societies have a moral obligation to help its poor, elderly, and disabled?”

This question like most moral puzzles is a fallacy of composition. Is unintentionally a trick question. I’ll try to fix that by answering it completely.

a) Institutional responsibility. First, caretaking is the responsibility of the church. Conservatives would prefer that caretaking were as separate from the legislature as is the judiciary or the army. THe conservative concept of society sees the purpose of the state as proviging a means for the resolution of disputes. Moving charity into the state opened it, and society to corruptoin. People are not invested in the society becausthey do not act in order to be invested in it. There are planty of modern options for breaking out caretaking services from the legislature, and putting it back into civic hands, so that we could recreate civic virtues. Even if service were compulsory. And conservatives would prefer it that way. (they use the word church but anything outside of politics would be fine with them.)

b) Moral Obligations. No. First world citizens have a moral obligation only to refrain from involuntarily harming the poor, elderly and disabled. “Do nothing unto others that you would not have done unto you”. Moral obligations cannot be positive only negative. But this statement is only true because of how the question was phrased.

So, if phrased differently, then conditionally Yes. If the INDIVIDUALS who are poor, elderly and disabled eschew fraud theft and violence, which is necessary to create the institution of property, then they have contributed to the society (market) by forgoing opportunities for self benefit by way of theft, fraud and violence, then it is an involuntary transfer (theft) from the poor, elderly and disabled, not to provide them with the food, healthcare and shelter necessary for survival, since they paid the minimum cost of entry for the social order that everyone else profits from.

But that care must be limited to food, health care, shelter and training (education), and cannot not extend to pleasure, entertainment status-signaling and the right of reproduction, since at that point, they deprive the productive without providing anything in exchange. That would be a theft, and dissolve the obligation for care taking. “Do unto others as you would have done unto you.”

c) Religious obligations can be positive. Legal obligations can be positive. But moral obligations must be exchanges, even if that exchange is an act of charity for which our compensation is the improvement of our ‘soul’.

d) Preferences and Luxuries. We can provide for the poor, elderly and disabled if we are able to, and we prefer to. In that sense, like a charity, charity is a luxury good.

e) Behavioral practicalities. Human beings instinctually demonstrate social behaviors:
i. NURTURING. Care Taking and Nurturing. The difference between conservatives and liberals is that liberals think ONLY in terms of harm and care. and conservatives think in terms of the long term competitiveness of the tribe in relation to other tribes. Again, this is just female versus male breeding strategies expressed large.

ii. ANTI-CHEATING. The two necessary sides of the coin of cooperative behavior: reciprocity, and punishment for cheating. The problem for conservatives is that it’s pretty hard to tell who is cheating. Or rather, the definition of cheating (poverty) is arguable, and therefor we are creating a malincentive. Conservative responses to immigration are driven by the same issue: it’s cheating. (Theft).

And human beings are much more active about cheating than they are about any other human behavior. THe difference between the left and right is that the right views transfers as cheating and the left views prohibition on transfers as cheating. WHich is just how men and women look at propagating their genes. Something which is also true for male ‘betas’. If we mix rent-seeking transfer-seeking women and beta males together we have a slight majority of the population (approx 47%) versus the conservatives (approx 37%) with the rest of the people ambivalent but slanting conservative because of established norms, and who vote their pocketbooks rather than sentiments.

Summary
Given these different actions, we have a limited moral obligation to protect the poor, elderly and disabled as long as our protection does not encourage others to cheat at being dependent citizens. WE have a RELIGIOUS obligation to do more than that. But practicaly speaking, all reasons above feed into our behavior, with the most important today being that the ‘poor’ can afford to breed, have an air conditioner, two televisions, a car, and their own apartment or home, and eat enough calories that the greatest threat to their health is obesity. Furthermore, we do not ask fair compensation from them: which is to refrain from childbearing until you are capable of doing so, rather than exporting your preferences and costs onto the middle class who must under-breed in order to pay for your luxury.

QUESTION 2. “Can all religious beliefs, including ones not shared by you, justifiably be used to influence public policy and law?”

This question is more challenging than the first because of its assumptions. Lets see if I can fix that.

a) It assumes that unanimity of belief is possible or desirable in a body politic. This is false on its face if only because we have evidence that unanimity of belief is possible, and we finally know why: beliefs are genetic in origin.

b) The inverse must be asked, “Can laws and policy be used to influence religious beliefs?” Essentially this nullifies the question as meaningless, and solved only by who possesses the greater violence with which to compel the others.

c) Religious beliefs are a form of law, coded in allegory, reproduced by repetition, under the threat of ostracization from the group, its security, and its opportunities. This process creates norms. The question is not whether the narratives are expressed in rational or empirical terms, but whether the economic and organizational content of those narratives when they are acted upon by human beings, produces a material outcome. Once reduced to economic an organizational principles, it is irrelevant which language is used to express them. The question then becomes the debate over the results produced by the content not the form. As such, arguments over allegorical thinking versus rational and empirical thinking is part and parcel either eristic or a process of deception or oppression.

d) The answer is, to the extent that any group can enact policy for any reason over the will of others, the reasoning for doing so is immaterial. The difference is that religion ostracizes because it is independent of geographic monopoly and law oppresses because it is defined by geographic monopoly. The profundity of that statement may not be readily apparent.

QUESTION 3. “How should people be taxed: in terms of dollar amount, percentage, or capability? Why?”

The question of taxation cannot be asked intelligently outside of a context for the method of government. In the sense conveyed by our democratic republican form of government, there is no known optimum system. However, there are two extremes. The first is that we do not tax at all, but simply ‘print’ the money needed to cover spending, thereby diluting everyones real wealth without the need to distort the economy with multiple perverse incentives. No country has had the courage to try this, but various forms are discussed by theorists under the heading “Modern Monetary Theory”. The second is to tax income as a five year rolling average against balance sheets, rather than straight income, combined with mandatory retirement savings, and healthcare accounts, and publicly register the contributions of individuals, so that there is a status associated with their paying for government. This model forces the government to think in terms of creating a competitive economy for all classes.

QUESTION 4. “Would Jesus want to spend federal income on programs for the poor, healthcare, or military?”

Jesus was a rebel using the allegorical language of the Persians by way of Abraham to criticize his local group for their surrender to the romans. Paul did most of the work. Jesus doesn’t appear to have said very much other than that the common people should take care of one another as a means of resisting corruption on all levels. So I have no idea what he would say. If you read greek text from that era it borders on incomprehensible because ideas from that era were pervasive with violence, poverty, ignorance and mysticism. So I do not know. Later writers altered his ideas sufficiently, and later philosophers augmented it. But it remains a personal religion of rebellion. And that is how christians use it today: as a means of rebellion against the modern ‘Rome’.

QUESTION 5. “Was Reagan justified in raising taxes on wealthy Americans multiple times? Why or why not?”
The question is meaningless outside of the context. The way it is asked, implies the thinking of the left — a narrowness of thinking that is alien to conservatives who tend to be broad and historical in their thinking. Reagan was attempting to correct the mistakes of the Johnson thru Carter era which had proven the failure of the idea of the great society and it’s incorrect concept of human nature. He wanted to put an end to the world communist movement outside the country, and he wanted to direct money away from the state and to private industry within the country so that he could reverse the collectivism that had impoverished the country and its culture. In that sense, his actions were pragmatic not ‘just’.

QUESTION 6. “Should the existence of poverty be a moral concern for first world societies?”
WHy isn’t this a repeat of the first question? It is, isn’t it? That said, it is not a moral concern, it is a practical concern.

QUESTION 7. “In what way does homosexual marriage infringe upon your rights, or the rights of anyone else?”
This question is predicated on a false premise. For a conservative rights are not involved, only a leftist would consider this topic a question of rights. Instead, the question is why do you oppose homosexual marriage? The answer is that conservatives oppose all threats to the nuclear family, and treat the nuclear family as a ‘sacred’ institution that society grants special privileges, and which solves very complicated problems. Secondly, it is an assault on traditional gender roles and the ‘peace’ that has been made between the genders by traditional gender roles. Thirdly, it produces unknown affects upon children, which takes a person’s preference and transfers the cost of that preference to children who do not have a choice whether they do so.

Until recently, and throughout all of history, it was believed that homosexuality was a choice — a form of selfishness that could corrupt the young and ruin their chances at a successful (nuclear family) life. We now are fairly certain that it is the byproduct of an in-utero process, possible related to an immune reaction (and therefore at some point preventable) but it is not voluntary. So the fourth argument has been eliminated by science. But it is unlikely that the damage to the nuclear family will be disproven. We seem to be reverting to our ancestral relationships: serial monogamy and migratory males.

QUESTION 8. “If society is left with only two options: let uninsured patients who need life-saving surgery die, or pay for their surgeries through taxpayer money, which would you choose?”

False dichotomy. The question is whether we mutually insure people for catastrophic illness outside of the last year of life, and ask them to pay for their own prescriptions and maintenance like canada does. This is the solution that we need to adopt. Framing the question otherwise is argumentative deception.

QUESTION 9. “Should tax cuts only be accompanied by equal spending cuts?”
This question only makes sense in current context. The republican argument is that they want ‘dangerous’ political institutions dismantled in excahgne for tax increaes and they see this as an opportunity that rarely arises to transfer power back to the states by eliminating the DOE, Energy, and HUD organizations that are the remnants of the great society.

QUESTION “10. Ultimately, how do you judge the “success” of a society? Ie, what indicator is the best way to judge the progress of a developed society (possible answers: gdp, happiness of its citizens, freedom, rights)?”

That it persists in relation to other societies by developing technology that allows a minority to resist conquest by a larger majority. That is the essence of conservatism. The manorial west was a poor and backward minority that through discipline and technology held back the superior numbers of the autocratic east.

In other words, as a hierarchy:
Persistence.
–Excellence
—-Innovation in all things including the arts.
——Prosperity.
———-Order.
Notice that equality is not in that list, because conservatism is conversationally allegorical, but procedurally scientific: humans are unequal in ability and survival of the group depends upon competitive excelence.

 

9 Responses to Answers To John Fensel’s “Ten Questions For Conservatives”

  1. John Fensel says:

    This is an interesting response to my questions. I don’t want to get in on a full-on debate, though I do have some further questions.

    For the first question, I left that intentionally vague because I wanted whoever answered the question to be able to define what “society” was for themselves.

    Institutional Responsibility- I can’t say I understand fully your answer. Do institutions, in the absence of private charity, have an obligation to provide aid to the poor? It is one thing to say private charities are more capable of helping than public institutions (a claim I would agree with), and yet another to claim that only private charities are justified in helping the poor. If there are no private charities whatsoever, for whatever reason, do governmental institutions have an obligation to help the poor?

    Moral Obligations-“Moral obligations cannot be positive only negative.” That is an incredibly bold statement about moral obligations, and one that does not easily stand criticism. Would you be willing to claim that a man passing by a drowning child has no positive moral obligation to help the child live?

    Foregoing theft/crime-I am unclear as to how you make the distinction between items necessary for life (food) and pleasures, when you provide the seemingly sufficient condition of “if they forego self benefit for the sake of society by not committing crimes, then they deserve ____ from society”. If this is your stance, I do not see how the condition does not also justify the poor demanding luxuries as well as necessities.

    Religious Obligations-How do you distinguish between religious and moral obligations? It would seem to me that the distinction would be that only religious people have religious obligations, whereas morality is potentially applicable to the majority/everybody. Is this the distinction you have in mind?

    Question 2-Am I correct in my interpretation of your answer, that religious beliefs can be justifiably used to influence law? I did not see any way to distinguish religions in your answer, and further did not see any suggestion that using religion is unjustified, so I am making an inference.

    Question 3-You did not answer the question. I am assuming that you live in the United States, though correct me if I’m wrong. In our form of government, which of the three methods of income tax do you recommend, or would you rather recommend one of the two extremes that you outlined?

    Question 4-I am uncertain how you came to the conclusion that Jesus was rebelling against Rome. I have likely not studied the Bible to the extent you have, but I do have some background in it. Particular verses that come to mind are “give unto Caesars what is Caesars, and to God what is God’s”, and “it is easier for a camel to get through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to get into the kingdom of heaven”, and most importantly “truly i tell you, whatever you did for the least of these, you did for me”.

    It would seem, with those verses in mind, that it would be a fair inference to claim that Jesus was far more concerned with helping the poor and sick than on issues of national security. Further, it would seem that Jesus was not advocating Christian rebellion against secular governments. Would you disagree with these claims?

    Question 5-The question is very meaningful without context, as it was aimed at people who hold two contradictory views: “Reagan is the model for presidents” and “taxes should never be raised, for any reason”. If you admit that raising taxes can be pragmatic at times, it would seem that you reject the absolutist view that we should never raise taxes.

    Question 6-They are very similar, but no they are not the same question. The first question was on what obligations societies have to help the poor. This question was on what the political focus should be-social issues, poverty, defense, etc.

    Question 7-It seems you disagree a lot with the average conservative. The reason I phrased the question that way is that I’ve been in numerous debates where the topic of “religious rights” comes up, and that gay marriage is unjust based upon its supposed infringement upon religious freedom.

    As for your argument-You are implicitly making a very faulty argument. You are effectively saying that the reasons you feel homosexual marriage is bad is sufficient for legal action to prevent the case from happening. For example, if I could make the same case for divorce-that it hurts the nuclear family, assaults traditional gender roles, and produces unknown/bad effects on children (which would be very easy to make), then you would similarly have to claim that we should outlaw divorce, based upon your sufficient condition.

    Most importantly, you must justify why, for whatever reasons you oppose it, you have the legal/moral authority to restrict the freedoms of other citizens. What I am trying to get at here is what you think is sufficient for something to be made illegal, and why.

    Question 8-This is not a false dichotomy, as I never claimed that those were the only two logically possible options. I am asking a question about preference-of those two options, which is preferable? That preference is what I am trying to get at, and the reason I asked the question.

    Question 9-You did not answer the question. If I am to infer an answer from what you wrote, it would seem that you would claim that, at times, it is justifiable to decrease taxes without decreasing spending (thus contributing to the deficit). If that’s your answer, that’s fine-I just want to be clear.

    Question 10-If I am understanding you correctly, you are claiming that a society that persists through inhumane options (take Nazi Germany for example), and further is the front-runner of innovation, would be a more successful society than one that protects its citizens, but does not advance itself to the same extent. This is obviously an extreme case, but consistency would seem to demand that you accept this consequence.

    • Curt Doolittle says:

      John, Great responses, and quickly too. I’ll respond quickly as I have something I need to run and do.

      JOHN: “Institutional Responsibility- I can’t say I understand fully your answer. Do institutions, in the absence of private charity, have an obligation to provide aid to the poor? It is one thing to say private charities are more capable of helping than public institutions (a claim I would agree with), and yet another to claim that only private charities are justified in helping the poor. If there are no private charities whatsoever, for whatever reason, do governmental institutions have an obligation to help the poor?”

      CURT: An obligation requires the existence of an exchange. That is, unless you’re arguing that there is a divine morality. :) There is no evidence that there are no private charities whatsoever. There is evidence that the state crowded out all charities by monopolizing charity. Highly inefficiently as well. So the question is mystical or platonic. Charity should be constructed separate from lawmaking. The reason is that it is too easy to focus on spreading teh wealth and too hard to do the work of creating it. We need ann organ of government that assists in the concentration of wealth. That is how the church and state worked, that is how the conservative mind works, that is how teh conservative tradition developed. That’s why I’m using the examples.

      JOHN: Moral Obligations-”Moral obligations cannot be positive only negative.” That is an incredibly bold statement about moral obligations, and one that does not easily stand criticism. Would you be willing to claim that a man passing by a drowning child has no positive moral obligation to help the child live?

      CURT: It stands criticism.:) You have a loose definition of the word ‘moral’ that is derived from religious origins. Or you are treating emotions or empathy as divind gifts. I don’t know which. But you’re treating emotions as truths. I’m not relying on religious definitions or concepts. The reason you help the child is because there are no alternatives. No hazard is created by helping the child. I know this is counter intuitive at first, but that’s why you have the obligation. Because no other action is possible. That is very different from helping someone who is ostensibly poor enjoy more channels of television. Here is the example: You have a thousand bags of grain. There is a terrible earthquake, and people are on the verge of starving. Do you just give them the food, or do you give them the food at the normal market price and simply expect them to pay you when they can? The problem in both the drowning child and the starving population is the same. It is because there is no alternative due to the problem of scarce time. That your emotions yell loudly at you is an artifact of evolution. But the reason that you evolved that emotional response is the problem of time. If we are in the desert and you have water and another man doe not, you do not charge him usurious prices for it. The problem is time. you charge him normal prices and you save his life. But you do not need to ‘give it away’. That creates a hazard. You’re satisfying your emotions in order to create a harm.

      JOHN: Foregoing theft/crime-I am unclear as to how you make the distinction between items necessary for life (food) and pleasures, when you provide the seemingly sufficient condition of “if they forego self benefit for the sake of society by not committing crimes, then they deserve ____ from society”. If this is your stance, I do not see how the condition does not also justify the poor demanding luxuries as well as necessities.

      CURT: It’s quite simple. A man has no choice but to die when presented with starvation, none when ill, none when ignorant. Pleasures however are a choice. For him to have those pleasures, someone else must be deprived of them. Further, giving him those pleasures creates a hazard. (Cheating).

      JOHN: Religious Obligations-How do you distinguish between religious and moral obligations? It would seem to me that the distinction would be that only religious people have religious obligations, whereas morality is potentially applicable to the majority/everybody. Is this the distinction you have in mind?

      CURT: Well you’r religious you just don’t think of it that way. To a christian scholar, you are just a heretic justifying your Christian sentiments by all sorts of other means in order to evade mythical attribution. But in practice you’re talking like a christian entirely. A christian is defined by what values he possesses that are different from those people in other civilizations and their traditions. it is not the justification he uses for those beliefs. Different beliefs are just heresies. Likewise, Democratic secular humanism is a religion. It has false precepts (equality) it has saints (marx) it has taboos (racial and gender differences in IQ). It believes precepts counter to the evidence (socialism and the great society failures). it believes memes despite contrary evidence (the need to change from global warming to climate change when we found out that the globe was actually cooling.) it believes in the impossible (the possibility of homogeneity of beliefs). If these things do not qualify as a mystical religion I do not know what does. At least christianity works as an economic system, where socialism and communism do not. :)

      A religious obligation is one whose source in human action cannot be explained.

      JOHN: Question 2-Am I correct in my interpretation of your answer, that religious beliefs can be justifiably used to influence law? I did not see any way to distinguish religions in your answer, and further did not see any suggestion that using religion is unjustified, so I am making an inference.

      CURT: THEY ARE used to influence law. Justification is an interesting term. Law is pragmatic. It’s isn’t a good or a truth or moral. It is just the application of violence by one group against another. A conservative would leave the courts and common law to resolve disputes and allow the market to solve the material problems and teh church to create the norms and teachings needed to get people to succeed in the market. It is a system of productivity not consumption.

      JOHN: Question 3-You did not answer the question. I am assuming that you live in the United States, though correct me if I’m wrong. In our form of government, which of the three methods of income tax do you recommend, or would you rather recommend one of the two extremes that you outlined?

      CURT: The point I was making is that there has to be some means of making the decision. I woud favor the latter method becuase it’s naturally aristocratic. I would actually prefer a combination of the two so that we could directly redistribute without a lot of regulation, while collecting taxes from the very wealthy, and rewarding them with status for doing it.

      JOHN: Question 4-I am uncertain how you came to the conclusion that Jesus was rebelling against Rome. I have likely not studied the Bible to the extent you have, but I do have some background in it. Particular verses that come to mind are “give unto Caesars what is Caesars, and to God what is God’s”, and “it is easier for a camel to get through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to get into the kingdom of heaven”, and most importantly “truly i tell you, whatever you did for the least of these, you did for me”.

      CURT: Well, I don’t study the bible. I’m an aristocrat not a peasant. :) I study history. the christian movement was to rome what world communism was to anglo capitalism. (consumer capitalism).

      JOHN: It would seem, with those verses in mind, that it would be a fair inference to claim that Jesus was far more concerned with helping the poor and sick than on issues of national security. Further, it would seem that Jesus was not advocating Christian rebellion against secular governments. Would you disagree with these claims?

      CURT: Not really. The point was that they had to stick together to form a movement, rather than ally with the corrupt forces that surrounded them. People do things for reasons. hd didn’t invent this stuff out of thin air. Not unless you think god reached down and put it in his head. And I doubt that you do thingk that. :)

      JOHN: Question 5-The question is very meaningful without context, as it was aimed at people who hold two contradictory views: “Reagan is the model for presidents” and “taxes should never be raised, for any reason”. If you admit that raising taxes can be pragmatic at times, it would seem that you reject the absolutist view that we should never raise taxes.

      CURT: These are moral arguments masquerading as rational arguments. I don’t know if I can help you make that big a leap right now. The absolutist view is not an absolutist view. It’s a rebellion against the government. The other side isn’t using rational arguments either you know. :)

      JOHN: Question 6-They are very similar, but no they are not the same question. The first question was on what obligations societies have to help the poor. This question was on what the political focus should be-social issues, poverty, defense, etc.

      CURT: I explained that already as the purpose of the government must be split into additional houses so that the incentives of politicians are not perverted. We must have productivity in order to have wealth to distribute. The USA is in a declining state because our lower classes are uncompetitive with their internatinoal peers. This is the fault of a government fascinated by social engineering and redistribution and entirely ignorant of productivity and innovation. So my answer is pretty consistent.

      JOHN: Question 7-It seems you disagree a lot with the average conservative. The reason I phrased the question that way is that I’ve been in numerous debates where the topic of “religious rights” comes up, and that gay marriage is unjust based upon its supposed infringement upon religious freedom.

      CURT:Not really. If i got in a room with the top ten conservatives we would agree with one another. I’m just articulating their ideas in libertarian language so that they are more philosophically rigorous.

      JOHN: As for your argument-You are implicitly making a very faulty argument. You are effectively saying that the reasons you feel homosexual marriage is bad is sufficient for legal action to prevent the case from happening. For example, if I could make the same case for divorce-that it hurts the nuclear family, assaults traditional gender roles, and produces unknown/bad effects on children (which would be very easy to make), then you would similarly have to claim that we should outlaw divorce, based upon your sufficient condition.

      Most importantly, you must justify why, for whatever reasons you oppose it, you have the legal/moral authority to restrict the freedoms of other citizens. What I am trying to get at here is what you think is sufficient for something to be made illegal, and why.

      CURT: isn’t that circular? the issue is the problem of hazards and cheating. Conservatives are more sensitive to threats. Extending the norm, and the legal privilege of heterosexuals is not restricting them, it’s extending those rights and privileges to them at the perceived cost of others for nothing in exchange. Does that make sense? You can’t have a RIGHT to something without doing something FOR it. We have property rights because we grant them equally to one another. We ahve the right to life because we grant it equally to one another. We treat marriage as a sacred institution because the material costs of not having it are veyr, very high, and it’s unnatural, since humans are naturally serially monogamous. I went over the costs.

      Again, conservatism is a pretty meritocratic transactional system that is just wrapped in mysticism. Religiosity is separate from conservatism. Its actually an uncommon alliance.

      JOHN: Question 8-This is not a false dichotomy, as I never claimed that those were the only two logically possible options. I am asking a question about preference-of those two options, which is preferable? That preference is what I am trying to get at, and the reason I asked the question.

      CURT: Neither is preferable. That’s the point. I’m not trying to be irritating, but you probably don’t deal with analytical philosophy very often and this is the problem with political speech. It’s full of nonsense moralistic errors all masquerading as reason.

      JOHN: Question 9-You did not answer the question. If I am to infer an answer from what you wrote, it would seem that you would claim that, at times, it is justifiable to decrease taxes without decreasing spending (thus contributing to the deficit). If that’s your answer, that’s fine-I just want to be clear.

      CURT: This is again, making a moral argument out of a practical one. I’m saying the question itself is absurd. And when it’s used it’s as a distraction. you don’t have to justify anything. YOu have to find something to exchange between folks. Or for external threats, you have to find some way to pay for it. A war isn’t a voluntary exchange problem. Transferring wealth between citizens is. The earlier arguments about the drowning girl etc, or a hurricane, are not moral arguments, they’re time-payment problems where the government is an intermediary lender. But they aren’t moral problems.

      An example of a moral problem is having a child out of wedlock that you can’t support by yourself. that’s stealing from others who must forgo consumption and fulfillment of their joy so that you can have yours. An ethical problem is one where you and another person have asymmetric information and you either can or cannot take advantage of it. Like when you know a car has a bad transmission and you sell it without telling the person. These are involuntary transfers. Moral statemtens and ethical statements are prohibitions on involuntary transfers. That’s what they are.

      I think you’re trying to argue against the religious argument, and I’m trying to move you out of the false moral argument that only LOOK rational, but are in fact, as mystically based as the religious and dogmatic rules you’re applying. I just don’t think you see that you rely upon a ‘religion’ just like the fundamentalist christian in the discussion with you has a religion. And I think everyone in the world is confused by the popular use of moralistic reasoning in political combat when which emotionally loads (falsely) fairly dry and boring questions of hazards and involuntary transfers. :)

      JOHN: Question 10-If I am understanding you correctly, you are claiming that a society that persists through inhumane options (take Nazi Germany for example), and further is the front-runner of innovation, would be a more successful society than one that protects its citizens, but does not advance itself to the same extent. This is obviously an extreme case, but consistency would seem to demand that you accept this consequence.

      CURT: No, hitler didn’t survive. :) The most just society ever tried was the soviet union, wasn’t it? How many tens of millions died? Anglo civilization has been free of revolution longer than any other in recent times. It’s dying now. But that’s because it’s lost the will to live. :) The germans did not perceive themselves as inhumane you know. They loved their government. Hither actually had a way to fight off teh communists on one hand and english consumerism on the other.

      I don’t know whats in humane. the difference is purpose. I’m describing a government that has any purposes and is very specialized just like the aristocratic christian classical liberal manorialism relied upon, which is where conservatives get their ideas and traditions. Conservatives worry about MORE STUFF than liberals. liberals adopt the female strategy of population growth. Conservatives adopt the male strategy of tribal excellence. That’s it.

      Thanks for playing with me.

      I”m sure this is more than you wanted to get into.

      I just answered your post on a lark.

      Curt

  2. Curt and John, you certainly make interesting debate partners. Curt shares my economic views (with some important differences) but shares John’s epistemology (with some important differences).

    If you are an aristocrat, Curt, I am a peasant.

    And John, I think Curt is on to something when he describes you as a heretical Christian. In terms of how he responds to the world, he looks to me more like a Darwinist than you.

    The earlier arguments about the drowning girl etc, or a hurricane, are not moral arguments, they’re time-payment problems where the government is an intermediary lender.

    Ah, Curt! Now who relies on mythology? If redistribution is nothing but lending, then your social views still reek of the allegory that you accuse other conservatives of using.

    • Curt Doolittle says:

      Sorry. I didn’t see this before I left a reply on your site. :)

      It’s a pleasure to debate with someone worthy of it. It’s rare. Thank you. :)

      RE: “If you are an aristocrat, Curt, I am a peasant.”
      I do not see those terms as the value judgements that you make of them. They are only terms for groups who apply different technologies in order to achieve their ends, because of the types of political power they have at their disposal. One can be a poor soldier or a poor peasant, a wealthy Nobleman or a wealthy priest. There is no value judgement in that statement.

      RE: Darwinist.
      That is correct. He is engaging in a heresy with mystical properties. I’m more of a darwinist for certain. I do not rely on anything other than biological necessity for my arguments. He does. I view philosophical christianity as anthropomorphic reasoning that tends to be amazingly accurate in its content. Mostly because philosophers of the church tried desperately to reconcile the mysticism of jerusalem with the ratio-empiricism of athens. They then improved it substantially with the scholastics.

      RE: Mythology.
      Interest is hardly a mythology. The fact that we did not understand its function in inter-temporal coordination, just as we did not understand the function of prices in carrying information, can give self organizing principles the appearance of divine wisdom. And a kind of spirituality can be obtained by appreciation of the fact that humans are capable of such wonderful things by self organizing rather than intentional means. But these ideas evolve, they are not intentional. But that is not to say that they are platonic. Christian allegory is anthropomorphically mystical. Economic allegory is necessary because language is an allegory to perception and we cannot directly perceive economic complexity and must therefore state that disconnection in what appear to be allegorical terms. But the material differnces is the lack of anthropomorphism and therefore the lack of intent.

      RE: redistribution is nothing but lending.
      That is not what I said. It is that redistribution *can* be structured as lending using formal institutions (rather than religion’s dependence upon norms), and as such a voluntary exchange, and as a voluntary exchange ‘moral’. Redistribution can be constructed as lending as a means of creating redistribution that is free of the HAZARDS of charity given necessary ignorance in political actions due to scale that is not present in interpersonal actions due to direct perception. The insight I’m trying to provide is that humans demonstrate both charitable instincts and anti-cheating instincts, and that we require a means of conducting charity without creating the hazard of cheating that in turn creates resentment and political discord. Such a process is ‘calculable’. It is a contract. It can be structured as a contract. Christianity makes an altogether differnt argument for the nature of exchange, but christianity is structured as an exchange none the less. It just had to invent heaven and the soul in order to have a reward and an accounting system. Humans already invented contracts, money and interest as a means of conducting intermporal exchange. We don’t have to create a platonic universe in order to conduct our accounting. We have everything we need already in this one. :)

      Thanks for playing. I enjoy your writing.
      Curt

  3. John Fensel says:

    Institutional Responsibility-The question needs to be looked at in a normative sense, rather than a descriptive. You are correct in that we don’t live in a country without private charity. However, the point I am driving at is what normative views you hold. Is there a “moral” reason that government shouldn’t get involved in charity, or is it only practical? If it is only practical, and it isn’t intrinsically immoral for government to get involved, then it would seem you are committed to agreeing that government can justly get involved in charity work if private charities are ineffective/inadequate, and the government has a way of effectively accomplishing the charity work. Obviously, you would likely say that this isn’t the case in reality, though I am interested in your opinion on the hypothetical.

    Moral Obligations-I am actually a secular moralist, my understanding of morality is along similar lines to Christine Korsgaard, and to a lesser extent, Bernard Williams. When I throw the word “moral” around, I am being purposefully vague because, at this moment, there is no way to get a consensus on what the word “moral” means. I simply want to see what the person thinks is moral, and what those views entail given a situation.

    As for the case, you claimed “The reason you help the child is because there are no alternatives. No hazard is created by helping the child.”. That is not true. I could just as easily move on and let the child drown-it is unlikely that I would get any punishments for doing it, as no one would know that I had a chance to save the child. Further, I could claim that I don’t want to get my clothes or skin wet-so there is some cost to me to save the child.

    If you want to fall in line with ethical egoism and claim that the man still has no obligation to help the child, that’s fine-I am not yet in a sound enough position to refute that stance. However, I do not think you can maintain a position of “no positive moral obligations” and “some moral obligations exist”-they seem contradictory to me.

    Religion-Your definition of religion seems to be pretty wide. You point to some stances social liberals hold, and others that they do not. Ignoring this point, you still seem to equate “religion” with any belief that cannot be proved to logical certainty. If this is the case, then every single idea other than Cartesian self-existence at this very moment, the law of non-contradiction, and tautology are the only things that escape “religion”.

    Religion, in my sense, is defined as a set of beliefs that require faith, rather than empirical evidence, to support. As for the equality/racial equality points, all I have to do is argue as such:

    If morality is justified, then it applies equally to all people (any system of morality that does not do so is one that is based in the self-interest of those it primarily benefits, and is thus not morality)

    If morality is not justified, then there is no objective reason to value some people more than others-whatever people do value is simply up to them-I can choose to value all people equally, others can choose to value only some people. No “faith” requirements are needed.

    The difference between these views, and Christian views, is that Christianity is entirely dependent on the main faith view-God exists. There is, almost by definition, no empirical evidence that God exists (there does not exist a single thing in the universe that is logically incompatible with the non-existence of God). Further, Christians cannot allude to probabilistic cases for God-empirical scientific evidence has never found an ounce of divine intervention.

    It’s a bit hard to discuss this topic, as to adequately address it you would have to have clear definitions of what knowledge is (which no one has), clear definitions of what faith is (which would require a clear definition of what is probabilistic), and a clear method of determining what is most likely true. If you take the scientific method, or other forms of inductive inferences, as the best method of determining probability-then you are committed to classify Christianity as a religion, as it is not the view that is best supported by evidence.

    Ultimately, unless you provide a clear way to distinguish between “faith” assumptions, when you define faith as something other than logically certain facts, then you have either declared all ideas to be faith or declared all faith to be knowledge. If you find any way of distinguishing probabilities that certain ideas are true and others are not, then you lose the comparison between religion and secular views.

    Religion in law-All of my questions are normative questions, so “justification” is what your normative views consist of. If you are an ethical egoist, then you are committed to claiming, as it seems you are, that there isn’t any sense of unjust government-as there are no moral rules that they could violate. However, if you want to claim that certain governments are “better” than others, then you must give a reason why: either you must introduce a normative claim about what government should be, or you make a claim about how government would best benefit you.

    About the Christian movement-There is a very real difference between what Jesus wanted and what the christian movement tried to accomplish. If you don’t take yourself to be a Christian, where a Christian is defined as someone who wants to obey Jesus’s commands, then the question “what would Jesus want” is irrelevant to both of us.

    About taxes/Reagan-The argument I made was anincompatibility argument. Here it is in premise form:

    1. Reagan was justified in everything he did (Premise)
    2. Reagan raised taxes (Fact)
    Therefore,
    3. Reagan was justified in raising taxes.

    1. Raising taxes is, without exception, unjustified (Premise)
    2. Reagan raised taxes (Fact)
    Therefore,
    3. Reagan was unjustified in raising taxes.

    Conclusion 1 is contradictory to Conclusion 2. They cannot both be true at the same time (rule of non-contradiction). You can reject one of or both of the first premises of the arguments-but you cannot accept both. They are logically incompatible.

    “If i got in a room with the top ten conservatives we would agree with one another”

    Unless you consider only your form of conservatism to be the “top”, then you are wrong. There are stances from social conservatives and libertarians that are incompatible with one another.

    Regardless, I am focusing on the conservative voting base. The point is that this base votes against gay marriage because they either feel it is disgusting, or they feel they have the right to legislate their religious beliefs, and this right trumps any rights homosexuals have to marry.

    ” Religiosity is separate from conservatism. Its actually an uncommon alliance.”

    I agree, though the conservative party is dependent on religion. Both of us know that conservatives would have no chance of winning the general election if it weren’t for the religious base.

    As for gay marriage-it seems a bit that you are making the naturalistic fallacy, by claiming that whatever is the norm, or whatever is natural, is what is justified (or, put another way, the fact that the norm is natural makes it justified).

    As for rights-Your view of rights is oddly enough contradictory to a view held by someone like John Locke. In fact, I would guess that very few people hold your view of rights. Most people think of rights as a liberty, and that any action that is taken against that liberty is unjustified. Ironically, the only scholar I can think of that agrees with you is Henry Shue, who argued that all rights necessitate both negative and positive entailments. Shue was, however, incredibly liberal because of that view.

    About the preference-the statement ” Neither is preferable. That’s the point” is false. A preference is a relative evaluation of two options. You can claim that the two options are equally valuable, but you cannot make the claim that both are worse than the other (that isn’t logically possible).

    It is, effectively, a “would you rather” question. The point isn’t to get you to support an unattractive position (if you asked me: which is preferable, dying by fire or dying by gun, and I said dying by gun, it does not mean I support dying by gun). Rather, the point is to get you to evaluate two options and choose the lesser of two evils. If you genuinely cannot value one over the other, then you value them equally. But you cannot genuinely have no answer.

    Summary Statement

    I feel like we could go back and forth on the above for a while, but most of my questions I feel are there because I don’t adequately understand what your views are.

    Here’s the problem I have so far with your answers: you are trying to separate normative claims from descriptive claims. Normally, this would be fine-I did ask all ten questions about normative claims rather than descriptive, so there’s a disconnect between my questions and your answers since you answered them in a much more descriptive fashion.

    What I would like to know, then, is what your normative views are. From your answers and what little I can gauge about you from them, it would seem to me that you hold several views that are contradictory:

    1. What survives is what is best (normative claim)
    2. Involuntary transfers/thefts are wrong (normative claim)
    3. There is no currently justified system of normative ethics (descriptive claim, that I would somewhat agree with)

    My point is that it seems you are using two contradictory views to help your position: you reject any views that are normative in nature about government, as you focus on the descriptive. However, you then put limits on what people can and cannot do, as well as what government can and cannot do. These limits are entirely normative in nature. You cannot, however, use normative claims while at the same time denying all normative obligations.

    It would seem that your normative views can be summed up similarly to John Locke (though he would disagree with you on what rights are): don’t take from others, and they won’t take from you. If someone does take from others, then others can justly take back from them. In effect, equivalent exchanges.

    However, even a view as basic as this is entirely a normative claim. Why should an ethical egoist care about equivalent exchanges? Why can’t they take and take, while giving nothing in return?

    If you wish to avoid normativity altogether, that’s fine. You can stick to descriptions of how government has done it’s business in the past, and you can make claims about what government would best benefit you. However, you cannot avoid normativity and then claim that certain actions by others or government are unjustified. If there is such a thing as “justification”, then you have to introduce normative rules that unjust actions would violate.

    • Curt Doolittle says:

      JOHN
      Thank you for this wonderfully intelligent and insightful reply. I’ll see if I can do it justice.

      Jumping to your summary questions first:
      ========
      JOHN: “I feel like we could go back and forth on the above for a while, but most of my questions I feel are there because I don’t adequately understand what your views are.”
      CURT: That’s the reason and that’s OK. We have been struggling for 2500 years to separate our feelings about our norms which are limited by our perceptions from objective necessity that is independent of our perceptions. :) If it was easy it would have been done by now. :)

      JOHN: Here’s the problem I have so far with your answers: you are trying to separate normative claims from descriptive claims. Normally, this would be fine-I did ask all ten questions about normative claims rather than descriptive, so there’s a disconnect between my questions and your answers since you answered them in a much more descriptive fashion.

      CURT: Yes. That’s correct. However, I am separating Normative and Descriptive ethics from Meta-ethics, while at the same time arguing that ethical systems are not only demonstrably heterogeneous, but that ethical systems **cannot** be homogenous. At least, outside of very primitive societies where poverty is the norm. Therefore politics is not a question of ethics but a question of institutional processes that accommodate the heterogeneity of ethics. i.e.: politics is not an ethical question. It’s an institutional question. Hopefully that makes sense.

      JOHN: What I would like to know, then, is what your normative views are.
      CURT: In my world, I hope you can grasp, that normative ethics are utilitarian, so if you’re seeking to understand my normative views I wouldn’t have very many other than those that encourage or inhibit invention, productivity and the incentives that give rise to them. This is because, as a purely scientific matter, human beings demonstrate a preference for prosperity and consumption whenever it is made possible for them. On the other hand, If you’re seeking my opinion about normative judgments in general I have a lot of opinions. :) But my normative views consist almost entirely of the informal (normative) institutions necessary for tribal hunter gatherer human beings with limited perception, knowledge and calculative ability, to exist in universe of plenty that is caused by a division of knowledge and labor in time, coordinated by a pricing system with aggregates knowledge that they cannot possess, despite the fact that such a system is beyond their perception, knowledge and calculative ability and for all intents and purposes encourages them to live isolated high consumption lifestyles as a means of obtaining stimulation and knowledge without the constant need to compromise and coordinate with other ‘family’ members. (wow. Well, that’s a lot there. Hopefully it comes across.)

      JOHN: From your answers and what little I can gauge about you from them, it would seem to me that you hold several views that are contradictory:
      1. What survives is what is best (normative claim)
2. Involuntary transfers/thefts are wrong (normative claim)
3. There is no currently justified system of normative ethics (descriptive claim, that I would somewhat agree with)

      CURT:
      I don’t think they’re contradictory. I think this goes back to the question I”m trying to solve. I thin you’re searching for the ethics of individual action as a universal truth. And I think I”m searching for the answer to human cooperation in large numbers where we can assume a universal ethical system is impossible. But lets take your statements one at a time I’ll see how I do with it.

      JOHN: 1. What survives is what is best (normative claim)
      CURT: In the sense that you asked the question and I answered it, it’s an evolutionary necessity. If one is out-gunned-germed and steel’ed, then one cannot give ones ideas the attribute of ‘best’. I think the answer that you’re looking for is the difference between the SENSORY preference and the OUTCOME preference. Since emotions are reactions to changes in state. Since states are a combination of physical instincts and learned responses, then information conveyed to us by our emotions is circular — unless it is divine in origin. Outcomes on the other hand tell us what our instincts and our perceptions cannot tell us. Further, we have catalogued our instincts (and their failings) and catalogued the various preferential behaviors (norms) of human beings enough to see that we resist the future, resist modernity, resist its alienation, resist the market, because it is counter to our instincts and consequential sentiments. So, i’m making an epistemological claim to necessity. I’m not making a claim against norms, **i’m making a claim that norms are subject to objective evaluation.** For example, we know that people worldwide prefer the extended family and tribe, but we also know that breaking that norm is crucial to developing a high trust society with low corruption. We know that some portion of othe population will always desire communal (non-computational) allocation of resources even if such a thing is a physical impossibility. So I’m saying norms are not arbitrary, and the test of them is not by self reflection, but by objective testing regardless of self reflection. i.e.: normative testing by self reflection is meaningless. (This is what most people object to because they would prefer to rely upon their senses. This is why continental philosophy still exists as a discipline, and why religions are so comforting to people.)

      JOHN: 2. Involuntary transfers/thefts are wrong (normative claim)
CURT Since human beings treat what they act in pursuit of as their ‘property’, even if it is only a portion of a form of communal property, and since humans universally demonstrate both behavioral reciprocity and punishment for cheating, and since humans are at least twice as welling to punish a cheater as they are to serve their own interests, then a prohibition on involuntary transfers is simply a description of how people actually act. And given our economic experimentation with socialism and communism, we have confirmed that this is how they always will act no matter what. So if we want to have a prosperous, peaceful society with little conflict, we must not encourage conflict. (I am trying to be brief here so hopefully I can say just this, and it’s obvious, and I won’t have to go into greater detail to demonstrate it.) Again, we use the method that solves the problem we are working on. I am working on the problem of government for larger numbers of people while still maintaining freedom, prosperity, and some measure of peaceful cooperation. Since our evidence is that humans have inalterable, biologically mandated differences in perception of the world, and desires from it, and since humans have materially different abilities, then a uniform set of norms will not be possible since they would be to the advantage of some and the disadvantage of others. As such, we need a set of formal institutions that compensate for the differences in preferences and ability. Therefore I seek objective means by which people with opposing preferences, some of which are expressed as norms, may cooperate despite their differences. Human beings will trade all day long despite their differences. So I am searching for institutions that allow them to conduct exchanges in order to reach preferred ends, rather than those that mandate normative **VALUES** in order to produce normative behavior that assists groups in achieving agreed upon ends. And that is because I believe the normative process has been ECONOMICALLY DESTRUCTIVE wherever it has succeed. Mystical religion is essentially a regressive structure that all but guarantees poverty if it gains institutional leverage. It is however, useful as a means of opposing the same calcification by the state. (Too much ground covered here I think. But you might get there from what I’ve seen of you.)

      JOHN: 3. There is no currently justified system of normative ethics (descriptive claim, that I would somewhat agree with)
      CURT: I’m not sure what this statement means really. Something only needs to be justified if other people need to agree with it. … People needing to agree with something is usually problem. The mind simply wishes to justify what is best for one by reframing the question of the other. This doesn’t work in politics. It doesn’t work for reasons that are biological as well as normative.

      So while one can make a normative description and an objective description one can also make an objective evaluation of normative and descriptive claims. That objective evaluation can test against human feelings, senses, etc in the short term (HIGH/SHORT TIME PREFERENCE) or it can test against outcomes etc in the long term (LOW/LONG TIME PREFERENCE). You can serve the senses or serve persistence. Since serving the senses is epistemologically unsound in an advanced society then we are left with serving the outcomes while recognizing the limits put upon those outcomes by the senses.

      JOHN: My point is that it seems you are using two contradictory views to help your position: you reject any views that are normative in nature about government, as you focus on the descriptive. However, you then put limits on what people can and cannot do, as well as what government can and cannot do. These limits are entirely normative in nature. You cannot, however, use normative claims while at the same time denying all normative obligations.

      CURT: I think I should have gotten the point across above that i’m objectively trying to determine what institutions can function despite our different ethical frameworks (the masculine and feminine biases being incompatible) and I just think you don’t see that I’m solving a different problem. IT’s either that or you’re using an antiquated concept of morality, trying to define terms so that they suit your desired outcome, acting within you methodology by accident, or not understanding the difference between normative, descriptive, applied ethics and meta ethics. And I am pretty sure you know enough not to make that mistake. I’m asking a question of institutional politics in order to create a stable market and stable polity WITHIN which one can play whatever ethical games one wants, as long as one is on a team that feels similarly.
      If one assumes we need only find the optimum ethics then we can all adopt it and get along — which is a natural cognitive bias that we can measure — then one approaches ethics and politics differently from someone else who observes that in no ethical system are people able to coordinate their efforts because ages, intelligences, generations, classes, races, genders, languages and religions are sufficiently different that the instincts, status signals and membership signals within each cannot accommodate a single ethical system across groups, regardless of whether there may be a single ethical system within groups. The groups must naturally compete. The male/female difference in mating patterns as well as wider male vs female desirability, mandates that we can never have an ethics system that does not make some group suffer for the fulfillment of others.

      JOHN: It would seem that your normative views can be summed up similarly to John Locke (though he would disagree with you on what rights are): don’t take from others, and they won’t take from you. If someone does take from others, then others can justly take back from them. In effect, equivalent exchanges.

      CURT: Well you don’t know enough about my work to know but, yes and no. The question is not only the exchange between groups, but the ethics of it, the warranty of it, and the externalities that are caused by it. For example the ethic of the warrior west versus the ethic of the bazaar in the east: warriors will kill you. Slaves and peasants in a bazaar are prohibited from causing a ruckus, but can get away with any trade that they can. That one example illustrates the entire difference between persia and greece, or jerusalem and london.

      JOHN” However, even a view as basic as this is entirely a normative claim. Why should an ethical egoist care about equivalent exchanges? Why can’t they take and take, while giving nothing in return?

      CURT: because the test of ‘care’ is whether someone will hurt you, kill you or enslave you. one can only be an ethical egoist if one can get away with it. :) The world consist of as many Somalias as it does Denmarks.

      JOHN: If you wish to avoid normativity altogether, that’s fine. You can stick to descriptions of how government has done it’s business in the past, and you can make claims about what government would best benefit you. However, you cannot avoid normativity and then claim that certain actions by others or government are unjustified. If there is such a thing as “justification”, then you have to introduce normative rules that unjust actions would violate.

      CURT: hopefully I ‘ve separated the concepts of subjectivity and objectivity, of short and long time preference, of utility and truth enough here. Maybe not. Norms are for small groups. That’s the point. Beyond that, in the realm of cooperation between groups, we need institutions that allow exchanges (cooperation) despite disagreement upon means and ends.

      Thanks very much for playing.
      Most people are not worth the effort. Finding someone who is, is precious.
      You’re a pleasure.
      Curt

  4. John Fensel says:

    Mitchell-I also think he is far more Darwinist than me, though I would further claim that conservatism is far more Darwinist than social liberalism.

    It is interesting seeing the differences in your two views though.

  5. Curt Doolittle says:

    I need to answer John’s comment but I need to spend some time at it, and I won’t have it until later.

    INCENTIVES DEFINE METHODS
    But an observation: Methodologies support ends or they are irrational. Your methodology supports your ends in moral philosophy of norms, and mine in the political philosophy of institutions. Since our sensations (feelings) bout norms determine their success then it is natural to consider emotions as sources of information about TRUTH in the real world, despite the fact that those are programmed through experience WITHIN a normative social context. We know this because norms vary from group to civilization, to era. Much of what we abhor was laudable in Greece (bragging, violence) and even more of it was considered heroic in hunter gatherer society (rape, kidnapping, murder and theft). These things are then, not truths but ‘knowledge’, and within the category of knowledge, tacit knowledge, that we could refer to more accurately as a ‘technology’. Norms are a technology. Perhaps the most important and successful technology we have developed.

    DARWIN
    I’m trying to understand your meaning of the word ‘Darwinian’. And… as a sort of parable maybe its true. But Propertarians like Rothbard and Hoppe, as well as classical liberals like Smith, Hayek, Bastiat, or even Jefferson for that matter, see truth as observable human nature that appears to be inalterable regardless of its origin. Further, that not so much Darwin, but behavioral psychology, cognitive science, and genetic science have finally explained to us that these behaviors are evolutionary in origin. And while the origin of a thing is not as material as whether it is alterable. We are fairly sure that the feminine egalitarian sentiment exists for the purpose of ensuring her offspring survive in the tribe, while the masculine hierarchical sentiment exists for the purpose of the tribe surviving in relation to others. These are just genetic strategies and both are legitimate strategies not matter whether we understand them as personal motivators, social constructs, or genetic necessities.

    LANGUAGE AS METHOD
    When you write, I hear a language that discusses the same topics in theological and philosophical dress without any science to suggest whether these things are actually preferable or not, or possible to alter or not. I can translate them usually into more… analytical language. And at that point determine whether I think what you are saying is possible in practice given what we understand.

    ALmost all philosophical discourse, and all discourse that contains moral arguments and moral statements, is reducible to an argument over norms. This is a problem of philosophy and is well understood in the field as the natural risk of philosophical reasoning.

    The difference between theology, philosophy, continental philosophy, analytical philosophy, and post-analytical philosophy is almost exclusively the degree to which they accept the observations and conclusions of the physical sciences. I attempt to work entirely within the conclusions of the physical sciences, rather than rely upon the circularity of moral reasoning. ie: post-analytical philosophy which has abandoned the metaphysical program and focused instead on practical ends.

    In that science I find the source of norms. The source of norms are localized habits that accomodate human behavior that is immutable but must be affected for our complex division of labor to function.

    So I view my position not as darwinian (which is moral construct as you use it) but as objective. ie:scientific. And as scientific or not, we must do the job of all philosophers throughout time, which is to reduce complexity given new environmental circumstances to first principles which are the seed of new norms, and the source of new myths, normative narratives, habits, morals, ethics and manners. And specifically, the task of political philosophy is to provide institutions that allow us to cooperate in greater numbers under greater diversity under greater technical complexity than we have in prior states of being.

    I hope that helps explain my point of view. I’ll answer John’s longer post tonight. THis has already taken me more time than I have if I want to get this next section done…

    Thanks. Really enjoying this conversation with both of you.

    Curt

  6. John Fensel says:

    “What survives is what is best (normative claim)”

    In your response, it seems like you are taking the objective view of humanity as a whole. If humanity had a consciousness, it would prioritize it’s survival as you are doing, as well as work on norms that are more compatible with survival than what evolved naturally (as you noted).

    However, I still don’t fully understand your position. Your treatment of normativity seems to still be very descriptive-and I don’t think that is possible. The disconnect is between the individual and the aggregate. You are basically viewing the aggregate as one individual, that wants to survive in the same way we individually want to survive. But, I don’t see how this aggregate view carries down to individuals. Why should one individual person care about the survival of the whole? If certain norms are incompatible with the survival of the whole, but benefit me, why would I give up those norms?

    It seems you could only have one of two options:

    1. Try to trick me into taking the aggregate’s desires as my own desires
    2. Convince me that the aggregate’s desires are my own own desires.

    The first is possible, but I don’t think that’s what you’re aiming at. The second doesn’t seem possible however. In a lot of critiques of utilitarianism, Nietzsche in particular comes to mind, the disconnect between individual desires and aggregate desires is impossible to overcome.

    Ultimately, even if you had a proven form of norms/government that would best achieve the goal of species survival, I don’t think you would be successful in establishing that as any form of normative rules. Some people would accept them (the ones who benefit from them), but some would reject them (the ones who are harmed by them). I still think, that based on your description, that you have only been able to describe descriptive, non-ethical claims about what works best from the perspective of the aggregate, but that you haven’t established any normative rules that could govern individual actions.

    “Involuntary transfers/thefts are wrong”

    I think the same issue carries over to here. You are right in that people will trade with each other no matter what the system is-but likewise people will steal from each other no matter what the system is. It would seem, from your answers, that you are committed to a Hobbesian sense of government that is justified entirely out of self-preservation, where the survival of the aggregate is the only way to get the survival of the individual.

    ” There is no currently justified system of normative ethics (descriptive claim, that I would somewhat agree with)”

    Normative ethics is basically a system of rules/formulas/etc that establishes what, in any given situation, is the “right” thing to do. It presupposes that there is such a thing as “right”, and describes what this thing entails.

    About ethical frameworks- The problem is still in the distinction between the desires of the individual and the desires of the aggregate. In trying to avoid an ethical framework altogether, you are committed to leaving out any concept of right and wrong. However, you are basing your system in the idea that we should establish government that best protects the species/allows people to coexist peacefully. Even a claim as intuitive as this is moral in nature-it presupposes that species survival and peace are what is “right”. If you wish to avoid this altogether, then you are committed to one of two views:

    1. What you as an individual want is for the species to survive and for peace, which is why you want a government that achieves it.
    2. Everyone else/a majority want for the species to survive and for peace, so the majority will/should establish a government that achieves it because it is in line with their goals.

    I would guess that you are leaning more toward 2. However, this form of justification is a bit of a slippery slope. If the majority wanting something is sufficient for them to be justified in doing it (which, in the absence of objective morality, would always be the case), then you are committed to expecting the government that most people want, regardless of its effect on survival of the species. If people wanted to establish communism, then you would have no greater objection than “I don’t want that” to its establishment even if you were entirely correct about the consequences and communism would lead to the death of the species. If people want communism over survival, then they may freely choose to do so.

    “one can only be an ethical egoist if one can get away with it.”

    This is half true. One can only act like an ethical egoist if they can get away with it-I can agree to that. It is likely that there is some Hobbesian form of justice, where egoists are shunned/hurt overall by their actions because of the self interest of others. However, people can still be ethical egoists, and just act in the way that actually benefits them most. If you can successfully convince them that acting in “X” way is the way that benefits them most, then they will act that way. However, as you said, they will still act egoistically (and ignore completely any law of equal exchange) whenever they can get away with it.

    “Beyond that, in the realm of cooperation between groups, we need institutions that allow exchanges (cooperation) despite disagreement upon means and ends.”

    I think my response can be mostly summed as a reply to that. I don’t see how you can use the goals of the aggregate as the goals of the individual, and I don’t see how you can make your system work without that jump.

    This has been really interesting, I’ve enjoyed our discussion so far as well.

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