Tuesday, October 31, 2006

My Philosophy

My philosophy is based upon looking for nonsequiturs and arbitrary statements, and eliminating those from my philosophy. Nothing is immune from being questioned. I have called into question such basic ideas as ownership and rights. I have called into question such enshrined institutions as the Church and State. I have called into question such widely accepted ideas as democracy and human rights. I have questioned the basic foundations of each of these to see if they rest on arbitrary assumptions, total nonsequiturs, or if they are actually sound. Even after I satisfy myself on such a topic, I question it again and again. I have previously believed in philosophies such as subjectivism, nihilism, Randian objectivism, and others. I have previously believed in majority rule, government legitemacy, collectivism, and Christianity.

But I question and question and question everything, taking nothing for granted, challenging all assumptions. In this way I encounter a philosophy or idea and then to the best of my ability, I attempt to refute it's basic assumptions.

To say the Bible is infalliable is an arbitrary statement. If the Bible is not absolutely infalliable, then nothing in it can be said to be absolutely correct. If the basis of Christianity is in question, anything built upon that basis is in question as well.

To say that the collective supercedes the individual is an arbitrary statement. If the individual can ever supercede the collective, then the doctorine cannot be said to be absolutely correct. If the basis of collectivism is in question, anything built upon that basis is in question as well.

To say that government is needed to protect rights is an arbitrary statement. If rights can exist without government, or government can exist without protecting rights, then the doctorine cannot be said to be absolutely correct. If the basis of Randian Objectivism's politics are in question, anything built upon that basis is in question as well.

In short, when I encounter a new idea, I strip it down to it's basis and test to see if the basis is sound. If it is, then you may proceed from there.

One of the problems with communication of philosophy is the arbitrary nature of communication itself. If you have ever watched an individulist and a socialist argue about Capitalism, it is not hard to figure out that the two are not using the word to mean the same thing. Hence, it is critically important that when you approach a word that is being used in a context not consistent with your definition of the word, you must ask them to clarify exactly what they mean when they use the word.

One such word is "Human". How does one define human? Is it determined by genetic makeup? If a complete human genome were inserted into a bacterium, would that bacterium become human? Would it have human rights? Of course not, that would be asburd. If a human is defined as a primate with little hair, then you exclude the Ramos tribe of humans who have hair all over their body. If a human is defined as such a being not necessarily applying the "little hair" rule, then you introduce all primates into the human category. We all know what a human is, really, but if we cannot define it rigidly and absolutely, how can we determine if something qualifies for human rights? If we cannot do so, how can we say that rights are derived from being human?

Any time you encounter a determining factor that is open to interpretation, question it. If someone says "You have rights because you are rational", ask them how they determine how rational is rational enough. If they give some arbitrary point, ask them what it is about one above that point but not the slightest increment below it that makes the infinitecimally less rational being irrational. They can give no answer to this without using circular logic, the "it is because it is" reasoning, which only reinforces that the statement was arbitrary.

"So," you might ask, "If you question the basis of everything, what is the basis for your philosophy?"

The basis of my philosophy is that there is absolutely nothing which is beyond questioning. There is absolutely nothing that by it's nature is not to be questioned. "Cause and effect" is not immune from being questioned, although it has passed questioning. "Existence exists" is not immune from being questioned, although it has passed questioning. "God exists" is to be questioned. "The Bible is Infalliable" is to be questioned. "Humans have souls" is to be questioned. Everything, absolutely everything, without exception, is to be questioned.

It does not matter if questioning it makes people angry. It does not matter if questioning it gets you rejected from society. Do not accept beliefs simply because there are negative consequences to not doing so. Pretend to believe them if you are threatened with violence for not professing belief, but do not simply accept an idea without first questioning it's premises.

Question premises. Question authority. Question everything.

Supplanting the State: Courts and Law

One of the biggest objections to Anarcho-Capitalism is the belief that without Government, there can be no way to get recourse for a crime committed against you. This is untrue.

There's a lot of diversity within the Libertarian movement as to what kinds of law, law enforcement, courts, et cetera are best. My position is not necessarily the one held by most, or even any significant number of Anarcho-Capitalists or Libertarians.

So what would we do about the courts?

Let's start with the basis of justice, injustice.

1. The Crime

Adam lets Ben borrow his car. Adam asks for it back, but Ben does not return it. (I chose names beginning with A and B to help you remember who is who.)

2. The Judgement

Adam goes to a respected arbitrator and put his case before the court.

a) Contracts

In a totally voluntary society it would be likely that written contracts would be used extensively when something as valuable as a car is at stake. So, for example, if Adam let Ben borrow his car, Adam might write a contract saying that "Adam is allowing Ben to use his car until Adam asks for it back". It would include Ben submitting in advance to any punishment the court (which may be named in the contract) decides on for breech of contract. Ben could make the case in court that Adam permanantly transferred ownership to Ben, that Adam gave him the car, not let him borrow it. If Ben had a contract with Adam's and his own signature which transferred permanant ownership of the car to Ben, and Adam did not have a later dated contract transferring ownership of the car back to him, Ben would not be held liable for returning the car to Adam, because as far as the contracts say, the car belonged to Ben.

b) Hard Evidence

Suppose Adam did not have a contract, however. By making some indelible, obvious, distinct mark upon the car, perhaps an unremovable license plate style identifier, perhaps with Adam's name and signature on it, welded onto the rear bumper, perhaps, and by claiming that a car with such identifier was now in the possession of Ben, Adam would be able to make a case. The court may ask Ben to bring the car in question to the court, to be allowed to make the case that it is not actually Adam's car that Ben has possession of, but a similar car belonging to someone other than Adam. Of course this would be totally voluntary on Ben's part, although refusal will only bring up suspicion and not help Ben's case.

It should be noted however that courts will be hesitant to judge such torts without contracts.

c) Witnesses

Adam would be allowed to bring in witnesses to testify that they saw Ben with Adam's car. Witnesses would have to sign a contract with the court saying that should their testimony be found to be intentionally deceptive, they would sumbit in advance to any force used by the courts to enforce retribution or reparation or whatever the court uses to convince witnesses to not give false testimony.

3. The Reparation

a) Under Contract

If the court (which was agreed upon in the original contract would therefore be entirely voluntary) decides that Ben has a car belonging to Adam, and that Ben needs to return Adam's car, Ben would then be obligated to return Adam's car. If Ben should then refuse to return Adam's car, Adam may go back to the court, and demand enforcement action, which would have been voluntarily submitted to in advance by the original contract. The court could then send it's enforcement agents to forcibly return the car to Adam. Ben would not be allowed to charge the court's enforcement agents with assault because Ben had already given them permission to assault him if necessary, the moment Ben signed the contract and accepted the terms of it. However, if Ben should resist and attack the enforcement agents, the agents would be able to bring charges against Ben in the same way Alex did.

b) Absence of Contract

If the court decides that Ben has a car belonging to Adam, it would then order Ben to return Adam's car. At this point, Ben could either get in touch with Adam and ask for a retrial in a different court that the two could agree upon (contractually such that it's decision would become obligatory and enforcement would become voluntarily submitted to in advance), or Ben could give Adam the car in question, or Ben could refuse to return the car and not demand a retrial.

If Ben decides to give Adam the car, that is the end of the dispute.

If Adam and Ben can agree upon a second court, the retrial will take place with a different and agreed-to arbitrator, whose decision becomes voluntarily obligatory and binding, the process repeating itself though under contract.

If Ben does not return the car, and Adam and Ben cannot agree on a new court for retrial, Adam returns to the court. Adam asks the court to declare Ben to not respect ownership, and thus not have rights (understanding and respect of ownership is prerequisite to having rights, and if any being can be shown not to respect ownership, it cannot be said to have rights).

Ben would then have his rights nullified until such time as Adam gets his car back. Any attempt by Ben to press charges against anyone else in court would be denied, as Ben would not be said to have any rights. Ben would become an "Outlaw," essentially an animal, until Adam was restituted and hence anybody would be free to kill, enslave, or take property from Ben without Ben having any legal recourse. Anyone Ben attempted to bring suit against could merely point out that Ben has been declared an outlaw.

4. Reinstitution of Rights

After Ben is declared an outlaw, he would obviously be in great danger. Adam could freely come and take all of Ben's property. So what could Ben do about it?

Well, Ben could go to the court which declared him an outlaw and attempt to get the ruling overturned. Obviously this would be the ideal. However that court has already decided that Ben has wronged Adam and not restituted him. If Ben believes the court to be crooked, he may go to a different court and sign a contract (which would make the second court's decision binding) asking for a restitution of his rights. The other court could then ask for the evidence from the first court. If the first court provides none, the second court could restitute Ben's rights. The two courts in disagreement would then contractually find a third court to find one or the other court to be biased and the decision thus invalid. If the two disagreeing courts did not do so, anyone not respecting Ben's rights would be charged in Ben's court, including enforcement agents from Adam's court. Depending which court the third court found to be errant, the decision would be binding upon both courts and Ben would be declared with finality to have rights or not have rights.

However, let us assume the second court recieves the evidence from the first court, to review the case. Ben would of course be allowed to review the evidence to ensure that nothing on his side has been left out. Then the second court, one of Ben's choosing, and not Adam's, would review the case. If the second court agreed with the first court, Ben would be declared an outlaw. If they disagreed, the third court would be sought as described above.

In the event Ben cannot recieve rights, Ben will have the option of entering protective custody. He could voluntarily enter a jail which, rather than keep outlaws in, would keep potential attackers out. He would be free to leave, though if he does so he risks being attacked without possible recourse. He could also transfer his property to the jail for protection, property to be returned once Adam has been repaid and Ben is thus no longer an outlaw. Should Ben do this, however, the jail which would then own all of Ben's property would be likely to restitute Adam. The Jail's revenue could come from Ben's work, or out of the property held in safekeeping for him, depending on the policy of the jail. When Ben's work surplus is sufficient that the jail can restitute Adam in money, if not in returning the car. At that point Ben would have his rights restituted by the first court, and when Ben left the jail, he would have his property returned to him, minus perhaps any payment that the jail took.

And so we have a free-market judicial process which is voluntary, simple, and contains within it checks to prevent corruption. It does not require a State to function, it focuses on restituting the victim rather than punishing the offender, satisfies everybody and oppresses nobody.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Rights: What? When? Where? Who? Why?

What are rights?

According to dictionary.refrence.com definition 18, "a just claim or title, whether legal, prescriptive, or moral"

When do we have rights?

Always. Because rights are something one a just claim to, rights must be absolute and therefore must be constant irrelevant of time. If not, one's sense of justice is arbitrary. Rights such as the "right to healthcare" are not rights because if medical science does not exist, the right does not exist either. In all the time before healthcare and medicine existed, a "right to healthcare didn't either.

Where do rights come from?

Fundamental to rational morality is the concept of Self-Ownership, the idea that you own yourself. If you own yourself, that means you have exclusive control over your body. This was covered in the previous post entitled "Morality".

If you own your body, which you do, then you have a just claim to it. Anyone attempting to take control of your body is taking your exclusive control over it is violating your right, your "just claim" to your own body.

Who has rights?

Aknowledging that rights come from self-ownership, self-ownership is clearly how we determine whether someone has rights.

Self-ownership is a two-pronged concept.

1. Self, a recognition of one
2. Ownership, a recognition of others

A being which has no concept of self, nor any concept of ownership extending beyond momentary possession, does not have rights.

How do we test for these things? First, we offer the being a representation of itself. In optically capable creatures, this would most easily be done by providing a mirror. If the creature treats it's representation as a totally seperate animal, then it is not self-aware, thus having no concept of self, and not qualifying for self-ownership. All creatures require sustaining energy, so a good way to test for concept of ownership is via offering a number of such creatures (which are allowed to move and communicate between themselves freely) individual sources of such energy. For example, food. Each creature would have one source of food. Only enough food for one creature would be provided in each, and would be provided in fluctuating intervals. Then, by cutting off the supply of food to a number of such creatures, if the creatures who have been cutoff do not immediately resort to taking from the food sources of others, they can be said to understand the concept of ownership.

So who specifically does and does not have rights?

A normal adult human has rights because it has both self-awareness and understanding and respect of ownership.

A dolphin could have rights if it demonstrated self-awareness and understanding and respect of ownership. (To my knowledge dolphins have demonstrated these traits, and thus, they have rights.)

A fetus does not have rights because it has no self-awareness nor understanding of ownership.

A criminal does not have rights because it has concept of self, and understands ownership, but does not respect ownership.

A cockroach does not have rights because while it is unclear whether or not it has concept of self, it does not have concept of ownership.

A bacterium does not have rights because it has neither self-awareness nor ownership.

A class of people does not have rights because it has no physical manifestation, thus cannot possibly think. Individuals of a certain class do have rights provided they are self-aware and understand and respect ownership.

Why do we have rights?

Rights are the founding basis of peaceful, cooperative interaction. Rights are the foundation of civilization and society. Cooperation is mutual benefit and mutual benefit is good for everyone. Rights are a way to maximize welfare and overall happiness. And we rational beings with rights would never want it any other way.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Arguement Against Anarchy 1

In discussing anarchocapitalism with a certain state-glorifying friend-of-a-friend, I learned a bit about the anti-anarchist mentality.

He believed that people are inherently bloodthirsty ravenously murderous animals that would attack everyone else with anything they had available, and that the law gives people morality and allows them to cooperate with each other peacefully.

Oh, and for some strange reason, this applied to everybody except him. He was perfectly sane and rational and trustworthy, but everyone else was an animal that had to be kept in check. Elected officials are also exempt.

Let's look at the evident absurdities here, and why they might actually be believed.

1. People are inherently bloodthirsty, ravenously murderous animals that would attack everyone else with anything they had available.

Why its wrong: If people's natural tendency was to randomly kill each other, as he made certain I understood his position to be, we would be forever engaged in combat. Police are not numerous enough to prevent such nature from showing itself.

If it was correct: If it were people's nature to kill each other without reason or motive, the sane and rational people who enter government to control others for their own good would be killed before being able to do so, and there would be no controlling body to keep people's animal nature in check, and there would be no government.

2. The law gives people morality.

Why it's wrong: It's generally believed that what is moral is right, and what is immoral is wrong, and that what is legal is right, and what is illegal is wrong. This is a problematic belief because of the nature of morality and law. While law does occasionally emulate morality, and morality frequently emulates law, the two are not identical. They exist independantly of one another. "Do unto others as you would have them to unto you" is not a law, it is a moral. You can repeal laws against public nudity, for instance, by getting a certain group of people known as a legislature to repeal the law.

If it was correct: People's moral codes would never object to laws passed. If one has ever watched the news, one can see that this is not the case.

3. "I am excluded from this rule."

Why it's wrong: Fear arises from uncertainty, and uncertainty is a given when dealing with other people. One tends to fear that other people are directly opposed to them, not because it is the most likely possibility, but because it is the most dangerous possibility, and therefore the one that should be prepared for. The belief that one is excluded from the rule that all people are animal except oneself stems from the priority given to the emotion of fear of the most dangerous possibility.

This fear drives people to believe that for their own safety, everyone else must surely be restricted.

If it was correct: If all people were rational and sane and believed all other people to be irrational and insane animals, all people would unanimously agree that there needed to be some method for them to control others. What would that result in? Pretty much what we have today. It's ironic because the vast majority of people are not animal, yet the belief is held that they are.

4. Elected officials are exempt from this rule.

Why it's wrong: When you have democratic government, the governed are given some control over their government.

If it was correct: If that were the case, animals would vote for animals, the rational would vote for the rational, and if all others truly were animal, the animals would undoubtedly control the government.

Then there are Christians that think man is inherently evil because God/Jesus/whoever said so. People subscribing to this belief should also consider that God and Jesus have no problem with slavery, killing people that work on Saturdays (or Sundays, depending), owning women as property, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera, so don't believe the "inherently evil" part if you're not going to spend your weekends killing everyone you see working.