We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Samizdata quote of the day

“We are ruled by people who have achieved the remarkable distinction of being both dull and frivolous.”

Theodore Dalrymple. The problem is the idea that we need “rulers” at all.

74 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • Kim du Toit

    No, Johnathan: the problem is that people like you try to deny reality.

    People do need rulers, no matter what you’d like to believe, and will always gravitate towards leadership. It’s in our basic genetics, and no amount of wishful thinking or strident argument can change that.

    What Dalymple is saying that the current leadership sucks (which it does, both yours and ours); but as it’s an elected leadership, there’s not a whole lot we can do about it, unless we come to our senses and elect better leaders.

    Now, if you’re pessimistic about that eventuality (and I am), then we have common cause.

    But wishing that we didn’t need rulers belongs with Tinkerbelle’s fairy dust.

  • Laszlo Gyarmathy

    It’s in our basic genetics, and no amount of wishful thinking or strident argument can change that.

    So then explain what genetics the people who write here posses? Are they a different species? Yours is a logical non-argument.

  • Kim du Toit

    Laszlo, the people who post here are not representative of the general population, but outliers — by and large, they fall within the top 2% of the IQ bell curve. Sadly, the rest of the world is not as well-equipped.

    Trying to fit a worldview around a 2% incidence is doomed to failure — although it represents a worthy goal.

  • >Are they a different species?

    It sometimes feels that way.

  • Laird

    Mr. du Toit is correct, but only partially so. Humans are social creatures (“herd animals”, if you will); most are natural followers and will gravitate to a leader. Leadership is a relatively uncommon attribute, which is why it is so prized in human societies. Undoubtedly there are a few such persons among the Samizdata commentariat. My guess, though, is that most of us here are neither leaders nor followers, but simply want to be left alone. Unfortunately, that’s the one unforgiveable sin in a heirarchical society; we don’t fit neatly into the power structure.

    Where he is wrong is to conflate “leaders” with “rulers”. The distinction is important, and isn’t even all that subtle. A leader will inspire people to follow him in the direction he wants to go. A ruler will simply order them to do so. A leader will permit some variation in speed, direction and mode of transport; a ruler won’t. Ultimately, a leader has flexibility and a ruler doesn’t. Under a ruler we will inevitably come to grief.

    So Jonathan is correct: we don’t need rulers, but it would be nice to see some real leadership among the political elite. Unfortunately, that quality is as lacking in most of them as it is in most of us, so they substitute mere lust for power. Not at all the same thing.

  • Mrs. du Toit

    Are they a different species?

    No, obviously, but a tiny abnormality within the species, yes… occurring in about 3% to 5% of the population.

  • Dom

    Slightly off-topic, but aren’t you tired of Dalrymple? Don’t you find him pretentious and a little too conceited? Can’t you sum up his essays (all of them) in a few sentences — people are scum, I’m too good to smell their farts, and the world should pity me.

  • Laszlo Gyarmathy

    No, obviously, but a tiny abnormality within the species, yes… occurring in about 3% to 5% of the population.

    Laird very accurately rebutted the de Toit fallacy I think. I cannot see how your view has any genetic basis at all but is just the result of your conditioning. You are a sheep only because you think you are. You can change that in a single moment.

  • Laird

    Dom, I can’t speak for the management here, but personally I like Dalrymple. Pretentious? I don’t see it. Conceited? Possibly, but it’s a well-deserved conceit. He is smarter than the average bear (or leftist), so why pretend otherwise? Perhaps you’ve read more of his writings than I have (I’m pretty much limited to what I see here and in the op-ed pages of the Wall Street Journal), but I’ve never noticed a “pity me” theme. Perhaps my whine-o-meter isn’t as sensitive as yours. Anyway, I think he writes well and says intelligent things, so what’s not to like?

  • RRS

    Our governments (the several levels in the U.S. and two levels in the U.K.) are operated by the unelected. This is not ruling, but it is what brings the adminstrative and coercive forces of governments into play in the lives of the public.

    So, what do the elected do; and, how do they go about doing it? Do they “control or manage” the unelected.

    Do they truly have the consent of the governed for what they do; or do they have carte blanche once elected?

    Is the consent informed consent or manipulated consent?

    Do we truly have “representative government?

  • veryretired

    There isn’t anything immoral about leadership. I have been in positions of authority in my working life. My function was to make sure the people under my supervision had the resources and the continuing focus to get our tasks done properly.

    What Dalyrimple is talking about are “leaders” like that visiting lord in the Python sketch who comes to the mine for an inspection and is obviously an utterly empty headed idiot.

    Such self important fools used to be justified by bloodline, then by ideological purity, and now by election by functional illiterates. (Thus the concommitant mention of poor education)

    There is that marvelous scene at the end of “The Seventh Seal” iirc where the cast is led away by a dancing minstrel, sort of like a Pied Piper. It is left unclear as to whether they are going to heaven or hades.

    I’m afraid our destination, if we remain on the current statist path, is much more certain.

  • lpcowboy

    Kim, do you think we cuuld hold 3-5% of the Earth’s territory?

  • Pete

    Hello all –

    A severe and worsening problem for those concerned with genuine leadership and not merely rulership, is that those most inclined to gravitate toward power, to seek it for its own sake, are often not those best equipped to exercise it wisely. Can’t speak for the UK (I imagine it is the same however), but here in the US, the process by which political leaders make their way into power is so debasing, and so undignified, that the vast majority of people of high character and talent run the other direction from political office. We are not getting the best and the brightest, not by a long shot.

    Politics has always attracted its share of near-do-wells, scoundrels, and assorted crazies, but also used to attract genuinely qualified, good or even great people. This seems no longer to be the case, IMO.

  • David Govett

    Dumb voters elect dumb politicians supported by dumb teachers who produce dumb voters.

  • “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”

    The problem with Dalyrimple is that he appears to believe that if only people would listen to him that things would be better (a lot of other pundits have the same problem).

    He may well be correct. But the point that I think Kim is getting at is that we don’t live in a world where our ideals are a reality. We live in a world where idealism is repeatedly bashed over the head by the cold hard truth of humanity. Despite the largest amount of contribution from the worlds greatest minds that wield the most virtuous intentions, bad people sometimes win and fuck the rest of us over.

    This hasn’t and won’t change. What we should strive for as independent liberty-demanding individuals is that more of humanity gets a chance to learn this most valuable lesson and strive for ideals that we take for granted.

    I feel better about the intrinsic nature of liberty after the recent elections in Iraq wherein the Islamist ticket was repeatedly squashed throughout the region. We bitch about our idiot politicians, and here is a country trying to maintain the resistance against REAL religious oppression via democratic elections.

    In a Democracy, the people get the government they deserve, right?

  • jillyboy

    Kim,

    I understand what you mean by having read many of your essays. But, sometimes you really present yourself as an arrogant DA. This time, I think you need to go back, re-read what you’ve written here, and try again. I give this effort a D- because I’m beholdin’ to some of your arms reviews. The way you presented this wants me to dip my sack on your chin.

  • dan

    We will not elect better leaders when the best and brightest
    are eviscerated by a snarling media pack of wolves.

    The best and brightest know better than to allow their lives and their families to be destroyed.

    Thus we are left with the dregs.

  • bobby b

    People do need rulers, no matter what you’d like to believe, and will always gravitate towards leadership.
    - – - – -

    “Need”? Naw. “Want”, maybe, which explains why so many do gravitate towards them, but even then I think the statement confuses cause and effect.

    People don’t want leaders qua leaders. They want to personally be able to not-think while simultaneously feeling secure that they’re arriving at correct answers and correct actions, they want to feel free of the moral self-doubt that can come with significant decision-making responsibilities, and they want someone to absolve them, in advance, of any individual moral fault that might be ascribed to the group as a whole as a result of its choices.

    So, if you want to lead, convince the group that the decisions to be made are tough and require much study, that you are arrogant enough to take all blame for mistakes just as you would expect all accolades for success, and that you have as many moral failures and defects as does each and every one of them and in fact yours are worse.

    That way, they can be as lazy as they wish, they can blame you for everything, and since you’ve already given your blessing to their contempt, they know that they can eventually despise you without guilt.

  • mike

    “People do need rulers, no matter what you’d like to believe, and will always gravitate towards leadership. It’s in our basic genetics, and no amount of wishful thinking or strident argument can change that.”

    A need for rulers is not necessarily the same thing as a need for leadership. One can be led voluntarily, for example by persuasive argument, but one cannot be ruled without the threat of, and ultimately the use of, force.

    Substantiate your argument, Mr du Toit. What exactly is the genetic basis of a ‘need’ to be forced to act (or not act) against one’s own judgement by others?

  • bob

    “We are ruled by people who have achieved the remarkable distinction of being both dull and frivolous.”

    No it should be: We are lazy, dull and frivolous, therefore we are ruled by the same.

  • Kim du Toit

    “do you think we could hold 3-5% of the Earth’s territory?”

    I’m trying really hard to see the relevance of that question to anything, but failing.

    “Where [Kim] is wrong is to conflate “leaders” with “rulers”. The distinction is important, and isn’t even all that subtle. A leader will inspire people to follow him in the direction he wants to go. A ruler will simply order them to do so. A leader will permit some variation in speed, direction and mode of transport; a ruler won’t. Ultimately, a leader has flexibility and a ruler doesn’t. Under a ruler we will inevitably come to grief.”

    Yes: and the incidence of “leaders” who do not become “rulers” is even lower than people with high IQs. This is particularly true with countries which do not have a robust system of participatory government.

    In fact, the depressing conclusion of history is that visionary leaders tend to become despots and tyrants rather than Plato’s benevolent philosopher kings.

    Even a visionary, popular leader like Ronald Reagan still had to do battle with a meddlesome, near-socialist Congress (likewise elected by the same people who voted for Reagan).

    Laird’s response to me was typical samizdata: what we should have, rather than what we usually get.

    I am not an elitist in thinking that people, generally, need rulers. It’s an observation, not a prescription.

    Like everyone who frequents this website, I wish too that we were a race of self-sufficient, independent thinkers who need little more than benign, occasional guidance from disinterested leaders.

    History, however, teaches me that it’s not the way to bet.

  • So then explain what genetics the people who write here posses? Are they a different species? Yours is a logical non-argument.

    As your case demonstrates, a theoretical capacity for logic is useless in the absence of proper powers of observation. Kim is absolutely right in that most Samizdata readers are outliers, and that should have been common sensically obvious from the start.

  • Peg C.

    Pete is right. The individuals who possess in abundance the worst of the human characteristics all gravitate to politics. Politics is the means by which the untalented and the manipulative gain power and wealth. We have reached the stage where virtually no truly talented and skilled people enter politics. Those least able to actually produce, lead, inspire, and govern are driven to hold what they do perceive to be “ruling” positions over the rest of us (far from the “servant” attitude proposed by Sarah Palin). We do not need rulers. However some people need or are driven to rule, and the rest of us are too busy, too lazy, too absorbed by real life to care or fight it. Most of us are very familiar in our families and our working lives with both good leaders and faux or harmful leaders. Right now our governments are overwhelmed with the latter and the former are swimming against the tide. Democracy leads to laziness and greed and a desire for bread, circuses and quick fixes. Welcome to our current conundrum.

    I do think most of want to be left alone – until we want or need something. Quite a few of us on righty blogs qualify for the “Get Offa My Lawn” party or ideology. Yet we are happily dependent on institutions (banks, credit corps., insurance companies, public education, etc.) when we want or need something. The strongest liberty-lovers among us refuse to admit that modern democracy is a compact of mutual dependency.

    Now, that mutual dependency is biting us in the a$$. Democracy ebbs and flows because human nature and motives are both bad and good. We now are actually being ruled, not governed, by the bad, not the good. And we did it to ourselves. We don’t want it but we have become addicted to it.

  • Mrs. du Toit

    Kim may answer it himself, but… as to the question of “genetic basis.” We are PACK animals and pack animals establish pecking orders.

    As to the 3% to 5% figure I (not Kim) threw out… even among pack animals (or any animal group) there are outliers. There are rogues that (for one or more reasons) are not interested in being in a pack or have been ostracized from the pack. It is an anomaly, as blindness, deafness, or high IQ (or “G” if you prefer) are abnormal/outliers. Natural selection would always reduce their numbers, even if it was constantly reoccurring.

    (I suspect, but it is a personal theory, that for those who fall into that “rogue” category, understanding that others really do choose to follow a leader and want that in their government, are incapable of understanding that it is an acceptable choice [and one taken of an exercise in Free Will]. The rogues are incapable of recognizing that as an acceptable choice, and choose to believe that their fellows have been duped into accepting it. They are, perhaps, genetically incapable of recognizing that “following” and being submissive to a leader is an acceptable choice, just as recognizing that if a woman is empowered to say “no” then she is equally empowered to say “yes.” Radical feminists do not accept that “yes” should be in the “acceptable” column, just as rogue-leaning folks do not accept Representative-rule as an “acceptable” choice.)

    The leaders vs rulers concept is really one of semantics. If you believe (as some do) that leaders are just rulers with better marketing and presentation skills, then there is no difference. The differences are one of character and principles of the leader/ruler, not the words themselves. The difference in semantics is greatly influenced by your personal biases.

  • We have elected a government of six year olds, given them a truck full of dynamite, and told them to build something.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    We are PACK animals and pack animals establish pecking orders.

    Speak for yourself, Mrs du T. I often note that whenever someone tries to justify why some of us benighted souls need to be “ruled” or crave rulers of some kind, there is always someone out there claiming that we are like dogs. I dunno what it is with such commentators: maybe they feel an urge to pee up against the side of a lampost all the time. (And needless to say this is an argument beloved of power freaks and facist/collectivists in various guises).

    People may admire leadership, but they do not need to be ruled, rather, they need laws to protect their persons and property. That is a quite different issue. The government is not my mummy or my daddy.

  • Kevin B

    Jonathon, you are free to disagree with those of us who see our genetic lineage as being descended from pack animals, (we do fall in the primate class), but why do you have to be so insulting about it?

    Healthy disagreement is fine but in this argument you immediately start slinging out dog references and talk about fascist tendencies.

    Are you perhaps religous and don’t believe we evolved from primates?

    For me, pack animal behaviour explains a lot, (but certainly not everything), about how humans live their lives, but if you have another theory perhaps you could post about it. But just saying we are all endowed, (by God?), with certain rights and liberties and only lose them to scoundrels doesn’t really cut it.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Kevin B, no need to be so touchy. I am not remotely religious and think that Darwinism is the most credible explanation of how we got here. Just because we have descended from apes, dogs, fish or whatnot, does not mean that human beings in the 21st Century need to be ruled by whatever you think is the equivalent of the Alpha leader of a pack of wolves or a bunch of any other sentinent lifeforms. To be honest, when people say that this is how life is and maybe should be, it is nothing more than rationalising groupthink and often something far worse, which is why I brought up fascism, etc. Because fascists and other authortarians do believe that some folk are just “born to rule”, or that we need a “strongman” to fix our lives. Utter cock.

    As others have said, leadership, if it stems from genuine merit and rational respect, like the achievements of an entrepreneur, is fine, since it involves an act of choice by a person to choose to be inspired by someone or to choose to work for a leader figure.

    Forget the doggies or the monkeys, folks.

  • Laird

    “The leaders vs rulers concept is really one of semantics.”

    Nonsense. Leadership is consensual; rulership is force. If you consider that to be merely “semantic” then I suppose to you the differences between murder and suicide, or theft and charity, or forcible rape and consensual sex, are also merely “semantic”.

  • Kim du Toit

    Laird,

    That’s a good, yet important distinction. However, I note that no one has yet denied the need for occasional leadership — we just quibble over the details.

    Rulers, of course, provide constant leadership, even when we don’t need any.

    The sad thing is that most people prefer to have someone else do their thinking for them, and have their decisions made for them, with the sad misconception that those decisions will always have their best interests at heart.

    I can’t remember who said it, but it’s true (I paraphrase): “You may not be interested in politics — but politics is very interested in you.”

    By the way, Johnathan et al: I find it distressing that on this website any opinion which is not libertarian can be (and often is) immediately branded as “fascistic” and the ad hominems start to flow.

    Even when I took pains to point out that my opinions are based on observation rather than ideology, somehow I still get branded as some kind of super-statist; when anyone who knows me well would just laugh at the thought.

  • Laird

    I don’t question the need (perhaps “desire” would be a better term, since some of us don’t share that need) for occasional leadership. My objection is to your continued conflation of “leadership” with “rulership”. The latter is not “constant leadership”, but rather the constant application of force. The distinction is not a mere “detail”.

  • SAC Brat

    Leadership is a crucial component to the success of ANY human endeavor involving more than just a few people cooperating. You can’t even run a family let alone a clan or tribe without leadership. Leadership is about making people capable of joint action, making their strengths effective and their weaknesses irrelevant.

    I have spent the better part of the last 30 years as a technical fixer for a rather large industrial firm. I have been tasked with getting struggling teams back on track numerous times. I have seen many a group of talented engineers and technologists flailing only due to a want of leadership. Good leadership can enable the indifferently talented. Poor leadership can turn the gifted into failures.

    Ruling on the other hand is about telling people what to do. Under rulers it becomes easier to just let the combine get stuck in the mud than to argue with Moscow about the appropriate harvest schedule. Sometimes when there is a huge disparity in reference points between the leader and followers there is no choice but to rule but in a modern society ruling is mostly about stealing.

    As for our current crop of “leaders” in Washington, they have more in common with William of Normandy and his gang of thieves that stole the whole of England from its rightful owners than say George Washington.

  • Mrs. du Toit

    To be honest, when people say that this is how life is and maybe should be, it is nothing more than rationalising groupthink…

    Rationalising or recognizing? BIG difference.

    That’s a decision you have made, Jonathan, not necessarily factually based (because I have no idea what facts you use to come to that conclusion). From my perspective, it is what you BELIEVE to be the correct way of interpreting what you see around you, most likely anecdotal.

    That is why it becomes a discussion of nature vs. nurture. Are we pack animals, and if so, are we genetically hard-wired to WANT a pecking order, and if so, what do we do about it? Do humans possess ENOUGH override/Free Will to combat those genetics, and is there any evidence of that to rely on it as the prescriptive remedy for all our woes?

    It would appear (correct me if my assumption is wrong) that you believe that the desire to be in a fellowship pack/organized-society with a leader is learned behavior, hence the use of the pejorative term “groupthink.” If the common/majority “groupthink” was one of libertarianism, would you think “groupthink” was bad? Do the ends justify the means? If not, then ALL groupthink is bad, even groupthink you think would be good for all of us.

    Your prescription appears to be one of education, something along the lines of If only they’d read Ayn Rand or Hayek AGAIN, but with more feeling.

    The fact that you don’t want to be in a pack with a benevolent leader, and have limited your desire to the narrow scope of benevolent enforcer, is a belief you attribute to your intelligence and reason, rather than your (outlier and Darwin-doomed) genetics.

    They’re irreconcilable differences of opinion and/or belief. Simply put, either history is a view of 10,000 years of people being duped by nurture and fooled into wanting to get along with his fellows and choosing a leader to represent and/or protect him, or it is 10,000 years of evidence of genetics impacting our choices. It could be a combination of both, but there is a tendency to lean in one direction or another.

    I tend to view it differently from you. I tend to believe it is not as much nurture as it is nature, regardless of how disappointing the prospects for that are.

    Similarly, I hate watching women’s tennis or golf, because they don’t play as well as the men. In something like billiards, where strength is not a factor (or putting in golf), women STILL don’t do as well as the men. Trying harder won’t make a difference in the middle of the bell curve, despite the anecdotal outliers who appear from time to time.

    Women sit skewed to the left on the IQ chart, too, and as much as it is attractive to try to believe those are results of a-male-dominated-oppressive-groupthink-against-women, my common sense and logic prevent me from buying into that version of revisionism. Both are revisionist and devoid of any evidence, except a personal desire/belief to have it be otherwise.

    Hence the claims of it being fairytale thinking, for which my sex is generally much more prone to than men–another constant disappointment.

    Women being less inclined to do well in sports and IQ is a reality. That’s not nurture and it is a painful truth, but it is still the truth.

    If my assumptions are correct and that you believe that the lot of man’s existence can be explained by nurture, and education is the key to the lock of statist shackles that the majority is capable of grasping, understanding and then CHOOSING…. to use a phrase we use in our house in times like this…

    How’s that idea workin’ out so far?

  • “We” represent a tiny minority?

    Elitism, anyone?

    While I like Kim and his general worldview, I think he’s being simplistic in claiming that people have an innate need to be ruled. That is like saying that there are no other kinds of countries outside of China, N. Korea, Zimbabwe, what have you.

    A whole lot of “ordinary” people can get by without being “ruled” if that is 1) their own expectation, and 2) that is what is made obvious as being expected of them. It worked here in the U.S. for generations.

  • mike

    “…my opinions are based on observation rather than ideology…”

    So then perhaps you’d be so good as to share with us your ‘observation’ of the genetic basis of a need to be ruled by force against one’s own judgement?

  • Linda Morgan

    “We are ruled by people who have achieved the remarkable distinction of being both dull and frivolous.”

    My first thought was that frivolous people are always dull, and vice-versa as often as not. But, yeah, it’s a good description for rulers who don’t know what to do and don’t know — or need to care — that they don’t know.

    veryretired:

    Such self important fools [as Dalrymple is talking about] used to be justified by bloodline, then by ideological purity, and now by election by functional illiterates.

    Ain’t that the truth.

    mike:

    What exactly is the genetic basis of a ‘need’ to be forced to act (or not act) against one’s own judgement by others?

    share with us your ‘observation’ of the genetic basis of a need to be ruled by force against one’s own judgement

    A good question worth repeating.

  • I am coming round to the belief that anyone who has not read James Scott’s Moral Economy of the Peasant will have no clue what motivates people to choose submission to a tyrannical state. This discussion reinforces that belief.

    Please, you must read it and understand. If free-market liberals don’t figure out a way to reconcile the subsistence ethic with our philosophy, we’re doomed.

  • Mrs. du Toit

    share with us your ‘observation’ of the genetic basis of a need to be ruled by force against one’s own judgment.

    A little bit of a strawman with respect to “against one’s own judgment” as there is the assumption that any judgment has been shown other than instinctive behavior, which is the point, but…

    If there were no God, it would have been necessary to invent him.
    –Voltaire

    Link: “The study detailed Americans’ deep and broad religiosity, finding that 92 percent believe in God or a universal spirit.”

    I don’t know what the stat is worldwide, but if 92% of Americans believe there is a God, that would seem to indicate that there is a genetic predisposition to believing in a ruler/leader, even an invisible one, if necessary, among (at least) Americans. Since America is a melting pot of the world’s genetics, unless there’s something in the water here…

    The slight alternative would be that we have a genetic predisposition to being duped.

    Either way, there is a genetic component.

    Really, though, does social/pack animal NOT provide enough information to sufficiently understand the genetics of man? Is there a denial that a social/pack animal, the definition of which is to create hierarchies/pecking orders (dominance hierarchy), get lost on some people?

  • Sunfish

    K. dt

    That’s a good, yet important distinction. However, I note that no one has yet denied the need for occasional leadership — we just quibble over the details.

    Do you seriously claim that the difference between “voluntary” and “forced” is just a ‘detail’ that we ‘quibble over’?

  • mike

    “I don’t know what the stat is worldwide, but if 92% of Americans believe there is a God, that would seem to indicate that there is a genetic predisposition to believing in a ruler/leader, even an invisible one, if necessary, among (at least) Americans.”

    Oh, so if 92% of Americans believed the car was a preferable form of medium-distance transport to anything else, then that would seem to indicate a genetic predisposition to car-driving. Gosh – you know that’s the first time I’ve ever considered that.

  • Linda Morgan

    Mrs. du Toit:

    if 92% of Americans believe there is a God, that would seem to indicate that there is a genetic predisposition to believing in a ruler/leader

    No it wouldn’t, though it could serve to prompt real inquiry into the proposition. But choosing to believe in a deity is not the same thing as needing, biologically, to be ruled by humans to whose directives one is either forced to or perhaps genetically driven to give precedence over one’s own judgment. Two very different things.

    Really, though, does social/pack animal NOT provide enough information to sufficiently understand the genetics of man?

    Of course not.

  • Mrs. du Toit

    Of course it is a detail. Jonathan said he’s willing to have government limited to making and enforcement of laws. Others don’t want any laws or enforcement, ie, anarchy. Someone, even in that libertarian spectrum of people, is going to be “forced” to comply.

    At some point, with any large number of people, what a majority want is going to be seen as intrusive and “force” by some other number of people.

    Those are the details Kim is describing.

    Unless you think the tyranny of the individual over the majority is somehow not tyranny.

  • mike

    Perhaps the smite-bot will be kinder to me this time…

    “…if 92% of Americans believe there is a God, that would seem to indicate that there is a [the g-word] predisposition to believing in a ruler/leader, even an invisible one, if necessary, among (at least) Americans.”

    Ridiculous. If 92% of Americans believe that cars are a better form of transport than bicycles, would that then indicate a [g-word] predisposition to moving at speeds of 20mph and over?

    “Of course it is a detail.”

    How candid! And in case anyone isn’t convinced that this woman is no friend of liberty, she even gives us this:

    “…what a majority want is going to be seen as intrusive and “force” by some other number of people.”

    All this nonsense about force – it’s all a matter of subjective judgement, see? What may appear to one man as intrusive force violating his freedom, is to another (and of course better) man merely a patriotic defence of freedom!

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Mike, good points all. These “details” are not points to quibble over, but fundamental. If the De Toits cannot figure out the distinction between being ruled by a group and living under the rule of law, then what is the point of continuing this discussion? Someone send those folk a copy of the Declaration of Independence.

  • mike

    “These “details” are not points to quibble over, but fundamental.”

    Quite so Jonathan.

    However the distinction between the rule of law and ‘being ruled by a group’ doesn’t make the nature of the dispute clear enough. The dispute concerns the metaphysical question of what a human being is. Is she first and foremost an individual or a group member?

    In the latter pages of Von Mises’ ‘Theory Of Money & Credit’ there are some rather scathing remarks made about the defenders of the gold standard prior to the first world war. His point was that they merely dismissed the inflationists as fools without bothering to publicly rebut their monetary proposals point by point.

    The discussion may be over for any one of us as and when we feel like it (or Mr DeHavilland decides otherwise!), but there are those who actually listen to the du Toits.

  • Linda Morgan

    Though it’s a bit behind the conversational curve at this point, I feel genetically compelled to resubmit my many-hours-old comment in its entirety, as a challenge to the smite-bot’s rule:

    Mrs. du Toit:

    if 92% of Americans believe there is a God, that would seem to indicate that there is a genetic predisposition to believing in a ruler/leader

    No it wouldn’t, though it could serve to prompt real inquiry into the proposition. But choosing to believe in a deity is not the same thing as needing, biologically, to be ruled by humans to whose directives one is either forced to or perhaps genetically driven to give precedence over one’s own judgment. Two very different things.

    Really, though, does social/pack animal NOT provide enough information to sufficiently understand the genetics of man?

    Of course not. And even a thorough understanding of our genetic make-up fails to

  • Gabriel

    the distinction between being ruled by a group and living under the rule of law

    Hmm

    “The rule of law bakes no bread, it is unable to distribute loaves or fishes (it has none), and it cannot protect itself against external assault, but it remains the most civilized and least burdensome conception of a state yet to be devised. And we owe it, not to the theorists, but to the two peoples who, above all others, have shown a genius for ruling: the Romans and Normans.”
    [emphasis mine]
    M. Oakeshott

    Suffice to say, the distinction between being ruled by laws and men was never more than a sleight of hand when Aristotle posited it and it was more or less thrown out except for obfuscatory wordsmiths in the 17th century. A law cannot rule any more than a body can be incorporeal.

    I never much cared for the Declaration of Independence either. I mean who actually thinks “pursuit of happiness” is better than “property”? What does it even mean? How could the ‘right’ to pursue happiness conceivably/conceptually be infringed? Since when was happiness something one pursued anyway?

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Gabriel, you ignore – as Oakeshott does – the tradition of law that has evolved slowly across time rather tham something that is imposed from above by a single group. Of course laws have to be enforced by people – that is a state of the blindlingly obvious.

    I never much cared for the Declaration of Independence either. I mean who actually thinks “pursuit of happiness” is better than “property”? What does it even mean? How could the ‘right’ to pursue happiness conceivably/conceptually be infringed? Since when was happiness something one pursued anyway?

    Well in the original Lockean formulation, property rather than happiness was in there. But I think that there is something wonderful about the notion that for the first time, and uniquely still – the Founders regarded the pursuit of happiness was a proper object of Man’s life. Note the importantance of the word “pursuit”. We do not have a right to be happy – since inevitably some are unhappy- rather that we have a right to go after it. Our lives are ours, not the state’s, not that of some fictional God, or Volk, or somesuch Other. In other words, the founders rejected the deontology of “duty ethics” and preferred the more Aristotelian/Thomist tradition that holds that happiness and virtue are united, rather than in conflict.

    You ask how could the right to pursue happiness be prevented? Quite easily. Consult those philosophers, tyrants and political thinkers who over the centuries have argued that happiness on this earth is a mirage and one’s ultimate goal is to suffer for some afterlife. Think about the creed of radical islam, for instance. Think of how religion, such as the puritanical strains of Christianity have made people guilty about achieving worldly pleasure, etc. Malevolent horseshit, the lot of it.

    So there!

  • Linda Morgan

    To finish the thought begun at the end of my comment above:

    And even a thorough understanding of our genetic make-up fails to presribe the best cultural means of assuring social order, which proceed from respect for the rights of the individual.

    mike:

    The dispute concerns the metaphysical question of what a human being is.

    Yes, and to what extent we, by nature, shape and order our social reality. Efforts to lock in present systems of political encumbrances as somehow genetically preordained for our species aim at hampering the real imperative of our race, which is to choose and create what we will.

  • Gabriel

    Malevolent horseshit, the lot of it.

    Maybe, but the words “prozac” and “ritalin” make me suspect otherwise.

    Further, say what you will about them Jansenists, but I doubt they’d have sold their children into debt serfdom so they could live it up for a few more decades.

    Let’s not forget, either, the most obviously ghastly contemporary manifestation of the Jeffersonian refusal to accept the state of man.

    And serendipitously enough in the last comment we have:

    hampering the real imperative of our race, which is to choose and create what we will.

    Sigh.

    But this takes us off-topic. You admit, then, that the very concept of the rule of law implies that we are being “ruled” by a “group” of men?

  • Mrs. du Toit

    Yes, and to what extent we, by nature, shape and order our social reality. Efforts to lock in present systems of political encumbrances as somehow genetically preordained for our species aim at hampering the real imperative of our race, which is to choose and create what we will.

    Evidence?

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Gabriel, whatever the absurdities that you reckon are demonstrated by the use of anti-depressant drugs, bear in mind that depression is hardly something that people should stoically be obliged to “put up with” if there are ways of easing it. A someone who has had friends suffer from clinical depression, I find the way that everyone takes the piss out of Prozac users to be rather revolting. If the human condition can be improved, well great.

    What do you mean the “state of man” anyway? That we are born to misery, pain, tyranny and bad breath? You got no ideals at all? Just because Obama is a statist does not invalidate the American tradition of trying to improve things. I personally regard Obama as a retrograde step, but that is another issue.

    You admit, then, that the very concept of the rule of law implies that we are being “ruled” by a “group” of men?

    I happily admit that rules need to be enforced, which is why we have police, judges, etc. That is not the same as the mass being “ruled” by their supposed superiors, which seems to be the view of the de Toit household. If people, to take a different analogy, all agree the rules of cricket, then someone gets chosen to be the umpire; but the umpire does not “rule” over people by dictating the laws, since the laws already exist. This is a subtle but vital distinction that I would have assumed you would have grasped. To confuse ruler with law is obfuscation, as has already been pointed out elswhere on this board.

  • Gabriel

    (As a side note, Obama could be promising to abolish the federal reserve and I would still find the whole phenomenon utterly rebarbative.)

    First, the umpire does rule, i.e. he makes decisions. Secondly, metaphors only get you so far and I would suggest that the obvious faults in this one is that umpire cannot change the law and that the umpire is responsible to higher authorities (other than the deity).

    However, all I really wanted to point out is that a pre-condition of the Rule of Law is a sovereign government and that governments rule. We appear to be getting into a scholastic debate here on the exact meaning of “rule”, which I suspect will lead nowhere.

  • mike

    “metaphors only get you so far and I would suggest that the obvious faults in this one is that umpire cannot change the law and that the umpire is responsible to higher authorities.”

    There is also the difference that a game of cricket does not directly cut to one’s capacity to survive and/or ‘flourish’, whereas a system of government does. There are other things I want to say on this, but time doesn’t permit.

    Linda Morgan – an imperative presupposes a value and therefore an act of valuation authored by a particular individual (and thus not a group). Ignore Gabriel’s manner, but don’t pass up the rest of what he says.

  • Linda Morgan

    Gabriel, by “choose and create” I don’t mean “loot and plunder” or any of the other collectivist antics Obama and his enthusiastic supporters get up to under their euphemistic bromides.

    Re my full statement: I’m no more willing to accept that present modes of coercive governance are destined by our “basic genetics” than I am willing to accept that they’re written in the stars or ordained by a higher being. We’re numbered among the social critters, yes, but endowed with intelligence and reason that distinguish us from lesser beings and that trump the blind instinct on which they rely.

    Mike, pardon my “our” and “we”. But I think the will to break free of constraint and to create what one can is integral to humanity. And where it isn’t, Lord knows I respect the right of anyone to conform or even to champion one’s place in a pecking order. So long, that is, as she doesn’t lay claim to my property or arbitrarily dictate what is and isn’t permitted to me for peaceable purposes.

  • Linda Morgan

    Correction to last line above, italicized:

    So long, that is, as in so doing she doesn’t lay claim to my property or arbitrarily dictate what is and isn’t permitted to me for peaceable purposes.

  • Laird

    A little OT, but in regard to Johnathan’s point about the “pursuit” of happiness, it amuses me that Article I of the California constitution states:

    “All people are by nature free and independent and have inalienable rights. Among these are enjoying and defending life and liberty, acquiring, possessing, and protecting property, and pursuing and obtaining safety, happiness, and privacy.” [My emphasis]

    Californians have a constitutional right to actually obtaining happiness, not merely pursuing it. That does explain a lot.

  • Linda Morgan

    To Mrs. du Toit’s request for evidence, which I didn’t see (due to Smite Control?) when replying earlier to comments just before and after:

    The propensity of humans to create is evident in our burgeoning artificial environment and our propensity to choose for ourselves is made apparent whenever choices are available. It’s possible for a human to be indifferent to molding his environment to suit his purposes, but it’s far from the norm. The trend is to make our physical and social environments ever more as we would have them be.

    In view of the rocketing advance of human achievement, particularly where comparative freedom prevails, it’s nonsensical to suppose that even the least objectionable of contemporary governmental systems represent the best that humans can and will achieve.

    I don’t dispute that people naturally arrange themselves into social hierarchies, but it’s erroneous to suppose that the tendency to do so makes inevitable coercive governance of the sort that inexorably saps our freedoms in this present day.

  • Mrs. du Toit

    The comments by Gabriel and Linda have converged to the point, I think, that Kim and I have been making.

    There can be no assumption or fixed set of laws under which we permanently operate (that the people have not created for themselves). To suggest otherwise is the ultimate form/definition of tyranny.

    The People (however you define them into groups) have a fundamental right to set the terms of their association, and the rules they will agree to follow, and to force those who refuse to comply with the rules to leave the game (at minimum), by whatever method they have agreed to do that. In the case of governments, we refer to these things as “laws” rather than “rules” in a cricket match. Unlike cricket, the rules change, and respecting the right of people to make rule changes is what the American Founders were all about. They, simply stated, established the process for changing the rules, and which body gets to decide which set of rules. Some inferred that they were anti-rule, which is wrong, just as some infer that “taxation without representation” meant they were opposed to all taxes. It was the method they were quibbling about, not the actions themselves.

    I don’t think that Jonathan is suggesting that people can decide to play cricket without abiding by the rules of the game (ie, anarchy). He would expect that anyone who does not comply with the rules would get thrown out permanently (or benched temporarily).

    The “enforcement” of laws, to which Jonathan concedes is necessary at some level, becomes instantly aribitrary because rules and law changes come into the mix.

    Some are going to label the umpire an authoritarian “ruler,” while others are going to label him a “leader.”

    We cannot, without instantly introducing tyranny into the mix, decree that the people cannot influence the laws, nor can we put them in some sort of agree-with-us-chamber to force them to perceive the umpire as a benevolent buddy or an authortarian thug.

    The tricky bit, which gets back to Kim’s earlier point, is that we quibble about the details of what those laws can and should be. We agree, at some level, that laws/rules must be followed and enforced. I do not believe that most people here are suggesting that we can’t have laws, only what the laws should be. Voila: Details!

    To suggest that Somewheresville, Texas cannot pass laws to prohibit dancing is the opposite side of the tyranny coin. You may have an opinion that such a law would be ridiculous or unnecessary, but if you move to the stage of prohibiting them (by what authority?) then you’ve moved from the liberty sphere to the tyranny sphere. To prevent that particular act of tyranny, you’d be creating an even greater act of tyranny.

    THOSE are the details Kim was referring to.

    Jonathan may be perfectly willing to support laws, and their enforcement, that are on his acceptable list. How is that different from anyone else? His list will be deemed tyrannical to someone else and they’ll just as easily throw around the “coercive” and “force” words to describe it.

    Unless Jonathan and those who agree with his list are made King/God, then we get to quibble about those details and what’s on the list. I can be simulteanously labeled (depending on the issue) a tyrant, an authoritarian, a liberal, an anarchist, and a fascist, simply by recognizing the fundamental right of groups of people to form associations and establish rules, and that those who refuse to comply don’t get to play.

    A group of five has no more or less rights to establish the rules of their association than a group of 350 million, unless you are a tyrant, and refuse to respect that right, regardless of how large the group is. The problem is that the people who don’t want to abide by those rules have no where else to play/go… but that’s not the larger group’s problem. Just because there isn’t another park to play a different game from cricket isn’t the people who want to play cricket’s problem. At the same time, we can have empathy for their predicament. We might be able to agree to a method of sharing the park, but that would be a labeled Socialism! by some.

    Recognizing the fundamental right of people to form groups and associations does not mean I always (or ever) agree with their decisions or like their rules. That is why Kim clarified that he is stating facts, not his ideology.

    Shooting the messenger is terribly unproductive!

    An interesting opinion on the subject of man’s group dynamic tendency towards socialism is Why Socialism Will Not Die: Meat!, by Shannon Love (Oct 2008).

  • Linda Morgan

    The comments by Gabriel and Linda have converged to the point, I think, that Kim and I have been making.

    There can be no assumption or fixed set of laws under which we permanently operate

    I disagree. We’re all bound to respect the rights of individuals to their lives, liberty and property and to leave them alone when they’re going peacefully about their business, laws to the contrary notwithstanding.

    The People (however you define them into groups) have a fundamental right to set the terms of their association, and the rules they will agree to follow, and to force those who refuse to comply with the rules to leave the game (at minimum), by whatever method they have agreed to do that.

    No group of people has a right to force others to comply with rules of games they have not agreed to play, or to punish them for not playing, to use the terms you use above.

    To suggest that Somewheresville, Texas cannot pass laws to prohibit dancing is the opposite side of the tyranny coin. You may have an opinion that such a law would be ridiculous or unnecessary, but if you move to the stage of prohibiting them (by what authority?) then you’ve moved from the liberty sphere to the tyranny sphere.

    It is not tyranny to uphold the right of people in Somewheresville to dance on any property whose actual owner does not forbid it, nor is it tyranny to defy those Somewheresvillians who would hold that passing a law erases a right.

    The problem is that the people who don’t want to abide by those rules have no where else to play/go… but that’s not the larger group’s problem. Just because there isn’t another park to play a different game from cricket isn’t the people who want to play cricket’s problem.

    True, so long as the cricket players have the deed to the park and came by it honest.

    The practical application of these principles of course leaves lots of details open to negotiation but they themselves are not negotiable.

  • Paul Marks

    Have no fear everyone – our rulers have a new “prority”.

    They have a deep horror of the “sexism” of the 2012 games – there being events that are only open to women, and other events that are only open to men (indeed, horror or horrors, there are more events that are only open to men).

    Actually I think this new “priority” is good news – as it may distract government ministers from being harmful in other areas.

    And would it not be wonderful if they banned the 2012 games for its evil sexism.

    Think of the money that would be saved.

  • Paul Marks

    Have no fear everyone – our rulers have a new “prority”.

    They have a deep horror of the “sexism” of the 2012 games – there being events that are only open to women, and other events that are only open to men (indeed, horror or horrors, there are more events that are only open to men).

    Actually I think this new “priority” is good news – as it may distract government ministers from being harmful in other areas.

    And would it not be wonderful if they banned the 2012 games for its evil sexism.

    Think of the money that would be saved.

  • Linda Morgan

    [Our rulers] have a deep horror of the “sexism” of the 2012 games – there being events that are only open to women, and other events that are only open to men

    See. Dull (in the sense of retarded, particularly) and frivolous. There you go.

  • Kim du Toit

    Samizdata.net: where arguments are not conducted about the numbers of angels dancing on pinheads, but on pinpoints.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    However, all I really wanted to point out is that a pre-condition of the Rule of Law is a sovereign government and that governments rule.

    In a democracy, the “ruled” – the electoriate – are the “rulers”. Your formulation also ignores the importance of things such as a separation of powers, with government – the executive – being just one part. A government, if it is not to become tyrannical, needs to be suburdinate to a written or unwritten constitution. (it is arguable that the UK government is dangerously out of control).

    This is not pedantry, as some folk here seem to think. We are not Leninists who argue that all that matters is power, not law.

  • Linda Morgan

    Samizdata.net: where arguments are not conducted about the numbers of angels dancing on pinheads, but on pinpoints.

    So it could seem to pinheads unable to argue a point.

  • Mrs. du Toit

    I was going to leave it alone and quietly giggle at the contortions you had to go through to rationalize that your morality should be everyone else’s and that is not imposing tyranny, but since you came back with the delusional thought that you can actually argue a point…

    No group of people has a right to force others to comply with rules of games they have not agreed to play, or to punish them for not playing, to use the terms you use above.

    That would be correct, but with a huge caveat: They’re on the field! They can leave the field, but they’ve CHOSEN not to. They’re making it difficult or impossible for others to play, and whining about getting hit in the nose, while others are trying to avoid them. They’re a tiny few, interrupting the game’s play, shouting “CRICKET IS THEFT!”

    Analogy exhausted.

    It is not tyranny to uphold the right of people in Somewheresville to dance on any property whose actual owner does not forbid it, nor is it tyranny to defy those Somewheresvillians who would hold that passing a law erases a right.

    Of course it is tyranny! Just saying it isn’t doesn’t make it so. You’ve decided that criminalizing dancing is something you wouldn’t allow, but I’d bet dollars to donuts you’d feel differently if it was a child porn ring operating in “any property whose actual owner does not forbid it.” You’ve decided which is a tolerable set of things that fit into your criminalization model on private property, but you want to deny others the right to decide their own list, and enforce YOUR rules among OTHER willing players. THAT is tyranny.

    You only get to decide the rules for your group or yourself, not for every other group or other persons. Doing otherwise IS the definition of tyranny.

    You’re essentially saying that a group of people cannot enter into a group contract, and even if they do, they can decide to withdraw from it without the consequences of dissolving it (which was ALSO in the contract), or cherry-pick which rules they’ll follow.

    If a community of people had a set of covenants and restrictions that clearly established the body who made the rules, and the method by which those on the board were elected, then the homeowner acknowledges that there are restrictions on the use of his property, and freely chose and accepted them when he or she completed the sale. Or are we now suggesting that “acceptable enforcement of laws” doesn’t extend to enforcing contracts, freely entered?

    When you violate the terms of a contract you FORFEIT benefits and/or incur penalties. When you enter into a contract, you are delegating some of your rights, FREELY. You haven’t surrendered them, just as you haven’t surrendered child custody when you hire a babysitter for the night. The child is still your responsibility, even while the child is in the care of someone else. As such, your rights have not been forfeited when they’re in the care of the group or freely given to someone else for their safe keeping. You can regain them simply by taking them back AND take back the responsibility for protecting them YOURSELF, without relying on the group’s protection. That also requires that you go to a place where the delegation of some of your rights is not a cost of entry. That’s what citizenship in a country confers: Both the protection of rights the group acknowledges and the delegation of some rights for the group’s benefit… and the group decides the balance. If you don’t like the balance they’ve struck or the evolving balance they strike, then play somewhere else!

    True, so long as the cricket players have the deed to the park and came by it honest.

    Every property owner has signed a contract with the land office when they take possession of the deed, in their respective country, so the moment you become a land owner, and want the group to protect and recognize that the property is yours, you HAVE entered, WILLINGLY, into a contract to play by the country’s rules.

    Governments are really no different from homeowners associations. If you don’t want to abide by the rules of the association, then don’t buy property there or accept a land deed, and live somewhere else. It really IS that simple.

    If a homeowners association (or a community of citizens in a town or a country) decides that they don’t want dancing on their group’s property and you do, live in an association/country that allows it, or in a place where there is no homeowners association/country. Continuing to accept the benefits of the group (maintenance, stable property values, security details, street maintenance, etc.) and cherry-picking the rules makes someone a scoundrel and a lawbreaker, not a cool rebel. In plain speaking, that’s called a MOOCH.

    How long has it been since folks have been trying to develop the Free State project? It’s tough to enter into a group agreement with people who refuse to enter or acknowledge a groups’ right to exist or a method of determining how rules should be made, eh?

    I acknowledge that the real problem is that there is no place else for the mooches among us to go, ie, no other field to buy where other games can be played or dancing to be performed, but that does not negate the fact that others have every right to play the game they want to play, and demand that if others enter the field that they follow the rules.

    Before you can alter the rules/laws that everyone plays by to improve them to the way you think it should be, you first have to acknowledge their right to have laws of their own making…. by all means, influence it with whatever ideology floats your boat, but you have to convince them that allowing dancing is the better way, not deny them the right to decide it.

  • Sunfish

    Of course it is tyranny! Just saying it isn’t doesn’t make it so. You’ve decided that criminalizing dancing is something you wouldn’t allow, but I’d bet dollars to donuts you’d feel differently if it was a child porn ring operating in “any property whose actual owner does not forbid it.”

    Back the hell up! Banning dancing is the same as banning child pornography?

    Did you miss the difference? One (presumably) involves only consenting adults and the other does not. (It HURTS to have to agree with Billy Beck about something! Don’t do that to me!)

  • Linda Morgan

    Mrs. du Toit, you have the right to your life, your liberty and any peaceful use of your property that you haven’t specifically, voluntarily, expressly contracted to avoid.

    What you emphatically do not have and cannot acquire by joining any group is the right to wantonly legislate away the freedom of other people to conduct on property you do not own activities that do you no harm. Were you to do that, you would be engaging in tyranny, and it would be made worse if you, like government, took from your victims the money with which to enforce such unjust laws against them.

    So when I say:

    It is not tyranny to uphold the right of people in Somewheresville to dance on any property whose actual owner does not forbid it, nor is it tyranny to defy those Somewheresvillians who would hold that passing a law erases a right.

    And you reply:

    Of course it is tyranny! Just saying it isn’t doesn’t make it so.

    You are wrong, and not just because I say so. You have no more right than any tyrant to spew laws prohibiting peaceful exercise of the harmless freedoms of your fellows.

    You instruct me:

    you have to convince them that allowing dancing is the better way, not deny them the right to decide it.

    But you and your goons may use force to outright prevent your neighbors from dancing when you fail to persuade them of your “better way”? Of course you have no such right, and those whom you bully may ultimately find means to convince you of that.

  • The key word in Mrs. du Toit’s argument is “contract” (where’s Mid?). And she is certainly right that a small enough group of people who have lawfully acquired a small enough territory (a village, a town, a county. OK, a state the size of TX) can enter into a mutual contract that prohibits dancing and mandates daily consumption of pickled cats on that territory. If I don’t like it, I’m free to move to New Mexico. The US Constitution can certainly be viewed as a contract between the inhabitants of the entire territory of the US, and if I don’t like that contract, I’m free to move to Mexico (a bit more difficult, but that has more to do with the “park” part of Mrs. du Toit’s argument, which is a separate issue). The only problem I see with this is that so many of the laws we see being applied today in the US not only have nothing to do with the original contract, but many of them stand in direct contradiction to it.

  • Mrs. du Toit

    Yes, Alisa, exactly. Folks fail to grasp that we’re talking about a contract, or in government speak, a social compact.

    The problem with the erosion of the contract is that it is being applied top down, rather than bottom up. There is no denying that the American Founders had every intent to create a government structure where people in a town/community who liked pickled cats, could eat them, and create a law to do it. Only the Feds couldn’t impose that restriction.

    “Every society has a right to fix the fundamental principles of its association, and to say to all individuals, that if they contemplate pursuits beyond the limits of these principles and involving dangers which the society chooses to avoid, they must go somewhere else for their exercise; that we want no citizens, and still less ephemeral and pseudo-citizens, on such terms. We may exclude them from our territory, as we do persons infected with disease.”
    –Thomas Jefferson, 1816

    As to the idea that “force” is involved, it dismisses reality and personal responsibility, and is a half-truth. It assumes that you move to a place where the laws were a great big mystery to you, and the consequences an even bigger mystery. That person’s ignorance of the laws and the consequences for breaking them does not a tyranny make. That’s just simple ignorance. MOVE. Or better, ARGUE and get others to agree with you. Reciting a list of rights as an incantation is not going to help you. Shouting “I have rights, you can’t do that” is not going to stop bad people from putting you on cattle cars. Only other people can do that.

    Rights are not like magic ponies or talismans. They are an act of fiction, a random thought, made real by a people’s desire to make them tangible by taking actions to protect/recognize them.

    Just as “guns don’t kill people, people kill people” rights are the same: “Rights don’t protect people, people protect people.”

    Linda appears to be operating from the assumption that rights will spring forth to protect you, like some sort of tangible Magic Muffin Man. That’s where you get to fixed assumptions about what they are, and what they actually do… by believing in them and clicking your heels together to make them tangible.

    They’re not real, unless the people decide they are, and act as if that’s so. And even if you’re lucky enough to get the larger group to recognize and respect them in a compact, that still doesn’t help you when the next generation comes along, or others move to your neighborhood. The Great Conversation never ends. You’re never done. It is a never-ending battle to educate people to prefer to recognize and then defend the rights of others. We aren’t born that way. It is a by product of our socialization, and a social custom.

    Rights don’t do anything, except give us something to discuss.

    Unless you can get other people to agree to what they are, and then take actions and make decisions to make them real, you and your ideas will fall victim to Darwin.

    I’m sure there are plenty of folks who see great martyr opportunities available in that, but dying is easy. Any idiot can do that. Living honorably and successfully with your fellows is hard.

  • Linda Morgan

    Rights are not like magic ponies or talismans. They are an act of fiction

    Well if they are an “act of fiction” then they are like magic ponies or the powers attributed to talismans, aren’t they?

    In truth, there’s nothing fictional or “random” about fundamental human rights. Of course they require — and inspire! — human action for their defense, but they’re no less real for that.

    Enjoy your tea and twaddle.

  • Connie: so far so good. But that was the objective view of rights. Guess what: the subjective view is no less real, and it doesn’t require a social context to be real. I am thoroughly convinced that I have the right to dance on my lawfully acquired property, no matter what anyone else might think. Now, being a pragmatic person (i.e. a non-martyr type) I have no problem moving to NM in order to be able to exercise my right to dance and not play cricket. But here comes in the park problem: there is nowhere left to go. They are playing damn cricket everywhere. You say “tough, and it’s not the cricket players problem”. Well, I don’t know much about cricket, but if it’s the kind of game where everyone wins, then the cricket players can afford to keep the park to themselves and keep playing, non-players be damned. But the game that has been played for the past century or so seems to be over, and there no winners in sight.

    MOVE. Or better, ARGUE and get others to agree with you.

    I’m sure you know that these are not the only options.

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