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]

A statement for the public record

I, Perry Anthony de Havilland, hereby declare that in the event I die and my body comes into the possession of the State, under no circumstances whatsoever may the State, in the form of the National Health Service or any other component of the State, harvest my organs on the grounds of implied consent. I explicitly and absolutely refuse consent for my organs to be harvested.

This is because the State’s plan to assume default ownership of my mortal remains is wholly and monstrously unacceptable. I reject the claim of the State to own my body just as I reject the legitimacy of its various claims to own my person whilst I am alive. Consent to harvest my organs for medical purposes may, however, be granted (or refused) by my designated next of kin, and no one else.

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92 comments to A statement for the public record

  • But, Perry, nobody’s sayin’ that the state is after you only because of your body! 🙂

  • Quenton

    So the problem is that people aren’t donating their organs in sufficient numbers to satisfy demand. The logical solution, of course, is to allow people to sell their organs for whatever price they see fit. The government created this problem in the first place by banning private transactions of the organs you own. They naturally have decided that the real solution is not to admit they were wrong, but to issue another decree that takes even more of your natural rights away.

    The only thing I am truly surprised about in all this is that the government still pretends that the people still have any say-so in how they are governed. I guess people will put up with all kinds of crap as long as they get to cast ballots.

  • Andrew Roocroft

    I agree that the state has no better claim to your organs than your family, but why – without being too culturally heterodox – does your family have an automatically stronger claim than anybody else on your body post mortem? All libertarian theories, from Locke onwards, have distinctly separated the trusteeship of parents, in childhood, from individual independence, in adulthood, of man. Why ought the family, parents or spouse be presumed to reinherit trusteeship, or ownership, after death?

    Of course, where explicit provisions are made in this regard, they ought to be followed. But to have a principle of justly-acquired property necessitates a better standard, I would argue, than that ‘that body used to live in my house’ – which is essentially the basis of the ‘inviolable’ familial claims to acquire the body and its organs and the present controversy.

  • Nick M

    I was outraged over this.

    Well, not exactly over this exactly but that the way it was reported in the MSM didn’t even take the angle that this is literally the state saying…

    All your body parts are belong to us.

    It’s fucking out-bastarding-rageous.

  • tranio

    Comeon people, the organs won’t belong to the state, they will belong to those poor unfortunates who need a transplanted organ. Do any of you know people who are on full dialysis, 3 times a week? That one transplanted kidney would obviate that wasted, unnecessary 18 hours a week.
    And just imagine putting a Christain organ into a Muslim and vice versa.

  • This can have positive results.Someone donated an arsehole to the Labour Party and it became Secretary of State for Work and Pensions and Wales.

    Seriously though,Gordon Brown is on to a winner here,this will be emptying NHS beds slicker than deer guts on a door knob .Think of the savings.

  • “the organs won’t belong to the state,”

    The organs will be in the gift of the state and not the donor.
    You are using the emotional argument for compulsion,if that argument is strong enough use it for voluntary opt in donation.
    If you have any experience of the NHS,you will know the state already has the power of death,via the withholding of treatment and medication.Triage nurses already decide which cases in A&E have priority.Now you want hospitals to have the right to take organs.
    I trust you have a donor card.

  • I have nothing against organ donation per se, it is the state nationalizing my dead body so they can have other people use it I object to. That consent is not theirs to presume.

    The utilitarian issue is irrelevant to me because that is a decision for my next of kin and no one else.

  • Paul Marks

    Perhaps people will carry cards saying “my organs are not to be used for transplants”.

    Especially if the agents of the state get a bit too exicited “but the organs spoil so quickly – we could not wait till he was brain dead, any way we thought his heart had stopped beating”.

    No doubt it will fit in with the euthansia craze – “that in growing toe nail made his life not worth living – I am sure he would have agreed had we asked me”.

    I am told that in the People’s Republic of China, after the usual tests, one (for a suitable fee) can actually have a look at good tissue match doners and select one – supposedly there was even a web site one could check on.

    Then they execute him for you.

    Of course all the doners were “guilty of serious crimes”.

  • Steve

    Surely the next logical step will be to solve the problem of a lack of blood donors by enforced blood donation, after all, the recipient needs it more than you do. And you can get by on one kidney, and who are you to tell someone who is completely blind that they don’t deserve the cornea out of one of the two working eyes you are so greedily hoarding?

    Currently I am a blood donor and have told my family I wish to donate my organs, if this revolting nationalisation of the human body passes i’ll be taking every last bit of offal into the crematorium oven with me.

  • Andrew Roocroft

    Perry:

    I have nothing against organ donation per se, it is the state nationalizing my dead body so they can have other people use it I object to. That consent is not theirs to presume.

    Agreed. But why is your consent to your family or parents acquiring your body presumed in precisely the same manner?

    Paul Marks:

    No doubt it will fit in with the euthansia craze – “that in growing toe nail made his life not worth living – I am sure he would have agreed had we asked me”.

    Precisely the problem. “Assumed consent” is a totally bunk justification for anything, so long as a person remains alive and has funds to pay for their own healthcare. The problem here is the cultural context of presumed familial inheritance, not presumed state nationalisation.

    Steve:

    Surely the next logical step will be to solve the problem of a lack of blood donors by enforced blood donation, after all, the recipient needs it more than you do.

    Nonsense. After death, “you” cease to exist as an acting agent – “you” are now are a lifeless corpse and, I think, in the absence of a self, the principle of self-ownership is inapplicable. So the analogy with blood donations doesn’t follow.

    As long as there is a self, however, then self-ownership should, as pointed out by Quenton, permit you to sell your organs.

  • Monty

    Tranio: “And just imagine putting a Christain organ into a Muslim and vice versa.”

    I have serious doubts about whether vice versa has ever happened, or ever will.

    And I will be opting out. I’m a smoker, so the NHS is looking to withold any necessary medical treatment I might need. If it’s OK for the state to be spiteful, it’s OK for me.

  • Agreed. But why is your consent to your family or parents acquiring your body presumed in precisely the same manner?

    Is this a trick question?

    Nonsense. After death, “you” cease to exist as an acting agent – “you” are now are a lifeless corpse and, I think, in the absence of a self, the principle of self-ownership is inapplicable.

    Indeed. It is a matter of property rights just as leaving your house in a last will and testament is. The presumption is to your spouse, or failing that, other next of kin, are the best people to know what you intended on the perfectly reasonable assumption that they are the people most likely to actually know you. In the absence of an explicit statement left by the deceased, they are surely the obvious choice.

    As the State in all likelihood knows jack shit about you other than your name and how much tax they stole from you, they are particularly poorly placed to know what your wishes would have been.

  • “Nonsense. After death, “you” cease to exist as an acting agent – “you” are now are a lifeless corpse and, ”

    No,a dead body is of no use,the organs need to be alive and fresh.What is required is that doctors can pronounce you dead,currently brain stem dead.That is dead within current technology,need and cost to revive.

    This is the grey area where decisions as to quality of life,value to society come in.The decision will be taken on extra-medical grounds.I direct you to the Do Not Resuscitate notice placed on patients records.

    We have a state run medical system which is arrogating to itself the right to dispose of our organs after the same state’s definition of death.

    Lokk at the State,look at the NHS,then tell me it won’t be abused.

  • Ian B

    I’m wondering here if we’re falling into a trap by trying to shoehorn this into a libertarian mindset of property rights. The libertarian mindset is often a good starting place, but really the issues here aren’t, I think, a primarily property rights matter although there is a property rights argument.

    Death is mostly a matter of feelings. Most of those feelings are not particularly rational. That doesn’t mean they’re not significant.

    People throughout the world, throughout history, have death rites. These rites are primarily for the living. People like to feel they’ve given the dead the “right send off”. And we worry about our own death rites too. Most of us have a preferred means of disposal of our body, of rites we would like performed. Even a proudly uber-rational atheist may well insist on a secular funeral, even though they should logically be the least concerned with what happens to their useless dead body after its death. We care about these things.

    I believe that it is not the job of the state, wherever reasonable, not to tell people how to feel or what to care about. It’s the “job” of the state, if job it has, to try to ensure that the most choice is available to us as citizens within its demesne. If people want to do irrational things, so long as they are not directly infringing the natural rights of others, the state should not intervene. If I want to wear a silly hat, it’s not the job of the government to prevent silly hat wearing. Its agents may intervene to stop others preventing me by force from wearing my silly hat. That’s all.

    Concern for the disposition of the dead runs deep among people. They have a right to care about that, however silly. For the state to deliberately interfere with that choice regarding post mortem disposition is for the state to ignore the feelings of its citizens in a most profound manner. Simply put, I’d say this is not so much about the dead body as property as about distress. This illustrates the profound malignity of the progressive mindset. They literally cannot grasp the concept of people as individuals with personal desires. They see only the group, the success of which they measure by arbitrary measures of that which is quantifiable. They can measure the number of organs harvested. They can’t measure the distress. In their world, this means the distress literally does not exist for them. They don’t intend to do evil; they simply don’t realise that they’re doing it because they can’t see it.

    So I don’t see this as a property issue. I see it as a matter for deeply held beliefs. Or maybe we can recognise those beliefs as “intellectual property” too. Either way, I personally characterise this as the essential nastiness of progressivism, which is all the more awful and inevitable because “they know not what they do”. A God may forgive them for that. As a mere human, I prefer not to.

  • Otto

    What’s the big deal; They already imagine that they own your mind and are entitled to tell you what you may think. It’s only logical that if they own your mind then they own your body too.

    What bothers me about presumed consent is that it gives perverse incentives to conclude that someone is brain dead, untreatable or whatever, so that their organs are free for transplant. In a border line case the honest might be swayed to conclude someone was dead; the corrupt, of course, would quite happily kill you, if there was something in it for them.

    For example, I wouldn’t want to come round after a serious car accident to find that a close friend or family member had already been dissected by doctors keen to meet their transplant targets.

  • Andrew Roocroft

    Agreed. But why is your consent to your family or parents acquiring your body presumed in precisely the same manner?

    Is this a trick question?

    Not at all. The answer that you give – because “they are the people most likely to actually know you” – is unconvincing. There’s no reason whatsoever why the people that know you best should be entitled to dispose of your state ahead of anybody else. I’m not disputing that they can participate in the acquisition of unowned property (that is, the property you owned prior to death and did not explicitly designate to an heir) by the standard means – the application of their labour – but merely that the cultural assumption of spousal/familial priority is unreasonable.

    Who determines, since this is your criteria, who knows you the best – and who enforces this? What measurement is made, other than qualitiative statements by the potential beneficiaries, that justifies passing control of an estate to a spouse over a child, or to a parent over a friend?

    This analogy is particularly misleading, that “it is a matter of property rights just as leaving your house in a last will and testament is.” Where there exists a will, it ought to be observed. But in the absence of a will, the assumed appropriation of the estate by somebody with whom there exists a private contract of lifetime marriage (death parts us, after all) is, to my mind, unjustified by libertarian principles. I can’t see any distinction between the assumed inheritance of an estate and the assumed inheritance of a collection of human organs. Both, to my mind, are equally wrong if there is no explicit pronunciation by the deceased on how their body should be treated post-mortem.

    (My reasoning, as I’m sure you’ll gather, is from property rights, natural law and individual ownership, not from any nanny-statist or utilitarian perspective. I can’t accept, simply, that the “obvious” choice of spousal inheritance is justified when there is no explicit declaration by the owner of property and when the contractual is legally nullified at the moment of death.)

  • Andrew Roocroft

    Agreed. But why is your consent to your family or parents acquiring your body presumed in precisely the same manner?

    Is this a trick question?

    Not at all. The answer that you give – because “they are the people most likely to actually know you” – is unconvincing. There’s no reason whatsoever why the people that know you best should be entitled to dispose of your state ahead of anybody else. I’m not disputing that they can participate in the acquisition of unowned property (that is, the property you owned prior to death and did not explicitly designate to an heir) by the standard means – the application of their labour – but merely that the cultural assumption of spousal/familial priority is unreasonable.

    Who determines, since this is your criteria, who knows you the best – and who enforces this? What measurement is made, other than qualitiative statements by the potential beneficiaries, that justifies passing control of an estate to a spouse over a child, or to a parent over a friend?

    This analogy is particularly misleading, that “it is a matter of property rights just as leaving your house in a last will and testament is.” Where there exists a will, it ought to be observed. But in the absence of a will, the assumed appropriation of the estate by somebody with whom there exists a private contract of lifetime marriage (death parts us, after all) is, to my mind, unjustified by libertarian principles. I can’t see any distinction between the assumed inheritance of an estate and the assumed inheritance of a collection of human organs. Both, to my mind, are equally wrong if there is no explicit pronunciation by the deceased on how their body should be treated post-mortem.

    (My reasoning, as I’m sure you’ll gather, is from property rights, natural law and individual ownership, not from any nanny-statist or utilitarian perspective. I can’t accept, simply, that the “obvious” choice of spousal inheritance is justified when there is no explicit declaration by the owner of property and when the contractual marriage is legally nullified at the moment of death.)

  • Ian B

    Andrew-

    Your argument above is why I argue this isn’t so much an issue of property rights. It’s a matter of tradition, convention, belief, feelings and so on. It’s a matter of covention that my close family should look after my interests if I were suddenly incapacitated, and will assume responsibility for my corpse. These things are very natural to human beings. I think they’re more profound than contract law.

  • Otto,
    There are enough precedents.Alder Hey children’s hospital,the scandal of MRSA and C-Diff,dear departed Dr Shipman.
    No once this taboo is broken,the next step is euthanasia for the common good.If the history of the 2oth century tells us anything it is that,

  • Andrew Roocroft

    People throughout the world, throughout history, have death rites. These rites are primarily for the living. People like to feel they’ve given the dead the “right send off”. And we worry about our own death rites too. Most of us have a preferred means of disposal of our body, of rites we would like performed. Even a proudly uber-rational atheist may well insist on a secular funeral, even though they should logically be the least concerned with what happens to their useless dead body after its death. We care about these things.

    That’s a typically conservative argument, and not convincing. That things have been done for a long time is inadequate to justify their continued existence.

    If people want to do irrational things, so long as they are not directly infringing the natural rights of others, the state should not intervene. If I want to wear a silly hat, it’s not the job of the government to prevent silly hat wearing. Its agents may intervene to stop others preventing me by force from wearing my silly hat. That’s all.

    Agreed. But irrelevant to this issue. If people want to be sent to Valhalla in burning ships, fine. Irrationality isn’t the issue, for me – it’s to whom the right to dispose of the body should justly accrue. If I leave no specific instructions, then I can’t understand why there should be my presumed consent for my family to get the body.

    Concern for the disposition of the dead runs deep among people. They have a right to care about that, however silly. For the state to deliberately interfere with that choice regarding post mortem disposition is for the state to ignore the feelings of its citizens in a most profound manner. Simply put, I’d say this is not so much about the dead body as property as about distress.

    Moving away from standard libertarian principles to assign ownership always concerns me. What about the “distress” caused to a long term friend, who wishes to see the body disposed of in a different manner to the family? I find this premise – that the state must have as its end the minimisation of distress – merely a reformulation of utilitarianism, and a particularly poor one, at that, with its arbitrary caveats of presumed consent to the will of the spouse.

    So I don’t see this as a property issue. I see it as a matter for deeply held beliefs. Or maybe we can recognise those beliefs as “intellectual property” too.

    Whose “deeply held beliefs”? If those of the deceased, then their instructions should be followed. But the “deeply held beliefs” of their family should have no bearing. After one reaches the age of maturity (or whatever other criterion for adulthood you support) you are a self-owner. At death, I see no reason to assign your corpse to anybody else other than the first person to get to it.

    Ron Brick:

    No,a dead body is of no use,the organs need to be alive and fresh.What is required is that doctors can pronounce you dead,currently brain stem dead.That is dead within current technology,need and cost to revive.

    This is the grey area where decisions as to quality of life,value to society come in.The decision will be taken on extra-medical grounds.I direct you to the Do Not Resuscitate notice placed on patients records.

    There’s a fair point concerning the instant of death here. But not one that solely affects the idea of state “organ-harvesting”. For us to have any system of inheritance, we must be able to demarcate between life and death on some objective criteria. And so the problems of justly determining inheritance assume the solution of this problem as a premise.

    And I agree, wholeheartedly, that this probably will be abused – because there exists a National Health Service, and politicians are shits. The solution is, of course, to abolish the NHS and simultaneously deal properly with the presumptive inheritance after death, not to continue the status quo in both. I’m not claiming to have solved the second problem – indeed, an explicit solution to it would necessitate universally defined next of kin, which would necessitate force to achieve – which I oppose. So, absent explicit compulsory designation of an heir, a reversion to a state of unownership seems the most consistent method of dealing with the dead and their property.

  • Ian B

    That’s a typically conservative argument, and not convincing. That things have been done for a long time is inadequate to justify their continued existence.

    Neither is it an argument for abolition. It is however something that should be strongly considered. Change for the sake of change is a bad thing. If that obvious observation is “conservative” then I stand guilty as charged.

    But we’re talking about mourning the dead here, not wearing a silly hat because my grandfather wore one. Humans have created, and have needed to create, structures for coming to terms with death, because of its profundity. A beloved person has ceased to exist. This is not easy for people to internalise as we all swim through life pretending to be immortal. The fact that we will all die, that there is no ultimate purpose of life, leads to the conclusion that it’s not worth living. So we find reasons to live, because we’re biologically programmed to be Pollyannas. Then somebody dies and that Pollyannaism is smacked foresquare in the face, and we need to mourn and grieve to get around it. This is why we have death rites. They’re not just arbitrary social constructs. They’re well-tested coping strategies for the most profound emotional shock most human beings ever have to deal with.

    I simply contend that the psychological issues here are fare more important than property rights, and they are not merely an arbitrary tradition akin to silly hat wearing, but rather are inherent to the human condition. Let us not blind ourselves to that which makes us human in a quest for pure logic.

  • Andrew Roocroft

    IanB:

    Your argument above is why I argue this isn’t so much an issue of property rights. It’s a matter of tradition, convention, belief, feelings and so on. It’s a matter of covention that my close family should look after my interests if I were suddenly incapacitated, and will assume responsibility for my corpse. These things are very natural to human beings. I think they’re more profound than contract law.

    If you want your family to look after your body, fine. Designate them as next of kin. But I’m totally unconvinced by the attempt to impose your preference universally – namely, to make it the default position. You say, “these things are very natural to human beings.” I worry that this line of argument essentially falls back to cultural conservatism, which I think to be intellectually lazy. The great advances of libertarianism have come from a stark repudiation of this endorsement of the status quo merely on the premise of its existence.

    From Hayek’s Constitution of Liberty:-

    “In general, it can probably be said that the conservative does not object to coercion or arbitrary power so long as it is used for what he regards as the right purposes… To the [classical] liberal, neither moral nor religious ideals are proper objects of coercion, while both conservatives and socialists recognise no such limits… In the last resort, the conservative position rests on the belief that in any society there are recognizably superior persons whose inherited standards and values ought to be protected.

  • “For us to have any system of inheritance, we must be able to demarcate between life and death on some objective criteria. And so the problems of justly determining inheritance assume the solution of this problem as a premise.”

    However for the state to arrogate the right to that inheritance after death moves us closer to the state owning us before death.In fact that is exactly what is proposed,we have the ownership of our bodies until death. Or in fact brain stem death,at which point we will be made dead because the removal of organs entail taking everything of use.
    Property rights are not really the issue,it is the dehumanising of people to the status of spare part banks.We have already seen this with embryos.Doctors have fought for the right to turn off life support machines.We have a National Health Service,not a National Death Service.
    Interestingly the state is itself responsible for the shortage of organs.The introduction of seat belts and crash helmets prevented many of those head injuries which resulted in brain death

  • Ian B

    Andrew, I’m not arguing conservation of tradtion for conservationist reasons. I’m arguing that some traditions have arisen for valid reasons of their own. As such, they’ve been selected because they’re successful. For instance, families are based on emotional bonds not because that’s traditional, it’s because families naturally bond, because that’s the way human beings are. It’s no more a social construct than enjoying nice food is a social construct. We enjoy nice food because we’re wired that way. We form emotional bonds in families because we’re wired that way. And so on.

    The familial “traditions” regarding death are a reflection of the way people are. Perhaps one way of putting it is that they are a consequence of the natural loyalties and duties that are an inevitable consequence of emotional bonds. You can argue it from a genetic perspective if you like; my selfish genes care about the copies within close family members. I will care about my child more than I care about yours. If I have to choose the life of your child or mine, I’ll choose mine. Sorry about that, can’t help it. Likewise I’ll care more about my dead parent than I do about yours. Sorry. That’s the way it is.

    Our reactions and expectations regarding death are a direct consequence of our biology. These things are not arbitrary.

  • Andrew Roocroft

    That things have been done for a long time is inadequate to justify their continued existence.

    Neither is it an argument for abolition. It is however something that should be strongly considered. Change for the sake of change is a bad thing. If that obvious observation is “conservative” then I stand guilty as charged.

    I didn’t claim that presumed familial inheritance was unjustified because it was antiquarian, but because it failed to conform to the principles by which I, as a strict libertarian-individualist, judge whether something is correct or not. On the other hand, you did use this argument:-

    People throughout the world, throughout history, have death rites. These rites are primarily for the living.

    as a defence. Perry’s attempt to respond – by answering that the person is known best by their family – at least appeals to some principle which I can judge. Yours appeals to my credulity and humility, and my assumed reluctance to challenge such central cultural traditions.

    But we’re talking about mourning the dead here, not wearing a silly hat because my grandfather wore one. Humans have created, and have needed to create, structures for coming to terms with death, because of its profundity. A beloved person has ceased to exist. This is not easy for people to internalise as we all swim through life pretending to be immortal. The fact that we will all die, that there is no ultimate purpose of life, leads to the conclusion that it’s not worth living. So we find reasons to live, because we’re biologically programmed to be Pollyannas. Then somebody dies and that Pollyannaism is smacked foresquare in the face, and we need to mourn and grieve to get around it. This is why we have death rites. They’re not just arbitrary social constructs. They’re well-tested coping strategies for the most profound emotional shock most human beings ever have to deal with.

    Suppose I accept your argument – that mourning the dead nullifies property rights. Would somebody be justified in stealing another’s property to pay for a funeral? No? Then why are they justified in appropriating, without the explicit consent of the deceased and without applying their labour to his corpse his body? There is no difference between my claiming ownership of land you have worked and my claiming ownership of land which I have not worked – agreed? (If you disagree, then I claim ownership of all unowned property – the ANWAR and Arctic oil reserves, the moon, &c – and anybody who tries to apply their labour to it is violating my property rights).

    I simply contend that the psychological issues here are fare more important than property rights, and they are not merely an arbitrary tradition akin to silly hat wearing, but rather are inherent to the human condition. Let us not blind ourselves to that which makes us human in a quest for pure logic.

    That is incredible. A quasi-religious appeal to “what makes us human,” which you conveniently leave undefined. I could fill it in (with rationality, self-ownership, bodily autonomy and so on), but, on the basis of your arguments so far, I suspect you’d disagree. In my second opportunity in two days, I can only quote AuH2O – “extremism in the defence of liberty is no vice; and moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.” How far should I moderate my “pure logic”? If there exists a knowable point beyond which logic is no tool for discovering truth, on what grounds do you objectively determine this point, and what would you superior method substitute in its place?

  • J

    I don’t think we have any detail on this, and the detail does make a big difference.

    First of all, in some cases it is possible to simply ask the person concerned. Where a person is still conscious, and very very likely to die soon, doctors can simply ask them if they would like to donate their organs, and a simple decision can be made. Most people facing certain death in the next few days are surprisingly keen to help others avoid it.

    The problem comes where the patient is not able to make that choice. If they have a donor card, then no problem.

    However, if they don’t have a donor card, there’s not much that can be done. Even if all their immediately family are agreed that *they* are happy to donate the organs, that can’t be done. The usual legal processes surrounding wills and bequests are far to slow-moving for organ donation. You need to paperwork done while the person is still alive.

    The major change would be to allow relatives to make that decision in the absence of any indication of desire on the part of the dying person.

    In a few unusual cases where there is no immediate family (or they cannot be traced or contacted in any reasonable time frame), the doctors may make the decision entirely on the patient’s behalf, but that’s unusual.

    I think it is foolish to imagine a situation where immediate family are asking that the patient be buried whole, and the doctors turn round and say “Sorry, we need the organs and the Department of Health says we can have them, so tough”. Even if the law technically allows it (which it may well), there’s no way doctors will actually do that kind of thing.

    Of course, none of this stops the change in the law being stupid and arrogant. All they need to do is make it easier to opt in. Make donor cars available at supermarket checkouts. Put a tick box at the end of the road tax form so people can easily opt in. It’s really not hard, and it doesn’t require legislation presuming consent.

  • Andrew Roocroft

    Ron Brick:

    However for the state to arrogate the right to that inheritance after death moves us closer to the state owning us before death.In fact that is exactly what is proposed,we have the ownership of our bodies until death. Or in fact brain stem death,at which point we will be made dead because the removal of organs entail taking everything of use.

    Does the arrogation of your body by your spouse, children or parents similarly move them “closer to… owning us before death.”

    Property rights are not really the issue,it is the dehumanising of people to the status of spare part banks.

    I disagree. Firstly, dead bodies are ‘dehumanised’ by definition. Secondly, what is the difference between having your organs extracted by the state without your family’s consent and having them taken with it? Giving the choice to your family doesn’t necessarily stop you becoming a deposit at a “spare part bank.” The only way you could feasibly achieve this would be to prohibit organ donation – that is, that even the next of kin’s consent, the organs couldn’t be taken – except insofar as it has been explicitly requested by the deceased.

    We have already seen this with embryos.Doctors have fought for the right to turn off life support machines.We have a National Health Service,not a National Death Service.

    For clarification’s sake:- if I have a life support machine, and there is somebody who requires it, is it acceptable to compel me to give it to them? If, to quote Judith Thomson, “I am sick unto death, and the only thing that will save my life is the touch of Henry Fonda’s cool hand on my fevered brow, then, all the same, I have no right to be given the touch of Henry Fonda’s cool hand on my fevered brow. It would be frightfully nice of him to fly in from the West Coast to provide it… But I have no right at all against anybody that he should do this for me.”

    So, in response (this is diversionary, but necessary) 1- the NHS shouldn’t exist. 2- in private hospitals, if you can’t pay the bills or for any other reason at their discretion, the owner should be free to chuck you out. 3- if you can afford treatment and can find somebody willing to treat you, then nobody‘s judgement concerning your quality of life should intervene.

  • Ian B

    A quasi-religious appeal to “what makes us human,” which you conveniently leave undefined

    Are you seriously arguing that there is no fundamental commonality to humanity in your quest for a purist “strict libertarian individualis[m]”? I mean, are you really saying there’s no such thing as human nature?

    That sounds suspiciously like the progressive project of deploying complex but specious reasoning based on extrapolation from a limited set of carefully selected axioms to deconstruct everything that stands in the way of their strict authoritarian collectivism.

    BTW, if you want to accuse me of being some kind of traditionalist conservative, I’d suggest reviewing my discussion with Gabriel and others on beer, shagging and hobbit porn.

  • but merely that the cultural assumption of spousal/familial priority is unreasonable.

    With all due respect Andrew, you are in danger of entering moonbat territory here in overcomplicating what is a very simple issue really.

    If there is a will which specifies what you wanted prior to snuffing it or becoming a veggie, then it is a simple matter of property rights (i.e. disposing of your owned property, namely your corpse). Likewise the public blog article above which will be read by tens of thousands of people makes it pretty damn clear what my wishes are (on who decides rather that what actually end up getting done with my bits). If you want to be disposed of in accordance with the ancient boat burning traditions of your Viking ancestors, well peachy. If you want your bits affixed to the insides of some needy person, well that’s peachy too.

    If there is no will (and only then), then there has to be some reasonable way to decide who has the best chance of knowing what your likely intentions would be. If you have a spouse, that is surely going to be the person most likely about your interest in Viking burning boat funerals and make the logical inference thereof.

    You then go down the chain of people likely to know what you intended. My guess is your plumber probably comes up earlier in that chain than some government bureaucrat. It seems so obvious I find it hard to have to explain it.

    Also I am not allergic to traditions simply because they are traditions. Some may be bad or obsolete but some are good things which should not be discarded lightly. As Hayek often pointed out, society is not the product of reason and never should be. Rather it is an emergent property of interactions and the patterns these form are what we call traditions. Some of them actually make sense.

  • “Does the arrogation of your body by your spouse, children or parents similarly move them “closer to… owning us before death.”

    You have the wrong end of the stick,I never mentioned these beneficiaries.

    “I disagree. Firstly, dead bodies are ‘dehumanised’ by definition. Secondly, what is the difference between having your organs extracted by the state without your family’s consent and having them taken with it”

    There you go again,I made no mention of family..

    You don;t seem to understand that bodies used for organ harvesting are not dead,,a dead body is of no use.
    My basic premise is that the state cannot be trusted with the power to take and dispense a persons organs without permission.

  • Max

    The ultimate victory of the state over the individual is to reduce the individual to a bag of spare parts.

    Just how dead will you have to be for the state to claim its property? “I’m still using it” pace Monty Python, likely won’t save your parts.

    They’ll get my kidneys when they pry them from my cold dead fingers. (OK, that’s impractical but, there is a broad hint in there.)

  • It’s really not hard, and it doesn’t require legislation presuming consent.

    Indeed but that is, demonstrably, not how the State thinks and is an exceptionally fine example of why the State has to be feared when you realise that is does imply what Max said:

    The ultimate victory of the state over the individual is to reduce the individual to a bag of spare parts.

    Why go to the effort of getting consent, with the consequent risk of people saying NO, when you can just fix the system to get what you want without it? THAT is how the State thinks.

  • Andrew Roocroft

    IanB:

    Are you seriously arguing that there is no fundamental commonality to humanity in your quest for a purist “strict libertarian individualis[m]”? I mean, are you really saying there’s no such thing as human nature?

    It would quite difficult for me to defend my argument based on natural law if I thought there were no such thing as human nature! Indeed, I explicitly say that I do endorse the universality of human nature in the very next sentence, which you decided to cut from your quote.

    “I could fill it [human nature] in (with rationality, self-ownership, bodily autonomy and so on), but, on the basis of your arguments so far, I suspect you’d disagree.”

    Would you?

    BTW, if you want to accuse me of being some kind of traditionalist conservative, I’d suggest reviewing my discussion with Gabriel and others on beer, shagging and hobbit porn.

    The point I’m getting at is that I don’t see families as essential units to society. Let me juxtapose two quotes to explain my position:-

    Concerning the Australian Liberal Party, ex-Cabinet Minister Peter Baume;
    “”For the philosophical liberal the individual is the focus, the individual is the basic unit and it is to effects on individual people that philosophical liberals look to see the consequences of any proposal.”

    Concerning the collapse of moral values in modern day USA, ex-Senator Rick Santorum;
    “In the conservative vision, people are first connected to and part of families: The family, not the individual, is the fundamental unit of society.”

    I am an advocate of the first, so I don’t think that the individual should be tied irrevocably to their family, just as they shouldn’t be irrevocably tied to their business associates or tennis partners. It is part of a contract that they make, to marry or have children, and marriage, in particular, explicitly terminates at death. So, after death, it should have no bearing on who inherits the body, if there are no specific post-death instructions left by the deceased. You, on the other hand, seem to prefer this cultural conservatism; essentially, that families should continue, as they always have, being the beneficiaries of the default position – in matters of inheritance, and, just as importantly, in parking space proximity to supermarkets.

    That sounds suspiciously like the progressive project of deploying complex but specious reasoning based on extrapolation from a limited set of carefully selected axioms to deconstruct everything that stands in the way of their strict authoritarian collectivism.

    “How much do you hate the Romans?” “A lot.” Such is my eloquently brief position on all collectivist ideologies.

    Having responded honestly to your question, can you respond to some of mine – to which I really do want answers, since this pariah status is unsettling:-

    1.Why does your family have an automatically stronger claim than anybody else on your body post mortem?

    2. Would somebody be justified in stealing another’s property to pay for a funeral? No? Then why are they justified in appropriating, without the explicit consent of the deceased and without applying their labour to his corpse, his body?

    3a.Whose “deeply held beliefs” should determine what sort of funeral you have – yours, or your family’s? What about the “distress” caused to a long term friend, who wishes to see the body disposed of in a different manner to the family?

    3b.Who determines who knows you the best (and is therefore best to dispose of your property in line with what you would’ve wanted) and who enforces this? And why should this criterion – using your property in line with how you would’ve wanted it – be used as the premise of inheritance? What measurement is made, other than qualitiative statements by the potential beneficiaries, that justifies passing control of an estate to a spouse over a child, or to a parent over a friend?

    4. How far should I moderate my “pure logic”? If there exists a knowable point beyond which logic is no tool for discovering truth, on what grounds do you objectively determine this point, and what would you superior method substitute in its place?

    5. Having conceded that I believe humans have natural rights, can you spell out where you disagree, would replace or supplement those that I have set out above to justify automatic inheritance by the family?

    Apologies for this approach, but I’ve asked all these questions, except #5, in previous comments without any response. I thought an explicit statement of them together might draw a thorough response.

  • Laird

    I find myself in the rather unusual position of disagreeing with Ian B. Not that his statements are incorrect; death is a profoundly emotional event for the survivors, and death rites are for their benefit. But this is precisely a property rights issue. As much as I own my home and bank account I also own my corporeal body and have a right to direct its disposition after death. Is there a more central tenet to the libertarian philosophy than “I own myself”? I think not; everything else flows from that fundamental premise. And this law interferes not with death rituals (the survivors could still hold memorial services, cremate the remains, or do whatever else makes them feel good), but with the survivors’ property rights.

    And for that reason I disagree with Andrew, also. His position is in no way “libertarian”, at least as I conceive it. But he is consistent; he acknowledges that he also opposes the customary (in the anglo-saxon legal tradition, anyway) method of distributing property without a will:

    But in the absence of a will, the assumed appropriation of the estate by somebody with whom there exists a private contract of lifetime marriage (death parts us, after all) is, to my mind, unjustified by libertarian principles. I can’t see any distinction between the assumed inheritance of an estate and the assumed inheritance of a collection of human organs. Both, to my mind, are equally wrong if there is no explicit pronunciation by the deceased on how their body should be treated post-mortem.

    My question to Andrew is, in the absence of a will what other method of distributing property (of any sort) would you propose? Can we stipulate that the decedent has no further use for it and is incapable of making a post mortem direction? (If not, then I don’t think this discussion can continue.) We must have a “default” rule for the intestate distribution of property, and if it is not to persons with a familial or legal relationship with the decedent then who else could it be? The only logical answer, and the trap you have set for yourself, is that it must be the State as the representative of society as a whole.

    The disposition of body parts in the absence of a donor card or living will is merely a species of intestate succession. The reason I find this new law as offensive as does Perry is that instead following of the usual rules of property distribution it carves out a specific class of property (i.e., human organs) for special treatment and, essentially, appropriates it to the State. No other class of property is so treated, and I think this sets a terrible precedent.

  • Andrew Roocroft

    With all due respect Andrew, you are in danger of entering moonbat territory here in overcomplicating what is a very simple issue really.

    This criticism really doesn’t dissuade me that I’m wrong. It’s typical of the intellectually bereft conservative mentality that attempts to challenge the incumbent state of affairs are dismissed as complicated or rationalist. These are, in fact, no objections.

    I am also unconvinced by the persistent denigration of a position you find unappealing as ‘moonbatty.’ I asked IanB, following his comments concerning the inapplicability of property rights to this issue,

    “How far should I moderate my “pure logic”? If there exists a knowable point beyond which logic is no tool for discovering truth, on what grounds do you objectively determine this point, and what would you superior method substitute in its place?”

    Given that you too object to consistent application of logic, with what would you substitute it, and when?

    Merely asserting something, with the admittedly witty definition, as “sacrificing sanity for consistency,” is such an empty criterion for judging a political stance that it doesn’t merit serious consideration. Is it “sane” to abolish the NHS? “Sane” to abolish social security? “Sane” to defend property uncompromisingly? That you don’t approve of people being “on the extreme edge of whatever their -ism happens to be” is no argument contrary to that extremity.

    If there is no will (and only then), then there has to be some reasonable way to decide who has the best chance of knowing what your likely intentions would be. If you have a spouse, that is surely going to be the person most likely about your interest in Viking burning boat funerals and make the logical inference thereof.

    You then go down the chain of people likely to know what you intended. My guess is your plumber probably comes up earlier in that chain than some government bureaucrat. It seems so obvious I find it hard to have to explain it.

    Firstly, I agree entirely that if there is a will it ought to be followed.

    Now the trouble begins. Notwithstanding the impossibility of determining how you would’ve wanted it to be used – which is a massive unresolved problem in itself (I’m unconvinced that somebody who trusted their spouse with their innermost thougts wouldn’t arrange for their property to pass onto them, except in very rare cases) – the contract of marriage explicitly ends at the moment of death. Thereafter, your spouse is free to marry anybody else, in the hospital chapel, if they are so inclined. The assumption underlying your argument is that there is, between a husband and wife (or other equivalent marital unions) a commonality of property – or at least joint-consensual property ownership. I dissent from this assumption, because marriage is a private social contract between two individuals. If, supplementary to that contract, they choose to share property, that’s fine. But there’s nothing per se in marriage that necessitates the sharing of property, or the direction of joint property towards mutually-agreeable ends. Nor is it the only institution in which individuals share property, and if the disposition of property in accordance with your wishes is to be observed, it seems to me that a business partner could be much more suitable, in some scenarios.

    The case you make is rooted in tradition, rather than reason. And whilst I take your point about institutions developing, as Hayek said, through ‘spontaneous social interactions,’ I find your extrapolation indicative of another of Hayek’s principles – the pretense of knowledge. This, ultimately, is the grounds upon which you want to decide who receives the deceased’s property – that the state is simultaneously insufficiently knowledgable to know how to use the deceased’s property in the end they would have desired, and sufficiently knowledgeable to demand that the spouse is the best person to do precisely that, coercively enforcing their claim. I don’t think the state knows either, and, in the absence of instruction from the deceased, it is a pretense of knowledge to direct their estate, corpse and organs this way or that.

    Ron Brick:

    You don;t seem to understand that bodies used for organ harvesting are not dead,,a dead body is of no use.

    According to the Telegraph article they are:- “The proposals would mean consent for organ donation after death would be automatically presumed, unless individuals had opted out of the national register or family members objected.

    My basic premise is that the state cannot be trusted with the power to take and dispense a persons organs without permission.

    Agreed. Whilst they’re alive. When they’re dead – if they haven’t left any provisions for the disposal of their body to the contrary – it should be essentially a case of unowned property, to be justly-acquired through first use.

  • Peter Melia

    Our equality under the law protects us from having the state removing body organs during our lifetimes, without our permission. So for instance, if for medical purposes it appears that an appendix may be removed, or a cancerous growth, the person involved gives prior consent. No consent, no organ removal.
    Is it then that this situation changes at the moment of death? Does a switch occur, wherebye, when an individual dies, the body comes up for grabs, as state property? Some organisation wants this organ and helps themselves, another group want some other part and so snaffles that.
    Where will it stop? Suppose the state wanted the dead person’s estate?
    Suppose it was decided that it was in the state’s interest that a person’s will, legally & properly drawn up, be nullified, or modified. Would then the intended recipients of the will lose their inheritance?
    What is the difference between taking an organ and taking property, they both belonged to the person who owned the body when alive?

  • Andrew Roocroft

    Laird:

    As much as I own my home and bank account I also own my corporeal body and have a right to direct its disposition after death. Is there a more central tenet to the libertarian philosophy than “I own myself”? I think not; everything else flows from that fundamental premise. And this law interferes not with death rituals (the survivors could still hold memorial services, cremate the remains, or do whatever else makes them feel good), but with the survivors’ property rights.

    I agreed with everything until the last sentence. You’re riight that everything flows from the premise of self-ownership through the application of labour. So I can’t understand what argument you’ve used to come to the conclusion that “the survivors” have “property rights” over the deceased’s corpse, organs and estate. They didn’t apply their labour to them, nor were they voluntarily given by the rightful owner. How, other than by some tradition, did they come to justly acquire them? Libertarianism has never accepted as adequate the claims that mere historical frequency suffices to justify an act: were that sufficient for us, how could we reasonably have led the opposition for centuries to state-violence, tyranny, conquest, slavery and religious uniformity? I am unconvinced by an appeal to history or tradition, for I cannot evaluate a given proposition in line with its justice – as I have tried to here, with a consistent application of libertarian natural rights – if my only basis for approving or disapproving an action is its efficacy at surviving. I was, therefore, a little puzzled, for you to describe my position as “in no way “libertarian”, at least as I conceive it” – precisely what libertarian objection do you have?

    My question to Andrew is, in the absence of a will what other method of distributing property (of any sort) would you propose?

    Paraphrasing my new-found hero – why is that a relevant question? Would you like to get some context or does this determine whether you agree with me?

    Whether or not I have a better system than the present one is a different question than whether the present system is justified. If my arguments against the present system sufficiently illustrate that the status quo is incompatible with the principle of justly acquired property, then I needn’t furnish a supplementary preferential theory for you to reject the current one.

    I will, however. If you don’t leave a will, and you die, then the property should revert to a state prior to ownership. It should be open to the first person who employs his labour on it, just as if a field, once owned by somebody now dead and without an owner designated can be justly worked by whoever gets to it.

    Put simply, I don’t believe in ‘distributing property’ according to some central instruction. I believe property is acquired and freely-exchanged in a just system, which requires a process of acquisition as its starting point.

    Can we stipulate that the decedent has no further use for it and is incapable of making a post mortem direction? (If not, then I don’t think this discussion can continue.)

    I don’t understand what you mean by this. “Incapable” is throwing me off.

    We must have a “default” rule for the intestate distribution of property, and if it is not to persons with a familial or legal relationship with the decedent then who else could it be? The only logical answer, and the trap you have set for yourself, is that it must be the State as the representative of society as a whole.

    I disagree with the premise; “we must have a ‘default’ rule for the intestate distribution of property.” We shouldn’t have any state, never mind one that nationalises property “as the representative of society.”

    The disposition of body parts in the absence of a donor card or living will is merely a species of intestate succession. The reason I find this new law as offensive as does Perry is that instead following of the usual rules of property distribution it carves out a specific class of property (i.e., human organs) for special treatment and, essentially, appropriates it to the State. No other class of property is so treated, and I think this sets a terrible precedent.

    Actually, I think it’s a little more consistent with statist principles than you think. After all, what is the inheritance tax, but the confiscation of property by the state during an inter-personal voluntary exchange? This isn’t a precedent, it’s the product of at least a century of socialist encroachment starting, primarily, with that hideous three-firstnamed man Lloyd George.

  • Andrew, have you ever seen Virginia Postrel’s description of dynamist and stasis?

    “Stasists and dynamists disagree about the limits and use of knowledge. Stasists demand that knowledge be articulated and easily shared. Dynamists, by contrast, appreciate dispersed, often tacit knowledge…Those conflicts lead to very different beliefs about good institutions and rules: Stasists seek specifics to govern each new situation and keep things under control. Dynamists want to limit universal rule making to broadly applicable and rarely changed principles, within which people can create and test countless combinations.”

    You are making the stasist argument. That does not make it wrong, but it does force you into exactly the sort of consistent logic that the term moonbat was invented (by me) to describe. I do not mean that to be overly insulting, but the ‘common law/common sense’ approach I am suggesting is rather more likely to be both workable and reasonable. You will find it a hard argument that familial and in particular chosen relationships (i.e. a spouse, for example), do not have a better chance of executing your will (in both senses of the word) than any formulae you might care to construct. That is almost certainly why that approach is ‘traditional’. Nothing is perfect in this imperfect world of ours of course.

    I’m unconvinced that somebody who trusted their spouse with their innermost thougts wouldn’t arrange for their property to pass onto them, except in very rare cases

    Then I guess our experience with and understanding of people is very very very different. The first time I wrote out a will was in 1992, by the light of a flashlight on a page of my passport, when it suddenly occurred to me that imminent death was a distinct possibility given the situation I was in at the time. I was in a ‘serious’ relationship at the time but it literally never occurred to me to make a will before then.

  • “According to the Telegraph article they are:- “The proposals would mean consent for organ donation after death would be automatically presumed, unless individuals had opted out of the national register or family members objected.”

    Have you had much experience with hospitals,you are are safe as the paperwork,which is to say not very.
    Hospitals know nothing about you,they are staffed by by a vary transient workforce,Oops.we didn’t know he had opted out,but we had so little time”.
    Please get real,the NHS is a state bureaucracy,it will do whatever is expedient at the time.

  • The opt out is just another governmental con relying as it does on people simply not getting round to opting out through ignorance,laziness etc.
    One only has to look at unclaimed benefits for old people,prize money awaiting a winner.
    Then there is the emotional blackmail of putting oneself in the position of denying “life” to someone needy.You will of course be pretty bloody needy yourself when the decision is made.
    This is a typical socialist modus operandi,absolutely no though given to offering incentives to donors.

  • Andrew Roocroft

    Stasists demand that knowledge be articulated and easily shared. Dynamists, by contrast, appreciate dispersed, often tacit knowledge… .Those conflicts lead to very different beliefs about good institutions and rules: Stasists seek specifics to govern each new situation and keep things under control. Dynamists want to limit universal rule making to broadly applicable and rarely changed principles, within which people can create and test countless combinations.”

    I’m astonished that you have the tenacity to identify yourself, in this situation, as a ‘dynamist’. You advocate the state enforcing a simple ruling – which still hasn’t, to my mind, been adequately justified in terms of libertarian principles – to determine the ownership of property in every case where there is no will. I oppose this specific instruction, and think each case should be treated on an individual level, since there is no just owner of the property after the deceased passes away, by reverting to the initial state-of-nature first-use scenario. You want a single, universal rule, with the state to enforce it; I want individuals to determine each outcome by the product of their separate efforts in acquiring the unowned property. You pretend to have knowledge, as your anecdote reveals, about who is the best person to dispose of an estate; I recognise that each marital and familial relationship is different, and oppose the automatic transfer of property from the deceased to their spouse on the grounds that we can’t know what the deceased wanted. You are advocating a centralist mentality – a distribution, or dictation, of property that has not been disposed of in private wills; I believe that property without a just owner should have its ownership determined by the people who can make first use of it.

    You are making the stasis argument. That does not make it wrong, but it does force you into exactly the sort of consistent logic that the term moonbat was invented (by me) to describe. I do not mean that to be overly insulting, but the ‘common law/common sense’ approach I am suggesting is rather more likely to be both workable and reasonable.

    Clearly we have different opinions on what constitutes a “reasonable” transfer of property; I believe that if you want somebody to get your property after your death, you have to provide for such legally, so as to prohibit conflict amongst heirs over unquantifiable claims. You seem to think that these claims – by the spouse and family – which nowhere have the explicit endorsement of the deceased, of themselves constitute sufficient to transfer property.

    You will find it a hard argument that familial and in particular chosen relationships (i.e. a spouse, for example), do not have a better chance of executing your will (in both senses of the word) than any formulae you might care to construct.

    This is the point: I don’t care to construct any formulae; you clearly want the specific determination of property to be the responsibility of the state – that is, you want the state to enforce the unfalsifiable claim of the spouse that the deceased would have wanted the property to pass to them in the event of their death, but failed, through negligence, to put this into contract. Surely you don’t believe that this process is consistent with a committment to justly-acquired property?

    I finally want to tackle a point you made earlier in the post, when I was distracted by your incredible claim that your arguments were ‘dynamists’.

    It does force you into exactly the sort of consistent logic that the term moonbat was invented (by me) to describe. I do not mean that to be overly insulting.

    Far from being insulting, I can think of no greater accolade than being consistent in my logic and uncompromising in accepting the avenues down which it leads. I’m a maths student in real life – like another libetarian ‘moonbat,’ Murray Rothbard. In maths, you can’t just reject the implications of the axioms you believe to be true because they cause you, metaphorically, to “sacrifice sanity for consistency.” If you seriously reject the consistent, logical application of the axioms of self-ownership, private property and voluntary contracts – and you’ve conceded that my argument has been consistent – then your only refuge is to throw away the axioms. Hiding from their logical implications is intellectually dishonest and leads to arbitrary lines in the sand, beyond which cultural conservatism – the residues, if you will, of metacontextual influence on an attempted Impartial Spectator – kicks in and repudiates consistency in favour of random, unprincipled acceptance and rejection of ideas. See, for a perfect example, Hoppe on immigration – a subject on which I picked up a copy of your pamphlet at the LA conference – and his resort to collectivist criticism of non-Teutonic peoples and personal attacks on the consistent advocates of the doctrine of private property and free association.

  • Laird

    Andrew, I think we’ve narrowed considerably our area of disagreement. Our point of divergence is that you don’t feel that we need any rules for intestate distribution of property; that in such circumstances it simply reverts to a “state of nature” (my phrase, not yours, but I think it captures your meaning). Fair enough, I suppose (although I don’t think that’s necessarily a libertarian position as much as an “anarcho-capitalist” one). That’s just not a viewpoint I share.

    First of all, it’s unworkable. How is someone supposed to “employ his labor” on property such as a bank account, or a securities portfolio? Does the first person who comes along get to seize my house or car? Is that really a society you’d want to live in? I wouldn’t.

    Second, I don’t think it’s wrong, or “un-libertarian”, to accept an element of our legal tradition with nearly 1,000 years of history behind it. Anyone can opt out of this “default” rule with a simple will, so it’s not an unreasonable burden. Furthermore, it’s a rule of such long standing that every educated person is aware of it. Who are you to say that if I choose not to write a will, that is an informed choice because I like the way the laws of intestacy work and is merely my ratification of them?

    In my opinion having some form of “default” rule is far superior to your “law of the jungle” approach. If you disagree, fine. But if we’re going to have a “default” rule, I would prefer one which bears a reasonable approximation to what the vast majority of people would want (supporting their spouses and descendants) while preserving their right to make a different choice, rather than one in which all property essentially reverts to the strongest and fastest (i.e., the State).

    Incidentally, you were correct to criticize my conflation of my personal property rights with property rights in my heirs; that was sloppy logic on my part. And I like the consistency of your argument and quality of your writing. I just think we’re going to have a fundamental disagreement on this issue. So be it.

  • WHAT?? It’s not “Percival???”

  • How about property rights if the occupant is still at home.Brain stem death does not mean there is no brain activity,apparently,since the body is still physically alive,blood pressure rises under the surgeon’s knife,an indication of the body is feeling pain.Further,some surgeons anaesthetize the body before removing the organs

  • Midwesterner

    When I was probably ten or twelve, I had a cousin have the plug pulled days after a head injury from a motor cycle accident. His mother made the decision after much thought and consultation with medical and other advisers.

    Later, but still longer ago than I care to admit, I was undergoing a string of surgical procedures after a car accident. With somewhat questionable judgment, I chose to read Robin Cook’s Coma. As they say “Oops.”

    With almost certainty, both the government’s part in the plug pulling and the organ donating decisions will be put in the hands of ‘special’ courts, specifically convened for this purpose. It is almost certain that it will be made up of people like that civil servant in the Canadian Kangaroo Court on another thread.

  • since there is no just owner of the property after the deceased passes away, by reverting to the initial state-of-nature first-use scenario.

    That’s the moonbatty bit. Social organisations just don’t work that way and a family/spouse would argue that they have a prior call on the ‘property’ in the absence of instructions to the contrary. Convincing them otherwise will often have to involve the use of guns. We are entering ‘nature of the species’ stuff here I suspect.

    You want a single, universal rule, with the state to enforce it

    Please quote where I said I want the state to enforce it. This is customary behaviour I am talking about and this is an area where customs generally work really well but also where they vary a lot, which is also okay. People have been having families and spouses and dying a lot longer than states have been around but it still seems to me that figuring out what he-who-snuffed-it would have wanted just common sense. Would you deny a person their religion’s burial customs if you knew their religion but they did not actually specify what they wanted? The notion family and spouses are not the people who are most likely to have the best theory of what the deceased or soon to be wanted strikes me as odd. Figuring that out is surely that is the prime issue, with dealing with familial/social post death behaviour a close second.

    The fact is in a great many cases, the family or spouse WILL assert their rights to control what happens, at least in this culture, and pretending this is something purely reducible to atomised individuals in the absence of a will is frankly unwise. The remains of dead relatives/loved ones are not quite the same as other property (although not entirely different either) and any proposition which does not deal with the social reality is just philosophical masturbation (not that I have anything against that at the appropriate time).

    To put it bluntly, if someone tries to in effect ‘homestead’ the dead body of one of my loved ones, I will probably try to kill them. I am sure some other people feel differently about their loved ones remains, but pretending there is no emotional aspect that social customs have evolved to deal with quite effectively is not a good idea. We are social animals and need to accept that certain social customs are useful. Other cultures use religion or whatever and that probably works too.

  • Ian B

    Andrew-

    You may be disappointed that I’m not going to answer your questions on a case by case basis 🙂 The reason for that is that as I see it your questions are predicated on your axiomatic system of strict individualist libertarianism. The best way to put this perhaps is that you have too few axioms; your system is too narrow. It can’t explain the universe of human behaviour. It is a very useful system in many respects; but I contend that it does not incorporate natural human behaviours which will arise as an externality. Indeed, my comparison of it with other rules systems (e.g. collectivism) was to illustrate that it has the same problems; it runs up eventually against human natures which it cannot cope with and thus it is forced to repress, (and which ultimately cannot be repressed, leading to some form of (usually disastrous) unintended consequences).

    Close social human interactions ultimately arise from our human nature which is a consequence of our evolutionary heritage. People in close social relationships as a matter of course have both expectations and responsibilities.

    [I must interrupt myself at this point to say that I see these as fundametnally different to statist interpretations of “responsibilities” which are predicated on mediation by an outside force (the State); indeed the attempt to impose models of personal interaction at a larger group level are what collectivisms are. My rights and responsibilites towards humans with which are directly interact (family, friends etc) are a natural process which self-mediate. They cannot be translated to a generalised collective system. If my friend Sarah has some problem that I can practically help with, I will feel both a desire and obligation to help her. If somebody called Sarah I do not know has a similar problem, the State forces me to help her, but since I have no contact with her there are no natural social forces moderating our interaction; the State tries to impose these and fails, causing distortions and eventually harm to all the “Me’s” and “Sarahs” in the collective.]

    So for instance humans naturally have a generalised urge to form pair bonds (which may be temporary or permanent and of various intensities). I cannot rationalise or explain these bonds in terms of the basic libertarian rights. I can say that libertarian rights allow any humans to form whatever contracts they wish, but cannot derive the form of those contracts from the rights. There are some practical benefits to pair bonds, but the reasons I may form one with our imaginary other person Sarah cannot be analysed in your axiomatic system. It has no room for my liking the shape of her bottom or the way she makes me feel shiny when she’s around. We can analyse them to some degree in terms of evolution (the shape of her bottom acts as a proxy for her superior genetic characteristics and I thus I’m emotionally impelled towards her in the hope of producing superior offspring) but even that is not a way in which most lovers will feel they wish to characterise their relationship.

    Likewise most people in romantic relationships demand some degree of “ownership” and sexual control over their spouses. That some people choose to abrogate those rights to some degree matters not a whit. Very few people allow their spouses complete sexual freedom. All but a very few strict polyamorites still will have some rules as to what is acceptable. They probably won’t have a written contract (although they may). Most people would find it kind of disquieting to regulate their every personal interaction via such formal means. People who enter sexual relationships naturally feel a level of control and responsibility over and for their lover’s behaviour. This isn’t a social construct. It is in our genes.

    When my mother was terminally ill last year, I felt a natural obligation to do all I could to assist her. Boiled down to pure rationality this made no sense. I could have spent the immense time and effort I (and my sister) “wasted” nursing a dying woman doing more productive, lucrative work. Had I done so I would have been wracked by misery and guilt. I would have broken a familal “contract” which was never written down nor stated by any party of mutual care. Neither do I wish to live in a world in which I would only have that duty of care had I signed an official contract stating it. Do we really want a world in which people do nothing which is not formally approved in the presence of a lawyer?

    So, I reiterate that I simply can’t answer your questions in your chosen terms. I don’t believe this issue can be shoehorned into an individualist axiomatic system, nor can most interpersonal relationships. In terms of human nature, the strict individualist who would deny any responsibility for care of other family members would be considered, basically, not a particularly nice person. This is why we have the word “selfish” in the lexicon. We all have degrees of ownership, rights and responsibilities to those people in our personal sphere. One of these is an interest in the disposition of their corpse. Another, for instance, is the repsonsibility of care for your own offspring. I can’t demonstrate in libertarian terms why you have a greater responsibility of care towards your children, should you have any, than your plumber has, or a government bureaucrat, or someone picked at random from the Kenyan telephone directory.

    Nonetheless, that duty exists. This demonstrates that the system needs more axioms. The same applies to all the interactions I’ve discussed, including death.

    I’ll also reiterate that the specifics of those rights and duties are informal, vary across and within cultures, and mediated by individuals. Some individuals and families will have different interpretations to others. This doesn’t prevent them being real, and entirely signficant. As I said before, the great flaw in collectivism is to try to move them to a non interpersonal, centrally controlled sphere.

    My responsibilities to my dying mother, my duty to carry out her post-mortem wishes, and my sense of ownership of her corpse, came from the same place that made her sacrifice and care for me when I was tiny, naked and defenseless, and that interaction simply cannot be analysed in your philosophy. Neither can it be transposed to State action.

  • Ian B

    Dammit I bin smited!

  • countingcats

    but why – without being too culturally heterodox – does your family have an automatically stronger claim than anybody else on your body post mortem?

    Because they are family and “anybody else” is not.

  • Brendan Halfweeg

    Talk about a new take on death taxes.

    The principle that allows the state to assume ownership of your corpse is the same principle that enables them to tax your estate upon death. It is immoral and against the principles of liberty which includes what happens to the things that you own during life. If a cornerstone of liberty is self-ownership, then an individual’s wishes for how his body is to be disposed of must also be acknowledged. In the absence of a will with explict instructions, then it must be the right of the executor (or next of kin in the case of intestate) to decide.

    A market in organs would effectively solve the issue.

  • countingcats

    As much as I own my home and bank account I also own my corporeal body and have a right to direct its disposition after death

    No you don’t.

    This is the issue that is assumed falsely in all the above discussion.

    In English common law there is no ownership of a human body, living or dead. Not your estate, not your family, not the hospital, not the state. Nobody.

    It is standard practice, tradition if you will, that decisions by the deceased and family are respected, but that is tradition, not law.

    Any arguments predicated on ownership of the corpse, by anyone, are baseless, and therefore the conclusions made are specious.

    This proposed action by the government seems to be aimed at changing this situation, and I reject it on that basis, amongst others. There are no circumstances in which I will concede to anyone the right to ownership of another human being, alive or dead.

  • countingcats

    But this is New Labour all over. In any battle between expediency and principle, with this mob, principle lies trussed on the ground, while expediency kicks three kinds of s**t out of him with lead weighted bovver boots.

    Anyone want to make a bet how long it will be before we start seeing organleggers in the UK?

  • Julian Taylor

    Paul Marks:

    Perhaps people will carry cards saying “my organs are not to be used for transplants”.

    Unfortunately the card has to be read in a hospital probably by a nurse who has very limited command of English so you would most likely get platitudes and a limited apology from the hospital even if they did ‘accidentally’ harvest your organs.

    On this point what about the religious aspect? It strikes me somewhat that Burke and Hare’s Gordon Brown’s law pretty much allows the state to override religious stipulations. Koranic law, unless I am mistaken, specifically demands that someone be buried intact … unless they are a martyr. What would the consequences be of a hospital harvesting a Muslim’s body for organs and are we therefore not also seeing the potential for a religion ID card … “I am a Muslim, please don’t steal my eyeballs”?

  • ian

    Way back there Andrew Said:

    Why does your family have an automatically stronger claim than anybody else on your body post mortem?

    Two points. First, if you don’t have any rules or laws on this, then your dead body can be homesteaded by whoever gets there first – not the sort of society I want to live (or die) in.

    Second, even accepting Andrew’s point about families, not automatically being the best unit of society, if you have entered into a family relationship – whether gay, straight, polygamous or whatever, then you have passed the point of his argument. If you haven’t done that and you are truly alone, well quite frankly if that happened to me, you can stick a rocket up my arse and send me to Mars for all I care.

    In the end surely we need to make organ donation more of a contractual relationship. I don’t agree with selling organs, I think that opens up too many of the problems highlighted by giving the state the power to harvest them. Surely all we need to say is, if you don’t join the club you can’t play. In other words if you haven’t agreed to donate your own organs, then you can’t have any from anyone else.

  • Brendan Halfweeg

    Ian,

    You said:

    … if you haven’t agreed to donate your own organs, then you can’t have any from anyone else…

    That isn’t going to solve the problem unless you prevent people in need of a transplant signing up to donate their useless, dying organs.

  • Ian B

    At the risk of creating ire, I’m going to repost the comment I made 3 1/2 hours ago as its designated slot is disappearing off up the page and there’s not much point in spending ages composing part of a conversation that doesn’t appear until the conversation has moved past it because it was randomly smitten…

    Andrew-

    You may be disappointed that I’m not going to answer your questions on a case by case basis 🙂 The reason for that is that as I see it your questions are predicated on your axiomatic system of strict individualist libertarianism. The best way to put this perhaps is that you have too few axioms; your system is too narrow. It can’t explain the universe of human behaviour. It is a very useful system in many respects; but I contend that it does not incorporate natural human behaviours which will arise as an externality. Indeed, my comparison of it with other rules systems (e.g. collectivism) was to illustrate that it has the same problems; it runs up eventually against human natures which it cannot cope with and thus it is forced to repress, (and which ultimately cannot be repressed, leading to some form of (usually disastrous) unintended consequences).

    Close social human interactions ultimately arise from our human nature which is a consequence of our evolutionary heritage. People in close social relationships as a matter of course have both expectations and responsibilities.

    [I must interrupt myself at this point to say that I see these as fundametnally different to statist interpretations of “responsibilities” which are predicated on mediation by an outside force (the State); indeed the attempt to impose models of personal interaction at a larger group level are what collectivisms are. My rights and responsibilites towards humans with which are directly interact (family, friends etc) are a natural process which self-mediate. They cannot be translated to a generalised collective system. If my friend Sarah has some problem that I can practically help with, I will feel both a desire and obligation to help her. If somebody called Sarah I do not know has a similar problem, the State forces me to help her, but since I have no contact with her there are no natural social forces moderating our interaction; the State tries to impose these and fails, causing distortions and eventually harm to all the “Me’s” and “Sarahs” in the collective.]

    So for instance humans naturally have a generalised urge to form pair bonds (which may be temporary or permanent and of various intensities). I cannot rationalise or explain these bonds in terms of the basic libertarian rights. I can say that libertarian rights allow any humans to form whatever contracts they wish, but cannot derive the form of those contracts from the rights. There are some practical benefits to pair bonds, but the reasons I may form one with our imaginary other person Sarah cannot be analysed in your axiomatic system. It has no room for my liking the shape of her bottom or the way she makes me feel shiny when she’s around. We can analyse them to some degree in terms of evolution (the shape of her bottom acts as a proxy for her superior genetic characteristics and I thus I’m emotionally impelled towards her in the hope of producing superior offspring) but even that is not a way in which most lovers will feel they wish to characterise their relationship.

    Likewise most people in romantic relationships demand some degree of “ownership” and sexual control over their spouses. That some people choose to abrogate those rights to some degree matters not a whit. Very few people allow their spouses complete sexual freedom. All but a very few strict polyamorites still will have some rules as to what is acceptable. They probably won’t have a written contract (although they may). Most people would find it kind of disquieting to regulate their every personal interaction via such formal means. People who enter sexual relationships naturally feel a level of control and responsibility over and for their lover’s behaviour. This isn’t a social construct. It is in our genes.

    When my mother was terminally ill last year, I felt a natural obligation to do all I could to assist her. Boiled down to pure rationality this made no sense. I could have spent the immense time and effort I (and my sister) “wasted” nursing a dying woman doing more productive, lucrative work. Had I done so I would have been wracked by misery and guilt. I would have broken a familal “contract” which was never written down nor stated by any party of mutual care. Neither do I wish to live in a world in which I would only have that duty of care had I signed an official contract stating it. Do we really want a world in which people do nothing which is not formally approved in the presence of a lawyer?

    So, I reiterate that I simply can’t answer your questions in your chosen terms. I don’t believe this issue can be shoehorned into an individualist axiomatic system, nor can most interpersonal relationships. In terms of human nature, the strict individualist who would deny any responsibility for care of other family members would be considered, basically, not a particularly nice person. This is why we have the word “selfish” in the lexicon. We all have degrees of ownership, rights and responsibilities to those people in our personal sphere. One of these is an interest in the disposition of their corpse. Another, for instance, is the repsonsibility of care for your own offspring. I can’t demonstrate in libertarian terms why you have a greater responsibility of care towards your children, should you have any, than your plumber has, or a government bureaucrat, or someone picked at random from the Kenyan telephone directory.

    Nonetheless, that duty exists. This demonstrates that the system needs more axioms. The same applies to all the interactions I’ve discussed, including death.

    I’ll also reiterate that the specifics of those rights and duties are informal, vary across and within cultures, and mediated by individuals. Some individuals and families will have different interpretations to others. This doesn’t prevent them being real, and entirely signficant. As I said before, the great flaw in collectivism is to try to move them to a non interpersonal, centrally controlled sphere.

    My responsibilities to my dying mother, my duty to carry out her post-mortem wishes, and my sense of ownership of her corpse, came from the same place that made her sacrifice and care for me when I was tiny, naked and defenseless, and that interaction simply cannot be analysed in your philosophy. Neither can it be transposed to State action.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    “Death is mostly a matter of feelings.” says Ian B

    I never thought of dying in quite that way before; I wonder what St Thomas Acquinas would have made of that?

    Mind you, after consuming too much wine on Friday evening, I also felt like death, so to speak.

    Seriously, what is so bad about this issue is the presumption, by the NHS and other state bodies (excuse the pun), that the needs of patients thereby give them the right to acquire the organs of the dead unless the latter had, in their life, given explicit refusal for their organs to be so used. The presumption is the mark of a situation where the state and its supporters blithely assume that the idea of individual sovereignty does not exist.

    It may be “practical” and convenient for the NHS to presume that our bodies belong to it, but practicality be damned.

    I agree with commenters above who have backed things like selling organs; I’d add that the opponents of biotechnology and genetic engineering overlook the fact that artificially created organs would deal with such controversies, assuming they worked.

  • Ian B

    Okay, that’s two smites for the same damned comment. I really don’t see the point. Unless I’m on some blacklist and being auto-smited, in which case you won’t see this either. Fuck it, it’s not worth the effort. Cheerio.

  • ian

    Brendan – There is no perfect answer but requiring/expecting some quid pro quo is at least a start

  • ian

    My responsibilities to my dying mother, my duty to carry out her post-mortem wishes, and my sense of ownership of her corpse, came from the same place that made her sacrifice and care for me when I was tiny, naked and defenseless, and that interaction simply cannot be analysed in your philosophy. Neither can it be transposed to State action.

    Spot on.

  • Nick M

    Apologies if this has been previously stated (and I shall not check because this is already a dense thread, what with Ian B, reposting his bloody essay and all).

    OK, the difference between the state and next of kin is that you have no (or very limited) real choice of state. Yeah you can emigrate (sometimes) but states seem much of a muchness these days. Note this “initiative” by Commissar Brown is modeled on a “highly successful” scheme in Spain.

    Not so with next of kin. Note this, from Perry’s last line:

    …be granted (or refused) by my designated next of kin, and no one else.

    That for me is the difference. Oh, that and it’s just so audaciously spookily reminiscent of death camps and Falun Gong and Soylent Green (is that what they plan to do with the left-overs?) and The Borg that it seems that Commissar Brown has lost all touch with any concept of individuality.

    I kid yea not, they’ll next be on about, from a Green Perspective, recycling bodies. PETA will issue a statement supporting the use of human skin in the clothing industry to save all those poor cows and pigs and whatnot.

  • Nick M

    First para – I meant by Someone Else!

  • Ian B

    My apologies, I seem to have lost my rag a bit back there. 🙁

    Is this smiting thing really necessary though?

  • About comment moderation or ‘smiting’ as it is known in this parish:

    Ian B asked:

    Is this smiting thing really necessary though?

    The answer is yes as the alternative is wading through three viagra advert, mobile phone adverts, Russian kiddie porn site links, xxxBigTits sites for every legitimate comment… 3:1… I kid you not. The fact is we have to put up with a number of false positives or comments will not be viable. Alas that is the down side of this blog being so popular… Samizdata is a spam magnet in ways sites with lower readership and technorati rankings do not have to worry about. Also because we have a Russian sounding name, we get huge amounts of Russian language commercial and porn spam. It sucks but there you have it.

    97% of the spam gets intercepted by the smitebot and you never even see it, but it is there, trust me on that. Of the 3% that gets through, I delete it as quickly as possible and you probably never see it. False positives run maybe 1-5% per day of posted comments (some days are worse than others, smitebot does seem to have been busier than usual in the last few days). This comment is certain to get smited in fact due to the word combinations. It is annoying as hell to get smited, I know, but unavoidable I fear.

  • Gabriel

    I agree that the state has no better claim to your organs than your family, but why – without being too culturally heterodox – does your family have an automatically stronger claim than anybody else on your body post mortem? All libertarian theories, from Locke onwards, have distinctly separated the trusteeship of parents, in childhood, from individual independence, in adulthood, of man. Why ought the family, parents or spouse be presumed to reinherit trusteeship, or ownership, after death?

    Intriguingly enough, the Common Law trumps the fitfully brilliant wiritings of a 17th century anti divine-right polemicist.
    Those who oppose the integrity of the family unit are enemies of Liberty

  • Ian B

    I was presuming the smiting was random as a kind of random sampling. It’s down to word combinations? Ah.

  • Those who oppose the integrity of the family unit are enemies of Liberty

    Sort of… those who legislate against the integrity of the family unit are enemies of Liberty, just as those who legislate to mandate the integrity of the family unit are enemies of Liberty.

    One size does not fit all but families (generally) work within the context of western civilisation and any action by the state to screw with that is A Very Bad Thing Indeed.

  • Brian

    I, Brian Richard Hooper, hereby declare that in the event I die and my body comes into the possession of the State, under no circumstances may the State, in the form of the National Health Service or any other component of the State, harvest my organs on any ground whatever until they have proved to the satisfaction of my heirs and assigns that none of the recipients are or ever have been

    Civil Servants, council employees or employees of any public sector organisation (especially the National health Service), or spouses or children thereof, or

    members or supporters of the Labour Party.

  • Oh no!

    I would, were I in a position to care after my death, be faintly amused if my organs were wanted by anyone else. I can imagine my Local Committee For Organ Redistribution saying, “Oh damn, he wasn’t much of a statist, rejected socialism and on top of that thought the separation of Mosque and Government was a good thing, so we expect the despicable views inherent in his molcules will taint whoever gets them. Is there a dog round here that needs a meal?”

  • Gabriel

    Sort of… those who legislate against the integrity of the family unit are enemies of Liberty, just as those who legislate to mandate the integrity of the family unit are enemies of Liberty.

    You are right on both points, of course, but those who seek to destroy family integrity through non-governmental methods are enemies of liberty in the long run too. Sometimes they realise it, as in the case of the New Left, sometimes they don’t, as with many radically individualist libertarians.
    On occasion the Personal really is the Political.

  • Sunfish

    I, Sunfish Q. Cichlidae, hereby declare that my organs are MINE, DAMNIT, MINE! I’ve been a volunteer blood donor for basically my entire adult life and am currently registered as an organ and marrow donor.

    That being said, at the first hint of making such donation mandatory, either pre- or post-mortem, I will immediately withdraw my consent. I will then have sex with prostitutes[1] and eat British beef[2], thus and therefore it will be illegal for any blood or organ donation entity in the US to accept them.

    Yeah, we’re gonna go scorched earth on these MFers.

    Those who oppose the integrity of the family unit are enemies of Liberty

    Those who would make me stay with my ex in the name of some horseshit family integrity are, I don’t know about enemies of Liberty but I have no use for them.

    [1] Lifetime blood donation deferral for the obvious reason.

    [2] FDA claims to be paranoid about BSE.

  • On occasion the Personal really is the Political

    That’s where I have to disagree, at least within the context of this (assuming I correctly interpret what you mean).

    Scandalising your family by have a loving relationship with a pygmy hippopotamus may not make you admirable but that does have to be your call (and the hippo of course) if you are indeed ‘free’. People must be at liberty to do a great many things that are often really really bad ideas.

    In truth I think that without their detractors having the active assistance of the state via direct or indirect means, the more reasonable side of traditional values (for want of a better word) are really quite capable of looking after themselves.

    When the downside of a great many personal choices are no longer mitigated by the state, long standing institutions which have proven highly successful in the past will, methinks, do rather well in the market place of ideas.

  • Julian Taylor

    Civil Servants, council employees or employees of any public sector organisation (especially the National health Service), or spouses or children thereof, or

    members or supporters of the Labour Party.

    There we differ I’m afraid. I would be fully in favour of those persons being fully elegible for organ harvesting while they are still alive, a la Monty Python Live Organ Transplants sketch in The Meaning of Life.

    Actually I am far more in favour of nest-feathering bureaucrats and politicians being publicly crucified in the new Wembley stadium, with National Lottery winners being awarded the right to bang in the nails on live TV. Bear in mind that less than 200 years in London this sort of activity practically formed the basis of a grand day out for all the family.

  • Laird

    Perry, thank you for the definition of “smiting”. I must confess that I was unfamiliar with the term, and was somewhat perplexed by Ian B’s posts.

    One question re the last sentence of your 3:24 PM post:

    It is annoying as hell to get smited, I know, but unavoidable I fear.

    In this usage, is “smited” the proper past tense of “smite”? I would have thought that it is “smitten”. Or perhaps the more archaic (but very biblical sounding) “smote”.

  • Midwesterner

    Proper? No. But some how being “smitten” just doesn’t seem to convey it properly. Adolescents are smitten with love.

    “Smited” has much more of the lightening-bolts-from-the-sky sort of feel to it.

    “Smote” ? Eh. “s’mote” sounds like somebody with slurred speech identifying a small speck of dust.

  • ‘Smote’ would be be correct, but we tend to use smited because it makes us laugh (we are easily amused).

  • Gabriel

    Scandalising your family by have a loving relationship with a pygmy hippopotamus may not make you admirable but that does have to be your call (and the hippo of course) if you are indeed ‘free’. People must be at liberty to do a great many things that are often really really bad ideas.

    This is, indeed, a bad idea, but I wouldn’t say it damaged the integrity of anyone’s family but their own. What I am really talking about are those proseltyse anti-family views, with or without state assistance. Those who hand out birth control to minors and encourage them to have abortions without parental permission are an example. Another might be the plays of Harold Pinter.

    In truth I think that without their detractors having the active assistance of the state via direct or indirect means, the more reasonable side of traditional values (for want of a better word) are really quite capable of looking after themselves.

    When the downside of a great many personal choices are no longer mitigated by the state, long standing institutions which have proven highly successful in the past will, methinks, do rather well in the market place of ideas.

    True, but it’s kind of a moot point don’t you think?
    I used to hold my political libertarianism primary and my cultural conservatism secondary because, as you say, once we get the one the other will fall into place.

    But we’re not going to get the one, at least any time soon. (Except, perhaps through a fiscal meltdown, but the establishment of a health polity from that is no more likely than a Fascist spasm or a Mad Max type entity).

    So, my current hope is we can break the vicious circle of the welfare state at the other end. This means that those on the Left side of the culture wars are, for me, the immediate enemy whether or not they are connected with the state in that specific instance. It also leaves open the theoretical option of trying to use state organs for conservative ends when it proves impossible to neutralise them. However, empirically as the Bush years have shown, this doesn’t really work and should not be tried out except in extremis.

  • Alasdair

    Perry – Jan 14 @ 09:4 PM – perhaps what is needed is a third button …

    We already have Preview and Post – would it be possible to have a Smote Detector button, too ?

  • No, because then it would be too easy to figure out how to break the system. And that would be bad.

  • True, but it’s kind of a moot point don’t you think?

    Obviously I don’t. I would rather spend my time trying to chuck spanners into the gears of state rather than try to make us less free so that we can become more free later maybe (which if I understand you, is your position)… because I do not think that is what would happen. It might also be why I so distrust conservatives.

  • Ian B

    I used to hold my political libertarianism primary and my cultural conservatism secondary because, as you say, once we get the one the other will fall into place.

    That wouldn’t happen anyway. Most people in general don’t want to be culturally conservative. You need some kind of sharia to impose it.

    This means that those on the Left side of the culture wars are, for me, the immediate enemy whether or not they are connected with the state in that specific instance.

    I think you’ve misread “the Left” anyway. They’re culturally conservative. They just have a slightly different set of rules to traditional conservatives. Both left and right have their own political correctnesses which they do their best to impose on everybody else, frequently against human nature. As discussed in the Spaggers thread.

    It also leaves open the theoretical option of trying to use state organs for conservative ends

    …which is why it’s incompatible to be poltiically liberal and culturally conservative. Either you want people to be free to make their own choices, or you don’t. Trying to enable choice in one area and stifle it by statist means in others is doomed to failure- just as for instance trying to have free markets in a rigidly statist polity doesn’t work either.

    The question of where the statist circle jerk can be broken is a difficult one, since each stage supports the others. My own inclination is that the weakest link is academia, but only marginally. We can start the circle anywhere but one characterisation would be-

    Academics provide research which support statist policies-
    Pressure groups promote the researcj to push for statist policies-
    Compliant media disseminate the pressure groups’ propaganda-
    Governments “respond” to the pressure groups’ demands in the media, and commission more research from academics-
    -and around we go.

    and so on. Of course it’s more complex than that (e.g. pressure groups directly funding research from monies they extract from the state, etc) but it gives a general idea.

    So we need to break a stage in the circle. Since the academic research is at least supposed to be based on science, it’s the most vulnerable link, since it could in theory be broken by demonstrating that the so-called science is mostly bollocks. Nonetheless that is very difficult due to support from the other institutions in our circle. It’s at least potentially feasible (e.g. AGW scepticism).

    I don’t think trying to attack the Left for being culturally liberal, when they aren’t anyway (name a cultural liberal in the Brown government? I can’t) is simply a waste of effort. You need to go for the people providing the justifications for the welfare state policies.

    Broadly speaking, that means some kind of thing involving mobs with blazing torches burning down the universities and medical schools, that kind of thing.

  • Gabriel

    Good luck with that. I mean it.

    rather than try to make us less free so that we can become more free later maybe (which if I understand you, is your position)

    Well, obviously that’s not my position. Nothing about fighting the culture wars means restricting anyone’s freedom, it’s all about propaganda and education* mostly. The future of western civilzation, if there is any, lies in the Home School Movement and related groups which seek to create an alternative culture to the contempoary welfare-degenerative-state.

    *Obviously, this would entail trying to stop the worst excesses of progressive “education” in the state school system, up until such time as we can abolish it.

    Ian B

    That wouldn’t happen anyway. Most people in general don’t want to be culturally conservative. You need some kind of sharia to impose it.

    Wrong.

    I think you’ve misread “the Left” anyway. They’re culturally conservative. They just have a slightly different set of rules to traditional conservatives. Both left and right have their own political correctnesses which they do their best to impose on everybody else, frequently against human nature. As discussed in the Spaggers thread.

    You confuse cultural conservatism – bizarrely to be frank – with social authoritarianism. Some cultural conservatives are authoritarian, some are not; some cultural progressives are authoritarian, some are not. You belong to the fourth category, I belong to the second and both of us happen to believe that the other’s combination is incoherent in the long run, but then we knew that already.

    blah, blah, blah

    Yes, it is indeed easy to refute someone’s point when you selectively crop ther statments. Have a cookie.
    For the record, no-ones claiming Brown’s cabinet is socially liberal. They are all culturally progressive, social authoritarians. You think only the second part is important? Fine, but don’t act bemused when other choose to focus on the second.

  • Gabriel

    You think only the second part is important? Fine, but don’t act bemused when other choose to focus on the second.

    Reverse those, obviously.

  • Gabriel:

    Well, obviously that’s not my position

    No, it’s not obvious, but if that is the case, we disagree a bit less than I thought.

  • Ian B

    Gabriel, I’m not nitpicking here when I say what I’m about to say, it’s central to my worldview-

    I don’t characterise myself as a cultural progressive, in the sense of the usual usage of the term “progressive” since that implies I adhere to the goals and ideas of the progressive movement, and I don’t. I’m in favour of social progress, I guess, but progress is a subjective term anyway. To an Islamist, imposing Sharia on Britain would be social progress. To a conservative, a return to their idea of family values would be progress. To a “progressive” the destruction of the nuclear family is progress. And so on.

    The only meaningful definition of (social) progress to me is progrees towards greater personal freedom. I don’t mind what people do with that; I’m as happy (though it’s none of my business) that people may choose monogamous nuclear families as choose a life of libertine polyamory. I believe that our current slide into authoritarianism is a reversal of previous progress (as defined by me) which I hope can itself be reversed, that is all.

    So I don’t consider myself a progressive, if that would mean preferring say single parents over married families. I simply don’t share the goals of the progressive movement. I said in our previous discussion that I believe that many of the “libertine” social changes which are associated with the progressive movement were and are not their goals- the libertinism of the 20th century was IMV a result of greater freedom and wealth and the progressives piggy-backed themselves onto it. It would have happened anyway. So I don’t believe that to approve (or rather not disapprove) of libertinism means that one is a progressive.

    On a practical note, i think the evidence of our own eyes shows that when constraints are removed, people choose to have more casual sexual and romantic relationships. They may do that when they’re younger and settle down when they’re older. That’s up to them, really. I think people should be able to make that choice and, on a personal level, I think sex is a good thing and am very glad I didn’t have to ask a vicar’s permission before doing it myself.

    I think you’ve fallen into the mindset of presuming that if people are doing things you don’t agree with, they must have been led into it by a conspiracy, propaganda etc. I don’t believe that’s true. I think the statist system has encouraged irresponsibility, yes, but that’s a seperate issue.

    Ultimately cultural conservatism, IMV, is a desire for an imposed rule set. You can compare sexual behaviour for instance to economics. In that analogy, marriage is a socialist system; imposed rules govern how many lovers you may have and under what circumstances, whereas we’ve moved to a more free-market system in which you may have as many lovers under whatever circumstances you choose so long as you’ve got sufficient purchasing power (ability to pull, to be crude about it). The “socialist” marriage system creates greater equality at the expense of freedom- in its ideal state everyone gets one, and precisely one, lover. In the free market, there will be generally more “sexual wealth” with most people getting more, a few getting less and an unfortunate minority getting none at all. Just as capitalism isn’t “imposed”- it occurs naturally when people have economic freedom, so “libertinism” or whatever you want to call it isn’t an imposition- it occurs naturally when you take the obligatory marriage rules away. You won’t get back to everybody marrying their first sweetheart for life without imposing those rules from above again, either by the state or overpowering religion (which acts as a kind of state).

    My own guess FWIW is that in a libertarian (as I define it) society most people will follow a mixed strategy. Stable relationships have a lot going for them, playing the field gets tiresome and is emotionally lacking in many respects. Falling in love won’t be abolished. But a shag behind Spaggers has its merits too.

    At the moment the whole thing is distorted by gross financial incentives of the single-parent-with-a-baby-gets-a-free-council-house variety so I don’t think it’s fair to judge “free market sexuality” as it exists in the current statist nightmare.

  • Gabriel

    I don’t characterise myself as a cultural progressive, in the sense of the usual usage of the term “progressive” since that implies I adhere to the goals and ideas of the progressive movement, and I don’t. I’m in favour of social progress, I guess, but progress is a subjective term anyway. To an Islamist, imposing Sharia on Britain would be social progress. To a conservative, a return to their idea of family values would be progress. To a “progressive” the destruction of the nuclear family is progress. And so on.

    Characterise yourself as what you want, but don’t play silly beggars with words. Cultural conservatism is a well-established concept; if you think there’s a better word than cultural-progressive for its opposite, which you plainly subscribe to, then please say.

    I simply don’t share the goals of the progressive movement. I said in our previous discussion that I believe that many of the “libertine” social changes which are associated with the progressive movement were and are not their goals- the libertinism of the 20th century was IMV a result of greater freedom and wealth and the progressives piggy-backed themselves onto it. It would have happened anyway.

    Well you’re just wrong then. not wrong-bad, just wrong-wrong. The cultural changes you laud happened after the assault on freedom by the west and were prosletysed by the exact same people who orchestrated them.

    You won’t get back to everybody marrying their first sweetheart for life without imposing those rules from above again, either by the state or overpowering religion (which acts as a kind of state).

    What kind of state?

    At the moment the whole thing is distorted by gross financial incentives of the single-parent-with-a-baby-gets-a-free-council-house variety so I don’t think it’s fair to judge “free market sexuality” as it exists in the current statist nightmare.

    I’m doing nothing of the sort, since I have no idea what free-market sexuality means, but if anyone’s coming close to doing anything of the sort it would seem to be you.

    Ironically, for what it’s worth, Ron Paul is with me on this one.

  • Paul Marks

    Actually many “cultural conservatives” have been rather libertarian. For example, Edmund Burke.

    Burke was not even a Tory – and the normal reaction of Tory folk to behaviour they thought “not right” (as opposed to a criminal aggression) was to shun the person who behaved badly.

    Only demented liberals like J.S. Mill thought that shunning was aggression (people should not be allowed to “parade their disapproval” according to John Stuart M.)

    Even the late 19th century organizations like the Personal Rights Association were Tory dominated.

    In the United States getting the government to enforce moral ideas was very much a Progressive idea in the early 20th century.

    Reactionaries did not believe in Progressive policies like castrating the sexually promiscuous.

    It is a matter of whether one can “save souls by coercing bodies”.

    Cultural conservatives do not tend to think that is possible.

    But Progressive types either do (like the Progressive Pilgrim Fathers of Mass) or do not believe that individual souls exist at all.

  • Paul Marks

    Actually if a libertarian can not be a cultural conservative it means that libertarinianism is a dead end.

    As cultures that are not conservative (i.e. where such things as family, honour, fair dealing, thrift, hard work, and so on) are not held in high regard do not tend to prosper in the long term – in all senses of the word “prosper”.

    The choice is not whether human beings should just do anything they feel like doing (like beasts) that is a clear road to destruction (for the “great society” of billions of people can not function on the level of the instincts of hunter gatherer packs). The choice is whether human beings should be restrained from acting on their most base desires by the state – or by morality, their sense of honour.

    “Do anything you feel like doing” (do not care about the future, abandon your wife and children to starve, use whatever drug happens by……) is not libertarianism – it is libertinism.

    It is the ENEMIES of libertarianism who define it as doing anything you feel like doing.

  • Ian B

    Gabriel, I’m not sure how I can respond to your post since I already answered all your ripostes in the post you replied to. I’d simply be reiterating points I already made, and there’s no use in that. The only thing I can add is to your “what kind of state?” question which I presume means regarding religion. My answer would be that where religon is powerful it becomes a de facto state; people are obligated to follow its rules which are imposed by priestly bureaucracy, and punished if they don’t. It acts in a very socialist manner, causing every “citizen” of the church to be an enforcer and informer. I think all that’s pretty clear just from observing the behaviour of societies based on fanatical religious dogma e.g. scientology, islam or christianity.

    Paul-

    Your second post seems to me to be a statement of the ultra-conservative position again- that if we allow people to do as they wish there will be chaos. This is what conservatives and lefties believe. I think that’s nonsense. For instance-

    “Do anything you feel like doing” (do not care about the future, abandon your wife and children to starve, use whatever drug happens by……) is not libertarianism – it is libertinism.

    …is a caricature of freedom. Why presume that everyone will want to abandon their wives and children to starve? People are social animals. Only a small proportion of psychopaths act as you describe. Libertinism is simply the right of people to choose. People will choose good things as well as bad things. If you don’t believe that, you argue in favour of statism “to save people from themselves”. That sure ain’t libertarian. It’s a moral panic, a fear of freedom. It’s the exact same argument that the left use against the free market- that if left to itself it will pillage and destroy society. That’s BS.

    As cultures that are not conservative (i.e. where such things as family, honour, fair dealing, thrift, hard work, and so on) are not held in high regard do not tend to prosper in the long term – in all senses of the word “prosper”.

    And how did we get to the presumption that giving people freedom will end such things as “honour” or “fair dealing”? Honour is a particularly sticky one. A cursory look at societies based very heavily on family loyalties and “honour” shows that they tend to be dangerous places where people murder each other for looking at their sister in a funny way.

    And while we’re at it, let’s not forget that the Roman Empire adopted Judaeo-Christian moral values, and promptly went into a terminal tailspin. Islam has plenty of family values and Klingon-level honour codes, and hasn’t produced anything of value in a thousand years. Western societies, which have been relatively liberal for many centuries, have produced the greatest human success the world has ever seen. It’s been a long time since we stoned adulterers in the streets, the historical record shows that extra- and pre-marital sex have always existed, yet somehow we’ve done rather well, despite the best efforts of conservatives of both left (progressives, that is) and right to spanner the works. We should be proud of our freedoms, not shamed by those who wish to enmesh us once more in a tribalist mindset that murders women for enjoying themselves.

    The ENEMIES of libertarianism caricature it as “doing anything you feel like doing” to scare people away from freedom. We should refute that caricature robustly, not accept it then pretend free societies won’t be “libertine”. They will be. They will also contain the normal social interactions between individuals that moderate behaviour positively, rather than by dogma. You can have freedom, or you can have no freedom. Choose.

  • Midwesterner

    And how did we get to the presumption that giving people freedom will end such things as “honour” or “fair dealing”?

    It is not ‘freedom’ that will lead to these things. It is upholding the rights of life liberty and property, and enforcing the contracts that are voluntarily entered into by individuals.

    Freedom from as opposed to freedom to means having one’s life liberty and property protected and therefore having one’s self prevented from abrogating other’s rights. That is what leads to honor, fair dealing, and other ‘conservative’ values.

  • nick gray

    Thankfully, this point may become academic. All the recent articles about getting heart cells to beat in dishes shows that organ donation will soon be totally unnecessary.
    However, I think that Perry will have to reword his declaration-
    “I, and only I, have full control over my DNA, and only I can give full permission for ANY harvesting of my cells for any purpose, and I will NEVER allow the State, or any Government instrument, to clone me for any purpose whatever!”