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Tags anarchism , atheism , barack obama , libertarianism , penn jillette

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Old 28th December 2008, 04:57 PM   #1
Tim Moen
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Political Atheism

Let me preface this by saying that I am not a conspiracy theorist, or, a NWO theorist.

About 5 years ago at the age of 30 I finally was able to break from my fundamentalist Christian upbringing and truly examine my beliefs in the light of reality. I tried to remain as objective as possible during this soul searching process and studied as much material as possible on both sides of the debate including many Christian apologists. The writings of Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens were very helpful during this period and really helped me understand the importance of living a life that is as congruent with reality as possible. This was a lengthy and very painful process that left palpable fractures in my family.

I can't tell you the feeling of relief that breaking free from this dogma has brought to my life. So much so that I now continually search my life for any dogma that I might be holding on to, because it feels great letting go and living a life that is more congruent with reality. I find Penn and Tellers: B.S. very entertaining and I must say that Penn's libertarian philosophy has always intrigued me, and in fact started me on a long road of questioning my own beliefs about politics.

After about a year of studying various political philosophies I currently consider myself a political atheist... I don't believe in government. You can't quantify government.... it doesn't appear to exist outside of our minds. There are men with guns, buildings, imaginary lines drawn on the land, people who claim moral authority... but no government. Government appears to be nothing more than a claimed monopoly on force... a construct of the mind designed to create an ethical heirarchy (some can use force, others cannot).

The consequence of the belief in government seems to be a whole lot of death.... much more than any belief in religion. Most of those around me believe in a god called 'democracy'... to those I would say I am an atheist to your 'democracy' in the way you don't believe in 'monarchy', or 'communism', or 'dictatorship'... I just take it one god more. Maybe thats a bad analogy, it may be more like a stone age tribesman believes that other gods than his particular tribes god exist, but, their particular god is more powerful (ie. Yaweh as opposed to Baal). Seems to me democracy is nothing more than mob rule. It has no more moral authority than any other failed god.

So fellow skeptics I would ask you to challenge my political atheism. Is it a dogmatic belief? Would you call it a religion in the same way that Christians call atheism a religion? Can you provide me with some ways in which belief in government and belief in a god are different? I feel I must be way off base here, because why wouldn't notable skeptics such as Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris, Dennet pick up the cause of erradicating such a harmful belief system?
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Old 28th December 2008, 05:11 PM   #2
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The analogy er... rather fails at some fundamental points.

However, in the absense of this thing you call "not a government", what would you rather have?

And why should anyone else accept this thing, that you would have us be under (whether it be anarchy or your own form of government)?
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Old 28th December 2008, 05:37 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by Lonewulf View Post
The analogy er... rather fails at some fundamental points.

However, in the absense of this thing you call "government", what would you rather have?

And why should anyone else accept this thing, that you would have us be under (whether it be anarchy or your own form of government)?
I'm not proposing anything. I wouldn't dream of telling you how to run your life. Thats my point. I don't believe I need someone else running my life, and I certainly don't need to elect someone to run yours. I wouldn't want you under any form of authority that you don't voluntarily submit to.

I think that some people would prefer to live a communal life and others a fiercely independent one. I think most would choose to participate in a free economy where trade of goods, services, and ideas are unrestricted. If you are afraid of suicide bombers... I imagine someone would market themselves as your protector for example... you could choose your level of protection based on your perceived need and your resources.

Can you explain to me how my analogy fails on several fundamental points, thats what I am really interested in? I'm not really interested in hearing arguments about whether living under one political system or another is more effective, I'm only interested in arguments from morality. I subscribe to the axiom that no man should commit an act of aggression against another man (murder, theft of property, assault, coercion etc.), therefore, I do not believe that government is valid because it gives certain men the right to commit aggressive acts against another.
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Old 28th December 2008, 05:54 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by Tim Moen View Post
I'm not proposing anything. I wouldn't dream of telling you how to run your life. Thats my point. I don't believe I need someone else running my life, and I certainly don't need to elect someone to run yours. I wouldn't want you under any form of authority that you don't voluntarily submit to.
Actually here is where a large number of people would completely disagree with you.

I would want other people telling me and others not to blow a stranger's brains out. I would want other people telling me and others not to steal, rob or rape.
I sure as hell would want someone else to tell you to drive your car on the right side of road.
Quote:
I think that some people would prefer to live a communal life and others a fiercely independent one. I think most would choose to participate in a free economy where trade of goods, services, and ideas are unrestricted. If you are afraid of suicide bombers... I imagine someone would market themselves as your protector for example... you could choose your level of protection based on your perceived need and your resources.
Sorry such anarchist beliefs are essentially pure selfishness.

There is nothing communal about such attitudes. Essentially what such a system will lead to might is right or the rich gaining even more power than they do right now. The rich get to protect themselves with hired guns while the poor get killed.
Quote:
Can you explain to me how my analogy fails on several fundamental points, thats what I am really interested in? I'm not really interested in hearing arguments about whether living under one political system or another is more effective, I'm only interested in arguments from morality. I subscribe to the axiom that no man should commit an act of aggression against another man (murder, theft of property, assault, coercion etc.), therefore, I do not believe that government is valid because it gives certain men the right to commit aggressive acts against another.
So who's going to enforce such a belief?
Who's going to stop Bob from blowing your brains out and moving on to another place where he isn't known?
While the police may not stop the primary criminal act, they can attempt to stop more from ocurring by incarcerating or killing the individual.
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Old 28th December 2008, 07:05 PM   #5
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Thanks for the response Pax.

Again I was hoping not to argue from effect, but, from morality... but I will address some of your points:

1) Violence is required to keep people in-line:
Most relationships I engage in are voluntary, I don't require threat of violence for me to cooperate with my neighbors and not steal and commit murder. I do these things because I understand that it benefits me more to be peaceful and cooperative. Violence from my experience creates more violence... not more non-violence.

2) Anarchism is selfish:
I'm not sure how to respond to this other than to say advocating cooperative and non-violent relationships seems to be on the opposite end of the spectrum from advocating violent and coercive ones.

I would choose to live by some rules as well in the absence of government. For example I'd probably only pay to drive on roads where the owner has made a rule about which side one should drive on. I would probably hire a third party arbitrator when engaging in commerce to ensure contract enforcement and warn me about criminals (those who have breeched contracts in the past and/or committed violent acts). For any problem that you are concerned about, I'm sure that somebody will find a way to solve it and sell it to you if its so important. I'm not sure how a government is required for this.

I would find your government apologia more compelling if you could argue from morality. For example if you could point out the ethical distinction between a mobster extorting protection money and government taxation I would appreciate it. Or, maybe you could explain how forcibly confining someone against their will... in an institutionalized rape room no less... is different than me kidnapping and holding another person captive.

Once you have established that 'government' actually exists... you have all your work ahead of you to explain how it can grant a man moral authority.
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Old 28th December 2008, 07:25 PM   #6
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Old 28th December 2008, 07:34 PM   #7
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Well, it doesn't really matter if you don't believe that government exists. It does, and there's not much you can do about it. You will find that out if you decide to break the law.

In short, the kind of society we have in which we can, in general, trust other people only exists when there is some kind of government making and enforcing rules. The point about driving on the correct side of the road is one good example of this.

We've seen what happens in lawless societies. Would we really prefer to live that way?
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Old 28th December 2008, 07:46 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Tim Moen View Post
After about a year of studying various political philosophies I currently consider myself a political atheist... I don't believe in government.

Right, so first of all, please stop using the term "political atheist" to mean "one who does not believe in government". I don't know what term you should be using, but the word "atheist" shouldn't have anything to do with it.

Also, and I'm adding this retrospectively, can you please explain exactly what you mean when you say "I don't believe in government". Some of the time it it looks like you mean "I don't believe that one form of government is better than another", some of the time it looks like you mean "I don't believe that governments physically exist", etc.

Originally Posted by Tim Moen View Post
You can't quantify government.... it doesn't appear to exist outside of our minds. There are men with guns, buildings, imaginary lines drawn on the land, people who claim moral authority... but no government. Government appears to be nothing more than a claimed monopoly on force... a construct of the mind designed to create an ethical heirarchy (some can use force, others cannot).
government |ˈgəvər(n)mənt| |ˈgəvə(r)mənt|
noun
1 [treated as sing. or pl. ] the governing body of a nation, state, or community : an agency of the federal government | [as adj. ] government controls.

Yes, governments function as a construct of the mind. If tomorrow everybody decided to stop acknowledging the current government then the government would no longer exist. This doesn't change the fact that today, many governments do exist and everybody knows this.

Originally Posted by Tim Moen View Post
The consequence of the belief in government seems to be a whole lot of death.... much more than any belief in religion.
What reason do you have to believe that? One of the main reasons we have governments is that without an enforced rule of law, some people would choose to break your non-aggression axiom. Also, please specify what exactly you are referring to as "a whole lot of death". If you are blaming government for war here, can you point to any anarchistic societies that have acted differently when faced with situations similar to the ones that have lead governed societies to kill or go to war?

And are you seriously saying that you can't think of a single advantage to the people that is granted by having governments around?

Originally Posted by Tim Moen View Post
Most of those around me believe in a god called 'democracy'... to those I would say I am an atheist to your 'democracy' in the way you don't believe in 'monarchy', or 'communism', or 'dictatorship'... I just take it one god more. Maybe thats a bad analogy,
Yes, it is a terrible analogy. Belief in the existence of gods doesn't have much to do with belief in the effectiveness of a system of government.

Originally Posted by Tim Moen View Post
it may be more like a stone age tribesman believes that other gods than his particular tribes god exist, but, their particular god is more powerful (ie. Yaweh as opposed to Baal).
I guess that makes more sense, but I don't see why you're so fixated with connecting belief in the effectiveness of systems of government to god beliefs.

Originally Posted by Tim Moen View Post
Seems to me democracy is nothing more than mob rule. It has no more moral authority than any other failed god.
Perhaps this is true if you believe in a universal, objective morality. I believe that for the most part, if the majority of the people in a society decide that a certain action is not moral, then the government, if so charged by the people, has the moral authority to act to stop people from doing it.

Originally Posted by Tim Moen View Post
So fellow skeptics I would ask you to challenge my political atheism. Is it a dogmatic belief?
That would depend on where your beliefs came from, and why you believe them.

Originally Posted by Tim Moen View Post
Would you call it a religion in the same way that Christians call atheism a religion?
A belief system maybe, but a religion, no. The strict definition of religion requires the belief and worship of a superhuman power.

Originally Posted by Tim Moen View Post
Can you provide me with some ways in which belief in government and belief in a god are different?
Here's the important one: belief in the effectiveness of a form of government is a personal opinion, while belief in a god makes a claim about the objective universe.

Originally Posted by Tim Moen View Post
I feel I must be way off base here, because why wouldn't notable skeptics such as Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris, Dennet pick up the cause of erradicating such a harmful belief system?
What belief system? If you are referring to the fact that we indoctrinate our children to believe that our government or form of government is the best, then I imagine the reason that skeptics don't "pick up the case" is that one's belief in the effectiveness of one form of government over another is not a claim about the objective universe, and thus has nothing to do with skeptics as they have nothing to be skeptical about.
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Old 28th December 2008, 07:52 PM   #9
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I don't want to clash with your ideas, but...http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=16u0wwCfoJ4
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Old 28th December 2008, 08:03 PM   #10
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Tim,

It's good to read what you said, as I have followed a similar path, except that I went from anarchism (voluntaryism) to atheism instead of the other way round.

I've had this same discussion with many, many sceptics over the years and haven't heard a compelling moral argument for government, except for those who deny individual property rights. Those who think that all property is actually owned by "the collective" and therefore anything done in the name of more evenly distributing that wealth is morally acceptable. I usually fail in trying to explain that property can only be owned by one individual at a time, and that there's no such thing as communal ownership. Some one individual must be in charge of administering usage of a piece of property, and they are the owner.

The response you got earlier is a fairly typical response. This fallacy is usually the first to come out:

You: I don't think government should be operating a police force.
Them: I wouldn't want to live in a world where no one is punished for crimes.

The idea that government alone is capable of punishing crimes is pretty dearly held by those who have faith in government. Crime prevention is a valuable good, and people are willing to pay for it, so it will be provided.

Next is usually the fallacy that only wealthy people will have whatever services that the government currently provides:

You: I don't think that there should be government.
Them: Then who will pay for the roads?
You: Whomever derives value from them. Who pays for parking lots and driveways?
Them: Then only rich people and rich places will have roads.

In the same way that only rich people get to eat, I guess. Rich cities will probably have better roads, with all kinds of high-technology, but is that such a bad thing? Wouldn't mass transit be more widely used without poor people paying for rich people's roads? The concept of roads is quite complex, until you understand the economics behind it, and then it's actually pretty simple.

It goes on, usually ending with a pragmatic argument that essentially says that the ends justify the means, "Some violence against non-violent people to achieve my goals is acceptable because it's not directed at me." And they think that individualists are selfish...

The primary problem, I think, is folk economics. Sceptics wouldn't dream of supporting folk medicine, but for some reason folk economics seems to be all the rage. It is this naïveté that leads many to a belief in government. Things like:

1) Minimum wages help poor people.
2) Trade deficits are bad things.
3) Unions protect workers from corporations.
4) Opportunity cost... what's opportunity cost?
5) There is no dead weight loss to taxation.
6) Monopolies exist naturally in a free market.
7) Making something illegal is the same as making it not happen.
8) Government employees do a better job because there is no profit margin.
9) People vote rationally.
10) Regulation keeps corporations from hurting consumers.

Etc.

Personally, I think that sceptics generally don't like the fact that free markets (read: free human interaction) cannot be controlled. Science is all about being able to measure, master, and control the natural world. Markets and humans cannot be controlled, and any attempt to do so is doomed to fail. It's comforting to view people as pieces on a chessboard who can be moved around at will by the central planners. The fact that each piece has it's own will and will resist being moved is painful for some to accept.
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Old 28th December 2008, 08:16 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by arthwollipot View Post
Well, it doesn't really matter if you don't believe that government exists. It does, and there's not much you can do about it. You will find that out if you decide to break the law.
Actually, no, it only exists as a concept. When I form a club with some other people, the club doesn't physically exist. All that exists are individual people who agree with me how the concept works. If I break the law, all I will find out is that there are people with guns and robes and jails who will enforce those laws. Government is only in their minds.

Originally Posted by arthwollipot View Post
In short, the kind of society we have in which we can, in general, trust other people only exists when there is some kind of government making and enforcing rules.
Governments aren't the only things to create and enforce rules. When you come to my property, there is a set of rules that must be followed to allow you to continue to be there. Currently, if you break my rules, I call up an enforcement agency to have you removed. Typically that is a government police force, but it need not be so.

Originally Posted by arthwollipot View Post
The point about driving on the correct side of the road is one good example of this.
Those rules are created by the owners of the road, which for most roads is the government. Owners of private roads don't require you to drive on the other side or not require you to pick a side. They do this because it's stupid to do otherwise. Industry standards exist for a reason.

Originally Posted by arthwollipot View Post
We've seen what happens in lawless societies. Would we really prefer to live that way?
Lawless societies and societies without government are not the same thing. There are plenty of lawless societies with government, why can't there be societies with law and order without government?
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Old 28th December 2008, 08:24 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by adamruth View Post
I went from anarchism (voluntaryism) to atheism instead of the other way round.
What?
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Old 28th December 2008, 08:26 PM   #13
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Quote:
A belief system maybe, but a religion, no. The strict definition of religion requires the belief and worship of a superhuman power.
You're correct about this, but I would add one caveat.

A belief in government requires the idea that acts which are immoral for individuals to commit become moral when committed by "the government." In a way this is a power which is possessed by a non-existent entity. Not a physical power, certainly, but something to consider.
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Old 28th December 2008, 08:28 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by phantomb View Post
What?
I was an anarchist before I was an atheist. My journey to anarchism touched off my journey to atheism.
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Old 28th December 2008, 08:35 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by adamruth View Post
I was an anarchist before I was an atheist. My journey to anarchism touched off my journey to atheism.
Ah, okay. I thought you were saying that you used to be an anarchist but are now an atheist instead.
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Old 28th December 2008, 08:37 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by adamruth View Post
Actually, no, it only exists as a concept. When I form a club with some other people, the club doesn't physically exist. All that exists are individual people who agree with me how the concept works. If I break the law, all I will find out is that there are people with guns and robes and jails who will enforce those laws. Government is only in their minds.
I don't agree. Government exists in the physicality of the people who hold government jobs. When the man in an immaculately tailored suit comes to the door and says "I work for the government", there's the tangible existence of the government right there at your door.

By your reasoning, religion doesn't exist either, since it exists only in the minds of its adherents. Families don't exist - there are just people who share parts of their DNA. I choose to acknowledge the independent existence of government as an entity because there is logical and practical benefit to doing so.

Originally Posted by adamruth View Post
Governments aren't the only things to create and enforce rules. When you come to my property, there is a set of rules that must be followed to allow you to continue to be there. Currently, if you break my rules, I call up an enforcement agency to have you removed. Typically that is a government police force, but it need not be so.

Those rules are created by the owners of the road, which for most roads is the government. Owners of private roads don't require you to drive on the other side or not require you to pick a side. They do this because it's stupid to do otherwise. Industry standards exist for a reason.
However, if your rules are in opposition to the government's rules, guess who has the final say? Hint: David Koresh thought that he could defy the government's rules.

Originally Posted by adamruth View Post
Lawless societies and societies without government are not the same thing. There are plenty of lawless societies with government, why can't there be societies with law and order without government?
Because left to their own devices, human beings will tend to be selfish, and do things for the sole benefit to themselves without regard for the desires of others. Also, when two unregulated human beings come into conflict, one of them is usually seriously injured or killed.

I'm quite happy with the existence of government, thank you very much, if it means that the guy I accidentally bump into at the store isn't going to shoot me because he's had a bad day.

Government exists to regulate society for the benefit of all. Sometimes this means that the government has to do things that you don't personally agree with. Such is the nature of compromise. I participate in the voting process partly because in my country, one of the government's rules is that I am required to, and partly because by voting in elections I have some small measure of influence over which people get chosen to participate in my country's governing body.
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Old 28th December 2008, 08:39 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by adamruth View Post
A belief in government requires the idea that acts which are immoral for individuals to commit become moral when committed by "the government."
Why should that be the case?
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Old 28th December 2008, 08:54 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by adamruth View Post
You're correct about this, but I would add one caveat.

A belief in government requires the idea that acts which are immoral for individuals to commit become moral when committed by "the government." In a way this is a power which is possessed by a non-existent entity. Not a physical power, certainly, but something to consider.
Here's a simplified scenario:

The people vote to decide what is a crime and what is not.

One of these crimes is locking people up.

The people appoint a representative to be in the government whose job is to judge criminals and sentence those who are found guilty.

The people appoint police to enforce their list of crimes, and agree that even if these police have to commit the crime of locking someone up, they will not be punished for doing so.

Someone commits a crime .

The judge decides to lock the criminal up.

The police carry out the sentence.

The people don't complain about the police because they remember that they had already decided that it was okay for them to commit that crime.

Now tell me, at what point in this scenario was power given to a non-existent entity?
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Old 28th December 2008, 08:55 PM   #19
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Originally Posted by arthwollipot View Post
I don't agree. Government exists in the physicality of the people who hold government jobs. When the man in an immaculately tailored suit comes to the door and says "I work for the government", there's the tangible existence of the government right there at your door.

By your reasoning, religion doesn't exist either, since it exists only in the minds of its adherents. Families don't exist - there are just people who share parts of their DNA. I choose to acknowledge the independent existence of government as an entity because there is logical and practical benefit to doing so.
When I say that these things don't exist, I mean that they don't exist outside the minds of those who choose to acknowledge them. The point being that a government has no will, power, authority, or capabilities that exist independent of the individual humans that make it up. Government, like religion, is incapable of any action, only the individuals within it can do things in its name. It's a consciousness raising concept to acknowledge that everything done in the name of government (or religion for that matter) was done by individuals.

Originally Posted by arthwollipot View Post
However, if your rules are in opposition to the government's rules, guess who has the final say? Hint: David Koresh thought that he could defy the government's rules.
My point was that those rules don't cease to exist when government does.

Originally Posted by arthwollipot View Post
Because left to their own devices, human beings will tend to be selfish, and do things for the sole benefit to themselves without regard for the desires of others. Also, when two unregulated human beings come into conflict, one of them is usually seriously injured or killed.
Couldn't agree more. I think you're conflating government with the goals of government. Those goals (helping people to get along with each other) will continue to exist without government.

Originally Posted by arthwollipot View Post
I'm quite happy with the existence of government, thank you very much, if it means that the guy I accidentally bump into at the store isn't going to shoot me because he's had a bad day.
Good for you, I want something better.
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Old 28th December 2008, 08:57 PM   #20
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Originally Posted by arthwollipot View Post
Why should that be the case?
Because a government which doesn't have authority to do things that individuals don't isn't a government at all, but a club.

It's what differentiates government from all other forms of organisation, a monopoly on the use and exercise of violence.
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Old 28th December 2008, 09:16 PM   #21
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Originally Posted by Tim Moen View Post
I'm not proposing anything. I wouldn't dream of telling you how to run your life. Thats my point. I don't believe I need someone else running my life, and I certainly don't need to elect someone to run yours. I wouldn't want you under any form of authority that you don't voluntarily submit to.

I think that some people would prefer to live a communal life and others a fiercely independent one. I think most would choose to participate in a free economy where trade of goods, services, and ideas are unrestricted. If you are afraid of suicide bombers... I imagine someone would market themselves as your protector for example... you could choose your level of protection based on your perceived need and your resources.
The problem is how to handle when one person's unrestricted services impedes upon the freedom of another person.

What you seem to be advocating is the blatant overpowering of the rich over the poor, the strong over the weak.

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Can you explain to me how my analogy fails on several fundamental points, thats what I am really interested in? I'm not really interested in hearing arguments about whether living under one political system or another is more effective, I'm only interested in arguments from morality. I subscribe to the axiom that no man should commit an act of aggression against another man (murder, theft of property, assault, coercion etc.), therefore, I do not believe that government is valid because it gives certain men the right to commit aggressive acts against another.
Religion falls, in the main, without any rituals or supernatural.

While a government has its rituals, it requires no belief in the supernatural. What you seem to be saying, is that if something is abstract, it cannot exist. That's not really all that true. You might as well state that emotions don't exist.

If you subscribe to the axiom that murder, theft of property, assault, and coercion are wrong in every respect, regardless of any kind of context or utility, then perhaps you can explain to me how you intend on preventing people in this Utopia of yours from murdering, stealing, assaulting, or coercing anyone else.

It seems that you're essentially saying that you don't like the house cat because it bites and scratches you from time to time, and instead want to institute a house tiger. No, a series of them. Rabid ones.
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Old 28th December 2008, 09:18 PM   #22
drkitten
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Originally Posted by adamruth View Post
Because a government which doesn't have authority to do things that individuals don't isn't a government at all, but a club.

It's what differentiates government from all other forms of organisation, a monopoly on the use and exercise of violence.
That's a common anarchist misconception, yes.

It's wrong, of course. Government is not about the use of force, but upon the authorization of force. Historical examples abound; for example, in Tokugawa-era Japan, any samurai was authorized to use force against the peasantry in a number of circumstances without being a member of the government. Similarly, under US law today, private citizens are routinely authorized to use force, for example, in defense of their lives and property or to prevent a greater harm.

What differentiates a government is that a government can authorize the use of force, either in advance or in retrospect. But this is just a specific instance of a government's more general ability to authorize or forbid behavior generally.

In other words, a government is not about "force," but about "rules." A government makes rules and ultimately decides what may and may not be done.

And since it's well-established that there are some people who do not like following rules and will not follow them absent compulsion, government is necessary.
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Old 28th December 2008, 09:50 PM   #23
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Originally Posted by phantomb View Post
Here's a simplified scenario:

The people vote to decide what is a crime and what is not.

One of these crimes is locking people up.

The people appoint a representative to be in the government whose job is to judge criminals and sentence those who are found guilty.

The people appoint police to enforce their list of crimes, and agree that even if these police have to commit the crime of locking someone up, they will not be punished for doing so.

Someone commits a crime .

The judge decides to lock the criminal up.

The police carry out the sentence.

The people don't complain about the police because they remember that they had already decided that it was okay for them to commit that crime.

Now tell me, at what point in this scenario was power given to a non-existent entity?
"The people don't complain..."

My point is that "the people" don't have, themselves, the right to imprison anyone. It would seem to then follow that they can't delegate that right to anyone. The way this is rationalised is that somehow "the government" has the right to imprison independent of its members. That's the non-existent entity that has a power which is "superhuman" (i.e. a power that an individual person doesn't possess).
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Old 28th December 2008, 09:58 PM   #24
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Originally Posted by Lonewulf View Post
What you seem to be advocating is the blatant overpowering of ... the strong over the weak.
Which describes democracy pretty well: The blatant overpowering of the majority over the minority.

Originally Posted by Lonewulf View Post
If you subscribe to the axiom that murder, theft of property, assault, and coercion are wrong in every respect, regardless of any kind of context or utility, then perhaps you can explain to me how you intend on preventing people in this Utopia of yours from murdering, stealing, assaulting, or coercing anyone else.
I can't speak for him but the axiom I subscribe to is that all initiated violence is wrong (that is, violence which is not used to defend against violence). And calling it "Utopia" is just wrong, no one claimed any kind of Utopia. Murderers, thieves, etc. will be stopped with violence, if necessary. I plan on protecting myself, my property, and my friends & family as needed.

You hire that task out to a group called "the government." But there are other ways to accomplish that goal.
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Old 28th December 2008, 10:02 PM   #25
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Originally Posted by adamruth View Post
"The people don't complain..."

My point is that "the people" don't have, themselves, the right to imprison anyone. It would seem to then follow that they can't delegate that right to anyone. The way this is rationalised is that somehow "the government" has the right to imprison independent of its members. That's the non-existent entity that has a power which is "superhuman" (i.e. a power that an individual person doesn't possess).
So, in your hypothetical anarchic utopia, what do you do to people who violate your rights? What do your "private enforcement companies" do? And what gives you, or them, the right to do it?
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Old 28th December 2008, 10:05 PM   #26
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Originally Posted by drkitten View Post
Government is not about the use of force, but upon the authorization of force. Historical examples abound; for example, in Tokugawa-era Japan, any samurai was authorized to use force against the peasantry in a number of circumstances without being a member of the government. Similarly, under US law today, private citizens are routinely authorized to use force, for example, in defense of their lives and property or to prevent a greater harm.
That's just a matter of semantics. The government reserves for itself the use of force and delegates it out. That's what a monopoly is. Think of a patent. Only you are allowed to implement the invention, however you can license others to use it. The default is that only the government can use force.

Originally Posted by drkitten View Post
But this is just a specific instance of a government's more general ability to authorize or forbid behavior generally.
Thorough force. There's nothing the government can do to prevent any behaviour except through the exercise of force. Most people comply when threatened by the government, but that "threat" is a threat of force.

Originally Posted by drkitten View Post
And since it's well-established that there are some people who do not like following rules and will not follow them absent compulsion, government is necessary.
Force is necessary, government is only one implementation of that.
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Old 28th December 2008, 10:10 PM   #27
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Originally Posted by adamruth View Post
Which describes democracy pretty well: The blatant overpowering of the majority over the minority.
An Athenian Democracy, perhaps.

The Constitutional Republic, as exists in the U.S., does not run in that way, and it's not like your criticism hasn't been brought up before (it's referred to as mob rule). If they did, you would not see any increase in civil rights, even when they are unpopular. If you had truly studied the present governments, you would know of the thing called checks and balances.

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I can't speak for him but the axiom I subscribe to is that all initiated violence is wrong (that is, violence which is not used to defend against violence).
Violence as a result of government action is, ideally, used to defend against or prevent violence.

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And calling it "Utopia" is just wrong, no one claimed any kind of Utopia.
My mistake, then...

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Murderers, thieves, etc. will be stopped with violence, if necessary. I plan on protecting myself, my property, and my friends & family as needed.
You're making the assumption that you are capable of protecting your property, your friends, and your family.

There are ways to create a superior force against an inferior force. A gang can potentially overwhelm you and take what they need from you. You may have heard of roving rape groups and war bands in some of the worst parts of Africa; that's what you would be looking at.

To defend against such a band, you'd need a larger band. But the larger your own band, the more potential you have of committing offenses against other weaker people. Corruption is almost certainly going to creep in, and so the larger band eventually becomes a threat, or has elements of it that become a threat.

It's an ever-escalating state, and with nothing to regulate it, it would escalate out of control.

And that's just the normal "state of living". There's also other things to worry about, such as unregulated businesses and manufacturing. What if we had no laws against pollutants? What would you do if you saw conditions as bad in the slums of the 1800s? Without regulation, the poor would suffer under the shadow of the rich, and unregulated industry would poo-poo over everything there is. The environmental damage would be catastrophic.
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Old 28th December 2008, 10:12 PM   #28
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Originally Posted by adamruth View Post
"The people don't complain..."

My point is that "the people" don't have, themselves, the right to imprison anyone.
No, but that's because they've intentionally given away that right with the realization that a single person cannot be trusted to decide something as important as whether it is appropriate to lock someone up.

Originally Posted by adamruth View Post
It would seem to then follow that they can't delegate that right to anyone.
Of course they can. What is right and what is wrong is decided primarily by the people themselves. If everyone in the society decides that they will collectively give police the right to lock up a criminal, who are you to tell them they can't?

Originally Posted by adamruth View Post
The way this is rationalised is that somehow "the government" has the right to imprison independent of its members. That's the non-existent entity that has a power which is "superhuman" (i.e. a power that an individual person doesn't possess).
It's not a rationalization, it's a decision. By living and voting in your society you help to decide what powers your government does and does not have. There is no non-existent entity.
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Old 28th December 2008, 10:14 PM   #29
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Originally Posted by adamruth View Post
Which describes democracy pretty well: The blatant overpowering of the majority over the minority.
Which, of course, is why the Founding Fathers (of the USA) set up a constitutional republic with a Bill of Rights to limit the majoritarian powers; a structure that the various constituencies accepted and continue to accept.

If you don't like it, the procedures for changing the structure are written into the structure itself.


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I can't speak for him but the axiom I subscribe to is that all initiated violence is wrong (that is, violence which is not used to defend against violence).
Ah, yes, another of the standard anarchist misconceptions. "All violence is wrong except for the sort I personally approve of."

For example, : "Murderers, thieves, etc. will be stopped with violence, if necessary."

Why is "theft" necessarily violent? In fact, it usually isn't; most theft is simple "theft by deception" and/or fraud, which is by definition non-violent. But you want to stop such frauds, "by violence, if necessary," which means you are willing to initiate violence despite the fact that "all initiated violence is wrong."

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I plan on protecting myself, my property, and my friends & family as needed.
The problem with this is that you are a lousy judge both of what is needed and of what is your property.

The longest standing civil right in the world --- literally --- is the right to commit what most Americans consider to be a crime. It's called the "right of access," it exists in Nordic law (Finland, Sweden, &c), and it predates all other codes of civil rights in the world. Simply stated, anyone has the (government-supported) right to wander over "private" land and to gather, for example, mushrooms and berries from that land.

In the USA, this would be called "trespassing." Is this a crime of violence? Is this a crime at all? If I wander onto "your property" and pick berries, how will you "protect" yourself?

Quote:
You hire that task out to a group called "the government."
No, you have always had the right to protect yourself; almost no government restricts it. What you do not have --- and will never have, if your neighbors have any input at all --- is the right to decide for yourself and yourself alone what deserves protection and how much force you may use to protect it.

And if you don't allow your neighbors any say in it, then a) you're being selfish, as before, and b) you have no reason to expect your neighbors to respect your self-created boundaries. Which means that when you pull a gun on someone picking berries, they're likely to come after YOU as one of the "murderers" that they've agreed among themselves justifies action.
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Old 28th December 2008, 10:14 PM   #30
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Originally Posted by Dunstan View Post
So, in your hypothetical anarchic utopia, what do you do to people who violate your rights? What do your "private enforcement companies" do? And what gives you, or them, the right to do it?
Why do people feel the need to poison the well with the term "utopia?"

Everyone has the right to defend themselves against aggression, that right can be delegated. It's all of the other things that the government does that the people don't have the right to delegate, such as taxation, regulation, immigration, and so on.
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Old 28th December 2008, 10:17 PM   #31
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Originally Posted by adamruth View Post
Why do people feel the need to poison the well with the term "utopia?"
Because it's not well-poisoning; it's an accurate description of a proposal for a idealized society that works in theory assuming a completely inaccurate view of human nature.

Why do people feel the need to poison the well in a discussion of my free energy machine with the term "perpetual motion"?

Why do people feel the need to poison the well in a discussion of how people with different skin color are morally and intellectually inferior with the term "racism"?
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Old 28th December 2008, 10:22 PM   #32
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Originally Posted by adamruth View Post
Why do people feel the need to poison the well with the term "utopia?"

Everyone has the right to defend themselves against aggression, that right can be delegated. It's all of the other things that the government does that the people don't have the right to delegate, such as taxation, regulation, immigration, and so on.
Don't dodge the question.

What is the extent of this "right to defend themselves"? What happens if the wrong has already been committed? Suppose Fred has broken into your home when you weren't there, and stolen some of your property. What will you do? Will you merely take it back? What if he's already sold it -- will you take some of his property as your compensation? What if he doesn't have any property worth taking? What if you came home and caught him in the act, and Fred immediately throws up his hands and says, "ok, I'll leave peacefully." Will you let him go, knowing that he'll likely try again to rob you or someone else?
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Old 28th December 2008, 10:24 PM   #33
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Originally Posted by adamruth View Post
That's just a matter of semantics. The government reserves for itself the use of force and delegates it out. That's what a monopoly is.
It does not.

It explicitly, for example, authorizes the right to use force in self-defense. That's not a delegation, however, as there is no duty to use force. The state is not telling you to use force or not, which means that it's not a state action.

This principle is even recognized legally. When I delegate something to you, and you do it wrongly, anyone you injure has a cause of action against me (respondeat superior). If you use force (wrongly), then the state is not responsible for your use of force and you have no claim against the state.


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Thorough force. There's nothing the government can do to prevent any behaviour except through the exercise of force.
Not at all. Most people follow rules simply because they are rules (are you familiar with the work of the psychologist Stanley Milgram?), not because they are threatened. In fact, most people will follow rules even when they are told explicitly that they need not follow rules.

We're social animals, and that's how social animals behave.


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Force is necessary, government is only one implementation of that.
Yes, but government is not about "force," but about "rules." And it is necessary that a monopoly on rule-making exist (for a single society) to ensure stability --- you've seen what happens when that breaks down in the newspapers. Any organization with an ultimate monopoly on rule-making is a government, almost by definition.

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Old 28th December 2008, 10:28 PM   #34
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Originally Posted by Lonewulf View Post
An Athenian Democracy, perhaps.

The Constitutional Republic, as exists in the U.S., does not run in that way, and it's not like your criticism hasn't been brought up before (it's referred to as mob rule). If they did, you would not see any increase in civil rights, even when they are unpopular. If you had truly studied the present governments, you would know of the thing called checks and balances.
The practical difference is a matter of degrees. Certainly homosexuals in California don't feel too good about check and balances. Neither do marijuana smokers or any other number of minority groups.

I'm not saying that all implementations of government or democracy are equal, but in the end they all boil down to a powerful group enforcing it's will on a less powerful group. So pointing to anarchy and saying it also suffers from this is a bit disingenuous.

Originally Posted by Lonewulf View Post
Violence as a result of government action is, ideally, used to defend against or prevent violence.
If that's all government did, then I'd have very little to complain about.

Originally Posted by Lonewulf View Post
You're making the assumption that you are capable of protecting your property, your friends, and your family.
That's why I would hire it out.

Originally Posted by Lonewulf View Post
There are ways to create a superior force against an inferior force. A gang can potentially overwhelm you and take what they need from you.
The IRS proves that in spades.

Originally Posted by Lonewulf View Post
You may have heard of roving rape groups and war bands in some of the worst parts of Africa; that's what you would be looking at.
But most those places have governments, how is that possible?

It will always possible for a strong group to overpower a weak group, that's undeniable, I don't claim otherwise. People team up for mutual protection in a number of ways, including government. What I advocate is not the elimination of such groups, but just a changed nature of the groups.

Originally Posted by Lonewulf View Post
To defend against such a band, you'd need a larger band. But the larger your own band, the more potential you have of committing offenses against other weaker people.

It's an ever-escalating state, and with nothing to regulate it, it would escalate out of control.
This applies equally well to government as to any other type of organisation. There's nothing magical about government which means it prevents this better.

Originally Posted by Lonewulf View Post
And that's just the normal "state of living". There's also other things to worry about, such as unregulated businesses and manufacturing. What if we had no laws against pollutants? What would you do if you saw conditions as bad in the slums of the 1800s? Without regulation, the poor would suffer under the shadow of the rich, and unregulated industry would poo-poo over everything there is. The environmental damage would be catastrophic.
These are just assertions, which I disagree with. Pollution is a property rights issue, and it's no different than any other form of vandalism and the remedies are the same. Businesses are kept in check by competition better than any regulation.

If I saw conditions as bad as the slums in the 1800s, I'd do what was done to end it: Innovate technology and build wealth.
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Old 28th December 2008, 10:29 PM   #35
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It surprises me that you can say

Originally Posted by adamruth View Post
...a government has no will, power, authority, or capabilities that exist independent of the individual humans that make it up.
And in the very next breath you say

Originally Posted by adamruth View Post
It's what differentiates government from all other forms of organisation, a monopoly on the use and exercise of violence.
Does government use and exercise violence, or do humans do so?

You also say that the rules don't cease to exist when the government does. My response is show me the evidence. If you can show me a society that exists without some kind of governing body, I will be rather surprised.

It is in the nature of humans to govern, and to be governed
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Old 28th December 2008, 10:31 PM   #36
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Originally Posted by drkitten View Post
Because it's not well-poisoning; it's an accurate description of a proposal for a idealized society that works in theory assuming a completely inaccurate view of human nature.

Why do people feel the need to poison the well in a discussion of my free energy machine with the term "perpetual motion"?

Why do people feel the need to poison the well in a discussion of how people with different skin color are morally and intellectually inferior with the term "racism"?
It was you who added the adjective "idealized." It's either a poisoning of the well or a straw man, since at no point did I claim that my ideas are "ideal."

And it's not me with the inaccurate view of human nature. It's you who thinks that people somehow fundamentally change when they become members of government.
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Old 28th December 2008, 10:33 PM   #37
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Originally Posted by adamruth View Post
I'm not saying that all implementations of government or democracy are equal, but in the end they all boil down to a powerful group enforcing it's will on a less powerful group.
And that's why blacks now no longer have separate water fountains and can ride in the front of the bus.

They became so powerful that they were able to enforce their will on the less powerful white majority in the United States.

Quote:
So pointing to anarchy and saying it also suffers from this is a bit disingenuous.
Not at all. Anarchy is designed to ensure that it is rule by force instead of rule by law. What is admittedly a flaw in some versions of democracy instead becomes the entire reason for being.
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Old 28th December 2008, 10:43 PM   #38
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Originally Posted by Tim Moen View Post
Let me preface this by saying that I am not a conspiracy theorist, or, a NWO theorist.

About 5 years ago at the age of 30 I finally was able to break from my fundamentalist Christian upbringing and truly examine my beliefs in the light of reality. I tried to remain as objective as possible during this soul searching process and studied as much material as possible on both sides of the debate including many Christian apologists. The writings of Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens were very helpful during this period and really helped me understand the importance of living a life that is as congruent with reality as possible. This was a lengthy and very painful process that left palpable fractures in my family.

I can't tell you the feeling of relief that breaking free from this dogma has brought to my life. So much so that I now continually search my life for any dogma that I might be holding on to, because it feels great letting go and living a life that is more congruent with reality. I find Penn and Tellers: B.S. very entertaining and I must say that Penn's libertarian philosophy has always intrigued me, and in fact started me on a long road of questioning my own beliefs about politics.

After about a year of studying various political philosophies I currently consider myself a political atheist... I don't believe in government. You can't quantify government.... it doesn't appear to exist outside of our minds. There are men with guns, buildings, imaginary lines drawn on the land, people who claim moral authority... but no government. Government appears to be nothing more than a claimed monopoly on force... a construct of the mind designed to create an ethical heirarchy (some can use force, others cannot).

The consequence of the belief in government seems to be a whole lot of death.... much more than any belief in religion. Most of those around me believe in a god called 'democracy'... to those I would say I am an atheist to your 'democracy' in the way you don't believe in 'monarchy', or 'communism', or 'dictatorship'... I just take it one god more. Maybe thats a bad analogy, it may be more like a stone age tribesman believes that other gods than his particular tribes god exist, but, their particular god is more powerful (ie. Yaweh as opposed to Baal). Seems to me democracy is nothing more than mob rule. It has no more moral authority than any other failed god.

So fellow skeptics I would ask you to challenge my political atheism. Is it a dogmatic belief? Would you call it a religion in the same way that Christians call atheism a religion? Can you provide me with some ways in which belief in government and belief in a god are different? I feel I must be way off base here, because why wouldn't notable skeptics such as Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris, Dennet pick up the cause of erradicating such a harmful belief system?
I would have a different take on this, and I have to point out often how similar are the feeling of relief when departing Fundamentalist, but also scientologists, and even Catholic upbringing as well. And often it is the dogma, and while I didn't take up atheism, it did lead me towards a sufi approach to being protestant, but that's another story.

By Political atheist, I would use for myself the wording miltantly nonpartisan, as no party truly worth of total support, both have their flaws. Thats my take on it.
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Old 28th December 2008, 10:47 PM   #39
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Originally Posted by Dunstan View Post
Don't dodge the question.

What is the extent of this "right to defend themselves"? What happens if the wrong has already been committed? Suppose Fred has broken into your home when you weren't there, and stolen some of your property. What will you do? Will you merely take it back? What if he's already sold it -- will you take some of his property as your compensation? What if he doesn't have any property worth taking? What if you came home and caught him in the act, and Fred immediately throws up his hands and says, "ok, I'll leave peacefully." Will you let him go, knowing that he'll likely try again to rob you or someone else?
What happens as far as defending against aggression isn't much different than how it happens with government. It should focus more on compensation than punishment, however, that seems more valuable. As far as details go, that would be left to the market. Different places may choose to handle it differently, I don't propose that I know the specific details since I'm not talking about creating a system, but creating a system to create systems (a meta-system if you will).

You're probably looking for something more specific, though, so here's how I could see it happening:

He would need to replace it and then compensate me for the time and trouble. If he doesn't have any property worth taking, then he would need to work to pay it off. But what would probably happen is that I would have insurance which would pay me out and then they would deal with getting compensated. If I caught him then he would need to compensate me for the trouble. The compensation would need to be high enough to act as a deterrent.

The details would be ironed out by the market (courts, enforcement, and insurance). Ideas that work well would survive and ideas that worked poorly would die out.

Now before I see more people complain that this isn't perfect and therefore invalid let me say that I'm not claiming it's perfect. The fact that Fred is taking my property adds an imperfection into the world and there will never by any perfect remedy.
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Old 28th December 2008, 10:53 PM   #40
adamruth
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Originally Posted by phantomb View Post
No, but that's because they've intentionally given away that right with the realization that a single person cannot be trusted to decide something as important as whether it is appropriate to lock someone up.
You have the right to imprison someone? Are you saying that you have the right to do everything that the government does, but you've given that right to the government?

You have to right to take some of my property and give it to another?
You have the right to wage war on people thousands of miles away?
You have the right to stop me from hiring my neighbour to to unclog my drains unless he's paid you a license fee?

Where exactly did you get these rights?

Originally Posted by phantomb View Post
What is right and what is wrong is decided primarily by the people themselves. If everyone in the society decides that they will collectively give police the right to lock up a criminal, who are you to tell them they can't?
If that "criminal" has done nothing to harm another person, then who are you to say it's okay to do violence on them?
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