Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Spe Salve

The Pope's new encyclical on hope is out. I was just reading it (instead of the contract cases I should be reading). I would be interested in hearing what you guys think of it.


Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Salem Place: Check Them Out!

Hello all! Lately I've been busy with a job, a baby in the oven, and a new rock band. I've shared the job, I can't share the baby (yet), but I can share the band. Here is the link to our myspace. Enjoy!


Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Handing out Miraculous Medals on Halloween . . .

Is this idea totally POD or what? As for me, I didn't go out and buy candy. I have some leftover candy and whatnots in a bag that I will hand out if anyone happens to knock. I live in an apartment complex, though, so I'm not anticipating a huge crowd. Happy All Hallows Eve!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

On a lighter note....

This weekend is Medieval Fest/Parents' Weekend at Christendom, and I'm going to go enjoy it one more time. Hopefully, I will be able to actually see the various things planned, instead of being responsible for some of them. I was looking at pictures from then, and found these two, which seemed very appropriate for this blog.

Thursday, October 11, 2007


Yes, this is the kind of world in which we live . . .

Monday, October 01, 2007

Bella is coming...

The theater info is now out....Make plans to get out on openning week!

John Paul II on the Use of Violence

Pope John Paul II, Apostolic Letter Tertio Millennio Adveniente (November 10, 1994). As the Jubilee year for the new millennium approaches, the Pontiff calls for "a spirit of repentance" for the historical acquiescence of "sons and daughters of the Church" in "intolerance and even the use of violence in the service of truth", especially during the second millennium now ending. He goes on (#35):

It is very true that an equitable historical judgment must include an attentive study of the cultural conditions of that time. Under their powerful influence, many, perhaps, considered in all good faith that a sincere witness to the truth required the simultaneous suppression, or at least the isolation, of contrary opinions (sinceram veritatis testificationem simul iubere alienas opiniones extingui vel saltem secludi42). Many causes often converged to sow the seeds of that intolerance and immoderate zeal from which only a relatively few great and truly free minds, deeply penetrated by God, were able to detach themselves. Nevertheless, recognizing these mitigating circumstances does not dispense the Church from the duty of profoundly lamenting the weakness of so many of her own sons who disfigured her countenance, preventing it from fully reflecting the image of the crucified Lord who was the supreme witness to patient love and humble meekness. From these painful episodes of the past a lesson for the future emerges, namely, that every Christian should be led to keep firmly in mind this golden principle enunciated by the Council: "Truth does not impose itself except by virtue of its own truth, which wins over the mind with both gentleness and power" (Dignitatis Humanae, #1).


Sunday, September 30, 2007

The Use of Analogy

Sometimes analogies and examples can help, but sometimes they just make things more confusing. I think the "government" discussion would go a lot farther if everyone refrained from further analogies or real-life examples until the basics are hammered out. It might also make the posts shorter and easier to read. Just a thought...

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Pro-Life Prayers

Hey all,
Just asking all of you to keep pro-life work in your prayers the next couple months. There is a national campaign kicking off tomorrow that will put a prayer vigil on the doorstep of Planned Parenthoods in 89 cities across the nation for forty days. Here in Ann Arbor it will be a 24/7 prayer vigil. In addition, there is a great campaign going on in Illinois right now and the movie 'Bella' comes out nation wide on October 26. It could be a great few months!
God Bless!

Friday, September 21, 2007

What is Caesar, and what is due to Caesar?

Interesting. And, I regret to say, a good segue. Sorry.

He's suing God for "Making terroristic threats, inspiring fear and causing 'widespread death, destruction and terrorization of millions upon millions of the Earth's inhabitants.'"

If his God is Caesar, (the State) then he's certainly suing the correct entity. But if he believes he is suing the omnipotent, all-good creator of the universe, I think he's slightly confused. Death, violence and terror are the domain of coercive, tax-based government. Mercy, kindness, forbearance, long-suffering, charity and justice are of God and his followers. The two dominions are always juxtaposed, by their respective natures.

I don't think God believes that having men forcing (at gunpoint, ultimately) other men to surrender the fruits of their labor (even for a good end) is justifiable. It reeks of consequentialism.

To believe that taxation qua forcibly depriving another of their property is necessary because of fallen human nature is to say that taxation is an evil that you can justifiably intend in itself, not an evil you may merely allow. (Unless, in some twisted way, one considers being forced to surrender that which belongs to you a "good?") Many do consider it a "good. "

Can taxation be compared to a painful medicine that benefits an ailing body politic? Is it like a lancet, which causes pain while draining an abscess, thereby benefiting the whole body? No.

First, the body politic is not one leviathan conglomeration of humanity. It is a conglomeration of men with power and and men who allow it to have certain powers (which the men with power invariably enhance and abuse.)

Second, the ailment afflicting any body politic is sin. The nature of the body politic (fallen human nature) is sinful. However, all sin is individual. Unless one believes that force can change human nature, one can only treat the symptoms of the illness. Some of these symptoms (individual sins) are actions that violate the rights of other individuals. Anyone can, in theory and practice, justly prevent or correct such violations. The state, in practice, has proven itself incapable.

Third, medical care must be voluntary. Even the state legal system recognizes this: a man may refuse medical assistance while he is still conscious. If he lapses into unconsciousness, it is considered consent for treatment. Do any of you consider yourselves unconscious? If so, do you think that those in power are somehow magically more conscious than you, now that they are in possession of power?

Can one compare taxation to commandeering another person's property, in a grave extreme, to escape harm? (Robbers, for example?) Certainly, one may morally commandeer a vehicle to escape from people who wish to unjustly kill you. Is this at all a good comparison, however? It would be a mistake to think that this is a Hobbesian world in which we live, where one must lock one's doors, because failure to do so would mean someone would doubtless enter your house and deprive you of life and property. Somehow, I don't think that a mere common robber could deprive me of half my annual income. It takes a special kind of robber to do that. One with a pretentious claim to moral legitimacy. One who says he's taking my property for a good cause, and if I don't comply, he will kill me or ruin my life. Even though I may give 50% of the contents of my wallet to a man with a gun stuck in in my ribs, and though he assures me he will do good things with my money, it does not justify his doing it. Does it?

The fact is, we do not live in a world where it is continually necessary to take from others to escape dire evil. In fact, a good many of the evils we suffer come from believing that we do live in such a world. Such a world view is paranoid in its truest sense. To live in such paranoia is to really a possess a cynical view on human nature, whether this cynicism is deliberately possessed or not.

Coercive government is not a part of true human nature. It is merely a symptom of fallen human nature. It is, as Augustine believed, the result of sin. Anyone can treat the manifested symptoms of fallen human nature, when manifested in acts against the life, liberty and property of human beings sharing an equal nature. One can only correct the underlying cause of sin by voluntary means. The coercive state isn't about "voluntary." At all. It merely considers itself (and is considered by its supporters) as an impartial rectifier of the symptoms, and sometimes the "causes," of fallen human nature. It isn't impartial. And it has no serious incentive to be impartial. The coercive state is partial to itself, and it perennially violates the rights of others in order to give itself partial treatment. Individuals do have incentive to be partial to others. (Christ commanded it, in fact.) But in some cases, individuals have the right to deny others from pursuing an injustice against another human being: (self-defense against rape or arson, recovering stolen goods on one's own.) There is no reason why a set of men chosen by 51% of a population have some God-given proprietary claim on the administration of justice. Especially when it has rendered such a laughable claim null and void through its patent lack of administering true justice.

Thought you might be interested

This is the second story on this topic:

''God'' responds to legislator's lawsuit, saying Nebraska court lacks jurisdiction
Posted: 2007-09-20 20:30:10
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - A legislator who filed a lawsuit against God has gotten something he might not have expected: a response. One of two court filings from "God" came Wednesday under otherworldly circumstances, according to John Friend, clerk of the Douglas County District Court in Omaha. "This one miraculously appeared on the counter. It just all of a sudden was here - poof!" Friend said. State Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha sued God last week, seeking a permanent injunction against the Almighty for making terroristic threats, inspiring fear and causing "widespread death, destruction and terrorization of millions upon millions of the Earth's inhabitants." Chambers, a self-proclaimed agnostic who often criticizes Christians, said his filing was triggered by a federal lawsuit he considers frivolous. He said he's trying to makes the point that anybody can sue anybody. Not so, says "God." His response argues that the defendant is immune from some earthly laws and the court lacks jurisdiction. It adds that blaming God for human oppression and suffering misses an important point. "I created man and woman with free will and next to the promise of immortal life, free will is my greatest gift to you," according to the response, as read by Friend. There was no contact information on the filing, although St. Michael the Archangel is listed as a witness, Friend said. A second response from "God" disputing Chambers' allegations lists a phone number for a Corpus Christi law office. A message left for that office was not immediately returned Thursday. Attempts to reach Chambers by phone and at his Capitol office Thursday were unsuccessful. Associated Press Writer Anna Jo Bratton in Omaha contributed to this report.
Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. The information contained in the AP news report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority of The Associated Press. All active hyperlinks have been inserted by AOL.
09/20/07 20:29 EDT

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Boycott Celebrity "News"

I had this idea today that we should all band together to boycott fake news about celebrities. It has been thrust upon my notice that this is an insidious form of slander, gossip, or detraction that masquerades as news, causing two detrimental effects. First, the spread of such gossip or detraction (for, sadly, the news is often true) is extremely harmful to the culture at large. It increases envy in those who hear it, who rejoice in the misdeeds of the very rich and very famous. This attitude is so common that I accuse no one in particular by mentioning it, but I do want to underscore how serious it is to the soul. Also, as always, gossip kills three parties: the one whose reputation it injures, the one who propagates it, and the one who hears it. Second, in occupying the attention of the media, such reports serve to clog the airways and prevent us from receiving the real news about what is happening in the world. All serious journalists must cringe to see report after report about Britney Spears while truly grave and terrible things happening around the world every day get pushed to the back page of the paper. We should cringe too. However, we should also take action!

Here is my proposed plan of attack: Refuse to buy any publication that has celebrity gossip on the front page or in a prominent place (I assume that everyone here already avoids tabloids and entertainment/celebrity magazines). If you happen to be watching the news on television and a report about a celebrity comes on, change the channel. Never click on any link or online advertisement having to do with a celebrity. If people are talking about such reports, try to change the subject (in a charitable way, of course). Pass this message on to your friends. I know this problem is so widespread that it seems naive to think we could make a difference in the U.S. entertainment culture, but I think it's worth it to make an attempt. We have to build a culture of life!

What do y'all think?

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Meanwhile, on the home front...

Yum yum.


The Associated PressMONCKS CORNER, S.C. -
An alligator bit a 59-year-old man's arm off Sunday at a Lake Moultrie recreation area, officials said.
Bill Hedden, 59, was in critical condition at the Medical University of South Carolina. His arm, retrieved from the belly of the alligator after wildlife officers shot it, was on ice while doctors evaluated whether it could be reattached, said Bill Salisbury, Berkeley County Rescue Squad captain.
Wildlife officials said it was one of the worst gator attacks in the state, but no one saw it except the victim.
Hedden stumbled into a party of picnickers with his arm missing and blood gushing from his wound. Five nurses were among those at the gathering and put ice on his wound and kept him awake until paramedics could arrive.
Jerome Bien followed the man's trail of blood to the shore, where he saw the gator with victim's arm in its jaw. "He was just smiling at me," Bien said.
Department of Natural Resources officers showed up later and shot the animal, which was nearly 12-feet long and weight about 550 pounds. The officers cut the gator open and removed the man's arm, which was bagged, put in an ice cooler and rushed to the hospital with a police escort.
"The arm, surprisingly, was not chewed up like you would think it would be," Salisbury said.
A hospital spokeswoman said medical laws prohibited her from discussing Hedden's treatment.
There have been no confirmed deaths involving an alligator attack, state wildlife officials say.
"To my knowledge this is the worst case scenario we've had in the state," said Sam Chappelear, wildlife regional coordinator for the state Natural Resources Department. He said it's rare to see an alligator so large.
Officials think Hedden was snorkeling when he was attacked. "Basically until we talk to him, no one knows exactly what happened," Chappelear said.
Bien said the man's arm was completely torn off. "He was bleeding bad," Bien said. "His arm was clean off the socket."

The report in our local paper added that despite all this, the man "was in high spirits."

Monday, September 17, 2007

Bitterness in Italy

Wowzers. Talk about a frigid reaction.

NAPLES - He is known as the bishop of tolerance. Of immigrants. Of deprived persons. He has opened diocesan structures for Muslims to say their Friday prayers, and Ukrainian/Moldavian Orthodox to use for their worship.
But now he has prohibited the celebration of the 1962 Mass restored as of September 14 by Benedict XVI's Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum.
With a telephone call, Mons. Raffaele Nogaro ordered the rector of the Shrine of Sant'Anna in Caserta, Don Giovanni Battista Gionti, to stop the Mass he was planning to celebrate at 8 p.m. today.
"This case has nothing to do with tolerance," Nogaro said later.
"The Mass in Latin is a distortion of religious fact. Not even university professors who teach Latin pray in Latin. It is not an appropriate instrument for establishing a true relationship with God. To help people to pray is an honorable effort. That is what I try to do in allowing the Tent of Abraham to be used by Muslims and the chapel next to the Cathedral, to be used by the Orthodox.
"But to assail the faithful with sacred images, theatrical choreography and esthetic embellishments does the opposite. The faithful should be offered something valid and educational, not an occasion for disorientation. In short, murmuring prayers in Latin is good for nothing."
Strong words. A clear dissociation from Pope Benedict XVI's decree regarding the traditional Mass.
"The authority for the theological, liturgical and moral correctness of a diocese is the bishop," Nogaro continued, "even if the Pope has decreed an opening in favor of other rites. I am the only bishop in Campania who has asserted this so far to control the application of the Papal decree.
"Besides, the request of 30-40 persons is not sufficient in order for the traditional Mass to be celebrated. The parish priest is obliged to report it to his bishop. And I was never informed."
In his sacristy, Don Gionti is surrounded by many of those who had requested him for the traditional Mass, and is visibly disconcerted: "I will obey the bishop," he said, "even if this loses us the occasion for a liturgical experience that is important for our community, many of whom requested this. I considered it an experiment, certainly not a replacement for the post-Conciliar Mass.
"I think a priest should respond to a request by his congregation. But the bishop has ordered me to suspend the scheduled Mass, telling me that this would create a dangerous precedent. Though I still do not understand what danger he means."
In short, the Caserta case is everything but "Nulla veritas sine traditione" (Nothing is true outside tradition) as the followers of St. Pius V love to quote.
Fr. Louis Demornex, who studied at the Collegio Russium of Rome and has been the traditionalist parish priest of the Aulpi-Corigliani district in Sessa Auruna near Casertano, commented: "The Tridentine rite is not 'democratic' but for more than a millennium, it was the backbone of the Church. By destroying a traditional valid form of teh mass, one is tearing down the Church itself. The Pope knows this and that is why he issued this decree."
Nogaro, while protesting that he did not wish to be involved in any controversy, said further: "(Celebrating the traditional Mass) is like watching a statue passing in procession and simply admiring its artistic beauty. One cannot say that this is an act of faith or an occasion to inspire spirituality. This is what happens if we communicate in a language which no one knows at all, no one uses anymore, no one understands. The practice has nothing to do with the faith and someone must speak out on what the common thinking is about this."

(from http://freerepublic.com/focus/f-religion/1897765/posts)

Saturday, September 15, 2007

For your consideration

Do any of you agree or disagree with the following statement:

"The Church has a philosophy that she canonizes in preference to others."

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Benedict XVI in Austria

Happy feast day!

A few words from our Holy Father:

Today as in the past, it is not enough to be more or less like everyone else and to think like everyone else. Our lives have a deeper purpose. We need God, the God who has shown us his face and opened his heart to us: Jesus Christ. Saint John rightly says of him that only he is God and rests close to the Father’s heart [cf. John i, 18); thus only he, from deep within God himself, could reveal God to us – reveal to us who we are, from where we come and where we are going.

Certainly, there are many great figures in history who have had beautiful and moving experiences of God. Yet these are still human experiences, and therefore finite. Only he [Christ] is God and therefore only he is the bridge that brings God and man together. So if we call him the one universal Mediator of salvation, valid for everyone and, ultimately, needed by everyone, this does not mean that we despise other religions, nor are we arrogantly absolutizing our own ideas; on the contrary, it means that we are gripped by him who has touched our hearts and lavished gifts upon us, so that we, in turn, can offer gifts to others.

In fact, our faith is decisively opposed to the attitude of resignation that considers man incapable of truth – as if this were more than he could cope with. This attitude of resignation with regard to truth lies at the heart of the crisis of the West, the crisis of Europe. If truth does not exist for man, then neither can he ultimately distinguish between good and evil. (Pope Benedict XVI, Mariazell, September 8, 2007)

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Grad school?

Hi everyone. We all seem to be pretty busy lately. It's amazing what law school and a full time job have done to the writers of long political posts :)
Anyway, as some of you may know, I'm planning on leaving my hotel job and moving to Front Royal. A number of circumstances have led me to believe God is pushing me in a different direction than the hotel industry. Unfortunately, I'm not sure what yet. I'm thinking I'd like to work at a Catholic school or organization. Or maybe go to grad school.
So, the point of this post is to ask if anyone has any suggestions or knows of a place that I might look for a Catholic job. Right now, I'm feeling adventurous, and open to going anywhere in the country.
Gracia, amici. You are all in my prayers.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Nick and Elizabeth Dye

Hello everybody! For those of you who don't know, my brother Nick and his girlfriend, Elizabeth Dye, just got engaged yesterday. Keep them in your prayers as they enter this exciting time.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Embrace the Youtube

It is no use trying to resist. We are on the brink of a new world order--the Youtube generation! My 12-year-old brother posts things on Youtube. I am often pointed in the way of "hilarious" videos on Youtube. Youtube comes up in conversation over Sunday brunch. It's part of the our Internet world now, like it or not. Anyway, not everything on Youtube is just for laughs. Check out this short masterpiece by our very own Colin M.:

The Human Race

He also points out in a thoughtful article how important it is to use what he terms "viral marketing" (I must say that sounds rather unpleasant) for the renewal of culture and morality. [Thanks to Sarah M. for the links.]

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Monday, August 06, 2007


I hate to break up the discussion, but I just wanted to let everyone know.

Sarah is pregnant.

God be praised. I'm a dad.

Friday, August 03, 2007

1 Sam 8

First of all, Geoff, I am not arguing that anarchy or "people's courts" are good or bad. In fact my argument depends on the legitimacy of "people's courts". Read what I wrote:

As long as men pursue things in common there will be disputes and disagreements...[An offende party] at least may seek to have the dispute resolved in his favor. For this he seeks an outside party whom Person Y and Person X will both agree to obey, and they have the outside party judge the matter.

Often, to expedite justice or fairness (so that the common purpose can be better pursued), societies (be they fraternities, cults, families, businesses, etc.) will set up a process or processes to resolve these differences through the judgment of an authority. However, in order to ensure that justice and fairness will be done in the society, the authority making the judgment will need some compulsory power in case (1) one of the persons involved refuses to participate, or (2) people involved refuse to comply to the judgment. In fraternities and business, for example, an authority might have someone fired for not participating or complying.

I clearly argue the ligitimacy of private arbitration, but I also point out obvious weaknesses in private arbitration, weaknesses you have not addressed and weaknesses that make it reasonable to establish a civil authority in a society with coersive powers to brimg matters to judgment and see judgments exucuted.

Now, you wrote: Found an excellent article that shows there is no contradiction between anarchy and Scripture.

I haven't looked at it, but I am not arguing that anarchy is against the Bible.

In this section I am arguing your position that 1 Sam 8 "Says as much" as "taxation, 'eminent domain' property seizures, and conscription are immoral means and ends of...governments."

It doesn't. Samuel says such and such will happen if they establish a King. He implies that these are things the Isrealites should not want. He implies that establishing a King would create a society worse than the one they alreacy had.

However, Samuel was speaking to the people of a tribal-oriented theocracy. Tribal-oriented theocracy was the system they had. You instead are arguing for a libertarian society.

Samuel was a prophet. He does not specify whether these bad consequences of a kingship necessarily happen, or will only conditionally happen (remember Job and "Nineva will be destroyed" - prophet words are not always absolute). Furthermore, even if these things will happen, he does not specify whether they will happen by nature or they will happen as a particular punishment from God (remember, God punished the Pharoah not by nature but by unnatural plagues for his hardness of heart). Furthermore, even if these things will happen by nature, is it because of the nature of all governments, because of the nature of monarchy, or because of the nature of monarchy in that particular setting?

Samuel said that if the Isrealites change their society, creating a monarchy (which is a particular form of civil government), then such and such bad things happen. You say it is clear that such and such bad things happen in any civil government. This does not follow. You can't say that because *person Q said in a particular instance that if a particular R does S, creating a particular T (which is a particular type of U), then it will lead to in this instance to Z,* then Z is a quality of U. Z is at best a quality of this particular T.

Furthermore, on the point of taxation (which is the only one of the "bad powers" that I have tried to justify so far - and even there I have only tried to justify taxation for a particular end (i.e. providing a ligitimate and established civil authority (the possible existance of which I have only positted, not demonstrated) with a recompense for services rendered)), I have said merely said that it is reasonable to establish (if its establishment is possible) a civil authority to judge disputes - an authority with the power of coersion to bring suits to judgment when one party wants them judged and the other party does not, and the power of coersion to see judgments executed - and that a system of taxation is a reasonable means to raise money to pay the judge for his services. Let me make myself very clear:

*I have not said that the system of taxation needs to be or ought to be coersive taxation*

You seem to argue that because I posited a system of taxation, I am arguing for a system of coersive based taxation. I have not said anything of a coercive taxation system. For purposes of this argument I am considering "any system in which people have an obligation to pay a civil authority for his support" a "system of taxation". (Note that I have not even said that all people must have this obligation.) Now it is my understanding that in the time of the Isrealite Judges, the people had an obligation to pay for the support of their priests (the system of tithes). It is my understanding that these priests exerciced not only the power of the priesthood, but also civil power (such as the power to judge disputes). It is my understanding that the priests had certain punishments they could levy on those who impeded judgment in matters that someone brought to them, and they had the power to punish people if they did not execute the judgments. If this is the case, then the people were obligated to pay for the support of a person charged with exercizing civil authority. If this is the case then 1 Sam 8 does not apply to my argument hereto ennunciated (an argument in favor of taxation), because the "evil power (of taxation)" that you say Samuel associates with the new, wicked government, is not necessarily the taxation sytem that my argument has proposed. In fact, if I am correct, then the sort of taxation that I have defended thus far was a taxation system in established for the Isrealites by Divine command! (see Lev. 27:30, Deut 14:22, Num 18:21).

A couple more notes:

"I don't see why I should have to pay for services I might never use."

I will discuss this in my next post.

"As it is, who today can afford to effectively get his lawsuit heard?"

I am not defending the system as it is today.

"And in criminal cases, I think the fact that a government judge, prosecutor and public defender are all being paid by the same employer and are required to prosecute/judge (some)unjust laws made by the government has a real potential to "color their judgment" in its own right."

I have said nothing of criminal cases thus far, and again I am not necessarily defending the system as it is today.

"Andy, as a believer in the free market, I don't see how you can say that a greater accountability for actions and higher efficiency is possible in a tax-dollar funded monopoly on arbitration services, as opposed to market services."

I have not argued that the establishment of a civil authority is the best/most accountable/most efficient solution. I have argued that it was a reasonable solution because a private system of arbitration has no obvious solution for two situations: the situation in which one party refuses to resolve a dispute because he has the advantage as long as the dispute is unresolves, and the situation in which the party who recieves the bad side of the judgment refuses to execute the judgment. A civil authority (if it is possible to establish one) has an obvious solution: the criminal charge of contempt of court. (I might also point out that in the contemporary circumstances, the reason why private arbitration such a good option is not only because it is more cost efficient and such and such, but also because the parties still have the option if things go bad to take the matter before the civil authority. In otherwords, it is good presently in part because civil judgment is never a precluded option, as you would have it in your society. I would try to settle the matter first myself, but if I wasn't able to and they had actually wronged me, you can bet that civil authority is where I turn to see justice done).

"Not only that, but the premise that "everyone benefits either directly or indirectly from the justice system/police, so it is reasonable to tax people to support it" is indefensible."

I have not posited nor defended such a premise. I have not said that everyone benefits from a justice system with coercive powers. I have only said that if a legitimate one can be established, then anyone might find themselves in a circumstance in which they need to appear before the judge. I argued that a system in which the parties before him are directly responsible for his material well being, they mey be situations in which bad judges allow that to color his judgment. Thus, a system to pay the judge independent of the parties is reasonable, and (since anyone might sometime come before a judge) a system of taxation was reasonable.

"I could be providing a valuable service to the community, by cleaning up garbage from the roadsides, or shoveling driveways for free, but I couldn't force anyone to pay me for my services."

I have not posited or defended any alledged power to force people to pay for services rendered. Once again, I have not said that the taxation system need be or ought to be coersive. (The Isrealites had a non-coersive obligation to pay for their civil authority).

"Why? They didn't ASK for me to do it!"

I will respond more to this argument in my next post.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Forgive me for being repetitive

God has not willed to reserve to himself all exercise of power. He entrusts to every creature the functions it is capable of performing, according to the capacities of its own nature. This mode of governance ought to be followed in social life. The way God acts in governing the world, which bears witness to such great regard for human freedom, should inspire the wisdom of those who govern human communities. They should behave as ministers of divine providence.

"Human society can be neither well-ordered nor prosperous unless it has some people invested with legitimate authority to preserve its institutions and to devote themselves as far as is necessary to work and care for the good of all."15

By "authority" one means the quality by virtue of which persons or institutions make laws and give orders to men and expect obedience from them.

Every human community needs an authority to govern it.16 The foundation of such authority lies in human nature. It is necessary for the unity of the state. Its role is to ensure as far as possible the common good of the society.

The authority required by the moral order derives from God: "Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore he who resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment." --CCC 1884, 1897-1899

I have quoted these lines before, in the comments. What I am curious about, in this entire debate, is how what everyone is saying is consonant with the Church's teachings and tradition. I am tempted to say that what Geoff has written (I cannot claim to have read all of it) does not really speak to my point, and indeed he and Andy are having a difficult time really touching each other's points about anything because Andy is speaking about government in very broad and general terms, whereas Geoff at least appears to be focusing his criticism on the government of the United States of America. This focused approach appears in such statements as, "Without a centralized coercive authority chosen by a numerical majority, why would there be any more injustice than there is now, if the majority of men are rational and good the majority of the time?" The "centralized coercive authority chosen by a numerical majority" is clearly the U.S. government. However, in response to this, I would wish to ask a very direct question: What is your picture of authority? I must venture to be so rude as to say that I will entirely lose interest if the response is over three paragraphs and chock-full of newsreport examples. I simply want a vision of how authority would work in a society constructed according to your ideal.

I will also make a clear and very blunt statement myself: The majority of men are decidedly not rational and good the majority of the time! If you are taking this as a premise in how a society should be ordered, then you need to seriously rethink it. The reason why is that, unfortunately, we are all endowed with a little sickness that mars the splendour of our nature. This sickness is original sin, which as St. Thomas puts it, "is an inordinate disposition, arising from the destruction of the harmony which was essential to original justice, even as bodily sickness is an inordinate disposition of the body, by reason of the destruction of that equilibrium which is essential to health."

Ok, no more time for blogging. :)

Society is not a Volitional Entity

Andy: "However, because it is reasonable for a society to establish such an authority, the existence of such an authority in society is not necessarily a violation of natural law or natural rights.

Furthermore, because this authority labors to provide a service to the society, then he has a right to an award from society for services rendered."

You say that it is reasonable for "society" to establish such an all-encompassing authority [someone who makes judgments upheld by coercion.] Yet "society" is not a singular volitional being capable of making decisions: it is not a leviathan, if you will. To illustrate the difference, let me state that I do not think it is possible for a "society" to choose to go to war. When people say that "a society" goes to war, they really mean that "many individuals in a spatial region are going to war." Because a society is a collection of individuals with a common end. If I am a conscientious objector, and do not adhere to the end of that war, I'm not really a part of that society at all, am I? It is only the majority of individuals who are going to war: not society. The two terms are not synonymous.

Most true societies want justice. I'm all in favor of that end. I'm with them on that end. I am not, however, part of the particular society (the numeric majority) that wants to support a particular system of meting out justice that I believe uses unjust means to accomplish that end. I am still a member of a justice-seeking society, even though I refuse to espouse the means espoused by other members of the whole society. I am not a member of the "coercively-funded majority-dictated justice system," society. I believe that because every member of the justice-seeking society did not in fact agree on this system, that its means are contradictory to its end. The good end of upholding justice does not legitimize coercive taxation as a means, and not just because there are other means of upholding justice.

The argument you use is a non-sequitur: "Because this majority-chosen justice system is the only means of securing the end of justice, the means of forcing even the minority to pay for its upkeep is the only means that will work, and therefore, it is obviously a just means." It's like saying, "I have a wife and children I need to support, and it is my duty to support them. You must give me your money or else." No: there are proper means of achieving this end. And you wouldn't even necessarily have to work to achieve the end of supporting your family: it's not the only means. You could have a huge bank account already. Or you could solicit donations from people who were willing to pay you to support your family. That would be morally legitimate as well. If you have to take money from others against their wills, (especially those who have a reasonable claim that justice is not being done in such a system, and the end would be better served in another system,) then it is really time to re-examine the morality and effectiveness of both the means and the end such a system.

Anyway, back to a society and how one can remove himself from it.

If I am a robber or rapist, I have, by the very nature of my actions, recused myself from pursuing the common end of those who live together for mutual material security. I am inimical to that society, and no longer a part of it. In addition, whether I am caught or anyone knows about my crime is immaterial. (There would be no justice for such acts in a private or majoritarian justice system, anyway.) I could have a card saying I was in the organization of the KKK, but yet not hate blacks and Catholics. Would I really be a member of that society, even if the other Klansmen didn't know I wasn't racist?

Just as someone who commits a mortal sin has removed himself with the heavenly society until he has done penance, a criminal is not a member of a non-criminal society until he has repented and made restitution.

A true society of men pursuing a common goal would rapidly develop into a working system of justice. Without a centralized coercive authority chosen by a numerical majority, why would there be any more injustice than there is now, if the majority of men are rational and good the majority of the time? Would there still be injustice? Yes, from time to time. Would there be constant private reclamations for injustices? Not so many or of such a degree that they would be disruptive or unduly escalatory. Consider driving on a freeway: most people freely choose to conduct themselves safely and considerately not because they're going to get caught by a cop, but because their actions have immediate repercussions, if not from physics, then from other drivers. There is nothing that says these repercussions would be of a "legal" or even a morally just nature! Nonetheless, these repercussions do exist, and do maintain order on the roads more so than any legal ramifications for misbehavior. Rational self-interest suggests that you not endanger others on the road.

I fail to see why a centralized (majority-chosen) coercive entity would be required for a justice system. Private, voluntary arbitration happens all the time right now. In the absence of a coercive central government, other coercive entities would form, and would be directly accountable to their clients, and truly, "society" as a whole, so long as they want to maintain a reputation with which they can remain in business. Right now, we have a centralized coercive entity that really isn't accountable to anyone. The government is not synonymous with any society except the society of government: and it is only a very loose representation of the will of the majority of individuals in a region, with whom the minority still interacts in society. Government doesn't even necessarily reflect the will of the majority, as you know, considering 70% of people are in favor of banning abortion except in cases of rape and incest.

Government stays within its boundaries (but even then, not really) right now only because it feels like it. Nothing but the threat of armed revolt keeps it from instantly raising taxes to 90% or killing off dissidents. No lion stays in a parchment-and-ink cage because it can't tear out of it. It can, whenever it chooses to, or something startles it. But of course, the lion likes to eat and grow, and people like to feed the lion, because it makes them feel safe to have it around, for some reason. It's STILL A LION. You should count on individual human beings to be just and to work out justice between themselves, not threaten to sic the communal lion on them.

Every man, in other words, should have the lion's share of power. If a man becomes aggressive and begins to hurt others, other men will take him to task for it. This is a method that is in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity. Men would not long tolerate disorder in a true society. But order does NOT have to be imposed from a majority-chosen coercive entity. Order naturally arises through the interactions of men themselves: government is merely an unwise means of trying to maintain an already pre-existent order. Order can be better maintained by individuals voluntarily choosing a local mediator, complete with the terms of mediation and payment.

Remember St. Paul's monita to the Christians? To paraphrase, "Do not be so willing to go before pagans to be judged! Aren't you better than that? Can't you work it out between yourselves?" Yes, we can. And so can the pagans, because it's part of our human nature and in our natural self-interest to resolve cases without the mediation of a even a voluntarily-chosen third party, if possible. If it is not possible to come to an agreement between two people, let them go to a third party. It's what happens on "People's Court" all the time. If they shirk the ruling after they had agreed to follow the ruling, it would have happened under a central majority system, or ANY OTHER system.

Nothing makes the majority-chosen "justice" system more just than any other system. In fact, it is less so, due to the patent lack of accountability. Like those 20 robberies those two rapist-murderers in CT had under their belts. After 20 robberies each, they were out on parole. They raped and murdered a doctor's wife both of his young daughters. Oh, no. Heck, no. Not in a private justice system would that have happened! Because even if they had not been forced to pay restitution by a coercive private party, and thereby actually turned away from a life of crime the first time they were arrested, they would have been removed from society long before they were able to commit these heinous crimes. Permanently.

I've come up with a new slogan. "Think outside the State."

Thursday, July 26, 2007

In the News

Did you guys see the news today? Ave Maria, the town in Florida, officially openned this week.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Harry Potter and the Ever-thickening Plot (and books)

Sylvia asked me what I thought of the latest Harry Potter movie. I wasn't exactly certain how she wanted me to answer, but I thought a post would not be amiss. So, anyway, if you aren't interested in Harry Potter, or if you are, and would rather not have the plot spoiled for you, I suggest you stop reading . . . .now.

Here be my conundrum. I made the mistake of reading Order of the Phoenix directly before I saw the movie, so my first viewing of what was essentially summer film fare was inevitably tainted by comparison with a richer, darker, much lengthier book. The book was not the most well-written work of fiction I've ever read, but it had a steady, mesmerizing pace that allowed the characters, particularly Harry, a lot of interior space to develop and deepen. In a nutshell, the driving force of Order of the Phoenix is not so much the plot, as it is the tale of Harry's motivations and paradigms beginning to shift and refocus. At any rate, the movie tried its best, but much of the plot was (understandably) reduced to vignettes and the whole thing had a more sleek, by-the-numbers feel. I've never been a stickler for retaining all the details of a book in a movie, film being a different medium and all, but I couldn't help but feel a little let down.

Then I saw the movie again a couple weeks later. It definitely improved. Standing apart from the book, the film is really great: the pacing is swift but decided, the characters economically but deftly drawn. The themes of justice, love, and friendship are brought out firmly but without overkill. I especially noted that the film's conclusion is actually stronger than that of the book, tying in Harry's struggle with the individualistic angst of youth with the overarching value of friendship and love (I can't say too much more without giving it away). Bill Gibron of www.popmatters.com he puts it quite nicely. "Those pining for all the meat in Rowling’s writing will probably be disappointed – its impossible to condense almost 800 pages into a little over 130," he writes. "But if they accept the film on its own terms, they will find a great deal to enjoy." I agree.

All in all, I'd recommend it as one of the better Potter films. Just allow yourself a few weeks in between book and movie, and be sure to give the movie a chance. It really does its best.

Monday, July 23, 2007


Ok, you guys, I think it is time to do a prayer link. Everyone respond in the comments with your prayer requests, so we can all pray for them! I will start . . .

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Concerning Good Government V

Well I have been working on this on and off today, but here goes nothing (again)....

Recall a few point from “Government II” and “III”. Man is a social creature who establishes human relationships both as ends and/or and as means. This, in conjunction with man’s other pursuits (such as truth – i.e. conformity of intellect to reality and communication to intellect), gives rise to culture and to custom.

A society is a collection of people comprising a network of real interpersonal relationships in which the limits of the society are defined in some relevant way. (It is not enough merely to have an agreement between two individuals to have a society. A society goes beyond this by involving a network of relationships.) Because men form the relationships that comprise a society as ends or as means to an end, a particular society is best defined by the shared end of those relationships. A particular family, cult, business, or fraternity can be seen as a network of relationships directed towards a shared end, and thus constitute a society.

It should be noted that it is not merely enough that there be a shared end, but there also generally has to be at least some commonality of means. A fraternity like a bowling club has a network of relationship built around the ends of “play” and “society.” Their means to this end is getting together every Tuesday to bowl. A large business pursues the common creation of livelihood by providing goods and services to a consumer. A religious denomination has an established structure of worship, or at least a common philosophy shaping their lifestyle, ordered to the worship of God. A family is complex in both its ends and its means, but I think that the rule holds true for the family. This similarity of ends and means for the active “membership” in the society

As long as men pursue things in common there will be disputes and disagreements. Some disputes (like on the nature of Good Government) do not “harm” either party, because the disputed matter (abstract truth, in this case) is not “possessed” by either party—i.e., resolving the dispute one way or another does not improve or expand the victor’s “claim” to anything. In other cases, Person X can be “hurt” by another Person Y, because what Person Y has done or is doing deprives or damages Person X’s claim to something. In this case, Person X at least may seek to have the dispute resolved in his favor. For this he seeks an outside party whom Person Y and Person X will both agree to obey, and they have the outside party judge the matter.

Often, to expedite justice or fairness (so that the common purpose can be better pursued), societies (be they fraternities, cults, families, businesses, etc.) will set up a process or processes to resolve these differences through the judgment of an authority. However, in order to ensure that justice and fairness will be done in the society, the authority making the judgment will need some compulsory power in case (1) one of the persons involved refuses to participate, or (2) people involved refuse to comply to the judgment. In fraternities and business, for example, an authority might have someone fired for not participating or complying.

I would distinguish two types of society: an “established” society that has a system for judging disputes of its members, and a “non-established” society that does not have a system for resolving disputes.
Now comes the question of civil societies. A civil society is the network of relationships through which the members of the network work to achieve the satisfaction of their basic, day-to-day needs and wants. (This definition can probably use some work). This society incorporates members who participate in many other societies, but the civil society is independent of those societies. Because man’s most basic and (hopefully) long term need is a place to live, and the person will often organize his live around where he lives or something immediately related to that, the civil society has throughout history been generally property and geographically based. After all, the people that one lived close to are the ones he is most likely to interact with and etc.

Because disagreements and disputes arise in civil society in which someone asserts damages through the acts (or lack thereof) of another, there is good cause for society to establish and authority to judge such cases. The authority is likely to need some means of compulsion in order to bring the issue to judgment even when one party does not want judgment on it, and to ensure that its judgment is effected.

It is my understanding that most libertarians would say that this is the limit of civil authorities right to rule – deciding such things as violations of the rights of others (generally summarized as the “life, liberty, and property”). I will consider this claim later.

However, because it is reasonable for a society to establish such an authority, the existence of such an authority in society is not necessarily a violation of natural law or natural rights.

Furthermore, because this authority labors to provide a service to the society, then he has a right to an award from society for services rendered. This might conceivably come from the individuals whose cases he judges, but I do not believe any system of this sort will not, in some circumstance (like the poor man who can’t pay legitimately suing a rich man) threaten impartiality. It is at least reasonable to believe that the authority would be more impartial if the pay was not coming from the individuals he judges. Thus I believe that a system of taxation, in which money is collected from members of society (provided that the tax is not depriving someone of their bare necessities) is a reasonable alternative that accords to the purpose of civil society – which is an institution founded on human nature – and is thus not contrary to natural law or natural rights.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Civil Justice and Divine Justice, Not Exclusive, But Not the Same

OK... back from a weeklong hiatus. Geoff: 1, loggerhead sea turtles: -1. ; )

Andy: "What are the tenets of civil justice, and what are the tenets of divine justice?"

The tenets of civil justice are that every man respect the earthly life, liberty and property of other men. The tenets of divine justice are that you respect all of the above, plus God, and the spiritual life of other men.

I assume no one here wants a theocracy: the state punishing every violation of the divine law as defined by the Church. But consider this: where do you draw a solid line on what sin to punish?

Does anyone really want the U.S. Council of Bishops in charge of a morality-based legal system, telling us we have a moral obligation to give jobs, housing, and "free" healthcare to people, and restricting (or banning) the production and sale of firearms? Could the theo-civil police punish you for lying about winning a gold medal at the 1980 Olympics? Should they impose a $250, or even a $20,000 fine for lying, if the theocrats decide that should be the punishment? How can you quantify spiritual transgressions in temporal terms? Should we try? I'm trying to be practical, here. If someone steals $500 from me, I want $500 back, plus the cost of lost business, if there is any. It's clear-cut. But how do you propose to punish a mortal sin on God's behalf?

If you legislate against things that do not violate life, liberty, and property of others, it's like a depiction of an ailing body politic. If the body politic (the sum of the individuals who comprise society) has an illness, (sin) you can reduce the symptoms (manifestation) of the illness by taking a Tylenol (laws backed up by force.) But you're not treating the root cause of the problem, which is the sin itself! Sin cannot be fought with force. Can you have a law against an ideology, and successfully prohibit it? That's what we're trying to do right now over in Iraq. To change an entire nation from Shariah law and warlords, to "democracy." They're democratic over in Palestine, now. But they elected the terrorist group Hamas to lead them. They were able to change the external structure of how people express what they believe, but not the underlying ideology of what they believe.

If some people want to lock other people up for committing a particular kind of mortal sin, hey, let them go for it. They can think they're acting as God's personal enforcers, trying to make other adults be good people. I harbor no such sentiments, indeed, no such delusions. I prefer the practical concept of neutralizing the manifest threat of those who manifestly hurt another person against said person's will. (Imprisoning rapists/murderers/thieves/robbers, etc.) I also believe in using only the minimum degree of force necessary to effect the neutralization of the threat. Temporal violations of temporal goods should be temporally punished. God will see to the rest.

Andy: "As far as I see, an (true) obligaton is a moral obligation whether it is imposed by God through human nature directly, or by more proximately by another man."

What moral obligation can be imposed by another man without the consent of both parties? If I shove a brick into your hands, and tell you to pay me $10 for it, or else, have I imposed a moral obligation on you? That's essentially what government does every day, in the form of taxation. It forces upon me something I would not have bought with my ten dollars. Whatever I would have bought would have been much more beneficial to myself and others, based on the tenets of the free market.

If someone is deliberately speeding toward you in a car, and you're in a car heading toward him, is he imposing a moral obligation on you to either turn to the left or the right to prevent yourself from being killed? No. You have the obligation to protect your life, period. His speeding toward you did not impose any new obligation on you. It is only an instance in which you must exercise prudence in order to fulfil the pre-existent obligation to protect your own life in certain situations.

God himself very rarely actively punishes infractions of the divine law in temporal matters. (Besides the natural law consequences.) He has punishments for immoral actions, after death, however. He legislated the divine law. He enforces it.

God gave us the power to protect what is ours. We have human nature, but it is not our human nature to do with whatever we want, like property. It is not human nature itself that we can protect by laws. You're not protecting human nature by punishing someone who committed theft against me. You're protecting other people's property, and through the action of protecting property, you are respecting their human nature, through their right to property.

Laws can either try to protect the earthly rights of men, or the divine rights of God. All of the former fall under the latter, but not all of the latter fall under the former. Human nature is God's, because he created it. It is ours, insofar as we share and partake in it. We do not own it. Hence, how can we prevent or punish a violation? God has a law, and he enforces it perfectly. We cannot enforce the whole of divine law. But we don't need to. We just need to take care of ourselves, and keep ourselves free enough to learn about God and teach his message to others.

Andy: Its root is necessarily the obligation to "do good and avoid evil" "for neighbor as for self", where this is understood in light of man's pursuits of the practical ends.

I think it is true that legislation should be for practical ends. But many people seem to think a law against things done by two consenting parties is a practical end. Is it a "practical" end to legislate against sinful behavior between consenting people? Behavior that does not manifestly harm others? Because if that is truly the case, we can make laws that call for the burning of heretics like Protestants. Their false teachings are leading people to Hell every day. If the practical application of law is to "make people good," rather than "allow people to be good, in an environment free from force, fraud and coercion," then let's burn all the heretics. Civil authorities once did burn heretics, following this logic. Why did they stop?

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Updated Blog

Hello everyone, not to break up any continuing conversations, but . . .

Ladies and gentlemen, I have revamped my personal blog! (finally)

This time, I promise to blog my heart out.


Check it out.

Descartes In Love

This was an idea some of us in St. Catherine's had one night as we celebrated Mardi Gras. We were taking Modern Philosophy with Mr. Brown at the time, and we thought Descartes would have been much happier if he just got a life. We always meant to write a skit about it, but between theses, boyfriends, homework, and dancing it never happened. This is my attempt.


Descartes is sitting at a desk, writing*

Descartes: *reading as he scribbles* Several years have now passed since I first realized how numerous were the false opinions that in my youth I had taken to be true, and thus how doubtful were all those that I had subsequently built upon them. And thus I realized that once in my life I had to raze everything to the ground, if I wanted to establish anything firm and lasting in the sciences. But the task seemed enormous, and I was waiting until I reached a point in my life that was so timely that no more suitable time for undertaking these plans of action would come to pass. For this reason I procrastinated for so long that I would henceforth be at fault, were I to waste the time that remains for carrying out the project by brooding over it. Accordingly, I have today suitably freed my mind of all cares, secured for myself a period of leisurely tranquility, and am withdrawing into solitude. At last I will apply myself earnestly and unreservedly to this general demolition of all of my opinions. Sighs with satisfaction* Well, that is a good start.

(There is a knock at the door. Hobbes enters)

Hobbes: Hey Rene, what’s up? *sits down* Am I interrupting anything?

Descartes: *very annoyed* Just philosophical history.

Hobbes: Haha. I wish! Rene, it is time you and I had a talk. For the past few months all you have been doing is sitting by the fire, in your bathrobe, staring into space, or brooding at little blobs of melted wax. You need a girl.

Descartes: A girl? Right now I’m not even sure if you or I exist, and you want to make my life even more complicated? Nothing makes men (if they exist) lose their rationality more quickly than exposure to women (if they exist). I think therefore I am—if I stop thinking, I’m toast! *Descartes is hyperventilating at this point*

Hobbes: *unimpressed* Right. This is exactly what I’m talking about. Forget about girls for the moment, this is more urgent—what you need right now is a drink or two…or five.

Descartes: A drink? A drink? Can a mind drink? Why do I feel thirst? Is it evidence of a commingling of body and mind? *keeps dithering as Hobbes leads him out*

Scene 2: A bar

(Enter Des. And Hobbes. Des. Is still dithering.)

Des:…These sensations seem to precede an act of the will.. A man suffering from dropsy (if it exists) experiences a dryness of throat, but though his body tells him to drink, this will just make it worse. And what does this tell me about God…?

(A girl wanders by, and drops a hankie by Descarte’s foot. Descartes, still talking, abstractly picks it up, and hands it to her, and looks at her. Both stare like deer before a semi. She giggles. Silence. She walks away. Descartes doesn’t say anything.)

*The Descartes x-ray cam*--
Descartes’ Animal spirits: EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!! (They spontaneously start to tango. The pineal gland gyrates wildly.)

Hobbes: Renee…Renee. (He waves a hand in front of Descartes’ unblinking gaze. He goes to the bar, where the bartender is talking to a girl, nursing some pink chick drink.)


Descartes’ Meditation 1: Descartes soliliquizes: Did I dream her? I taste the sweetness of honey, I smell the fragrance of flowers, I saw her beautiful white skin and chestnut hair. My heart has melted like wax. I feel the same, but I don’t feel like myself anymore. I might be dreaming, but I like this dream! Who cares if I’m awake or not! I feel like a new man. I actually want to stop talking and do something! (End of Meditation 1)


Nietzsche, who is tending bar: …and so Zarathustra comes down from the mountain and says, “God is dead!”

Hobbes: A double whiskey, please. Nietzsche: And you sir, are you a camel, laden with the knowledge of right and wrong, or are you a lion, or a child?

Hobbes: Is this some weird way of asking for my I.D.?

Nietzsche: (looks at him like he’s a specimen, and says icily) This is the religion of the future. Zarathustra has spoken, and God is dead.

Hobbes: Now how could he possibly know that? Did he come into a little money from being in God’s will? Or did God simply tell him so Himself, from beyond the grave? Or did He have His lawyers notify him?

Nietzsche: (aside) Definitely a camel. (To Hobbes) Nevertheless, I must introduce you to Zarathustra. Perhaps he can awaken some embers of life in you. (walks away)

Hobbes: (to the woman at the bar) Have we met? (smiles winningly) My name is Hobbes.

Woman: Look buster, I don’t know who you are, but I’ve had it up to here with your kind. I know men, and I don’t want to have anything to do with you. I’m a liberated woman, and am not going to be your newest accessory. Do you know what you are?…You’re nasty! And brutish! And…and, short!

Hobbes: (is visibly crushed) You really think I’m short? (attempts to stand up straighter)

Woman: Agggh! (She storms away)

Hobbes: Nasty, brutish, and short? Renee might be right about women. But you know what? that’s kind of a catchy phrase…Nasty, brutish, and short… I’ll have to remember it.

Nietzsche: (He comes back in, talking and leading someone who is not there, and then speaks to the air beside him) Zarathustra, speak to this man! Enlighten his ignorance. (He acts as if listening to something interesting)

Hobbes: You know, I hate to break up this mutual enlightenment thing, but my friend over there has had a shock and he really needs his whiskey.

Nietzsche: Zarathustra, could you pour this dimwit a whiskey while I go speak those customers over there? (walks away)

Hobbes is left by himself. He looks left and right surruptitiously, and grabs a bottle of whiskey. Takes a shot, then another.) Thank you, Zarathustra--(elaborate bow, and then returns to Descartes.)

Hobbes: Rene, forget what I said about getting a girl. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone. Rene, am I really…short?

Descartes: Did I dream her, or is she real?

Hobbes: (sarcastically) Just walk away, Renee!

Descartes: (To the space the girl formerly occupied) But I can’t live live with or without you!

Hobbes: ( In a last ditch effort) Return to me!

Descartes: Oh, but when love comes first, heaven is a place on earth!

Hobbes: Mamma mia…here we go again.

Scene 3--Still in a bar--

Descartes approaches the girl—

Descartes: Hello, allow me to introduce myself. My name is Rene Descartes, and I’m a philosopher.

Girl: *giggles* Pleased to meet you. My name is Fizzie, and I’m single.

Descartes: So am I….Fizzie, I’m tired of sitting by the fire alone. Will you marry me?

Fizzie:*squeals* Yes! But wait, how will you support our family? You are a philosopher.

Descartes: Well actually, I’ve decided to leave that all behind and write philosophical romance novels.

Fizzie: Oh! Then, yes!

Scene 4:

*Hobbes is at the bar, scribbling away* Hah! I wonder if anyone will ever believe this stuff.

*Inside the Descartes home, the scene resembles Sunday Mass at St. John’s. Children run hither and thither, while Descartes sits at his typewriter trying to finish his novel*

Descartes: And then Xanthippe responded, Socrates, you know that I love you passionately, but I don’t know if I can marry you, for I have seen a dark future before you in the entrails of this beast. You cannot escape treachery and poison. But noble Socrates replied, I must show the world the way out of the cave, even if it costs me my life and free meals in the town square…--Kids, keep it down, please!

Fizzie: Ren darling, your dinner is getting cold!

Descartes: *sighs to himself* How could I have ever doubted? It’s all too real!


Thursday, July 05, 2007

Rights: Natural Rights vs. Conventional Rights

Geoff: "Yes, an individual, apart from society, has the right to punish a criminal, on the basis of the natural law."

Andy: "By this I take it you mean, for example, that a hermit has the right to track down and kill a murderer in the desert."

Not just a hermit in the desert, but an individual who lives in a city, as well. Apart from society meaning, "Not necessarily without the approval of society." Because we all know sometimes society doesn't approve of what is just.

Andy: "However, I am not clear whether you think that this is a freedom (he can do it but he doesn't have to) or a duty (he is obligated to)"

It is a freedom in some cases, and in others, it would seem to be an obligation. You are not obliged to re-acquire your stolen property. You do have a right to it, if you so choose. A violent criminal must be taken out of society, lest he hurt others. Your obligation to punish someone, in these circumstances, is based on the a prudential judgment regarding how much of a risk the criminal is.

Andy: "Furthermore, is there any difference if the muderer committed the crime far, far away verses in the general vicinity of the hermit, versus in the hermits cave; is there any difference if the murdered one is a total stranger versus someone the hermit knows about versus someone the hermit interacts with versus a close friend of the hermit versus a family member of the hermit's; if the attempt to commit the crime equals the crime; and if there is anyway for the criminal to regain his right to life? Does the same hold true for other crimes and how so?"

Morally, an attempt to commit a crime is the same as having committed it. Physically, (which is the only thing a civil law must concern itself with) it is not the same. God will deal with the moral aspect. An individual or collective will deal with the physical threat. If someone poses an actual threat, then he should be incarcerated. Period. Nearly every time they let a violent felon out after 5 or however many years, they go out and rob, rape and kill again. They're obviously still a threat, and therefore should still be in prison. Prison isn't directed primarily to "rehabilitation." Its primary intent is to physically keep dangerous people from committing more violence. If someone rehabilitates after a time, great. But such an instance comes from the grace of God, not merely the prison bars that keep them from hurting other people.

Andy: "I would say (and the law does) that the claim to authority and property rests with the abused unless they act (or fail to act) in such a way as to imply that they do not have the right, so long as that right is naturally transmutable (as property and governments, but not life for instance, are). Thus even if the government seized land for highways or the American War for Independence was illegitimate, the fact that the ones depossed of land have acknowledged the government's claim, and the fact that Britain signed a treaty yielidng the colonies, makes it so."

Yes. Machiavelli said something like this, too. "Might makes right." It sounds like you're saying that a kid bullied at school forfeits his right to his lunch money, so long as he is incapable of resisting or speaking out, for fear of getting the tar beaten out of him.

Just because harm has been done does not mean it is moral to continually inflict new harms.

Geoff: "Parents punish because they have a :natural authority: over their children, AND because they are concerned with the interests of others."

Andy: "You are setting "natural authority" and "interests of others" up as distinct. I thought we said above that authority was the right and duties derived from being charged with the interests of others. If so, parents have a natural authority precisely because they have naturally have the obligation to care for the interests of their children. Thus natural authority (whence they derive their right to punish) is not discinct from their parental concern for the interests of their children. However, parental authority need not be and is not the only type of authority, nor the only type of authority that can punish.

What do you mean by natural authority as distinct from authority?"

Parents have a just claim, based on natural law, to discipline their own children in any reasonable manner they see fit. No one besides the parents, however, has the right to give a moral education to the parents' children. Because the parents, not society or unaffiliated individuals, are liable for the behavior of their children.

In civil society, no one has a claim to order another to eat his vegetables. A parent has this right, because the parent is naturally responsible for the moral and physical well-being of his child, who is not yet a grown, responsible adult. No adult has any natural-law-based authority over another adult, except for punishment of a violation of the life, liberty and property of others. God has authority over all. He created natural law. Man can only request that another man perform a morally good act, but demand that he respect the life, liberty and property of others. The right to demand such a thing flows from natural law.

Natural law says that parents have a right to reasonably rule over their children. Natural law does not say one adult has any "right" to rule another adult without his personal, express consent. This personal, express consent is not present in a democratic society where the majority will is imposed on all, even against the will of the minority.

But following the natural law concerning the life, liberty and property of others is a demand of nature, not merely of civil government. Civil government merely exists to punish infringements of these natural law rights of men. That is all. If any positive effects, such as a reduction of crime, flow from this punishment, extra bonus points. But that is not the reason government exists. A legitimate (read: non-taxation based) government may only punish those who have violated contracts or are an active threat to other people.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Government: Continued (For now)

Andy: "[Given the same crime,]why in one society did the criminal forfeit the right to life, in another the right to property, and another the right to liberty (freedom from imprisonment)? The only way I can see to resolve this is either because the authority (reasonably and etc.) established it as such the society qua society determined it was such (quite similar, maybe the same). I would accept this."

Every society decides for itself who will be an officially-recognized authority with coercive power. It is not necessarily in the form of a government. God did not drop a government or an authority figure into each society as it formed. The individuals decided whose judgment they would respect. There is no need for it to be a taxation-based government. Is there?

In the case of a criminal who commits a crime, society (or the individual; not the government itself, which, as you know, may not have the best interest of the people in mind) perceives that a punishment is just. The punishment imposed is not just merely because someone who was chosen by a numerical majority has imposed it.

In the U.S., a jury can interpret not only the facts of the case, but make a practical decision on whether a law is just or unjust. In the U.S. Constitutional legal system, the individual juror is the ultimate judge of what is unjust. Hear me out on the individual being able to decide what is a just punishment. I will cover it in greater depth later on in this post.

I am all in favor of the individuals that comprise a society voting for laws that concern force, fraud and coercion. With such a foundation, cases could be heard in private courts. (As you may know, the American Arbitration Association handles billions of dollars in settlements every year outside the court system.)

Discussions of the merits and practicality of the free-market legal system have already been covered, and I'd rather not cover it right now. For those who are interested, here's a decent article that discusses the concept. http://www.lewrockwell.com/hoppe/hoppe16.html

Andy: "However, you seemed to assert elsewhere that society/government have no rights that individuals do not have (which I deny). You must then hold for this proposition that individuals have the right to kill, to seize money from, or to imprison one who has committed a crime against someone or himself, as they find reasonable. Is this the case, or is their a way out of the predicament for you?"

Correct. The individual does have these rights. But the punishment he "finds reasonable" must be in accordance with reality. If someone has murdered someone, he has forfeited his own life. You would be morally and legally culpable if the person you killed was not, in fact, the murderer. Such risks, (not merely that it is against a statute to seek justice on your own) are what keep individual-justice-enforcing actions in check right now, are they not?

Likewise, you would be morally and legally culpable if you were to seek more restitution than that which had been taken from you in the first place.

Morally, an individual could imprison a criminal for a crime he had committed. The duration of the imprisonment is either just or unjust. It depends on whether the punishment objectively fits the crime, not on an established custom. A customary punishment is established because it is perceived and accepted as just, not because the custom makes it just.

Some checks to ensure the justice of individual prisons:

First, it would be cost-inefficient to keep your own prison for people who have committed crimes. You would likely have to find people who would donate to keep an individual incarcerated. If I went around with a hat collecting money to keep a rapist in a private prison, you can bet it would be full before I got down one city block, and I wouldn't have to do it at gunpoint, like the government does. Insofar as you must have the approval of others for the length of time and conditions of incarceration in order to receive donations, society would brought into it, and therefore, you would have more men with their own sense of justice agreeing with your own.

Second, if you were acting grossly out of accordance with reason, your prisoner would be swiftly liberated by those who had a higher degree of reason.

Third, there are few people who, when taken captive for a true crime, would not agree to arbitration in a private court, or face the just consequence of being put in a private prison. (I estimate both parties would agree to arbitration/restitution through a private court 90% of the time, compared to imprisoning someone on one's own.)

Fourth, it could not possibly be worse than the absolutely disgusting state of the Department of "Corrections" we have running now: rape pits run by means of your coerced tax dollars. Rape pits staffed by testosterone-pumped, power-drunk, hot-dog necked guards who are willing to abuse prisoners at the drop of a hat. In the D.O.C. there is an almost complete lack of accountability, due to the ignorance of the public as to what goes on in prisons, due to public choice theory, and because the government has force on its side: force limited only by how much money it can manage to squeeze out of the taxpayer.

If a libertarian private justice system would be "chaos," sign me up. It would be a breath of fresh air compared to the "justice" system we have now. It would also save tens of thousands from being imprisoned for breaking asininely-enacted malum prohibitum laws.

Geoff: "When a government becomes corrupt, like you said, they have forsaken their end, and therefore forfeited their 'right'...to rule."

Andy: "But there is a difference between the criminal and the corrupt government."

A corrupt government is a collective of individual criminals. They should be charged as such.

Andy: "In the case of the criminal, the rights he would forfeit are life, liberty, and/or property.
In the case of the authority, the "right" is the power to create to civil laws and such binding in conscience."

If I say to society, "You may not steal from someone," it is binding in conscience. They must obey. Not because I said, it, though! Only because God said it. The same goes for a collection of individuals who say something in accord with divine law. Am I wrong? Is there something missing in my logic? Does the mere fact that a statute of conduct in accord with justice between men is written down suddenly make it morally binding? If there were no statutes at all, would it suddenly be all right to steal from my neighbor? "Morally binding" isn't the issue here. Coercion to back up the morally binding statement is the issue. I believe that anyone is only able to use force to protect, reclaim, or do justice concerning that which people have a claim to by the fact that they were born: life, liberty, property. It is inconvenient for individual men to enforce law (whether written on a piece of paper and/or in our hearts.) The present government is able to do so (sometimes), but only through immoral, forced property confiscation. That's a problem.

An individual, society or a government does not make a particular punishment just, it merely perceives that it is, and decides whether a punishment will be carried out. A punishment is intrinsically just or unjust, depending on the nature of the crime and whether the punishment fits the crime. A society, or an individual, can mete out a punishment. Whether it is just does not depend on any law except the divine law.

Where does anyone get an a priori right to play Robin Hood, taking money from people in order to do "good things?" Are you trying to say there is some social contract we all signed by having the misfortune to be born into a particular system? Kind of like how a child that was born to a slave mother and slave father actually "belonged" to the slaves' master? Because I sure don't vote for anyone to take my money. Are other people out there signing some contract on my behalf? Who gave them that right? Where does the buck stop, Andy? Does God will someone to take my property against my will? Is that what it comes down to? Because I sure think I have a "reasonable claim" to keep my money. Especially when my money could, certainly, do far more good in private enterprises that will eventually usurp and outshine all the "duties" and "services" that government claims to have and offer, respectively.

Andy: [speaking about non-standardized punishments] "One must demonstrate how this specific criminal act can legitimately permit the variety of punishments at the discretion of a non-authority."

There is no such thing as an objective, standardized "justice" for a crime committed on this earth. There's only a reasonable ballpark we can hit into. Perfect justice is for God to enact. You're making it sound as though a collection of individuals, chosen by some people (not all), and not very accountable to anyone, is somehow able to mete out a more perfect justice by the special guidance of the Holy Spirit. This is not the case.

Anyone has the authority to make a statement that is in accordance with divine law. Such a statement is, obviously, morally binding. What I do not understand is why you seem to imply that a government somehow precedes human social interaction. That there can morally be no justice in society without a government. Government is not a divine institution. It's a human institution. God gives no proprietary, special morality to a group of governing individuals. The criminal does not cede his permission to be punished by the government, or by any other individual, and it doesn't matter. Punishment and restitution goes beyond government, which is a human institution: it has its roots in natural law. If something is stolen, justice mandates that it be returned. Natural law doesn't say how. It just says it has to happen.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Sneak Peak

Hey all, thought you might enjoy a sneak peak at our yearbook page.

And since tomorrow (July 2) is the anniversary of this Union's indepence, happy Independence Day! ~Andy

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Concerning Good Government IV

A young man was interviewing for his first job when a rather skeptical employer asked him, “Are you responsible?” “Yes,” the boy replied. “At least, that is what my mom says everytime something goes wrong.”

The concept of responsibility incorporates dual elements: moral judgment and accountability. Everyone is responsible for himself and his actions (for actions are intimately linked to identity, as stated in Part I) in so far as he can make moral judgments. Responsibility is always linked to a moral obligation.

A “right” could mean two things: something the government disallows itself from doing in law and legal proceedings (e.g. the “right” to no self-incrimination), and something that is intrinsically related to the person permitting him to do something specific. The former, which I would call a “privilege”, does not concern us at this time, as it is merely a “rule” the government agrees to follow. We will discuss government and such later. The latter one is the obverse of a moral obligation: When one is morally obligated in a specific case, he has the “right” to fulfill his obligation. This is not a “ends justify means”, for he must be obligated in the specific case considering all the circumstances. Take for instance a teacher. He has agreed to teach students, and therefore has a moral obligation to be there. If someone takes his keys (assuming the one and only way that he might make it is by car) to inhibit him from going, his right has been violated. However, he made not torture the taker of the keys to get them back, for if there is no moral way to get to class, he has to moral obligation to go to class and therefore no right to "do what is necessary" to get to class. Rights are always specific to the circumstance.

Someone may comment that this seems to reject the so-called fundamental right to life, but I would question whether, for instance the Secret Service Detailee has a right to preserve his life if an assassin is unjustifiably shooting the President (not saying there is a justifiable reason or not, just precluding a justified killing for this instance) and his chief means to save the President is to get between the bullet and the President. I would say that because of his job he has a moral duty to do whatever is in his power to save the President in this instance, and it would be wrong for him not to stop the bullet even at the cost of his life. I would suggest that the “right to life” speaks to the general moral obligation that one has to use all that God has given for the Honor and Glory of God. Life is the fundamental premise of this, and so one may never ordinarily take a life and one my only give his life when he is moral obligated to or when it is a moral option. To take a life immorally is to violate one’s right to life, but if one is faced with a death and there is no morally legitimate means of preserving his life, he has no right to preserve his life.

Lastly, authority is the power and duty that comes when one is charged with some interest of another. Authority is the power to command (not necessarily compel) obedience. Obedience is owed in justice to proper commands (something to discuss later) of an authority. However, the power to command obedience is intrinsically linked to moral obligation to treat the interest you are charged with as if it were your own interest. Should one neglect the interest, he in effect renounces his authority.

Concerning Good Government III

Because man is a social creature (he seeks to establish relationships to others as ends or means), he affects and is affected by many who he comes in contact with. His way of thinking, acting, behaving are shaped by the responses or lack thereof of those around him. In addition, man seeks to know truth and he recognizes that others seek to know truth. Because opinions of truth differ and ability to see ‘truth’ differ, man will often seek to convince others of the truth of his perceptions. Insofar as he convinces them, his perception of truth, which they now adopt, may influence their actions, thoughts, behaviors, etc.

The product of this dynamic is a network of people connected by interpersonal relationships often based geographically but also by race, sex, social class, religion, etc., such that people think, judge, and act similarly in what has come to be known as “culture”. Culture is “the (common) way of life” of people of a specific (most generally incorporating a geographic) characteristic. Culture includes similarities both in what is thought and what is not thought about; what is done as a matter of course and what would never be done, as a matter of course. It ranges from (a common practice of) commission to (a common practice of) omission.

A related concept is “custom”, which involves a regular practice accepted by society. The difference between culture and custom is that “culture” incorporates a much more interconnected, expansive, and all encompassing “way of life” that may unknowingly pervade the most fundamental ways of thinking. “Custom” on the other hand is generally a practice that, conceivable, is independent enough to adopted by another group without a submission to the whole culture of the first (not denying the fact that some of the cultural things may come along with it).

Any objections?

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Concerning Good Government II

Man is naturally a social creature. By this I mean that in general one will seek to establish relationships with others. These relationships can be a practical end in and of itself in so far as one is seeking to fulfill his natural desire for human intimacy.

Part of this desire is that man seeks a fullness of experience, the “timeless moment”, the “absolute ability”, the “everlasting gobstopper”®. Man finds that he himself is limited, but that he is different than everyone else (not a difference of nature, but a difference of abilities, experience, perspective, etc.). Through relationships with others, he expands the “horizons” of his experience.

However, man also establishes human relations as means. Man is not self sufficient. Although he may be able to provide all his most basic material needs in solitary, such a life is difficult and will only be pursued for some great end. However, man quickly finds that he can fulfill his physical needs much easier and/or more fully by cooperating with others. It is the old, “I make shirts for both of us (since I’m better at it) and you make shoes for both of us (since you enjoy making shoes) and then we will trade” (this principle is called “division of labor”). Thus is the beginning of economics.

Man is also naturally family-oriented. The natural differences in the sexes (and in individual personalities and interests) and the mutual attraction of the sexes is part of man’s desire for human intimacy. The best way I can find to put it tonight is that in human relations (relations as an end), men generally seek respect—a rightful admiration for what they do well. Women seek self-gift—they wish to see people with “potential” do well. (Is it any wonder that men are braggarts and women are naggers?) This might just be a rephrasing of the old “Men are project oriented, and women are people oriented.” Anyhow, the complexity of this dimension is what raises human sexuality above a purely “animal” level—men and women share an interpersonal relationship, a “knowledge” of one another on a deeply spiritual (aka. non-material) level. A man will sacrifice himself when that sacrifice is received and respected. A women respects a man by recognizing his sacrifice and receiving it. (This is not to say that women don’t sacrifice or don’t sacrifice for men. Because women are “people oriented” they are often much quicker to give of themselves for others in need. However, I think the converse of this is that men tend to insist upon doing what they think they should do not for the respect others give them but because they need to do it for their self respect.)*

This mutual attraction reaches its fullness in the total self gift of conjugal union (to see this explained, see Theology of the Body of course). By nature, this union can become the source of a unique form of a human relationship, the family.

Any objections?

*Footnote* Is it any wonder that couples face so many difficulties? The man’s “pride” that bugs a woman so much is his implicit desire for self-respect (‘rightful’ admiration of self—The conformity of what he would like to say about himself with what he really is) in conflict with the woman’s wider view. She sees many people with needs that the man ‘should’ focus on, and whom the woman does focus on. A perfect setting for conflicting priorities.

C.f. Eph 5:33 (NAB) “In any case, each one of you [husbands] should love his wife as himself, and the wife should respect her husband.” (Why the difference, why are husbands commanded to “love” (i.e. give of themselves for another) and women to “respect” (i.e. “Willingness to show consideration or appreciation”)). Anyhow, I am sure if I continue I will not only face the criticism of every member of this blog, but someone will also challenge my credentials by pointing for better or for worse that I do not have nor have ever had a girlfriend. As they say, for what it’s worth.