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.

27 comments:

Geoff said...
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Geoff said...

Geoff said...

I did leave a comment on the "On Libertarianism" post, as well.

Andy: "When one is morally obligated in a specific case, he has the "right" to fulfill his obligation."

Once we've fleshed out the idea of a "right," we're getting somewhere.

Andy, do I have the right to wear a hat? Or do I only have the right to wear a hat when it is 30 below and I am morally obligated to wear a hat?

Or, is this wearing of a hat something other than a second-meaning "right," but a first-meaning right? In other words: the government is magnanimous enough to deign to allow me to do something that is not a direct infringement on the human rights of others?

As for the teacher and the S.S. agent examples. You're touching on a common thread between them. Each of them have agreed, personally and invdividually, to surrender something that is his own, for the sake of his own livelihood. The teacher has surrendered his own time in exchange for money. The S.S. agent has accepted the possibility that he may be required to lay down his life or limb to save the life of another in the future, in exchange for money in the present.

I am awaiting to hear your proposal about how a numerical majority of individuals can justly decide for anyone else but themselves, what is to be done with the money of others, including the minority of individuals.

In both the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights, you will not find the word "right" ascribed to any government. Only "powers." That is because the individuals who vote cede the power they have to those whom they elect. They do not cede the right to self-defense. They do not cede the right to life, the right to property, or the right to privacy. These are basic human rights upon which no government can legitimately infringe.

The individuals who comprise the government cannot force any individual to do everything that he has a moral obligation to do. He cannot kick down doors to search for consensual immoral behavior.

Where do you stop, when it comes to deciding what immoral behavior to curtail? The government will grow until it is no longer able to support itself, if you want it to go around enforcing morality.

That is why I believe that any government cannot enforce any laws except those which pose a threat to life, limb, or property. Those things to which we are entitled, by birth, to preserve. I have no obligation to stop someone from stealing furniture from my house. I do have a right to stop him, however. Should we leave it up to the government as to how much I should allow someone to steal from me before it becomes a grave threat to the subsistence of my life?

Andy says:
"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."

I agree. In civil society, I have as much moral authority as the president of the United States, so long as I command people in accordance with the laws of morality. So does everyone else. But nobody in civil society has the right, or the authority, to command another to surrender money that is their own.

And just like the President of the United States, or any member of Congress, I have no right, or authority, to force anyone to surrender their property to me, or to any other person. The president and Congress have power to do such a thing: they do not have a right, nor the authority, to do such a thing.

Andy Bodoh said...
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Geoff said...
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Geoff said...

Power flows from the people. Authority flows from God. It is my contention that the people are foolish to give power to a set of coercive individuals. Also, that it is immoral for them to make decisions concerning the money of other people. Such as those of us who do not vote. I refuse to vote and thereby lend any sort of perceived justificatory credibility to someone who will spend other people's unvoluntarily surrendered money to accomplish "goods." Because I believe that anyone who uses coerced money has in the very act rendered himself a non-authority. He is using illicit means to accomplish his ends.

This simple role distinction should not be transgressed: any legitimate government should uphold justice among men, not justice between men and God. Upholding justice between men and God is the role of the Church. Some gay guy down the street isn't doing me an injustice. When I was born, I wasn't born with a right not to have him performing unnatural acts, but I did have the right to what is mine, including life and property.

Andy Bodoh said...

Well, Geoff, thank you for bringing up the hat. Be assured that it has caused no little consideration or reading. I must concede that my description of what a “right” is wrong (no pun intended). I believe that “responsibility” is good and “authority” is good, in so far as I have stated it, but I can see that we will have further discussion on the latter. I am also interested in your mention of “powers”, and I will try to take that up here as well.

First of all, I believe that I was right to distinguish two types of things called rights, but even on the first, I realize I was wrong. The “privileges” that I spoke of are not merely limited to what the government disallows itself from doing, but more generally to the structural rules of the government, (e.g. rights of citizenship, active versus passive franchise, etc.). I don’t like the language of rights applied to all of these, as some of these are duties, others are privileges, etc.

However, I was certainly wrong regarding the second type. Properly speaking (at least in so far as I can determine and can find to express it) a right is the power to command the obedience of others in regards to a specific obligation of justice. (Notice my use of power here. I think there is value to saving the use of power to specify a type of right, i.e. the right of the government qua government as opposed to the right of individuals. That being said, when defining philosophic terms, one often runs out of other terms to use, as I do here). By virtue of someone having a right, someone(s) have the obligation to respect that right. (Regarding property for instance, an ordinary person can not forbid your right and just use of property if you possess the right to use the property). One possesses a right because of one’s identity—that is, because something is of him, whether it be his life or limb, his projects, his responsibilities or authority, or his property. In other words he possesses a factual claim to something, and that claim ought not to be violated, though some of these claims (depending on the nature of them) may be nullified by one with proper authority (as when a judge orders a man to be sent to jail for a crime). Be sure, he does not possess absolute freedom regarding any claim, for these claims are linked to his identity and he his accountable for how he acts regarding the object he has a claim to. Thus no man has a “right” to do evil (there is a reason for the apparent contradiction in terms), and man is only free to do evil in so far as he is able to do it, though doing evil will make him more habituated to it and thus less free to do good.

Now it is important to note that there are different classification for rights, depending on what the claim is. For example, by the most basic nature of existence, man has a claim to his life, his body, and his mental and physical faculties. By his natural obligation to preserve his life he has a right to the most bare necessities of life, so long as he is not depriving someone else of their bare necessities for life (remember the first norm that we discussed). By the nature of responsibilities and authority, he has the right to do what is necessary to fulfill those obligations, as stated in the original post. More removed from his most natural rights, he has the right to superfluous property (i.e., the property he does not need for the fulfillment of his duties and obligations). He also has general rights to what is necessary for the natural ends of human action (i.e. those stated above in the first post).

So yes, Geoff, you have a right to wear a hat (provided that you are under no moral obligation to the contrary, that it is your hat or you have a claim to permission from the owner to wear said hat or permission from one with due authority to grant said permission to wear said hat, or you have some other claim to the said hat or to said act of wearing said hat, and that you are not wearing the said hat for an evil purpose, evil being understood totally in accord with Catholic teaching and Tradition (c.f. the Catechism of the Catholic church, generally, but also specifically at part three, article four.), right reason, and all that is good an proper).

(P.S. Think I should go to law school. Maybe contract law.)

Regarding the rest of the post, I must keep you in suspense a little longer, for the sake of completing the argument as well as working out some of the details you seem to be interested in. Suffice it to say, I am sure we will have much discussion on a few of these points.

By the way, I recognized a whole in one of my first post on the subject of good government, and I plan to go back to patch it up as soon as I might. Keep an eye out for it.

Andy

Geoff said...
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Geoff said...
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Geoff said...
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Geoff said...

Andy: "In other words he possesses a factual claim to something, and that claim ought not to be violated, though some of these claims (depending on the nature of them) may be nullified by one with proper authority (as when a judge orders a man to be sent to jail for a crime)."

In such a case of someone who has committed a true crime, he has, in the commission of the act, forfeited certain rights. No one has nullified a criminal's rights but the criminal himself. Outside forces can only enforce the suspension of his rights, whether it be imprisonment or (hopefully not) corporal punishment.

Similarly, a judge does not "deny" or "nullify" anyone's right to life once the person has committed murder. The murderer has already forfeited his life. His right to life does not, in fact, exist.

Andy: "More removed from his most natural rights, he has the right to superfluous property (i.e., the property he does not need for the fulfillment of his duties and obligations)."

How does one get the right to any property? The right to possess and use property is intrinsic to human nature, yes. But one has a claim to specific property because one has invested his labor in creating or cultivating it. Or, one may attain property when it is ceded voluntarily (a gift, for example.)

There is a distinction, of course, between necessary property and superfluous property. But the difference is not in the nature of property itself. The distinction is in the needfulness and superfluity. It is a fact, however, that by their nature, both are property, and belong to the individual, who has sole discretion in disposing of his property.

You are saying there is a distinction in the right to own either type of property. Either kind of property is acquired the same way, and it is still property: it belongs to the owner.

There exists a universal destination of material things, certainly. God owns everything, and matter ultimately exists for the good of all men. But there is nothing that says that that matter, in property form, must change hands within the lifetime of the owner, that anyone besides God or the owner can make the choice of when this transfer should happen. There are some who even claim that a billionaire's wealth is "superfluous" and should, with the assistance of government coercion, be redistributed among the populace. What they fail to recognize, of course, is that the billionaire's wealth isn't sitting under his bed in the form of platinum bars: it's in the banks, benefiting millions of people.

Geoff said...

Another point for consideration. Kind of falls into the "not a sparrow falls from the sky without God approving it" concept of government. (Sin is a moral evil, but must still be allowed by God in order to happen.)

Luke 4:5-7: "The devil led him up to a high mountain and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, "I will give you all their authority and power, for it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I wish. So if you worship me, it will all be yours."

Note: Satan says, "All their authority and power" of "all the kingdoms." Were all the kingdoms what we would call "corrupt?" Or were they just your everyday, generic kingdoms? Perhaps Satan showed Jesus the whole span of history in this vision, as well.

Jesus didn't seem to deny what Satan said concerning these things. He merely said, "Worship the Lord your God and serve him only!"

Works for me.

Andy Bodoh said...

Geoff said..."Note: Satan says, "All their authority and power" of "all the kingdoms." Were all the kingdoms what we would call "corrupt?" Or were they just your everyday, generic kingdoms? Perhaps Satan showed Jesus the whole span of history in this vision, as well. "

Well, I would question the source.

"[The Devil] was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it."
-John 8:44

"the devil sinneth from the beginning."
-1John 3:8

" Rev 20:2 And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand.
Rev 20:2 And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years,
Rev 20:3 And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season.
Rev 20:7 ¶ And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison,
Rev 20:8 And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth,


Rev 12:9 And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.


2Cr 11:3 But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.






Gen 3:1 ¶ Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?
Gen 3:2 And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden:
Gen 3:3 But of the fruit of the tree which [is] in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.
Gen 3:4 And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die:

Geoff said...
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Geoff said...

Look at what Christ said in response, though. Granted, it still comes down to whether paying taxes is serving God through serving government. But everyone knows what I think about that. : )

-Geoff

Andy Bodoh said...

Yes, against the Devil's temptation for Christ to worship him, Christ responds with the maxim, "Worship the Lord your God and serve him only!" The maxim does not go to the promise of having all the kingdoms or the claim that the kingdoms are his to give. (Consider the dialogue regarding the other temptations here). Christ did not have to dispute the devil on all points, he rejects it all out of hand (as Eve should have in the Garden). Thus Christ's lack of further comment ought not to be read as a affirmation of the Devil's claim, but as a lack of comment.

Geoff said...

Granted.

Andy Bodoh said...

"In such a case of someone who has committed a true crime, he has, in the commission of the act, forfeited certain rights"

I like the idea here, but what is your basis for asserting this? I will consider it.

"How does one get the right to any property? The right to possess and use property is intrinsic to human nature, yes."

To be more precise, I would say that the claim to property arises from the role it plays in man's pursuit of his temporal ends, as discussed in the first "Good Government" post. Material is necessary to pursuing these ends, these ends are obligations, and hense man has a right to the material necessary to pursue these ends. Furthermore, his work (as a personal use of some ability) is attached to his identity, and thus he has a personal claim to the fruits of his labor. Gifts to him also establish this personal claim. (John Paul has some interesting things to say on the whole gift dynamic).


"There is a distinction, of course, between necessary property and superfluous property. But the difference is not in the nature of property itself. The distinction is in the needfulness and superfluity. It is a fact, however, that by their nature, both are property, and belong to the individual, who has sole discretion in disposing of his property."

I agree so far as you have said. I would specify that the difference is not in the nature of the property, but in his claim to the property. One has a strong, rightful claim to the bare necessities of life (the Church even specifies that should one take the property of another to sustain life, this is not theft as long as the other still has enough to sustain his life. c.f. CCC 2408). However, the more remote a clear use of the property is, the weaker the claim to the property.
Andy

Andy Bodoh said...

Just in case the objection be raised, there is no level for a "cut off point" beyond which property is not useful to the person and thus can be redistributed by force, if only because these ends of human action can be ligitimately pursued limitlessly. Granted, it would be hard to find a way that a man spends a billion dollar on himself legitimates (i.e. within the confines of the commandment "love neighbor as self,") but even there an understanding of economics will sho even this action benefits neighbor.

Geoff said...

"I would specify that the difference is not in the nature of the property, but in his claim to the property."

If the nature of the property is the same (that which ultimately belongs to someone because they labored to produce it, or received it as a gift) then the claim is the same for both types of property.

Obviously, if you take $20 from a homeless man, and $20 from a billionaire, the theft from the homeless man is a much graver theft, but it is still theft, because each had a just claim to his own money.

I've got the instance of Jesus and his disciples morally taking corn from a field running through my head, and the idea of theft as "That transferral of property one could not reasonably oppose." I'm trying to be all prescient here and apply it to what I think you're going to pose next. lol

Geoff said...

Each man has a claim to the property because it is his, not because a greater or lesser harm will come to him because of the fact that he has been deprived of his property.

Andy Bodoh said...

The sin is greater precisely because the homeless man has greater claim to the $20 than the billionare. Rights are intimately related to justice.

"If the nature of the property is the same (that which ultimately belongs to someone because they labored to produce it, or received it as a gift) then the claim is the same for both types of property."

This is not the case. In a right we have four elements, the one who possesses the claim, the claim itself, the object claimed, and the one(s) who the claim is against. The claim itself is different because it arises from a differnt source--the obligation to preserve one's life as opposed to the general pursuit of men's natural ends.

If I recall correctly, the issue of the grain field was not a question of theft, it was a question of respecting the sabath. It was common practice that anyone could take the grain left in the field after the harvest.
Andy

Andy Bodoh said...

"Each man has a claim to the property because it is his, not because a greater or lesser harm will come to him because of the fact that he has been deprived of his property."

It is his property because he hase a claim to it.

Geoff said...

Regarding the grain in the field, I recognize it was a question of the sabbath. But I didn't realize that taking the grain had to take place after the harvest. Excellent.

"It is his property because he hase a claim to it."

True. Good call.

Geoff said...

Geoff:"In such a case of someone who has committed a true crime, he has, in the commission of the act, forfeited certain rights"

Andy: "I like the idea here, but what is your basis for asserting this? I will consider it."

It is an old, old concept. Locke and Blackstone adhered to it. Even the Scholastics who believed in taxational governments, like St. Thomas, believed in it. When a government becomes corrupt, like you said, they have forsaken their end, and therefore forfeited their "right" [man, it hurts to even say that] to rule.

Andy Bodoh said...

Geoff:"In such a case of someone who has committed a true crime, he has, in the commission of the act, forfeited certain rights"

Well, I am ready to accept this proposition after a little specification, but I frankly don't see how you can reconcile it to your political philosophy. Consider this: In one place a certain crime might be punishable by death, in another place by fine, in another place by imprisonment. Now, if the act is the same, and the reason for forbidding the act is the same, but only the punishments are different, why in one society did the criminal forfeited 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.

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?

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

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

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 concience.

However, in the later, this right specifically arises from the duty the authority has to care for the interests of others. I argue that failure in this duty the authority is charged with nullifies his power to bind others in conscience--Authority is the right and duty to command others. Rejecting the duty is also rejecting the right.

The only such duty (I see) violated in the case of the criminal is the duty to love neighber as self.

Thus:
A 1)Either the criminals rights arise from and are conditional on his love of neighbor as self;
or
2)Some other relationship between 'right of command'/'other rights' and 'duty to command'/'duty not to commit the crime' must be established;

and,

B) One must demonstrate how this specific criminal act can legitimately permit the variety of punishments at the discression of a nonauthority.


In other words, the government's loss of rights when it fails to fulfill its duty is not a punishment, it is the acknowledgement that the right of authority is intimately bound to the duty of authority. Punishment of a criminal is punishment, and it can have many different forms for one act. The punishment is not intrinsically linked to the crime.

I do not believe that one ever has the right to punish another that he does not have authority in this matter over. His action must be limitted to, for example in the case of theft, the recovery of the property that is rightfully his and pursuing justice through the authorities, if possible. (He does of course, have the right to protect himself against, criminal acts, but I am assuming that we are talking about an act already committed.)

Andy

Geoff said...
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Geoff said...
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