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 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.

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' 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