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."