Saturday, February 20, 2016

When Government Colonizes Spontaneous Orders

When government colonizes the economic order, that is socialism. That and only that is socialism. If you call anything else socialism, you are wrong, by the definition of socialism throughout the history of socialist thought. Mises and Hayek showed that socialism was impossible. Because the historic evidence wasn't enough for some people. And still isn't.

When the government colonizes philanthropy -- through providing welfare, for example -- that is not socialism. It is welfare. The colonization of philanthropy by government is Welfarism.

The government can also colonize science. Michael Polanyi showed how impractical that was.

The government can also colonize money. Historically, almost all money has been colonized by governments. Those monies not colonized by governments have been the most stable currencies.

The government can also colonize technological innovation, though typically this is subsumed under "socialism," as technological innovation is typically considered to be part of the broader economy, even if it is not in the catallaxy. When government colonizes technological innovation, we call that "stagnation."

The government can also colonize the arts and literature. When it does that, we call the results "censorship" and "propaganda."

The government can also colonize religion (or vice versa -- the result ends up being the same). When it does that, we have a theocracy.

The government can also colonize philosophy. When it does that, we get scholarship.

The government can colonize many things in both direct and indirect ways. For example, the government has mostly colonized our universities, and in doing so, it has managed to mostly colonize our science, social science, art and literature, and philosophy. That is why these areas are increasingly sick.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Consent and Crime

In Les Miserables, when Jean Valjean takes the silver from the priest, did Valjean steal the silver?

The knee-jerk answer is, "yes, of course he stole the silver." But wait, I want you to think about that a bit more deeply. When the police bring Valjean back  to the priest and accuse Valjean of stealing the silver (which Valjean insists the priest gave him, though Valjean left during the night and took it all without asking), what does the priest do? He insists that of course he gave the silver to Valjean, and he then chastises him for not taking more, which he then loads into Valjean's sack.

Valjean leaves stunned, and the experience utterly transforms him. But that's not what I want to focus on here. I want to ask again if Valjean stole the silver. Certainly Valjean thought he did, and the police have their suspicions. But the police have to let Valjean go because the priest insisted that not only did Valjean not steal the silver, but that he had forgotten even more.

Is there a crime if there is not a victim, even if the other party thinks what they are doing is a crime?

So long as the priest doesn't think he was robbed, he wasn't robbed. The priest turned it into an act of giving, meaning no crime took place, even if Valjean had intended to commit a crime (which he knew to be a crime).

One can take this and apply it elsewhere.

If you intentionally kill someone else, and you planned it, you commit murder. First degree murder, at that. But what if the person killed wanted you to kill them, and they make it abundantly clear that they wanted you to kill them? Well, we call that "assisted suicide," and it seems that many if not most people now think no crime was committed in such a case. So long as the person killed was a willing participant and consented to the act all the way up to the act, a murder did not take place, but rather an assisted suicide.

We already accept in the very definition of rape that so long as there is willing participation and consent, then no rape occurred. If there is no consent to sex, a rape took place. The fact that there is violence involved is not sufficient; it may be possible that the couple are simply into rough sex. What may to a third party look like rape may in fact be completely consensual.

What this seems to suggest, then, is that you not only have to have either a violent act against another person or the taking of property, but that you also have to have a lack of consent to the action in question for there to be a crime. That is why fraud is considered to be a crime -- you cannot have given consent to the exchange if fraud has taken place. When fraud is introduced, consent is impossible, because I in fact consented to proposition A, when you intended to do and carried out doing action B. A taking of property has taken place without consent, and thus fraud is a crime. This is also why there is talk of making sex in which one of the parties committed fraud (by, say, misrepresenting his or her wealth) in order to have sex with the other party rape. This is simply a logical extension of the relationship between lack of consent and criminality.

We can also therefore see why libertarians insist that there can be no such thing as a consensual crime. If you need lack of consent for there to be a crime -- in the case of theft, rape, and murder, for example -- then a consensual crime is a contradiction in terms.

But is all "lack of consent" when there is an interaction involved a crime?

Think about the phrase "consent of the governed." This would imply that the only government that is not a criminal government is one that governs only with the consent of the governed. But what about those who, within a geographic area, do not consider their consent to have been given? Again, many libertarians come to mind. If a majority consider their consent to have been given, does that mean that no crime is being committed against the minority who did not give their consent to be governed?

Or consider taxes. Many libertarians throw around the idea that all taxes are theft. When you tell people that, they think you're stupid. Of course, they think that because they have in fact, directly or indirectly, consciously or unconsciously, given consent to being taxed. Libertarians have, again, not given their consent to being taxed, and so they consider taxation to be theft. Were there a polity in which one could chose the form of governance and have voice and exit, it is likely even libertarians might find a place where they consent to be governed and to be taxed.

So it seems that the real issue when it comes to crime is not whether violence is involved or not, but whether or not consent was involved. If you climb a mountain, you consent to the danger inherent in mountain climbing. If you break into a house, you consent to the danger of getting killed by the owner defending his or her property. The criminal thus consents to the dangerous situation in which they may get killed by creating the situation in the first place.

But do they consent to the laws they are breaking? It would seem not to be the case, but when it comes to law, you are consenting to its continued existence so long as you would insist on its being followed if you were the victim. The person who robs you but objects to being robbed consents to the law against robbery. The mere fact of violating a law at a given time does not mean consent is withheld.

Let us then return to taxes. If I go ahead and pay my taxes, doesn't that mean I am giving tacit consent to being taxed? Not necessarily. If I am paying taxes only because I am threatened if I do not, I am not paying from consent. I prefer to not face the consequences. A "your money or your life" situation does not mean consent is given if you choose life over money.

So again, the issue of criminality actually involves the granting or withdrawal (or failure to grant) consent. A government that governs without the consent of the governed is a criminal government. Taxes are theft for anyone who does not consent to being taxed. A military draft is a criminal action because pretty much nobody being drafted are consenting to it.

Given these facts, it seems that we need to move away from discussions of violence or coercion and rather start discussing criminal behavior and actions according to this idea of consent.

What say you?

Saturday, February 13, 2016

An Interview With Me on Poetry, Economics, and Hear the Screams of the Butterfly

My novella, Hear the Screams of the Butterfly, is finally going to see the light of day. It is being published by Transcendent Zero Press and should be available in April of this year. In preparation for its release, the editor, Dustin Pickering, did an interview with me on TZP's blog. To date, TZP has been a poetry publisher, putting out poetry books and the poetry magazine Harbinger's Asylum. I am proud to say that this will be the very first piece of prose fiction they will publish. I hope my novella lives up to their faith in it.

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Toward a Universal Moral System

Unethical actions are impossible to commit against someone whom you consider a fellow human being. If one considers some other individual to be a fellow human being, it is impossible to even want to murder, assault and battery, rape, steal, or defraud them. One can only do these things against an individual whom one has dehumanized, or perhaps never considered human in the first place.

The truly ethical move, then, is to consider more and more people as fellow human beings. The truly unethical move, then, is to consider fewer and fewer people as fellow human beings. The man who is abusive to women does not consider women to be fellow human beings. The man who rapes a woman does not consider that woman to be a fellow human being. Even the woman who, coming home to find her husband having sex with another woman, kills her husband has not killed her husband, but has killed a "cheater," and cheaters are not fully human. They are a dehumanized ideal.

It is easiest to treat one's own family morally, though the existence of familial murder, assault and battery, rape, theft, and lying demonstrates that there are even those who can and will dehumanize their own family members, at least on occasion. Sometimes all the time.

The sociopath never considers anyone else a fellow human being.

Morals expand as one includes more and more people in the group of "fellow human beings." Morals regress if one excludes a person or group one previously considered fellow human beings.

If you consider any group as "inferior" or less human than yourself or your group, you are immoral. Certainly less moral than someone who is inclusive. Since only human beings can act morally or immorally in this way, to point out that someone is behaving immorally is not to dehumanize them, but to fully humanize them. To insist that a person or group should be excused for immoral behavior is to dehumanize that person or group.

You can dehumanize someone based on any number of group memberships: sex, gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, class, income, occupation, IQ, neural architecture, etc. Dehumanizing someone based on sex is sexism. Dehumanizing someone based on race is racism. Dehumanizing someone based on class is classism. All are equally immoral, as all are dehumanizing in nature. If you hate someone because of their income, that is identical to hating them because of their race. You hate them because of some quality they have, and hatred is dehumanizing. Fear and hatred lead to immorality.

Criticizing some aspect of culture is not immoral. Criticizing some aspect of a religion is not immoral. Criticizing some particular behavior is not immoral. Dehumanizing someone because of their cultural or religious affiliation or behavior is immoral. Failing to criticize a culture for doing something you would criticize a member of your own culture for doing is dehumanizing to the members of that culture, and is immoral.

As one's moral sphere grows, one's morality grows. Those of us who consider all members of Homo sapiens as fellow human beings are more moral than past generations who did not. At the same time, we should not make the mistake of imposing our own moral narrative on that past, on people who could not have possibly known what we know. We are more moral because we are more knowledgeable. If the fault is ignorance, the goal, then, must be education.

When you do not know, and you act on that ignorance, and the outcomes is bad, your action is bad. When you do know and act on it, you are good. When you do know and do not act on it, or act against it, you are evil.

Are you knowledgeable or ignorant of building bridges? If you are knowledgeable and build a bridge that stands up, you are a good bridge builder. If you are ignorant and build a bridge that falls, you are a bad bridge builder. If you are knowledgeable and purposefully build a bridge that falls, you are an evil bridge builder. But do you even try to build bridges? If you're not trying to build a bridge, you're not a bad bridge builder, because you're not a bridge builder at all. You know what you don't know, and don't try to do what you don't know how to do. Refusing to act out of ignorance also makes you a good person. Good intentions don't count, other than to reduce your sentence. 

We must keep in mind that there is relevant and irrelevant knowledge when it comes to a given action. Now, it may be possible that one necessarily must act in ignorance. the consequences of biotechnology, for example. But one will necessarily act in less ignorance the second time around. One is obliged to use whatever relevant knowledge one can prudently attain, or one discovers. If one acts, and the action has bad consequences, one must attempt to correct future action by learning why is it the action failed. Failing to expand one's sphere of knowledge in order to ensure one's actions improve in the future is itself a moral failing.

Vice is easier than virtue. Dehumanizing is easier than humanizing. 

If you read this, you know. Now you have no excuses.

Monday, February 01, 2016

The Top 20%

In complex dynamic processes, power laws are almost inevitably exhibited. At its broadest, we find the 20:80 ratio. In market economies, we find that generally the wealthiest 20% have 80% of the wealth, for example. When it comes to altruism, we find a similar pattern, though it breaks up in interesting ways. From one perspective, we find that about 20% of the population are perfect altruists, meaning they are willing to give to people no matter how they act, meaning about 80% are not "perfect altruists"; from another perspective, we find that about 20% are "cheaters," meaning they will avoid being generous when at all possible, meaning they are almost perfectly selfish. Relative to the first group, we have 20% perfect altruists, 80% selfish; relative to the second group, we have 20% perfectly selfish, and 80% altruistic. This means that there is a middle group of about 60% who are generous with conditions. This same group is also willing to personally lose to punish cheaters (the 20% perfectly selfish), while the perfect altruists are never willing to punish cheaters.

From a social standpoint, the perfect altruists are "suckers," while the perfectly selfish are "cheaters." The middle group are a sort of golden mean, demanding just actions  from everyone, that everyone behave in a pro-social manner. At the same time, I'm willing to bet that the perfect altruists, after a while, get sick of being suckers -- may it not be these people who end up embracing socialism at the most extreme, or at least welfare statism, as a way to ensure everyone be socially generous?

I am also willing to bet that we find this ratio in many other aspects of human behavior. And it may be that it is this 20-60-20 ratio again.

For example, there are studies that suggest that humans are primarily copiers. Humans are superb copiers, which is why our cultures are so incredibly strong and dominant in our lives. This keeps tradition strong. While creativity is also an element of our species, I would argue that it's rarer than we would often like to admit.

I would argue that only about 20% of the population are creative. The other 80% are not creative.

Now, that doesn't mean that people aren't sometimes creative. But let's take a look at the ratios again. It is likely that about 20% of the population are perfect copiers and are never creative; about 60% are almost always copiers, and are only sometimes creative; and about 20% are our most creative people, doing about 80% of the creative work in the world (the other 20% being done by the other 80%).

All of this is, of course, on a certain spectrum. There are a handful of extreme creatives, more high creatives, more still moderate creatives, many more occasional creatives, and a significant percentage who aren't creative.

The vast majority copiers are absolutely necessary if we are going to have a stable society/culture. Too many creatives, and too much is happening too fast. Equally, too many copiers, and you have stagnation. It would not surprise anyone, I suppose, if the perfect copiers were the most socially conservative people in the world, not thinking that change is necessary or even desired. The most creative would be the most liberal in the world, thinking change is a natural and necessary part of the world. The correlation, especially in the middle 60%, is perhaps not perfect, but it would surprise me if it weren't there.

This certainly has implications for social evolution. This means that revolution is a bad idea, and would only be preferred by a small minority (who would likely disagree on the direction, since there are a variety of liberalisms), while evolution would be greatly preferred as a way of both allowing for stability for the conservatives/copiers, and change for the creatives/liberals. This is similar to the patterns of early adopters of new technologies, etc. Ironically, many of the copiers might very well be early adopters since they will be copying certain people.

It seems to me that these patterns are the kinds social scientists ought to be interested in investigating.