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Saturday, January 01, 2005

Coconut Grove

As I've mentioned to a number of people in the past month or so, I've gotten the sinking suspician that I may be turning into a Libretarian. I've started saying things like "The government should clearly not interfere there" and "labor laws may have been good a hundred years ago, but their effect today is crippling education and other industries" and "man, I wish I could eat a baby garnished with endangered condor right now. Fucking pinko government." So I did what any good student would do - I busted out a grip of Nozick. But something has been bothering me that I don't know ever really gets addressed by the man. I would really appreciate if someone would answer these:

- There are all these arguments about the initial contracting away of rights and the reason we enter into compacts that form governments. I just don't understand the relevance. If I'm in the ocean, and I am not able to swim, and there's a liferaft, I'm getting in that damn boat. But I'm not sure that can be understood to mean that, in the future, there's no action that can be taken by the, say, six other people in the boat in order to improve our floating condition. For example, let's say one member of the boat hoards up more resources, and other members on the boat, due to circumstance (let's say the hoarder got in the boat while the Titanic was slowly sinking, and other members were just dragged out of the water, barely breathing) have literally nothing. Taking some stuff away from the one, enough so that it doesn't substantially harm their comfort or survival, so that there are seven healthy individuals on the boat means more people to paddle, and the whole boat (including the guy who had his stuff taken) is better off inasmuch as they have a much higher chance of being either rescued or finding land. I suppose I just don't understand why the state-of-nature to government transition and the reasons therein are compelling with respect to modern governance. Why is this important?

-The other thing I don't get is - the reasons usually given for having a government are to indemnify the individual against unjust coercion. I suppose structural coercion (hunger, illness, etc.) are not considered significant, but I'm not entirely clear on why extragovernmental sources of coercion are also considered negligible. I'm not sure why the mob and certain corporations are different in kind enough to warrent saying one is legitimate in using morally questionable (though legal) tactics to take someone's property, whereas the other is not. Is the purpose of the government to protect people against all types of coercion, or just by literal physical force?

- And finally, I'm not sure why the basic stupidity of the average citizen is not considered sufficient justification to say that they ought not be making decisions about complex social issues. If the normal person can't open a can of soup, I don't see why we care about their democratic will. The normative end of a vibrant democracy is that it represents the hopes, dreams and desires of a people. If they are casting their vote, not as an informed hope that it will come true, but becuase of rhetoric and half truths propegated by governmental institutions, why do we care what they have to say? And if they are electing people whose vision they can recognize as being beyond their own, then how do those people not simply represent an aristocracy of deceit? That seems to be about what happens in every country that is a republic in some measure. And if people don't understand the issues they are deciding for the country, then the normative check (voting them out) doesn't really exist, as people can be lied to without knowing the difference. How can they be said to be representing a mandate of any sort when people are not informed enough to understand the difference?

It seems like absent a very strong, and very visceral check on all the legislative activities that a government (especially a federal government) participates in, there's not really any safety for the people whom said government perports to represent. In that instance, is it not a safer society that prevents the aforementioned aristocratic elite from pilfering public funds without any sort of actual liability themselves? I understand how an investor or the owner of a company might want to become as informed as possible about whatever business they're doing before sinking large amounts of money into it. I understand how a patron will want to be informed about a product before buying it. But the irresponsible actions of most governments, without any of the philosophical backing of a democratic mandate of any meaning, seems to be a sort of powerful condemnation of the entire process. And if it is a necessary evil (as I believe it is) to have a national military, police forces, schools and so on, wouldn't we want to prevent a hundred people from controlling everything under the sun, and giving them whatever they consider "necessary and proper" for the good of the people, with whom they have very little interaction?

I guess my question is - why go to all the trouble of arguing about state of nature when the graves of unrestrained government litter the timeline of the past six thousand years? In the end, isn't the more compelling reason for keeping our leaders from messing with us that it's benficial, and not that it's right?

cranked out at 11:17 AM | |

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