Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Notes on a Property Dilemma

There's stuff in this post. Logic and epistemology: ways to screw up knowing stuff and what isn't screwing up for contrast, along with a justification for why it isn't screwing up so that if I'm wrong you can figure out how and why, including some real-time learning so you can see how I do it. There's justice and values, including several falsifiable statements of mine. Some generalized morality and ethics, of course. There's some individualism at the end, since Zwolinski (via) brought it up.

I should probably emphasize, now and more often, that I'm fully aware that this is simply what I think about these issues. I'm not claiming I have ultimate truth; that is for you to determine.

Heck let's digress a bit on that, too. If I make a habit of checking my beliefs if I need them to be true, to me it doesn't matter whether they're actually true. If I'm right, I should act on my beliefs. If I'm wrong, I'm going to act on my beliefs anyway, because by definition I don't know they're wrong, and quite possibly the only way to find out - as I already did checking - is by acting on them. Is there a world 'out there'? I don't need to know or care. (This not caring is very relaxing, I heartily recommend it.) I just need to keep checking that my observations match my beliefs. I would also mention noticing when my beliefs don't support my goals, but how do you miss trying to accomplish something and failing? ...(hourglass)... You don't miss the failure, you miss that failure was caused by your beliefs. So two habits, then: check beliefs, blame beliefs. For example, perhaps I write a philosophy book, and it doesn't sell. I can blame lack of interest, "I tried, but nobody's interested in philosophy, even when they should be." Perhaps I'll blame piracy. "The Ebook format was bought about once for every nine copies we found in the wild." Even if these are true, why didn't I believe they'd happen before I wrote the book? The world is not to blame, my understanding of it is to blame. Whee, digression.

"So you want to correct the injustices that have happened in the last five minutes, but ignore the ones that happened prior to that? That’s arbitrary."
I want to correct injustices of living humans against other living humans. There's no point in trying to give the dead what they deserve.

"The only non-arbitrary approach is to start fresh from where we are. "
An interesting assumption. Can you prove it? I bet it is pretty hard considering I just provided a counter-example.

"I’m sorry I took your Ipad."
"Good. You can atone by giving it back. With an icepack. I promise to forgive you iff you do."

"I see now that respect for property rights is important. So let’s try to be better about enforcing them. Life, liberty, and property…starting now!”"
The way this is wrong looks complicated to me, let's see if I can put it into words...

First, 'is important.' But, as context makes clear, he means, 'will be important.' So he's claiming that he can toggle it from important to not-important, unilaterally.

Yup, there is it.

There's this principle, called symmetry. If he can toggle it from important to not-important, why can't I? Let me be pedantic: if he can, I can. So he toggles it off just in time to take the iPad...err, but what happens if I notice in time and toggle it back on again?

He's claiming that whether he's a thief or not depends on how fast I am on the uptake. Further this can be solved by continually toggling it to 'on' so that no matter how quickly Adam performs the sequence, in the same splinter of time he turns it off I switch it back on.

"Figuring out what to do about past injustices is a tough problem for any political theory."
No, thinking clearly, in straight lines, is a tough problem for most political theories. Master that and the rest is simple. For example, the above.

"Libertarians like Karl Hess and Murray Rothbard have tried, at least briefly, to grapple with it."
I haven't read much Rothbard, but I was there when Moldbug called him a high-functioning sophist. The pattern is that Moldbug is right about these things.

I suppose I should check.

"Suppose, for example, that A steals B's horse. Then C comes along and takes the horse from A. Can C be called a thief? Certainly not, for we cannot call a man a criminal for stealing goods from a thief. On the contrary, C is performing a virtuous act of confiscation, for he is depriving thief A of the fruits of his crime of aggression, and he is at least returning the horse to the innocent "private" sector and out of the "criminal" sector."
Interesting assumptions. Can you prove them? How does the 'criminal sector' break symmetry?

I hope you'll forgive me if I don't keep spending time on this. It seems like a waste.

"Obviously, this is not the sort of issue that’s going to be resolved in a short blog post."
Depends on how complicated the proofs are. Unless he means the inconsistent beliefs across people - the 'debate' - will be resolved. Historically only state thuggery has 'resolved' such debates because it is actually a power struggle pretending to be pious. Usually someone wins because they are the state or wins and therefore becomes the state.

"But it can, at least on some plausible interpretations of libertarian principles, sanction redistributing resources from C to B."
Interesting assumption, etc... Thing is 'libertarian' principles only apply to libertarians. You have to go deeper if you want to justify anything regardless of whether A or B are libertarian.

Empahsis mine:
"If A steals from B and bequeaths the stolen property to C, B clearly has a right against C, even if C has acted entirely innocently. "
If the difficulty of the problem were such that 'clearly' were admissible to the court of logic, then Rothbard would philosophically be the last word on it, and the little vignette earlier would be so much whining.

Also: basically, no. If A steals from B, B has a right against A. If A can't afford it because they gave it to C, it doesn't forgive A and indict C. Property doesn't commit offences and applying remediation to property is, frankly, stupid. People commit crimes.

"Sometimes, in other words, the point isn’t that we have acted wrongly. It is that we have benefited from injustice in a way that we were not entitled to benefit."
This is an impossible combination. Again, some work before I can put the contradiction into words...

I think the problem is with 'entitled.' It implies that I am entitled to other things. That I justly own my computer because I'm entitled to it.

Ah, yes there it is.

It is backwards. I'm justly entitled to my computer because I own it. Ha ha, oops.
For emphasis, I repeat: the problem is thinking clearly.
Therefore, I should repair this and see what it looks like.

If we benefit from injustice, we own the benefit. But we don't own the injustices, unless we are physically responsible for the injustices. Is that clear? I'm not sure how else to put it.

I'll try a better example. White settlers genocide indian tribes and I benefit because they're not crowding my land. In this case, restitution is simply impossible - the specific victim tribes were completely wiped out, by definition of genocide. They have no ancestors to carry out feeling wronged.

I do own the benefit. Zwolinski thinks I don't own it justly, as his vignette attempts to illustrate. However, thinking clearly resolves the contradiction. Do I own the genocide?

If I could have prevented the genocide, I would have. In this case you just have to trust me, as I don't have the power to do so. However, in general you'll find that I'll stop any injustices I do have the power to stop.

(This is somewhat nerve-wracking. If I see someone attacking someone else, do I intervene? The consensus is no, but only because as an individual I don't have the power. But what if I do? If I stay out and find out I could have, I'll feel awful. Rational expectation says stay out. My principles say intervene anyway, you coward, because in that one-in-a-million chance you're wrong, the risk of beating the rest of the time is worth it.)

Since I don't own the genocide, nobody is entitled to take my property away to try to restitute the genocide. That's just attacking more innocents. As an innocent, if you convince me that someone deserves restitution anyway, I will probably give it voluntarily.

It is only this constant, usually self-serving attempt to justify confiscating from me that makes me oppose the act of restitution. For example, this is an anti-libertarian screed, thus a pro-state screed, which means a pro-taxation screed. (Verification: word choice should be random. Instead Zwolinski follows statist word patterns, which strongly suggests he follows statist thinking patterns. This is because the mechanism for mimicry is feeling sympathy. You ape those you like.) Will taxes actually be used to give just desserts? No, categorically, absolutely not. It will be used to fund further crimes. Often against the weak, as those who value power hate nothing more than those who fail to live up to the value of power. Just as I hate nothing more than those who fail to live up to the value of truth and honesty. However, it is true that my hate doesn't indicate they deserve any kind of punishment. It is simply how I feel about it, nothing more, nothing less.

(Instead who deserves punishment is people who try to pressure me into being less than honest. Because if they don't, it must be kosher for me to pressure them so hard into being honest that they actually do it, and so I win either way. Dear opponents, kindly tell me which way you'd prefer I win.)

I should also mention that all this is a mainly-correct account of how property intuitions work, as I expected from the use of 'certainly,' 'clearly,' and so on in lieu of proofs.

Forgive my repetition for emphasis: as a matter of record, if you can prove that A stole the iPad they gave to me, I will voluntarily give it back to B, because I value justice over having an iPad. (Assuming A can't foreseeably pay. I am entitled to keep the iPad, after all.)

I'm glad I repeated that, because now I can put something else into words.

Trying to force me to value justice is wrong. Because if you can justify that force, then I can justify forcing you not to value justice. Again, opponents: kindly pick how you'd prefer I win.

"Receipt of such benefits could be understood as a kind of strict liability offense."
So, back to the article, "Like, no and stuff." Conclusion follows from premises, but premises are wrong.

"Second, an over-reliance on so-called “methodological individualism” sometimes leads libertarians to be unnecessarily obtuse in thinking about historical injustice."
Remember what I said about valuing truth? I'm dreading where this is going. How what he's about to say doesn't make every truth-lover embarrassed for him, I may never understand.

"“Only individuals act,” we sometimes like to say. Or even “there are no groups, only individuals.”"
This is completely true. Oh crap this is going to hurt.

"But there are groups, and they matter."
Here it comes...!

"Individuals belong to families that transmit economic, cultural, and other advantages (and disadvantages) from one generation to the next."

"Individuals have racial, religious, and ethnic identities, and those identities shape the way they are treated by other individuals and institutions both consciously and subconsciously, intentionally and unintentionally."
Aaaaaaaaaaaaargh. Oof.

"Put these two kinds of identity together and it’s easy enough to see that injustices against an individual in one generation can negatively affect other individuals in later generations."
Wow, that stings. Ouch.

"And that systematic injustices against certain groups of individuals can have systematic effects on other members of those groups in later generations."
Whew. Okay, it's over, he's started repeating himself.

Hahaha, owwwww. How do I know I'm a connoisseur of logic? This genuinely hurts me. (But doesn't cause suffering, luckily.) Plus, I can fix it! Yay!

Families transmit because individual family members cause a transmission to other family members. If it cannot be described in terms of individuals, it doesn't exist. (This analysis is part of what I learned just a couple days ago trying to write my individualism post.) The advantages and disadvantages are the result of individuals agreeing, (voluntarily or by trickery or by coercion)[1] to participate in the family, as can be verified by looking at other cultures who arrange families differently. These groups are arbitrary and contingent, and have no existence outside what individuals make of them.

First, be very very careful talking about 'identities.' We have collections of properties that are, for cognitive convenience, organized by categories. Again, the identity doesn't exist except as it is embodied by the specific properties. Though yes in most cases the identity categories are useful shorthands. So is it the properties or the shorthands that shape how individuals are treated? Which is it that causes the Catholic to treat Protestants differently than Atheists? (See what I mean about being easy if you think clearly? Ask the right question, and the problem is its own solution.) It's the shorthand, often synecdoches of the shorthand no less, not the properties themselves. Zwolinski's analysis only works if it pivots instead on the properties.

Put those two kinds of identity together? They're completely different. Zwolinskis adding oranges to apples. Though yes, it is true that injustices can propagate along identity category-shorthand-tag lines. However, since they aren't constrained by properties, the effects often short out and start propagating across nearby lines as well. Principle: this happens with everything that is an artefact of our non-infinite cognitive capacity, rather than being real: the non-infinite mind makes mistakes doing the shorthand.

"Finally, whatever the intrinsic philosophical merit of “the past is complicated so let’s just start fresh” approach,"
It has no philosophical merit, it is entirely pragmatic. Say we figure out what exactly coercion is and realize everyone has been coercing everyone else. We could try to untangle the extreme network of who owes whom what, or we could just do amnesty. I've seen examples of this before, and immediately there are cries for exceptions and special cases and so on, and these compromises have to be made, though they'll always be judgment calls. That's why we call the people who run courts 'judges.' (Imagine a world where judges were selected for being good with judgment. Seems nice, eh?)

Note that having a new understanding is vital to doing an amnesty properly. There has to be a qualitative change in how things are done. Otherwise you can reform gradually - find everything that is working and fix it in place, then nudge what isn't working into shape, one at a time, with lots of warning. My use of the word 'working' is extremely deliberate.

[1]I find it sometimes necessary but difficult to re-read a sentence and skip over mid-sentence parentheses. I suspect italicizing will fix this; I hereby solicit comments. Also it's unconventional and thus makes me uncomfortable - what if it looks dumb? - which is good because I should figure out how to stop doing so many parenthetical statements. I'm often using dashes just for variety; that's just extreme.

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