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Why Community Matters

By rusty in Op-Ed
Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 06:46:50 AM EST
Tags: Culture (all tags)
Culture

Human reality is socially constructed. That is, most of the "facts" that determine our daily lives are socially constructed facts, which are true as long as enough people believe them to be true. The right to own property, the right to not be murdered, indeed the right to continue to live at all; all of these are socially constructed rights, which are true only as long as enough of us believe in them.

American society has created for itself a Mobius-like reality by privileging capital, or property rights, above all else. This has granted corporations the power to purchase the reality that best suits them, and corporations in turn recreate the reality that privileges money. Communities -- places, real or virtual, where people speak directly to each other, without corporate mediation -- are the only hope we have to reassert control over our own reality, and place it back in the hands of people, instead of the fictional entities we call corporations.


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The United States Declaration of Independence reads, in part, as follows:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed...
While Jefferson ultimately attributes the source of humanity's "inalienable rights" to the "Creator," he recognizes that the only way for humanity to maintain these rights is by self-governance. That is, whether you are granted rights by God or not is essentially irrelevant, since the actual exercise of those rights is a social phenomenon.

"Human rights" are fundamentally a social construct. Your individual right to continue to live is maintained only as long as there is not a more powerful individual or group who wishes to cause your death. Humans have no natural predators -- that is, no species other than humanity itself supports its existence by killing humans.

This puts us in the unusual position of being able to determine a large proportion of "reality" as we experience it. Obviously, if I jump off a tall building, I will likely be killed on impact with the ground, no matter how many people believe I won't be. Reality, and existence, for me, is over. But what this event means to the people who didn't actually jump off the building with me has yet to be constructed. What the majority of others think about this event will determine the socially constructed reality of the event. That is, "what actually happened" is determined by common agreement.

If enough people believe I was pushed off that building, the individual they believe pushed me will go to jail. Buried in that sentence are a whole host of other socially constructed "truths", among which are that pushing someone off a building is murder, that murder is wrong, and that society may physically and behaviorally confine those who commit murder. None of these things are fundamentally "true" to any greater extent than that they are made true by enough people believing in them.

Take a different example. I die of pancreatic cancer. As with the first example, it makes no difference to me whatsoever what caused this event, since I am dead. But again, the larger meaning of this event, the "what actually happened" has yet to be determined, and in this case, it may become a lot more complex. You see, before I died of pancreatic cancer, I was a small farmer in Colorado. To save costs, I accepted cakes of processed sewage sludge from New York City, which I used to fertilize my tree farm. This was legal, because American society, acting through the EPA, has determined that "sludge farming" is an acceptable way to dispose of combined human and industrial wastes, despite the fact that these sludge cakes contain extremely high concentrations of heavy metals, petroleum byproducts, and carcinogenic chemicals.

An autopsy determines that my pancreatic cancer was the result of high concentrations of nickel and lead in my body. The concentrations of nickel and lead in the soil of my farm are hundreds of times the base levels in other soil in the area. It takes little imagination to conclude that my death was a result of the toxic sludge that I've been using to fertilize my farm.

The physical facts of my death are now known. But the social reality of the event still has not been determined. Seeing a potential disaster in the works, SludgeCo, who were my source of toxic farm sludge, will inevitably swing the PR machine into action. Company spokes-people will insist that I chose, of my own free will, to use their safe, inexpensive fertilizer. They will point to other possible explanations of my cancer, and produce "independent" company-paid scientists to cast doubt on the link between heavy metals and cancer. "Grassroots" organizations of farmers, funded by the company, will protest that limiting the flow of cheap SludgeCo fertilizer will harm their ability to compete in the market, and damage the competitiveness of Colorado's agriculture industry.

The point of all this public relations work is to create a socially accepted "reality" which does not make SludgeCo a murderer. This process is the bedrock on which American society creates its reality. Laws are made by representatives. Representatives act based upon what they believe are the opinions of their constituents. Constituents base their beliefs on information provided to them by media, such as television, radio, and newspapers. And at every level of this process, the public relations industry intervenes to create the "reality" that best suits their client.

American society is essentially capitalist. Capital is another one of those social fictions which has effaced its own socially-constructed nature to the point that most people accept it as "real," in and of itself, and beyond their ability to control. Like murder, though, money has no reality beyond that which we collectively grant it. In American capitalism, money is exchangeable for property, and vice versa. The reality of money is founded in our belief that the ownership of property is a fundamental right. Communist revolutions all over the world have proven that individual ownership of property is not a fact of nature, but is a socially constructed reality that holds true only as long as a sufficient number of people believe in it. If a sufficient number of people believe that they own the property you previously considered "yours," then that becomes true.

The base belief in individual ownership of property means that in order to continue to live, each of us must obtain money to purchase the basic things that enable that. That is, I have to get food, and in order to get food away from those who "own" it, I have to give them money. So life, in a capitalist society, is subordinate to property. My life, and yours, is sustained only at the pleasure of a social fiction. Because of our assent to this form of reality, those who hold the most property may dictate the views of the largest number of people, which in turn recreates and reinforces the reality which enables those property-holders to continue to hold property.

There's the rub. The individuals who control the largest amount of property are without exception corporations. Corporations, in the American legal reality, act in a limited sense as individuals. But unlike you or I, whose opinions are not mandated by law (but instead are codified into law), corporations are individuals who must value certain things in order to exist. Public companies must "maximize shareholder value" over all other things, or risk being destroyed by lawsuits. Like humans are biological organisms that must obtain food, water, and air to survive, corporations are social organisms that must obtain money to survive. Corporations live in a completely social reality -- a meta-world which we constructed for them to inhabit. But by making our belief in the right for humans to live subordinate to our belief in the right for humans to own property, we have made our ability to control the existence of corporations weaker than their ability to control us.

Belief in capitalism makes it a fact. Similarly, belief in the right of people to live would also make that a fact. American society privileges the former above the latter. Neither is more "real" than the other, indeed both are completely created and supported by the belief of people. But it will always be in capital's best interest to privilege property rights over any other socially constructed right, and if possible, to elevate that right to the status of "Natural Law" in order to maintain it as firmly as possible. The only way this can be reversed, the only way that people can reassert their control over the reality in which we exist, is by people speaking directly to each other, without capital mediating their voices.

Right now, the "voice of the people" is assumed to be the news media. American media is corporate -- that is, all major organs of media are corporations, without exception. Corporations, as seen above, will always privilege capital over all else, since it is the only way they can continue to exist. Therefore, media is in fact not the voice of the people at all, but the voice of corporate reality. Corporate media speaks to you, not for you, and cannot be trusted to reflect the views of humans. Instead, it is the organ with which corporations will continue to recreate the reality that allows them to exist at our expense.

This, finally, is why community matters. The only potential way out of this mousetrap we've created for ourselves is to actually speak directly to each other. Town meetings, open hearings, internet communities, places where people may actually speak as human individuals to other human individuals; these are the only places that we may examine what we have decided will be our reality, and the only places we may possibly decide to change that reality.

To take one example which is already happening: Peer-to-peer file sharing. The essence of P2P is the fact that large numbers of individuals have decided that their reality does not recognize the so-called "right" for corporations to own the files on their computer. Swapping MP3s, in their view, is not "stealing" because those who share their files don't consider themselves to be gaining or losing property. That is, they are challenging the assumption that music is an object that can be owned, by an artist, a record company, or indeed anyone. The socially constructed nature of this phenomenon is very evident in this case, as the record companies struggle to define file sharing as "piracy," while file-sharers counter that it is "fair use." Both of these terms are social constructs -- one defines the act as "wrong," the other as "acceptable." The battle is over whose reality will ultimately be stronger and become true.

What's striking about this struggle is that it is one of the few open battles directly waged by people against corporations. Few voices in corporate media have come out in defense of file-sharing, while the unfiltered voices of individuals have loudly and repeatedly, if not often eloquently, defended it. This is possibly the first time the internet has served as a means for individuals to attempt to change a basic social reality which was previously held to be unquestionably true.

What other "truths" do we hold to be self-evident? Which of them do we privilege over the lives of other humans, over even our own lives? Which of your opinions determines the reality in which you live, and from where did you derive that opinion? Are we, as a species, satisfied with the reality we've constructed for ourselves? It is only by asking and truthfully answering these questions, like Jefferson did, that we can begin to reassert control over the basic facts of our existence. Community matters because communities are people, and people create reality. What world do you want to create?

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Why Community Matters | 351 comments (348 topical, 3 editorial, 0 hidden)
self evidence (3.71 / 14) (#1)
by Seumas on Sun Apr 08, 2001 at 10:00:59 PM EST

Veering a little here . . .

Actually, I can't think of a single thing in this country which is "self evident". Even the right to govern yourself isn't self-evident. If it were, it wouldn't have to be spelled out in our very founding documents. If it were self-evident that all men were created equal, then it wouldn't take an amendment to our founding documents to declare slavery illegal.

In our society, nothing is self-evident. Everything must be written out in large block letters, in crayon, with diagrams and illustrations to encourage comprehension. This covers everything from slavery to taxes to privacy to how many gallons your toilet is allowed to use each time it flushes.
--
I just read K5 for the articles.

rules of reality (4.50 / 4) (#5)
by driph on Sun Apr 08, 2001 at 11:35:36 PM EST

Actually, I can't think of a single thing in this country which is "self evident". Even the right to govern yourself isn't self-evident. If it were, it wouldn't have to be spelled out in our very founding documents. If it were self-evident that all men were created equal, then it wouldn't take an amendment to our founding documents to declare slavery illegal.
I think you're missing the gist of the article here. "All men are created equal" may have been just as true back then as it was now; the only difference is that the reality of those who read that has changed, and with it their perception of how it should be defined.

In fact, that's a good example of social reality at work. Government, cultural and social rules may attempt to reinforce a belief or idea, but get enough people(revolution can help with that as well) on the wagon and eventually that belief will fall, to be replaced by what may become the standard view.

--
Vegas isn't a liberal stronghold. It's the place where the rich and powerful gamble away their company's pension fund and strangle call girls in their hotel rooms. - Psycho Dave
[ Parent ]

Exactly! (4.25 / 4) (#13)
by Seumas on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 12:35:15 AM EST

That's exactly it, though. That's exactly what I was saying. These things are not self-evident. If they were, they would not change over time. All men are created equal is very distinct. All male humans are created equal. It doesn't come any clearer than that. Yet, despite the clarity and the obviousness of the declaration, equal apparently can mean that a black man drinks from a seperate water fountain and a woman cannot vote.


--
I just read K5 for the articles.
[ Parent ]

"Self evident" is hand-waving (4.66 / 6) (#30)
by rusty on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 02:28:49 AM EST

"We hold these truths to be self-evident" is a nifty bit of flim-flammery on the part of Jefferson. He was easily smart enough to know that "self-evident" was a load of crap, but it was necessary to provide some kind of legitimacy for a set of "rights" that had virtually never existed before for anyone. If they were so "self-evident", why hadn't any of the monarchies of Europe ever noticed them?

This piece of text is the equivalent of getting all your friends to go to a movie by telling each of them that "everyone else is going." If they all believe that, then it will be true. Jefferson knew this, and clearly understood that rights are created by common assent, and that the main goal of the DoI had to be to manufacture that assent.

The problem is that if it can be manufactured once, it can be manufactured differently again, unless people figure out how they've been manipulated. We now have an enormous industry which was even called, by one of it's founding practitioners "the engineering of consent." That's the public relations industry, and they are the true voice of capital, and the determinants of public policy and whose rights are inalienable.

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

Jefferson did not manufacture rights (4.50 / 2) (#59)
by roystgnr on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 11:08:20 AM EST

The rights claimed to be "self-evident" by the founding fathers were drawn from philosophers (Locke, IIRC, but I forget who else) who claimed those rights as first principles or derived from such principles. In that view, the fact that monarchs hadn't acknowledged all of those rights yet (and even the monarchs were acknowledging more and more with passing centuries) is no more relevant than the fact that a street thug might not acknowledge your right to property; the monarch and the thug might simply have caught you in a situation where you have no power and they thus have the luxury of ignoring your rights. Perhaps a better analogy: none of the monarchies had built an airplane either, but that doesn't make the principles of aerodynamics a construction of mankind.

You could argue that political rights are like physics: the basics have been understood, but rarely put into practical use, for millenia. Alternative theories for even basic phenomena (phlogiston, monarchy) were popular just a few centuries ago, and alternative theories for more esoteric phenomena (superstring theory, communism) are still being debated today.

Nevertheless nobody would claim anymore that physics is a construction of physicists. Human rights still isn't at that stage yet (if we'd even managed to enumerate a definitive list of first principles we wouldn't be having this conversation), but perhaps there is more to political theory than constructions of (especially armchair) philosophers? We can certainly point to examples of theories of human rights whose implementations have failed. The most obvious failures involve the rebellion against and replacement of the rulers who benefited by the previous theory. Less obvious failures might be as simple as a stagnant economy in which the one true economic system of (capitalism|communism|socialism) failed to behave as expected. Granted, not all such failures are due to the philosophy of human rights; sometimes a steam engine dies from a weak bolt, not a misunderstanding of the laws of thermodynamics. Still, you'd think that we could form an empirically falsifiable theory by now. I'm sure we could learn something from all the inadvertent social experiments of history, if only there weren't so damn few of them.

[ Parent ]

I don't believe that (4.50 / 2) (#99)
by rusty on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 02:49:41 PM EST

The rights claimed to be "self-evident" by the founding fathers were drawn from philosophers (Locke, IIRC, but I forget who else) who claimed those rights as first principles or derived from such principles.

Ok, but "self-evident" is still hand-waving. Whether the source was Locke or his own fevered imagination, that phrase was a clever bit of misdirection to make these rights seem "omnipresent" when in fact they hadn't really been tried before.

The rest of your comment is the "rights exist independent of society" argument I have at great length with eLuddite elsewhere in this thread, so I won't reiterate all of it. I only ask, if a tree falls down in the forest and there's nothing there to hear it, does it matter whether it makes a noise? :-)

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

how about this (none / 0) (#158)
by Wah on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 09:09:25 PM EST

I only ask, if a tree falls down in the forest and there's nothing there to hear it, does it matter whether it makes a noise? :-)

That depends on whether or not you live in the country that has to deal with the resulting hurricane. Unless a tree falling causes less change than a butterfly flapping its wings. ;)
--
Fail to Obey?
[ Parent ]

Hmmm.. (none / 0) (#261)
by jude on Wed Apr 11, 2001 at 04:42:19 PM EST

So it boils down to:

Who do you want flim-flamming you?

Tom Jefferson or a PR firm?

Corporations feed on capital which they extract from our lives in the form of us spending our time in service to their ends. Their interests are served by keeping us ignorant and convinced that we are happy, or right, or patriotic, if we continue to support them.

The matrix with a curious twist. The machines are the men and the men are the machines. Obfuscation insures perpetuation. Clarity would demand a decision as to who is master of whom. And that is the choice human beings must make. Are our systems, policies, and economies more important than us, or are we more important than them? It would appear that the spirit of the times, as evidenced in American culture, is leaning toward the view that the individual is there to feed and nurture the corporation. The clearest evidence of this is the fact that we even discuss the life and death of other people just like ourselves in terms of money. Is it worth having the healthcare industry go broke to alleviate suffering and save lives. My answer is a resounding "YES". Is it worth having a grocery store chain become insolvent so people don't have to go hungry? "YES". Money never had to be the answer for everything. We made it that way of our own volition and we keep it that way. The concept of "community", and not just online communities but communities where you sweat and get your hands dirty for the good of your neighbors could and would, if we intend to survive and prosper, stand in for the failed monstrosities that nickel and dime us to death all day long. That would be a good thing, in my opinion. Some here have proposed that a community and a corporation are the same thing. I do not believe that is correct. A community is motivated to pursue the common good through reasoned discourse, voluntary effort, and cooperation. A corporation is motivated to accumulate money by expending the least amount of effort for the greatest amount of return. Controlled and kept on a short leash a corporation can be like a community. But allowed to exploit the profit motive to the maximum they are little more a parasite on the backs of living, breathing, humans.

[ Parent ]
self evidence? (3.50 / 4) (#9)
by eLuddite on Sun Apr 08, 2001 at 11:56:08 PM EST

Although various convenants of civil and political rights extend fundamental rights to include non obvious privileges, rights themselves are self evident. You have the right to life and everything in your naked possession including thought. Life requires food, shelter, clothing. Those are your rights. Everything else is privilege. These are not rights. Nor these. Ditto. Despite this extremely restrictive definition of rights, they manage to be subverted everywhere, everyday, in and out of the USA. I guess they aren't as self evident as we would like.

---
God hates human rights.
[ Parent ]

Bah, you have one right (5.00 / 5) (#20)
by 0xdeadbeef on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 01:29:59 AM EST

I've always liked this passage in Schismatrix:
"Are you familar with the concept of civil rights?"

Lindsay was cautious. "In what context?"

"The Zaibatsu recognizes one civil right: the right to death. You may claim your right at any time, under any circumstances. All you need to do is request it. Our audio monitors are spread throughout the Zaibatsu. If you claim your right, you will be immediately and painlessly terminated."

There is only one right that no man, no government, not even the universe itself can deny you, in time. Everything else is a delusion on your part, a belief that because you exist, you deserve to exist. Your bald assertion will do nothing to stop the jaws of a predator, or the bullets of a tyrant.

[ Parent ]
Rights (none / 0) (#226)
by Polonius on Wed Apr 11, 2001 at 01:22:10 AM EST

You might be able to argue that we all have the right to death, but certainly not at any time we choose. That right is far from inalienable, since in the United States assisted suicide is illegal under most (perhaps all) circumstances.

As humans we have the right to:

a. our opinion on absolutely anything, but guess what... we don't necessarily have the right to express that opinion

b. the right to die, but not necessarily the choice of the time, place or manner

c. our will, which is different from our opinion. Will is the most central component of the human (unless you believe in strong determinism, in which case it doesn't really exist).

That is what makes 1984 the most frightening novel ever written, even surpassing Brave New World. In Brave New World, the main character (I forget his name) kills himself at the end of the novel. He chooses to die rather than live in the artificially clean world or the fenced-in reservations. He used his OPINION that the society he was in to exercise his RIGHT to die, and then through the force of his WILL carried it out. In 1984, the main character (who's name I also forget) has his will broken and is shot in the back. He didn't choose death, but his opinion (according to the narrator) was that it was good for Big Brother to kill him, and he didn't even exercise his right to die, it was forced on him.

[ Parent ]
Re: Bah, you have one right (5.00 / 1) (#235)
by eLuddite on Wed Apr 11, 2001 at 06:18:18 AM EST

(a) Of course you have the right to dispose of your life as you see fit - its yours.

(b) Predators need to be moral agents before rights enter the picture.

(c) Remove food, shelter, clothing and you die. They arent rights as much as they are a restatement of the one right.

because you exist, you deserve to exist

Deserve has nothing to do with it. "You exist" is sufficient to define them. They exist because I exist.

---
God hates human rights.
[ Parent ]

(a) not completely sane (none / 0) (#265)
by Cyberrunner on Wed Apr 11, 2001 at 07:02:46 PM EST

What you call "your right to dispose of your life as you see fit", is not entirely sane. While I would say it might be a "right" for a person of full and mature level of understanding, it can't be a natural "right" because a person under a forceful influence or twisted deceitful purpose can easily create illusions for which that person would see no other means to escape but to dispose of their life. The more diffult solution to the problem is getting out of the situtation at all costs and for atleast the simple reason to stop other people from having the same thing happen to them.

The right to life is self-evident in all ways merely because it is required for any other liberties to exist!!! The preamble to the constitution of the U.S. makes its point clearly. In a tyrany, otoh, your "rights" are not even present, except for the your freedom to destroy that tyrany at any cost. That sort of sums up the reason freedom has prevailed and seems to win in the end, over and over.

So to reply to your other post:
The "inalienable" part is based the right to freedom, which when taken away gives you the natural "right" to remove tyrany that alienated it. All other natural rights are setup to perpetuate freedom... any rights beyond that are mostly societal and hardly inalienable! -- The right to die comes second only to your will to live, its equal to excepting defeat without a fight!!!

[ Parent ]

Rights and isms (none / 0) (#251)
by jude on Wed Apr 11, 2001 at 12:21:03 PM EST

You have a right to life? Tell that to the man holding the gun to your temple. All he wants is the cash for his next chemistry experiment, and if blowing your brains out will get it for him that's the end of you, and your assumed rights.

These "social problems" would handily disappear if we merely removed our brains, belched, farted, ate, screwed, defecated and died, becoming consumables for something else as our final act of gratitude. Any takers for the simple solution?

Then I am afraid if you opt to keep your brain that you will be required to use it. Property is OK within sane and safe limits, but do any of you really believe that Bill Gates is so vastly superior to you in intelligence, benevolence, and the ability to bring valuable and useful things into the world that he should be worth billions while a worker in the Guatemalan sugar cane fields (who probably works harder in one day than Bill Gates does in ten years) should be relegated to subsisting off of rice and beans in a mud hut? Something seems pretty obviously out of balance to me. Come on, you high and mighty defenders of capitalism! Did you forget your kindergarten lessons?

Like all "isms", Capitalism when it becomes overweening and extreme is like the snake consuming itself by it's own tail. Unfortunately that awareness will probably not hit the hard core capitalist until his own fangs sink into his neck.

We made it, we sustain it, and we can change it.

[ Parent ]
a few points of emphasis (3.53 / 15) (#3)
by eLuddite on Sun Apr 08, 2001 at 11:08:34 PM EST

The point of all this public relations work is to create a socially accepted "reality" which does not make SludgeCo a murderer. This process is the bedrock on which American society creates it's reality. Laws are made by representatives. Representatives act based upon what they believe are the opinions of their constituents. Constituents base their beliefs on information provided to them by media, such as television, radio, and newspapers.

That's only what populist (a dirty word) sons of bitches do. Representatives are supposed to represent their constituents to the best of the the representatives' ability, not their constituents' ability. What if their constituents are Idaho farmers who enjoy the burning smell of inexpensive new york sludge? What if their constituents make new york sludge.

You do not elect representation to act on your interests, you elect representation to look out for your interests and you hope that representation is both smarter and better informed than you have the time and expertise to be.

America propagates a circle of populist opinion (media, voter, representative, media) because Americans have a naive understanding of their history and their constitution. They think America should be ruled by popular opinion. Not only is popular opinion bunk, its promulgation through wildly pervasive corporate owned popular media is something that your fathers of confederation could never have hoped to imagine. They didnt have to. Populism is not an article of the Constitution.

It is in fact true that the common man does not know best. His wishes should be consulted, not followed according to rule. The common man speaks through periodic elections, when the facts and the results of his previous representation are in.

And at every level of this process, the public relations industry intervenes to create the "reality" that best suits their client.

They most certainly do; and you buy that reality and demand representation that upholds it.

Belief in capitalism makes it a fact. Similarly, belief in the right of people to live would also make that a fact. American society privileges the former above the latter.

Capitalism is an economic theory, not a right. It is not even a privilege. The spoil of capitalism - wealth - is a privilege. Life, on the other hand, is a right, inalienable under capitalism, communism, live-in-a-cave-in-bora-bora-ism. When you place wealth on the same level as life, you demote your rights. Therefore do not look to capitalism to honor to your rights. Capitalism is a useful system of economics, it is a useless theory of government.

---
God hates human rights.

I disagree... (3.00 / 3) (#8)
by Zeram on Sun Apr 08, 2001 at 11:54:10 PM EST

I think history has borne out that under most governmental styles there comes a point where life is not an inalienable right. Look at the USSR, or even Russia now. And certaily China doesn't consider life inalienable. And if you piss off the US enough then the ATF/NSA/FBI/Pick an agency will find a way to silence you. The CIA was particularly good at that, dispite their clamis to never have operated with in US borders.


<----^---->
Like Anime? In the Philly metro area? Welcome to the machine...
[ Parent ]
sure, but (3.20 / 5) (#10)
by eLuddite on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 12:02:32 AM EST

A violation of rights is not an arguement for their inexistence. Rights exists independent of that body trying to take them away. Believe this or make a sinecure of the ATF/NSA/FBI/CIA's work.

---
God hates human rights.
[ Parent ]

However... (3.00 / 2) (#19)
by Zeram on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 01:28:25 AM EST

If the a governement decides that it is going to kill anyone for any reason then it forfeits everyones "inalienable" right to life. If the US decides it is going to silently kill it's most vocal dissadents, then how far is that from killing it's less voacl dissadents? Or how far are you from being called "one of Americas most vocal dissadents"? When a line like that is drawn it can be redrawn anywhere with a minium of rationalization. I think you are wrong because once a persons rights a violated, it only gets easier to violate them again. Espically when you make up straw men to take a persons attention away while violating their rights.
<----^---->
Like Anime? In the Philly metro area? Welcome to the machine...
[ Parent ]
Rights without context (3.80 / 5) (#21)
by rusty on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 01:32:31 AM EST

A violation of rights is not an arguement for their inexistence. Rights exists independent of that body trying to take them away.

If I were trapped on five acres of sand in the middle of the South Pacific, with nothing but my human rights, how long would I live? Can I eat my rights? Can I burn them to keep me warm? Can I fashion a crude spear out of them to catch fish?

Put another way: Whether you believe rights "exist" independent of social context or not is irrelevant. I don't, but you are free to, in the same way that I don't believe in God, but you are free to.

My argument is that human rights, outside of a social context, have no meaning. This is what I meant about the DoI quote. Jefferson says "rights come from the Creator". I say they come from "The Great Wahooni". You say they come from under your garden gnome. None of that matters in the least.

Human rights only have meaning when they are used socially, by someone, to justify some action. The rights we all agree you have are the rights you may appeal to in justifying your actions. When the state of Texas sends someone to the electric chair, they have determined, socially, that that individual may no longer excercise his right to live. Whether the Great Pumpkin, who originally granted those rights, agrees with this or not is irrelevant.

So, the only "violation" of rights is when the person who wishes to exercise a right is prevented from doing so by someone else who does not have the weight of social reality on their side. Me shooting you in a dark alley is a violation of your rights. Texas zapping you with a thousand amps is not, unless and until the weight of popular belief makes it so.

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

Re: Rights without context (3.00 / 3) (#33)
by eLuddite on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 02:32:35 AM EST

Rusty, if you rescue me from that deserted Island, you cant press me into slavery without violating my rights. I own me. I dont care which society may own you. My rights exist independently of you or your society, even if your society is on a mission from god to save my soul.

My argument is that human rights, outside of a social context, have no meaning.

They have no way to interact. They certainly have a meaning. Put another way, just because you erect a society inhabited by rights doesnt mean you define them. You merely lay rules according to how they conduct themselves. If your rules are just, I retain my rights.

---
God hates human rights.
[ Parent ]

Not a very useful argument (3.80 / 5) (#34)
by rusty on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 02:53:21 AM EST

Rusty, if you rescue me from that deserted Island, you cant press me into slavery without violating my rights. I own me. I dont care which society may own you. My rights exist independently of you or your society, even if your society is on a mission from god to save my soul.

As soon as I save you, we're in a social situation. If I'm sufficiently stronger than you, I can ignore your "right" to life if it suits me, and there's nothing you can do about it. Just or not, I say is irrelevant. It's a fact of social existence, and labeling it "unjust" does bugger-all to change that.

As I say above, you can believe in abstract, inalienable, God-given rights if you want to. I'm not arguing that, because there's no use in arguing that. You can claim that ignoring what you believe are your God-given rights is unjust. That's fine too. I say rights are socially constructed, you say they're god-given and respected only by just societies. You say potato, I say potahto.

My whole spiel about "socially constructed reality" is that the effects of rights can only be observed in social situations. It's a Schroedinger's cat argument: before you open the box, you believe the cat's dead, I believe it's alive. Neither belief makes any difference at all, because there's no observable "truth" until we open the box. Human rights have no observable effect until you put people in a social situation.

Even "justice" is a social construct. If you are mauled by a polar bear, was that bear acting unjustly to deprive you of your god-given right to live? Maybe it was, maybe not. My view would be that the concept of justice simply does not apply, outside of a social situation.

This is probably the best I can do here. I am aware that there are people who believe in Absolute Truth, and I get the feeling you're one of them. There's nothing I can do to change your mind on that, and really I don't want to. But it will make my argument pretty much incompatible with your chosen reality. At that point it becomes a God-argument, which I try like hell not to get into. Let me know if what I'm saying makes any sense to you at all here.

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

Re: Not a very useful argument (3.50 / 4) (#39)
by eLuddite on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 04:06:47 AM EST

As soon as I save you, we're in a social situation. If I'm sufficiently stronger than you, I can ignore your "right" to life if it suits me,

And you will be violating my rights. That's the point. Your position of strength is not an excuse to violate my rights. You have that strength by virtue of superior social circumstances, none of which justify the violation of my rights. You think they do because on a sliding scale of privileges with my rights on one end and your guns on the other, I can be dismissed as justifiable homocide.

I insist you remove my rights from that sliding scale of privileges in order to avoid future confusion. There is no excuse for the abrogation of rights, not even the sudden appearance of a social context.

As I say above, you can believe in abstract, inalienable, God-given rights if you want to. I'm not arguing that, because there's no use in arguing that.

It is extraordinarily useful to argue that. If enough people understood that and took it to heart, the following wouldnt happen: indian masacres, slavery in america, imperialism, the holocaust. Why shouldnt we kill Jews? They are usurious gypsies without german virtue. All these things, and more, happen because people elevate their privileges above other people's rights. The only way such actions were justified is through arguements denying the existence of inviolable rights.

Dont do that.

My whole spiel about "socially constructed reality" is that the effects of rights can only be observed in social situations. [...] Human rights have no observable effect until you put people in a social situation.

That is certainly true.

If you are mauled by a polar bear, was that bear acting unjustly to deprive you of your god-given right to live?

You can only violate my rights if you have a moral conscience. For the bear, I'm food. I do not represent a moral choice between right and wrong. For the lightening bolt that strikes me, I am the proper polarity. For the rock that falls upon my head, I am an impediment to gravity. These are all perceptions of me as flesh, not me as I.

This is probably the best I can do here. I am aware that there are people who believe in Absolute Truth, and I get the feeling you're one of them. There's nothing I can do to change your mind on that, and really I don't want to. But it will make my argument pretty much incompatible with your chosen reality. At that point it becomes a God-argument, which I try like hell not to get into. Let me know if what I'm saying makes any sense to you at all here.

Honestly, God is not a requirement. All that is necessary is a mutually agreeable definition: I am born with inalienable rights which I retain until my death independent of anything outside my body. In evaluating a society or a government, that definition is both useful and distinct from privilege. It simply makes it easier to argue without lapsing into ontological debate.

---
God hates human rights.
[ Parent ]

Ok (4.00 / 2) (#42)
by rusty on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 04:45:31 AM EST

It is extraordinarily useful to argue that. If enough people understood that and took it to heart, the following wouldnt happen: indian masacres, slavery in america, imperialism, the holocaust. Why shouldnt we kill Jews? They are usurious gypsies without german virtue. All these things, and more, happen because people elevate their privileges above other people's rights. The only way such actions were justified is through arguements denying the existence of inviolable rights.

That's my point, in a nutshell. If enough people actually believed in life as a right as deeply as you did, it would be treated as one. Our society instead treats property ownership in that way, and as a result cheapens the only right that really matters.

All else which follows is argumentative frippery, and may safely be ignored, as I have already said everything that really matters in this comment.

Where we differ is that you see rights as being natural and inviolable, and I see them as being created by each individual person by force of will, and maintained by collective belief. I am profoundly uncomfortable in attributing the source of my right to live to anyone but myself. If it were granted by Nature, or God, then again I am not responsible for it. If a society decides to violate it, all I can do is throw my hands up and appeal to whatever Force it was that granted my right to live in the first place. I have little faith any answer will be forthcoming.

But this argument is God vs. Man, which has been going on since... umm... always. Is there a Higher Power, or an Inalienable Truth or not? I believe not, you believe so. We both believe that societies may respect our rights or not, as they see fit, which is all we can practically discuss anyway.

If I may appeal to your gentler nature. Please, please, unless you have more to say about the actual practice of the matter, let this argument die now. Hopefully you can see a tiny sliver of my view. I think I have a fair grasp of yours. I'm positive that there is no "winning" outcome to this debate. I appreciate your perspective and eloquent defense.

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

ok but (3.00 / 2) (#43)
by eLuddite on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 05:07:03 AM EST

can i point and call you a moral relativist behind your back?

:-) all
:-) you
:-) other
:-) people
:-) look
:-) at
:-) these
:-) smileys

---
God hates human rights.
[ Parent ]

Fair enough (NT) (2.50 / 2) (#44)
by rusty on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 05:19:07 AM EST

I said No Text, dammit! :-)

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
Not to reopen the argument, but... (none / 0) (#314)
by Alhazred on Sat Apr 14, 2001 at 12:43:56 PM EST

This is just my personal opinion/belief system, but for what it is worth...

To have to appeal to some higher power, and attribute to it all that is good and noble in mankind, and to insist that our rights and sense of morals were dictated to us from on high and that we must "do right" because "God said so", is IMHO demeaning to mankind.

Human beings have the capacity for good. Good is in fact a human social construct, just as rights are. We should be PROUD of this! We are smart enough and bold enough and have enough will power to at least sometimes lay down our rocks, stones, clubs, axes, guns, nuclear missles, and treat each other with respect, recognizing in each other person a reflection of ourselves.

I do not believe that fear or even respect for some "higher power" will ever lead to better behaviour from one person towards another. Only by recognizing that we have no inherent rights, and by recognizing that we have constructed the definition of rights based on our desire to love and respect ourselves and the people around us will we rise from the swamp in which we live now and attain a truely fair and just society where everyone's obligations to their fellow humans are met.

Once a man decided to fight with me. At first we raised our fists and began to take swings at each other, but after a blow or two had landed on each side I began to be unable to will myself to continue. I could only see the effects of hitting him in terms of the pain and injury it would cause. He must have begun to see this too, as soon we stopped and instead set aside our differences. Both much the better for having recognized ourselves in the other, not because of some obligation to some higher power, but because we came to identify with each other as human beings.
That is not dead which may eternal lie And with strange aeons death itself may die.
[ Parent ]
The nature of "rights" (3.66 / 3) (#45)
by ZanThrax on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 06:18:44 AM EST

absolute, or (and I agree with Rusty) a social construct, as any other, is completely irrelavant. If a given society believes in a particular right (lets say the right to life), then all the members of that society are treated as though, and will believe that they have the right to live. People in this society will consider killing each other to be morally wrong. In a society where certain members are not believed to have the right to life (regardless of the existence of a right that has nothing to do with social constructs), the members of that society will not consider it morally wrong to own or abuse or kill the members of society that are not considered to have the right to life. In the end, as psyc 101 classes point out (surprisingly, most students haven't already figured this out on their own) reality is perception. The presence or absence of certain rights outside the social construct has no effect on the world. All that matters is what the people in a society believe to be true.

Before flying off the handle over the suggestion that your a cocksucker, be sure that you do not, in fact, have a cock in your mouth.
[ Parent ]

Re: The nature of "rights" (4.00 / 2) (#49)
by eLuddite on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 09:03:34 AM EST

absolute, or (and I agree with Rusty) a social construct, as any other, is completely irrelavant

Except when you have to weigh them against other rights. All your privileges combined do not outweigh a single natural right. People forget that and then a Vietnam happens.

In the end, as psyc 101 classes point out (surprisingly, most students haven't already figured this out on their own) reality is perception.

Reality as perception doesnt make it less real.

The presence or absence of certain rights outside the social construct has no effect on the world. All that matters is what the people in a society believe to be true.

Reality as perception doesnt make it less real. Now, did you mean Nazi Germany people? Sorry, that matters. If you cannot measure a society according to some metric, then how will you distinguish good societies from bad ones? How will you improve as a society?

You need an invariable metric. I dont care where you get your metric from but at some point you will need a unit measure and that measure will be natural right. One meter, one kg, one life, one natural right. If you can postulate a more atomic unit, I'd like to know what it is; western thought has a strong tradition of using natural right.

If you deny the existence an elemental right as an invariable metric, we will have no way of measurably comparing societies across time. Nazi Germany may or may not be bad and this thread will be over.

---
God hates human rights.
[ Parent ]

various semi-coherent responses. (5.00 / 1) (#57)
by ZanThrax on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 11:02:39 AM EST

First off, a little side note. I don't think our arguement (in the debating sense, not the screaming and yelling at one another sense) is going to go anywhere, since you seem to believe that your belief in the presence of an invariable moral metric is something more than any another belief. (And yes, I realise that my belief that its not possible for any knowledge or statement to be more than a strongly-held belief is a similar baseline assumption that affects my thinking in the same way that yours affects you.)

Perception is reality. I said that backwards earlier.
While there is an objective reality, we can't ever know what it is. All we know is what we percieve (more acuratly what we believe we've percieved. Halucinations are false perceptions, ne?) Since most people believe that someone jumping off a tall building is going to die, we consider that belief to be the nature of reality. (I also believe this) A broad consensus of belief such as the basics of how the physical world functions is the closest we can ever come to understanding that objective reality. The thing is though, none of that really matters. When we percieve something that doesn't mesh with the actual situation (which is normally the case, to some degree), we act on what we see, not what truly is, so the actual nature of reality has no effect whatsoever on our beliefs and behaviour.

Of course we distinguish good societies from bad ones. Good societies are those whose philosphies and actions reflect what we (as a group of individuals, not as an individual group) consider to be good. Evil societies are the opposite.

The only metric availible to any person is their own morality, and that is shaped to some extent by the world they grew up in and the world they find themselves in now. The lack of a invariable metric (and I can't conceptualise one that possibly could be. This is philosophy after all, not mathmatics.) I don't think we need to have an invariable metric to use as a basis for judgement though. All a society needs is a basic standard of morality that the majority of individuals agree with the majority of (horrid sentence I know, think line of best fit from statistics). For the vast majority of societies, that metric will judge Nazi Germany to be the monumental evil that it was. (Yes, that was a personal moral judgement. It was based on my personal morality. It is possible to have moral beliefs while understanding them to be nothing but a personal belief.)

As for western thought and the traditions of it, well, read my sig. I've never read most of the writing that constitutes "western thought", or that of any other philosphical school.

Before flying off the handle over the suggestion that your a cocksucker, be sure that you do not, in fact, have a cock in your mouth.
[ Parent ]

Understood (none / 0) (#68)
by eLuddite on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 12:00:42 PM EST

The lack of a invariable metric (and I can't conceptualise one that possibly could be. This is philosophy after all, not mathmatics.)

I realize this but in order to reason about society and to discuss it without wandering all over ancient greece carrying a bible, we need to establish some definitions. In political theory, the definition of right isnt the same as that of privilege. It has proven a useful abstraction to split the two and to derive one from the other. I dont really care from whence natural rights are derived, only that they exist. I dont require a God, only the imposition of a formal system. The latter facilitates discussion of society amenable to reason; societies compare according to how easily they violate natural rights. That's a useful metric, IMO. An O which isnt necessarily held by others, particularly those whose sense of right and wrong isnt as viscous as mine. Fair enough.

---
God hates human rights.
[ Parent ]

Your RIGHTS (3.66 / 3) (#47)
by Afty on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 08:34:50 AM EST

And you will be violating my rights. That's the point. Your position of strength is not an excuse to violate my rights.

Unfortunately, I think Rusty used a poor situation to explain his reasoning - by placing the two of you on a desert island, he did not preclude the continued existence (elsewhere) of society, and therefore of the 'rights' granted to you by society, and the consequences of those rights should you become once more a part of the group.

If he had said you were the last two human beings alive, after a nuclear holocaust, this would change the argument entirely (and illustrate his point somewhat better).

Now, let's consider this situation. You and Rusty are now society. Each member of society has a certain level of power (and I'm defining power now as exactly what it is, the ability to exert influence, or enact your will upon others) which dictates their standing in society. Powerful people (read elected officials, corporations PR departments, respected guys from your local pool hall) have more influence upon society and therefore shape it more than a less powerful individual would. If 200 million dumb, weak americans decide that something is right, but 100 million strong intelligent ones disagree, the issue boils down to which group has the greater total power - that group will 'win', and the issue will be decided in their favour.

Now in your 2 man society, we have established that Rusty is more powerful than you, therefore what he says, goes. If he decides that you have no right to freedom, and he wishes to enslave you, then that is fine.

Taking a real world example, if 99% of the American population believed that the creators of child pornography did not deserve to live (anyone else think we're heading in this direction...?) then that will (after a period of time for the buerocracy involved) becomes true. They no longer have that right. They had it, but societical changes took it away from them. The right was not inalienable, the right was not self-evident either. Or at least, it won't appear to be after the change has taken place.

Now tell me, you are a person who posts to k5. If I put you in this social group (which you are, this is provable) and then 99% of the people decide that k5 posters no longer have the right to live, what does this mean in your theory? Does it mean you still have the right to live, but too many people have decided otherwise, so you will die, or does it genuinely mean that you no longer have a right to live?

Each human has only one, self-evident, inalienable right, and that is to attempt carry out any action he or she wishes, regardless of consequences.

[ Parent ]
Re: Your RIGHTS (3.50 / 2) (#50)
by eLuddite on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 09:22:53 AM EST

Each human has only one, self-evident, inalienable right, and that is to attempt carry out any action he or she wishes, regardless of consequences

That's not a right, thats an absence of all rights. I'm waiting for the Social Darwinian glove to fall; dont disappoint me.

---
God hates human rights.
[ Parent ]

Rights vs Abilities (none / 0) (#100)
by Afty on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 02:55:57 PM EST

That's not a right, thats an absence of all rights. My point exactly - that's exactly what you have without society, therefore "rights" only exist with a society present, and rights are decided upon by the society. Without society you have "abilities" which are very different from "rights".

[ Parent ]
Look... (none / 0) (#65)
by Zeram on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 11:50:35 AM EST

You can believe what ever you want to believe, however your belief does not make something any more real than my belief in the opposite. I know you were looking for the social darwinism argument, well your not going to get it in quite the same way you want it here. The inherent reason that social darwinism makes no sense is the same reason that your arguement doesn't work. They both require the existence of an absolute.

There are no, I repeate no absolutes. Our experience of reality is our perception, and our perception is subjective. Even the experience of scientific data is subjective. There is no way to remove that subjectivity. Thus your arguement holds no water.

I completely 100% disagree that there are any inalienable rights, and because I am able to do that, along with many other people, then there aren't any. All of our rights are there by people agreeing that they are there, and if people start agreeing that our rights aren't there then they are not. It's that simple. If I am locked up in an interenment camp then saying that "god" gave me a right to be free might make me feel better, but it sure as hell isn't getting out of that camp!

The reason that Nazi Germany makes a bad example is because the German people had very little idea about what was going on. If they had known that all those Jews were going to die many of them would not have went along in the begining. And honestly, you can sit there and crow about inalienable rights, but if you lived in a Nazi concentration camp you'd see how alienable the "right" to life really is.

The Nazis were wrong because we as humans see them as wrong. Mass slaughter does not in anyway enrich humanity as a whole, it only sets us back. That is why the Nazis were wrong, not because of any definititve moral right or wrong. Morality is a crutch, an easily sliding scale that has been used to justify everything from the actions of Tim McVeigh to the crusades.

The only thing that even comes close to being the kind of absolute that you need to base your arguement on is the concept of "what makes humanity as a species better". Advancement of the species is as close to a moral right and wrong as we are truly capable of coming close to. But again even that is filtered throught our subjective perceptions and so, is not absolute.


<----^---->
Like Anime? In the Philly metro area? Welcome to the machine...
[ Parent ]
Aha! (none / 0) (#70)
by eLuddite on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 12:29:09 PM EST

The Nazis were wrong because we as humans see them as wrong.

Why?

Why do you see them as wrong? The slaughter of Jews would not have been a problem for Nazi Germany had they gotten away with it. Can you imagine an alternative timeline which celebrates that slaughter? People die every day to the advantage of other people. Where do you derive this notion that it is wrong? Wherever it is, that's from where I derive natural right.

Now, I'll concede a requirement for absolutes. I'm not prepared to be completely insensitive to another point of view, even if that view is fatalistic nihilism :-)

Ultimately, since society is a continuous fabrication of people, it is really useful that people should have this sense of right (as in opposite of wrong) and of right (as in inalienable) while fabricating. Both senses of the word are equivalent.

---
God hates human rights.
[ Parent ]

What? (none / 0) (#78)
by Zeram on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 01:05:07 PM EST

Did you read what I wrote at all? I said that the Nazi slaughter did nothing to advace the state of humanity as a species. In fact it probably set us back by quite a bit. And yes I can imagine a world where the Nazi slaughter is celerbrated, it makes me ill to think of it, but I can (and yet the artist in me is saying but maybe then hollywood wouln't suck as much as it does... anyway).

My sense comes from trying to decide what will and will not advance our species. But again that is a subjective call. Everything is a subjective call. And there is the problem with your theory: "Everything is subjective!" You can't take the subjectivity out of human experience no matter how hard you try. That is why Rusty is right, because we all have to agree on what subjective concepts we want to operate off of. There is no grand objective "right and wrong" and even if there was it would be invalidated by our subjective means of viewing and interpreting it.

If you derive your "natural right" out of your subjective view of what you see as an absolute then it's still invalid, because it has lost its absoluteness by being filtered through your subjective perception. What it really seems like you don't understand is that the closest we as a species can come to an absolute is what we all agree upon as being real (which goes back to the point Rusty was making in his story). The curse of subjectivity (from your perspective) is that we have to define absolutes because they are incapable of existing "natually". And really I don't understand how you can't see that.


<----^---->
Like Anime? In the Philly metro area? Welcome to the machine...
[ Parent ]
Re: What? (none / 0) (#95)
by eLuddite on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 02:26:13 PM EST

I said that the Nazi slaughter did nothing to advace the state of humanity as a species.

You dont know what that means, do you? Wait. (And what is this species bullshit? Humanity alone is just fine. Are you trying to make a biological arguement, here? Please do.)

All of our rights are there by people agreeing that they are there, and if people start agreeing that our rights aren't there then they are not. It's that simple.

It's even simpler than that:

Germans agreed as a nation that Jews have diminished rights. They then systematically ignored and/or contributed to the "Jewish Problem." If admission of this presents a problem for you, do not waste any more of my time.

Had Germany won WWII, the Jews would have disappear from our collective conscience, replaced in a matter of generations by hale, blonde, blue-eyed, functional equivalents. The Victors will have rewritten history as they always do, and humanity will have continued to stagger along as it always does after similiar examples of inhumanity. Just as it did after Stalin's purges. Just as it did after Pol Pot's genocidal regime.

Knowing this, explain to me how the advancement of the state of humanity would have been retarded.

You cannot explain any such thing without appealing to a moral arguement. The "advancement of humanity" is a moral claim, not a biological imperative. Humanity advances just fine in a perpetual state of war and injustice. Here we are, in all our advanced glory.

It was wrong to deny Jews their inalienable right to life. No ifs, no buts, no ors. "Advancement of humanity" appeals to, guess what, an arguement that you not violate anyone's natural right to life. If it didnt, who cares about the Jews? Do not make moral arguements if you wish to debunk natural rights, it makes you look foolish. Natural rights are a moral arguement.

Furthermore, until such time as you can demonstrate that right and wrong exists only in my mind, do not call it subjective, especially in bold. Subjective knowledge exists in the mind, unaffected by the world. You, yourself, argue that it _is_ affected by the world, through some kind of magical agreement between people, subject to historical circumstance.

What?

Precisely. Before accusing me of not reading what you write, stare down a few political philosophy books.

---
God hates human rights.
[ Parent ]

I know exactly what I meant! (none / 0) (#109)
by Zeram on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 03:31:53 PM EST

By mass slaughter of the jewish popultaion, the Nazi's decreased humanitys potential. People died who could have been, artists, scientists, and/or philosophers of great merit, hell some of the peole killed were already at or near that status anyway. That is what I mean, human potential was decreased (even if only in the short term as you point out). But a certain amount of uniqueness was oblterated, enough in fact to make it a bad choice for our species in general.

And yes my argument is mostly biological because at least in the case of biology there is some firm ground to stand on. Granted though that biology is not the sum total of humanity, it provides as I said some frim ground, but does alow for potential, which is what I am argueing here. Political theory and philosophy do not provide any firm ground from which to argue, becaue then one or both of us would have to conced subjective points to the other, as opposed to argueing out of fact.

Germans as a nation did not agree to diminish Jewish rights. Many people were apalled but what the Nazis were doing, and were killed for saying so, the rest fell in line out of fear. Once again proving Rustys point that what we all believe defines what is real(If I believe that the jackbooted thugs are going to break down my door and haul me away to be killed because I say something the government doesn't like, then it's going to happen). And no it was not wrong to deny the Jews a "natural right" which never existed! It was wrong to deny humanity the presence of the Jews, who could have made valuable contributions to the species.

And don't throw the "functional equvialants" straw man at me. There is no such thing! Everyone is unique, with a uniqe experience and perspective and can not be fully replaced, no matter what. Humanity will always "stagger along" but it is my belief that denying humanity the chance to move along in a better way is wrong. And it is impossible to tell who is capable of making that happen. That is the reason why I see murder as wrong. Because everyone has potential.

I do not believe in morals. Morals as a concpet is a den of viliany that has been propigated down though the centuries as a justification for anything and everything that humanity doesn't want to own up to. I suggest you instead look to ethics. And rour right natural rights are a moral arguement, which is why I am firmly against them.

Do you have any clue how easy it would be for me to prove that right and wrong is only in your mind? All I have to do is go and ask 10 people to outline right and wrong and then compare that to your definition. If there is any variation, then guess what? It's all in your head! It's in your head because people are going to disagree with you and unless everyone agrees on what is right and what is wrong 100%, then there is no absolute. Hand waving at some mythical ideal doesn't make it a reality. Consesus makes reality.

Everything is affected by the world, unless you find a away to hole yourself up and recive no human contact at all then you will be affected by humanity. Wether it is the Friday to your Robinson Curose, your family, your tribe, your drinking buddies, or the Federal Government, is irrelavent. You are affected and your subjective thinking is affected too.
<----^---->
Like Anime? In the Philly metro area? Welcome to the machine...
[ Parent ]
Re: I know exactly what I meant! (none / 0) (#194)
by eLuddite on Tue Apr 10, 2001 at 06:31:56 AM EST

But a certain amount of uniqueness was oblterated, enough in fact to make it a bad choice for our species in general.

That is what I mean, human potential was decreased

And yes my argument is mostly biological because at least in the case of biology there is some firm ground to stand on.

(9 parts biology, 1 part what? Anyway, you can squirm this one out for yourself, on your own time.)

There are no good or bad choices in biology. There isnt an arguement for ethics in any biology textbook on earth. Jewish organisms die. German organisms survive. It doesnt matter whether a giant space rock or a hitler falls into their community. As far as biology is concerned, Hitler might just as well have been a space rock.

The loss of a "unique" human being is a moral loss, not a biologic loss. Biology merely happens. Furthermore, there is no more "potential" (your word) in a Jew's genes than there is in Catholic or German "genes:"

And no it was not wrong to deny the Jews a "natural right" which never existed! It was wrong to deny humanity the presence of the Jews, who could have made valuable contributions to the species.

I love it. Dont cut this patch of wheat lest it "contribute" to that patch at the other end of the field. Too bad a species pursues its own interests - namely, 6 million dead Jews. Either that or the Nazis broke free of their biologic chains long enough to pull a moral fast one.

"Valuable contributions" are genes which survive an individual whose death is a biological mechanism whereby the overall optimal propagation of his species' genes is ensured. The biological arguement in a sentence? Six million Jews died because they deserved to.

Now, you can argue that they didnt die as Jews so much as they died as human beings (Jews arent a species, after all) but that doesnt explain away the fact that they were Jews, selected to die on the basis of their religion. That requires a moral arguement, in particular the abrogation of their natural right to life. If they didnt have a natural right to life, then there would be a reason to kill them. After all, we've seen that Biology isnt a reason not to kill them.

Before you pursue this biology nonsense any further, Zeram, consider that I hold your naive understanding of biology in less esteem than biologists hold for Nazi eugenicists and social darwinists.

I do not believe in morals.

Then stop making moral arguements. Check into a clinic for psychopaths - that's where amoral people live.

Morals as a concpet is a den of viliany that has been propigated down though the centuries as a justification for anything and everything that humanity doesn't want to own up to.

Surely you are not referring to the concept of natural right which is a moral protection against the immoral behavior you're condemning? Surely what you have in mind is actually this:

All of our rights are there by people agreeing that they are there, and if people start agreeing that our rights aren't there then they are not. It's that simple.

Does that look familiar? It should. It's the mechanism by which genocide and lesser acts become possible. You wrote it and it is, in fact, that simple.

Do you have any clue how easy it would be for me to prove that right and wrong is only in your mind? All I have to do is go and ask 10 people to outline right and wrong and then compare that to your definition. If there is any variation, then guess what? It's all in your head!

Why dont you ask ten people to outline Zeram, natural selection, clue, proof and Paris.

Hand waving at some mythical ideal doesn't make it a reality.

Of course not. My dilemma is reconciling that statement with your opinion that Germans "as a nation did not agree to diminish Jewish rights." Biology did that.

Consesus makes reality.

Patently false. Assemble 1 billion Zerams into a room and consensusify the inexsitence of my skull and all the ideas inside it.

Consensus is an agreement, it does nothing to challenge reality. You can reach whatever consensus you want, including a consensus that Little Green Faeries speak through your nose, but you cannot deny my natural right to think what I want. That will exist in your society when I visit, mine where I live, a deserted island, another planet far, far, away. It goes where I go, it dies when I die.

I know exactly what I meant!

I hope for your benefit that this is a case of knowing less and meaning more.

---
God hates human rights.
[ Parent ]

I want to say thank you.... (none / 0) (#252)
by Zeram on Wed Apr 11, 2001 at 12:30:27 PM EST

I still don't understand or agree with you. However you've caused me to think quite a bit about how I am, were my concepts of everything come from, and what my ultimate goal in life should be. I am now giving serious thought to going back to college to obtain a degree in philosophy, and if I do go back then I will most likely go for a full PhD. I already have a thesis topic. Why humanity needs an ethical sideboard to any sort of morality it may already have. I am 100% dead on serious and most certainly not trolling. And I would sincerely like to say thank you for helping me to realize all the thoughts on this matter that have come to me over the past few days.


<----^---->
Like Anime? In the Philly metro area? Welcome to the machine...
[ Parent ]
Two points (5.00 / 1) (#106)
by rusty on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 03:23:12 PM EST

...which I should probably know better than to rejoin, but I will anyway.

Zeram wrote: There are no, I repeate no absolutes.

Wait... do you mean there are absolutely no absolutes? I'm not this far along in my imagining, to try to assert that I know such a thing. As far as I'm concerned, whether there are absolutes or not is unknowable.

I can't say that eLuddite is wrong is positing inalienable rights, and neither can Zeram. Merely that neither of us can prove it one way or the other. I have my hunch, he's got his. For my argument, it don't make no never mind no how.

Then eLuddite said:

Now, I'll concede a requirement for absolutes. I'm not prepared to be completely insensitive to another point of view, even if that view is fatalistic nihilism :-)

And this is the main difference between us. I see the lack of an absolute as freedom, while you see it as fatalism. I hate to imagine that there's a Great PHB out there somewhere handing out inalienable rights, but not bothering to enforce them, while you feel hopelessly lost without some bedrock that you know to be True.

Nevertheless, we can both happily agree to meet one level below that eminent philosophical question, after I call you a regressive absolutist and you call me a spineless relativist. Then we can just talk about social phenomena and forget all this. :-)

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

Re: Two points (none / 0) (#116)
by eLuddite on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 04:30:29 PM EST

I see the lack of an absolute as freedom, while you see it as fatalism. I hate to imagine that there's a Great PHB out there somewhere handing out inalienable rights, but not bothering to enforce them, while you feel hopelessly lost without some bedrock that you know to be True.

Exactly right. I do not trust absolute (sigh) freedom to do the "right thing." I interpret the historical record as a naturally occurring drift towards Wrong, corrected by a concious appeal to Right.

I draw support from the fact that it's always the same class of wrongs and rights - it's not my fault absolutes dont evolve :-)

Then we can just talk about social phenomena and forget all this. :-)

That would be nice. Nothing I posted can undermine anyone's agreement with your essay, anyway, regardless of where they stand on the right vs privilege issue.

---
God hates human rights.
[ Parent ]

Terminological difference? (none / 0) (#154)
by Estanislao Martnez on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 08:46:55 PM EST

And you will be violating my rights. That's the point. Your position of strength is not an excuse to violate my rights.

Not under his definition of rights.

However, under rusty's definition, it may still be possible to argue that he is doing something unethical. It is still possible to argue that there is some system of rights which, for ethical reasons, is the correct one. So your statement would become "Rusty has forced a social relation in which the ethical system of rights is not the actual one".

There is a difference between the is and the ought, and I suspect that when rusty says "rights", he means "is-rights", while you mean "ought-rights" under some system of ethics.

--em
[ Parent ]

that sounds accurate (5.00 / 1) (#241)
by eLuddite on Wed Apr 11, 2001 at 08:51:32 AM EST

You need a code of ethics - the result of a moral conscience - to argue for or against natural right and, like any moral arguement, it will be an arguement for how you should act, not how you do act.

I'd like to see an example, real or imagined, where natural right does not hold, ethically, as an idea. I have no requirement for God or a Good gene or a naturalrighton particle. Just a moral definition of natural right as inalienable. If you ignore the inalienable part, I submit the history of mankind as evidence for your error.

---
God hates human rights.
[ Parent ]

Tangent (none / 0) (#250)
by tailchaser on Wed Apr 11, 2001 at 12:03:04 PM EST

If I were trapped on five acres of sand in the middle of the South Pacific, with nothing but my human rights, how long would I live? Can I eat my rights? Can I burn them to keep me warm? Can I fashion a crude spear out of them to catch fish?
Trivial tangential thought: Isn't this more or less a quote from Heinlein's 'Starship Troopers'? When the teacher is trying to drill into the students something to the rough effect of, "Human beings have absolutely no natural rights of any sort other than the ones they create for themselves"?

-tc

[ Parent ]

take a deep breath ... (4.00 / 4) (#12)
by Arkady on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 12:32:53 AM EST

... and _realax_, Rush. You're definitely a bit too tense to hold a rational discussion. ;-)

First, calling Populists "sons of bitches" is what's called an attack "ad hominum" and really doesn't help your case in a rational discussion. Also, to refer to the American media as even vaguely Polulist is completely ludicrous. I've been considering writing a piece for K5 on Thomas Frank's "One Market Under God: Extreme Capitalism, Market Polulism, and the End of Economic Democracy", but you shouldn't wait; you should go read it NOW, since your concept of the meaning of the word "populist" neads some revision before you come back out and try to use it in public.

To claim that "Life, on the other hand, is a right" in response to this essay also demonstrates that you totally missed the point. Rusty's pointing out that rights are a social construct, not a natural. If your right to life were truly "inalienable" then it would be physically impossible to kill you. I presume that it's not, and I'm not particularly inclined to try this as a practical experiment (and I doubt you are either). Life, therefore, cannot be a natural right any more than anything else is. What Rusty's pointing out here is that a brief look at American society is sufficient to demonstrate that it values property over life.

To state that the "common man" does not rule himself and that the rulers need only attend him to the extent that "wishes should be consulted, not followed according to rule" is definitely not democratic, nor is it a rational basis for a society. Such an attitude will necessarily lead to the populace realizing that they're being ruled in others' interests and revolting (providing the rulers don't mess things up too much before a revolution rolols around).

Not smart, not fair, not attractive.

-robin

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere Anarchy is loosed upon the world.


[ Parent ]
I'll take a breath if you blow it out your ass (2.70 / 10) (#15)
by eLuddite on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 01:02:54 AM EST

First, calling Populists "sons of bitches" is what's called an attack "ad hominum"

No it is not. It is called an insult. Your understanding of ad hominum isnt any better than your understanding of rights. Ad hominum is an arguement against a man, not a vapid insult.

To claim that "Life, on the other hand, is a right" in response to this essay also demonstrates that you totally missed the point. Rusty's pointing out that rights are a social construct, not a natural.

Assuming he shares your incorrect interpretation, he would be wrong. Rights are one thing, social constructs are another. That you confuse the two is testominal to your misunderstanding of the article, not mine. I was merely correcting a vague usage of language. I feel it is important to do so lest people (like you) never 'get it.'

To state that the "common man" does not rule himself

Never stated. The common man always has the last word - elections. That was stated.

None of your corrections corrected anything at all, did they? Since you didnt bother to expand on your definition of populist, I await your treatise on the matter and enjoin you to keep the word solecism in mind as you busy yourself writing it.

Thanks for your profound understanding, try not to take offense where non was intended, abstain from calling me Rush and, in future, try not to moderate from the depths of your ignorance. In return, I promise to be just as uncondescending as yourself.

---
God hates human rights.
[ Parent ]

Rights ARE social constructs (4.40 / 5) (#18)
by rusty on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 01:20:55 AM EST

That was the point of the article. "Rights" are created socially. Arkady has it dead-on here, as far as the intention of the article goes. You obviously don't agree.

Rights are one thing, social constructs are another.

Only in the way that "rice is one thing, grains are another." Rights are social constructs. Not all socially constructed realities are rights, but all rights are socially constructed. The only right I'm willing to say is "inalienable" regardless of social context is your right to attempt to defend yourself against the wishes of a mass of people who disagree with you.

And in such a struggle, you will fail, sooner or later.

Your "right to life" is granted by society, and may be revoked any time the balance of opinion deems that useful. If that weren't so, how could the state of Texas execute people? How could we wage war?

I agreed with virtually all of your initial comment. I think you get it, but the parent of this makes me wonder. You said:

Capitalism is an economic theory, not a right. It is not even a privilege. The spoil of capitalism - wealth - is a privilege. Life, on the other hand, is a right, inalienable under capitalism, communism, live-in-a-cave-in-bora-bora-ism. When you place wealth on the same level as life, you demote your rights.

Which I took to be an admirable summary of my main point. Which is that we have done what you say we must not. We've created a country in which capital is on the same level as life -- in fact, one in which wealth trumps life.

Did you mean to imply that that isn't possible? Or were you underlining the idea of my article?

You also pointed out that:

You do not elect representation to act on your interests, you elect representation to look out for your interests and you hope that representation is both smarter and better informed than you have the time and expertise to be.

Which I also agree with. However, this is not how the US government works anymore. We elect those representatives who can buy the most votes, and they in turn represent the people who paid for those votes. Frankly, except as hole-punchers at the ballot box, "We the people" have virtually no say anymore. And as the last election proved, even our votes are open to interpretation, if enough money is behind the loser.

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

Resistance is futile. (4.75 / 4) (#22)
by aphrael on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 01:32:38 AM EST

Rights are social constructs. Not all socially constructed realities are rights, but all rights are socially constructed

I think the reason there is such resistance to the truth embodied in this statement two-fold:

  • If you concede that all rights are socially constructed then you are left with the hard question of what differentiates them from other social constructs -- eg., *why* do we consider this to be a right, and what else falls into that category?
  • Conceding that a right is a social construct is, in essence, conceding that society can take it away --- and therefore that it isn't inalienable *at all*.

Worse still, it's really easy as a listener to confuse 'rights are socially constructed' with '[x] should not be a right'.

Not that I disagree with you --- i've just noticed that most people are resistant to that statement, and this is what I think are ultimately the reasons for their resistance.

[ Parent ]

Yes (4.00 / 5) (#28)
by rusty on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 02:22:02 AM EST

  • If you concede that all rights are socially constructed then you are left with the hard question of what differentiates them from other social constructs -- eg., *why* do we consider this to be a right, and what else falls into that category?
  • Conceding that a right is a social construct is, in essence, conceding that society can take it away --- and therefore that it isn't inalienable *at all*.

Yes. And even less appealing is that I'm trying to say here that it may already be too late. That basically, we've given away the farm before we even realized we held the deed. To assert and take control of our own rights, we must first all understand that we are the only ones who can create them. Until we realize that, it's very easy for those who do realize it to divert our attention elsewhere while they substitute "entitlement" for rights. Entitlement flows from above -- literally it means To give a name or title to.; To furnish with a right or claim to something. Entitlement is a privilege handed down from others. Rights can only come from those who wish to exercise them.

And one of these days, I'm going to learn how to spell "exercise" correctly the first time.

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

I think most will never get it... (none / 0) (#313)
by Alhazred on Sat Apr 14, 2001 at 12:25:10 PM EST

Call me a pessimist, but I think most people will cling firmly to their delusion that they have "inalienable rights" that magically come from nowhere.

It IS a useful fiction, because if you can get everyone to believe it then you have a very strong social construct, which people CAN'T really question. I think that is what we have in the US today. Unfortunately what has happened is that finance capitalism has created an alternative reality, as you pointed out. In that reality people's rights are at least secondary to property, and at worst entirely irrelevant.

This is NOT an idea very many people are mature enough to encompass.
That is not dead which may eternal lie And with strange aeons death itself may die.
[ Parent ]
Re: Rights ARE social constructs (2.50 / 4) (#27)
by eLuddite on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 02:20:37 AM EST

That was the point of the article. "Rights" are created socially.

I insist, privileges are. Rights owe their existence to you and you alone. They exist independently of any society. In fact, they do not require society at all. Where society exists, it either honors them or it is an unjust society. Priviliges are routinely withheld, often for good reason. I can deny your privileges (eg, education) in order to pursue a goal; I cannot deny your rights.

Your "right to life" is granted by society, and may be revoked any time the balance of opinion deems that useful. If that weren't so, how could the state of Texas execute people?

Only you can forfeit your rights through your own actions. If Texas kills you without such forfeiture, they murder you.

How could we wage war?

By defending your rights. Just because you have rights (or privileges) doesnt mean people wont try to take them away.

The important point is this: when you weigh a set of artificial privileges, make damn sure one of them doesnt actually stomp all over a natural right. If you reject the existence of rights over privileges, make your dictionary that much smaller. Until you do, they mean different things and are valuable on different terms.

Read your constitution; rights are given to you by God, not Bush. The govt will take and give degrees of privilege, rights remain inalienable and inviolate. They die when you die.

---
God hates human rights.
[ Parent ]

justice? (3.33 / 3) (#37)
by Greyshade on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 03:27:29 AM EST

Justice is another social construct. I have to agree with rusty. Power = survival advantage. It doesn't matter wether we're talking about capital investment power equaling the survival of cultural/political ideas, or the pipe-wielding thugs cornering you in an alley for your wallet. Justice is formed by popular opinion. If your opinion isn't popular at the moment, then you may feel that there is some injustice being done. My idea of what's 'right' isn't the same is yours, but that doesn't mean either of us is wrong.

[ Parent ]
Re: justice? (3.00 / 2) (#40)
by eLuddite on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 04:17:28 AM EST

My idea of what's 'right' isn't the same is yours,

I'm not arguing for right as in right vs wrong. Not directly, anyway.

but that doesn't mean either of us is wrong.

No, of course not; this is a philosophical arguement. But in order to discuss philosophy, you have to agree upon certain definitions in order to make progress. If you dont, people will argue at cross purposes. Where they are used together, rights are defined one way, social privileges in another. Inalienable rights are a foundation of western thought and western thought is what creates western societies.

---
God hates human rights.
[ Parent ]

Totally false... (none / 0) (#312)
by Alhazred on Sat Apr 14, 2001 at 12:17:55 PM EST

Rusty is dead on. Rights are social constructs. Observe the classic argument for the existence of natural rights, which was spelled out in Hobb's "Leviathan", the seminal work on social contracts.

Hobb's began his argument with a definition of the "State of Nature" in which no social contracts or conventions exist and all persons are absolutely free to do as they please. This is the most minimal possible society, in fact none at all. He argued that in the state of nature only "natural" rights would exist (by definition). If you examine this what it ends up meaning is that you have the RIGHT to do ANYTHING. Up to and including wiping out the rest of the human race.

Thus we see that there ARE natural rights, but the concept is essentially meaningless, since they include any action you are able to take within the bounds of the laws of nature.

What people commonly mean when they refer to "rights" are the those actions which individuals as society have collectively agreed on by social convention to be Acceptable Behaviours. How you arrive at your determination of acceptable is your own business, but obviously a concensus is necessary in a community in order for a "right" to exist in this sense.

One of the problems people have when they get into these arguments is they forget about the word OBLIGATION which comes from Latin and is roughly translated into english as "that which constitutes legal or moral duty".

Hobb's line of reasoning here is also enlightening. The social contract is derived not from rights but from obligation. There is only one obligation which exists in the state of nature, the obligation to conduct yourself in accordance with your own best interests. Since the state of nature is not in anyone's best interests as a social system, people are morally obligated to create social constructs (social contract) which allow them to limit each other's rights to certain accepted bounds. IE, you may not kill me and I in turn will not kill you. Thus we see that "rights" are not even a first-order social construct, they follow from personal obligation by way of social contract.

Naturally there are weaknesses in Hobb's argument, but it also has many virtues, and if you examine the history of law and society in general you can see that he captured the operant forces in an elegant and simple manner.
That is not dead which may eternal lie And with strange aeons death itself may die.
[ Parent ]

totally subject to interpretation (none / 0) (#346)
by eLuddite on Sat Apr 28, 2001 at 04:13:48 PM EST

If you examine this what it ends up meaning is that you have the RIGHT to do ANYTHING.

It means you are unconstrained to act as you should. The difference between civilization and the state of nature is constraint, not rights. The social contract is the basis for this contstraint; it manifests itself in law.

There is only one obligation which exists in the state of nature, the obligation to conduct yourself in accordance with your own best interests.

Moral duty to yourself alone isnt a moral duty, it is the absence of moral duty. That makes Hobbes an interesting prophet and psuedo-scientist. It does not make him right.

He defines the natural state of man in purely mechanistic terms - moving, eating, sleeping, evacuating and, as far as I'm concerned, drops the ball as soon as you ask why we should move from this natural state to a social contract? Hobbes answer is to overcome the natural equality between men, which must be overcome, as it is expressed in 3 ways: destruction, hope, experience.

Please; he has detractors for a reason.

Men are not equal in a state of nature and they impose a social contract upon themselves in order to become as equals.

---
God hates human rights.
[ Parent ]

one more thing (none / 0) (#347)
by eLuddite on Sat Apr 28, 2001 at 04:32:47 PM EST

Hobbes stipulates the following principle of natural law: a man should not do anything that would get himself killed or fail to do anything that might save him. Hobbes says a man is forbidden from transgressing this sensible rule of thumb. Why? Who forbids him? From this principle he derives his natural laws, the first of which is to seek peace. Reason commands men to make peace. Uh uh. Reason commands you to obliterate the wealthy but overpowered Incas since their gold might save you in your society. The problem with Hobbes is the problem with every societal flavor of rights: reason alone is an ineffective, inadequate guarantor of rights. Hobbes is a perfectly good political philosopher but an imperfect moral philosopher.

---
God hates human rights.
[ Parent ]

What? (again) (none / 0) (#120)
by Ken Arromdee on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 05:10:12 PM EST

Would you condemn a society which (to use the old example) killed people for being Jewish?

Okay, now assuming 'yes', on what basis would you do it? You don't believe in rights, and the social construction says that it is okay to kill Jews. What's left?

[ Parent ]

Simple questions, simple answers (5.00 / 1) (#161)
by speek on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 09:29:48 PM EST

Would you condemn a society which (to use the old example) killed people for being Jewish?

yup.

Okay, now assuming 'yes', on what basis would you do it?

because.

You don't believe in rights, and the social construction says that it is okay to kill Jews. What's left?

PETA.

In case that's not clear - there's a large group of people who believe non-human animals also have "rights", and that our society is injust because it does not respect those rights. Some of the people who believe are actively doing something about it. That's your answer. I'm sorry there's no Santa Claus, no Easter Bunny. Really, I am, because it would be so much better to believe in some all-powerful, all-good, loving deity watching over us, granting us rights and stuff, planning a place in heaven and all. That would truly be fantastic. But, all we have is you and me, and a bunch of crazy people who think rabbits really shouldn't be treated that way. Just cause.

--
al queda is kicking themsleves for not knowing about the levees
[ Parent ]

Not at the root of the problem.. (3.75 / 8) (#6)
by ignatiusst on Sun Apr 08, 2001 at 11:41:01 PM EST

This, finally, is why community matters. The only potential way out of this mousetrap we've created for ourselves is to actually speak directly to each other.
How many of us can speak directly with one another? I can't - not even with my wife. My gut feeling is that not many people can speak directly with the people within their community (whether it is a virtual community or a grounded community). Just take a look at the responses to this story for your example. This story does a fine job of bringing attention to focus on some very prickly issues concerning our (humanity's) attempts at reconciling human will to societal values. However, it rambles and takes too long to get to the heart of the matter. A good re-write would cut half the article and make it even better...

But who is going to say that to Rusty? No.. we have chosen to build our own reality around a person of significant influence in our community. While we have demonstrated our ability to speak directly (and sometimes offensively) to others here, we have not reached that point with our community leaders.

And there, I think, is the real rub. We will continue to build constructs that define our lives in the shadows of influence because of the very fact that we cannot speak directly to our leaders. I do not fully understand the basis of this - perhaps it, too, is based in societal constructs, but I think it extends much deeper than that...

To build a new reality based on community, it is first necessary to question - and ultimately root out - this efficacy and replace it with.. what? Until then, to construct a new realty based on community would only serve to make the community a replacement for corporations, and community leaders the new CEOs.

When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him. -- Jonathan Swift

You just said it to me (4.83 / 6) (#23)
by rusty on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 01:47:12 AM EST

A good re-write would cut half the article and make it even better...

But who is going to say that to Rusty?

You just did.

No, it's far from perfect. My point about community was an attempt to salvage some hope in what looks increasingly like an intractable pile of shit to me. Can what I suggest even be done? I have no idea. If this were Vegas I wouldn't be giving it very good odds.

And there, I think, is the real rub. We will continue to build constructs that define our lives in the shadows of influence because of the very fact that we cannot speak directly to our leaders. I do not fully understand the basis of this - perhaps it, too, is based in societal constructs, but I think it extends much deeper than that...

I think this is training, not Nature. I see no reason why any of you shouldn't talk directly to me, other than that you don't trust me. That is, the only reason I can imagine for anyone not to tell me exactly what they think is fear of punishment if I disagree.

This is why so few of us argue with police. Fear of direct retaliation.

I think we don't speak to our political leaders because we can't. It costs a lot of money (or a whole lot of luck) to get an elected official's attention. The public relations industry makes billions every year off this fact alone. Whoever has the most money has the most influence.

We don't like to admit it, but I believe that we (Americans) live in a fundamentally corrupted state. Its so hard for us to see, day to day, because the payoffs are all so hidden. Most corrupt governments simply sell influence, cash under the desk. The US is far far more subtle than that. Our politicans sell legislation for the opportunity to exercise power, and what ledger books keep track of those transactions? Essentially, that is the basic bargain of a republic: the people grant the leaders the power to exercise power. But American legislative power is no longer derived from the will of the people. It's based on the will of Capital, which is a very different thing. Our government is not corrupted by people using money to get their way. It's corrupted by Money, using people to get it's way.

To build a new reality based on community, it is first necessary to question - and ultimately root out - this efficacy and replace it with.. what? Until then, to construct a new realty based on community would only serve to make the community a replacement for corporations, and community leaders the new CEOs.

I don't want to build a new community-based reality. I want to go back to the reality we started with. People, governing themselves. It's always been community-based, but we've stopped talking to each other. The US is so big, and so diverse, that the only people who can attempt to speak to all of us are giant media companies. And they no longer speak for us, but at us.

I don't have any answers. The only thing that occurs to me as a good idea is simply that we talk to each other. Hopefully K5 helps in it's own teeny way.

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

Conservative? Rusty! (4.25 / 4) (#38)
by Arkady on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 03:32:43 AM EST

"I want to go back to the reality we started with."

Though that would admirably sum up the media's normal conception of conservative, I think many of us would also agree with it. Though naturally I don't want to actually return to small, agrarian village life, I think there are elements to be drawn from it that could dramatically improve the quality of our society and our lives today.

You're bringing up one very important and fundamental one: community. What, after all, is the Net largely being used (by individuals) for? After sex, which naturally is the most common use, are the community systems: Usenet, IRC and other chat systems, email and forums like K5. The craving for a community of like-minded folks seems to be deeply ingrained in the human psyche.

As society at large abandons the old forms of community, we're seeing new ones rise. Street gangs, of course, are an obvious (and very popular with anthropoligists) example, but systems like K5 are a positive new development. The challenge, though, is to bring these forms back over the divide and into the Real World since the online community can function to sap even more vitality from our offline communities.

-robin

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere Anarchy is loosed upon the world.


[ Parent ]
Let me 'splain... (4.50 / 8) (#41)
by rusty on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 04:25:20 AM EST

...no, there is no time. Let me sum up.

As you correctly divined, I don't want to go back to agrarian villiage life either. As your parents found out, "you can't go home again."

What I mean is that the US started out as a confederation of independent states. The Constitution and founding documents we claim to hold so dear do not describe the country we live in today. The ever-spreading tentacles of national federalism have attempted to directly represent a vast number of people with a governmental system that was supposed to be a slow filtering up of power from local (most important) to federal (least important).

That is, the Fed was only supposed to do the things that no individual state could do alone, and the State was only supposed to do the things that no community could do alone. The original United States recognized the importance of power being centralized at the local level, where people could, conceivably, meet face to face and hash out what they really wanted.

That's what I mean by "the reality we started with." It's a complex world today, and the original government wouldn't work anymore. But that doesn't mean they were wrong in spirit -- in claiming that power derives of the will of the people. The first step to dissolving that power is separating people from each other, mediating their interactions.

The challenge, though, is to bring these forms back over the divide and into the Real World since the online community can function to sap even more vitality from our offline communities.

Yes. Again, if any of this is going to help, we need to use the internet to ease communication with other members of our real community. This doesn't necessarily mean your local community; I could just as easily be a member of a community of people who believe that the great spotted owl must be saved.

One of the interesting effects that can be seen online more easily than in meatspace is "the slashdot effect". The general version of that ("General Slashdotivity") is simply that those who hold our attention are able to tell very large numbers of us what to look at. The ability of the PR industry to direct our attention dwarfs the Slashdot Effect ("Special Slashdotivity") by many orders of magnitude, but it's the same basic mechanism.

The utility of online community, if there is to be any, will be in putting the ability to direct the attention of large numbers of like-minded people in a direction not mandated by capital in the hands of those who don't necessarily control the majority of wealth.* This, lately, is looking like a long shot, with independent media folding up shop left and right. Personally, I still have great doubt the net will eventually be more than the newest shopping mall. But damned if we can't try.

 

* Christ. That might be the most tortured sentence I've ever written. Let me try again: "The potential of the internet lies in granting PR-like powers to non-money-motivated people." Hardly better, is it. You get the idea.

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

PR, public opinion, organization (none / 0) (#83)
by gregbillock on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 01:24:18 PM EST

Some good food for thought, Rusty. Reactions:

I think you overestimate the ease with which the PR industry influences people at large. The cost to the PR industry (passed on to clients) to maintain brand awareness of something like Pepsi is massive. On the other hand, the kinds of fashions and fads that take hold "popularly" happen without nearly so much effort. Like those Razor scooters that are about a year old, for instance. No billion dollar ad campaign. But suddenly, everyone has one. Or this 'All your base' thing. Nowhere to everywhere in weeks, without any PR exposure at all.

What I'm saying is that there's a feedback effect here: a lot of what corporate public interaction is about is trying to figure out what the fashions are, and then catering to them (and reinforcing them with ads, of course).

Another question. I think the idea that capital as taking on a 'life of its own' is a fruitful one. Ultimately, though, what can we replace money with as a 'binding agent' to facilitate the kinds of exchange of favors that we want to have happen to be efficient? Or, to put it another way, money is a method which we understand as a way to motivate shared enterprises. Everyone cooperates in a large task to share in the monetary rewards. What substitute is going to drive the kind of large-scale organization that we have now? Or do you think things would be better off without them? Some have suggested that reputation could play this role. I think this is an interesting suggestion.

[ Parent ]
PR (none / 0) (#101)
by rusty on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 03:03:05 PM EST

I think you overestimate the ease with which the PR industry influences people at large.

Not at all. It costs buttloads of money, but if you have enough cash, you can pretty much get the job done. I'm not thinking of Pepsi here so much as I'm thinking of the waste industry, or the nuclear power industry, who have a real interest in manipulating public opinion because their main activities kill people.

Besides which, it isn't usually necessary to totally pervade a society's consciousness -- merely to acheive an objective. This might be a piece of legislation, for example. PR companies have that down to a science. The process of manufacturing "grasssroots" support, and sending influential friends and family in to talk legislators into passing something is well understood, and works. And the reason it works is because we are so cut off from our representatives -- we can't talk to each other.

Despite all the money they throw at a problem, though, they still lose sometimes. And virtually without exception those have been the times that people have gotten together and figured out they were being had.

Quick question -- if you watch carefully you can see the Bush PR machine swinging into action on China right now. Any "spontaneous protests" suddenly cropping up in your city? Have you seen "experts" on TV talking about how this is a case of kidnapping? Yesterday everyone though we should just say "I'm sorry." and move on. Suddenly popular opinion seems to be shifting, or so you'd think by watching the TV news.

All I'm saying is, pay attention.

Another question. I think the idea that capital as taking on a 'life of its own' is a fruitful one. Ultimately, though, what can we replace money with as a 'binding agent' to facilitate the kinds of exchange of favors that we want to have happen to be efficient?

I don't want to get rid of money. I just want people to realize that money's value is a function of what we believe it's value to be, and decide, collectively, what we value more than money. That is, we've allowed property rights to become Fact, and trump virtually all other rights. I don't think we did that on purpose, and I think we should consider whether we're happy with that or not.

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

There is a PR industry on BOTH sides. (none / 0) (#129)
by Zukov on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 06:13:44 PM EST

thinking of the waste industry, or the nuclear power industry, who have a real interest in manipulating public opinion because their main activities kill people.

I don't mean to pick on you here, but isn't it possible that there exist well financed groups of people who work hard to convince you that your statement is true? For example, there are many nuclear reactors in France.

http://www.insc.anl.gov/maps/france.html

If there have been a _significant_ number of deaths due *directly* from these modern reactors, could you point me to independant news source saying so?

***I'm explicitly leaving out the Chernobyl incident, which was an idiotic design operated by more idiots.

Here is a link that gives a total number of deaths worldwide under 20. (I did not actually count them all up)

http://www.sea-us.org.au/no2reactor/rr-oops.html

That's safer (adding the gratuitously useless statistic) than riding a bicycle.

http://www.helmets.org/stats.htm

Could it be possible that some of the anti-nuke movement needs to keep fear and loathing of nukes alive in order to continue their purpose and existence?

ȶ H (^

Yes, I have just bumbled upon Gnome Character Map. Please ! me.
[ Parent ]

I think (none / 0) (#143)
by Zeram on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 06:57:17 PM EST

That Rusty was speaking more towards something like what happened with Karen Silkwood (if you don't know what I'm talking about go do a google search because frankly right now I'm too lazy to do it myself). When something is blaringly obvious people wouln't neccessarily notice it. Rusty didn't mean to get overly specific. He was just trying to say that when profits are at stake, corporations 99.9% of the time will find a way to keep profits up even at the expense of lives. HMO's are better example of what he is talking about. And that it is Joe Average's fault and that we need to do something about keeping the right to life above the right to profit.
<----^---->
Like Anime? In the Philly metro area? Welcome to the machine...
[ Parent ]
I know about Karen Silkwood. (none / 0) (#281)
by Zukov on Thu Apr 12, 2001 at 12:05:10 PM EST

And I agree with most of what you say, with this exception:

"Corporations" don't do anything. It's the _people_ within them that choose to do good or evil.

ȶ H (^

Yes, I have just bumbled upon Gnome Character Map. Please ! me.
[ Parent ]

Nukes (none / 0) (#149)
by rusty on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 08:01:38 PM EST

I actually have little problem with the nuclear industry, other than the fact that we still have nowhere to put exhausted fuel. In the early days of US nuclear power (generating power, not bombs, that is) however, the situation was rather different than it is now. The first power plants were nowhere near as safe as the current designs are, and the nuclear power industry outright lied about that, among other things, to a huge number of Americans. Not to mention 3-Mile island, etc.

In any case, that wasn't supposed to be a condemnation of the nuclear industry. Replace that with, say Dow chemical or Monsanto, and ask yourself how many farmers are dead because of their safe, effective, and cost-efficient pesticides? And yet people in general have few negative feelings toward these companies.

My complicity has been purchased. Yours probably has as well. Did either of us even realize it?

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

More PR (none / 0) (#210)
by gregbillock on Tue Apr 10, 2001 at 04:29:08 PM EST

Thanks, Rusty. I'm in agreement that PR works. I feel this odd compulsion to buy the name brand item in the store for 50c more, although I know intellectually that it comes out of the same vat as the generic, put into differently labelled bottles. The extra 50c of value is entirely due to the fact that it is possible to create 50c of value out of thin air with (say) 45c using PR. No question.

Where I'm less clear on this is in influencing public opinion on things people care about more. Here the case seems less clear to me. In the case of China you mentioned, there haven't been any protests in LA that I'm aware of, and I don't watch TV at all, so I wouldn't know. How can we tell the difference, though, between a) a growing sense of outrage at Americans held hostage by China, and b) an artificially created growing sense of outrage at Americans held hostage by China. I'm not sure we have the tools to do that.

What I'm suggesting is that because it costs so much to do PR, and since it is still an uncertain thing, even when the goals and means are well defined, as in the case of, say, a movie, I'm not sure how to distinguish the 'authentic' operation of popular opinion from the 'spun' version. I mean, I think most people (except the die-hard partisans) know that their representatives are spinning information, and that they have no access to these representatives. Only 30% of the US votes, after all!

There's no love lost between the propaganda industry and I, I'm just raising the point of verification. I'm no fan of spin, but I don't want to get into a kind of 'conspiracy theory' outlook where I see every action of everyone around me as dominated by it (the spin, that is). I don't perceive that to be true about myself, and while I perceive it to be true in some people I know (those would be the die-hard partisans), it seems to me less true in general. It is certainly possible I'm overly optimistic, though!

[ Parent ]
money & time (4.00 / 1) (#141)
by Arkady on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 06:55:44 PM EST

I don't know where he got (and I doubt he came up with it himself, though it's possible), but there's a great book by Harry Harrison which takes place in a society where the unit of exchange is the hour.

Now this is a brilliant idea. Firstly, it's really the only fair basis for a currency, since each persons time is of equal value (to themselves) so it should be exchanged equally.

More importantly, currency is "created" (or released into circulation) by the act of working for society's benefit. Each hour spent on work society has decided to support pays one hour of currency. This focuses the creative energy of the society where it (collectively) wants it to go and prevents the extreme concentration of wealth, since it is no longer possible to pay (for example) anyone 50 times more than their workers: one hour's work = one hour's pay.

It also simplifies things like California's electricity problem. This is largely caused by the ludicrously high rates being charged by generators. With a time-based currency, it would clearly be fraud to charge above the labor-value, making it much easier to whack the generators for being such masve profiteers.

This allows you to keep currency, which really does make economic modernity easier (trying buying a computer with chickens, for example) but get rid of money, by tying your unit of exchange directly to socially desirable work.

-robin

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere Anarchy is loosed upon the world.


[ Parent ]
Quickie (none / 0) (#155)
by ZanThrax on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 08:48:44 PM EST

Not going to go into the majority of my half-formed thoughts on this, just want to suggest that anyone who thinks this is a good idea ask Ben & Jerry how well refusing to pay 50 times the average employee salary to top executives worked out for them. WHy in hell would any (sane) person take the job off CEO when the stress-free 9-5 job on the assembly line pays the exact same wage?

Before flying off the handle over the suggestion that your a cocksucker, be sure that you do not, in fact, have a cock in your mouth.
[ Parent ]

I'm a CEO ... (none / 0) (#157)
by Arkady on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 09:01:40 PM EST

I'll admit, it's a small company, but I'm still CEO (and I don't get paid _anything_ for the CEO part, my living comes from being a consultant like the rest of the company).

What stress, anyway? Yeah, there're some aspects of it that are annoying, but the most _relaxed_ people I see at any normal corporation we've done work for are the senior executives. They're doing soft work in the warm & dry; they've got enough in their bank accounts to survive getting fired at any time; their stock bonuses are generally larger than the total alloted to the entire rest of the employees (even in the so-called '.com" companies).

The senior execs have it easy, yet somehow people seem to think that they actually work or something. Piffle. Try being a longshoreman for a day, then tell me someone wouldn't CEO for AT&T for the same hourly rate. ;-)

"Down with Bosses, Church and Crown."
   - "Sam Hall", Black 47

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere Anarchy is loosed upon the world.


[ Parent ]
Hours all the same? (none / 0) (#256)
by gregbillock on Wed Apr 11, 2001 at 01:53:10 PM EST

Interesting idea, Arkady! One question that immediately comes to mind is, how do you deal with the fact that some people are more experienced, or better at their jobs, than others? (That is, Rusty can fix your Scoop problem in 10 minutes; me it might take three days to learn it and then fix the problem. :-)) Doesn't the relative scarcity of the people who are good at some job mean undermine the goal of having a uniform hour standard?

Also, it seems that socially constructed values still apply. How much will you pay for a painting I took eight hours to produce, and how much would you give for an original Picasso? In a way, way, weirder world, values might be such that mine would have the higher value. As it stands, I'd be willing to trade a thousand of hours of work I'm good at for something Picasso did in ten. :-)

[ Parent ]
Picasso (none / 0) (#262)
by Cyberrunner on Wed Apr 11, 2001 at 05:25:33 PM EST

The value of a person's "work hour" ends up being portional to the experience he has and the increased work he can perform because of it... The deeper issue is what in the world is worth paying more for, when it comes down to life and survival? -- In short, work done on an Universal Hour pay will never happen, INO...

As for the Picasso, the only reason it has an inflated value is because his work is scarce and people have vast sums of money that they never labored to get... The worker in a field would never want to trade ten thousand hours of work for one very useless painting. OTOH, a rich billionair who wants to flaunt is richs to his rich friends would have no problem trading millions of work hours, if they were obtainable by means of manipulating and observing (read: no work) money flows... stockmarket or any market.

So when somebody starts talking about alternate economic systems with different work payment ideas, you kind of have to ask is the overall system being discussed or just a modified currency replacement. The former, is what I mean when I say "capitalism/corporatism sucks". The latter is really only problematic because the overall system is so shitty...

If every human had access to all the information/functioning nonmaterial systems in the world, think true potential exercisable, would the everall system change enough for people to see why it was corruptable in the first place?

[ Parent ]

relative scarcity (none / 0) (#330)
by Arkady on Sun Apr 15, 2001 at 05:09:42 PM EST

Actually, you bring up a good point (that's generally brought up whenever I talk to folks about this), but I like the way you solve it.

Most technical folks object to this idea because they generally think they would lose by it (being in the higher hourly-compensation brackets). This loss in the compensation gradient, however, is offset by the greater demand that it would place for the services of the competant. As a customer, I'd naturally rather pay Rusty for 10 minutes than you for 3 hours. Rusty, therefore, is in greater demand because of his skills.

I honestly hadn't managed to come up with a market-style rationalist answer to this objection before you set this one out. Thanks!

My answer before, which I still think is also valid, is that the value in question is the value to the seller, not the buyer, and in that perspective any fair economic system must treat us as equals. Being based on logic and the idea that "fairness" is desirable, this argument is much less compelling. ;-)

The case of a Picasso is more difficult, but not fundamentally different. First, a fair labor value for a Picasso is much more than the time and materials he used in it's production; it also has to include the costs of facilities and maintenance of the work. While that would raise its value substantially, it wouldn't come near the current dollar costs. And I'd argue that that's a good thing. ;-)

-robin

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere Anarchy is loosed upon the world.


[ Parent ]
Doesn't work (none / 0) (#207)
by Ken Arromdee on Tue Apr 10, 2001 at 03:39:15 PM EST

What happens if, oh, I need to pay a doctor to do a 1 hour operation on me, but he needs to have several assistants to help him do the job? If I can just pay the doctor several hours and have him distribute that to his assistants, one each, we're basically back to currency again, since I no longer have to pay him exactly one hour for an hour of work. But for me to have to pay his assistants individually is ludicrous.

Now imagine that the doctor doesn't need assistants, but he does need an expensive piece of equipment which takes 5 hours to make (and can only be used once). If I pay him for only 1 hour of work, he'll lose 4 hours on every operation. But if I pay the doctor for 6 hours so he can afford the equipment, I'm no longer paying him for an hour of work, and the hour-currency becomes equivalent to money again. Or must I buy the doctor's equipment for him separately?

Now, imagine the same thing, except that the equipment takes 25 hours to make, but can be used for 5 operations. If the doctor is being paid in money, he can spread the cost of the equipment over the patients by charging extra. If he's going to be paid in hours, though, and can't be paid extra hours, there's no way for him to pay for the equipment. At least in the previous example, the doctor could have the manufacturer bill me for the equipment directly. What am I supposed to do now, call a fortune teller to find the other 4 future patients so we can split the cost of the equipment among ourselves?

Of course, that piece of equipment is just a more concrete version of capital. (And in this example the doctor is breaking even and everything is guaranteed--I haven't even mentioned profits or risks yet.) Saying that people can only get paid in hours is equivalent to saying that people cannot get paid for expending capital. The economy would grind to a halt.

Remember the old Soviet proverb. "We pretend to work, and they pretend to pay us."

[ Parent ]

Doesn't work (none / 0) (#208)
by Ken Arromdee on Tue Apr 10, 2001 at 03:44:28 PM EST

What happens if, oh, I need to pay a doctor to do a 1 hour operation on me, but he needs to have several assistants to help him do the job? If I can just pay the doctor several hours and have him distribute that to his assistants, one each, we're basically back to currency again, since I no longer have to pay him exactly one hour for an hour of work. But for me to have to pay his assistants individually is ludicrous.

Now imagine that the doctor doesn't need assistants, but he does need an expensive piece of equipment which takes 5 hours to make (and can only be used once). If I pay him for only 1 hour of work, he'll lose 4 hours on every operation. But if I pay the doctor for 6 hours so he can afford the equipment, I'm no longer paying him for an hour of work, and the hour-currency becomes equivalent to money again. Or must I buy the doctor's equipment for him separately?

Now, imagine the same thing, except that the equipment takes 25 hours to make, but can be used for 5 operations. If the doctor is being paid in money, he can spread the cost of the equipment over the patients by charging extra. If he's going to be paid in hours, though, and can't be paid extra hours, there's no way for him to pay for the equipment. At least in the previous example, the doctor could have the manufacturer bill me for the equipment directly. What am I supposed to do now, call a fortune teller to find the other 4 future patients so we can split the cost of the equipment among ourselves?

Of course, that piece of equipment is just a more concrete version of capital. (And in this example the doctor is breaking even and everything is guaranteed--I haven't even mentioned profits or risks yet.) Saying that people can only get paid in hours is equivalent to saying that people cannot get paid for expending capital. The economy would grind to a halt.

Remember the old Soviet proverb. "We pretend to work, and they pretend to pay us."

[ Parent ]

Doesn't work (none / 0) (#212)
by Ken Arromdee on Tue Apr 10, 2001 at 06:56:16 PM EST

What happens if, oh, I need to pay a doctor to do a 1 hour operation on me, but he needs to have several assistants to help him do the job? If I can just pay the doctor several hours and have him distribute that to his assistants, one each, we're basically back to currency again, since I no longer have to pay him exactly one hour for an hour of work. But for me to have to pay his assistants individually is ludicrous.

Now imagine that the doctor doesn't need assistants, but he does need an expensive piece of equipment which takes 5 hours to make (and can only be used once). If I pay him for only 1 hour of work, he'll lose 4 hours on every operation. But if I pay the doctor for 6 hours so he can afford the equipment, I'm no longer paying him for an hour of work, and the hour-currency becomes equivalent to money again. Or must I buy the doctor's equipment for him separately?

Now, imagine the same thing, except that the equipment takes 25 hours to make, but can be used for 5 operations. If the doctor is being paid in money, he can spread the cost of the equipment over the patients by charging extra. If he's going to be paid in hours, though, and can't be paid extra hours, there's no way for him to pay for the equipment. At least in the previous example, the doctor could have the manufacturer bill me for the equipment directly. What am I supposed to do now, call a fortune teller to find the other 4 future patients so we can split the cost of the equipment among ourselves?

Of course, that piece of equipment is just a more concrete version of capital. (And in this example the doctor is breaking even and everything is guaranteed--I haven't even mentioned profits or risks yet.) Saying that people can only get paid in hours is equivalent to saying that people cannot get paid for expending capital. The economy would grind to a halt.

Remember the old Soviet proverb. "We pretend to work, and they pretend to pay us."

[ Parent ]

dude, you totally missed (none / 0) (#228)
by Arkady on Wed Apr 11, 2001 at 02:23:46 AM EST

All your points are covered by the original posting, but you provide arguments for them anyway. Thanks! ;-)

None of those are relevant, as you demonstrated. Nothing I said was about how money was _used_ but about where it came from and how value was calculated. And the scenarios you gave are pretty much exactly as I would have described them. ;-)

-robin

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere Anarchy is loosed upon the world.


[ Parent ]
Could someone please delete the extras (none / 0) (#249)
by Ken Arromdee on Wed Apr 11, 2001 at 10:58:41 AM EST

I had tried to post this at around the time kuro5hin was slashdotted. The end result was that I kept thinking that the article had not been posted when it had, and I tried, waited, tried, etc. There has to be someone out there who can delete the duplicates.

Anyway, those points aren't covered. The major point is that either 1) you have the troubles I pointed out, or 2) you have something that's essentially the same as regular money anyway. If you have to pay a doctor 6 hours worth of hour-money for one hour of work in order to include the cost of the capital he uses up, then you're not paying him one hour's pay for one hour's work. If the difference between hour-money and regular money is that it's one-for-one... well, then there's no difference after all any more.

[ Parent ]

true, but so what? (none / 0) (#328)
by Arkady on Sun Apr 15, 2001 at 04:45:39 PM EST

   "you have to pay a doctor 6 hours worth of hour-money for one hour of work in order to include the cost of the capital he use"

Well, yeah, but he doesn't get to _keep_ it. ;-)

If he uses 1 hour of his time, and resources that equate to 6 hours of other folks' time, then it's only reasonable to pay him in 7 hours of your time and only reasonable that he pass 6 of those hours on to the people whose resources he used.

I don't see where you're seeing this differently than I am.

-robin

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere Anarchy is loosed upon the world.


[ Parent ]
So it looks like.. (none / 0) (#107)
by Wah on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 03:27:16 PM EST

you wouldn't agree with someone like Rush Limbaugh (as if that's a surprise).

American legislative power is no longer derived from the will of the people. It's based on the will of Capital, which is a very different thing.

Which flies in the face of opponents of campaign finance reform (U.S.) and the generally conservative idea that Money is Free Speech (since conservatives have both money and big mouths...see first link).

It costs a lot of money (or a whole lot of luck) to get an elected official's attention.

Now just think about how much money it takes to get elected. Where does that come from? Going kinda off-topic here, but I don't think we'll be able to make useful changes until we attack the real cost of politics, telling millions of people (that don't want to hear it) why you would make a good representative. To remove this high cost would fly in the face of American capitalism, because without a high cost, where's your profit, and without your profit, why the hell are you doing it in the first place? The idea that there is (or even could be) another motivator besides money is one that has completely dissapeared from our popular culture landscape.
--
Fail to Obey?
[ Parent ]

America NOT in the Moebius (2.84 / 13) (#7)
by Mr. Piccolo on Sun Apr 08, 2001 at 11:47:26 PM EST

American society has created for itself a Mobius-like reality

Hold on a minute! Everybody knows that the Moebius is "a twist in the fabric of space where time becomes a loop, from which there is no escape". Therefore, "when we reach that point, whatever happened will happen again". Has anybody actually seen this happening?

Therefore, please don't say America is in a "Moebius-like reality" unless you have some evidence that we are in fact inside an actual Moebius.

-1, Inaccurate Use of Technical Terms. ;-)

The BBC would like to apologise for the following comment.


Inappropriate Star Trek reference (2.00 / 1) (#11)
by 0xdeadbeef on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 12:28:37 AM EST

five yard penalty, and loss of down.

Ever heard that Orbital track, where time becomes a loop, where time becomes a loop, where time becomes a loop, where time becomes a loop...

[ Parent ]
Orbital II [OT] (1.00 / 1) (#14)
by kevsan on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 12:50:08 AM EST

The Brown Album absolutely rules. Just for including Halcyon + On + On and the Lushes. Quite possibly the best electronic music album ever made.

-K
[ Parent ]
Agreed. (3.00 / 2) (#54)
by kostya on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 10:27:18 AM EST

Nuff said! I immediately recognized the reference as Orbital, which is jamming on my laptop as I type :-)

----
Veritas otium parit. --Terence
[ Parent ]
How (3.00 / 2) (#29)
by Zeram on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 02:22:24 AM EST

Much did the 70's differ from the 60's? Or the 80's from the 70's? Or the 90'2 from the 80's? Differnet fasshions, but the same reckless sense of commericalism. Our society is mobieus like, we keep making the same mitakes over and over...
<----^---->
Like Anime? In the Philly metro area? Welcome to the machine...
[ Parent ]
Rusty, Rusty, Rusty.... (3.44 / 9) (#16)
by Zeram on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 01:14:42 AM EST

I've got nothing but love for ya, but... You miss the obvious point that corporations will make your propositions next to impossible at every turn without any direct intervention.

We as Americas, know so little about the reality of our history because it's not corporatly profitable for us to think to much. Even higher learning is a sham for the most part any more. And thus why the media is a sham. No one learns who the man behind the curtain is, and then these uneducated "professionals" go on out into the world and tell everyone that there is no man behind the curtain. And if someone somehow manages to accidentally pull the curtain down then the media makes sure the man who is standing there is made out of straw. All because of corporate money. Corporate money has shown people the inalienable right of being lazy. Laziness is as much of a social phenomena that is defined by the number of people that buy into it as the idea of "Democracy" "Plutocracy" or "Capitolism" is.

One of the worst habbits that all humans tend to exhibit is laziness. This reality is directly caused by our status at the top of the food chain. There are no societal mechanisms in place to keep us honest. So when corporations come around and offer people the chance to be lazy they buy. And now they are buying in record numbers. The more people buy, the more they feel entitled to buy.

That is the lie that US society (and several others around the world) is built around, entitlement. Everybody is entitled to something for one reason or another. Corporations rely on that, it's their stock and trade. And people have been weened on this for the past 50 years, bigger(smaller), faster, more, easier.

The only way to get entitlement out of the American psyche is probably at gunpoint. Anyone who is reading this can probably think of at least one instance of listening to someone bitch because something got more complicated. Not that things should neccessarily get more complicated, but certain things should be somewhat complex (with the option of a certain amount of simplicity) to allow for power and really the fun exploring "under the hood". Also to stave off the kind of complacency that has pervaded America since the end of World War II. A sort of self created social mechanism to keep us honest.

Ok I admit I'm throwing stones from deep inside my suburban glass fortress of solitude, but I see this everyday. At least I see the problem and am taking steps to correct it in myself. I am not by any means saying that the world should give up all the advances of the 20th century. Far from it. But we as a nation need to kick our deeply held sense of entitlement.


<----^---->
Like Anime? In the Philly metro area? Welcome to the machine...
Yes (4.20 / 5) (#24)
by rusty on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 01:53:40 AM EST

I agree with all of that. I'm really afraid this essay is going to be misread as a rant against Evil Corporations. It's not that at all. We have absolutely no one to blame but ourselves, and no can save us but ourselves. We created the economic space in which corporations live, and we handed our rights over to them in exchange for cheap consumables. This is all our fault.

But we as a nation need to kick our deeply held sense of entitlement.

Yes. "Entitlement" assumes that there is an entitler. This conceit removes our knowlege of our own responsibility for everything we do, and everything we allow to be done in our name. The more we believe ourselves to be "entitled", the less we examine our own role in creating the reality we live in. And the less we do that, the easier it is for others to create it for us, to their own benefit.

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

Whatever (4.00 / 2) (#77)
by ubu on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 01:04:54 PM EST

This is all our fault.

No, wrong, give it up. It's your fault, or it's my fault, or it's someone else's fault as the occasion may warrant. But it's not our fault. If collectivism is your idea of "community" -- collective morals, values, actions -- you should have absolutely no problem with the notion of the corporation. And, in fact, I think you love the Corporation, the Big One that signs our Hobbesian social contract, right? I'm sure you'll correct me if I'm wrong.

Yes. "Entitlement" assumes that there is an entitler.

Why shouldn't I assume an entitler? I entitle to myself to whatever I can earn. You prefer the collective entitlement, I know. Your article and your comments are full of 'we' and 'our' and 'us'. There's speaking as a community, and then there's demagoguery: speaking for a community. You might as well pre-empt the meaning of 'the American Way', for all that you sound like any number of despised grandstanders. Jerry Falwell comes to mind.

Ubu


--
As good old software hats say - "You are in very safe hands, if you are using CVS !!!"
[ Parent ]
Thanks (none / 0) (#139)
by rusty on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 06:50:44 PM EST

Thank you for providing the Randian counterpoint to this whole thing. It's always amusing.

Ignore the fact that humans are social animals if you want. I hope, for your sake, that no government ever decides you need to be jailed, because it will be tough to Howard Rourke yourself out of that 8x10 cage.

Here's one for you: American Individualism, perhaps best expressed by Rand and her band of party-line-spouting "individualist" followers, is the lie which enables those who understand the social nature of humans to exploit and murder us, because if I was exploited, it must have been what I, the solitary individual, deserved.

Discuss.

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

Eh? (none / 0) (#145)
by ubu on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 07:01:53 PM EST

I'm not a Randite, Rusty. I know you think you know all about Randites, but in all honesty the amusing thing is that I'd be confused with one.

Ignore the fact that humans are social animals if you want.

Leave off "animals" and you've got a true -- albeit shallow -- statement.

I hope, for your sake, that no government ever decides you need to be jailed, because it will be tough to Howard Rourke yourself out of that 8x10 cage.

I've been jailed on three separate occasions. What was your question?

the lie which enables those who understand the social nature of humans to exploit and murder us, because if I was exploited, it must have been what I, the solitary individual, deserved.

In all honesty, even though I'm not a Randite I think I know Objectivism well enough to suggest that they don't support casual murder. I'm not totally sure but I think that a lot of Objectivists are fairly militant, and I'm antiwar, so you may have a good point in that regard.

Sorry, I know I'm supposed to be more supportive these days. That was a great caricature, Rusty!

Ubu


--
As good old software hats say - "You are in very safe hands, if you are using CVS !!!"
[ Parent ]
teams (none / 0) (#156)
by speek on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 08:49:17 PM EST

No, wrong, give it up. It's your fault, or it's my fault, or it's someone else's fault as the occasion may warrant. But it's not our fault

If you were part of a basketball team, and the team lost, is it your fault? The point guard's fault? The coach's fault? Or the team's fault? Is it individually everyone's fault, with no interconnection between their individually separate mistakes? I see this objection frequently - the idea that it makes no rational sense to talk in terms of collectives. The argument being, I guess, that behavior is always an atomic/individual phenomenon, and that the idea of "collective behavior" is a logical fallacy since it can (theoretically) always be shown to be simply the sum of the behaviors of all the parts. Or something like that - you'd probably make the argument sound better than I can.

I'd normally argue against the whole anti-collective argument, because it seems so silly and arbitrary to decide that the individual person is the level at which you define your atomic unit, but I have a different point. In reality, the team that loses together, wins together. And the team that loses separately, tends not to win much at all. All the logical and rhetorical devices can't change that reality about us.

--
al queda is kicking themsleves for not knowing about the levees
[ Parent ]

Accountability (none / 0) (#164)
by ubu on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 09:43:32 PM EST

When you put it in terms of fun and games, you have to accept the lightness with which blame is assigned. Where the game itself is concerned, blame is shared because -- between gentlemen -- winning and losing is a lighthearted matter.

In the business of major league basketball, as you are no doubt aware, there is no such lightheartedness. Players are held very accountable for points per game, rebounds, blocks, assists, etc. Coaches are held responsible for their track records. Managers and owners are ultimately held responsible by the viewing public, by the NBA, and by the cities who frequently pay for their arenas, equipment, and promotion.

Where there is economic value there will always be economic eccountability. Feel free to submit further examples for review.

Ubu


--
As good old software hats say - "You are in very safe hands, if you are using CVS !!!"
[ Parent ]
games and life (none / 0) (#165)
by speek on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 09:57:50 PM EST

Actually, I was comparing playing on a team to life, not to professional sports. In life, if we could simply remove our poorer teammates, things would be all kinds of simpler.

But, even in professional sports, bickering and finger-pointing teams have a harder time doing well than teams that are more unified. Blame can be assigned to individuals, but it can also be assigned to everyone - perfectly reasonably. I was just pointing out that your insistence that fault can be only yours, or mine, and not ours, doesn't make much sense.

--
al queda is kicking themsleves for not knowing about the levees
[ Parent ]

Lazy? No. (none / 0) (#336)
by Jimbo Omega on Wed Apr 18, 2001 at 04:00:12 PM EST

In reading you comment, I really have to question some of your logic. In point of fact, Americans are not lazy. This is a common misconception. A recent MSNBC article (I forget where, in the past month or so) discussed a survey indicated that the average American has been working more, while cutting back on leisure activities - like sleep and sex. Americans get far less sleep than they should, the study showed. Does this sound like a society raised on entitlements? Not at all. Perhaps the society has become one of cutthroat competition - and people are having to work hard to stay ahead of each other. But lazy? No.

To say "This reality [laziness] is directly caused by our status at the top of the food chain." is absurd. Have you ever seen animals in the wild? One could hardly consider many of them vigorous by human standards. Cold-blooded animals especially. Why? Because all animals in the wild need to be constantly conserving every calorie they can. And further, to suggest that we're at the top of the food-chain is false, also; there is always some superior human above us.

There is NO reason, as I see, to stipulate that "laziness" is one of the "worst habits" humans have. We might well be happier, and healthier, if we were MORE lazy! (For instance, if we slept more, rather than working). And further - if corporations make life easier for us - how is that bad? It makes us more productive. If I had to spend a half an hour getting my car started, that'd be a half an hour less doing something else productive. Now granted, if I never took on new tasks to replace the ones I didn't have to do, I could wind up doing very little. But this is not the case, in fact the opposite. Do you think neanderthals - without even candles to light their way - were "lucky" to average 8 hours of sleep a day? Furthermore, if we are buying our laziness - how did we earn this money?

Your second paragraph seems more logical, but I must wonder how you get the conclusion that it is not "coporately profitable" for us to think? Or how the failure of public education causes media to be a sham? I mean, it would seem, that if there was some "man behind the curtain" pulling the media's strings, he'd want them to be educated - so they could fend off the public. On further thought, I think what you're really saying is that corporations are keeping everyone stupid; so that they can't figure out what's going on and put a stop to it. This is bogus; corporations want better educated workers; after all, more productive workers means more wealth for them. And it also implies the corporations are fundamentally evil; that they do things which are "bad" for the public and then try to cover up. No smart corporation would do this. Even if you assume a corporation is a parasite, it needs the host to live. Joe farmer in the original post, for instance - he won't be buying any more SludgeCo product. Since corporations are merely an entity created by humans, they require humans to live. If humanity falls, they fall also.

[ Parent ]

The Great Brain Race (3.25 / 4) (#17)
by Pseudonym on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 01:20:13 AM EST

ESR is going to cover this topic in his fourth essay in the The Cathedral & The Bazaar series. He hadn't written it when I saw him speak about it, but I believe it's tentatively titled something like The Great Brain Race.

One of the arguments that he makes is that we're in the post-information age, and that the limiting factor in companies at the moment is not lack of ideas and it's not lack of capital: it's lack of good people. So we're entering a race for brains. The only way that businesses will be able to get all the brains they need is to attract people who don't work for them, and the only way to do that is to develop a community.

He cites Ebay and Amazon as examples. (I think he also cited Napster, but that doesn't really work now.) The businesses would simply not work without the community which surrounds them.

Anyway, read the essay (when it gets written). He argued it much better than I did, and it'll probably be argued even better when it's finally written down.



sub f{($f)=@_;print"$f(q{$f});";}f(q{sub f{($f)=@_;print"$f(q{$f});";}f});
Too long, unfocused (3.66 / 9) (#25)
by Philipp on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 01:55:41 AM EST

This clearly makes it to the front page, since it is by the man himself. But I'll dare some criticism anyway: Most of the article is about the idea that all social constructs are agreements that might be changed. This is not an entirely new idea, but it is well argued.

The finale is arguing that we need communities (social constructs called k5), to counter the pervasive influence of moneyed interests in capitalist America. This is an entirely seperate issue, well-known, clearly true, and it comes out a bit short compared about the long-winded motivation of social constructs.

From the title I expected a longer argument about why we need communities and society, why man is not an island, etc. As written, this humble reader was waiting for a long time for the story to actually come to the point.

Just my two centavos.

alias kn 'killall -9 netscape-communicator'

Thank you (4.00 / 6) (#26)
by rusty on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 02:10:01 AM EST

Most of the article is about the idea that all social constructs are agreements that might be changed. This is not an entirely new idea, but it is well argued.

No, it's not at all a new idea. Hopefully I didn't give too much of an impression that this was an unparellelled work of original genius by me.

It would have been a lot shorter and more succinct if I could have assumed that the first fifteen or so paragraphs would be generally understood and accepted as true. But I didn't feel at all comfortable just launching into the bit about community without layng the groundwork. I'm sorry you had to slog through a lot of stuff you already knew, but I felt that that was an important base that my ultimate point relied on, and it would be best to get it expressed up front.

I tried to make the intro an overview of the whole thing in two paragraphs, but it probably didn't give much indication of how much space the expansion of the first paragraph was going to take.

The finale is arguing that we need communities (social constructs called k5), to counter the pervasive influence of moneyed interests in capitalist America. This is an entirely seperate issue, well-known, clearly true, and it comes out a bit short compared about the long-winded motivation of social constructs.

If this is "well known, clearly true" to you, then it looks like I'm preaching to the choir. Chalk this one up to audience mismatch. I'm glad you agree, and I hope that wider recognition of this will eventually come to pass.

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

Different title (3.00 / 3) (#32)
by Philipp on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 02:31:34 AM EST

Maybe it would help if you would change the title to "Social Constructs and Community" or something. This would create a more appropriate expectation. Then again, "Communities rule, news at 11" might work too.

alias kn 'killall -9 netscape-communicator'
[ Parent ]
ok (3.50 / 6) (#36)
by delmoi on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 03:17:12 AM EST

It would have been a lot shorter and more succinct if I could have assumed that the first fifteen or so paragraphs would be generally understood and accepted as true.

Hrm, maybe you should have made it clear that you were 'laying groundwork' or whatever, and that there was more to the story. I didn't notice that you were the author untill I saw the post by Philipp saying "since it is by the man himself". I see so much 'psudo-philosophy' here on K5, and it usualy seems to be so much BS (although what I did read of yours made sense) I tend to tune it out.

Its just that, ok I read several paragraphs and no end is in site... ah well.
--
"'argumentation' is not a word, idiot." -- thelizman
[ Parent ]
Alternative societies + how to gut the present 1 (none / 0) (#66)
by ZeeDraak on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 11:57:43 AM EST

Here's an excellent essay on how to start gutting capitalism and create a new civilisation based on autonomous neighbourhoods (a face-to-face K5?:)).

This guy also has an excellent website devoted to these issues (anarchist/situationist past and present strategies to create a less atomised and less undesireable society).

Check out his 'Joy of Revolution' and the Situationist (group which helped to trigger the '68 revolt in paris) text archive.

Also check out his comments on an essay by Kenneth Rexroth: The Social Lie and Rexroth's complete book Communalism. The latter details the history of such alternative and basically anarchistic living communities from the stone age till the present. Both this and the Getting Free stuff seems a lot more desireable for the majority (excluding the top 5%) of the population, imho.

An excerpt from The Social Lie:
...
"Since all society is organized in the interest of exploiting classes and since if men knew this they would cease to work and society would fall apart, it has always been necessary, at least since the urban revolutions, for societies to be governed ideologically by a system of fraud."

Does the rejection of the social lie imply a rejection of the idea of a "social contract"?

"This," says Rexroth, "is the old deliberate confusion between society and the state, culture and civilization and so forth and so on. There was once a man by the name of Oppenheimer who was very popular in anarchist circles. He said the state was going to wither away in a sort of utopia of bureaucrats who serve the state. And you are always being told that your taxes go to provide you with services. This is what they teach in school as social studies. There is nothing contractual about it. There is an organic relationship which has endured from the time that man became a group animal and is as essential a part of his biology as his fingernails. That other thing, the state, is fraudulent. The state does not tax you to provide you with services. The state taxes you to kill you. The services are something which it has kidnapped from you in your organic relations with your fellow man, to justify its police and war-making powers. It provides no services at all. There is no such thing as a social contract. This is just an eighteenth-century piece of verbalism."
...

[ Parent ]
devil's advocate (none / 0) (#229)
by mattc on Wed Apr 11, 2001 at 02:25:47 AM EST

The finale is arguing that we need communities (social constructs called k5), to counter the pervasive influence of moneyed interests in capitalist America. This is an entirely seperate issue, well-known, clearly true, and it comes out a bit short compared about the long-winded motivation of social constructs.
If this is "well known, clearly true" to you, then it looks like I'm preaching to the choir. Chalk this one up to audience mismatch. I'm glad you agree, and I hope that wider recognition of this will eventually come to pass.

Why is "counter the pervasive influence of moneyed interests in capitalist America" something we should do?

Basically, what I am asking, is if our rights, morals, etc are social constructs then why should we follow your social constructs instead of the dominant ones in our society? What are the "right" rights?

[ Parent ]

Property carries responsibility (4.23 / 13) (#31)
by Philipp on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 02:29:13 AM EST

One thing that strike me here in the US is that the attitude towards property is very different from where I grew up in Europe. There, one of the most common uttered proverbs is "property carries responsibilities".

If you own something, you can't just do what you want with it, you are basically given the privilege to use it the best way you see fit with consideration of the needs of society. This is not really an enforceable law, but rather expectation of society.

Here in the US, I hear so often "It's mine, so I can what I want with it", which always strikes me as being quite selfish.

Just wanted to throw this in to make the point that social constructs such as property differ even in highly developed societies.

alias kn 'killall -9 netscape-communicator'

is that like (none / 0) (#178)
by jeanlucpikachu on Tue Apr 10, 2001 at 01:05:59 AM EST

Is that anything like "It's my body, I can do anything I want with it?"

--
Peace,
Capt. Jean-Luc Pikachu AIM: jeanlucpikachu
[ Parent ]
live and let live (1.50 / 2) (#277)
by G Neric on Thu Apr 12, 2001 at 09:20:29 AM EST

"It's mine, so I can what I want with it", which always strikes me as being quite selfish.

When I think about your country, I think of the flip side of what you call "selfishness". It's the idea that "it's your country, you should do what you want with it." Do you see? It cuts both ways. Telling you what to do with your property would be true selfishness on my part.

The Europeans who founded this country (with the help of some non-Europeans, and many more today) were Europeans who were particularly tired of their neighbors telling them what to do. They weren't perfect, but it was that attitude which eventually led to the American idea of freedom and liberty. Hopefully we'll be able to preserve it, but as the place gets more crowded and vested interests more entrenched, we seem to slide toward the tarpit of a European-style preachiness and sanctimony, making regulations about everything to preserve obscure "rights" of people who just want to tell everybody else how to live.

[ Parent ]

Great article, except for... (3.11 / 9) (#46)
by Wonko The Sane on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 08:10:21 AM EST

...the basic premises.
The first point rusty makes is that Human Rights are a social construct. Which they are not. The article, troughout its length, confuses rigths and abilities. Your ability to live is maintained only as long as there is not a more powerful individual or group who wishes to cause your death. Your right to live is natural and inalienable (althought not necessarily self-evident).

Second, although in the beginning, rusty explicitly writes determine..."reality" as we experience it, from there, he refers to it as "reality", not "our perception of reality". Money, like murder, has a very defined reality. It can have several "granted" perceptions, but it's reality is unique. Money, in a capitalistic system, is a kind of property. And buying food from those who "own" it is a fair exchange of property - you recieve the food you need, and the (I'll assume) corporation will recieve the money it needs. Life is not subordinate to property, but the exchange of property serves the lifes of all involved. Where's the problem?

The rest of the logical chain is near-perfect, but it continually relies on the beliefs human rights are relative, and exchanges of property are somehow harmful to society. Take those two away, and the argument crumbles.

For further reference, This would be a good place to start. I don't agree with it completely, but it certainly makes some good points.

This is an EX-PARROT!
Why (3.33 / 3) (#53)
by retinaburn on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 10:05:47 AM EST

Why are right inalienable, why are they not socially constructed ?

I have seen this said many many times in this discussion. Do you base this belief on anything more than personal opinion ?

I think that we are a young species that often fucks with things we don't know how to unfuck. -- Tycho


[ Parent ]
Natural Law frightens me. (4.00 / 2) (#63)
by iGrrrl on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 11:34:48 AM EST

Wonko, who defines himself as the Sane, avers the following:
The first point rusty makes is that Human Rights are a social construct. Which they are not.
Perhaps in Wonko's personal social construct of ethics and morality, human rights have some sort of unversal substance. Because he believes that the idea of human rights does not arise from a social construct -- so firmlythat he states it with "is not" -- little I I feel there is little I can say to change his mind. That's fine. I think we need more people like that, because that predjudice feeds into my own ideals of ethics and morality. However, I respect him acting by his own code.

Now, when I said in the subject line that Natural Law frightened me, I did not mean that the Laws of Thermodynamics send me hiding under the covers. There exists a political philosophy of Natural Law which supercedes written law. People get their ideas of what formulates a Natural Law from their personal religious/ethical/moral stances.

Personally, I'm a strict Constitutionalist. Because people's ideas of Natural Law can differ, the written law serves as a structure to which we must all adhere. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas believes in Natural Law, which is why I opposed his nomination. I see distinct differences in strictly ruling on interpretation of the written law and in including one's ideas of Natural Law in the interpretation.

Also, I think Wonko and I read Rusty's take on capitalism a bit differently. I don't think Rusty means that all exchange of money for goods or services is bad. After all, what is money but a symbolic representation of percieved value -- a substitute for direct barter? No, what I read Rusty as saying (colored by my own prejudices) has more to do with the following:

Large corporations (which can spin public perception) behave with no responsibility to the larger cultural good. They do not deal with individual people, as in a barter transaction, but with herds of people. Just as a salesman tries to manipulate the customer on an individual level, corporate advertising and PR spin tries to manipulate large populations of people.

I find it helps to think of it this way: Do you trust a used car salesman? Do you try to be aware of salesman tricks and to see through the hearty smile? His purpose (his "right", he may think) is to convince you to buy merchandise, and if he can make you pay more for substandard product, so much the better. I try to see through corporate tactics the same way.


--
You cannot have a reasonable conversation with someone who regards other people as toys to be played with. localroger
remove apostrophe for email.
[ Parent ]

"Natural law doesn't enter into it!" (none / 0) (#82)
by Wonko The Sane on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 01:21:21 PM EST

Ok, if this isn't clear enough, everything I say is IMNSHO (In My Not So Humble Opinion), not some sort of ultimate truth. Although it might be, I'm not making any claims to that. And I believe Human Rights are natural. Or at least MY Human Rights. To quote Ayn Rand: Man -- every man -- is an end in himself, not the means to the ends of others. He must exist for his own sake, neither sacrificing himself to others nor sacrificing others to himself. The pursuit of his own rational self-interest and of his own happiness is the highest moral purpose of his life. I find that human rights are within my self-interest, and their existance is the only equilibrium that can exist in a society in which every man works for his own self-interest. Any questions?
(Yes, I refer to Objectivism a lot, but I'm not an Objectivist. However I find it correct on many counts.)

About capitalism: Yes, the salesman's right, furthermore, it's his obligation to try to sell me his good for the highest price. And in the same way, it is my obligation to get those goods as cheaply as I can. That's what makes capitalism work. The same goes for the media. All this talk about "seeing trough corporate tactics" has a definite stench of paranoia to it. Remember, all of the world's property is eventually owned by invidivuals and governments - either directly, or trough shares they own. A corporation represents the wills of its shareholders, and, as pointed out in the original article, attemps to maximize their profits. It's not us vs. the evil corporations, it's me vs. Mr. Ted Turner, etc. And I try to earn more (Not necessarily in the monetary sense) from watching CNN than Mr. Turner makes from me doing it. Since the amount of money Mr. Turner gets from my pocket is miniscule at best, I feel I have the upper hand. And I still can't see the problem.

This is an EX-PARROT!
[ Parent ]
Huh? (4.00 / 1) (#94)
by aphrael on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 02:24:24 PM EST

I find that human rights are within my self-interest, and their existance is the only equilibrium that can exist in a society in which every man works for his own self-interest

Ah, but do those rights exist *independant* of societal acceptance of them? If so, in what form? And what does it mean for them to exist?

You can trivially say that it means that the society is intrinsically evil. But that's a personal definition, so what you're *really* arguing is that rights are constructed by you, and that your beliefs on the matter outweigh societies, right?

Yes, the salesman's right, furthermore, it's his obligation to try to sell me his good for the highest price. And in the same way, it is my obligation to get those goods as cheaply as I can

Obligation to whom? And does that mean that if I sell a product without making a profit, i've done something wrong?

[ Parent ]

oh, I understood. I just didn't agree. (none / 0) (#140)
by iGrrrl on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 06:53:51 PM EST

Ok, if this isn't clear enough,...

It seemed clear to me; you just said something that sparked a resopnse which was not entirely in agreement with you. I had no intention of ruffling your feathers so.

everything I say is IMNSHO (In My Not So Humble Opinion), not some sort of ultimate truth....

My opinions aren't humble either, but I try to phrase them as opinions and not statements of fact. By saying rights are not a social construct, as you did in the post to which I replied, the implication is that they are something else. One most easily infers that the something else would be a natural law. In your response to me (and I have read Rand), you say, "I believe Human Rights are natural." In a sense, you've provided another example that only backs up the idea that the idea of a right is a human construct. Take the following below:

I find that human rights are within my self-interest, and their existance is the only equilibrium that can exist in a society in which every man works for his own self-interest.

So, in your concept of your self interest, which we might easily put under the umbrella of your person ethical/moral stance, the concept of human rights has value. The value extends both to your person (if there are human rights, you have rights and are thereby protected) and to society (self-interest has limitations where self-serving behavior would violate the rights of other people). Therefore you give credence to the concept of human rights. You have created or accepted a social construct where human rights exist.

Where else did they come from, since you hedge on claiming there is any ultimate truth behind your opinion?

As for your self-interest model of your individual relationship with the large capitalist institutions of our culture: I don't see how your desire to make more off CNN than CNN makes off you watching differs in spirit from my caution concerning advertising or any other PR which contains emotional manipulations and/or misleading statements. Corporations do things in their best interest (getting people to watch their advertisements, illegal dumping, marketing of unsafe products) which do not always co-incide with mine.

Any questions?

Just this. Are you a snot, or did you merely choose to act like one in the previous post?

--
You cannot have a reasonable conversation with someone who regards other people as toys to be played with. localroger
remove apostrophe for email.
[ Parent ]

Re: oh, I understood. I just didn't agree. (none / 0) (#189)
by Wonko The Sane on Tue Apr 10, 2001 at 04:18:11 AM EST

Just this. Are you a snot, or did you merely choose to act like one in the previous post?. In your definition, I probably am. I don't resort to ad hominem attacks, tho`. End of discussion.

This is an EX-PARROT!
[ Parent ]
Though you probably won't read this... (none / 0) (#195)
by iGrrrl on Tue Apr 10, 2001 at 08:23:25 AM EST

You are correct in that insult does not produce productive discussion. My intent was not to insult you, but to point out how your tone read. I suppose you were doing the superior intellect thing, but trust me that I'm probably a match for you in that department. We are neither of us stupid, but we do seem to disagree on the subject at hand.

I made two points with that question, which I'll spell out:

First is the use of identity language -- "is" vs. "seems like" or "appears to me". You used "is" language in the original post, which I questioned. You followed up by hedging as opinion. That's fine, but my second point is that you did it in such a way that you implied I was an idiot for not understanding the subtlety of your thought. To me it looked as if you were annoyed that either 1) I didn't assume you were intending to state a Wonko-local opinion, or 2) I was too stupid to see your point and thus be persuaded to share it.

I did not make that assumption that you were expressing an opinion because of the language and tone of the original post. Writing is all we have, and I tend to take it at face value. My error was not finding a way to indicate that I was laughing as I asked the question, so at face value it was percieved as an ad hominem attack. Again, my apologies for so ruffling your feathers.

--
You cannot have a reasonable conversation with someone who regards other people as toys to be played with. localroger
remove apostrophe for email.
[ Parent ]

Re: Trough you probably won't read... (none / 0) (#201)
by Wonko The Sane on Tue Apr 10, 2001 at 10:48:27 AM EST

I see. And assuming I won't read the post was not an implied insult? Anyhow, I was not annoyed at that point. I was just trying to close the `social construct` part of the argument as quickly and efficiently as possible, and I'm used to people considering everything written on open forums as purely the opinions of those involved. I've had no intention of implying you were stupid, or insulting you in any way.

In regard to the `snot` thing - apology accepted.

This is an EX-PARROT!
[ Parent ]
Sanity's a social construct. Wonko probably knows. (none / 0) (#237)
by leonbrooks on Wed Apr 11, 2001 at 06:41:23 AM EST

Wonko, who defines himself as the Sane, avers the following

``They called me mad, and I called them mad, and damn them, they outvoted me.''
- Nathaniel Lee, on being consigned to a mental institution, circa 17th century.
-- If at first you don't succeed, try a shorter bungee
[ Parent ]

Gold and society (none / 0) (#75)
by ubu on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 12:55:01 PM EST

Jude Wanniski (who is not a Randite) recently theorized a suprising but plausible connection between social relativism and the loss of the gold standard. The long and the short is that human social behavior is almost always economic behavior, and that the impact of money and money policy upon society is tremendous. As people have begun to believe that "money is a social construct" -- which is a juvenile way of saying that we have a debt-backed currency, rather than a hard, gold-back currency -- they have begun to believe that all human economic and social behavior is similarly convenient and figmentary.

http://www.polyconomics.com/searchbase/gp3.htm

How did Greenspan get the job of managing a floating promise of a dollar? It is because he understands the importance of gold as his own best reference point in managing the floating dollar. As a younger man, Greenspan also connected the idea of gold's contribution to moral values and society's integrity. Younger Americans who have no recollection of life in this kind of world should be aware that it was not so long ago and was not so unusual.

http://www.supplysideinvestor.com/showarticle.asp?articleid=1339

This is actually a point I have been making for almost 30 years, since President Nixon cut the link between our paper dollar and gold. Without an anchor to something real, the dollar has inflated and deflated and inflated and deflated and inflated and deflated again...
The Durants wrote that in 1944 in the third volume, Caesar and Christ, of their History of Civilization. The golden age of the Roman Empire was built on the tax and monetary reforms that had been designed by Julius and carried out by his son: 'He restored the stability of the currency by basing it on gold and issuing a golden aureus, equivalent in purchasing power to the British pound sterling in the nineteenth century.'

Ubu


--
As good old software hats say - "You are in very safe hands, if you are using CVS !!!"
[ Parent ]
Gold has inherent value? (none / 0) (#111)
by rusty on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 03:40:26 PM EST

So gold has value which is "dicovered" by us in using it as a means of exchange? I would agree that going off a gold standard has allowed us to much more easily see the social nature of money, and I would definitely not argue that "human economic and social behavior is similarly convenient and figmentary." In fact, just the opposite: human social behavior creates reality. Don't confuse "socially created" with "figmentary".

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
Gold has inherent value? (none / 0) (#126)
by ubu on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 06:05:43 PM EST

Your comments are good evidence that Jude was on the right track. The majority of those alive today have little or no sense of the difference between a paper debt-backed bill and a "hard" currency. The US Dollar is backed, effectively, by the strength of the US economy. Its "value" is affected most potently by the willingness of the Fed to print more money and thus dilute the "value" assigned to any specific number of US Dollars.

The US Dollar is strong because the US economy is strong. Very strong. Some other countries consider the US Dollar nearly as good as gold on the basis of its exchange value. They use the US Dollar to fix the value of their own currencies, or simply as backing with "currency boards". But the US Dollar, in and of itself, is merely paper. Its value is imputed by its status as legal tender, enforced by the US Treasury. Without the social institution embodied in the United States -- in the event of a government coup d'etat, for instance -- the US Dollar would be effectively valueless.

By contrast gold is a "hard" currency, with inherent properties that are judged valuable with or without governmental backing, without the social convention that you mention. Gold is acceptable as a medium of exchange in every country on Earth that I know of, and this is because it has both "hard" valuable properties -- in science, jewelry, architecture, and other endeavors -- and a long historical tradition to stabilize it. Moreover, gold is very difficult to find, and this is probably one of the reasons it beat silver as a standard medium of exchange.

US Dollars began life as a "promise" for gold, a concept you probably know if you've read Cryptonomicon. Gold is a thing that is desired in and of itself, while US Dollars were merely a proxy for gold. Nowadays, with Dollars unlinked from gold, Dollars are merely what is called a "debt-backed currency", a promise of exchange for something of highly-fluctuating value, enforced only by the solvency of the US Treasury and valuable only insofar as the US economy is strong and the Fed does not rapidly inflate the money supply.

As a result, US Dollars are truly a "socially created" currency. They are considered valuable only on the strength of indirect evidence which assures the seller that in receiving Dollars he is getting something of greater worth than the thing he is selling. With US Dollars or any other debt-backed currency, the risk of fluctuation is profound.

The notion of debt as a backing for currency is explained by Jude here. An excerpt:

When governments realized their own public debt had monetary value, "seignorage" as it was called, they could negotiate lower fees for the privilege of allowing private banks to issue notes backed by the promise of the government to redeem them.

A good Q&A on gold issues is here. Jude's outstanding introductory series on gold, "A Gold Polaris", is probably the best first reading on the subject I have ever seen.

Ubu


--
As good old software hats say - "You are in very safe hands, if you are using CVS !!!"
[ Parent ]
interesting, but (none / 0) (#159)
by speek on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 09:13:06 PM EST

What makes gold a good measure of currency? Scarcity, the difficulty of counterfeiting it, it's purity, it's permanence, the fact that it doesn't get consumed when "used". When looking for a good bartering tool between two peoples, it was ideal for these reasons, and others (although, I don't agree that it's utility had anything to do with it - it really doesn't have many uses, particulary back when humans first started using it. What it has is aesthetic value, which seems to be important to human beings). With the US dollar, we have most of these same qualities - it's scarcity is tightly controlled by the US government, it's difficult to effectively counterfeit, and it's purity and permanence are enforced by the banking system which replaces old bills with new ones. All this really says is that human beings have created a reality for themselves that is solid enough to serve as our economic medium. That's quite an accomplishment considering economics is at the heart of our lives.

Of course, our fabricated economic medium could crumble and collapse, with disastrous results, but you can't say that we haven't created real and tangible products based on a socially fabricated reality.

I also found interesting the suggestion that greater acceptance of arguments based on relativism has correlation with leaving the gold standard. It rings true to me - after all, if you can learn to leave one god behind, why not all of them?

--
al queda is kicking themsleves for not knowing about the levees
[ Parent ]

Precis (none / 0) (#162)
by ubu on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 09:35:21 PM EST

Gold has intrinsic value. This is the Polaris that Wanniski mentions. Debt-backed currencies are incomparable. You praise the solidity of the US Dollar for the same reasons that the world praises the Dollar, and considers it "as good as gold" in some cases.

I trust the value of gold; I don't trust the Fed to manage the liquidity of the economy properly. Currencies have been inflated time and time again to raise money for wars, Keynsianism, and other centrally-mandated purposes. Time and time again those economies have been sorely punished.

At this time the Fed's policies have actually led to a sharp deflation of the US Dollar, and among the results have been record levels of bankrupcy. If you understand the way that inflation rewards debtors you will probably understand the way that deflation punishes them.

I also found interesting the suggestion that greater acceptance of arguments based on relativism has correlation with leaving the gold standard. It rings true to me - after all, if you can learn to leave one god behind, why not all of them?

There you go. I need hardly make my argument in the first place.

Ubu


--
As good old software hats say - "You are in very safe hands, if you are using CVS !!!"
[ Parent ]
Intrinsic? (none / 0) (#215)
by gregbillock on Tue Apr 10, 2001 at 07:46:54 PM EST

Having one thing in the world with "intrinsic" value isn't really falsifiable. If there is no other good which has 'intrinsic' value, then the price of your 'intrinsically valued' good will fluctuate along with all the rest. The choice to call the value of one of the fluctuating variables "intrinsic" and the rest "not intrinsic" is completely degenerate and....drumroll.....a social construction. :-)

If there is some other good (silver, maybe?) in which currency you are willing to give away options for any future date at the present exchange rate, then you are making a meaningful statement that both of these things have 'intrinsic' value.

In the absence of that standing offer (does Jude Wanniski make such an offer?), we'll have to agree that the value of gold and money (indeed, the value of anything) is socially constructed, and varies with time as social values fluctuate.



[ Parent ]

reply (none / 0) (#217)
by ubu on Tue Apr 10, 2001 at 09:18:54 PM EST

You are mistaken about the meaning of "intrinsic", at least in this context. Neither I nor Jude would say that gold has immutable or absolute value. We merely say that it is a convenient polaris by which to measure the value of other goods because it has intrinsic value which is subject to less fluctuation than other things.

Silver is a perfectly acceptable alternative, and at one time was considered second only to gold as a polaris for exchange. Read the links I provided; it wouldn't be necessary to address this question had you done so.

Ubu


--
As good old software hats say - "You are in very safe hands, if you are using CVS !!!"
[ Parent ]
Not really... (none / 0) (#258)
by gregbillock on Wed Apr 11, 2001 at 02:32:16 PM EST

The kind of 'intrinsic' value that Jude mistakenly thinks applies to gold applies to everything else he thinks it doesn't apply to (including debt, government power to enforce levies, or whatever else you've got to hand). That, and describing gold has being subject to less fluctuation than other things is inaccurate.

Here's another take on it: If we describe price fluctuations as a result of inadequate knowledge about the "true value" of things, or directly by their changing social valuations on things, is irrelevant. The "intrinsic value" hypothesis is like hidden quantum mechanical variables--inaccessible to the real economic world in which transactions take place. All this picture does is invent a new fungible: this mysterious information, which behaves like no other information in the world.

But back to you. How much was a ton of 99.999999% pure silicon worth 1000 years ago, and how much is it worth today? What does your 'intrinsic value' theory have to say about the difference in value? How much is 50 grams of bulk gold worth? How about a 50 gram gold statuette recovered from King Tut's tomb? Perhaps you can elucidate how the difference in value relates to the intrinsic value of one shape vs. another?


[ Parent ]
To Serve Man (none / 0) (#87)
by swr on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 01:56:01 PM EST

The first point rusty makes is that Human Rights are a social construct. Which they are not. The article, troughout its length, confuses rigths and abilities. Your ability to live is maintained only as long as there is not a more powerful individual or group who wishes to cause your death. Your right to live is natural and inalienable (althought not necessarily self-evident).

You seem to be suggesting that rights can exist independantly of both ability and social construct. I disagree. If you do not have the ability to live, or a social construct, all you are left with is an arbitrary assertion with nothing to back it.

Suppose the social construct called the legal system did not exist. Suppose someone is about to murder you. You could protest all you want about how you have a right not to be murdered, but with neither ability nor social construct to back it, it would be no different from claiming that you have a right to good weather.

You can claim that your right to not be murdered is in some way special and that the "right to good weather" does not have that same specialness. The counterclaim would be that the only reason you consider some rights to be special in that way is because you have lived your life in a society where the social construct exists, and that the social construct was created because it is beneficial to society. You can, if you'd like, claim that the social construct exists because people consider it special, but how can you explain the cause of the "speciallness" in a way that does not involve a social construct?

I think it would be reasonable to claim that we consider certain rights special because evolutionary forces have favoured civilized behavior, and thus we are genetically predisposed to consider certain rights special. You can claim that that makes them special. I would claim that that just makes them a social construct :) and we are more-or-less back to square one.

P.S. Subject line is a Twilight Zone reference.



[ Parent ]
Arguments (none / 0) (#93)
by aphrael on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 02:19:18 PM EST

Your right to live is natural and inalienable (althought not necessarily self-evident).

Where does it come from? Hell, for that matter, what does it *mean*? That it's wrong for me to kill you? Leaving aside the endless qualifiers that can be put on that (except in self-defense, etc ...), what creates that right? Is it an inherent side-effect of your being human? (If so, why does a dog not have the same right?) Is it granted by God or The Gods? (If so, does it exist merely at their sufferance, and is it revocable at will?)

[ Parent ]

Here's the problem.... (4.00 / 1) (#108)
by Alhazred on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 03:28:36 PM EST

Its fine to look at the exchange of money for food, but food is a much different thing from money.

One can live without money (in theory) but one cannot live without food. Thus the right to live becomes the right to exchange money for food, since any other rights are valueless and unexercisable if one starves to death!

The same can be said for other basic necessities of life. It is not that we are automatically entitled to them, but we are entitled to the right to acquire them. If nobody will sell me food, my rights ARE being violated.


That is not dead which may eternal lie And with strange aeons death itself may die.
[ Parent ]
Who is violating your rights? (none / 0) (#148)
by roystgnr on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 07:54:29 PM EST

If nobody will sell me food, my rights ARE being violated.

By whom? If there were once people selling you food, and they decide to stop, does that mean they have started violating your rights? Am I, who have never sold you food and never intend to, violating your rights right now? If the reason nobody is selling you food is because you are lost in the wilderness, who is violating your rights then?

These are serious questions. In my own preferred libertarian fantasy world, if your rights are being violated that is because there is at least one sentient violator, someone committing force or fraud. When you throw in the "right to health care" or "right to life", then it becomes easy to imagine hypothetical (or to observe real) situations where these rights appear to be taken away by the universe itself.

If your rights can be violated without there being a violator, what is the purpose of enumerating such rights in the first place? You can't always punish or extract damages from a violator if none exists, so what do you do? Complain about the difficulty of a medical education when you don't get the health care you feel entitled to?

[ Parent ]

What rights ARE is the question. (none / 0) (#306)
by Alhazred on Fri Apr 13, 2001 at 09:33:54 PM EST

Your comments are quite cogent. Obviously the question becomes, what ARE rights?

Hypothetically in a world with one person, you can't really talk about rights. At best they would be completely theoretical and irrelevant (don't try arguing with a flood about your right to live).

Rights only exist within a social context of some sort. This is the argument that is used to demonstrate the weaknesses in the social contract theories, which all start from a "state of nature" in which all persons reserve all rights to themselves, and lead to some more or less utilitarian system of thought.

To directly address your objections. One's rights do not have to be violated in order for some of them to be impossible to exercise. HOWEVER. Consider this. Every day on this earth 10's of thousands of people die of starvation. Yet NO COUNTRY ON THE FACE OF THE EARTH HAS FAILED TO PRODUCE ENOUGH FOOD TO FEED ITS OWN CITIZENS IN ANY YEAR SINCE WORLD WAR II. I'm not saying ALL countries made enough food to feed everyone. I'm say EACH ONE individually did so! Even Ethiopia and Bangladesh in their worst famine periods. Now tell me someone is not choosing to deny someone else food...

Your theory is wonderful, but it is simply out of sync with reality. We are discussing the real world, not some theoretical world. REAL people die every day because they ARE denied the right to obtain basic goods needed to survive.


That is not dead which may eternal lie And with strange aeons death itself may die.
[ Parent ]
capitalism and the storage & transfer of wealth (3.78 / 14) (#48)
by TuxNugget on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 08:40:20 AM EST

While Rusty goes to great lengths to describe capitalism as a kind of shared reality (or perhaps a shared delusion), it seems clear to me that if we didn't have capitalism, we would need to invent it. Money, or capital, is merely a means of storing and transferring favors. (Likewise, shares of stock are merely a means of storing and transferring the rights to elect who manages a business and receive income (dividends) from a business).

Without money, what do we do? You've probably seen a story like this before, but I'll be inventive and add a twist: Bob knows how to fix your car and he likes pineapple flavored whiskey. Sue has some of this stuff but she needs a new TV set. Cathy doesn't want to part with her new TV, but her kid needs braces. And guess what, you're not a dentist. You write perl scripts! How do you get your car fixed?

I know, you GPL your perl scripts, making them free code, and everyone else, motivated by your public generosity, gladly gives their labor freely as well! Of course, Cathy gets screwed because there isn't a dentist in my story, but - hey -- at least she'll feel good contributing to the community. Yeah, right. I somehow doubt that all we need is a little kick in the head to shift to this state of utopia. It's impossibility is more than just pre-conditioning from the advertisements we all saw in the Saturday morning cartoons. Because if the dentist is in the next town over, he won't be in utopia, and if he won't join -- hey, he won't join. His freedom allows him to refuse to contribute. And his scarcity may possibly allow him to ask more favors for his labor than the others.

Now if all the people in the town decide that meteorites are really cool and kind of hard to find, they might decide to swap other favors for meteorites. Realizing that you can always get a favor for a meteorite, they become a de facto standard for storing and transferring favors - a kind of money.

Soon, though, people begin to realize that meteorites are useful for other things besides money. Using them as money seems kind of wasteful. Finally, someone who has a reputation for usually keeping their promises offers to write "I owe you a Meteorite" and give these out in exchange for borrowing your meteorites. He keeps secret the fact that he only keeps enough meteorites around to satisfy a few days of redemption, and earns his living loaning the rest out to others at a rate higher than he borrows them at. Now we've got a bank -- and it has issued paper money. And the society has gained becuase it uses bits of paper to record and transfer wealth rather than costly physical items that are valuable, bulky en masse, etc.

So you can see, having a good called money allows us to solve as a society, what is otherwise a NP-complete problem of finding feasible exchanges of favors [and one where I might add, no one would really be willing to give all their private desires to a central planner or computer to solve for the exchanges]. It is a very useful invention, and we shouldn't be quick to abandon it because some crackpot thought property is theft. Accepting gold money, paper money, meteorite money, or monopoly money does not mean you have to subscribe to a theory where all goods or services are defined in terms of private, non-sharable property. But money, and some notions of private property, makes life in a free society a hell of a lot easier.

Beyond this sort of Econ 101, Rusty forgets to tell us that K5 is in fact owned by a corporation. Look at the bottom -- "The Rest (C) 2000-2001 Kuro5hin.org, Inc.". Why is this? Well, it is probably some combination of fearing lawsuits and wanting to ensure that the community can continue in his absence, if need be. Oh, yeah, maybe making money (but probably not really tops on the list). How do I know? I'm guessing, of course, but I also might know something about this kind of entity. Corporations and LLP's, etc... are exactly what is needed to deal with these kinds of problems. A fictitious entity? Yes, and no. After all, it is real enough for about 10,000 people to post to.

<FINE PRINT>Disclaimer: Tux Nugget, the poster of this story, is the imaginary mascot of LinuxFutures.Com, Incorporated, a Corporate entity. </FINE PRINT>

Capitalism vs Commerce (3.80 / 5) (#55)
by woofbot on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 10:35:03 AM EST

I think what you are referring to and what Rusty was describing are different. The exchange of goods and services for money could probably be better described as commerce, which does not really have any social elements. Capitalism on the other hand is definitely a social construct. It argues that the best means for controlling commerce is effectively allow the market to determine prices, value, etc of all items. This is something that can and has been argued extensively.

[ Parent ]
supply and demand are real (none / 0) (#62)
by TuxNugget on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 11:31:57 AM EST

While I will agree that commerce and the use of a numeraire or money are separate from the use of unregulated markets to determine prices, I don't see the market function as a "social construct". It is more related to a rational self interest, and the marginal rates of producing some goods and services from others.

Even in a highly decentralized setting, like 2-person bargaining, people will hunt around for the best deal. This tends to force prices closer together. If only one price can exist in the marketplace, and yet the price is free to adjust, it will probably be the price that equates quantity supplied and quantity demanded. In something a bit more organized, like a futures pit or a stock exchange, price discovery can be much more rapid.

Of course, many of our markets aren't perfect and sometimes irrational biases can persist. The bubble in tech stocks is but one illustration. Something very similar happened with the tulips in holland a couple hundred years ago. The market system is often self-correcting, and the tech stocks are back down where a little rational thought about probabilities times future profits might suggest they should trade. Of course, that is an unpopular sentiment for those who lost a wad of cash speculating -- but hey, that's life.

[ Parent ]

The trouble with capitalism... (4.00 / 1) (#69)
by tapir on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 12:27:13 PM EST

... Is that it won't stay in it's place.

The exchange of money is a practical way of managing many of our needs. Nobody doubts that.

The problem is that our soceity puts making money ahead of absolutely everything else. And not just making money, but making money in the short term.

We had this economic boom and everybody thought it was really cool. The dumbsters at the phone companies rapidly built a wireless network in the US that doesn't work. All the stockholders thought it was really great, and it worked really great in the ads. Then try roaming with your phone and see if it works.

Multiply that by all the other industries in the US and you can understand why the stock market is doing so bad.

Because capitalism needs to grow so aggressively, it has a way of destroying everything in it's path, including our culture. Kids aren't raised by their parents anymore, instead they are raised by Donald Duck and Big Bird.

[ Parent ]
For crying out loud, engage a neuron (3.00 / 2) (#73)
by ubu on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 12:42:53 PM EST

This is the pot calling the kettle black. You rail against a dumbed-down culture, and then have the gall to demonstrate your own foolishness by blaming it on voluntary economic behavior.

Money is amoral. Money is how you trade something for another thing that you value more. No matter what you decide to do, the values are yours, not mine, not someone else's... and certainly not the money's, for God's sake.

Blaming cultural decline on money has to be the most idiotic and self-serving notion to emerge from post-modernism.

Ubu


--
As good old software hats say - "You are in very safe hands, if you are using CVS !!!"
[ Parent ]
Blaming capitalism, not money (4.00 / 2) (#76)
by woofbot on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 12:59:41 PM EST

He wasn't blaming money, but capitalism. You are right, money is completely neutral. Capitalism on the other hand definitely has a short term bias, at least as it functions in the United States. In its most theoretical form, capitalism should result in a healthy society, but that is unobtainable since pure capitalism relies heavily on access to full information. This definitely is not the case in the US. Consequently, US capitalism functions primarily with the info that is easily obtainable. This tends to exclude long term environmental effects or the even more abstract social impacts.

[ Parent ]
Baloney (none / 0) (#79)
by ubu on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 01:13:05 PM EST

Capitalism does not depend on "full information", that's a strawman argument. In fact capitalism degrades elegantly with information -- although, in fact, the inverse is true along the only timeline that I know of. In other words, capitalism has improved elegantly with increased dissemination of information, and with it the very quality of information has, itself increased.

Capitalism is merely private ownership of wealth and the means of wealth production, coupled with unrestrained commerce. The alternative to capitalism is restraint of trade, simple as that.

Ubu


--
As good old software hats say - "You are in very safe hands, if you are using CVS !!!"
[ Parent ]
Non-monetary societies (5.00 / 1) (#71)
by dennis on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 12:30:49 PM EST

There are a lot of societies that don't use money at all. However they are all very small and technologically primitive (and therefore disappearing). Instead of using money, they organize their activities according to kinship obligations.

Bruce Sterling has an interesting description of a post-monetary society in Distraction, in which the "currency" is reputation. If technology gets to the point where the only scarcity is skilled human labor, something like that might eventually work.

[ Parent ]

Friction and velocity (4.00 / 2) (#72)
by ubu on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 12:36:50 PM EST

The main reason moneyless societies are underdeveloped is because of the obscene overhead/friction involved in "kinship obligations". The velocity of wealth transfer is unbearably low, at least by comparison to a free-market economy with a stable and easily-traded currency.

Of course, moneyless society is possible. That strawman is rarely argued in meaningful conversation.

Ubu


--
As good old software hats say - "You are in very safe hands, if you are using CVS !!!"
[ Parent ]
Not my point (4.66 / 3) (#97)
by rusty on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 02:44:04 PM EST

Though it's probably easy to misread that way, my point wasn't at all that capitalism is bad. I would consider myself an ardent capitalist. My point was that capitalism, like any other economic system, is created by shared belief in it, and when we stop remembering that we created it, it can quickly get out of hand.

Today, in America, you can get virtually any opinion generally accepted, if you have enough money to spend on the cause. That is, capitalism has inserted itself in the layer below "the market", where it ought to live, and begun to mediate our communication with each other.

The only way I can imagine to return to an informed state of choice about what we do and don't allow to be purchased is to talk to each other, directly.

Yes, K5 is a company. The way our economic and legal systems are set up makes that a virtual necessity. And there's nothing inherently wrong with companies. What's wrong is how we allow our reality to be twisted by the cash they can spread around.

Money is fine and good, as you point out. The issue is remembering that it is only a means of echange between people, not a "real" thing that takes precedence over all else.

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

Agreed. But the problem isn't really new (none / 0) (#146)
by TuxNugget on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 07:52:29 PM EST

The idea that people might pay to sway the opinions of a crowd (or a leader) is seen in the bible when Jesus is brought before Pontius Pilate. The jew leaders paid off people in the crowd for yelling 'crucify him'.

Now I don't want to debate whether the bible is true; I merely use that example to show that the problem you are complaining about is pretty old and people have been complaining about it for quite a while. It wasn't modern corporations using money trying to sway the crowd - but I'm sure if we could know where the money was coming from, that there must have been some money men behind the pharisees who wanted everyone working instead of looking for a miracle or reconsidering their role in life and their soul.

Money is probably the most modern religion, and the "This is Your God" written on the $1 bill in the movie "They Live" was no accident. People do treat it not only as a "'real' thing that takes precedence over all else", but some go so far as to think of it as the only real thing. Guess that's the problem with having a measuring stick - everything looks like it should be measured.



[ Parent ]

Uhhh... (3.00 / 2) (#147)
by DranoK on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 07:53:03 PM EST

Congratulations! You did not describe capitalism in the slightest fashion!

Das Capital, the essay capitalism is founded on, wasn't written until 1776. You're trying to suggest there was no money *BEFORE* 1776?? Money has nothing to do with capitalism.

From dictionary.com:

capitalism (kp-tl-zm) n. An economic system in which the means of production and distribution are privately or corporately owned and development is proportionate to the accumulation and reinvestment of profits gained in a free market

What does this mean? It's oversimplified. It means supply and demand. But the most *IMPORTANT* fact of it is that *PRIVATE* corporations own the means of *PRODUCTION AND DISTRIBUTION*. That is where capitalism fails.

Money is not a bad thing. IMHO, capitalism is. Capitalism feeds itself, needs more money to produce more and continue to survive.

The only reason I came down hard on this is, unfortunately, a lot of people do not understand the difference between money and capitalism *shrug*.

DranoK


Poetry is simply a convenient excuse for incoherence
--DranoK



[ Parent ]
hmm...maybe ur right (none / 0) (#175)
by TuxNugget on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 11:57:07 PM EST

That British East India Tea Company must have been in on writing Das Kapital in '1776. They were probably one of the first firms who invented capitalism, but since they couldn't patent business processes back then, they helped Adam Smith write Das Kapital. He must have been really pissed when that upstart Karl Marx tried to prove him wrong in Wealth of Nations

:-)

[ Parent ]

There are other options, you know (3.25 / 4) (#51)
by peeping_Thomist on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 09:37:40 AM EST

Given a choice between the crude rights-based moral theories you criticize and your own (equally crude) social constructivism, I guess I'd prefer your social constructivism. But these are not the only options.

Here are three points about how the mainstream Aristotelian-Thomistic moral tradition thinks about such matters:
1. Rights are not a basic moral reality, but instead are rooted in facts about the human good, and about the conditions required for pursuing it--which conditions include, significantly, those conditions required for pursuing knowledge of the human good.

2. Property rights, in particular, are subordinated to the universal ordination of all material goods to the common good, and are not unconditional.

3. The fact that some rights (such as property rights) are not unconditional does not render them socially constructed.


Teleology ho (none / 0) (#211)
by gregbillock on Tue Apr 10, 2001 at 05:07:23 PM EST

I think a principal objection to this framework is that it assumes some human teleology: that is, that there is an unambiguous set of 'human goods' that we can come to agreement about. Are humans here to glorify God? Gain health, wealth, and the time to enjoy them? Pursue life, liberty, and happiness?

I think social constructivists would object that coming to agreement about what humans are "for" is in the same category as deciding what rights we have--that is, both questions are settled by social constructions, and are, in fact, pretty much equivalent.

So I'm not sure how Thomism is said to rise above a "crude" rights-based morality, as the substitution of teleology for rights doesn't seem to me at first blush one that offers the promise of settling the argument at all.

[ Parent ]
Right to live? (4.00 / 7) (#52)
by B'Trey on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 10:04:54 AM EST

There is no conflict between the right of ownership of property and the "right to live." The right to live simply means that no one else may kill or harm you.  What people usually mean by a "right to live," however, is something quite different.  They mean a right to force others to serve your interests.

For instance, the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights says that "Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control."

What exactly does that mean?  If you become unemployed, where do your food, clothing, housing and medical care come from?  From someone else.  A doctor is required to provide medical care to the unemployed.  It doesn't matter whether or not the doctor receives pay or compensation for his efforts.  It doesn't matter if the doctor had plans to take a vacation.  If the doctor does not provide medical care to any person, he is depriving that person of their human rights under this viewpoint.  In short, the doctor becomes a slave to the needs of others.  A moments thought shows that this reasoning extends to not just doctors but to all of society.

Human rights do not place obligations on others.  A right may limit behavior.  That is, my right to life says that you may not shoot me.  That's a limitation on your behavior.  But human rights do not obligate behavior.  My rights never compel another to provide for my needs.

nope (3.66 / 6) (#60)
by Estanislao Martnez on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 11:09:35 AM EST

If the doctor does not provide medical care to any person, he is depriving that person of their human rights under this viewpoint. In short, the doctor becomes a slave to the needs of others. A moments thought shows that this reasoning extends to not just doctors but to all of society.

The misstep here is a simple one: going from the requirement that the right to life puts upon societies that have it to the actual requirements upon the members of that society.

If people have a right to life, it means that the society they live in must provide them with what they need in order to survive, in one way or another. It doesn't mean that every doctor is forced in every occassion to treat anybody, but that in every occassion somebody needs a doctor, and a doctor is available, they can get one.

Of course, "society" doesn't ultimately provide medical care-- it is doctors who do so. So the key point here is that the society needs to do a balancing act, so as to strike an acceptable balance between the patients and the doctors.

In any case, I think it is relevant to mention that, in our societies, doctors take the Hypocratic (sp?) oath, and thus voluntarily agree to protect others' lives when they can.

--em
[ Parent ]

Insulting and strangely funny (none / 0) (#138)
by ubu on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 06:49:11 PM EST

If people have a right to life, it means that the society they live in must provide them with what they need in order to survive, in one way or another. It doesn't mean that every doctor is forced in every occassion to treat anybody, but that in every occassion somebody needs a doctor, and a doctor is available, they can get one.

What? You must live among stupid people to think that everyone who reads this shit wouldn't laugh in your face. If you and I put a dollar into a hat, shake it up, and then you take both dollars home, do I have a right to complain? Or am I just going from the requirement that I put a dollar into the hat to the "actual requirements upon the [dollar contributors]"?

Good job, David Copperfield, you managed to hide the money. You're an extraordinary thief. Kindly explain the moral difference.

Ubu


--
As good old software hats say - "You are in very safe hands, if you are using CVS !!!"
[ Parent ]
Live to right? (4.00 / 2) (#98)
by Wah on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 02:45:28 PM EST

Human rights do not place obligations on others.

But the only way you can build any framework for real world excercising of "rights" is socially constructed. You are confusing two different things; a citizen and his government. I, as a citizen, can hold my government to its obligations to provide for certain needs, but to apply those obligations to each and every individual citizen is a fallacy. Those needs are defined by our social contract.

If a country decides that it is worth it to provide for basic healthcare for all its citizens, that doesn't mean I can walk up to any doctor, be they on vacation or not, and demand attention. To shift it a bit, my country believes in a strong national defense, but that doesn't require me to shoot anyone I see crossing the border. I realize you were simplifying the process, but I think that breaks your example. A person is not a community, and therefore can't be held to same level of personal responsibility.

Now, speaking only of healthcare (for simplicity) and slavery. How is it different from this (In short, the doctor becomes a slave to the needs of others.) when I have to forgoe my rights as a citizen to free-expression in order to gain the health benefits that come with employment from a corporation? I have a need for health coverage, but by limiting the places from which I can gain an acceptable level, a new carrot (or stick) is created for me. In order to get my needed care, I must become a "slave".

My rights never compel another to provide for my needs.

Just as your rights have never been upheld by someone compelled to defend them to the death? Please, the rights you have were created by use of deadly force, and that's the only way you'll keep them in the long run. There's quite a bit of "compelling" built into that equation, IMHO.
--
Fail to Obey?
[ Parent ]

This is demonstrably false... (3.00 / 2) (#102)
by Alhazred on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 03:05:49 PM EST

The problem here is that you are trying to make a false distinction between action and inaction. Simple reductio ad absurdum can be applied here. IE, you say one does not have a right to have someone do something for you. Suppose you have a bank account. Suppose a teller tells you you don't have the right to ask her to give you money from your account... I didn't think so. Now having dispensed with the general case of your argument, the rest becomes a matter of defining what you CAN expect from others. In that light the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a perfectly acceptable standard, though we can certainly argue the details.
That is not dead which may eternal lie And with strange aeons death itself may die.
[ Parent ]
*laugh* (none / 0) (#136)
by ubu on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 06:41:25 PM EST

That's a fairly idiotic counterexample. Read your bank account contract and terms of service sometime. It's long but I bet if you let your lips move you can get through it in good time.

Contracts and rights are distinct notions. Look into it.

Ubu


--
As good old software hats say - "You are in very safe hands, if you are using CVS !!!"
[ Parent ]
Thats silly... (none / 0) (#307)
by Alhazred on Fri Apr 13, 2001 at 09:40:04 PM EST

You are splitting hairs. The bank and I may well have a contract which specifies how and when they are obliged to provide services. I have the RIGHT under law, guaranteed by the US constitution to have them abide by the terms of that contract. There is NO theory of law which says "Only terms of contracts which mention action being taken actively are enforceable". In fact such a law would be unconstitutional in the US. Clearly under certain circumstances I have the right to compell others to act.

To use a slightly more general example people can be held criminally and civilly liable for inactions of all sorts. I'm sure you can think of examples easily, such as if I fail to fix a broken step on my stairs and someone trips over it.


That is not dead which may eternal lie And with strange aeons death itself may die.
[ Parent ]
Understanding rights... (5.00 / 1) (#339)
by B'Trey on Fri Apr 20, 2001 at 10:59:30 AM EST

Laws do not create rights. The US Constitution does not create rights. Rights are inherent; every human being has them by virtue of being born.

Rights are not inviolate. That is, they can be and in fact are violated on a routine basis. But violating a right does not remove that right.

Laws can protect rights. That is, a law may specify the consequences a given society imposes to a third party for violating your rights. But codifying your rights, and establishing punishment for violating thoses rights, does not create the right. You do not have a right to a bank account. When you establish a bank account, you and the bank enter into an agreement. Part of that agreement is that the bank will return your money upon demand. If the bank does not return your money, they have not violated your human rights other than the fact that they have violated your right of property by committing an act of theft.

If you come to my house and trip on my staircase, I may indeed be criminally negligent. That doesn't mean that I've violated your human rights. You don't have a right to come into my house or to walk on my staircase. When I invited you in, I accepted a limited responsibility for your safety. If I fail to live up to that responsibility, you can seek legal recourse against me.

Banks and stairwells and all sorts of laws do not have anything to do with human rights. This isn't a matter of splitting hairs. It's a matter of fundamental distinctions.

[ Parent ]

Bravo (none / 0) (#135)
by ubu on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 06:38:54 PM EST

You must be on the right track, look at the names on those responses! You can most accurately judge the truth of some comments by their most fervent opponents.

Ubu


--
As good old software hats say - "You are in very safe hands, if you are using CVS !!!"
[ Parent ]
You know what? (none / 0) (#301)
by naasking on Fri Apr 13, 2001 at 11:56:12 AM EST

That's a pretty poor and short-sighted description the UN has. And it has some serious logical flaws as you have pointed out. In fact, every single country on this earth is currently in violation because of poverty and homelessness.


[ Parent ]
Excuse me? (3.42 / 7) (#56)
by Ken Arromdee on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 10:48:14 AM EST

Okay, so if society went around killing Jews (or denying blacks the vote, or banning newspapers that criticize the government, etc.), would you have any grounds for objecting other than "I don't like it"? Would you be able to say that society's actions are wrong?

It's the same argument you're making about property: since the right to property is socially constructed, there's nothing wrong with taking it away. But you claim that any right is socially constructed, so it should be okay to take any right away.

basis for objectivity... (5.00 / 1) (#64)
by eskimoses on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 11:34:54 AM EST

Precisely. By allowing either an individual or a societal collective to determine your basis for valuation/differentiation, you lose all basis for objectivity. You can, in fact, make no objective claim whatsoever; you cannot point to any idea or action and demonstrably claim it to be true, false, right, or wrong.

See AndStuff:BasisForObjectivity for some discussion.



[ Parent ]
ALL value judgements are subject (none / 0) (#84)
by Alhazred on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 01:24:56 PM EST

There is NO such thing as objectivity. 1) There are no "objective" individuals in the world, we all have interests and biases through which we filter reality, not to mention limited information and imperfect affectory and sensory capabilities. 2) We can't even define "reality" in any precise manner, thus we have not even a BASIS for objectivity. 3) Claims of "rightness" and "wrongness" or even "truth" and "falsehood" must, as per points 1 and 2 by definition be subjective and thus not demonstrable. Were that not true, science would be capable of answering moral questions! In fact morality would not even be a category of human thought and action!! What we CAN seek is consensus...
That is not dead which may eternal lie And with strange aeons death itself may die.
[ Parent ]
What is objectivity (none / 0) (#231)
by mattc on Wed Apr 11, 2001 at 03:01:48 AM EST

Well, as I understand it, this "consensus" IS what most people call objectivity.

[ Parent ]
Basis of moral judgement (none / 0) (#86)
by Alhazred on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 01:33:35 PM EST

What you say is entirely correct...

That being said. Human societies are functional organizations. Just as biological organisms are subjected to survival forces, so are societies. "That is which is, that survives which survives."

This can be used as the basis for "utilitarian" concepts of social and distributive justice. There are other possible points of view. In fact utilitarianism has been very effectively attacked on several fronts.

There are "religious" viewpoints which argue from the basis of individual dignity, natural rights/law, etc.

There are naturally many other categories of theories about what is right and wrong. Far too many to enumerate, much less even touch on briefly here.

What we CAN say is that people have choices about their behaviour. Individuals choose systems of belief which answer these questions for them. You will choose your answers, and you will judge those of others, and vice versa.

The only question remaining is thus whether or not we can create a workeable society on the basis of these choices. If it doesn't work, then it will surely collapse or change, regardless of the opinions of any of its members.
That is not dead which may eternal lie And with strange aeons death itself may die.
[ Parent ]
No (5.00 / 1) (#92)
by aphrael on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 02:14:31 PM EST

although it's an easy trap to fall into.

After understanding that all rights are socially constructed, we can start arguing about what we should be socially constructing and why. Eg., instead of appealing to 'the natural rights of man' or 'god's intended plan for the universe' we can start talking about what rights are essential for society to function, and what we *as a people* think are 'good' and 'bad'.

[ Parent ]

That doesn't work (none / 0) (#119)
by Ken Arromdee on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 04:56:10 PM EST

First, that doesn't apply to a society saying that Jews should be killed. In a society like that, the society is functioning, and we as a people don't think that it's bad. If you or Rusty thinks it's bad, you're disagreeing with society.

The big hole in the argument is that it tries to have it both ways. Because property is a social construction, taking it away is okay. But because freedom of speech/freedom not to be killed/etc. is a social construction, then... what?

You have to say "well, it's a social construction, but it still shouldn't be taken away because..." And since your whole reason for mentioning social constructions was to argue that they can be taken away, talking about property as a social construction no longer says anything meaningful.

Not to mention that once you say "despite being socially constructed, it still shouldn't be taken away because..." you're just defining non-socially-constructed rights without using the word "rights".

[ Parent ]

Relying on the Other (none / 0) (#137)
by rusty on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 06:44:24 PM EST

The big hole in the argument is that it tries to have it both ways. Because property is a social construction, taking it away is okay. But because freedom of speech/freedom not to be killed/etc. is a social construction, then... what?

First off, don't mistake "social construction" for "imaginary thing". A building is a "material construction", a right is a "social construction". They both exist. They are both real. And both can be torn down or remodeled, if someone decides to do so.

Property rights being socially constructed doesn't mean that it's ok to take them away. It just means that it's possible to take them away, reform them, or replace them with something else. The right to own property is not a law of physics. It's a rule we've instituted, and a rule we can alter when it suits us.

I'm not saying we even should. I'm just saying that we should decide in full knowlege what rights matter to us, and defend those with everything we've got.

Why is my belief that a right is important any less meaningful than someone else's belief that a right is given by God? Basically, a lot of people here have resorted to this basic argument: that I am required to have some external justification for believeing a right is important. I don't. I have no idea where rights come from, and neither does anyone else here. I do know what ones I want to be able to exercise, and I don't have any need to justify why to you or anyone.

My main problem with the externally-granted rights theory is that it feels like a cop-out to me. It's hand-waving. It attempts to make the argument that your set of rights is more important than mine, because yours came from some imaginary Absolute. Screw that. My concept of what rights are necessary came from fuck knows where, but that's what they are. Like it or not, it's all we have to work with.

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

rights (4.00 / 1) (#203)
by Ken Arromdee on Tue Apr 10, 2001 at 11:15:45 AM EST

First, I don't believe in God. Obviously I can't believe in any God-granted rights. (Also obviously, this probably disqualifies me from any political office in any place whose constituents have access to Google, but that's another story.)

Property rights being socially constructed doesn't mean that it's ok to take them away. It just means that it's possible...

If you think that some things are socially constructed but not okay to take away, then, as I noted, you're really just defining "rights" without using the word "rights". You see, by 'right', you mean 'something which someone can do'. But what many other people mean by 'right' is 'something which someone should be able to do'.

For instance, someone might say a Jew in a concentration camp "has a right to life, but his right is being violated". You might say "they don't have a right to life, but their life should not be taken away"--but "should not be taken away" is what other people mean when they speak of the right to something. You and him are really agreeing; you're just using different definitions of 'right'.

It's certainly true that nobody has a right to property (in your sense), but this is an uninteresting enough conclusion that your article feels more like it's trying to deny the existence of a right to property in a conventional sense (i.e. claim that it's okay to take away property) by equivocating on the definition.

[ Parent ]

You've got objectivity backwards (none / 0) (#151)
by speek on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 08:25:42 PM EST

Okay, so if society went around killing Jews (or denying blacks the vote, or banning newspapers that criticize the government, etc.), would you have any grounds for objecting other than "I don't like it"?

Not really. In the end, all logic is based on unprovable assumptions, and all empirical knowledge is incomplete and based on unreliable senses.

Would you be able to say that society's actions are wrong?

Yes. The words would roll quite easily off my tongue.

The problem with the arguments for objectivity/absolute morality and against relativism is that they are absolutely backward. If you truly wanted to be objective, you wouldn't be making moral arguments at all. If society went around killing Jews.... then society goes around killing Jews. THAT'S objectivity, because the moment you start drawing conclusions, particularly moral ones, you are introducing non-verifiable assumptions. If you were truly being objective, you'd realize there is no such thing as a "natural right" - and you'd realize this because you'd remind yourself you've never seen one, touched one, heard one, tasted one, or smelled one. If you really want to be objective, you've got to be a little less metaphorical, and a little more literal. It's boring, and won't win you any arguments (for some good reasons, BTW), but, there you go.

--
al queda is kicking themsleves for not knowing about the levees
[ Parent ]

Your sig (none / 0) (#153)
by rusty on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 08:38:27 PM EST

No more ads. Use Paypal (paypal.com) to pay K5 -> rusty@kuro5hin.org

Eek. I'd really rather you didn't. That address is linked to my personal bank account, not the company coffers.

I've been meaning to get a real K5 paypal address set up. Thank you for prodding my motivation. But please don't encourage people to send me money personally! :-)

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

Oh. (none / 0) (#163)
by speek on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 09:39:39 PM EST

Well, I paid you there, but maybe that was prior to the existence of "company coffers"? In any case, I don't really distinguish bewteen your money and your company's, so ....

But, I'll change my sig, and if you do set up a legit PayPal account, I'll make a new sig to reflect it.

--
al queda is kicking themsleves for not knowing about the levees
[ Parent ]

Thx (none / 0) (#182)
by rusty on Tue Apr 10, 2001 at 02:03:37 AM EST

In any case, I don't really distinguish bewteen your money and your company's

But I do, as does the IRS. :-)

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

gimme money plzthnx (4.00 / 1) (#173)
by Delirium on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 11:16:26 PM EST

But please don't encourage people to send me money personally!

On the other hand, being the nice fellow I am, I won't stop you from encouraging people to send me money personally. delirium4u@theoffspring.net. You know you want to. Nearly 1% of your funds go to support k5!!!!

[ Parent ]

So let me get this straight (none / 0) (#169)
by Lothar on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 10:36:39 PM EST

It seems that your posistion is that nothing is truly knowable and that no one is in a posistion to judge another's actions since that would be a moral judgement. So what then? Everyone gets to do whatever the hell they want? I mean, who are you to say whatever I do or say is wrong? Oh yes, you've got 100 like-minded friends and you've got guns. Governments tend to be formed to avoid exactly this situation when people realize that they like living and would prefer to continue doing so. (as people who don't are usually regarded as mentally ill and in need of help) This is rather difficult when a passerby can suddenly declare you evil and stike you down with relative impunity (at least until the next guy kills him) The right to life is not so much natural as it is neccesary for any sort of society to function, and without which you spend most of your time gathering food and watching your back. BTW I'm focusing on the right to life here because I consider it the most basic and there are arguments that all other rights flow from there (such as property) but I will not discuss them here. Anyway, I also find it curious that you discount the existance of natural rights based on the fact that you cannot sense them directly, even though you just dismissed the senses as unreliable just a few sentences before.

Incidentily, how do you decide what your going to be doing from one moment to the next? Since you've so neatly eliminated logic from the picture by claiming that it is based on unprovable assumptions such as 1 = 1, or that given any set upon which you can impose an ordering there exists a smallest element. Unlike a debate about the existance of a God, I have yet to find a person who would argue that these were false. However, if you persist you might as well plug your ears and cover your eyes, because nothing is at is seems and it doens't matter anyhow.

(Yes, I realize that the second axiom was a little out there but I like that one since it can be used to prove the validity of inductive reasoning. Something that I always felt was a sort of mathematical shell game until I saw the proof)

[ Parent ]
Just to clarify (none / 0) (#171)
by Lothar on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 10:51:15 PM EST

Not all suicidals are insane. Since you have the right to your life you also have to right to give it up. It's just that in my experience most suicidals have really crappy reasons for it.

[ Parent ]
objectivity (none / 0) (#172)
by speek on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 11:11:52 PM EST

Yes, being completely objective, one must accept that certain knowledge is unattainable. And it is a fact that people can try to do whatever the hell they want (whether they succeed is a different question). I can say what you do is wrong anytime I want, and if I've got a large group of like minded people with guns, I can enforce whatever I like (such as the US government).

I did dismiss the senses as unreliable, so I can't really dismiss natural rights cause I can't sense them, huh? Got me there you did! Maybe some are flying around out there and I'm just not seeing them. Shit, I gotta get some glasses :-) Actually, you've got a great point - maybe I'm just not seeing things that actually exist. In my defense, I'll say that not seeing them hasn't seemed to adversely affected my ability to survive and prosper, so, at best, they are weakly interacting particles.

Deciding what to do from one moment to another involves all sorts of reasoning, based on certain assumptions. The validity of the assumptions is borne out or invalidated by the consequences of my actions interpreted from a biased viewpoint that values my survival and happiness first and foremost.

As I indicated in my initial post, I'm not really after perfect objectivity. I was just pointing out that an objective account of reality doesn't really support moral arguments, or natural rights arguments at all. These things are part of a subjective reality that objective reality has no qualms about squashing at any time. If our subjective reality doesn't adapt effectively to objective reality, we will fare poorly, and if that means we have to give up on the notion of the right to life, than I have no doubt we will (not that that's a situation I'm predicting, mind you).

--
al queda is kicking themsleves for not knowing about the levees
[ Parent ]

FYI: Contaminated sludge fertilizer IS illegal. (3.80 / 5) (#58)
by jolly st nick on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 11:05:45 AM EST

Just a point about something you wrote:

This was legal, because American society, acting through the EPA, has determined that "sludge farming" is an acceptable way to dispose of combined human and industrial wastes, despite the fact that these sludge cakes contain extremely high concentrations of heavy metals, petroleum byproducts, and carcinogenic chemicals.

This is simply incorrect, at least in the US. It is simply not legal to use highly contaminated sludge as fertilizer. The quantity of heavy metals and other contaminants in sludge derived fertilizer is strictly regulated by the EPA and often more so by state agencies. Sewage districts wishing to pelletize sludge for use a fertilizer have to have aggressive toxic reduction programs and perform regular tests to prove their product contains only trace contaminants. For a typical analysis, see here.

I doubt that material as toxic as you describe would be legal to even transport and landfill without special permits, much less use agriculturally.



I thought (4.00 / 1) (#90)
by aphrael on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 02:06:25 PM EST

it was obvious from context that the toxic sludge bit was in the nature of a hypothetical.

[ Parent ]
Not really (4.00 / 1) (#112)
by rusty on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 03:53:12 PM EST

The specifics of it were hypothetical, but the premise was lifted from the book "Toxic Sludge is Good for You", and did happen, and continues to happen. See comment above for good references to the sludge farm industry. Basically, the EPA reclassified "toxic sludge" as "nutrient-rich biosolids" and made it legal to spread them on fields, instead of keeping them in high-segregation containment facilities. It's one of the clearest examples going of exactly the kind of thing I'm talking about.

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
Hey rusty .. (none / 0) (#113)
by Eloquence on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 04:13:33 PM EST

.. did you get that book based on my suggestion, or from someone else's? If it was recommended to you elsewhere, I'd like to know where. It's an excellent book, don't you think? The authors have recently written a new one. It's called "Trust Us, We're Experts". Oh, and their PR Watch newsletters are very readable; for example, they document the PR industry's early interest in Internet profile building for effective manipulation. Don't tell, but I also have a raw OCR version of "Mad Cow USA", if you're interested in taking a look.

Toxic Sludge is, of course, worth buying because of the Tom Tomorrow comics alone ;-)
--
Copyright law is bad: infoAnarchy Pleasure is good: Origins of Violence
spread the word!
[ Parent ]

Yes (none / 0) (#133)
by rusty on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 06:25:51 PM EST

I couldn't remember who recommended it to me, but I believe that it was you. :-)

I considered getting "Trust us, we're Experts", but frankly, after finishing "TSiGfY" I was too depressed to read another one right away. Maybe I'll get that one when I've recovered some of my previously cheery outlook.

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

Example points to flaws in your program. (none / 0) (#245)
by jolly st nick on Wed Apr 11, 2001 at 09:42:55 AM EST

The problem is that the hypothetical example you use raises a red flag; several really.

First, the example you give shows a certain naivite about legal and regulatory process.Reprocessing human waste as fertilizer is an old, old practice. My mom remembers it being done in Maine in the 1930s on a small basis. Victor Hugo proposes this as a solution to poverty in Les Miserables. Granted this is problematic today given that people use their drains as liquid garbage cans, but things are not by default illegal and must be blessed by the EPA to be legal. The opposite is the case. Things are by default legal and the EPA can only declare them illegal if there is a law that grants them regulatory authority. The EPA received this authority in 1993 under the Clean Water Act and quickly moved to issue regulations.

Second the article and your subsequent response shows a willingness to seek out confirmatory data about your world view but not to consider data which might contradict it. You obviously haven't actually bothered to look up what the regulations actually say about using sludge as fertilizer, despite the fact that is very easy and in fact I gave you several URLs documenting what the regulations are, how they were authorized, how they were arrived at, and how they have been used in practice. Don't you think that this undermines the credibilty of all the facts you cite?

Third, the hypothetical example is charged with emotion; the subtext is that the government and business are evil and blameworthy. This may be true, but you are concluding this by a process which would strongly discount or even ignore sources of exculpatory information. This leads to my next and final point.

Fourth, this pattern of thinking undermines the value of the very program you are proposing. Much of what we take for reality is socially constructed; I can accept that. You should seek out your community to provide a counterweight to corporate messages which are deliberately slanted. I can agree with that. But the bigger issue is -- who should be your community? Is it enough just to spend time with my investor's club, political committee, anarchist society or terrorist cell? The problem is that these groups reinforce their own insular world views.

If you want to truly enhance your world view, you have to engage people who disagree with you, and fundamentally disagree on what is important.



[ Parent ]

Sure (none / 0) (#294)
by rusty on Fri Apr 13, 2001 at 01:45:20 AM EST

I spent two days arguing with people who disagreed with me, on very fundamental points. It was enjoyable. But I can't argue this article forever. Most of what I wanted to say, I said in the article. Hopefully everyone got something out of it (be that a new idea, a new statement of an old idea, or a new whipping boy to kick around). I think you got the important part of what I wanted to get said -- pick a community, and talk to it. I don't care who your community is. If you don't do anything, I'm not going to hunt you down and chastise you. I can't change the world with one essay.

If you think my emotionally loaded example undermines the credibility of everything I say, well, that's what you think. I know it was an emotionally loaded example. I picked it on purpose. If I wanted to spend all my time in the library building tedious rock-solid cases for my comments here, I'd have stayed in college.

I want people to think for themselves. If you prove me wrong, then bully for you! You've thought for yourself. Can't ask for more than that.

Cheers. :-)

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

Factual accuracy DOES matter. (none / 0) (#299)
by jolly st nick on Fri Apr 13, 2001 at 11:16:43 AM EST

If you think my emotionally loaded example undermines the credibility of everything I say, well, that's what you think. I know it was an emotionally loaded example. I picked it on purpose. If I wanted to spend all my time in the library building tedious rock-solid cases for my comments here, I'd have stayed in college.

The fact that your example was so emotionally loaded wouldn't have been a problem had it not been so factually empty. It may be my opinion that this undermines the credibility of your article, but I believe this is a well founded opinion. There is a word for combining misinformation with emotional sensationalism: it's called propaganda.

Don't you think it is just a teensy bit irresponsible to spread "information" which imputes reckless disregard for human life, especially when that information is grossly inaccurate, or at least very dated?

"Who steals my purse, steals trash. . . . But he that filches from me my good name, robs me of what not enriches him and makes me poor indeed."

I think you got the important part of what I wanted to get said -- pick a community, and talk to it. I don't care who your community is.

Yes, but I'm not sure you got what my point was. It matters a great deal how you choose your community. Choose the wrong one, and you can find yourself swept into a demimonde of racism, antisemitism, or conspiracy theorism. Your community should be the world. "I am human, therefore nothing human is alien to me."



[ Parent ]
Sludge fertilizer is approved by the EPA (5.00 / 1) (#104)
by diskore on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 03:18:32 PM EST

I remember reading about this when it started a few years ago, don't remember exactly where (I believe it was Covert Action Quarterly). A quick search on Google yields the evidence:

Great investigative series: http://www.seattletimes.com/todaysnews/special.html#fields

http://www.sightings.com/health/toxicchem.htm

http://toronto.globaltv.com/ca/news/stories/news-20001228-110045.html

http://www.rense.com/ufo6/sew.htm

http://www.mailtribune.com/archive/2000/january/12700n8.htm

http://www.safesoil.com/trash.htm

There's a lot more evidence out there, also. It seems like it should be illegal, but it isn't.

[ Parent ]
Yes it is, but the content is regulated by the CWA (none / 0) (#197)
by jolly st nick on Tue Apr 10, 2001 at 08:46:26 AM EST

Of course it is allowed by the EPA, provided that it meets standards of purity set in the Clean Water Act. This has been the case since 1993. For example in 1998 the city of Manhattan, KS was fined and ordered to cease land applications of sludge that did not meet the contamination standards. Here is a document from KSU's student paper describing the settlement.

What do you think the failure of all your Internet "sources" to mention that the EPA regulates the quantities of metals in sludge derived fertilizer means? Personally, I think it means you have to take the results of Google searches with a large grain of salt.

This is the problem with getting all your information from the Internet and political screeds. Some of these are pieces by people with an axe to grind who aren't going to give you the full picture. Others are simply shoddy journalism.

FYI, here are some documents from EPA explaining their regs:Here is the EPA's guide to the regs, in particular see table 2-1. They also have a guide to the risk assesment methods used in setting the regulations.

[ Parent ]

thou speakest truth (1.66 / 3) (#61)
by Giza on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 11:23:40 AM EST

A very nicely eritten article.

You sum up my thoughts on the matter exactly

-- The foo that can be seen is not the true foo.
I am myself. --Iwakura Lain

You don't say... (2.25 / 4) (#67)
by ubu on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 11:59:14 AM EST

Which are really no thoughts in particular. "Self-evident" notions are supposed to be presuppositional; the article's singular contention seems to be that practical morality, far from being presuppositional, is actually muddle-through-it situational ethics.

This article really doesn't make much sense at all:

Belief in capitalism makes it a fact.
Do you really think this way? Economic calculation demonstrates the efficacy of market entities in achieving their own goals: you get what you want, I get what I want, simply because nobody forced either one of our hands. How and when did this become a figment of man's imagination? Are Newtonian physics, too, subject in their existence to the belief of man? Was the world, in fact, flat when we believed it so?

Bah, and that rubbish about the evils of the corporation. When every man, woman, and child freely chooses to buy corporate products, work for corporations, and even -- *sob* -- to create them in pursuit of organized action and in free and guaranteed exercise of the First Amendment. Not to mention betterment of their living standard. Scary stuff, that, especially when you consider that these people aren't just ordinary humans: they're biotech-enhanced Superorganisms!

Case in point is the demonization of pharmaceutical companies. The liberal policy magazine American Prospect recently published a shocking report condemning the "obscene profits" of America's drug companies. Reason Magazine responded last month on the opposite side -- it turns out things aren't quite so shocking. But when it's so easy to get people worked up -- post a K5 article, for instance -- why bother with logic, reason, or sound analysis?

I'm far afield. This isn't a well-written article. It's a randomized screed against Westernism, capitalism, and moral absolutism. From chaos, to chaos.

Ubu


--
As good old software hats say - "You are in very safe hands, if you are using CVS !!!"
[ Parent ]
Consider Magick (2.50 / 2) (#81)
by RadiantMatrix on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 01:20:56 PM EST

How and when did this become a figment of man's imagination? Are Newtonian physics, too, subject in their existence to the belief of man? Was the world, in fact, flat when we believed it so?

Though I will refrain from commenting on the particular case you mention, many, many religions believe that the thoughts of humanity shape our reality. Wether you choose to take it figuratively or literally, one can argue for the truth of that view.

First, consider the literal. In many religions (mostly Pagan, but there are exceptions), the casting of spells or the performing of magickal ceremonies is seen as a way to concentrate a power that already exists -- the power of human will. In other words, if someone hopes for something to happen, it becomes slightly more likely. If thousands hope for it, it becomes much more likely. Magick is viewed by many as a way for an individual to increase the influence they already have. To "weight the dice" of nature if you will. This even extends back to Sumerian society and the concept of the nam-shub -- a 'spell' that could be spoken to create an object, which some believe was simply a set of instructions for its creation. The point is, following the ritual of a particular nam-shub would create the object in question.

Second, look at the metaphorical [sp?] sense. What we know about the human psyche tells us that if we believe thouroghly in something [intangible], then it becomes reality for us. Thus hypnosis. Consider religion in general - if I believe that Red Bricks give me power and that following the Path of the Red Bricks brings happiness and peace, then chances are good that I will have the power, happiness, and peace that I sought when I went looking for the Red Bricks. On a non-religious front, if enough people believe that, say, a certain person is a murderer, that individual is more likely to be punished as though that were true. If that person committed no crime, then public opinion has effectively changed reality. Also, if many people support the building of a monument to Inoshiro, the chances become significant that such a monument will come into being. Someone will either build it to garner the favor of such a large group, or to take the money from said group.

So, to some extent, the viewpoint of humans changes reality. Perhaps not physical fact as much as perceived reality. Since our actions are a result of our perceptions, percieved reality is more influential than objective reality.
--
I'm not going out with a "meh". I plan to live, dammit. [ZorbaTHut]

[ Parent ]

Seems rather misleading (4.00 / 1) (#160)
by mj24 on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 09:20:03 PM EST

Economic calculation demonstrates the efficacy of market entities in achieving their own goals: you get what you want, I get what I want, simply because nobody forced either one of our hands.

The idea that you are getting what you want simply because nobody apparently "forced your hand" seems a bit naive.

A path splits in the forest, one fork leads to a beautiful clear lake, the other to the shopping mall. If the marketers keep directing you to the the latter path, and moreover hide the path to the clear lake, you shouldn't pat yourself on the back too firmly that you've stayed on the path to the shopping mall by your own hand.

[ Parent ]

http://www.m-w.com (2.00 / 1) (#202)
by ubu on Tue Apr 10, 2001 at 10:57:29 AM EST

I think I know the difference between buying a lawn chair at Walmart on the influence of a commercial and buying the Department of Health and Human Services via my taxes because of the legal requirement from on high. If you can't see the difference that's a little disturbing.

Let me reiterate: I don't want the DoHHS. I don't want to pay for it. Nevertheless, I have to pay for it. I have no choice. By contrast, I have absolutely no requirement to buy Taco Bell Beef Meximelt meals today, and I never will. No matter how many Taco Bell commercials I watch.

And no matter how many Newspeak adherents try to blur the difference, the bright, hard distinction between coercion and persuasion will continue to exist. For all the "free thinkers" of postmodernism, there doesn't seem to be a single one who's interested in the virtues of actual independent thought and persuasive conversation (even commercials!) between free people.

Ubu


--
As good old software hats say - "You are in very safe hands, if you are using CVS !!!"
[ Parent ]
Most discussion misses the best point (4.00 / 5) (#74)
by dennis on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 12:48:46 PM EST

...which is this: by networking together, unmediated by large corporations, it's possible for us to change the social contracts the define our society.

Whether or not rights are absolute, self-evident, whatever, it's certainly true that some rights are recognized by our particular societies, and some aren't. We can choose which rights we recognize. The choices we make may correspond to the interests of corporations and government bureaucracies, or they may not.

So here we are talking. What kind of world do we want to live in?

Smoke signals (none / 0) (#89)
by aphrael on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 02:05:08 PM EST

by networking together, unmediated by large corporations, it's possible for us to change the social contracts the define our society.

Is it? I know that mainstream american political thought is predicated on the notion that this is actually possible. The anti-corporate left is basically basing its political argument on the notion that this is effectively not possible *without using government power to do it*, which is why leftists are now massively pro-government.

I think napster, etc, are a test case for this --- can people actually cause political and social change that is contrary to the percieved interests of the corporations? Right now the signals are cloudy.

[ Parent ]

Flawed assumption (5.00 / 1) (#103)
by dennis on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 03:12:12 PM EST

The anti-corporate left is basically basing its political argument on the notion that this is effectively not possible *without using government power to do it*, which is why leftists are now massively pro-government.

Unfortunately this is based on a seriously flawed assumption: that government and corporations are in conflict. Actually they're in bed together, most of the time. Not only do corporations donate a lot of money to campaigns, the same set of people tend to hop between positions as corporate board members, lobbyists, political appointees, and occasionally congressmen (see Who Rules America by G. William Domhoff).

[ Parent ]

Oh, please, no (2.80 / 5) (#80)
by weirdling on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 01:17:57 PM EST

In this society, my rights as a person are protected. Just how long do you think that will last in an autocratic society like these inevitably become? Here's a for-instance: I own a Camaro. Do you really think it is in the best interest of society for me to own a Camaro? If the kind of cabalishness that pervades 'community'-based societies (I have friends in these) were let loose on society as a whole, a whole lot of things I like to do would be ruled as not for the common good, and thus not to be produced for. The result of this? People who make these things out of work.
As I said, I know an awful lot of well-reasoned, intelligent people who firmly believe this is the way to live and so have moved off to form these sorts of communities. More power to them. I'm fond of *my* apartment, *my* car, *my* computers, *my* guns. Getting a pattern? I *like* owning things and sincerely believe my life would be worse if I didn't.
Essentially, this stuff isn't even Communism, because communism has a political theory and actual politicians. The community theory has no actual firm leadership, and therefore, no accountability. There is no way for me to oust somebody I do not like.
Final problem: in a subjective argument, no actual facts can enter. Essentially, the statement that what society pastes on the world is, in fact, a subjective reality is true; however, there are objective facts as well. One objective fact is that every attempt at non-monetary societies has been a long-term failure due to the fact that these people ignore human greed, which is, in fact, a good motivator, as it gets people up and off to work in the morning more effectively than any jack-booted thug or loving community. It works for me, anyway. What I'm saying is that while people are grouped together in the utopian community, some sheister is trying to figure out how to use the simple-mindedness to his advantage. Now, if the community is ever successful, it will have property which will be of interest to said sheister, who will eventually help you on the way to utopia by relieving you of said property. Now, can you complain? No, you're against private property...

I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
Utopias and permanence (4.00 / 1) (#88)
by aphrael on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 02:02:47 PM EST

If the kind of cabalishness that pervades 'community'-based societies (I have friends in these) were let loose on society as a whole, a whole lot of things I like to do would be ruled as not for the common good, and thus not to be produced for.

This may or may not be true, but you're missing the point. *Our* society has defined itself such that, in the opinion of the majority in the society, your individual right outweighs the rights/needs of the society as a whole. That isn't guaranteed to be a permanent thing.

. One objective fact is that every attempt at non-monetary societies has been a long-term failure due to the fact that these people ignore human greed

Define long-term. The Byzantine Empire was a theocracy which used money in the cities and barter in the rural areas and lasted for a millenium.

What I'm saying is that while people are grouped together in the utopian community, some sheister is trying to figure out how to use the simple-mindedness to his advantage

This is as likely to happen in the capitalist utopia as in any other.

[ Parent ]

Capitalism not utopia (2.66 / 3) (#105)
by weirdling on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 03:18:46 PM EST

For starters, in a capitalistic system, one allows the citizens to look out for their own property. This is a large-scale savings in police force.
As to the Byzantine empire, the word 'Byzantine' is synonymous with 'outdated, antique'. The Byzantine empire was quite primitive and did not know better.
'Our' society has so defined itself because a majority of 'our' society are people with the idea that personal property is a good thing. This isn't brainwashing; this is the way things are here. Changing that would require enormous effort and may not even be possible; witness the abortion fight, which has pretty much done nothing either way in public opinion polls.
Most of this stuff turns on the idea of the poor, benighted human that must be saved from himself, as he is obviously bowed easily by rhetoric and posturing of the evil capitalists. However, people aren't that dumb and the average person is plenty capable of looking after himself, and the instant government begins looking after him, he loses freedoms.

I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
[ Parent ]
Utopia? (none / 0) (#110)
by aphrael on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 03:33:22 PM EST

None of your comments appear to be geared to argue the subject of your message, which is that capitalism isn't a utopia. I think it is; pure capitalism is no more workable as a social system on a large scale than pure communism, pure democracy, or anything else; it's a utopian ideal we can strive towards, but that's about it.

The Byzantine empire was quite primitive and did not know better.

This is funny. The Byzantine Empire was the degenerate form of the Roman Empire, with a heavy admixture of greek philosophy; considering that our legal system *still* betrays strong Roman influences, and a significant portion of our political philosophy was developed by the Greeks, I don't see how you can dismiss the Byzantines out of hand like this without also discounting their philosophical underpinnings (and ours).

, the word 'Byzantine' is synonymous with 'outdated, antique'

Er ... no, it isn't. Webster defines Byzantine as a : of, relating to, or characterized by a devious and usually surreptitious manner of operation (a Byzantine power struggle) b : intricately involved. That jibes with just about every use i've ever seen of the word, outside of Gibbon. 'Outdated/antique' is not a meaning i've ever seen in connection with the word, nor can I find a dictionary which defines it in that fashion.

a majority of 'our' society are people with the idea that personal property is a good thing. Changing that would require enormous effort and may not even be possible

Granted. Attempting to force large changes in social perception is quixotic and unlikely to succeed. Still, 75 years ago, our society was consisted of people who believed that segregation was a good thing; change *can* happen.

[ Parent ]

Segregation shown to be wrong (none / 0) (#115)
by weirdling on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 04:24:01 PM EST

In the case of segregation, it no longer made any sense to continue the practice. There still is defacto segregation, which is largely cultural, not legal. I think it funny that when society is opened up to a new culture, that culture tends to stay in communities that limit themselves to that culture. To integrate would be to lose the uniqueness of the culture, so we have the case in the US of communities with largely homogenous cultural demographics. Note, this isn't racial demographics...
It is easy to dismiss a previous evolutionary standpoint. From your statement, one can assume that the Greek democracies were also valid forms of government, as the Byzantine empire included much of Greek philosophy. The truth is that these governmental forms were acceptable in their time period but cannot deal with modern complex capitalistic societies. Therefore, they can be dismissed out of hand as useful societies in a modern age.
As to the concept of a utopian capitalism: capitalism is a pragmatic philosophy that denies the existence of utopia. In capitalism, there is the concept of failure and the principle of consequences, both of which imply suffering, and true capitalists will tell you that if the entity is not allowed to suffer the consequences of its idiocy, it will not learn wisdom. A utopian society would, of course, not allow its members to suffer ill, while capitalism fails entirely to care if its members suffer ill.
I guess our vernacular does not match; I've heard the term 'Byzantine' used as you have said it, but also have often heard it used to indicate outdated and outmoded, specifically in terms of fashion.
As to capitalism being an ideal to strive to, it should be understood that, as I understand it, capitalism isn't something people are trying to do but rather the way things are, which is what people will do if you leave them alone. One doesn't need to strive to achieve something that an economist would term 'positive', but one does need to strive to achieve 'normative' results, or ideals. Communism is an ideal, as is Democracy, community-based societies, what have you, but capitalism is the way things are, and flying in the face of how things actually are requires either highly-motivated citizens (not likely in long term), or excessive government control (restricting freedoms, causing loss of personal authority/responsibility).
An ideal world does not exist, is a theoretical construct, and will inevitably fail in the face of fundamental human traits. Capitalism is the theory that matches what humans do rather than trying to change them to something they are not, so it is generally the most successful at explaining their behaviour. Thus, capitalism is what I believe in.
I don't see the utility in attempting to re-engineer the entire community in an attempt to prove some theory or another correct when corrollaries exist to demonstrate that all such attempts have failed.

I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
[ Parent ]
Down the road again (none / 0) (#117)
by aphrael on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 04:41:47 PM EST

it no longer made any sense to continue the practice.

It made sense before?

To be fair, that was a troll. :) Still, though, from the standpoint of someone living in the late 19th century, it wouldn't have made sense that the practice would ever end; similarly, it doesn't make any sense to the majority today that private ownership of property could ever end. But there is no absolute; fashions change.

The truth is that these governmental forms were acceptable in their time period but cannot deal with modern complex capitalistic societies

Aha! different societies with different economies need different social and political models and different forms of government; what works for one won't necessarily work for another.

Besides which, you haven't defeated my point --- you said every non-capitalist culture in history quickly collapsed, and I gave you a counterpoint; and here you respond by arguing 'but that wouldn't work in a capitalist society' which is as close to a circular reasoning as i've seen in a long time. :)

capitalism is a pragmatic philosophy that denies the existence of utopia

This depends on who you talk to. People who believe that the market will always find the perfect solution and never makes mistakes are imagining a utopia. Markets, like all mechanisms, *do* make mistakes.

A utopian society would, of course, not allow its members to suffer ill, while capitalism fails entirely to care if its members suffer ill.

I take it you've never had conversations with people who insisted that true market-based capitalism would end poverty, increase everyone's standard of living, and cause the morally correct outcome at all times, just by the magic of the marketplace working as it should? I *have*. Please excuse me if I have confused you with those zealots.

capitalism isn't something people are trying to do but rather the way things are, which is what people will do if you leave them alone.

I disagree. Without some sort of regulation of the marketplace, capitalism can easily degenerate into feudalism.

[ Parent ]

Three points (none / 0) (#125)
by weirdling on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 05:58:24 PM EST

First, I agree that property, per se, isn't going to be all that central to a future society; it is already happening, as manufacturing is being marginalized in the same way that farming was in the last century. Information is now king, and dealing with information in terms of property seems relatively idiotic to me, but I haven't heard a better solution...
Second, perhaps I failed to point out that, while the Byzantine empire used barter, it was hardly non-capitalistic; it was merely inefficient. What manner of specie employed matters not to the principles of capitalism, be they goat, silver, paper, or imaginary. As far as I'm concerned, the Byzantine system was itself capitalistic, but the system of barter employed is too inefficient to work in a modern society; even socialism uses some form of specie. Hope that clears up the circular reasoning.
People who believe true market-based capitalism would end world hunger, promote world peace, and remove bunions, are either misguided or religionists. Capitalism is, indeed, imperfect. The joy of capitalism is that it has minimal overhead, and thus would tend to reduce many of the contributing factors to poverty, while funding reductions in those diseases people wish to cure, and so on. Every other form of economics has unnecessary overhead, messes with supply and/or demand, and generally mucks with the natural order of things to implement some moralistic outlook that is often germaine only to a small vocal minority that can convince the majority of its validity. Oddly enough, this minority is almost never the actual beneficiaries of their messing with society.
This is a problem with Democracy: Demagogues can gain control simply by asserting they are helping the little people, get the little people hooked on such unnecessary help, and perpetuate their political power through said help. Don't have any solutions to that problem, though. Guess nothing's perfect...
Point three: capitalism does, has, and always will degenerate into some sort of feudalism. However, that feudalism is exclusively monetary-related, and, in a low-overhead situation, can be very granular. For instance, IBM is a feudal domain controlled by a figure-head (CEO) appointed by people who own IBM (stock holders). However, the local consultant shop, consisting of owner-proprietor Joe Schmoe and his accountant, his brother-in-law, who is also accountant for several other businesses, is also a feudal domain. In this case, there is only one chief and no indians, meaning a greater degree of freedom, and this is an ideal, that of everyone working for themselves. It seriously reduces overhead (people work for less when doing it for themselves), accurizes costs (outsourcing something happens at cost to do it, not deflated cost department in company quotes), and results in innovations that would otherwise be squelched in the train of command.
As long as the freedom to strike out on one's own is maintained, which is a purely political question, the larger companies will be at a disadvantage to a smaller and lighter local company. Many companies recognize this and thus create synergisms in which the parent company gives a lot of freedom to operate but provides infrastructure.
I guess what I'm trying to say is that feudalism is the natural order of organization in the human species, so it shouldn't be surprising that people tend to organize that way, and, as long as a society is alert and wise enough, it shouldn't be a problem to do things that way.

I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
[ Parent ]
capitalism as description, not proscription (5.00 / 1) (#168)
by speek on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 10:34:22 PM EST

I agree that the theory of capitalism is essentially trying to describe the realities that we find in our world, rather than trying to proscribe a particular solution to our problems. There are certainly people who try to affect our economic reality using the theory as a tool, but that doesn't mean the theory is, in itself, proscribing any particular action. If one values efficiency above all else, then the theory of capitalism certainly leads you down certain paths.

However, what Rusty was originally talking about had more to do with the birth of a new entity (the corporation), that competes for its resources (money) by using the tools at its disposal (people), and that the activities of these entities is, in some cases, disturbingly harmful to us. It's not an argument against capitalism, it's an argument against corporatism, and, ironically, against communities formed under certain conditions. It's a fantastic piece, I thought, that has, unfortunately, gotten bogged down in defenses of capitalism and natural, god-given rights. A real discussion of this would really be interesting.

--
al queda is kicking themsleves for not knowing about the levees
[ Parent ]

1984 reference...majorities are irrelevant (3.60 / 5) (#85)
by DranoK on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 01:26:58 PM EST

But not the way you're thinking. =) I forget who, I think it was O'Brien, had short discussion that really first introduced this point to me. It's sort of chilling and understandable at the same time. It goes much further than this article does, but the underlying point is the same:

If two people were locked in a room, and they believed they were the last people on earth. They believed nobody could see them, that they were completely alone. If one of these people believed he jumped, and the other believed this as well, did the person jump?

The answer, obviously, is who are you asking? If you are asking one of the people in the locked room, then yes, without doubt the person jumped. Observers might claim that no, he didn't jump, but then you're getting into the idea that observers can change the outcome.\

The point is, that to these two people in the room, the idea that one of them jumped became fact. This was the idea of 1984, one which hopefully sent chills down everyone's spine: The idea that a social reality could be constructed contrary to the majorital reality.

Maybe I can say that better: This article suggests that a social reality exists when a majority of people believe a concept to be true. I, and 1984, would argue that this is not the case. I would argue that a very small minority can just as easily create a social reality which others are forced to live in. And frankly, I don't think corporations are the largest concern.

The entity which creates (IMHO) the most harm and injustice in the name of maintaining their own social reality is organized religion. To be more specific, Christians.

Look around sometime at the amount of what we consider 'reality' which was dictated to us by Christian values. It is a social reality that we should not swear in public. Now, why is swearing considered wrong? Certainly the word 'fuck' has no more and no less value than the word 'april'; but one is given the status of being 'bad'. This stems from the ten commandments; Thou shalt not take the Lord's name in vane. No, fuck isn't the lord's name, but social reality quickly extended this commandment to include many other words and insults.

Another example: Sex is almost always wrong unless conducted in a marriage. This, in my opinion, is one of the worst things Christianity has forced down our throats. The idea of sex being anything besides enjoyable (lets not get into reproduction please) is a complete social construct. Guilt over sex, which so many of us feel at times, is not an inevitable reality; it is a social construct used by Christians.

I don't know where I'm going with this comment so I'd better stop. Suffice it to say that this article speaks a thought I've been trying to iterate for a long time. Kudos for that.

And be wary what you consider 'truth' to be... =)

DranoK


Poetry is simply a convenient excuse for incoherence
--DranoK



I think you're missing some key points. (1.00 / 1) (#96)
by provolt on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 02:39:38 PM EST

The idea of sex being anything besides enjoyable (lets not get into reproduction please) is a complete social construct.
How can you possibly leave reproduction out of sex. The only reason sex is enjoyable, was because enjoyable sex leads to more procreation. Enjoyable sex and procreation are undoubtably and undeniably linked. The true "social construct" is the lie that you can separate the two.

It seems to me that you are the one who has narrowly defined your prespective. "All Christians are bad." That doesn't seem to promote a very open, accepting and truthful view.

It also seems from your comment that following pleasure should be the greatest goal of man. That's a pretty sad existence because pleasure is fleeting at best.

[ Parent ]

Sex and procreation (none / 0) (#123)
by Zukov on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 05:30:49 PM EST

The seperation of sex and procreation is done by the use of birth control. I don't see how that is a social construct.

I don't believe that all Christians are bad, many I know are really nice people. I'm a live and let live kind of person, and I think people should be free to choose whatever belief the wish. If I am wrong in _my_ belief, you can always laugh and point at me in the lake of fire. :^)

If I am right, on the other hand, I get nothing.

Hmmm, that sucks. Maybe I should convert!

ȶ H (^

Yes, I have just bumbled upon Gnome Character Map. Please ! me.
[ Parent ]

Any God (none / 0) (#128)
by ZanThrax on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 06:13:26 PM EST

that would damn me to eternal torment because I did not worship Him while living a Good life does not deserve my worship.

Before flying off the handle over the suggestion that your a cocksucker, be sure that you do not, in fact, have a cock in your mouth.
[ Parent ]

Seem like very un-god-like behaviour.. (none / 0) (#283)
by Zukov on Thu Apr 12, 2001 at 12:26:19 PM EST

Now that you meniton it..

I mean, if you or I were a God, would we even care if anyone worshiped us or not?

Would we even be paying attention? I suppose I might occasionally remove some particularly nasty human, but the rest of the time I would just be off somewhere creating other universes.

ȶ H (^

Yes, I have just bumbled upon Gnome Character Map. Please ! me.
[ Parent ]

Double edge sword (none / 0) (#124)
by dr3 on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 05:51:23 PM EST

in order to back up your statements i suggest reading Brave New world. On a suggested reality where pleasure and happiness are held higher then anything else.
As Confused as a toddler in a topless bar.
[ Parent ]
The two *can* be separated (none / 0) (#142)
by DranoK on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 06:55:57 PM EST

I'm gay =p This is one case in point that the act of procreation can be separated from sexual intercourse. For you hets out there, there are a variety of ways to make sure you don't procreate while enjoying sex.

So I would disagree; you can separate the act of sex from procreation.

DranoK


Poetry is simply a convenient excuse for incoherence
--DranoK



[ Parent ]
Separation of sex and procreation (4.00 / 1) (#193)
by MyrdemInggala on Tue Apr 10, 2001 at 05:41:58 AM EST

How can you possibly leave reproduction out of sex. The only reason sex is enjoyable, was because enjoyable sex leads to more procreation. Enjoyable sex and procreation are undoubtably and undeniably linked. The true "social construct" is the lie that you can separate the two.

That's like saying that eating food is irrevocably linked to tooth decay. That may have been true a couple of hundred years ago, but it isn't any longer thanks to the invention of the toothbrush.

Sex and procreation can be separated very easily. Heterosexuals can use contraception, and homosexuals have never had a problem. This is not a lie; it is a simple biological fact.

The idea that it is somehow "wrong" and "immoral" to separate sex from procreation because we were "meant" to have sex in order to procreate is a social construct maintained by mainstream religion.

Sure, the biological function of sex is procreation. The biological function of the pleasurable experience which accompanies sex is to encourage people to have sex and thereby procreate. So what? Why should it be wrong just to have the pleasurable experience and no procreation?

The major biological function of our sense of taste (and smell) is to tell us whether food is good to eat or not. Healthy food tastes/smells good, while poisonous food smells/tastes bad. It is a pleasurable experience to taste/smell something nice. Now, is it bad to chew gum because it tastes nice but isn't good to eat? Is it bad to use fruit-scented soap?

Eating hot peppers is enjoyable because they are a mild irritant. When you eat chilli, your brain responds to the irritation in your mouth by releasing endorphins to dull the pain. Is it immoral to eat chilli?

Most people are unable to consider sex rationally because it is a taboo subject in our society. Religion has clouded it in mysticism, and made it unquestionable, untouchable and completely separate from all other human experiences.

This is why any attempts to change the status quo with regards to anything remotely connected to sex are so controversial. They really shouldn't be.

-- 22. No matter how tempted I am with the prospect of unlimited power, I will not consume any energy field bigger than my head. -- Evil Overlord List
[ Parent ]

Christ Corporation (none / 0) (#219)
by flowers on Tue Apr 10, 2001 at 10:04:33 PM EST

I was delighted to read your post, but I'm afraid I must disagree with you.

I fully understand why you think Christianity is a destructive influence. I'm not sure I entirely agree with you. While it is clear that Christianity has had and continues to have deleterious effects on people and society, it is not clear that this is due to characteristics of Christianity itself or of organized religion in general. Pragmatically, for the purposes of your argument, it might not make much difference, because in our society, the organized religion whose deleterious effects are most profane is Christianity. So maybe this is a side issue and this paragraph can safely be ignored. <grin>

I believe Christianity is becoming more and more marginalized, and is being replaced by the corporation. In the past (at least in European society) Christianity served the role that the corporation serves today -- it was a force that instructed individuals what to desire and how to behave. It was a mechanism constructed to control people.

Christianity is losing its power, though. Fewer and fewer people believe in it, and fewer still use its doctrine as guiding principles in lives. In the past, Christianity traded a deferred reward for obedience now. Today, corporations trade an immediate reward for obedience now. People tend to act out of self-interest (which is why capitalism is successful in the first place). It has become less and less convenient to believe in Christianity, and more and more convenient to believe in money.

Like a piece of excrement that hangs on the hairs of one's anus, Christianity is tenacious and its effects continue to be felt. Over time, though, it will become no more a dominating force on the lives of the majority than any reasonably small religion -- like Wicca or snake handling -- are now.*

The corporation, on the other hand, shows no sign of doing anything other than growing in power.

* I do not mean to defame Wicca or snake handling. I just do not see them -- ever -- becoming the kind of cultural juggernaut that Christianity has been. That is because the corporation -- especially the multinational corporation -- is homogenizing people and making all religion an attribute of a person that is secondary to the attribute that controls them, which is what kind of consumer they are.



[ Parent ]
The internet is the answer, once people wake up. (3.66 / 3) (#91)
by jester69 on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 02:06:40 PM EST

Ever since the internet found me lo these few years ago, I have an egalitarian source for news and information. The Internet is adaptive. If a big company tries to quash something the "wack a mole" phenomenon comes in and it pops up somewhere else.

Sure this medium isnt perfect, but where else does someone with $19.95 a month have the same global acess to a readership as someone like the NY times? Nowhere. Sure there is bias, but there are enough sources of bias that there is some chance to find something resembling truth.

Now, all this fredom can and probably will be regulated out of existence, but for now its great. Sites like k5 make my day.

The real problem is the populace is so brainwashed that change in and of itself is almost impossible. I see them everyday. Old Navy/Abercrombie/LL Bean drones in their suv with a 5 year lease. They have been sold a bill of goods by the media that defines their existence, and thus they are dependent on the continuation of this lie or their dreams will crumble.

I go to the supermarket in a decidedly middle class area of our city, and these drones go about their shopping certain that since they understand the unwritten rules of our current society they are assured the future that the TV promises. Dress conservatively, work hard, dont make waves and you will get to retire with your T. Rowe price mutual fund financing your Carnival Cruses to the Bahams in your dotage.

For many, sticking in this imaginary world works, everything goes according to plan, and the dream plays out until death do they part. For others, somehow they loose their status in this sanitized elite. Then all of a sudden, the Mitsubishi commercial is no longer speaking their language, and none of their phony fair weather coctail party friends will return their calls. They have become marginalized and the dream crashes. Maybe it was the loss of a job, the stigmitazation of a relative, the IRS siezing everything. But now they are not invited to the right parties, they are ignored by the right people. They see the lie their life was. They realize that our system stinks.

Until this time, they will ignore all prophecies that there is a fox in the henhouse. They wont listen. You can put billboards all along the highway, but they are safe in their model year 2000 cocoon.

The sad thing is, the lie is so pervasive that even many marginal people play by its rules. You see people going into debt to have a couch to show off at cocktail parties. The sky is falling on them and they are picking out throw pillows. Selling their future to have the right image for the Joneses.

Fortunately the government and the corporations have gotten so greedy and unscrupulous that people are being marginalized more and more often, with extreme prejudice. When I was a teenager, I knew very few people spit out by the system. Now I know many.

Change is predicated by at least a plurality wanting change, and we aren't there yet. But, I am hopeful I will live long enough to see people wake up from their "consumerism will make me happy" dream. I'm not quite sure what would happen if that came about, but going to the grocery store surrounded by real people instead of plastic shells hollowed out by marketing might make it all worthwhile, no matter what the price.

Someday, I dream, everyone will go on the internet looking for answers rather than stock quotes and snazzy blouses. (or pr0n, hehe)

take care,

The Jester, 69

Its a lemming thing, Jeep owners would understand.
The way to get started... (5.00 / 1) (#122)
by Zukov on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 05:22:13 PM EST

Is to put your TV back in the cardboard box it came in.

I did this 2, 3 months ago, (how time flies) and our life is richer as a result. More time to do things that have a concrete result, and all that.

"But I will miss the simpsons rerun" you cry. Well, I suppose I might miss the simpsons too, If I could only remember why I watched it every time it came on. I remember the show, sure, but now that I am no longer getting my twice weekly fix, somehow I don't feel a need for it any more.

Electric bill went down a lot, too.

ȶ H (^

Yes, I have just bumbled upon Gnome Character Map. Please ! me.
[ Parent ]

Don't kill your television; WATCH it (none / 0) (#134)
by rusty on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 06:32:48 PM EST

The way to get started... Is to put your TV back in the cardboard box it came in.

I *strongly* disagree with this. By cutting yourself off from mass culture, whatever form it comes in, you're simply rendering yourself irrelevant. The majority of people will continue to watch TV, and there's no reason they shouldn't. Television is not evil. The way it is used to separate us and redirect our attention away from the real problems we have is what's wrong with it. TV has a great potential to unite people, but right now, it's being used as the voice of capital.

If you are concerned, I suggest instead that you actually watch your TV. Don't just stare drooling at the screen, but pay attention. Watch the TV news-- find out what most people think reality is. If you can't connect with people, nothing will change, and you can't connect with them if you and they have totally different assumptions about the state of the world.

The PR agencies would love it if people who were smart enough to decode their planted news and phony experts would simply "kill their television", because it removes you from the equation. If all the people who were on to them did this, they'd have nothing but perfect message receptacles left staring at the screens. And that means they win.

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

right! (none / 0) (#152)
by Arkady on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 08:33:22 PM EST

There's some good stuff out there (here I'm thinking of "The Powerpuff girls") and some genuinely vile stuff as well (and here I'm thinking of "Moesha").

And watch _local_ production too, since there's good (non-mass media produced) stuff going on on the loval access cable. Remember, the feds still require cable systems to carry locally produced stuff free (and the IMC should really start getting involved in that, like Paper Tiger does).

More usefuly, though, get out and produce something. Remember, "South Park" got started completely solo. If you like TV (and why shouldn't you?), then why not get started in local production yourself?

-robin

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere Anarchy is loosed upon the world.


[ Parent ]
But first you must break its spell... (5.00 / 1) (#200)
by jester69 on Tue Apr 10, 2001 at 10:29:33 AM EST

I agree with your comment, to a degree.

I got rid of my television for several years. During that time I learned to think for myself, moreso than I ever had before. Its amazing how picking which link to click can change your whole mindset. YOU must decide. Admittedly its a smaller decision than what socks to wear, but the medium requires interaction, you can't be an internet couch potato so to speak.

Sure, like most everyone I was originally sucked in by the stupid stuff, but I stayed for the information.

Now that the spell of commericialism is broken in me, to a degree anyway: still cant resist computer hardware purchases too well, i delight in pointing out the subtexts, trickery cunning and deception in television. My Significant Other and I sit there ripping apart the commercials and trying to find the hidden agenda behind "News Items."

The news is the mouthpiece of corporate america, they report very little that isn't trying to spin the unwashed masses one way or the other. Since media and government are in bed together (media needs government's permission to continue, government needs media to get elected/keep the people under its thumb) Its also fun to pick out which stories have a governmentally approved spin and which ones have a corporate spin.

BUT, and this is a big but (heh) you must be free of TV's grasp before you can sit down and tear it apart. I say take a break for a year or however long it takes until you dont miss the TV anymore. Until you dont need its friendship and companionship. As soon as you are free of its warm fuzzy hypnoitic spell, watch again in smaller doses and a whole world of deception can be yours to anylize. Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer.

I work with microsoft software on a daily basis.

take care,

The Jester, 69
Its a lemming thing, Jeep owners would understand.
[ Parent ]
sadly, I doubt it (4.00 / 1) (#233)
by Glacky on Wed Apr 11, 2001 at 05:39:07 AM EST

the Sheep still get led to the Slaughterhouse whether the Goats bleat at them or not. I personally find TV here in the UK totally worthless (at least, the 5 terrestrial channels) especially when I can get news that isn't shrink-wrapped, mechanically recovered and tasteless from the Internet.

Would you have a government (or corporate) sponsored hypnotist in every house? because that's TV. You are feeling sleepy...

[ Parent ]
When I used to really watch it I got too annoyed. (5.00 / 1) (#285)
by Zukov on Thu Apr 12, 2001 at 01:03:40 PM EST

Local news particularly, I just could not stand. The mindless pandering and distortion would really piss me off.

I could stand to watch the BBC world news on PBS, because they just tell (their) version of the news, they don't sigh and moan and stroke teddy bears while they do it.

Watch the TV news-- find out what most people think reality is. If you can't connect with people, nothing will change, and you can't connect with them if you and they have totally different assumptions about the state of the world.

Now you have put me in a bit of a quandry, because I would like to claim that I don't need to be exposed to every piece of dreck and misinformation firsthand in order to be able to find out what people believe- they tell me all the time, when I wish they would be paying attention to their work.

I can then patiently explain to them that a new, larger (insert gratuitously wastefull product here) will probably not make them more succesfull or popular. I also show them how to calculate what the true cost of the product is considering they will have to finance it, and point out the opportunity cost of spending all that money vs just getting a CD for the next 10 years. _That_ usually gets their attention.

I do know that when the TV was available, It was very difficult for me _not_ to turn it on.

Am I irrelevent by not being "in tune" with the latest distoritons? Perhaps, but I would say that avoiding the bright flashing pictures and deafening sound make me more clearheaded, and gives me time to get "news" from other sources (we get the WSJ). I would also say that not watching TV makes a lot of what TV has to say and promote irrelevant as far as our life is concerned. Stress is down, exercise is up.

I once used to believe more as you do, that _watching_ for and exposing the deceptions was most productive path. The problem I found with this is that it's hard to compete with a slickly produced piece of trash. Telling right from wrong is a thinking persons game, and I believe that watching a lot of TV gives you less time to think. Now I just suggest to others that there might be benefits to turning off their TV. Their brain will soon jump back into gear, and they will say "What the HELL was I doing?"

ȶ H (^

Yes, I have just bumbled upon Gnome Character Map. Please ! me.
[ Parent ]

Right on! (5.00 / 1) (#166)
by jordanb on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 10:08:17 PM EST

Television is a great pacifier. It lures one into a state of stupor, like electronic heroin, and then starts force-feeding one with the corporate message.

We are here, on K5, discussing the realities of society. Over the course of the active life of this article, a few thousand will read it, and perhaps a few hundred will post replies. All of us, however, will think about our social realities.

How many people are going to be doing the same thing watching Seventh Heaven* tonight?

Television is an unbelievable weapon for mind control. It pacifies one with "information". When one wants to influence someone, one must get them into a suggestible state, then plant the idea. Television does it all in one step.

Philo Farnsworth, the inventor of the television, once was asked by a television host what his favorite thing on television was. He said, in a thick accent, "ze knob". The announcer did not understand, so he asked for clarification. Farnsworth said again, "ze knob, so I can turn ze damn thing off."

Farnsworth realized that he had accidently invented the Frankenstein Monster of the information age, one that did not, as he had hoped, expand the horizons of people everywhere, but, rather, turn them into slack-jawed mindless minions to the corporate mediocrity.

* A program on Moday nights which espouses "good christian values" and a fear of God(tm), interrupted every fifteen minutes for a five minute interlude of crass commercialisim.


Jordan Bettis
[ Parent ]
New Yorker Cartoon (none / 0) (#167)
by rusty on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 10:20:45 PM EST

Back In The Day, when TV was brand new, the New Yorker ran a cartoon which was simply a picture of a family sitting in their living room on the couch, staring at a TV on the opposite wall. There was no caption.

Modern readers utterly don't get this cartoon, because it is literally just a picture of our standard reality.

When it was published, it was funny. The very idea that this scene could happen was humorous to the contemporary readers.

I don't have any bigger point to make about that, but it's an anecdote that's stuck with me, and probably worth considering.

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

the internet is not the answer, waking up is. (none / 0) (#239)
by patSPLAT on Wed Apr 11, 2001 at 07:04:37 AM EST

What is there to prevent the internet from eventually going the way of radio?

Radio was surround by similar pronouncements of freedom while it was a new technology. Millions of amateur radio geeks built kits and broadcast too each other. Now, that culture is almost totally forgotten.

Not to mention mostly illegal, due to FCC regulations. If the government can control analog signals in the air ( something like controlling particular kinds of light ), why wouldn't it be able to control a vast network controlled by the major telecoms?

The only answer is for people to wake up and look for alternatives. They will always be there, but you must be awake.

[ Parent ]
a clarification (none / 0) (#248)
by jester69 on Wed Apr 11, 2001 at 10:46:58 AM EST

you wrote:

If the government can control analog signals in the air ( something like controlling particular kinds of light ), why wouldn't it be able to control a vast network controlled by the major telecoms?

So you are basically saying, we shouldnt point people toward the internet today because someday it may be regulated? You may have noticed in my comment I wrote:

Now, all this [internet] fredom can and probably will be regulated out of existence, but for now its great.

Your followup seems to make the same point I made, but suggests that people need to learn how to think for themselves some other way. That is perfectly valid. However, I feel that the internet is the best media source today for news etc. In this arena current information can be found without a corporate/governmental spin. What will happen in the future no-one knows, but for now its good.

The only constant in life is change, just because everything one sees today will be different tommorow is no reason to ignore the opportunities currently available. The day is what you make of it.

The jester, 69
Its a lemming thing, Jeep owners would understand.
[ Parent ]
There is so much that could be said... (4.33 / 6) (#114)
by Alhazred on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 04:19:47 PM EST

Its really fairly hard to know where to even start.

I guess maybe it would be good to examine some of our ideas on the concept of community. What does this concept entail? Why is the perception so widespread that our communities are failing in some way?

I think one working definition of community would be "a group of people whos lives interrelate with one another". In that light I think that what we have is not so much a "failure of community", as perhaps "too much success". Our communities have grown so large, and so complex and so all-pervasive that in effect we are essentially all members of one giant community. Not an original thought, but it could shed some light on the problems we are encountering.

1000 years ago in some medieval village in France you had a community of a few 100 people. These people all knew each other, they all shared work, they all pretty much shared each other's fortunes and they all pretty much depended heavily on one another for everything. They also pretty much shared a common world view, there not being a wide variety of diverse ideas floating around in said village. Everyone had to pull their own weight, and if they didn't nobody else could really afford to cut them a whole lot of slack. You KNEW the people you depended on, by name, in intimate detail. You talked to them most every day, and hence such a community was a very tight knit team of people. Not that they all got along perfectly, but they HAD to get along.

What do we have today? Who do YOU depend on? You need a car, so you go to a giant corporation which employs probably at least 100,000 people, none of whom you know personally, and which is owned by millions of other shareholders, none of whom you know personally, and you buy a car. You then proceed to borrow money from a giant bank who's owners, customers, employees, and depositors are once again mainly anonymous individuals. You drive your car on roads designed and built by more faceless masses of people under the direction of a giant government beauracracy.

At no point is there anything personal in all this. At best the car salesman and the bank loan officer might send you a generic Christmas card and a reminder to get your oil checked. If they drop dead tomorrow, your none the wiser and only infinitesimally the worse off. We depend on each other just as much now as we did 1000 years ago, but the dependency itself has become depersonalized and distributed out over such a large community that the concept has essentially lost meaning for us.

Only in certain arenas do we still see the remnants of what once was. We cling to these likes rats clinging to debris after their ship has sunk. National leaders, celebrities, etc. Meanwhile we go about our fairly easy lives feeling cast adrift, and lacking much incentive to value the lives of individuals around us. Personally I think this is at the root of a lot of the random violence (take school shootings as an example) that we see in our society. The lesson that others are valuable to us and that it is necessary for us to cooperate with, honor, and respect them is simply not taught. It is too abstract. Most of the time most of us think in very concrete terms. We are survival machines, adapted to solving simple and direct survival problems, not relating to vast and nigh-incomprehensible social structures.

I would also like to note that nowhere in my definition of community does something like Kuro5hin fit in. Don't take this as anything against it, but I do not think a forum like this is a substitute in any way shape or form for community. It has few if any of the characteristics of a real community, nor is it likely to. To expect it to fill that role is probably barking up the wrong tree. That of course in no way implies it has no value or that it is not a tool which can help solve our problems, but we should realize that what we are embarking on here is not a return to something of the past which has been lost (and probably irretrevably so at this point) but instead is a bold new venture into totally uncharted territory. In all likelyhood we will find, as all explorers have, that what we will create and discover is entirely different from what we set out to find!


That is not dead which may eternal lie And with strange aeons death itself may die.
Right! (4.00 / 1) (#132)
by rusty on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 06:23:58 PM EST

I like your analysis.

1000 years ago in some medieval village in France you had a community of a few 100 people... [reverse ellipses] Our communities have grown so large, and so complex and so all-pervasive that in effect we are essentially all members of one giant community.

Exactly. But take the question one step farther: How do we maintain the illusion of this huge global community? How do we even know we're supposed to be in a "community" with all these imaginary strangers? Media. Specifically, global corporate media, which tells us what's important to us.

I would also like to note that nowhere in my definition of community does something like Kuro5hin fit in.

No, I agree with that too. The promise I see in places like this is the fact that we can talk to each other, without corporate intermediation, over a very large span of space and culture.

That is, K5 assumes the kind of vast geographical and cultural dispersion that is the norm today, and still enables people to talk directly. Your voice isn't absorbed, reformulated, and regurgitated in an unrecognizably filtered form. What you said is what people read. They may misread, misinterpret, or just plain dislike what you have to say, but they can't stop your from saying it (sort of, to a great extent, and I don't think spam-protection counts here, as it is done by collective will, not editorial fiat).

I think that we may see something start to happen when systems like this are used as part of a more comprehensive strategy for organizing real communities who have immediate needs that are not being met. Grassroots organizing, town planning, political action, that kind of thing. We need to remove the "Real life / Online" barrier before this kind of thing is more than an interesting toy.

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

global community (none / 0) (#185)
by poltroon on Tue Apr 10, 2001 at 03:04:00 AM EST

I think that we may see something start to happen when systems like this are used as part of a more comprehensive strategy for organizing real communities who have immediate needs that are not being met. Grassroots organizing, town planning, political action, that kind of thing. We need to remove the "Real life / Online" barrier before this kind of thing is more than an interesting toy.

The nature of these future (local/global?) online communities is an interesting point to think about. I was reminded of an article on the subject, which is kind of long winded and a bit dense (here). It talks about the ickiness of reality vs the cleanness of cyberspace. I think the point essentially boils down to this quote towards the end:

Homologous with its elimination of the messy specificity of the body, these barrier technologies flatten out bodily traits of race and gender--not, we would contend, in the interest of a progressive social policy (the "happy," communal form of the virtual community), but rather in the interest of eliminating every troublesome aspect of the body, its drives and its residues (the evidence of an "unhappy," excessive, agonistic kernel of the virtual socius, the very thing it must exclude from consciousness in order to imagine itself a community).[38] They render every BunnyPerson, as it were, equal--at least within a radically sanitized domain. (Which is to say, every body is rendered equally offensive.)

(the "BunnyPerson" is a reference to those Intel pentium dudes in clean-suits).

So, anyway, while I can imagine that online communication might become incredibly useful for certain kinds of organization, it seems like there's still a lot to wonder about. How diverse or specialized or homogenous will online communities of the future be, and how will they affect our real lives, where we still face certain things that aren't necessarily dealt with online?

Or maybe this is just too abstract of a way to look at it.

[ Parent ]

radical localism (none / 0) (#289)
by drewbydrew on Thu Apr 12, 2001 at 02:42:21 PM EST

Hmmmm, online communities the salvation of mankind? I must admit I am skeptical. Don't get me wrong, I like k5 (ok I admit it, I'm new here, but I really do like it!), I just don't think it can fill the rolls you are setting out for it.
Let me see if I am getting this right: Where we used to have an intimate connection to others in the society we depended on for food, roads etc, at least in part because we knew them, we now exist in a state of revised anomie. We don't know the person we buy a car from, sit next to on the train or where the freak the groceries we eat come from. Because of this, although our physical needs are better met than ever before, we are distinctly unfulfilled and alone, unable to realize our full capacity as humans because w lack a sense of recognition, community and genuine interaction.
But do we really know each other any more on the internet. I could be anybody, posing as anyone and you all would have no idea because I only just started posting messages on this site today. maybe I'm a radical Marxist, or maybe I'm a libertarian playing devils advocate, you'll never really know (ok, I admit it , I really am a Marxist). It seems to me what we need to do is not adapt to our new, globally based, interconnected world, but reject it. Or at least pull back a little.
OK, I admit, I am overstating my case a wee bit here. But seriously, I don't think a better form of communication is what we need. We need to create a whole new, or perhaps unearth an old, model. Enter Radical Localism, a theory pundited by the former 24-year-old director of the Sierra Club Adam Werbach. The idea is that if we simply refuse to get our groceries, news, and gossip from people we don't know, we will solve an enormous amount of what is wrong with society. Truly radical localism is more than just buying organic groceries from inside your own state lines, It's growing most of them yourself in a garden. Instead of getting to know the Suadi Arabian guy who ships oil to your town, find a local scientist and have him build you a solar array. Use what you have immediately at hand, instead of trying to find a better way of accessing what you (perhaps) should not realistically have access to anyway.
Again, this is probably too radical for most of the world, heck even I'm not sure i could hack it as a radical localist. But I think the principle is sound. Think about where you live, what its local resources are and work with those first. After that, if you need goods from outside, make sure you really need them and only import what you have to. Places like k5 then could be interesting as big trading posts for ideas, which we all grow locally anyway (in our own noggins).
-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_ You can't scare me, I believed in Social Security once.
[ Parent ]
I think we CAN know each other in significant ways (none / 0) (#305)
by Alhazred on Fri Apr 13, 2001 at 09:20:58 PM EST

For instance I have met a lot of people online through various forums, etc. Some of them I consider good friends. Some I have met. Generally I've found that while some people I meet in person later on are not so much fun to hang out with in person, most of them are fine. Most of them just seem like the old friends I have IRL.

But I don't think THAT is the role for online communities either. I think that what we need is quality discrimination of resources. For instance, if there were a system that could tell me what you are interested in, what you look at online, what other people whom I consider to be similar to me in opinions think of you, etc. I can get a pretty good idea of what to think of you!
That is not dead which may eternal lie And with strange aeons death itself may die.
[ Parent ]
Yes, and I think we agree... (none / 0) (#304)
by Alhazred on Fri Apr 13, 2001 at 09:07:43 PM EST

I agree with you wholeheartedly.

Your analysis of the role money plays in society is especially insightful IMHO. The entire corporate/capitalist system has GAINED CONTROL. Nobody individually intended or probably wanted this, but the collective result of billions of people organized into a market system, each looking out for his or her own interests is what we have now.

It is certainly not entirely clear that this has been a disaster, or that our society is gravely ill, but it certainly appears that is a widely held opinion, and one I for one share. Given that it is, what do we do? Always a good question.

I think, as you say, that online "communities" and the tools used to build them have yet to find their true role. When I look at Kuro5hin and Scoop I see a solution, and a problem, but there is much that will have to happen in order to mesh the two together. One hurdle is technology. As long as web sites are accessible only by the very limited PC/Browser technologies and low bandwidth networks available today I think they will play only a limited role.

Things will change as we learn to integrate our information better (IE, what if I could cross-reference Kuro5hin articles with EVERYTHING else available on the net?) or what if I could with the touch of a button analyze the activity, interests, writings, etc of each contributor? Identify persons with similar interests and viewpoints to my own?

And of course what if I could access this information virtually anywhere at any time? The problems solvable become much greater at that point!


That is not dead which may eternal lie And with strange aeons death itself may die.
[ Parent ]
Hmmm... sounds Searlian (3.50 / 2) (#118)
by Heraklitus on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 04:42:35 PM EST

Just for those who are interested. The more metaphysical aspects of this topic are developed and discussed by John Searle (Uni. of Cal) in such books as "The Construction of Social Reality" and (in a more precise form) in the chapter in "Mind, Language and Society". Even then, the opinions are not totally original, especially when he talks about how speech acts are used to "create" social reality. Anyone else spot the similarities?

Thanks for the reference (3.00 / 1) (#130)
by rusty on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 06:14:56 PM EST

All the stuff about socially constructed reality has been around in various forms for quite a while. I did not make it up. :-)

I haven't read the book you refer to, but I'll take a look. Speaking of "Searlian philosophy", this essay shares a lot of ideas with to work of another Searle(s), Doc that is. "Markets are conversations" implies conversations between people, which unpacks into virtually everything I said here.

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

Unalienable Rights (3.50 / 2) (#121)
by mami on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 05:17:31 PM EST

Darn, I have just lost a three page commentary and before I write it up again, I have one question. My dictionary doesn't give me a translation for unalienable. How would you best describe the meaning of "unalienable" ?

My "I feel lucky" google search gave me this:

"Unalienable" means that these rights cannot be surrendered or transferred.

But as the philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau said, about the same time and with the same narrow focus: "Man [sic] is born free and yet everywhere he is in chains."

Another definition I found here:

Unalienable Rights - Absolute Rights - Natural Rights

The absolute rights of individuals may be resolved into the right of personal security, the right of personal liberty, and the right to acquire and enjoy property. These rights are declared to be natural, inherent, and unalienable. Atchison & N. R. Co. v. Baty, 6 Neb. 37, 40, 29 Am. Rep. 356.

By the "absolute rights" of individuals is meant those which are so in their primary and strictest sense, such as would belong to their persons merely in a state of nature, and which every man is entitled to enjoy, whether out of society or in it. The rights of personal security, of personal liberty, and private property do not depend upon the Constitution for their existence. They existed before the Constitution was made, or the government was organized. These are what are termed the "absolute rights" of individuals, which belong to them independently of all government, and which all governments which derive their power from the consent of the governed were instituted to protect. People v. Berberrich (N. Y.) 20 Barb. 224, 229; McCartee v. Orphan Asylum Soc. (N. Y.) 9 Cow. 437, 511, 513, 18 Am. Dec. 516; People v. Toynbee (N. Y.) 2 Parker, Cr. R. 329, 369, 370 (quoting 1 Bl. Comm. 123).

Chancellor Kent (2 Kent, Comm. 1) defines the "absolute rights" of individuals as the right of personal security, the right of personal liberty, and the right to acquire and enjoy property. These rights have been justly considered and frequently declared by the people of this country to be natural, inherent, and inalienable, and it may be stated as a legal axiom [A principle that is not disputed; a maxim] that since the great laboring masses of our country have little or no property but their labor, and the free right to employ it to their own best interests and advantage, it must be considered that the constitutional inhibition against all invasion of property without due process of law was as fully intended to embrace and protect that property as any of the accumulations it may have gained. In re Jacobs (N. Y.) 33 Hun, 374, 378.

Before I write up my comments again, I want to know if Rusty agrees with above definitions or if he sees their meaning differently ?

As according to Rusty everything is a "social construct", the defintion of "unalienable" must be then one too. (Though the outcome might be that the meaning of "unalienable rights" are just those rights, which are not the outcome of a social construct.)

How does Rusty want the meaning of "unalienable" to be interpreted, constructed or defined within the framework of his essay (which is BTW an excellent subject for further discussion) ?



Inalienable (none / 0) (#127)
by rusty on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 06:11:15 PM EST

First, while I note that the transcript of the DoI I pasted in here lists the word as "unalianable", I always thought it was generally held to be "inalienable".

Either way, dictionary.com lists roughly equivalent meanings for both words.

Unalienable
Not to be separated, given away, or taken away; inalienable:
Second, before you go off on the (overall minor) point about social construct vs. Absolute Right, do read the rest of the comments here. That argument has been had at very great length already, and is, while interesting, pretty aside from the main point of the article. Wherever you think rights come from, the article is really about their effects and excercise in a social context.

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
the minor point (none / 0) (#176)
by mami on Tue Apr 10, 2001 at 12:26:48 AM EST

You base your essay about why community is important on definitions of human rightst, property rights and unalienable rights and go into length to analyse the nature of money and capitalism in the context of those rights. Therefore I don't see those definitions as minor, because they are the underpinning of your logic. But you touch a lot of issues in one essay and it's hard to respond to them all with a logic flow of arguments in one comment. I may try to write a story about it.

[ Parent ]
"Person" is a social construct. (none / 0) (#144)
by Estanislao Martnez on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 07:00:25 PM EST

By the "absolute rights" of individuals is meant those which are so in their primary and strictest sense, such as would belong to their persons merely in a state of nature, and which every man is entitled to enjoy, whether out of society or in it. The rights of personal security, of personal liberty, and private property do not depend upon the Constitution for their existence. They existed before the Constitution was made, or the government was organized.
  • Heh. This reads as if before the US Constitution, personkind lived in "a state of nature", which is patently false-- pre-federal social institutions in the US were very complex.
  • And of course, if you happened to have the wrong color of skin, you had no "inalienable" right to liberty and property, because, of course, you were not a "person". Rights belong to persons, but "person" itself is a social construct.

--em
[ Parent ]

challenging global corporatization (4.50 / 2) (#131)
by kellan on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 06:15:26 PM EST

This has granted corporations the power to purchase the reality that best suits them, and corporations in turn recreate the reality that privileges money. Communities -- places, real or virtual, where people speak directly to each other, without corporate mediation -- are the only hope we have to reassert control over our own reality, and place it back in the hands of people, instead of the fictional entities we call corporations.

If you're interested in the current, desperate struggle against this creeping corporatization of life, then you should spend some time educating yourself about the FTAA (Free Trade Area of Americas) summit which will be culminating in Quebec City, in Canada, April 20th.

You might also want to subscribe to the FTAA-L for news, and updates.



International Politics/Social Constructivism (3.00 / 1) (#150)
by aeldredg on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 08:03:36 PM EST

One of the newer theories describing international relations is Social Constructivism. It contains many of the ideas spoke of above. The first book-length treatment of this theory is Alexander Wendt's Social Theory of International Politics. The beginning is a little rough and hard to get through, but the part on the three cultures of anarchy is very interesting. check it out!
:-p
Great stuff, some thoughts (4.50 / 4) (#170)
by speek on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 10:49:30 PM EST

Skipping the whole capitalism debate (is it good? bad? whatever), and the whole natural rights debate (I saw a UNR - "unidentified natural right" - yesterday. I swear!), it seems as though Rusty is basically making an anti-corporate argument. But doing so in a really interesting way.

The way you describe corporations makes them sound like fierce competitors. The "ecology" of these corporations is such that they consume money, which is our economic medium. They are not exactly direct competitors, but our interests intersect often enough that humans and corporations frequently come into conflict with one another. The corporations consume capital, and use humans as tools to do so. Sometimes the result is harmful to those humans, sometimes not.

And then, you suggest that community is our best chance of defending ourselves, and I find that so interesting. Because corporations essentially are communities - a set of people who interact for a common purpose that pervades their lives. You are suggesting that if we create other communities that are based on paradigms radically different from money, that would be our best hope to subdue the power and influence of the corporations. Fight fire with fire (but, not the same fire, if you see what I mean).

Certainly there are non-profit groups who are doing exactly that (ACLU, PETA, GNU, etc). These groups are actively trying to create a different world that, in their view, would be better. If you really want community, you have to answer your own question - what world do you want to create? And you have to take it seriously. The concept that we create our own reality is extremely powerful, and those of us not actively engaged in creating our reality are conceding that power to others.

--
al queda is kicking themsleves for not knowing about the levees

Excellent summary (4.00 / 1) (#181)
by rusty on Tue Apr 10, 2001 at 01:57:17 AM EST

Yes, that, in a nutshell, is what I'm saying.

I'm glad you left aside the rights argument and the capitalism argument, because neither of those have much to do with what I'm talking about. I can expand a little on your point about corporations being one kind of community (which they are) vs. the concept of people creating different kinds of communities.

I think the most weakly made point in the article was the reason why I think corporation-communities have become so much more powerful than individuals, or non-economically-based communities. That is, the fundamental unit of power in America is the dollar, not the person. I think that's what I was trying to say there -- that the government of this country is based on the premise that one person == one unit of legitimate power. But we have replaced that with the dollar being the unit of legitimate power.

I'm not anti-corporation. I'm far from anti-capitalist. Telling me that capitalism is the best we've come up with so far is pointless-- I'm right there with you. The question is, should capital be our *sole* form of power? Or is there some way we can create communities that exercise power based on people? The only answer I came up with is that we won't know unless we talk to each other. And the corrollary that human power comes from people closely linked, which means it can only feasably be exercised at the local level.

I'm just gonna keep repeating that in every comment until everyone figures out that I don't have anything else to say. ;-)

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

"power based on people" = democracy? (none / 0) (#191)
by sayke on Tue Apr 10, 2001 at 04:54:52 AM EST

i'm not sure what else could be meant... are you advocating a very socialist democracy, where votes determine resource allocation and voters control the means of production, etc?

otherwise, "power based on people" only works if you combine it with an unnamed form of fusion. you have to have h00ge stacks of people, with lightning arcing across em, too. ;)


sayke, v2.3.1 /* i am the middle finger of the invisible hand */
[ Parent ]

Ummm (2.00 / 1) (#174)
by tjb on Mon Apr 09, 2001 at 11:53:03 PM EST

Ok.

Let's start from where I feel like and go from there.

First of all, I believe capitalism provides the greatest social mobility the world has ever seen. I'm 22 years old, earn as much as my parents do combined, have a BMW, a beach front condo, a big screen TV, a Play Station 2, and everything else I could ever want. When my father was my age, he was an unemployed casting grinder. I get payed large amounts of money to sit on my ass 50 hours a week and do what I truly enjoy, writing assembly code for (very) small quasi-DSP processors (1K instructions, 1K data space), because my skills are in demand and few people can (or want) do what I do. My father advanced along much the same path, although his trek was neither as short or as lucrative, his salary now as lead process engineer at a large foundry provides him (and my sister and mother) with a comfortable middle class living.

Capitalism truly benefits the individual and creates the ultimate meritocracy. Leave the share-holders aside, never mind that other people may be making money on your skills. Concentrate on what you get out of the deal. You get a system that will pay for you to do what you want, to everyone's mutual benefit. Do I care that the major stockholders of my company are multi-millionaires (and one billionaire) while I only make enough to buy everything I ever wanted? Hell no. Let them make their millions, they probably get less satisfaction out of making their next million dollars than I do out of finding an algorithm to get 8% higher throughput on a DSL transceiver, and they pay me gobs of money to do so. They are in it for the money, I'm in it for the engineering and the money. We're both happy where we are, though I'd argue I'm happier: They keep my job there by making sure the company's finances are what they should be, and I get extra gratification through their funding of cool toys and patience for research.

I'll skip the money thing. You pointed out how you felt about it earlier, and the fact is money is the best thing we got right now.

Ok, the community. As a dedicated libertarian, I'm going to make one of the few suggestions for expanded government you'll ever hear from me: The US should have 10 times as many representitives in th house as it does now. That's right, about 5000 reps. When this country was founded, it was 1 rep to 10K people. That number has fallen dramatically, and while 1/10K is unsustainable, I think the US only can benefit from further exapansion of the house. It would stand to keep pork at a minimum, since reps would be vastly outnumbered trying to curry favor for their miniscule district, and increase local representation at the federal level.

I've gone on long enough here, but if anyone else asks what other big government positions a libertarian might embrace, I will explain why I feel federal farm subsidies are a good idea.

Tim

Oh yeah? (5.00 / 1) (#177)
by Zeram on Tue Apr 10, 2001 at 12:50:11 AM EST

Capitalism truly benefits the individual and creates the ultimate meritocracy.

Dig up the corpse of Nicolai Tesla and tell him that...


<----^---->
Like Anime? In the Philly metro area? Welcome to the machine...
[ Parent ]
Eh, yeah (none / 0) (#198)
by ubu on Tue Apr 10, 2001 at 09:46:43 AM EST

Tesla chose his ending, and you very well know it. He was barely any use to anyone because of his reclusive and eccentric nature. He was brilliant, of course, but he did almost nothing to materially capitalize on his intellect during his life. In the end, that was pretty much his own choice.

Ubu


--
As good old software hats say - "You are in very safe hands, if you are using CVS !!!"
[ Parent ]
except (none / 0) (#205)
by Zeram on Tue Apr 10, 2001 at 11:54:34 AM EST

It wasn't his choice to have Edison practiacally ruin his life.


<----^---->
Like Anime? In the Philly metro area? Welcome to the machine...
[ Parent ]
Choice? (none / 0) (#213)
by Cyberrunner on Tue Apr 10, 2001 at 07:20:27 PM EST

"his own choice" is not the total picture. The nature of corporate profits drove J.P. Morgan to, basically, rob Telsa of his rightful royalties. Think of even a small percentage of electricity profits for a few years, and you might start to see why Westinghouse didn't want to pay him royalties.

Then, if you really want to get into it, you can start researching why J.P. Morgan withdrew funding of Telsa's more ambiteous project to tranmit electricity with no real cost to anyone. Whether or not you believe he could, the idealism of some of his ideas point to a man that was not compatible with corporatism. Thus, you can easily see why he was not widely recognized and taught in public education systems that were trying to form corporate drones (with little or no independant thoughts.) Either way, capitalism does not benefit individuals if they don't realize the greed that they are dealing with...

[ Parent ]

Actually... (none / 0) (#218)
by dragondm on Tue Apr 10, 2001 at 09:25:20 PM EST

Actually, capitalisim worked fairly well for Tesla.

What you have to think of is the possibility that he didn't want money! It wasn't important to him.

Tesla was the one who saved Westinghouse, for example, by giving up his royalties. Westinghouse was about to go bankrupt, and owed Tesla some huge amounts of royalties. Tesla gave up those royalties, and saved the company, because Westinghouse was implementing a full scale power system based on Tesla's ideas. Seeing his ideas implemented was worth more to Tesla than the money. (This BTW, is the reason we use AC power now. This system demonstrated it's superiority to DC)

Remember a free market is about value not money. Money is only an approximation of value. To tesla, seeing his ideas realized had more value than several million dollars.

[ Parent ]

Hmmm. (4.00 / 1) (#199)
by jolly st nick on Tue Apr 10, 2001 at 10:05:58 AM EST

First of all, I believe capitalism provides the greatest social mobility the world has ever seen. I'm 22 years old, earn as much as my parents do combined

... and ...

When my father was my age, he was an unemployed casting grinder.

... and ...

Capitalism ... creates the ultimate meritocracy.

... therefore ...

You are more deserving than your father ;-)

Seriously, though, the degree to which people believe in capitalism as a meritocracy depends pretty directly on how well they are doing. Get out and look around at people who are very different from you; the migrant workers; the semi-literate laborers who never had a shot at education. I've personally known lots of undeserving people who are doing well and deserving people who are struggling. The only way to make capitalism a perfect meritocracy is to make it a tautology: merit is the degree to which capitalism rewards you, therefore (1) capitalism is the perfect meritocracy and (2) all other systems are less perfect than capitalism.

Actually, I believe (2) as a practical matter but not (1). Winston Churchill once said of democracy that it was absolutely the worst system except for all the others. I kind of feel that way about capitalism. Sometimes the admiration of capitalism borders on idolatry.



[ Parent ]

community (3.00 / 1) (#179)
by jeanlucpikachu on Tue Apr 10, 2001 at 01:09:03 AM EST

Community doesn't have to have anything to do with property rights. See Half-Empty. No property, no corporations, plenty of friendliness.

--
Peace,
Capt. Jean-Luc Pikachu AIM: jeanlucpikachu
Social Contract (4.50 / 2) (#180)
by Arkady on Tue Apr 10, 2001 at 01:20:31 AM EST

There's been a lot of argument below about "inalienable" rights, so I want to start a new thread here describing the theory I think best describes the situation (and which I _think_ Rusty is following, but I'm not certain of that). That theory derives from Rousseau's tract "The Social Contract".

The basic premise is that society is represented as a contract between its citizens. In this contract, the citizen gives up freedoms (the freedom to kill others) for rights (the right to your own life). Underlying this is the idea that, at birth, the prospective citizen cannot reasonably be said to have any obligations: they exist at that time in a state of "nature". By joining the "contract" this child leaves the "natural" state of absolute freedom and moves into the state of "civilization", by contracting to give up certain freedoms in exchange for their corollary rights: the freedom to suppress others for the right to free speech; the freedom to kill for the right to live; the freedom to steal for the right to security in their own property.

This is a fundamental precept behind Anarchism, by the way. The Anarchists extend this by the (in my opinion) completely reasonable requirement that the "contract" may only be entered into with the free informed consent of the citizen. Any attempt to enforce a putative contract on an unwilling citizen is oppression, coercion. Since the American system, to take the example in which I live, makes no provision for this, it is an illegitimate government; an exercise of force over the actions of the populace.

Anyway, to get a good grounding in this issue, read "The Social Contract". It's pretty much the opposite of the "inalienable rights" crowd who wrote the American founding documents, and it's contemporary with them as well. America's Declaration of Independance is a statement rejecting this larger structure while asserting instead the "natural rights" theory with which the Contract theory was in conflict at the time.

-robin

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere Anarchy is loosed upon the world.


Actually... America is legitimate that way... (none / 0) (#184)
by Skywise on Tue Apr 10, 2001 at 02:51:39 AM EST

At least originally... Anything in the constitution goes for all states. Anything in the state's constitution goes for that state only. Anything not talked about in either constitution is solely in the citizen's control. Now, there are also additional laws at both the state, city and fed level. But many of these have never been fought at constitutional level. So they stay, and are only enforced because they're on the books, and people don't know any better to fight. And as Rusty said above, corporations always have deeper pockets to fight their fights... but unlike most other countries... it's not impossible... (improbable... yes... but then look at Erin Brockovich...)

[ Parent ]
how? (4.00 / 1) (#187)
by Arkady on Tue Apr 10, 2001 at 03:16:39 AM EST

The initial creation of the Constitution only required a majority vote in 9 of 13 States, with only landed pink-skinned males voting. By that measure, the Constitution was certainly illegitimate even in its own day. Today, of course, no one living is a signatory of that document, much less its child, the U.S. Code.

The point is, no State has (to my knowledge) ever had its fundamental principles approved by its citizens. In fact, the vast majority of States would never even try since their operational principles are completely divorced from the airy rhetoric in their Constitutions.

The fact that it's not _impossible_ to get laws removed in the U.S. says nothing about the State's legitimacy; is does say that the U.S. is a less opressive State than most that have come before it. That's less bad ("It's not enough to be less bad. Less bad is still bad"), of course, but it's got nothing to do with how legitimate the State itself is.

-robin

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere Anarchy is loosed upon the world.


[ Parent ]
social contract and human nature (none / 0) (#284)
by drewbydrew on Thu Apr 12, 2001 at 12:48:14 PM EST

Wow, this is a great little thread and I'm not sure where to start in. First off, bonus points for the unsolicited use of a canonized text in your comment. (Insert little golf clap here) But Rousseau has an implicit bias I want to make clear: He believes human nature itself is based in self-interest and, in a way, capital.
Let me explain: Rousseau, Hobbes, Smith and definitely the Founding Padres believed that humans were essentially self interested, that left unchecked the world would descend into utter chaos as we all lied cheated and stole our way from each other and into oblivion. What this presumption overlooks (in my opinion) is that humans also have a highly developed capacity for self-sacrifice. In other words, while people occasionally kill each other in spite of law and order, we would not necessarily do it more or less so due simply to a lack of law and order.
Rousseau's contract is based on the presumption that we are so terrified of what our neighbors might do (presumably because we are thinking of doing it ourselves, see Hegel) to us, that we are willing to give up certain freedoms in order to gain an added security. Hence the contract is formed and we all live happily (sort of) ever after.
But there are numerous times in life where humans give things up or make sacrifices for no good reason at all: we stand up to let an old person sit down on the subway, take and injured squirrel to the vet, comfort a child with a skinned knee, etc. While there is certainly some social conditioning at work in these actions, they are also instinctual to some degree as they are based on implicit emotions of compassion and empathy, which social training channels into specific reactions.
One of Anarchy's interesting elements is that it challenges this basic assumption about "the way we are' and asserts that perhaps the basic premise of restricting people's sinful natures is unnecessary, at least on a social scale.
OK, last and slightly tangential note: Sure none of us were around to sign our state constitutions when they were written but the state, and federal, constitutions are living documents and can be added to (as in giving blacks and women the vote), revised (as in excluding soft money as a form of speech) and extended (as in Vermont offering benefits to gay "domestic partners"). I will certainly grant you that these processes are byzantine and inaccessible to average people, but in principle at least the opportunity is there to change things and "own" the documents anew with each generation.
-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_ You can't scare me, I believed in Social Security once.
[ Parent ]
good points (none / 0) (#326)
by Arkady on Sun Apr 15, 2001 at 04:39:53 PM EST

Too true. That's a good summary of where Anarchy departs from the _basis_ of the Contract theory, but it has very little impact on the _idea_ that a Contract is necessary to legitimate the actions of a social body. Well said, though.

While presenting an opportunity to modify the various Constitutions is better than not, I still maintain that it's insufficient to legitimate a social structure. In addition, to be legitimate, there must also be viable options to joining which, I think you'll agree, there are not today.

The fact that the system does allow _some_ participation is why I've changed my mind aand decided to start voting (this past fall was the first time I've voted for anyone except my Mom; it's always OK to vote for your mother ;-). For a long time, I'd agreed with the standard argument that participation is legitimation, but there are flaws in that. The "system" is external to me, and existed before I did. It is, therefore, merely a part of my environment without my consent. Voting in its elections is merely a rationsl use of my environment, not committing me to the system any more than breathing the air here does.

Maybe if more "outsiders" were to think this through we'd see better voter turnouts? ;-)

-robin

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere Anarchy is loosed upon the world.


[ Parent ]
a slight problem (none / 0) (#300)
by naasking on Fri Apr 13, 2001 at 11:37:10 AM EST

The Social Contract seems like an interesting Idea. I have a few problems with your arguments though:

The Anarchists extend this by the (in my opinion) completely reasonable requirement that the "contract" may only be entered into with the free informed consent of the citizen. Any attempt to enforce a putative contract on an unwilling citizen is oppression, coercion.

But oppression and coercion are completely legitimate actions if you have not agreed to the contract. Just as you say killing is a freedom, then so is any other action. There is nothing stopping anyone from imprisoning or even killing you except this contract. So anarchists shouldn't complain about oppression because they are not a part of any contract which protects them from such action(or any action against them for that matter). Therefore, I have every right to imprison or even kill them because they do not have any protection for their freedoms or life.

You could say that it seems wrong, but that's the logical conclusion of your argument. The only way for it to seem fair in the end is for an anarchist to leave the country whose contract they do not support.

Since the American system, to take the example in which I live, makes no provision for this, it is an illegitimate government; an exercise of force over the actions of the populace.

There is no force keeping someone in the US.


[ Parent ]
a few points (none / 0) (#325)
by Arkady on Sun Apr 15, 2001 at 04:30:18 PM EST

   "But oppression and coercion are completely legitimate actions if you have not agreed to the contract."

"legitimate" is probably the wrong word to use here, since the Contract is what legitimates an social action, but you're basically correct. In the absence of any agreement, there cannot be an obligation. I would argue, as I have in other comments on this article, that it's not in their "rational self-interest" to maintain a state in which there is a class which is perceived to be oppressed (I don't think I'll re-type that argument here, though ;-).

   "There is no force keeping someone in the US."

That, however, is just wrong.

First, the order established by the global governing classes does actually prevent any individual from moving freely between states so, even if there were a State with which I would want to ally myself, it's pretty damn difficult to get out of America to it. Particularly if it were Cuba ...

More importantly, though, is that they have no legitimate "right" to ask, much less force, me to leave. Hell, since I was born here I have a more legitimate claim to live on this continent than Henry Kissenger does. ;-)

-robin

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere Anarchy is loosed upon the world.


[ Parent ]
you could if you REALLY wanted to (none / 0) (#332)
by naasking on Sun Apr 15, 2001 at 07:35:31 PM EST

"legitimate" is probably the wrong word to use here

Legitimate, in the literal sense of the word, is perfect here since it is "in compliance with the law" (there being no law/rule/contract against it). I'm just being an ass. ;-) Perhaps "acceptable" would be a better substitute?

I would argue, as I have in other comments on this article, that it's not in their "rational self-interest" to maintain a state in which there is a class which is perceived to be oppressed.

In my experience, self-interest, no matter how short-sighted, will often overcome reason, no matter how sound. So to me, your implication of "rational self-interest" is a complete oxymoron. Sorry, I'm being an ass again. ;-)

Anyway, the point is, the people in power are there to govern and maintain the way of life. If there are people who vehemently oppose that way of life, they would have to leave. Only the people taking part of the system(ie. signed the contract) should have a say in how that system should change. Leaving wouldn't be too difficult. It would be difficult to go straight to Cuba from the US, but I'm sure you could take a connecting flight through another country without too many problems(and they're often cheaper too ;-).

I would argue, as I have in other comments on this article

I would read your other comments, had I the time.

First, the order established by the global governing classes does actually prevent any individual from moving freely between states so, even if there were a State with which I would want to ally myself, it's pretty damn difficult to get out of America to it.

It does prevent any individual from crossing into other states, given the individual in question has broken one of the laws of that state. Other than that, any other barricades are mostly political(such as US boycotts of Cuba/China/etc.) and not personal. And hey, you could always swim or build your own raft. :-)

More importantly, though, is that they have no legitimate "right" to ask, much less force, me to leave. Hell, since I was born here I have a more legitimate claim to live on this continent than Henry Kissenger does. ;-)

Well, in your opinion there are no rights and no claims, just contracts. ;-) The only claims you can make are spelled out in whatever contract you agree to. Since you didn't "sign" one to protect your rights, you're SOL. In this case, it's open game, might makes right and unless you have a nuclear weapon in your pocket, you're getting the old heave-ho(to follow the logic through to it's end). And like I said previously, only those working in the system/contract should have a say as to it's direction. Should someone from Japan have a vote for the US president? You'd probably say no, and most people would. I think the logic transfers nicely to this situation.

Most people have a sense of fairness and would not agree with the statements I've made(especially regarding your 'claim by birth to US soil'). But unless I've made a serious logical flaw or completely misunderstood the premise of the contract and anarchist argument, this would be the natural conclusion... which is pretty much what you see today, right?


[ Parent ]
It's a meaningless argument.. (3.00 / 1) (#183)
by Skywise on Tue Apr 10, 2001 at 02:44:24 AM EST

You make some interesting points, but the argument is meaningless when boiled down to its roots (which is generally 95% of all philosophy ANYWAY... but I digress...). Basically, if you remove an ultimate source of moral authority (God) from the social fabric, then you are left with physical reality and your own personal interpretation of events... And from there you resolve that corporations = evil, and capitalism is bad. No no... don't work that way. In the beginning was man and woman and children. Hungry, and fighting for survival. When resources became scarce, man fought man. Eventually it was considered a good idea (tm), that if man worked as a team with other men, hunting was more successful. Bang. First society called tribes, and with it, the first social fabric. Because the tribe being together was the whole point, anything that brought the tribe together was good... and anything that caused disharmony in the tribe was bad. Sleeping with another man's woman... caused much grief... therefore... it's bad. Stealing another man's food... bad. Killing another member of the team... bad... And what's the ultimate? Work for the team, obey the society, obey the leader. That's good. Does that sound like the 10 commandments? Good. You're still with me... Now, as the tribes/teams became larger and larger.. you would eventually find people that couldn't work with that team. They were eventually outcast, and would become loners until they formed their own team, or joined up with another one. Eventually the teams themselves became so large that they couldn't easily share the same space and resources. At that point it was either merge, or be consumed via war. Although war has immediate gratification, it is severly damaging in the end to both parties. If it can be avoided and is feasibly possible, the teams can be merged, and this is preferable. (not all tribe leaders had that foresight, however... as our history shows.) Now, here's where the concept of inalienable rights come in... You have 2 tribes/teams, each with their own political structures and laws... but all stem from the same basics (keep harmony with the team). In a true merging, these laws must be merged into a new, third set of laws that the people or both teams will readily accept. Now, over time there were thousands of tribes and associated laws... but they all had common themes. Procreate, support the team, bring success to the team. These rules are necessary to any social fabric to be successful. They may not be God-given, and they're certainly not tangible... But a shared reality among humans won't be sustained any other way. Now, as tribes have given way to towns, and towns to cities, and thus civilization, our needs have evolved, too. At first power over the team was granted by the chosen... and then by birthright... Power was eventually transferred into financial instruments. (A King could always make law... but if the law went against team thought... without gold, he couldn't enforce it...). Gold eventually led to paper money (stocks). The power of money is deceptively simple. Power resides no longer within a person, but in his bank account. That's a good thing(tm), because it allows the power to be transferred easily, should the person be corrupt (anti-team). Communism (pure communism) is a noble idea... but it doesn't solve the anti-team persons, and then there's no mechanism to disempower the anti-team people if need be. Because, just like in corporate life, the people higher up in the food chain don't care what happens below, so long as the food keeps coming. And in that sense, capitalism is better, because it keeps the people on top of the food chain on their toes... The napster struggle has to do with educated individuals, sheet music, and the basic "right" of an individual to act on information. Before the printing press, there was no such thing as copyright law. With the advent of the printing press, it made possible easy copying of sheet music... The problem came when a guy down the street with another printing press, copied his own versions of the sheet music to sell. Educated individuals got together and made a law, but could only enforce it at the printing press level... not at the individual level because it was cost prohibitive (not enough cash to go around) Now, anybody with a good ear and memory can replay music without sheet music. So basically.. if I'm a musician, and I hear a tune, and instantly recognize how to play it, I cannot play it because I haven't paid for permission. Is that dumb, you bet! On the flip side, why should somebody spend the effort to write a new tune when he needs to feed his family and he can make more money working at a McDonald's? And what does that have to do with "inalienable" rights? Answer, NOTHING! What does that have to do with truth and acceptable notions of morality... Answer, NOTHING! Some team laws suck. Some team laws are very good. But it is only those laws that cut across all of human experience that are considered "truths". So there you go... Truths are self-evident, because we use those words to romanticize basic ideals of what works in a social fabric as opposed to what doesn't. They're rights, not because they're inalienable, or God-given, or written on platinum tablets (to update with the times) but because they're ingrained in man's very biological nature. Or maybe it's because there's something a little bit more... Heck, Hitler had a very powerful social structure that WORKED... and if you kick morals aside... we should all be using it... it unifies, guarantees success, and gives purpose to every team member...Why don't we then? hmmm? Or is that not the world you wanted to create?

cute, but sophistry (4.50 / 2) (#186)
by Arkady on Tue Apr 10, 2001 at 03:09:47 AM EST

First, your "descent of man" bit, while an interesting approach, is completely non-demonstrable. Unless you have a Methuselah in your pocket to tell you how these things happened? Since you're positing motivations (which, at the beginning, seem plausible to me) you're out pretty far on a limb; you have no actual evidence for such a derivation of the concept of "rights".

Besides, there are actual historical documents on the history of the conept of a "right". They don't tell us the whole story through pre-history, of course, as you're positing, but they do tell us, for example, that 2000 years ago in Greece there was no concept of a fundamental "right" to personal freedom. It took a revolution in Athens to pass the law prohibiting enslaving citizens for debts.

Oddly enough, most of the things people tend to think of as these inalienable rights can run _counter_ to the collective survival against a typical military threat. Why else would the Creel "Committee on Public Information" (widely credited as the foundation of the PR industry, by the way) have been set up during America's build-up to WW1? Why did even Britain jail those who spoke against involvement in both World wars? Because, in the standard government view, freedom of speech puts the Nation in danger.

So it seems extremely unlikely that the concept of "right" is derived from the collective values necessary for survival in an environment of small hostile tribes.

Nor does this have much to do with "man's very biological nature", since the vast varieties of cultures on this planet demostrate that _nothing_ is (or, historically, has always benn) considered an "inalienable right" in all cultures over time. Without absolute consistency, any argument that there's a biological basis is extremely weak.

It'd be nice to have had your comment formatted properly, since it definitely makes them clearer, but I can't complain. I've made that mistake myself way too many times. ;-)

-robin

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere Anarchy is loosed upon the world.


[ Parent ]
And also (none / 0) (#188)
by rusty on Tue Apr 10, 2001 at 03:49:52 AM EST

And from there you resolve that corporations = evil, and capitalism is bad.

Which is completely not what I said. That's what comes out if you read the article without actually paying attention to it, which didn't bode well for the rest of the comment.

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

I beg to differ... (1.00 / 1) (#192)
by Skywise on Tue Apr 10, 2001 at 04:58:58 AM EST

Your overall argument is human rights and how does the individual gain power?

The standard argument for American Capitalism is for the individual to gain large amounts of wealth, which turns the individual into a corporation.

Which you then, rightfully so, attempt to counter by pointing out that the corporation is then no longer an individual, and acts only in the interests of money.

And its implied that this is a bad thing because "we" have less power to control the corporations than they can control "us". And why is this? Because of capitalism!

And the only way to fight back is to form COMMUNITY... (or the sharing of resources without capital/financial instruments...)

And this is all wrapped up as a social discussion as "human rights" and "truth".

It may not have been what you meant... but it is what you said.

To which I will summarize, and better format my response:

Removing any moral absolute source (God), there is no such thing as "truth" or "rights" EVER. It is all a giant game of mental masturbation, formed by tribes, civilization, or whoever has the most cash at one time.

The only way to oppose such forces, is to start a counter tribe, with your own set of rules (Hitler, Napoleon, Alexander the Great, Thomas Jefferson).

And it is my belief... that INDIVIDUALS (not communities) control "truth". Because people only follow leaders. And the best way (currently) to ensure that individuals have the ability to gain power... is through a capitalistic democracy...

To wit: Individuals create reality... communities follow.




[ Parent ]
No (4.00 / 1) (#206)
by Simon Kinahan on Tue Apr 10, 2001 at 12:02:26 PM EST

Your original version was much better. Individuals demonstrably do not create social realities in any interesting sense. Let us take the classic example of a social construct with no physicical backing: fiat money.

Whether you like it or not, modern money has no value accept insofar as other people accept it as having value, but this position was not reached because someone had a single clever idea. Noone lifted his purse one morning and thought "ahha - this is a bit heavy, perhaps if everyone used paper instead" Noone would have accepted paper money because quite clearly it is not worth anything. Instead what happened was a series of steps, taking aroun 500 years, from precious metal coins as the only form of currency, to gold held in trust by a jeweler or goldsmith and redeemable on demand for paper, to gold theoretically held in trust but actually invested at interest, to paper alone.

As confidence in each innovation grew, the bankers managing the money supply took the next step, and because they never changed what people owned, except very gradually, noone protested, but the people taking each step were basically unaware of the consequences of their actions.

Simon

If you disagree, post, don't moderate
[ Parent ]
Yes (none / 0) (#224)
by Skywise on Wed Apr 11, 2001 at 12:19:04 AM EST

I don't think money is a social construct to begin with. It's a tool to act as an IOU for services rendered. Now, it is social in the sense that you have to have a shared trust that the IOU will be fulfilled or it's worthless along with the shared economy (see Great Depression, fall of the USSR, etc). But once a tribe of men has grown to a point where one man relies on another for his food and bread... there has to be some way of tracking and allocating resources fairly. (My guess, that's why you find so many accounting tablets as the earliest forms of writing.) That's not a right or a wrong, or a "truth"... that's a "need".

Now, an individual has very little actual power... but a strong individual has the ability to coordinate, sway, and lead many people into forms of trust and power sharing that otherwise would not occur. (Religion, governments, etc). Did the economy rise because Clinton said it did, or because Clinton took great legislative action towards it? Did the economy then fall because Bush said it didn't, or because Bush took great legislative action to muck things up?

Either way, it was the Presidents' "reality distortion field" (tm) that swayed opinion, which in turn shaped the shared reality. (It just occurred to me that this is a similar phenomenon to a flock of birds... where one individual bird sways the flock...)

That's my main point anyway...


[ Parent ]
What is demonstrable? (none / 0) (#190)
by Skywise on Tue Apr 10, 2001 at 04:32:26 AM EST

non physical entities can't be demonstrated in a reliable manner to begin with, except through actual historical documents (which only express one viewpoint generally... and then that of the victor of said tribe).

As for an individual "right". I agree that that's a more recent manifestation of human history... but it's no less important. I'd speculate that that "right" has always been latent in the civilizations and never documented as such. (if you personally hated the way things were going in your tribe, you could always leave on your own... which is practically the penultimate of individual rights... can't do that easily today... so it has to be codified...)

I still stand by the biological basis though. Wolves, Elephants, Chickens and even Ants have a very strong social fabric.

(sorry about the formatting... first time poster, and there was a heavy storm coming and I wanted to get it transmitted before losing it... switching to "plain text" would've helped... ;>)

[ Parent ]
well (none / 0) (#324)
by Arkady on Sun Apr 15, 2001 at 04:23:40 PM EST

OK, you have to pick your epistemoliogical level here. Since getting down to the point where nothing can be demonstrated beyond "cogito ergo sum" would render the entire discussion pointless, so let's agree to stay up at the macro (larger than an atom) level, OK? ;-)

At that level, the question of to what degree wolves, for example, have a social awareness is difficult as wolves' degree of intelligence is questionable. For the sake of argument, however, let's allow that and accept wolf behavior as an expression of intelligent social awareness. How does that help?

Wolves do kill other wolves and, though they also sometimes feed pack members who are unable to support themselves, they also allow them to starve. So any right to life cannot be derived from this example of nature, nor from your other example species as elephants, chickens and ants also kill their own kind (or fail to support them in difficult times).

Of the example species two could be said (if we grant the proposition that they are possesed of conscious society) to have some concept of property: elephants and wolves. Neither, of course, seems to have any concept of individual property though both do demonstrate respect for (and conflict over) property claimed by packs or herds. Since in both cases these conflicts are solved through direct combat, however, it's really pushing to claim that the pack's right to its property is based on anything other than raw power.

As far as leaving being a fundamental right (though it's functionally impossible in human society, since the bastards have claimed every scrap of land on the planet and, in many cases, will imprison or kill an individual for trying to leave), it's true that packs and herds generally allow individuals to leave or, more often, drive them off. It can't be called a "right" even in those cases, though, since wolf packs only respect territorial claims of other packs and will drive off or kill any "lone wolf" in their claimed territory. Humans, of course, behave in much the same way on that count.

Basically, I can't see anything to support a biological or other natural basis for any social right.

-robin

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere Anarchy is loosed upon the world.


[ Parent ]
Two sides, same coin (3.00 / 1) (#204)
by Simon Kinahan on Tue Apr 10, 2001 at 11:25:52 AM EST

Interesting comment. Woulda been even better if you'd remembered the "Plain Text" button, but we can't have everything.

I think you and rusty are talking about different sides of the same coin, and incidentally are talking about "rights" and "truth" in very different contexts. I don't buy the "state of nature" argument, because I believe people are intrinsically social - the second two people come into contact they create a society and a social reality. Put a westerner and a hunter gatherer in a cell with a single item of food and tell me I'm wrong. They won't fight over it, they'll discover some basis (probably 50-50) on which they can divide it. On the other hand, its not sufficient to say that we've created a social reality in which something sucky is happening, because it raises the question of how we can make that evaluation when most of our concepts of right and wrong are socially determined.

Rusty is talking about how social realities - systems of concepts and rights and wrongs that are not physically real - get created. People usually talk about things that bring about consequences their society has determined to be good, as good, and things that do the opposite as bad. You're talking about how we judge which ones work and which ones don't.

Its next to impossible to argue that my right to own a piece of software, which is, after all, just pattern that can be represented in various forms, and in one form causes a certain type of computer to do something, is "part of my biological nature". Quite clearly, that right and even the very existence of a piece of software as a single entity, is socially constructed. However, you can claim that certain social realities are more compatible with human survival, and happiness, given human nature than others. To go back to the music example, if in the 19th century musical copyright had not been created, musicians and composers would have been reluctant to release both sheet music and recordings, and most of the world would have been deprived of everything from Gershwin to the Spice Girls. That would probably have made people less happy, on the whole.

Incidentally, fascism didn't work terribly well. Thats why they lost the war. The drove out the people capable of building a nuclear bomb because they were Jewish, invaded Russia in the winter because the Russians were racially inferior and would therefore lose anyway, and gave ultimate power to a funny little man who ultimately was not a very good general. Had the Nazis invaded Britain as they originally planned, they probably would have won, but they didn't, because Hitler had some numerological superstition about the date.

Simon

If you disagree, post, don't moderate
[ Parent ]
A first step (4.66 / 3) (#196)
by leonbrooks on Tue Apr 10, 2001 at 08:36:25 AM EST

The only potential way out of this mousetrap we've created for ourselves is to actually speak directly to each other. Town meetings, open hearings, internet communities, places where people may actually speak as human individuals to other human individuals; these are the only places that we may examine what we have decided will be our reality, and the only places we may possibly decide to change that reality.

You omit the most effective forae of all: one on one interaction.

One person addressing a hundred or a thousand is remote, and to some extent must generalise (as I do here). One friend or relative speaking to another can speak specifically, use concrete examples to illustrate each point, and have some hope of understanding the other's reactions. The orator before the crowd (or cameras) likely can't even sense an individual's reactions, and barely the crowd's.

Many atrocities have been committed by a mob that few of the individuals within the mob would dream of committing alone. This is the other edge of the sword called rights: individuals also have responsibilities - but do crowds?

You may argue that it is more efficient to do things crowd-wise, and I respond: yes, but if it's not done properly, it must be done again.

These things are some of the reasons why public schooling is irredeemably broken, why uneducated and under-resourced families can teach rings around our schools. Here you see some of the reasons that television is eventually a very poor medium of expression: it can't adapt, can't cater to the individual viewer.

That a one-on-one addresses fewer people directly is nolo contendre, but the few you address are more likely to turn around and effectively address a few more each than any of the members of a large audience are. And each time this happens, your reach doubles or triples.

Forae like Kuro5hin can adapt. You can have a knock-down one-on-one is/isn't battle here (and every viewer can learn from it). One individual's striking comment might be responded to, eventually, by scores of others. You can also send an email to many of the participants and start a true one-on-one.

Few voices in corporate media have come out in defense of file-sharing, while the unfiltered voices of individuals have loudly and repeatedly, if not often eloquently, defended it.

Uh, ``a committe is an organism with six or more legs and no brain'' - and what is a corporation but a form of committee?

What other "truths" do we hold to be self-evident? Which of them do we privilege over the lives of other humans, over even our own lives?

Quoting Professor Bernardo from the Moon is a harsh mistress, in one of the few places where Heinlen's and my views agree: ``When is it right for the state do that which is not right for an individual to do?'' - for ``state'' you could read ``corporation'' - and I agree with his answer: Never.

While I've got a head of steam up: about the ``struggle to survive'' bit mentioned below: we've supposedly been burying our dead for 40 millennia, and yet somehow Europe escapes being chest-deep in human bones. The ``primal urge'', ``racial memories'' and ``survival instincts'' excuses for being rude to other people are passe: they never happened (move along folks, nothing to see here...). ``Evolution in action'' is a fundamentally broken idea. Silly rabbits are killed off in droves and hordes, but that hasn't made rabbits collectively any smarter, has it?

Thomas Jefferson had the right idea: we should be truly respectful to all people because each one of us is unique and special. On top of that, such behaviour is synergistic. The only reasonable excuse from this principle is a direct threat, such as is presented by a person or organisation which will not permit such basic freedoms - and even then, although moves can and should be made to destroy and disperse the hostile organisation, this should never get in the way of the rights of the individuals within it.
-- If at first you don't succeed, try a shorter bungee

Only two alternatives? (3.33 / 3) (#209)
by evvk on Tue Apr 10, 2001 at 04:16:20 PM EST

Many postings seem to think that the only alternative to capitalism and private property is some kind of communism and public property. It does not have to be so. I don't see the right to own things as any kind of problem. I like owning a little but not too much. Even though the bus and train companies are always to complain about, the truth is I don't need or even want a car and rather stick with the public transport. (But I don't live in the US.) Using public transport is good for the nature too. But I certainly would like to own a nice apartment instead of living in crappy student housing; they're just too expensive for a student.

No, the real problem is that in capitalism too much political and other decisions are based on money and corporate interests, not what is (presumably) good for the earth and the people. Remember US and the Kioto treatment? Corporations (generally) only care for profits, not the nature. It would not have to be so. Not that I'm any kind of nature hippie, I just think that everything else should come before money and corporate profits/interests.

Just some random thoughts here. I don't believe in "any job, same salary" but do think those with more property/higher salaries or companies making a lot of money should be taxed much more heavily. Unfortunately that can not be done in practice; if one country does that, the corporations and rich people will just move elsewhere. (Why is everything manufactured in poor asian countries anyway?) One idea that I have had in mind is that perhaps people should be given the chance to decide (multiple choice) where some percentage (not everything; that would even less likely work) of their taxes are used. I'd certainly vote for science/ space exploration and secondly social security. Also, a law should guarantee that artists, authors always retain all rights to their works so that corporations can not dictate the terms.

A word on communism. People are too hard to judge the system based on the USSR and other "experiments" because those experiments were never really given the chance to develop to maturity. Instead the great righteous world police and allies prejudicedly responded with the cold war and propaganda. Can a society develop under that pressure? Maybe the system would have evolved into something between the two systems (as many european countries once were; now less as much by way of the european union corporations have gained more power) or even something better. Now we can not know. How long did it take for the capitalist system to evolve to its current state? And throughout history, the rich and powerfull have dictated the terms.

Nope, infinite... (5.00 / 1) (#221)
by Skywise on Tue Apr 10, 2001 at 11:59:23 PM EST

Pure Communism isn't a bad idea. It's what Jesus preached anyway. (Not saying that he had a monopoly on the viewpoint... just using him as a figurehead). It's a very noble cause where all people love, share, and support each other. It's a very alluring proposition and that's why it took hold so well in the early-mid 1900's.

However, in reality, humans have been shown to not be able to resist the temptation to steal power for oneself, which causes communism to crumble. Greed, and the very lust for passion and power are ingrained in our genetics. Saying that the systems weren't given a chance to survive further proves the point. Judaism has been tormented for thousands of years, and it's still around.

Capitalism certainly isn't without its problems, either. But it has the ability to turn power transmission into a discrete, tangible form (money), which makes it easier to manipulate and regulate by the government. It also puts the onus of moral responsibility squarely on the shoulders of the individual where it should be. That way, we, the individuals can decide what is right and what is wrong for ourselves...


[ Parent ]
"in reality" (none / 0) (#225)
by Cyberrunner on Wed Apr 11, 2001 at 01:14:37 AM EST

I have to politely disagree with the idea that humans are absolutely "unable to resist temptation" (as you put it.). Genetics or no ingrained traits, the society at large sets up itself for a continuation of its own ideals. Our society perpetuates the greed, which you say is genetic, because it provides the best motivator for people within our social organizations.

On the other hand, if the organized structures within society implemented something that promoted other qualities, e.g. responsibility, cooperation, etc., then you could only guess what type of people would get to the top. The main problem I see with past systems, from religions to social systems, is how easily the purposes and ideals were manipulated by individuals to be misrepresented to people who casually learned about them. This becomes the background for most people to ignore even the slightest notion of a better structure and leaves the people who are in power in the current system looking better than ever.

All the better for capitalism, is the fact that if something does provide a better solution then it atleast has a fighting chance to succeed without a dictatorship trying to impose its will on general populace. (Leaving out all the possibilities that people with power would use it to disrupt anyone trying to create such an experiment.) As for the idea that types of old communism would prevail, I doubt it. I'm thinking something more along the lines of a more integrated social system that allows anyone to understand and interact with every part of its structures. It could very well evolve from the corporate structures but much more efficient, allowing for human potential to increased a few fold.

[ Parent ]

I've heard this one a gazillion times.. (none / 0) (#227)
by Sheepdot on Wed Apr 11, 2001 at 02:14:17 AM EST

A word on communism. People are too hard to judge the system based on the USSR and other "experiments" because those experiments were never really given the chance to develop to maturity. Instead the great righteous world police and allies prejudicedly responded with the cold war and propaganda. Can a society develop under that pressure? Maybe the system would have evolved into something between the two systems (as many european countries once were; now less as much by way of the european union corporations have gained more power) or even something better. Now we can not know. How long did it take for the capitalist system to evolve to its current state? And throughout history, the rich and powerfull have dictated the terms.

I keep hearing how communism hasn't been fully explored. Pray tell, what *is* the communism that works?

It took zero years (it was actually happening as it tookover) for the USSR to start slave labor camps and the execution of political enemies. Capitalism did what? Rape the land from the Indians? Nope. That was Christianity. Slavery? Yup, that was capitalism, and we grew out of it too. Communism went BACK to it, only this time it wasn't based on race it was based on what you believed. No form of slavery is permissible.

With a semi-capitalist structure (I refuse to call the US economic system capitalist when there are better examples, like Hong Kong) the United States allows people to say "Capitalism sucks". Whereas with communism, you would get a bullet in the head for saying "Communism sucks".

Don't believe me? Run an ad in a Chinese newspaper saying "Communism sucks". Can't do it? Oh yeah, of course you can't.

I would also agrue the "turnover ratio" for the aristocracy in capitalism as opposed to communism. Those people in high positions in a communist country tend to remain there, while the rest of the country has no chance of obtaining a better position. Which is better, the possibility of having a better life, or the (often false) guarantee that no one will have a better life than yours.


[ Parent ]

this is suck troll material (none / 0) (#238)
by patSPLAT on Wed Apr 11, 2001 at 06:50:10 AM EST

It took zero years (it was actually happening as it tookover) for the USSR to start slave labor camps and the execution of political enemies. Capitalism did what? Rape the land from the Indians? Nope. That was Christianity.
Umm... you can't exactly dismiss the genocide of the First Americans and their subsequent incarceration in "reservations" as the activities of Christianity. There were plenty of First Americans being shipped around in this country in the 1800's, as well as plenty of corporations. <blockquoteRun an ad in a Chinese newspaper saying "Communism sucks". Can't do it? Oh yeah, of course you can't. Or maybe try and run an ad that says "Don't eat animals during the Super Bowl. Like PETA, you'll find that you can't. Sure you won't get shot... but you still can't run the ad. And the big secret is -- it doesn't matter. To your typical brain dead American (read: all of us) if it ain't on TV, it ain't real.

[ Parent ]
Define troll. (none / 0) (#267)
by Sheepdot on Wed Apr 11, 2001 at 09:19:22 PM EST

Umm... you can't exactly dismiss the genocide of the First Americans and their subsequent incarceration in "reservations" as the activities of Christianity. There were plenty of First Americans being shipped around in this country in the 1800's, as well as plenty of corporations.

So then draw the line between corporations exploiting Native Americans. You make the assertion that Christianity isn't what did it, so please tell us what did. The *goverment* did a lot of things due to the will of Christianity, Imperialism for example. The only approach to this argument would be for you to come up with some valid examples of corporations exploiting Native Americans and not simply the government expoloiting them through Christianity.

Or maybe try and run an ad that says "Don't eat animals during the Super Bowl. Like PETA, you'll find that you can't. Sure you won't get shot... but you still can't run the ad. And the big secret is -- it doesn't matter. To your typical brain dead American (read: all of us) if it ain't on TV, it ain't real

Trust me, there is a whole world of difference between defending an economic system that can be turned with the power of a dollar and an economic system that cannot be turned by any but a select few.

The point I was making is that the government itself runs the media in China, whereas in the US, competing corporations do. If one rejects your idea, then you goto another and try, it's the power of choice that gives us liberty. Capitalism doesn't impede that liberty, communism clearly does. And must, or it is no longer communism.


[ Parent ]

people are so short-sighted (none / 0) (#240)
by evvk on Wed Apr 11, 2001 at 08:23:47 AM EST

You are completely missing the point: that they weren't given the chance to solve their problems, one of which would have been to get rid of the totalitarian traces. Another revolution might have been necessary to that end, who knows.

Would you like your lab experiment ruined by the school bully?

> It took zero years (it was actually happening as it tookover) for the USSR to start slave labor camps and the execution of political enemies.

Can you name revolution after which nothing like this has happened? (Not that I'd claim it be acceptable.)

> Whereas with communism, you would get a bullet in the head for saying "Communism sucks".

And you'd have been left without consequences if you'd have praised communism in the US during the cold war or at least in the beginning of it? I seriously doubt this. There have been documents of communist persecutions in the US on the TV. And since it is on the TV, it must be true :-). And the US is a free country. Yeah, right.


[ Parent ]
Structured arguments, please. (none / 0) (#268)
by Sheepdot on Wed Apr 11, 2001 at 09:43:18 PM EST

You are completely missing the point: that they weren't given the chance to solve their problems, one of which would have been to get rid of the totalitarian traces. Another revolution might have been necessary to that end, who knows.

The "point" is a VERY weak one, one that cannot be defended by simply saying "they weren't given the chance". Communism existed for over 50 years! Surely at some point slave labour camps and political executions would have stopped, or is that not long enough? I've yet hear this approach on communist utopia. I'm sure the communist intellects would love to hear your reasoning for building a working communist society through over 50 years of slave labor.

Would you like your lab experiment ruined by the school bully? Umm. That is called "force". Any good government would intervene in such a case. Anarchy and a few other political systems would not. I think you are confusing economic systems with political at this point and taking an approach that ultimately leads nowhere.

>It took zero years (it was actually happening as it tookover) for the USSR to start slave labor camps and the execution of political enemies.

Can you name revolution after which nothing like this has happened? (Not that I'd claim it be acceptable.)

What great intellectual integrity you exihibt. First you ask a question, hoping for what I would assume a response. Then you go about saying that my response is not going to be sufficient before I have even given it. What a way to present yourself.

Here are some examples: American revolution, Glorious revolution, the Civil War, French revolution, etc.

There are too many examples to name here. Many of them, like the French revolution, ended in the execution of political prisoners, but they didn't continue to execute people who spoke out after the revolution.

In the Civil War, political leaders of the South weren't lined up and shot in the head for their beliefs.

And you'd have been left without consequences if you'd have praised communism in the US during the cold war or at least in the beginning of it? I seriously doubt this. There have been documents of communist persecutions in the US on the TV. And since it is on the TV, it must be true :-). And the US is a free country. Yeah, right.

First off, I think you know you are arguing a losing case. Getting thrown in jail for what some people consider an "inherent evil" (I don't, I think communists should have the freedom to speak out, even if a country is at war with them) and getting a bullet in the head are two different situations.

In one, you live and get thrown in jail or yelled at, in the other, you die. You cease to exist. That is *real* danger.

I'm tired of arguing pansy communists who have never read the communist manifesto and seen the true horrors it and marxism embodies. Read throught it and come back, I'm willing to debate, but I want someone that can hit the meat of the argument and get there fast.


[ Parent ]

the Russian communist regime (none / 0) (#317)
by anonymous cowerd on Sat Apr 14, 2001 at 05:40:01 PM EST

...I'm tired of arguing pansy communists who have never read the communist manifesto and seen the true horrors it and marxism embodies...

Evidently you have never read the Communist Manifesto yourself. Do please try reading it for the first time, Mr. Brainbox, and then afterward come back and tell us all about these alleged "horrors" contained therein. As far as that imbecilic crack about "pansies" goes, well you can just blow me.

I'm too tired and lazy to rewrite this when I wrote it before. Sorry. I posted this as part of a reply to an article in troll heaven a few months back; with one spelling correction and one added link (warning: verboten to click on that link in either Germany or France!) here it is again. Oh, by the way, before I get to the reprinted stuff it's worth mentioning the fact that soldiers from the U.S. Army, and the Australian army, and the Canadian Army, and, well, all the Allied Armies had invaded Russia to slaughter the Bolsheviks, even before the Bolsheviks had finished their civil war. So much for that post-revolutionary peace you dreamt up, during which the Bolsheviks were supposed to have mitigated the harshness of their wartime martial law. The reprint follows:

...Also note the obligatory slam in his article against the Soviet Union. Got to bring the old dead Soviet Union into any red-baiting discussion, just for background color (red), even if the subject is half the globe away from that nation and utterly unrelated to that regime. Yeah, yeah, you couldn't get a chicken in Brezhnev's Moscow, yeah, the GPU were bad bad bad, but I'm sick to death of this cliche, this one-sided story about how fanatically, consistently and irrationally awful the Russian Communists always were.

As long as some people are waving the word "Communist" around in the air like a slapjack, let's go ahead and talk about the old Soviet Union. For the entirety of the Soviet regime they had a total of maybe ten years max when they weren't either under active ground attack by merciless invading foreign armies or face-to-face with a coalition of enemy nations, devoted, in the fullest extent of their industrial capacity, to the literal genocide of the Russian race. I am using the words "literal" and "genocide" in their precise meanings. Hitler specifically intended to annihilate the entire Slavic race and he made no secret of his ambitions, instead published them worldwide in his 1924 book Mein Kampf. Go read it; it's online. You owe it to yourself to know history. Go read Toland "Rise and Fall"; the deliberate starvation of all Western Russia was a war goal acknowledged in the formal secret plans for Operation Barbarossa.

Then, no sooner did Russia practically singlehandedly cleanse this ungrateful world of that ultimate maniac Hitler, at a cost of a third of their adult population, than it faced a new enemy, their former ally, the U.S.A., in the person of Curtis LeMay and his "nation-killing," H-bomb-armed SAC. Did you know we buzzed Russian cities with strategic bombers on a regular basis throughout the fifties? Did you know that Kennedy put seven thousand megatons in the air during the Cuban Missile Crisis? Did you know Nixon did it again in the Six-Day War? Did anybody reading this pay any attention at all when Reagan joked on camera about having just ordered an all-out attack against the SU?

The Soviet Union was under siege for seventy years. Now my country, the U.S.A., is the richest nation in the history of mankind, with no military enemies anywhere worth considering, and we've got two million people behind bars today. Scratch the first, fourth, fifth and seventh amendments for the "drug war"; go ask ESR about what happened to that second one. What do you think would happen to what's left of our so-called "freedoms" if the U.S.A. were under siege for one year, much less seventy years?

End of reprint. Mr. Sheepdot, if you have anything more substantial to say in rebuttal than to call me a "pansy" - had plenty enough of that shit thirty-five years ago in grade school - whip it out.

Yours WDK - WKiernan@concentric.net

"This calm way of flying will suit Japan well," said Zeppelin's granddaughter, Elisabeth Veil.
[ Parent ]

Straight from the link you provided (none / 0) (#342)
by Sheepdot on Sat Apr 21, 2001 at 04:47:50 PM EST

Straight from the link you provided to the communist manifesto (same as the copy I keep in my political journal when I run across confused Communists):

In this sense, the theory of the Communists may be summed up in the single sentence: Abolition of private property.

It attempt to do a rather pitiful explanation to support this reasoning:

They merely express, in general terms, actual relations springing from an existing class struggle, from a historical movement going on under our very eyes. The abolition of existing property relations is not at all a distinctive feature of communism.

All property relations in the past have continually been subject to historical change consequent upon the change in historical conditions.

The French Revolution, for example, abolished feudal property in favor of bourgeois property.

The assumption communism makes is that a ruling class can be eliminated. However no form of communism has ever been able to sustain itself without killing political enemies. Inevitably a *ruler* does emerge, and opposition is destroyed.

Capital is therefore not only personal; it is a social power.

When, therefore, capital is converted into common property, into the property of all members of society, personal property is not thereby transformed into social property. It is only the social character of the property that is changed. It loses its class character.

But when one location owns the power, is the situation any better? The communist manifesto make an accurate statement in saying class character is lost, but so is worth of an individual in deciding the fate of said property.

When the government owns all property *it* decides what can be done with it. Even when the property usage is done democratically in a communist society, the individual themselves are not the deciding factor, it is the social groups that then take form and fight against each other to decide what to do with said property.

Your vote on an issue means shit in the United States as there are several other individuals that get to vote as well. Government ownership of property only speeds the tyranny that eventually results, as we have seen in both Russia and China.

Not only that, but what point is there to working in a society where you *can't* make a name for yourself? In capitalism there is always a chance you can find something that will work wonders in the market. Currently it is *very* hard for you to succeed, but this is a RESULT of regulations and other government-initiated events that were intended to keep big business in check, but have amounted to the elimination of small business potential.

As for what you put in bold, that sickens me. You are suggesting that the Communist slave labour and political executions are justified in wake of Hitler's Mein Kampf (which is another literary piece full of atrocities, to the human race). This is similar to saying that the United States internment when several Asian-Americans were placed into camps during WWII was justified. That is upsetting.

I'm too tired and lazy to rewrite this when I wrote it before. Sorry.

Why is a distinct feature of communists I debate with laziness?

Please I beg of you, write some more, I'm looking forward to a reply. If you show initiative, I'll continue with the rest I have written up on the Communist Manifesto.


[ Parent ]

Someone please help Rusty... (3.75 / 8) (#214)
by commiepunk on Tue Apr 10, 2001 at 07:30:36 PM EST

I must characterize the arguments presented in this op-ed as SO bizarre that it's difficult to know where to start. I can only hope that Rusty will in the future spend less time contemplating philosophical matters and more time making direct observations of the natural reality which gave rise to him.

First of all, the broad notion of social constructionism is so transparently false that it's breathtaking. It obviously applies to some exceptions, but certainly not to the rules. What we actually see in the world is more like social favoritism - a society placing more stock in one NATURAL IMPULSE than another. Are any of you who are talking this nonsense capable of making scientific observations about the natural world and the creatures in it?

Property rights are socially constructed? Could anyone have picked a more ridiculous place to start? The notion of property rights flows unmistakeably from the territorial impulses present instinctively in humans as well as countless other species. Territoriality is notably present in both large primates and carnivores - so we humans get a double dose! Do you have any idea how a chimpanzee clan reacts when a neighbouring clan wanders on to its stomping grounds? All hell breaks loose. A tribe of human ancestors, living 1 MILLION years ago would absolutely feel wronged if you moved into their hunting grounds and hunted, or run into their camp area and stolen some furs. We can be sure that they knew *instinctively* what property rights were. Now tell me about the historical period - between 1 mya and now - when more than maybe 20% or so of the total property of the human race was publically owned by larger social units. I'll save you some work: for the last MILLION YEARS THERE WASN'T ANY SUCH PERIOD.

Similarly old (NOT SUBSTANTIALLY OLDER than the natural sense toward ownership) is the urge to punish those that raped or murdered. This impulse is simply a manifestation of the collective defense mechanisms of social animals.

I hate to break this to you guys, but the rights listed by Jefferson WERE and ARE SELF-EVIDENT, and have been for millions of years. The big ones ALL ORIGINATE from human biology, and are only REFRACTED THROUGH society. Just because some systems ignored some of these rights or favored some over others from time to time, doesn't mean very much. If a cop violates a suspects rights today, does that mean the rights DIDN'T EXIST, just because they were being violated? The point is laughable. In every case of slavery, exploitation, genocide or absorbtion, with every theft and murder, in no less than 100% of cases, SOMEBODY felt wronged: that fairness had been violated, that an immoral act had occurred, that it just wasn't RIGHT. Even if it was only the victims. And NO SOCIETY had to tell those who were wronged that they had been - the very juices evolution had sent surging through their veins told them that.

Will the social constructionists PLEASE give it a rest and start paying attention to the basic phenomena at work here. We are all civilized (well, most of us), but we're still animals. And that means we have a society, like all others before it, whose rules are of and for animals like us.

FWIW, with specific respect to capitalism - it is in EXACTLY the same boat as democracy - the worst system except for ALL others. And any deviation from capitalism in our society makes just about as much sense as a deviation from democracy would make: i.e. probably very little. If you think the world will be less capitalistic in the year 2500, I think I can be just about CERTAIN that you're simply wrong.

Sorry for shouting so much, but my blood pressure was about 150x normal while I was writing this.



rationality vs your assumptions (4.00 / 2) (#220)
by speek on Tue Apr 10, 2001 at 10:26:54 PM EST

There's a difference between arguing that the concept of property rights is a good fit for human society because of our natural instincts, and arguing that rights exist as parts of objective reality. You yourself imply as much when you say rights flow from the territorial impluses present instinctively in humans. In others, rights aren't an aspect of the world out there - they are an aspect of human groups. ie, of society. As such, they are necessarily constructed by humans, and they don't hold any special status as logical or moral absolutes.

What you are essentially saying is that validation and enforcement of the concept of property rights is the best way for people to live. If some people start disagreeing with that, it's not rational for you respond by saying that we can't challenge the assumptions you hold. It is logical and reasonable to challenge those assumptions. It is logical and reasonable to search for improvements. Because the concept of a right is not an absolute, but rather is based on a pragmatic goal of providing the best society in which a human can live, it is very reasonable to ask, how can we make things better?

You may doubt the possibility, but dismissing it out of hand isn't rational.

--
al queda is kicking themsleves for not knowing about the levees
[ Parent ]

which rights are right? (2.00 / 1) (#230)
by mattc on Wed Apr 11, 2001 at 02:46:22 AM EST

There's a difference between arguing that the concept of property rights is a good fit for human society because of our natural instincts, and arguing that rights exist as parts of objective reality. You yourself imply as much when you say rights flow from the territorial impluses present instinctively in humans. In constructed by humans, and they don't hold any special status as logical or moral absolutes.

They do hold a special status -- they are a reflection of our natural urges, rather than some made-up nonsense that is contrary to human nature. Yes, they may be constructed by humans, but since they are based on human nature they are more workable rights than those that are not based on human nature.

Moral codes that restrict our natural urges unnecessarily are bound to fail, or at least cause serious problems in the society in which they are implemented. Example: communism (and I'd say christianity too, but I'm not interested in a religious debate right now)

What you are essentially saying is that validation and enforcement of the concept of property rights is the best way for people to live. If some people start disagreeing with that, it's not rational for you respond by saying that we can't challenge the assumptions you hold. It is logical and reasonable to challenge those assumptions. It is logical and reasonable to search for improvements. Because the concept of a right is not an absolute, but rather is based on a pragmatic goal of providing the best society in which a human can live, it is very reasonable to ask, how can we make things better?

I am not the original author, btw. I agree with you here. I think the best way to make things better is studying the natural urges and desires of human beings and developing rights / moral codes based on the results of these studies.

[ Parent ]

once on rational ground (none / 0) (#242)
by speek on Wed Apr 11, 2001 at 09:19:34 AM EST

We could have a discussion/debate about what is instintive in humans and what is learned. That would be a long, tortuous, and interesting debate. In fact, it's going on right now amongst many scientists, philosophers, sociologists, etc. It's probably too long and involved to get into usefully here. I would say that asserting that humans have a territorial instinct and that, QED, we must have property rights is about as uselessly simplistic as one could get.

The point is, once we have moved the argument to rational ground, we could have a useful discussion about what strategies would work best for us as human beings. I would love to have that discussion, but it really deserves it's own K5 story submission.

--
al queda is kicking themsleves for not knowing about the levees
[ Parent ]

Hmm (none / 0) (#272)
by mattc on Thu Apr 12, 2001 at 01:15:34 AM EST

I would say that asserting that humans have a territorial instinct and that, QED, we must have property rights is about as uselessly simplistic as one could get.

What would you prefer?

[ Parent ]

discussion without a religious attitude (none / 0) (#286)
by speek on Thu Apr 12, 2001 at 01:11:59 PM EST

I would prefer that we (and by we, I don't just mean you and I) could talk about such things without people getting dogmatic about their beliefs. But, I think you meant, what would I prefer to property rights, right?

I would start by saying that I don't think that our alleged territorial instinct is a good reason for having property rights. There are a number of ways that humans, left to only their own nature and instincts, would act, that we try to control or even eliminate, and that's often a good thing. Even if we did have an individualistic territorial instinct (which I doubt), it might well be in our best interest to try to overcome it. Humans seem more than adaptable enough to overcome these "instincts", and to change the way they live dramatically.

So, I would move the discussion to one where we talk about what good things property rights do for us, and what bad things they do for us. Also, alternatives could be proposed and their merits could be argued.

My main beef with propertarians is that they want to privatize all property, and it seems to me that some property very appropriately belongs in the public domain. Roads, at a minimum, we need to be able to travel along freely, or we'll lose efficiency. And then there's the whole issue of zoning laws, pollution regulation, etc, that I believe have done more good than harm, particularly when you look at the alternative proposal, which is to eliminate all such laws, make everything privately owned, and rely on people to sue each other over property damage caused by other's carelessness. However, using the courts to determine what is proper and what is improper for people to do with their property would be just about the least efficient way of doing things that I could imagine. Laws, though sometimes poorly thought out, do save a lot of costs in this respect.

I would also get rid of all IP laws. Copyright isn't doing us much good, and it hurts the free exchange of ideas. Patent law probably does some good in a few particular areas, but it also stifles things in other areas. I believe, with some imagination, we could develop alternative funding models (imo, patent law=funding model) for the research we want to continue.

--
al queda is kicking themsleves for not knowing about the levees
[ Parent ]

once on rational ground (none / 0) (#243)
by speek on Wed Apr 11, 2001 at 09:28:32 AM EST

We could have a discussion/debate about what is instintive in humans and what is learned. That would be a long, tortuous, and interesting debate. In fact, it's going on right now amongst many scientists, philosophers, sociologists, etc. It's probably too long and involved to get into usefully here. I would say that asserting that humans have a territorial instinct and that, QED, we must have property rights is about as uselessly simplistic as one could get.

The point is, once we have moved the argument to rational ground, we could have a useful discussion about what strategies would work best for us as human beings. I would love to have that discussion, but it really deserves it's own K5 story submission.

--
al queda is kicking themsleves for not knowing about the levees
[ Parent ]

What does "a right" mean to you? (none / 0) (#222)
by forrest on Wed Apr 11, 2001 at 12:07:55 AM EST

The notion of property rights flows unmistakeably from the territorial impulses present instinctively in humans as well as countless other species.
That's clear enough. So, how do we get from territorial impulses to property rights? Are they, in your mind, the same thing? I don't see any way to get from one to the other except for the social construction you so abhor. Maybe you can show me another way?

In every case of [rights being violated], in no less than 100% of cases, SOMEBODY felt wronged: that fairness had been violated, that an immoral act had occurred, that it just wasn't RIGHT.
Is this the definition of a "right"? Someone feels that it is wrong? A child feels that it's wrong when Mommy won't let him have all the ice cream he wants. Has his "right" to have ice cream been violated? Is this "right" not socially constructed?



[ Parent ]

Someone please help commiepunk (5.00 / 1) (#246)
by strumco on Wed Apr 11, 2001 at 09:44:50 AM EST

Now tell me about the historical period - between 1 mya and now - when more than maybe 20% or so of the total property of the human race was publically owned by larger social units. I'll save you some work: for the last MILLION YEARS THERE WASN'T ANY SUCH PERIOD.

I'm afraid you are simply, factually and historically wrong.

For most of human history, property (where such a concept existed) resided in the tribe or clan - not in the individual.

As recently as the feudal period, the lord did not own the land. He may have controlled its use, but could only do so according to custom and practice. The land was "held in common". In fact, "common land" exists in the UK to this day.

Do not confuse territoriality with property - they are not the same thing. Indeed, for a species which was largely nomadic until fairly recently, territoriality could only ever apply to a temporary range. A nomad doesn't "own" the territory he happens to occupy - although that won't stop him fighting someone else who tries to take it over.

"Property" is a fiction - sometimes useful, sometimes dangerous, always worth re-examination.

DC
http://www.strum.co.uk

DC
http://www.strum.co.uk
[ Parent ]

Thank you for agreeing with me! (1.00 / 1) (#254)
by commiepunk on Wed Apr 11, 2001 at 12:53:56 PM EST

> I'm afraid you are simply, factually and historically wrong.

> For most of human history, property (where such a concept existed)
> resided in the tribe or clan - not in the individual.

On the contrary, this is *exactly* what I said. But clans and tribal units are much more like families than societies. I even used a clan as an example! To be clear: are you actually suggesting that a clan would generally have no concept of what was their property? That they would simply allow members of another clan to simply take what they wanted?

I WAS FACTUALLY CORRECT. I specifically said that LARGE SOCIAL UNITS never owned much. Socialists gain no ammunition for their cause by referring to the behaviour of small, often genetically-related social units. Of course families and clans share wealth - but they have vastly more in common with each other than with strangers.

What happens when a strange insect enters a honey-bee hive? Even if it's another member of the same species, if it's not closely related genetically, there is an excellent chance that it will be stung to death just for showing up. Not to mention the obvious case of what will happen to a bear looking for a little honey...

What, fundamentally, is the difference between a tiger pissing on his scent posts around his territory and a farmer putting up a fence around his property? Aren't they both trying to control the food supply on their piece of property. One is primarily keeping rival predators out, while the other is primarily keeping herbivores in, but they both would attack a threat to the food supply on their property...

Why is it that honey bees and tigers have a firmer grasp of property rights than you do? What have you done to suppress the instincts that have served our species so well?


[ Parent ]
Twisting in the wind (none / 0) (#279)
by strumco on Thu Apr 12, 2001 at 09:59:35 AM EST

I specifically said that LARGE SOCIAL UNITS never owned much.
Yet the largest social units of their day - the tribes and the clans, were where ownership resided if it existed at all.

What, fundamentally, is the difference between a tiger pissing on his scent posts around his territory and a farmer putting up a fence around his property?
The difference is one of "rights". The tiger has no right to the territory - no "title". If a bigger tiger comes along, all the pissing in the world won't keep it. (Have you ever tried to buy a tiger's territory from her?) The farmer has persuaded society as a whole to grant him exclusive "rights" to a certain territory (and it is society which has to power to grant that right).

What have you done to suppress the instincts that have served our species so well?
If we hadn't suppressed our nomadic instincts, the idea of property might never have existed. There are a vast swathe of aboriginal "instincts" which we have had to suppress in order to allow our complex society to survive.

DC http://www.strum.co.uk

DC
http://www.strum.co.uk
[ Parent ]

"Property Rights" (none / 0) (#259)
by NovaHeat on Wed Apr 11, 2001 at 03:33:20 PM EST

Property rights, as you're defining them, stem from primeval urges for territory, breeding/food ground, etc... and you very well may be right, but property rights as we understand them now do not now, and have not historically, exist the world over. Consider slaves in the United States. They had no property rights whatsoever. The society they lived in constructed a reality in which negroes had no rights to property. The same situation existed in Russia until ~1861 or so, when serf emancipation got underway.

Social constructionism is not an airtight philosophy, but it does hold some water (without social constructionism, baseball scores, for example, would be meaningless, since a 'score' per-se does not 'exist' in a normal sense). Simply discounting social constructionism without being fairly well steeped in the metaphysical implications of what it means, and how it can be applied is pretty foolish, imo.

-----

Rose clouds of flies.
[ Parent ]

might is not right (none / 0) (#287)
by picasso on Thu Apr 12, 2001 at 02:04:46 PM EST

Capitalism and democracy have little in common. They are not dependent on each other. In fact some of the most democratic societies today do not embrace capitalism. Democracy tends to be more visible in societies that embrace socialism. The PR machine has worked hard, particularly in America, to marry the idea of capitalism to democracy. So much so that when you ask many Americans to define democracy the responses lead to little more than a discussion on the rights of money and the capitalist dream. Sure America is free, but it is not a democracy. It just has the perception of being a democracy. In fact a democracy embraces the rights of individuals to control their livelihood, their workplaces, their institutions, to have a say in their community, to make policy, to live equally and freely. Democracy leads to the redistribution of wealth. These ideas run counter the activities of corporate America. In America governments, corporations, an elite, work to dissuade you from exercising these rights. Most important is the idea that wealth not be redistributed. American foreign policy tends to punish more democratic societies for not embracing capitalism. Better for a trans national corporation to own the natural resources. A society may not be able to make the sound decisions necessary to properly exploit that natural rain forest. Capitalism is not the natural winner. It is the might means right winner. Humans naturally tend to be happier and healthier in socialist communities, as do most animals. We are social creatures.

[ Parent ]
Property and prosperity (4.88 / 9) (#216)
by johnw on Tue Apr 10, 2001 at 08:23:35 PM EST

It's interesting that you mention property and its basis in social belief. Even further, that our definition of property has come to rule our lives, and that power is being progressively handed over to those who would further this definition. Lastly, that individuals communicating directly can alone escape this cycle, and decide upon a new ideal that will better serve human needs.

I want to add something to your concept of property, as one human to another within our community. Property is such a core element of American society, that we tend to view it as construct of its own. However, as I was thinking about this many months ago, it occurred to me that property means something different than a question of ownership.

If I walk into a computer store and pick up a laptop, without paying for it, someone will try to stop me before I leave. If I ignore them, they will call on additional force. This interaction will continue to escalate until sufficient force is brought to bear, and I am stopped.

However, If I walk into the same computer store, put down two thousand dollars, and then walk out, nothing will happen. In this case, the computer is publically viewed as my "property", and no one will stop me. In addition, if someone else tries to take that computer from me, I can bring the same forces to bear to stop them.

These "forces" are continually applied until the problem is solved. At first it may be the store clerk, then rented security, then the police, and ultimately the national guard if I choose to encamp myself with a group of followers. The same forces will work for me in reverse, if someone tries to steal my property.

So in a sense, property has nothing to do with the object I purchase. Instead, capital, of which property is just a physical part, is a contract between the powers of our nation and myself. By carrying two thousand dollars to the computer store, I am "renting" our national might to prevent the computer store from ripping me off, or anyone else from stopping me during this legal transaction.

Then even as I sit here in my house, none of this is mine. Merely, there is understanding between me, the people around me, and our government, that the necessary forces will be brought to bear if anyone violates the property lines that have been drawn. Looked at it this way, it is a rather precarious arrangement, continually dependent on mutual assurance and belief, just as you suggested.

This arrangement is also directly related to the strength of our nation, and its willingness to pursue vindication after acts of wrong-doing. With a very strong government, no act of violation will go unseen, and the notion of property is both fiercely defended and defined. With a weak government, who hasn't the resources or focus to pursue every instance, it requires social goodwill to maintain any notion of property at all.

In our country, the government is strong and the corporations are strong. The corporations, in their pursuit for continued existence as you mentioned, want the ideal of property very well guarded, and so they willingly help the government to be stronger. Government, in its turn, recognizes the benefit of this mutual relationship, and responds by helping create an environment where corporations can thrive.

When it comes to property, and protecting my personal and emotional investments in society, this is a good thing. The stronger the companies and government are, the less likely it is that anyone will trespass on my property -- that is, any property which falls under the protection arrangement I paid for. If the definition of property becomes more strict (as it does sometimes when laws change), I may find that my ownership has grown stronger, but smaller in scope.

Yet going back to the idea that ownership is really "renting the forces of government", I find that this is the basis of my relationship with our government. Government exists to promote the social welfare, which means creating a place where everyone can pursue their own ends in harmony. It restricts liberty wherever such liberty would cause a loss of freedom to others.

Nor is government is not a heaven-sent entity that existed before me, will exist after me, and nothing can be done about it. Our government was created by people very much like myself, who saw a need for establishing standards of agreement, and ensuring they would not be violated. Property is one of these standards, as it gives people a wide berth to act and consume resources, without forever concerning themselves with threats from outside.

However, our culture has progressed (or digressed) since that time to a state of extreme materialism. Our society seeks to promote material welfare to the exclusion of all else. The is epitomized in companies, whose growth and development depends on material acquisition. For them, the "bottom line" is the only defining reality, and everything else is subservient to this end. Such may not be the case for me personally, or for others, but it will always be for them as they are currently constructed.

A company's bottom line is determined by their customers, the increase of whose desire is their main reason for growth. Thus, at some point, I ceased to be a human being to them. I became only a customer, a demographic; and whatever they can do to increase my thirst and need for their product or service, is in their best interest.

To this end, the media and its machinery have begun to perceive me as an economic unit, rather than a person. This goes far to justify many of the practices we see today. Take sexual attraction, for example. It is a natural and powerful agent for motivating people. Companies see the compelling nature of this agent, and have exploited it to make me a more eager and regularly spending consumer. Gone is the thought that perhaps I do not want my life dominated by sexual impulses; absent is the concept that perhaps I don't want their product, or that advertisers should leave me alone. I am but a unit of currency in their forecasts, and both media and government (who is intimately linked to the corporations) have begun to believe this.

What we need to change is not the existence or role of our corporations and governments. They are strong, and serve us in some ways, such as guarding property, very well. What is lacking is the human element, and the pursuit of a higher ideal than property and materiality. In such a world, spamming could have no place, because spamming assumes a fundamental disinterest in the one being sold to. What we need a realignment of our excellent structures toward a higher social ideal, rather than a mere restructuring.

This is something I believe communities are indeed perfect for. By collaborating together to achieve a sense of who we are, and what we want to achieve as a civilization, we can en masse influence our government, and use this influence to chastise the corporations, who have become like economic tyrants. But this cannot happen constructively without a common, positive vision for the future. Anarchy is not the solution, for along with the evils we see today, it would dissolve many of the goods that have come from the structures that currently prevail.

The situation we are living with now is not unlike that of a rich man with no aim in life. Which course will he choose, but the one most readily apparent? And if those arise who are indifferent to his view, they are swept aside by the force of his resources. Isn't this what is happening now? Some of us cherish freedom, and see potential for the human mind to grow along paths undreamt of. We can achieve far more than the mere economic security we've established so far. But our powerful organizations, which we have each and all created by our effort and cooperation, are defining their own goals now, leaving us by the wayside, causing us to wonder at all of the lawsuits, patent abuses, advertising methodologies, etc. By failing to understand and express our own vision for the future, we have left these behemoths to pursue their own, most facile course.

The solution, as I see it, is not merely the creation of communities as an antithesis to government and big business. They should be a place for us to converse openly, freely, on the topic of our common future. Once this is done, and we realize the necessity for change, and the requirement for plans to help us accomplish this goal, our aspirations can make their way through government to the powers that be, and as a collective whole we will begin our ascent to a new level of social well-being.

In short, what we have now is good, it is only misdirected; and this lack of direction has encouraged the discord we see around us, as if a room of powerful robots had been left without a plan. Let us come together, and by so doing scatter these forces of confusion, for only such a union can bring about the evolution we need, rather than mere revolutions, whose historical short-sightedness have only continued the problem under different guises and using different names.



A definition of ownership (4.00 / 1) (#244)
by odd_raisin on Wed Apr 11, 2001 at 09:29:14 AM EST

Ownership, as it seems to me, is defined as anything that I put work in to. If I were to go out into the forest and gather berries, then those berries would be mine by right of the sweat of my brow. Before that, they were nobody's berries.

In your example, the two thousand dollars is a representation of the work you did for somebody else. So money represents work, not anything in and of itself. Some work is more valuable / scarce, and that's why some people get paid more.

The government in this example is stepping in, not because you rented them, but because it is their job to keep the peace. Somebody taking something that belongs to somebody else isn't right. It is breaking the social contract that we have in place. So the government steps in and stops the action. That is their job, to maintain the social contract. Those who don't (criminals) have some of the benefits of adhering to that social contract (e.g. the freedom to walk around) revoked.

[ Parent ]

Self-evident it is not! (4.00 / 3) (#223)
by decaf_dude on Wed Apr 11, 2001 at 12:18:13 AM EST

These two simple words are, in my not-so-humble opinion, the root cause of the arrogant, aggresive, self-righteous behaviour the USA has displayed in the last century (and seems to be continuing in this one too).

Seems to me that the majority of Americans fail to understand that not everyone shares the same beliefs. In my first year on Uni I took a course called Reasoning & Communication, where I learned the difference between reality and actuality. Rusty hits the nail on the head when he states that reality is nothing but our perception of the actuality.

For instance, the Earth was always ball-shaped (well, roughly) 3rd rock from the Sun, which in turn was the center of our system. However, until recently (historically speaking), church was burning on a stake everyone who dared say that Earth wasn't a flat plain right below Heavens (or sum such idiocy). Of course, the exception were Islamic scholars, who "knew" The Truth(TM)(R) roughly since 8th century.

Europe was long a stronghold of "socialist" beliefs that people have more rights than corporations and that the latter need to be strictly controlled to ensure they don't encroach on the "rights" of the former. Unfortunately, the "free market" demon seems to have permiated our society too, and we are slowly inching towards a state which is wholly owned subsidiary of [insert your most hated corp. here].


--
http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=89158&cid=7713039


Not even the Medieval Church was that stupid, dude (none / 0) (#234)
by leonbrooks on Wed Apr 11, 2001 at 06:13:26 AM EST

until recently (historically speaking), church was burning on a stake everyone who dared say that Earth wasn't a flat plain right below Heavens (or sum such idiocy).

Gee, for someone who just learned so much, you haven't done much research. There were strong factions both inside and out of the Medieval Church advocating both views (and apparently some less conventional views as well). This little straw man is often trotted out when there is no better reason for slagging off all things Christian and particularly in the area of science. It's blindingly obvious that there is no substance to it when you consider how many other things the Medieval Church did - and can't excuse- that were horrific.

In point of fact, there are several texts in the Bible which are only consistent with a spherical world ``hung on nothing.'' Concluding that the Bible teaches a flat Earth requires a special mindset, the same kind of mindset that sees aliens around every corner.

Europe was long a stronghold of "socialist" beliefs that people have more rights than corporations and that the latter need to be strictly controlled to ensure they don't encroach on the "rights" of the former.

Here you are on stronger ground, sort of. Countries that began at the ethic which upholds individuals as more important than organisations rang slap bang into the same Medieval Church, which in its modern form still insists (sometimes explosively) that it alone has the right to rule over all others, and that one organisation in particular - itself - had to be protected at any cost.

Incidentally, it ``could do no wrong'' - very much like Microsoft in character. So much so that it redefined terms: ``at peace'' means to them ``at peace (in agreement) with the Church'' so you could be peaceful but not ``at peace,'' or you could be ``at peace'' while you were butchering people.

Those nations which refused to submit to - or threw off the yoke of - this organisation were without exception the ones which championed individual rights. Later, human nature being what it is, this decayed somewhat, but nevertheless they did start out with the right idea, in relative terms.

These days, of course, with the EEC (Europe Entirely Catholic) programme running to completion - plus or minus a few hiccups - Europe in general is increasingly discarding individual rights again, subverting them to ``the good of the many.''
-- If at first you don't succeed, try a shorter bungee
[ Parent ]

Hmmm.. (none / 0) (#257)
by acronos on Wed Apr 11, 2001 at 02:11:45 PM EST

I would like to know some of the scriptures that imply that the world is round. I know lots of them imply that the world is flat. The Bible often refers to "the four corners of the earth." It has been some time since I researched this though so I don't remember many more than that. At the time, I was stuned by how strongly the bible advocated that the world was flat. At the time I was a Christian and believed in the absolute truth of the Bible. This was a tremendous blow on my faith. Other factors have since done much more damage to it. I am no longer a Christian. Nor do I believe the bible holds absolute truth. But, that does not change my curiosity about what it says because I dedicated so much of my life to studing it.

[ Parent ]
well... (none / 0) (#297)
by naasking on Fri Apr 13, 2001 at 10:43:12 AM EST

I know lots of them imply that the world is flat. The Bible often refers to "the four corners of the earth."

I'm sure lots of poetry from after the time when we knew the Earth was round referred to the "four corners of the earth". It's metaphorical, not evidence that the Bible supported a flat Earth.


[ Parent ]
A European most of all could never complain... (none / 0) (#247)
by slaytanic killer on Wed Apr 11, 2001 at 10:35:49 AM EST

These two simple words are, in my not-so-humble opinion, the root cause of the arrogant, aggresive, self-righteous behaviour the USA has displayed in the last century (and seems to be continuing in this one too).
Do you remember this phrase: "Walk softly, and carry a big stick"? It was the US' stance on foreign policy until WW][ forced the US to change it. It became impossible to just be an observer of international affairs; whether North Americans wanted to or not, they had to be catapulted onto the world stage.

You seem to be a European. I am also in Europe. And I strongly would like to point out, as many have, that we'd both have no choice but to talk German, if the US hadn't become such arrogant assholes.

[ Parent ]
Here here! (3.00 / 1) (#264)
by ShadowJack on Wed Apr 11, 2001 at 05:54:36 PM EST

I pledge allegiance- I pledge allegiance to the corporations and to the republics Witch they control. With liberty and justice for those who can afford it... I'm thinking of a new word "Demockeracy; A form of government where the people, in a fog of delusion actually believe that they are free!" I feel that corporations and the government are becoming one. How many laws are passed every day because of money given to lobbiests? How is this good for you and I? How is thios called a democracy http://www.vineyard.net/vineyard/history/pledge.htm

[ Parent ]
I think I know who you are. (3.00 / 1) (#273)
by Wah on Thu Apr 12, 2001 at 02:41:51 AM EST

Actually I'm pretty sure. If so, glad to see you dropped by.

So I'll go ahead and introduce you to the world of grammer/speling nazism.

How is thios called a democracy

"preview" is your friend. html ain't bad either. :)
--
Fail to Obey?
[ Parent ]

'tis you who is arrogant, weenie. (3.00 / 3) (#276)
by G Neric on Thu Apr 12, 2001 at 09:04:53 AM EST

while not wrong prima facie, your appropriately not-so-Humble Opinion betrays its ignorance of history.

At the time the American Declaration of Independence was written, the entire surface of the earth was ruled by royals who claimed Divine Right to rule, and meted death to anyone who disagreed. The American Declaration of Independence was a radical document at the time because it suggested that no man was above all others. In that light, "we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal" is an idea very much in keeping with your own views, I would think. You might say that the Declaration of Independence was the GPL of its day.

And starting with that radical phrase, the world's oldest democracy, the United States of America was born... who knew then how widely the freedoms created by the American Revolution would spread to other people across the rest of the globe to the benefit of those people, and ironically how many of these people's children would resent the very America that unselfishly helps them preserve their freedom.

[ Parent ]

History lesson (none / 0) (#280)
by strumco on Thu Apr 12, 2001 at 10:19:48 AM EST

At the time the American Declaration of Independence was written, the entire surface of the earth was ruled by royals who claimed Divine Right to rule, and meted death to anyone who disagreed.
Dear me, no. The Divine Right of Kings had been firmly squashed in England, a century and a half before the Revolution.

The core documents of the Revolution were indeed remarkable, but not unique. They arose from a broader context of political thought and writing.

And USA is not "the world's oldest democracy".

DC
http://www.strum.co.uk

DC
http://www.strum.co.uk
[ Parent ]

Give credit where it is due (3.00 / 2) (#282)
by G Neric on Thu Apr 12, 2001 at 12:25:36 PM EST

And USA is not "the world's oldest democracy".

Apart from the planet Vulcan, it is too: I challenge you to name another democracy that existed at the time of the American revolution.

The core documents of the Revolution were indeed remarkable, but not unique.

I never said that Jefferson or the American founding fathers dreamed up the Declaration of Independence in a vacuum. However, even beyond its obvious and unique success, the American Revolution was an absolutely unique event and the Declaration of Independence was not the mere writings of one or more political theorists, but rather it was an act of political rebellion against a king, an act which carried the death penalty, and an act which created independent states who were themselves democracies and which soon banded together to form what we know today as the world's oldest democracy. There are no other writings of that time that carry anywhere near that stature. In a previous age, the Magna Carta is also seen as an incredibly important precedent, not for its words or philosophy but because it was a political act.

The Divine Right of Kings had been firmly squashed in England, a century and a half before the Revolution.

one may quibble but the fact remains that in 1776 England had a powerful king who sat on an inherited throne, and shared power with a legislative House of Lords consisting of other nobles (many, the king's relatives) who inherited their claims to power.

[ Parent ]

answer to your challenge (none / 0) (#290)
by drewbydrew on Thu Apr 12, 2001 at 02:51:35 PM EST

france
-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_ You can't scare me, I believed in Social Security once.
[ Parent ]
france was not a democracy as recently as 1944! (3.00 / 2) (#291)
by G Neric on Thu Apr 12, 2001 at 04:27:32 PM EST

france? nice try. france was not a democracy at the time of the american revolution, and if it had been, anyway it has not been during several periods since and would therefore still not qualify as world's oldest.

[ Parent ]
Cop out (none / 0) (#303)
by costas on Fri Apr 13, 2001 at 06:17:59 PM EST

I am Greek. Ancient Greeck city-states were Democracies, at least as much as the Jeffersonian US was a democracy (which it was not; it was and is a Republic). And while it may be true that Greece seized to be a democratic country in in abou the time of Alexander and only became a Republic again in the 1800s, still that's more than ~2 centuries of a Democratic history.

The only real claim you can make for the US is that it is the oldest continuously democratic state in existence today (Ancient Athens was democratic for a coupla centuries longer than the US has existed, a coupla milennia ago). That's about it, but that's not much. Shit happens.

memigo is a news weblog run by a robot. It ranks and recommends stories.
[ Parent ]
greece was a military dicatorship in the 1960s. (3.00 / 2) (#308)
by G Neric on Sat Apr 14, 2001 at 01:03:38 AM EST

greece was a military dicatorship in the 1960s. did you ever see the film Z?

[ Parent ]
True (none / 0) (#309)
by costas on Sat Apr 14, 2001 at 03:04:58 AM EST

... it was; I was born during that time; my parents still joke about it (the Constitution of the country changed 3 times, roughly around my mom's pregnancy). It was also a dictatorship around WWII and the rest of the time we had a (foreign-imposed) king as head of the Republic (until '74).

That wasn't my point though. My point was that if you count all the periods Greece (or to be more exact certain parts of Greece) have been a democracy or a republic, the duration of the US's *existence* seems like a historical blip. And France did have a longer period of a Republican state than the US as well, just not continuously... That's why I suggested you could use the "longest continuous democracy still in existence" claim. That, AFAIK, may hold water.

Funny you should mention the '67 junta though, since that was a US-supported dictatorship (the CIA chief in Athens at the time has admitted to it).

memigo is a news weblog run by a robot. It ranks and recommends stories.
[ Parent ]
my original statement wins as being true (3.00 / 2) (#329)
by G Neric on Sun Apr 15, 2001 at 04:50:30 PM EST

That wasn't my point though. My point was that if you count all the periods Greece (or to be more exact certain parts of Greece) have been a democracy or a republic, the duration of the US's *existence* seems like a historical blip.

so what? "even a journey of 1000 miles begins with the first step."

More important than your point was my point: the oldest democracy in the world is the United States. Though it's two century span may be a blip, that must make the democracies we see in other coutries bliplets. I think the democracy practiced in the past in parts of Greece and Rome were important achievements. But not as important to the state of global affairs today as the American Experiment. More people live free in the world today, and a greater percentage, than ever before in human history, and it is the result of the Pax Americana.

Now, even if the US could not lay claim to the title of the oldest, it would still be special as among the most vigorous and free democracies. We are lucky to have the most free speech, and very little corruption, and as important in everyday life, an unusually free economy.

countries, like people, resent successful neighbors, so we get a lot of criticism, but it's motivated mostly by jealousy I guess. I'm not saying we're better people: most of us came from someplace else, we are all your relatives. But we are lucky that the way it's all come together here has been such a success.

[ Parent ]

no cop out (3.00 / 2) (#338)
by G Neric on Thu Apr 19, 2001 at 06:32:45 PM EST

The only real claim you can make for the US is that it is the oldest continuously democratic state in existence today

I just noticed this. Yes, but that's standard English for "the oldest". If I asked, "who is the oldest person in the world" the answer would be somebody alive. "Who is the oldest person ever" is the way of asking one longest-lived in the past, and "who was the first person in the world" is... you get the point.

so, just like "what is the largest country", so "what is the oldest democracy" has only one, unequivocal answer that requires no other qualification. I'm making a fuss about it because most people do not realize it. It is popular to dismiss the US as a "young" country, but in terms of political sophistication, we are among the oldest. Our Democratic Party is the world's oldest political party, by the way.

[ Parent ]

The democracy race. (none / 0) (#335)
by strumco on Tue Apr 17, 2001 at 06:37:56 AM EST

Apart from the planet Vulcan, it is too: I challenge you to name another democracy that existed at the time of the American revolution.
Well, the most obvious one was Britain itself. Not a pefect democracy, of course, but neither was the first US version. Indeed I don't know of a perfect democracy, now or at any time.

As to which is the longest-running democracy, historians can spend hours, days, decades arguing that; it depends what you mean by democracy.

As Ghandi said when asked about Western democracy, "it would be a good idea".

DC
http://www.strum.co.uk
[ Parent ]

c'm'off it! (3.00 / 2) (#337)
by G Neric on Thu Apr 19, 2001 at 06:22:16 PM EST

Britain? that's like saying the Soviet Union because the whole Politburo gets to vote. as I said in the very post you were replying to:

in 1776, England had a powerful king who sat on an inherited throne, and shared power with a legislative House of Lords consisting of other nobles (many, the king's relatives) who inherited their claims to power.

to which I will add, that there was also a House of Commons is historically important, extremely important, but still: not a democracy. The American states were "purely democratic" in that they were governed completely and entirely through the votes of common people, the extent that in American English "commoner" is an archaic word.

[ Parent ]

Get on it (none / 0) (#340)
by strumco on Fri Apr 20, 2001 at 11:21:55 AM EST

"in 1776, England had a powerful king who sat on an inherited throne, and shared power with a legislative House of Lords consisting of other nobles (many, the king's relatives) who inherited their claims to power."
For a great part of his "reign", George III was clinically mad; this affected the governance of Britain not one whit.

Britain, then, was governed by a cabinet & Prime Minister who drew their power from their ability to sustain a majority in an elected House of Commons. No question, the democracy was limited. So was the "democracy" of the new Republic - both were, effectively, oligarchies.

The American states were "purely democratic" in that they were governed completely and entirely through the votes of common people
By the votes of some of the common people.

DC
http://www.strum.co.uk
[ Parent ]

evading counterevidence will not win you this one (3.00 / 2) (#341)
by G Neric on Fri Apr 20, 2001 at 10:56:01 PM EST

By the votes of some of the common people.

Some or all, the salient point is that in the American democracy, there were no nobles. America was not an oligarchy. It was governed solely by the votes of common people. Yes, there were some common people who could not vote, most notably women, children, and slaves, but there were no nobles, only common people voting. You know damn well what I mean, and you know damn well that I'm right, you just don't want to admit that you never realized it till I pointed it out.

The United States of America is the world's oldest democracy.

[ Parent ]

Democracy (none / 0) (#344)
by strumco on Thu Apr 26, 2001 at 08:57:05 AM EST

"evading counterevidence will not win you this one"
And blustering won't win it for you either.

To suggest that there weren't "nobles" in the early days of your Republic displays a profound ignorance of your own history.

And it was a lot more than slaves and women who were excluded from the franchise. The entire electorate for the first Presidential election was smaller than a single Representative district, today.

The USA certainly isn't the oldest democracy. Nor is Britain. Historians have healthy arguments about which society can claim that title - and Iceland's Althing usually wins (not least because few know enough about Iceland to argue about it).

DC
http://www.strum.co.uk
[ Parent ]

tsk, tsk, tsk, cheaters never prosper (2.66 / 3) (#345)
by G Neric on Fri Apr 27, 2001 at 12:16:04 PM EST

You keep cheating to try and make a point, using subtle wording to sneak in pretenders to the ... non-throne of "oldest democracy." Iceland's Althing might have some claim to be the oldest legislature or something, I have no idea, but Iceland was a colony of Denmark till well into the 20th century, and Denmark had a king. Colony and royalty do not equal democracy. And who cares about the size of the early American electorate? Every vote was counted equally: no points given to lineage, no deference to a pope, and nor to a leader of an army. Give up, you're in the wrong.

After England recognized its independence, the USA became the only place on earth ruled only through the vote of its people, common citizens, rich and poor alike. And having kept that tradition continuously till today, the United States of America stands as the world's oldest democracy. And if that sounds like bluster to you, its force comes from the hurricane of truth and gravity behind the story.

[ Parent ]

History lesson (none / 0) (#349)
by strumco on Wed May 09, 2001 at 09:10:30 AM EST

Iceland's Althing might have some claim to be the oldest legislature or something
Oldest democratic legislature. Iceland was a Dependency of Denmark (not a colony) - a fairly autonomous condition. The fact that there was a (distant) king doesn't rule out democracy.

Every vote was counted equally
But the votes weren't distributed equally; most of the inhabitants of the founding States didn't have a vote.

the hurricane of truth
Sounds more like the deflation of a windbag to me {|-).

DC
http://www.strum.co.uk
[ Parent ]

you're pathetic (1.00 / 2) (#350)
by G Neric on Sat May 12, 2001 at 05:48:24 PM EST

Sounds more like the deflation of a windbag to me

Nice try, pinhead: you labelled your post "history lesson"? ROTFLMAO!

I wasn't even disputing that Iceland's Althing was the oldest democratic body. I was simply arguing that the power Denmark's king had over Iceland represented something less than a democracy. And I was right.

However, now that you forced me to go look it up, I've discovered that not only are you as wrong as I thought you were, you are wronger than wrong. You are a fucking idiot. In 1800, the Danish king dissolved the Althing. Poof! Gone! Gee! what a neat democracy that was. So, not only was Iceland not a democracy then, but its modern Althing is not even as old as the United States Congress.

And as to your other statements attempting to disqualify the US as a democracy because there is not (even today) universal suffrage: those same reasons would disqualify your precious Iceland and England too, so where would that leave you? With no democracies?

Clearly, you can continue to dredge up historical lies and half truths to continue to press your personal claim to sentience, but they will be for naught, you worthless turd, you've proved yourself to be both dishonest (you must have read the same histories I did) and stupid (to believe that you could get away with it).

The US of A is the world's oldest democracy, and that burns you because (a) you didn't realize it when you initially tried to dispute my claim and (b) cherish your all too typical preening European sense of superiority and here I, a mere colonial, has shown you up. Ha ha! I've quite enjoyed this. Tally ho, mate!

[ Parent ]

Wrong (none / 0) (#311)
by deaddrunk on Sat Apr 14, 2001 at 11:58:42 AM EST

I think there would be quite a few Vietnamese who would have a quite different view of US 'protection', not to mention Indonesians and others that have suffered, either at the hands of the US military or the US-backed dictatorships. Don't think that we Europeans aren't grateful for something you did nearly 60 years ago, but it isn't relevant to US corporate behaviour now.

[ Parent ]
thank you for calling your post "wrong" (3.00 / 2) (#320)
by G Neric on Sun Apr 15, 2001 at 01:35:17 AM EST

sixty years ago? the cold war ended 10 years ago. you don't think the US was defending europe against the threat of soviet domination? anti-americanism makes me ill. there has never been a more selfless people anywhere. sure, we're not perfect, but nobody is. yet we are incredibly generous including with the lives our soldiers in defending other peoples around the globe. including the Viet Namese: far more people were killed in Viet Nam after the US pulled out. To talk about hypothetical suffering at the hands of the US military, without mentioning the mass murders that took place under communism is very distasteful to me.

and american corporations are generally better behaved internationally than European ones. bribery is actually illegal here and we send our executives to jail for it.

[ Parent ]

But... (none / 0) (#321)
by deaddrunk on Sun Apr 15, 2001 at 05:41:30 AM EST

By your argument, the Vietnamese regime that took over was just a bunch of mass-murderers, whereas the American military 'benevolently' dropped Agent Orange on their forests, napalmed innocent citizens and used the excuse of the Vietcong to send in psychopaths to murder rice farmers. Here's a question for you then. Where were the US military while the Indonesians were conducting a war of genocide in East Timor? Nowhere, but the US and UK arms dealers were in there selling the Indonesians all they needed to oppress their own people and the people of a country they'd illegally invaded. All this so-called selflessness that the US has displayed has been to further US corporate interests. Would Serbia have been bombed had Slobodan Milosevic been a fascist rather than a socialist? Would the Gulf War have happened had Kuwaiti arms buying not been threatened? It's all false. If the World Court is ever allowed any real power, watch a lot of Americans (and Europeans, true) being indicted for being accessories to war crimes.

[ Parent ]
Agreed (4.00 / 1) (#232)
by k5er on Wed Apr 11, 2001 at 04:41:30 AM EST

Communities are important. But when they become aquired by huge corporations, they no longer create their own reality. Slashdot is a perfect example, it is different than what it use to be. Yes, it is still a great place to visit, with cool information, but I can't help feeling it is partly constructing a reality based upon what OSDN wants.

Rusty was smart only to allow OSDN to own the top and bottom of the site. I just hope the site remains the same forever. This site is a true community run by the people, and that is why I visit here more than Slashdot.
Long live k5, down with CNN.

Rights are an Absolute (1.00 / 5) (#236)
by WhiteRose on Wed Apr 11, 2001 at 06:26:45 AM EST

Jumping off of a building has definite Consequences. Like you said no amount of belief otherwise can change that. Making gravity an absolute. People do have basic rights that if ignored will have definite consequences. A small example. I use resourses that I have to invent or create something useful(thing B). The community decides that B is theirs. The community then takes B. Ignoring my property rights. The result is people no longer work at creating or inventing things as hard. Rusty makes the assertion that property rights conflict with the right to life. He puts forth this example. before I died of pancreatic cancer, I was a small farmer in Colorado. To save costs, I accepted cakes of processed sewage sludge from New York City, which I used to fertilize my tree farm. This was legal, because American society, acting through the EPA, has determined that "sludge farming" is an acceptable way to dispose of combined human and industrial wastes, despite the fact that these sludge cakes contain extremely high concentrations of heavy metals, petroleum byproducts, and carcinogenic chemicals. This is not an example of capitalism. The EPA is a government agency and so it does not compete in a free market. If it were the EPA would be replace by a more competent company. SludgeCo would be replaced by a more competent company. Rusty fails to mention that the absence of SludgeCo would result in less food being created without food people starve to death. The rights to property and the right to life do not contridict each other instead they complement each other. We only have so much time on this earth a good portion of that time we spend gathering and consuming property. When a person takes your property they are taking a part of your time. A person or state that takes a third of your income is no worse than a person or state that take about 1/9 of your life. Kills you when your say 80. Here is another arguement stating that capitalism holds property more important than life. I have to get food, and in order to get food away from those who "own" it, I have to give them money. This is just a confusion as to what a right is. If I have food and I refuse to give it to you and you are starving I have not denied your right to life. If your still confused ask yourself does my non-existence help or hinder your interest if you are better off without me existing then yes I have violated your rights. If not, like in this case then your rights have not been validated. Rusty has an exagerated view of corporate power. we have made our ability to control the existence of corporations weaker than their ability to control us. We choose to buy stuff from corporations. In the past boycotts have been successful. We are not powerless to the forces of commercials. We can decide to save our money. We can decide to invest in companys that reflect our views. Money can be a tool of good. Here we arrive at the climax for this Op-ed large numbers of individuals have decided that their reality does not recognize the so-called "right" for corporations to own the files on their computer. Swapping MP3s, in their view, is not "stealing" because those who share their files don't consider themselves to be gaining or losing property. That is, they are challenging the assumption that music is an object that can be owned, by an artist, a record company, or indeed anyone. It seems that the entire purpose of this article is to justify stealing music. So what is the invetible result of people stealing music? The way I see it is the only people who will buy music will be people who believe in capitalism. Thus the only people who will continue creating music will be musicians that have pro-capitalistic lyrics. No more Nine Inch Nails bitching about how terrible money is. This is called Justice and that is another absolute.

A word on "absolutes" (4.00 / 1) (#253)
by Zeram on Wed Apr 11, 2001 at 12:46:28 PM EST

Gravity is not absolute. I can rather easily defie the "laws" of gravity with the use of a force that is thousands of times stronger, namely magnetisim.

Also Justice is not absolute. Your sense of Justice is certainly not mine (although I do have to admit that that third rate hack Renzor getting what he deserves sure as hell sounds like justice to me!).
<----^---->
Like Anime? In the Philly metro area? Welcome to the machine...
[ Parent ]
Inverted. (4.00 / 2) (#255)
by broody on Wed Apr 11, 2001 at 01:03:58 PM EST

I would contend that your (de)construction of "reality" does not delve deep enough. Sure, Debord and Edelman's spectacle occurs around us but "reality" hinges on the patchwork quilt of individual perceptions. The most immediate perception of "reality" "is" mediated through the limited human sense organs and degrades from that point onward as experience becomes increasingly mediated.

We are all absolutely free but many do not seem to realize it. Each of us "is" free to take any action that we choose but often our actions have consequences. We call it responsibillity. The abillity to act without "superior" authority, to make decisions on one's own, to make one's own commitments, debts, and boons "is" one of the cornerstones of freedom.

I believe corporations have much less power then you grant them. Their bloated scope and scale make them vulnerable to boycott, evasion, manipulation, or even outright fraud & sabatage. The unholy demon power of advertising can be tamed through turning off the television, radio, and being more selective in what goods and services one chooses to consume. In this sense, Harry Browne was right on the money, you are more dedicated to your life and desires then any government or corporation will likely ever be. You are more nimble, adaptive, and responsive regarding your affairs then most organizations are capable. Sure, make a target of yourself and you will become one but for John Q. Public the state's (or a corporations) seeming importantance appears minor. An Abbey Hoffman or Timothy Leary, aside.

I would consider the "problem" to be tied more to the scope and scale of our government and corporate entities coupled with the failure of people to strike out on their own. By becoming an independant contractor or consultant each of us can find freedom from being a wage slave or making a dying. Each of us can become our own corporation and enjoy many of the same economic "perks". Yes, I would like to see massive decentralization of political and economic power but no matter how strong such power becomes it is trumped by a free individual.

I also differ with your origins of freedom. I consider the state "granting" freedom to it's people is simple self preservation. Nothing in the world seems more dangerous then a free thinking, atonomous individual. The temporary atonomous zone is within us all. The state cannot take our freedoms, it can only try.

A quote from Crowley seems apt:

1. Man has the right to live by his own law--
to live in the way that he wills to do:
to work as he will:
to play as he will:
to rest as he will:
to die when and how he will.
2. Man has the right to eat what he will:
to drink what he will:
to dwell where he will:
to move as he will on the face of the earth.
3. Man has the right to think what he will:
to speak what he will:
to write what he will:
to draw, paint, carve, etch, mould, build as he will:
to dress as he will.
4. Man has the right to love as he will:--
"take your fill and will of love as ye will,
when, where, and with whom ye will."
--AL. I. 51
5. Man has the right to kill those who would thwart these rights.
"the slaves shall serve."
--AL. II. 58


As always, YMMV.


~~ Whatever it takes
Partially Agree (3.00 / 1) (#260)
by acronos on Wed Apr 11, 2001 at 03:34:46 PM EST

There is a true physical reality, but our experience is only one of perception. The truths of our societies such as gravity, money, and property are only percieved truths and therefore subject to question. As such these truths should be regularly questioned to ensure they still promote the best model of reality. So far I agree with you.

However, the truths that are established by the opinion of the majority are not just friviously created. They are also the truths that will bring the most good to the greatest number of people. In other words, our truths or rules are motivated by our own need to survive and prosper. Societies that have better models usually overwhelm societies that do not. Throughout most of history property laws as we know them today did not exist. The societies that began to believe in property laws rapidly became stronger than those who did not. This is a form of evolution. Survival of the fittest society. Capitalism now dominates the world for much the same reason.

Capitolism is the best economic system we have invented so far. If you can come up with a better system and convince enought people then more power to you, but socialism is NOT it. There are many reasons why money is so valuable to society.

Money promotes balance in society. Good human societies do not exist in a vacuum. You are heavilly dependant on your fellow humans. Societies that work together are stronger than those that are composed of completely autonomous individuals(meaning he would find his own cloths, food, shelter, etc. without any help from any other person.) There is a certain bat species that also is dependant on it's fellow bat. In this species the bats live on blood. Each bat can only survive a few days without blood. Sometimes a bat will go more than a few days without finding a victim. In these cases the community will support the bat that is dying by sharing their blood. Bats that don't share are ostrocized by the group. They are cut off and they die when it comes their time to starve. I believe humans have a similar dynamic at work. They have the system naturally because evolution has put it there. But it only works in small close-nit groups. When groups get large you need a better system. Money is the better system. It does this by putting a value on everything you have or create or do. The value of an item is dictated by how much people are willing to pay for it against how much someone is willing to make it for. You recieve money for what you do and give money for what someone else does. Money is a scorecard. Therefore, you get back EXACTLY AS MUCH AS YOU PUT IN. If your work is valuable and hard to replace in the community, then it will be very valuable and you will be wealthy. If it is less valuable to the community then it will be less valuable to you. Again, money is just a score card. It is not a matter of how hard you work but how your work is valued. You could work very hard moving a mountain with a shovel but unless the community values what you are doing, it will not do you much good.

Many people attribute the evils of society to money. Money is not evil. It is one of our greatest inventions. Property laws are not evil. They are how you are able to drive a car and live in a house rather than a lean-to. They reward hard valuable work. Hard valuable work and a good division of labor are what make todays high technology society possible. This would not be possible the way society was before property laws.

I am not saying capitolism is the best way. I'm only saying it is the best way we have invented so far. Socialism fails because it offers no positive motivation for hard valuable work. In fact, it offers strong disincentive for the most valuable work of all, entrepreteurship.

If you look at the 100 richest people in America, very few of them obtained their wealth by inheritance. Most of them got there by extremely hard work and very good ideas that greatly benifited the society. Many of you might debate that they greatly benifited society. I urge you to reread the discription of the reason for money. Money was given to these people because many people chose and valued their product or idea.

This is already long so I won't go into corporations except to say that corporations are just a colection of people. They do not have the right to vote as a corporation in our society. If they have alot of money it is because people valued what they do and gave it to them. They are no more evil than the collection of people who make them up. All of them benifit society or they would promply cease to exist due to a lack of funding.

Ahem (4.00 / 1) (#310)
by deaddrunk on Sat Apr 14, 2001 at 11:41:46 AM EST

I would call 13 hours a day, seven days a week hard work, but I don't see the Indonesian sweatshop workers being paid as much as the CEO of the US corporation. The current system doesn't reward hard work, it rewards ruthlessness and political skill. Corporations are the biggest polluters, exploiters and corrupters of political systems and need to be reined in before the world's first democracy becomes yet another feudal/fascist republic.

[ Parent ]
Indonesia is not a rich society for a reason. (none / 0) (#316)
by acronos on Sat Apr 14, 2001 at 03:55:19 PM EST

Money is not the only equalizer. Money does not work if people are forced at gun point to do a certain job. Money is a reward system, gun point is a punishment system. People must have the freedom to choose another job if this one is not the best use of their resources. I said in my article that you could work VERY hard and not get much money. But in a free society like America you do have the freedom to choose and you can better yourself to be able to make any amount of money you are willing to sacrifice for. This may not be true in Indonesia because of government. Slavery is NOT a free economic system. At least it is not for the slaves. Governments that encourage slavery will now days always be outclassed by free societies because free societies make the best use of every resource. Slaves are heavily wasted resources because they are not allowed to use the most valuable resource, their mind. Industrial societies will always blow away slave societies. Slavery is not the fault of capitalism. Slavery is the result of bad morals encouraged by the society. Slavery is not good business. It is not the most efficient use of resources. Therefore capitalism discourages slavery in the long run. Morals are usually enforced by the government. There are many oppressive forms of government that have nothing to do with capitalism.

The same applies to corporations. As I stated earlier, the morals of a corporation are determined by its members. Morals and money are only slightly related. If a person's morals are disagreed with by the majority of the people then the court system will usually put that person in jail. If a companies morals are disagreed with by the majority of the people then the people will put that company out of business either by not buying the product or by using the court system.

Corporations are used for a scapegoat. They are an easy target to hate. They seem to allow people to get rich who don't deserve it, at least in the eyes of the majority of the population. The majority of the population fails to see the true value of what a CEO offers because they by definition do not have the skills to know what they do. If they did have an understanding then they would be CEO's or other very profitable jobs. If you are poor it is most likely because of ignorance. Anyone in America today has the potential to accomplish almost anything. The only obstacle is motivation and belief.

Indonesia is a different society with different rules. What you fail to realize is the very wealth that you think should be available to everyone, because it is available to the majority in America, was created by freedom and capitalism. 500 years ago every nation on the planet was as poor as Indonesia. What seems like dirt poor to you would be considered as tremendous wealth by the average person 500 years ago. The difference is because capitalism raised the standard of living for everyone. Now you think Indonesia is being treated unfairly. Indonesia just did not advance as fast as we did. Capitalism there has not been as effective. Most likely this is because the government there is oppressive to real capitalism.

Capitalism is just a score card. The reason capitalism gets such a bad rap is because it does an excellent job at exposing injustice. For societies that don't use such a score card the imbalances are not as readily apparent. This is why the unfairness in the world is so in your face right now.

P.S. I don't know if the people you are referring to in Indonesia are actually slaves or not. Whether they are or not doesn't matter to my point. If it is a free society then those people who work in those "sweat shop" believe that it is better than the alternative. Remove the "sweat shop" and you end up with people forced to the alternative which they have already decided was worse. If they truly are slaves on the other hand then the above article applies.

[ Parent ]
Corporation as ficton (2.00 / 1) (#263)
by therevr on Wed Apr 11, 2001 at 05:35:18 PM EST

Rusty wrote,<BLOCKQUOTE TYP="cite">So life, in a capitalist society, is subordinate to property. My life, and yours, is sustained only at the pleasure of a social fiction. Because of our assent to this form of reality, those who hold the most property may dictate the views of the largest number of people, which in turn recreates and reinforces the reality which enables those property-holders to continue to hold property. There's the rub. The individuals who control the largest amount of property are without exception corporations. Corporations, in the American legal reality, act in a limited sense as individuals. There's anoter, more important fiction that is at play vis-a-vis corporations. The existence of a corporation as an individual is, itself, a legal fiction. In fact, it is a legal fiction created and sanctioned by government, for the purpose of limiting the financial, personal and moral liability of the human beings who invest their time/money/resources/ideas into the corporation. But the only corporation is actually an individual human being is a sole proprietorship.

That corporations are the most powerful individuals out their, because of their economic might, is an interesting observation but obscures this fact that a corporation is not, in fact, a living breathing person. It is, however, accorded the legal rights which are designed to protect the rights (specifically, property rights) of living, breathing persons. This also is a social construct. MegaCorp Inc LLC has the status of an individual for basically one reason: the government says it does. Corporations are creatures, therefore, of government, and the interests of so-called "big business" and so-called "big government" are, despite what we might hear from various quarters, completely in support of one another.

Capitalism, American Society, and Activism (3.00 / 1) (#266)
by TigerBaer on Wed Apr 11, 2001 at 08:34:51 PM EST

So What? This society sucks, its fucked up, and the only possible sanctuary from facist propaganda, i mean Gap commercials, is the community! Should you be charging and breaking down every icon of corporate power? Or should you seclude yourself as a hermit, and peacefully enjoy your surroundings, and shake your head as society collapses in upon itself?

What are your beliefs? Are you an activist? Does your heart burn with the passionate desire to change things? Or are you a passivist (for lack of better word). Would you rather watch, be a spectator, not influenced by the oppressors, and not fighting for change?

I pose this question to all who read this article, and some of the responses.

Stand aside Ralph Nader (4.50 / 4) (#269)
by imperium on Wed Apr 11, 2001 at 09:54:59 PM EST

You may think this comment is simply kissing founder ass, this article seems like some of the clearest thought I've seen on K5 in ages. I also love some of the responses that it's provoked: like but property is real, man, from someone called commiepunk. The irony! And the argument that because other primates have territory too it can't be socially constructed! Only with daft first principles, my friend, such as "Human beings are by definition the only social animals".

Study of other cultures reveals that almost anything not precluded by the laws of physics has been taken as a norm. Communist states are not a good example of an absence of property rights, perhaps, but hunter-gatherer societies are. Many of the things that are treated like personal property are in fact seen as property of the clan or the ancestors to be handed on or held temporarily. We all know how the Indians (and don't get PC on me, I've dealt with enough who wanted to use the word) laughed when various colonists came and offered to buy some of their land. It seemed like a category mistake to them, but the power associated with another interpretation won out, just as described above. Those who benefited from it also managed to maintain the illusion for a long time that there was nobody in North America except a few violent savages bent on rape and looting. How far from the truth could you get?

To get less political, even sex isn't culturally universal. In Papua New Guinea some tribes require younger boys to be initiated into sex by blowing off the slightly older boys, until they're old enough to take the other role. Evil? Different? You tell me, but you better be able to pin down precisely the absolute you refer to if you choose something other than different. On another tack, Shaker communities maintain themselves without actually partaking in breeding. Having or not having sex is a cultural act, as is the choice of partner. Ancient Greece recognised the older man/younger boy dyad. Now we scream paedophile, but both are cultural choices.

Emile Proudhon, the author of the famous line "Property is theft", also said two other things at the same time. He also said "Property is necessary", and "Property is impossible". This is not the nonsense it initially seems. In each of three different selected views of reality, one makes sense.

  • Property is theft, since everything that has someone's name on it has been arbitrarily removed from the use of the rest of the people.
  • Property is necessary for the maintenance of capitalism.
  • Property is impossible, because your ownership of something is based on the collective fiction rusty describes, and you only think you own it.

    Run napster through that, and see how it comes out.

    Anyway, although I'm Scottish, and not supposed to vote in American elections (it didn't stop me last time!), I'd hereby like to propose rusty for President 2004.

    x.
    imperium

  • For what it's worth. (4.66 / 3) (#270)
    by thePositron on Thu Apr 12, 2001 at 01:10:36 AM EST

    There is a community that is now active in returning the laws regarding corporate charters to their original intent.

    Also worth checking out are this website and this website.



    This is why I created COG. (4.50 / 2) (#271)
    by rebelcool on Thu Apr 12, 2001 at 01:12:23 AM EST

    (sorry if it sounds like im spamming..but it's relevant)

    I made COG to allow ordinary people to create their own webcommunities on their own computers. Broadband access and powerful enough computers are common place enough now, that this is really a feasible thing for thousands of people.

    COG is a collection of webcommunity things I wrote under the GPL..it's pretty easy to modify, and none too hard for anyone to use. You don't need to be a guru to use it. And it runs under Windows OR linux (it's based off java.. and the other software it relies on, a webserver and mysql for a database, are available for both platforms)

    With this, you can create your own platform. Guide your own community with the look and feel you want, and the topics you want. I realize there are other things like yahoo's clubs and MSN's little community things.. but those both reek of the yahoo and MSN feel. You don't really own it.

    Take a look at my own site, running it, at http://themachine.2y.net

    The downloads and documentation is available at http://cogunity.sourceforge.net

    COG. Build your own community. Free, easy, powerful. Demo site

    Close! try subversion, not anarchy (5.00 / 3) (#274)
    by Rabid Mongoose on Thu Apr 12, 2001 at 04:08:08 AM EST

    > This was a very thought provoking essay. Or so I thought until
    > I realized it was really in the end a defense for Napster, which
    > seemed really trite for the principles the essay was championing
    > (which, otherwise, I thought were very interesting).

    The motivations of the author shouldn't be so quickly used to discount the valid points raised in the article. But one could point out that if

    'individuals have decided that their reality does not recognize the so-called "right" for corporations to own the files on their computer.'

    'Swapping MP3s, in their view, is not "stealing" because those who share their files don't consider themselves to be gaining or losing property. That is, they are challenging the assumption that music is an object that can be owned, by an artist, a record company, or indeed anyone.'

    Then one wonders how long the creators (musicians) of those files will continue creating the files when they get little or nothing in return. It is true that the corporations have (by monopolistic control of distribution channels) extorted money from both the artists and consumers. But stealing copyrighted music is not the answer to this. If the record companies actually start losing money, I don't believe for a second that they will absorb these losses. They will pass on the losses to the musicians and consumers. The logical conclusion of this is that when music is no longer profitable for musicians, musicians will have to do other things to make money.

    But don't think I'm against Napster, or file-sharing, or screwing the record companies in general. I'm a regular Napster user. I just use it to get the things that the *$@#ing record companies won't sell me. They've decided that they can't make much money on selling the stuff I want to buy. So it is impossible, or nearly impossible to get it. Out of print, not released on CD, not released in this country, or whatever, because it isn't profitable for the people who have the monopoly on the distribution channels. And the artists aren't allowed to sell it directly, because someone has screwed them out of the rights to their own creations.

    So the author failed to follow his logic to its conclusion. Or, possibly, he chose the wrong path. But he has the right idea. he just needs to include the artists on "our" side of the equation.

    'The base belief in individual ownership of property means that in order to continue to live, each of us must obtain money to purchase the basic things that enable that. That is, I have to get food, and in order to get food away from those who "own" it, I have to give them money.'

    So, while I can afford to put my own original music on Napster for anyone to download without paying me one red cent (because I have a day job ;] ) Other artists are doing much better work than I, and more of it, in order to earn a living. If we don't like the system, we need to work outside the system but *with* the artists. It doesn't serve our purpose to rip off the artists to get back at the corporations.

    'This, finally, is why community matters. The only potential way out of this mousetrap we've created for ourselves is to actually speak directly to each other. Town meetings, open hearings, internet communities, places where people may actually speak as human individuals to other human individuals; these are the only places that we may examine what we have decided will be our reality, and the only places we may possibly decide to change that reality.'

    How right he is. But how about an open community where *listeners* can converse directly with *artists* ? Don't you think that the artist would be willing to take a buck a song for the three songs you like off of their CD? If some computer geek could make it easy for the artist to do so, yes.

    How about sending you a copy of that CD that the record company took out of print? Of course! They last one I asked was quite happy to trade her CD for my check. The record company would probably have laughed at the request.

    Anarchy will get us nowhere. Subversion, however, has some interesting possibilities. :)

    Anarchy, IP, and Incentive Schemes. (none / 0) (#275)
    by inkumbi on Thu Apr 12, 2001 at 06:56:34 AM EST

    Then one wonders how long the creators (musicians) of those files will continue creating the files when they get little or nothing in return. It is true that the corporations have (by monopolistic control of distribution channels) extorted money from both the artists and consumers. But stealing copyrighted music is not the answer to this. If the record companies actually start losing money, I don't believe for a second that they will absorb these losses. They will pass on the losses to the musicians and consumers. The logical conclusion of this is that when music is no longer profitable for musicians, musicians will have to do other things to make money.
    Eben Moglen, a brilliant man, has written a really excellent essay, Anarchism Triumphant, about the viability of anarchy and the "death" of copyright. One of his points is that "incentive" as proposed by copyright doctrine is merely a metaphor, and moreover, a stupid metaphor. He goes into it in great detail, but the best line of the relevant paragraph is:
    It's an emergent property of connected human minds that they create things for one another's pleasure and to conquer their uneasy sense of being too alone.
    Essentially, he is saying that the idea of promoting creativity by granting monopolies is an erroneous assumption that has become (dare I say it? ;) "true" merely because society believes it.

    I'm not saying "creators" should not be compensated for their efforts... just that the principles underlying the traditional justification of copyright (that is, providing an incentive) are pretty damned questionable.

    Anyway, don't take my word for it, read the article!

    [ Parent ]

    Well... (none / 0) (#296)
    by naasking on Fri Apr 13, 2001 at 09:53:43 AM EST

    Then one wonders how long the creators (musicians) of those files will continue creating the files when they get little or nothing in return.

    One can wonder how long the creator of Free Software will continue creating the files when they get little or nothing in return. Hey wait a minute...


    [ Parent ]
    first paragraph, you start off on the wrong foot (3.33 / 3) (#278)
    by G Neric on Thu Apr 12, 2001 at 09:33:07 AM EST

    While Jefferson ultimately attributes the source of humanity's "inalienable rights" to the "Creator," he recognizes that the only way for humanity to maintain these rights is by self-governance. That is, whether you are granted rights by God or not is essentially irrelevant, since the actual exercise of those rights is a social phenomenon.

    Jefferson would never have agreed to your characterization of his statement. As I noted in another post, he was arguing against the Divine Right of Kings by positing a Divine Equality of Rights of All Men. The very idea of self-governance that you are assuming is what he was proposing. It was a brand new idea in the 18th century world, echoing the most advanced thinking that had come before.

    kids today... you're so used to the idea of self-governance that you can't wrap your ass around the idea that it wasn't always like this.

    My bad (none / 0) (#293)
    by rusty on Fri Apr 13, 2001 at 01:35:09 AM EST

    Let me break that excerpt up into two bits:

    What Jefferson would probably have agreed with: he recognizes that the only way for humanity to maintain these rights is by self-governance.

    The step I take in order to attempt to move out of the realm of speculation about the nature of God: That is, whether you are granted rights by God or not is essentially irrelevant, since the actual exercise of those rights is a social phenomenon.

    Jefferson probably wouldn't have agreed with the second bit -- I was trying to move from the founding principle to a sociological footing we could possibly all agree on. Though apparently not.

    Like many other things, that wasn't particularly clear. Sorry. :-)

    ____
    Not the real rusty
    [ Parent ]

    I say no prob, then I rant :) (3.00 / 2) (#298)
    by G Neric on Fri Apr 13, 2001 at 11:04:53 AM EST

    no prob, I pretty much understood what you meant, but... I would still quibble a little.

    What Jefferson would probably have agreed with: he recognizes that the only way for humanity to maintain these rights is by self-governance

    my beef (quibbley beef) is that this is sort of like saying "Einstein recognized that time was variable, and the speed of light of a light a constant." I mean, sure, he recognized it, but it was a breakthrough realization for mankind. It's more like he speculated and/or concluded it. When Jefferson "recognized" that self-governance was the only way, self-governance had never been tried before. And for many years, our political system was (still is?) called "the American Experiment".

    The reason I think it's important to teach this is that it helps to explain some otherwise seeming inconsistencies. "How could America be called a democracy when women did not have the right to vote, and blacks were bought and sold as property (not to mention native americans, asians, etc.)" And the answer is, because it was the "king-and-noble-lessness" of the system that was the breakthrough, that common day laborers, born poor, and owning no property, voted as equals alongside educated, landed gentry, and there was no government institution (including the military) acting as an independent arbitor or guarantor of stability. This was the radical notion, this was the quantum leap. Subsequently, we have expanded our notion of equality to the point the people can't even see how it used to be.

    Jefferson didn't do it all, of course--after the revolution, Jefferson et al viewed Washington as the embodiment of democracy and all looked up to him like we look up to them. And sure, there's a direct thread from Runymede, and political philosophers had discussed it before, and there had been notable periods in history where variations had been implemented, in ancient Greece and Rome, small pieces of Switzerland, and ... Iceland? But we owe our various democracies today to the American Experiment, and not to ancient Greece. We're not talking about ivory tower theorizing or a "democracy" of elites, we're talking about a plan and the subsequent adoption of a constitution that made the common man zealous for democracy and egalitarianism in proportion to the degree the French and Russian revolutions made them jealous for power and blood.

    That's why I quibble.

    Like many other things, that wasn't particularly clear. Sorry. :-)

    Been there :) Even under the best circumstances, it is very difficult to be clear to everyone.

    moving offtopic while I have your attention, I saw this awhile back and have wondered about it:

    my name's Rusty Foster ... originally I'm from Massachusetts ... if anyone's ever in Cataumet Mass, on Cape Cod, stop by Woodworks and buy something
    Are you from Cataumet? I grew up in Pocasset.

    [ Parent ]
    Quibble noted (none / 0) (#302)
    by rusty on Fri Apr 13, 2001 at 01:44:57 PM EST

    Ok, quibble noted. I glossed over that bit pretty quickly, and there's a lot more that could have been said. :-)

    Are you from Cataumet? I grew up in Pocasset.

    No, I'm actually from Plymouth, but I went to high school in Falmouth and worked in Cataumet for a couple years (and Sandwich for a couple other years).

    ____
    Not the real rusty
    [ Parent ]

    Artists losing money on record sales (none / 0) (#288)
    by picasso on Thu Apr 12, 2001 at 02:24:02 PM EST

    The reality is that few artists make money from records (cd) sales. Artists receive only a small mechanical fee on the sale of each record. What they do lose is the ability to mortgage future record sales against tour support, video production money, recording money, etc. Recording artists derive most of their (music related) income from publishing (radio airplay, etc) and touring. This shift is possible. The big file sharing losers will be the (pig in the middle) record companies.

    A huge hole (4.50 / 2) (#292)
    by revbob on Fri Apr 13, 2001 at 12:54:24 AM EST

    ...appears right here:
    Belief in capitalism makes it a fact. Similarly, belief in the right of people to live would also make that a fact. American society privileges the former above the latter.
    Who says so? It may be self-evident to you -- and if you pushed me, I'd probably say it was pretty close to being self-evident to me as well -- but it would have helped if you'd said a few things to support that assertion.

    Let me give you an aphorism for the rewrite I sincerely hope you do:

    There are millions of laws legislators have spoken
    A handful the creator sent
    The former are being continually broken
    The latter can't even be bent
    The creator's laws (whether you requre that hypothesis or not) include the second law of thermodynamics, F=MA, and the old fortune quote "186,000 miles per second: it isn't just a good idea, it's the law"..

    Everything else is a social construction of reality.

    Jefferson overreached himself in claiming that life, liberty, property (the word was in an early draft and the idea fills the following sections of the declaration), and the pursuit of happiness were natural rights.

    He wasn't alone there -- 18th century rationalism was nothing if not ambitious. But unfortunately the distinctions Jefferson failed to make have infected and weakened your argument.

    You want to talk about natural rights? You have the right to accelerate at 32 feet per second squared (in a vacuum). That's the real deal.

    blurred terminology (none / 0) (#315)
    by dukhat on Sat Apr 14, 2001 at 02:52:18 PM EST

    How is the statement "Belief in capitalism makes it a fact" a huge hole? The author states at the beginning of the article:
    ...most of the "facts" that determine our daily lives are socially constructed facts, which are true as long as enough people believe them to be true.
    The quotes around the term facts implies that the word is being misused by other people. Therefore, these socially constructed facts are not facts according to the author's understanding of the definition. The author implies that socially constructed facts are not actually facts since socially constructed facts are only believed to be true. Which is valid, assuming facts must be true. Of course, there are people who would also argue that truth is relavent, but that definition of truth would make defining anything a moot point.

    You suggested that the author define laws from the creator as laws that cannot even be bent. You then give examples of experimentally verifiable scientific statements as natural rights. Your use of the term creator is practically synonymous with universe. You assume that whatever opinion a creator would have of our rights, they are completely represented by what is possible inside the constructs of our universe. Jefferson was obviously trying to justify the independence of the U.S. by claiming that England was violating their natural rights. Jefferson used the creator as an absolute reference point for stating what unalienable rights are. Though it is arguable whether the creator should be the absolute authority of rights, it is still possible that the creator has granted rights which are not represented purely by physical properties of the universe. The term, rights, means that it is correct that a person be allowed to do something. Protests against rights that are violated continously occur. Therefore, rights granted by government are not considered the absolute authority on rights. Government granted rights are also violated by law breakers. Why do you suggest that any rights granted by the creator must be impossible to break? Nature or the physical universe does not have an opinion, thus there cannot be natural rights as such. However, if what is called "natural rights" is defined by the creator, then the creator must have an opinion in this context.

    It is very difficult to argue any point when the use of terms does not correspond to a single definition. The author didn't argue that Jefferson's view of unalienable rights is correct, but instead that it requires self-governance to be instituted. The author seems to be stating that we need a stronger community so that people will be defining our laws instead of corporations. Of course, corporations are really just groups of people also, but they do gain a larger voice in government because they have the money to spend on lobbying and the media. Though democracy doesn't mean we will make the right decisions, it does help limit the power of people who make horribly wrong decisions. A benevolent dictatorship would be much more efficient, but there is no way to perform quality control on dictators.

    [ Parent ]

    Where the hole is (none / 0) (#319)
    by revbob on Sun Apr 15, 2001 at 12:58:48 AM EST

    How is the statement "Belief in capitalism makes it a fact" a huge hole?

    It isn't. That assertion was very well supported. The hole is in the last of the sentences in my quote -- Rusty's assertion that American courts and laws prefer the corporate over the individual.

    While that may very well be true (I said as much), it lacked even a ghost of statement supporting it.

    As to whether the "creator" has created moral laws and political laws as well as physical laws, I believe reasonable men and women can disagree. Therefore, Jefferson and his fellow 18th century rationalists overreached (which I also said).

    To quote Jefferson as though the 21st century were the 18th, and as though science were still called natural philosophy, is unconvincing to someone whose conception of the world is less thoroughly populated with spirits and demons than were most minds in the 18th century (arguably excepting Jefferson's).

    Nor is "natural law" convincing to many of those among us who still believe in angels and devils and things that go bump in the night. Argument from scriptural authority holds pride of place in their theological methodology, and a belief in human reason to comprehend the mind of God is regarded as error -- the sin of pride, to use the terminology of a religion that doesn't regard theology itself as suspect.

    Jefferson, then, is a poor ground on whom to base an argument from authority. Believers don't accept him as a proper authority, and unbelievers don't accept the argument from authority. Only Unitarians find the proper resonance -- even there, it takes a quote from Emerson or Channing to have us roll over to have our tummies tickled.

    The problem with Rusty's argument is that, in accepting natural law and natural rights, it lets in too much. Unnecessarily, I think.

    Granted, I'm probably guilty of the sin of pride myself in claiming I know what Rusty's argument ought to be better than he does. Still, I thought it brought in something it didn't need, and to boot left unproven something (the legal and legislative preference for corporations over individuals) which bloody well ought to have been proven.

    [ Parent ]

    An ad hominem (none / 0) (#295)
    by goosedaemon on Fri Apr 13, 2001 at 09:50:25 AM EST

    Here's an ad hominem for shits and giggles: You do realize that you sound disturbingly similar to O'Brian in 1984, right? This is a dangerous road to go down. A bad can of worms. If we follow this relativistic path (to its logical end), then I'd say it's pretty reasonable to assume that things will be bad.

    Of course, being Catholic I'm afraid I can't have a rational discussion.</bitter>



    Why? Because it works! (none / 0) (#318)
    by redelm on Sat Apr 14, 2001 at 08:49:39 PM EST

    Ignoring the Jeffersonian oxymoron of "endowment of unalienable rights", the law is a social construct exactly as rusty describes.

    But not all constructs produce the same outcomes. Depending entirely on your values, some produce better outcomes than others. The most generally successful constructs are those which align with man's distinctive advantage -- his mind. What makes men's minds work better generally succeeds, what makes them stop working fails. Murder, theft, etc are usually prohibited for just this reason.

    Beyond that values start to play an increasing role. Simplifying greatly, Americans value personal wealth and have set up powerful conflict-rich market system that has achieved this. Europeans value egalitarianism, and have set up a high-tax socialist system that achieves this. Japanese value group cohesiveness, and have set up a corporatist system. Pick your poison.

    Aside: Did anyone else notice that rusty sounds like Jon Katz?



    Natural rights and where your argument goes wrong (5.00 / 1) (#322)
    by ainsje on Sun Apr 15, 2001 at 02:25:34 PM EST

    Before I begin, I should say that I agree with your ultimate conclusion, I simply disagree with the methods you used to get there. Certainly powerful corporations can and do pose as much of a threat as powerful governments. But, by undermining natural law, as you do in your essay, you remove any basis your argument has for acceptance. If there is no natural law, then human relations are simply a power struggle, and the actions of large corporations are no more right or wrong then your actions are to stop them.

    Let me clarify. You begin your essay by stating that human reality is socially constructed and that many 'rights' we take for granted exist only because a large number of people believe that they do.

    And here I think you make the mistake of confusing rights with power to exercise those rights.

    As you point out, my right to life (or ability to live) only exists so long a more powerful individual chooses not to take my life. But if he does so, then he has 'violated my rights'. He is in the wrong even if nobody in society punishes him for that wrong.

    Similarly, your reasons for SludgeCo being in the wrong are implicitly founded on natural law. SludgeCo has acted wrongly because their product resulted in their client's death (violating his right to life), it took his health (violating his right to liberty), and it destroyed his property.

    The 'bedrock of American society' and indeed any society are these natural laws. SludgeCo may use its power to divert our attention from their violations of these rights.

    By ignoring these natural laws you inadvertantly help SludgeCo in their efforts to divert us from their violations. If there are no rights greater than those SludgeCo can create through social engineering then they are perfectly justified in attempting to shape public opinion in any way they choose. In fact if there is no such thing as a right to life, liberty, or property then how can they be said to have acted wrongly at all?

    Next, you seem somewhat mistaken about the nature of property as well as the nature of capitalism and communism and money. Some definitions may help.

    Man creates wealth through his conscious labor on his environment; transforming that environment from one that is less useful to him to one that is more useful to him.

    A man labors on property. Property consists of two forms, the raw materials on which man works and the finshed product of his labors.

    Money is a socially accepted marker for the value of this property. This marker can change, the property itself does not change (except, of course, through labor) Money is simply a distractor, let us focus on property.

    If a person does not posses property (or its marker, money) then they will be unable to obtain food and they will die.

    Under a capitalist system those who posses property are in a position to direct the labor of those who do not own property. Those who own property act in a self-interested manner, increasing the total wealth available to the community.

    This system is not without flaws. It tends to deny those who do not posses property sufficiency and security. In other words, any capitalist will pay his workers as little as possible and fire them whenever they cease to produce wealth for him. This has an intolerable effect on a person's right to property, because they are granted insufficient amounts of it; and life because they cannot be secure in their ability to purchase food from day to day.

    Under a communist system property does not cease to exist, it is merely held in trust by the political officers of the community. These officers direct how this property is to be used. They direct the labor on the raw materials of the property and direct how the finished products are to be disbursed. The problem with this system can be simply stated. Those who do not own the property will be required by law to work on that property. In return they will receive a guarantee of sufficiency and security.

    The problem with this system is that it is nothing more than slavery. Because they do not own property, the people are _required by law_ to work on the property owned by the political officers of the community. They have lost the right to liberty and property.

    The common problem in both of these systems is that the common man, the man who does the work, has no useful control over any amount of property. Under an ideal system the greatest number of people would own property and be able to work to their own gain and not the gain of others. This could be accomplished directly through the direct possesion of of the means by which wealth is produced (ie. a trucker who owns his own truck). Through a community sharing of the means by which wealth is produced. (ie. Linux, the gcc compilers) Or through an indirect possesion of the means by which wealth is produced (ie. Company stock ownership plans)

    Once the greatest number of people own property then, and only then will law, corporate action, and the desires of the people be most in line. The government as well as business will be most responsive to the will of the people.

    Useful Reading on these Subjects:

    The Abolition of Man, by C. S. Lewis
    The Servile State, by Hilaire Belloc




    Good laws derive from evil habits. -Macrobius
    That's just silly (3.00 / 1) (#323)
    by Arkady on Sun Apr 15, 2001 at 03:59:06 PM EST

    To respond to what seems to me to be the fundamental assertion in your comment. That is:

        If there is no natural law, then human relations are simply a power struggle, and the actions of large
    corporations are no more right or wrong then your actions are to stop them.

    What you're saying here is that "natural law" must exist (or must be pretended to exist), because without it the position you want to take (that human society should be constructed in such a way as to guarantee these "rights") is too weak to stand on its own. I hope you realize how silly that argument is. ;-)

    It's also incorrect, as there are imminently rational reasons to construct society in such a way that the minimal rights embodied in the American Declaration of Independance and Constitution are respected. I'll go over one of them here.

    The presence of an oppressed class (or, to aknowledge the subjectivity inherent in judging this, "the presence of a class perceived to be oppressed") is inherently destabilizing to a society. Though, through profiteering, it is possible for the ruling class to benefit from a certain degree of instability, in the long term social stability is synonymous with maintaining the power of the current ruling class, whatever it may be at the time.

    It is, therefore (and to borrow a phrase popular with free-market economists), in the "rational self-interest" of any ruling class to guarantee the stability of the society they govern. As the perception of opression is a desbilizing element, it is therefore to their benefit to eliminate that perception. They do this through the creation of certain minimum "rights" within the law of that society, seeing that these rights are not sufficiently extensive as to threaten their position while being generous enough to disarm any destbilizing element focused on the issue in question.

    While many, perhaps most, of us on K5 would argue that these "rights" are either too minimal or inadequately enforced, it's well documented that they were created to quell earlier dissenters within America who had destabilized the position of wealth in America in their agitation for a better society.

    For over six hundred pages of examples of this exact tactic, I'd strongly recommend that you read Howard Zinn's "A People's History of the United States" (ISBN 0-06-092643-0), which extensively documents this exact tactic's application in the creation of the Constitutional and secondary legal rights in America. Most explicitly documented (as the documentation comes in the form of written accounts by business and government leaders involved) is the destruction or cooptation of the Socialist and Populist movents in the U.S.

    -robin

    Turning and turning in the widening gyre
    The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
    Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
    Mere Anarchy is loosed upon the world.


    [ Parent ]
    Huh? (4.50 / 2) (#327)
    by ainsje on Sun Apr 15, 2001 at 04:45:31 PM EST

    My intent was to point out that by saying that reality is socially determined is to undercut rusty's own argument that what SludgeCo is doing is wrong. If there is no right or wrong, only public opinion then there is no basis for condemning SludgeCo's actions.

    Of course it would be silly to say that natural law must exist because otherwise life is just a power struggle. But to undermine natural law is to undermine any type of rational basis for making an essentially moral rejection of the actions of others.

    If, as you say, there are rational reasons to construct a society in which minimal rights are respected, then everyone who respects these rights is acting in a reasonable (good) manner and everyone who fails to respect these rights is acting in an unreasonable (bad) manner. Then aren't we still back to the concept of a natural law which is right no matter who chooses to follow it? 1+1=2 whether anyone believes it or not.
    Good laws derive from evil habits. -Macrobius
    [ Parent ]
    SludgeCo and corporate citizenship (none / 0) (#334)
    by crank42 on Mon Apr 16, 2001 at 09:07:20 PM EST

    SludgeCo has acted wrongly because their product resulted in their client's death (violating his right to life), it took his health (violating his right to liberty), and it destroyed his property.

    But one of the greatest wrongs has been committed by the government, and that is the creation of the corporate citizen. We do not need natural law to explain how it is that humans get certain kinds of respect: the mere existence of societies will suffice, if nothing else. But the abuse of those individuals by corpororations requires some explaining.

    The reason is, I suggest (but I haven't worked this out completely -- feel free to shred me), partly found in the very doctrine of natural rights. If rights accrue to individuals by virtue of their humanity, and these rights are to be protected by various legal schemas, then there is no reason not to create other hydra-like monsters which get status as potential partners to a contract. After all, people have their rights in any case. If we had stuck to the notion that societies were made of individuals (and that therefore any emergent corporate body was nothing more than a simple collection of those individuals, jointly and severally responsible), we wouldn't be faced with SludgeCo in the first place: Mr Sludge would have to risk too much.

    [ Parent ]

    Relevant book: The Social Construction of What (none / 0) (#331)
    by soundsop on Sun Apr 15, 2001 at 07:19:20 PM EST

    Although I admittedly didn't find this article interesting enough to read beyond the first couple of paragraphs, I though I'd mention an interesting book called "The Social Construction of What" by Ian Hacking that has a thorough discussion of the idea of social construction.

    Connection Between Belief and Reality (none / 0) (#333)
    by dj@ on Mon Apr 16, 2001 at 03:01:36 PM EST

    The oftentimes-blurry line between belief and reality causes an immense amount of anxiety and tension in society. This issue goes so deep as even to touch on the issue of science "vs." religion.

    The issue most relevant to discussions of fact and belief of fact relates to the question, "To what end?" After all, even language itself consists only of social agreement. Another poster gave the example of two people in a locked room who have come up with a private social agreement about whether one of them has jumped. Even the word "jumped" has some implication of social agreement that is in fact based on other relative social agreements. Jumping, as a definition, relates to other experiences of people in the past who have used words describing at first other actions peripherally related to jumping, such as running, swimming, skipping, who then found use for the expression of jumping, and hence it evolved.

    Returning to the person in the room, the person may have jumped, but the awareness of that act presumes some sense of it in the first place. This is why the person in the room may have also spun in a circle while jumping on one leg, also known as "splumping", but we don't even care that one of them did that.

    Why don't we care? That's where the whole realm of meaning and the question of ends arise. The social agreement that has given rise to the definition of "jumping" could objectively have more definite positive social uses than "splumping". It seems likely that it does, as otherwise it probably wouldn't have survived so many thousands of years of peer-to-peer instruction. It may have been useful for such things as entertainment and social leisure, or maybe even for safety, like when a caveman caught himself on fire, and a friend told him to "go jump in a lake". :)

    Objective reality exists independently of human awareness, but it's impossible for us humans to observe it independently of our experience of it. As we've learned from quantum physics, to remove the human element introduces it. This places objective reality squarely in the role as a perceptive faculty useful as a tool for our device and understanding. This means that, from our perspective, we might as well assume that the whole of objective reality, i.e. every atom in the universe, exists solely for our perception of it. We construct individual and collective realities around what we perceive for the purpose of fulfilling our individual and collective destinies.

    This is similar to saying our first act of free will is to assert that we have a free will. Objectively speaking, we may not have a free will even though we think we do, as free will itself may have been written consequentially into our evolutionary path. Personally, I can't concern myself with such questions, as it doesn't really help me fulfill my destiny. There may be no purpose and meaning in existence, but as far as I will ever be concerned, there are both. I prefer to look at the world that way, and I thank my lucky stars that I perceive that I can ever have a choice in any matter. Whether I believe this or not may have no effect on the outcome, just like believing I can survive a ten-story jump may not affect the result if I do, except if I don't. I know for a fact that some circumstances are dependent on what I believe them to be, thus I keep this construct of "belief" around in my bag of tricks. Simply say, "be and it is".

    How much control do humans have over objective reality? More precisely written, how closely can humans perceive objective reality to the point that controlling our perception of objective reality results in a greater understanding of it? Therein lies the heart of the argument relating to corporations and control of social reality. By looking at reality ever more objectively as something over which humans have increasingly greater degrees of command, "social" reality also falls prey to this construct and this type of control.

    In the end, there is only one reality to us, and that is Reality, a human reality. For the record, this is belief, not fact, based on there being "no god but God", itself a socially accepted fact. Through control of the reality that we perceive as objective, we open the doors to control of our reality by others, since we start to lose our concept of free will and submit ourselves to the idea that our fate is one of servile participation in someone else's socially constructed reality. By making "us" believe that the reality is objective, "they" win out because they know that it's subjective. After all, "they" created it.

    Why does this matter so much? What about the times where you want to assert that your belief in something affects the outcome? I've heard that people used to believe that darker-skinned people objectively had less intelligence. How did that ever make any sense, regardless of the evidence? How can you ever "believe" in something objective? Isn't belief, by definition, subjective?

    Another example of belief affecting reality is, "Do unto others as you would like done to you". There's no causality in this statement, as you were not saying, "Be nice to others and they will definitely respond by being nice to you." Implicit in "do unto others" is the understanding that human behavior and community relations do not follow objective rules of cause and effect, yet you were trying to create such an effect artificially, and in doing so developed an early form of social engineering.

    In this way, human behavior more closely follows the theory of value of the network. If you have one person that thinks it's better to give than to receive, it's not so valuable to society. As larger numbers of people, however, start to follow certain axioms, the value multiplies exponentially according to the number of nodes that follow the protocols that comprise these axioms, which can themselves be positive or negative according to our will.

    So, what are the lines between belief and reality, fiction and fact, subjectivity and objectivity, myth and truth? Does you answer matter?

    Physical property and political property (4.00 / 1) (#343)
    by BierGuzzl on Sat Apr 21, 2001 at 07:23:18 PM EST

    There is, in fact, more to our society's general power structure than just the ownership of property. To be considered very carefully is how our "democratic" system actually bases it's power in the community! What's happened is that our communities have become polluted, and our power structure has faltered and become corrupt.

    I agree that the corporations have too much power. They fund political organizations, lobbies, entire propaganda machines to advance their own interests. However, the stuff that put those corporations into that position is the same stuff that can take them out. It's you and I. The internet's major contribution to this: a cheap mode of communication, an equalizer, free from public oppression.

    Unfortunately, the ease with which one is able to be published and be widely exposed causes information overload, resulting in indifference or lack of respect for the the material available online. Somehow things have more credibility because they have been published in a book instead of published online. Yet, that book publisher is a corporation -- not exactly community based (although you could argue that the sales certainly are focused to the individual purchaser).

    Spam is probably the biggest enemy of the online world, diluting the quality of content and reducing the it's respectability to that of the national enquirer, where we wind up with the hoax of the week instead of the amazing new world we could be creating for ourselves.

    We're faced with a problem that is being approached from different perspectives... there's group logic systems such as those implemented on advogato, slashdot, and here. Some are more effective than others... yet no system can be perfect.

    My hope is that, one person at a time, we can garner a new respect for the net, treating it as the powerful tool that it is. We may soon be experiencing a political revolution that will take us back to the roots of democracy, casting black and white pebbles into a virtual clay jar to be counted and used to make day to day decisions. Representative government needs to be curtailed wherever possible -- direct democracy, direct involvement in our issues, the way democracy was intended to function in the first place.
    - doh -

    This IS silly. (4.00 / 1) (#348)
    by sombragris on Sun Apr 29, 2001 at 01:54:33 PM EST

    Human reality is socially constructed. That is, most of the "facts" that determine our daily lives are socially constructed facts, which are true as long as enough people believe them to be true.
    Yeah, right. My friend's maple tree, and yesterday's rain, and the drunk driver who got himself killed tonight are true as long as enough people believe them to be true.

    Sorry boy; it may sound good, but you ARE wrong. Please; think better next time.

    Ok (none / 0) (#351)
    by rusty on Sat May 12, 2001 at 05:52:45 PM EST

    Sorry boy; it may sound good, but you ARE wrong. Please; think better next time.

    Can't promise anything, but I'll try.

    ____
    Not the real rusty
    [ Parent ]

    Why Community Matters | 351 comments (348 topical, 3 editorial, 0 hidden)
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