Human Morality and Social Order: Questions and AnswersSubmitted by BILL3 on Fri, 07/19/2013 - 00:36
An exchange between two sincere and respectful individuals with different understandings of the concepts involved in rights, human morality, and social order.
Ed Ucation (aka the young libertarian stud) asks four questions bearing on the legal basis of society:
Submitted by Ed Ucation on Thu, 07/18/2013 - 22:48. Permalink
1) Ownership is not just a legal concept. If you borrow a pen from your friend, why do you return it? Are you afraid he is going to bring down the force of the state on you? Even tribal societies without any third party enforcers recognize ownership. Ownership is a social construct first, before being a legal construct.
2) You say "a person does not 'possess' their body, they are one and the same with their body." Ok, fine, that's debatable, but I don't see how identifying the self with the body implies that you don't possess it. Why can't entities possess themselves?
3) If ownership depends only on the legal enforcement of a third party, as you claim, how does the third party decide who owns what? Clearly, there must be some rules, even if this third party is all-powerful. Even if this third party decides it owns everything, like a communistic state, that's a rule. So the rule has to come first, before the law. So what should the rules be?
4) You have no obligation to something you did not agree. If you did not agree to have your ownership enforced by this third party, you have no obligation to them even if they bring you your stolen stuff back.
Bill3 AKA the Trinity responds:
Submitted by BILL3 on Thu, 07/18/2013 - 23:23. Permalink
1) I agree, there are natural impulses which precede law. I never claimed that the law is random or entirely arbitrary, simply 'made up.' It has precursors, obviously. No community ever had a law or developed a custom or social more (moor-ey) which said murder is necessary. Our behavior as social beings is rooted in our biological and cultural evolution.
The propensity of an individual or a social group to have a natural or culturally rooted respect for the property of others differs individual by individual and culture by culture. Every society also has individuals who act anti-socially and have little regard for the 'property' which other people respect.
Observe children. Some will respect the possessions of others, some will take them and be more violent. Natural impulses differ, and culture is the training ground for a common set of social mores.
This is what Nietzsche called the "social straightjacket" of millennia that trained the human animal toward developing those impulses and abilities (memory, ability to make and keep promises over long periods) which raise him above the animal. Undoubtedly much violence went into this process of formation of a more or less widespread human nature, which has certain propensities. They are generally only applied within a certain social group, and all outside are considered 'fair game.'
We can only imagine how much blood had to be shed in order to train the human animal to remember and keep to a hand full of "I wills" and I will nots," to paraphrase said author. See his The Genealogy of Morals.
Nevertheless, in order for society to exist, those common mores need to be enforced upon that part of society that refuses to adhere to them, lest every individual be subjugated by the first gang that forms to rob them of their rights and property. And how much "enforcement" of mores and morality at the tribal level must have had to happen over the thousands of years of evolution for that basic minimum of social regard for others' property and rights to be achieved? It has not been achieved universally, and some tribes still exist which have very minimal respect for the concept of property. It is as much cultural training as it is natural impulse.
2) Let's use the word control in place of possession. In nature, individuals can control themselves or be overpowered by others so that they act against their inner will to avoid external pain or gain external rewards (food, survival, survival of family). Self-ownership is obviously dependent on force just as much as the ownership of an object. Not everyone recognizes the rightfulness of ownership merely by virtue of being human., The history of violence and slavery and utterly happy criminals, bandits, pirates, mercenaries, mass murderers, warriors, ought to demonstrate that many people act "evil" with an entirely good conscience. And not just those who would be called sociopaths, but a much greater portion of people. It often depends on cultural context; we don't hurt our family or tribe but have no qualms about "the other." These are culture and context dependent, and our sense of what is right largely depends on this.
3) Yes, in order to enforce a legal order the third party has to be informed by its own conception of right and wrong, rights and obligations, which vary from culture to culture, time period to time period, person to person, and are therefore not universal moral instincts of humanity. They are not arbitrary or random, but they are equally not universal and permanent features inherent in being born human. They are cultural inheritance as much as biological, and are selected in an evolutionary process. For the formation of morality and mores leading to the market order, see F. A. Hayek's The Fatal Conceit.
4) You say "you have no obligation to something you did not agree."
Well, if that is true, you have no obligation to respect other's rights if you did not agree. And people historically have not, if those people were outside their social community to which they felt a bond and obligation.
Agreement, however, is not a cut and dried thing. We are not born with fully formed individual minds and logical reasons for what we agree to. We are born helpless members of a cultural and social context, with parents that teach us what we come to know. We develop our sense of ties and obligations (or we don't) based on our response and integration into that context. Perhaps it is the sense of alienation and isolation from an increasingly unnatural social order that causes so many of us to regard the society we live in as having no claim on our allegiance... whether we agreed to it or not is hardly relevant. If we are rebelling against it, we are witnessing the breakdown and rotting on the vine of a formerly healthy and robust cultural and social community of bonds and sense of belonging.
Why that is happening is an entirely different question which we all have to seek answers to, once we see that it is indeed happening.
Somehow this all took place without any insults, mean spirited accusations, or claims that the other person "just doesn't understand liberty!!!"
And one day, sayeth the Prophet, the lion shall lie down with the lamb, and a child shall lead them.
Trinity of Bill3