Natural Law, 2

Suppose it is objected: Smith may want to kill Jones in order to take his goods.

But Jones likely values his life far more than his material possessions and would to that extent be willing to defend himself more ferociously. Smith puts himself in more danger if he tries to kill Jones rather than merely rob him (say, by quietly burglarizing his house).

The killing is, ahem, an overkill. Again killing seems in the interest of no one at all, an act of pure destruction, and for that reason is unequivocally morally prohibited.

Assault is proscribed for similar reasons as murder: Jones feels pain from an attack on his body, but Smith receives no pleasure as a result. The evil of being hurt is accompanied by no plausible good and is to that extent 100% morally wrong.

Rape is more difficult to outlaw on this argument alone. For the rapist may say: "My good is promoted by the sexual pleasure I receive and by the child I beget." Here we may need to use further argumentation.

Why Mises Rejected Natural Law

For two reasons, both of them spurious.

First, he had seen too many bad attempts to lay down natural law for human beings. A lot of people had made mistakes in deducing such law, and Mises may have thrown the baby out with the bathwater: he figured since so many alleged natural-law-givers had been wrong, there was no such thing as natural law.

But surely, there are vast disagreements among economists, as well. Just because Keynes, say, was wrong in his approach to economics does not mean that economics is hopeless.

Second, positive law is addressed from the legislative and judicial branch of the government to the police. By changing the behavior of the executive branch, it supplies incentives to the people. Positive law does not say: "You shall not kill"; it says: "If you kill, then you shall be punished."

But surely, some rights seem to be valid regardless of whether or not a violator of a right happens to be efficiently detected and prosecuted.

So, natural law is addressed to the individual, commanding him "not to kill," say. But each person decides for himself whether or not to kill. What purpose is there to a "command"? It seems entirely pointless. Ok, I hear you demand that I not kill. But who are you to tell me anything? "No one can tell another person how to live." You can alter my behavior by threatening to punish me for killing. That I understand. A command is entirely vain and nugatory. I decide whether to heed and obey any command.

I mean, a person cannot just bark orders at another. It's preposterous.

The first task for any expositor of natural law is to establish a person's ownership of his own body. But to say "I own my body" is already to sneak into the argument what it aims to establish. For "ownership" is a legal concept that presupposes the rightness of unfettered enjoyment of the services of the body and the wrongness of anyone's interfering with such enjoyment. What we have at the beginning rather is the primordial technological fact that I control my body. Not own it.

Our main endeavor then is to bridge the is-ought gap. For narrow happiness, the gap is bridged as follows: we say that if you want to attain end X (the "is"), then you ought to use means Y, Z, and W (the "ought"). But for human nature, this strategy is unavailable.

Very well, we note that I cannot relinquish my control over my body without dying; and it is impossible for anyone else to pick up or inherit that control from me. Smith cannot come to control Jones' dead body. But now consider the most basic injunction to man: that he ought to do good and avoid evil. An act of killing considered in itself destroys the victim, because he loses his highly valued control over his body (if it were not valued, then why has the victim not yet committed suicide? he does not have to wait to be killed), yet benefits not at all the killer, who cannot steal that control away from the person he kills.

As a result, killing simpliciter is an unmitigated evil that is not balanced at all with any kind of good. But if man is to avoid evil in general, this particular evil, too, ought to be avoided. Hence, not killing is a duty, and not being killed is a human natural right.

This right can be codified if we pronounce that any man "owns" his body with all the privileges of such ownership.

Mises did not think that ethics was a branch of knowledge at all. He did not consider it to be a valid discipline in which truth and falsity can be established. Ethics for him was neither science nor philosophy; it was nonsense. But here I think he was wrong.

Republic, 2

In other words, it's the endless struggle on the part of the state to "make lies sound truthful and murder respectable."

The Evil Republic

The state is perpetually pursuing the Glaucon's quest of the perfection of injustice: "to seem just without really being so; a perfectly unjust man, while committing the grossest acts of injustice, has won himself the highest reputation for justice."

Adiemus

It's a beautiful song, and in me, it evokes the vision of the morning of the day and the beginning of the work of the world, as well the morning of mankind and the vastness of the world still to be conquered, and a thanks to the unseen and unknown creator who made it all a reality.

Alfred Marshall

After reading his Principles years ago, I liked him personally very much, finding him to be a good, almost holy, man, and now reading his biography on Wikipedia confirms this: "Metaphysics led Marshall to ethics, specifically a Sidgwickian version of utilitarianism; ethics, in turn, led him to economics, because economics played an essential role in providing the preconditions for the improvement of the working class. Even as he turned to economics, his ethical views continued to be a dominant force in his thinking. ... His even-handedness drew great respect and even reverence from fellow economists."

You Shall Not Speak Ill of the Gods

Learned Rodner Figueroa, even if the alleged blasphemy is "true."

Creativity

It is God's nature to create. His power to create beautiful things is unconstrained by any inner inhibition. God creates, because He is driven by an impulsion to do good.

This is what we call "self-diffusion of goodness," causation that is neither physical nor teleological.

Terrible, Terrible Damage

I predict that if wicked witch Hillary becomes president, then in order to prove her manhood, she'll push the nuke button.

Materialism

Even my pet cat, Mighty Oleg, obviously understands the difference between me, my desk, his food, and other people. He and I are friends, sharing a bond of affection, yet nothing else is his friend. Materialists... what weirdos.

Eugenics

To continue the discussion, in a very general sense, highly-paid workers and good entrepreneurs can "afford" more children than their poorer brethren. This will make a difference on the margin, and as a result, on average the top 50% of earners will have more children (say, 3.2) than the bottom 50% of earners (say, 2.5). Society should be expected to change toward "smarter" or at least "sheepier" population. "Sheep" in the Christian sense at least is a term of praise not insult. A sheep is a moral person. What remains is to make the shepherds, the social natural elite, economically astute.

Violence, 2

An article in LA Times is titled, "Islamic State and its increasingly sophisticated cinema of terror."

Such barbarians. Anyone forget "Shock and Awe"? "We" are being imitated, if still primitively.

Violence

The American state kills, the Russian state kills, the French state kills, and now the Islamic State kills, too. Whence the surprise?

I suppose that for Americans, killing is a game; while ISIS takes it seriously.

And of course, our butchers are good; their butchers are evil.

Prospects for Liberty

The masses are more ready for liberty now than at any time in the past throughout the whole human history.

Aureoles

They are consolation prizes.

Thus, St. Thomas attributes to virgins "incorruption of mind and body." But we are not salmon who die right after spawning. And all people die, both virgins and not. In fact, being a parent, especially of a lot of children raised well, is rewarded with a far greater main aura than being a virgin. The aureole is a poor substitute for this glory.

A martyr has failed to arrange his affairs in such a way as to avoid death at the hands of other people. This is shameful, regardless of his faith and devotion. Again, his aureole is a consolation prize.

A doctor as a scientist merely contemplates; he does not improve upon the divine works; nor does he improve his own well-being; nor the well-being of fellow men. For this poverty and failure at active life, he is deprived of the main aura or crown but receives an aureole in recognition of a somewhat valuable life.

Theological Virtue Loops

A person should love charity out of charity, says St. Thomas. Note what this does. Charity is loving God and all other things for the sake of God. But God usually responds to prayers for goods loved out of charity. Therefore, by loving charity, you enlist God's own protection for this theological virtue. This ensures that you will not lose charity in the future.

But why not extend similar reasoning for the other two theological virtues?

Accordingly, one ought to have faith that his faith is correct, thus invoking God to keep one from falling into error regarding any article of faith.

One must also hope that his hope in God will not be disappointed.

The loops protect these virtues from being damaged.

Net Neutrality

What a surprise: a group of bureaucrats votes itself more power and control over the evolution of the Internet.

I mean, I look at this federal f---ing government and wonder, is it possible for them to do anything right? Anything at all?

Repost: The “Obesity Epidemic”

It's true, there are a lot of fat people walking around. Shame on them. But the word "epidemic" properly applies only to infectious communicable diseases that can spread easily from person to person: an epidemic is "an outbreak of disease that spreads quickly and affects many individuals at the same time" (m-w.com).

A case can be made that during an outbreak of some hideous disease, the carrier's liberty can be infringed by means of a quarantine ("a term during which a ship arriving in port and suspected of carrying contagious disease is held in isolation from the shore," also more generally, "a restraint upon the activities or communication of persons or the transport of goods designed to prevent the spread of disease or pests.") This violation of rights, though evil in itself, can still be attempted to be justified. A sick person just by being around other people pulses with a negative externality: he can infect them.

Moreover, being infected in the case of a true epidemic is not a "temptation," such that whether or not to give in to it is under the control of one's will. (So, something like "peer pressure" cannot create an epidemic, any more than Coca-Cola.) One may get the illness while being completely innocent of any wrongful or stupid behavior.

I think enough books and movies (I'm thinking Stephen King's The Stand) have explored this issue, so the point should be clear.

But obesity is not contagious. One cannot catch fat from another person. In fact, a fat guy walking around can spread positive externalities: I look at him, am disgusted, and resolve in my heart not be like him, to stay or get fit.

Another implication here is that there are no "public health" issues apart from local externality controls, such as enforcing sanitation rules, making sure that private exterminators do not just drive the vermin next door, and suchlike trivial stuff.

The use of the word "epidemic" is a crude appeal to imagination and emotion, as though fat were flying through the air, attaching itself to people's stomachs. Being obese is a personal consumer choice (of lifestyle, food, exercise or lack thereof, etc.). Coercively to interfere with it (or in general to save people from themselves) is straightforwardly to harm people.

Good Intentions

For a purely economic analysis of law, the lawmakers should be granted good intentions. "An economist investigates whether a measure a can bring about the result p for the attainment of which it is recommended, and finds that a does not result in p but in g, an effect which even the supporters of the measure a consider undesirable." (HA: 883)

Any political analysis superadded onto that ought not to presuppose any good intentions. The government is thus not a "nanny state"; it does not aim to "save us from ourselves"; it does not "seek the greatest good for the greatest number"; it does not act "for the children"; etc.

It aims to hurt, not to help; to destroy, not to save; to rip off, not to create wealth. The government is both stupid economically and evil politically, though in doing evil it is deviously smart.

Abortion

The fact that abortion may be a sin does not entail that it ought to be criminalized. I must side with Rothbard on that.