Capitalism Eliminates the Proletarians

In any reasonably free and advanced capitalist society, there are no "proletarians" at all. There is only a small class of lumpen-proletarians -- the underclass consisting of criminals, addicts such as alcoholics and unlucky compulsive gamblers, the personally vicious, psychopathic mentally ill, homeless, prostitutes, welfarites, anti-capitalists who blame the "system" for their own failures, single mothers, and so on.

Mises puts it this way:

For it is one of the most important social effects of capitalism that it deproletarianizes all strata of society. It raises the standard of living of the masses of the manual workers to such a height that they too turn into "bourgeois" and think and act like well-to-do burghers. (HA, 669)

Marx's theory of the inevitable socialist revolution, apart from its innumerable other problems, fails also because there is no vast oppressed proletarian majority, and as a result, there is no agent of social change that will bring about the revolution. After all, thieves and bums will not rise up to overthrow capitalism.

Rothbard comments wittily:

When it became all too clear that the standard of living of the workers under industrial capitalism was rising instead of falling, --

Marxists fell back on the view that what Marx "really" meant by impoverishment was not immiseration but relative deprivation.

One of the problems with this fallback defense is that impoverishment is supposed to be the motor of the proletarian revolution, and it is difficult to envision the workers resorting to bloody revolution because they only enjoy one yacht apiece while capitalists enjoy five or six.

Note that people who choose to take great risks need not belong to the underclass. If a person is a pure thrill-seeker and takes up an extreme sport, say, he will simply die. The only people who survive are those world-class athletes who in addition are able to master the sport. People who have death-defying adventures and live to tell about them deserve our admiration.

In short, laissez-faire capitalism benefits everyone, the vast majority. It's the premier and most efficient possible system of social cooperation for this world. Its crucial feature is middle-class normalcy which most workers readily achieve in their own lives.

NAP Requires a Theory of Property and Justice

Otherwise, the non-aggression principle is entirely formal and lacks any content. It presupposes a theory of violence which in turn requires a theory of property and its just and unjust possession and ways of acquisition.

Suppose one says: nobody has a right to the full fruits of his labor; other people have rights to your gains from trade.

Your justly owned property is precisely what the government has elected to leave you with.

It is true that all property comes into existence controlled by some private individual, but that control is illegal or unjust. The government then seizes that unjustly held property which has always been legitimately its own. Thus, our social system may be summed with: "the government is a legitimate institution, and whatever it does is legitimate."

We can define into existence any number of such systems, even socialism: the government owns all goods, including the labor of the citizens of which it has the right to dispose as it sees fit. Instead of "finders keepers" or "first to control" or "first to mix labor with," the principle of just acquisition is the right of government possession. Regardless of who was the first possessor, the government has the right to despoil him and take his control away. Whatever the state does is automatically right, while not so for private individuals.

Now of course it will be objected that this theory of property is altogether wrong. And I agree. But the point is that one must first propound a correct theory, and then say that within its confines one ought not to initiate force. For the libertarian system, such as Rothbardian natural law, also uses violence against unjust claimants to property. Any property can and must accrue to its legitimate owner; it's just that who the legitimate owner is will be different from one property system to another.

In other words, under socialism, say, non-initiation of force may be exceedingly perverse -- a slave principle. In fact, in that system, in order to survive, a person usually cannot avoid stealing from the state, i.e., privatizing some property. This kind of theft may well be judged perfectly salutary from the libertarian perspective; and, on the contrary, non-initiation of force may be likened to a principle of "surrendering your birthright to a self-appointed elite of supermen" and to "abandonment of self-determination and to yielding to other people's domination," in Mises' words (HA, 878), that is, to slavish obedience to those who would without qualms control every aspect of one's life.

Tar and Feather the Politicians?

David Friedman has authored a penetrating article on how game theory can help escape the Hobbesian jungle. In it he uses the notion of Schelling points to make his case.

A Schelling point is (in a game) a unique choice among many which is chosen by all people playing the game who cannot talk with one another precisely because of its uniqueness. It makes possible coordination without communication. Thus, if two people are given a series of numbers 2, 5, 9, 25, 69, 73, 82, 96, 100, 126, 150 (Friedman's example) and can win a prize if both select the same number, they can succeed if they know which number the other person interprets as uniquely special, even though the concurrence in picking any number will suffice. Thus, 2 might be picked by both, because it is the only smallest prime number. 100 might be picked, because it is a nice round number. Since there are three perfect squares in the series, it is less reasonable to try to pick one of them, because even if both for some reason like squares, they will still have only 1/3 chance of selecting the same one. Thus, a Schelling point is "each person's expectation of what the other expects him to expect to be expected to do."

Does Friedman's theory apply to "social" contracts? For example, is the US Constitution a Schelling point as an agreement between the federal government and the people / states? The federal government can be either limited or unlimited; but if it is unlimited, then no one knows exactly which form it will take or how big it will be. This uncertainty will please no one. But if it limited, then we can specify or enumerate all of its legitimate functions. This can be a small list or this can be a big list, but it will limit the government. Such a government is a Schelling point; it is a unique solution to politics. It so happened that the point settled initially on a very small government. As the ideology has changed from the days of the founding of the US into something far more statist, it would still have been better to obtain the vastly bigger government that we have now by amending the Constitution than by retiring it altogether, which is the de facto situation today.

The recommendation to the people then is not to wait until "a long train of abuses and usurpations" has left its mark on the country but rather to revolt at the smallest sign of corruption of which they should be eternally vigilant. This is because any exceeding of government authority, if not checked right away, will embolden the government to try to do the same again and again, thus moving the agreement further away from the Schelling point and encouraging the government to make unlimited demands.

For if the first abuse is tolerated, then what argument remains for not tolerating all the future abuses? Give the government an inch, and it'll take a mile. So, punishing unconstitutional acts immediately and ruthlessly (e.g., by tarring and feathering the President) is a good policy even if it seems initially out of proportion to the crime committed by a public figure. This strategy will install essentially a revolution in permanence, because the government will always try to evade its restrictions.

Why shouldn't a Mafioso (as in The Sopranos) eat pussy? Because if he eats pussy, he'll eat anything.

Similarly, the people ought not to allow government crimes, no matter how small, because tolerating them means that the government will be motivated to fuck the people in the ass with ever increasing contempt and boldness.

So, it seems that enforcing Schelling points is deterrence with a vengeance.

Jefferson thought there ought to be rebellions at least every 20 years or so, so that the rulers are "warned from time to time that this people preserve the spirit of resistance." He underestimated the folly of the American people. From a shining city on the hill America has turned into an ant hill. And this has been partly due to disregarding game theory.

I Don’t Understand the Fourth Way

The fourth way of demonstrating the existence of God, says St. Thomas,

is taken from the gradation to be found in things. Among beings there are some more and some less good, true, noble and the like.

But "more" and "less" are predicated of different things, according as they resemble in their different ways something which is the maximum, as a thing is said to be hotter according as it more nearly resembles that which is hottest;

so that there is something which is truest, something best, something noblest and, consequently, something which is uttermost being; for those things that are greatest in truth are greatest in being...

Now the maximum in any genus is the cause of all in that genus; as fire, which is the maximum heat, is the cause of all hot things. Therefore there must also be something which is to all beings the cause of their being, goodness, and every other perfection; and this we call God. (ST, I, 2, 3)

Note that there are two claims here: (a) that the greatest or perfect or infinite thing exists and (b) that it is the cause of all imperfect and finite things.

Objecting to this, Richard Dawkins writes,

That's an argument? You might as well say, people vary in smelliness but we can make the comparison only by reference to a perfect maximum of conceivable smelliness. Therefore there must exist a preeminently peerless stinker, and we call him God. Or substitute any dimension of comparison you like and derive an equivalently fatuous conclusion.

1. The number line has lesser and greater integers, but there is no highest integer, nor is ∞ the cause of any number. Perhaps we need to restrict our inquiry to "perfections."

2. How about sharpness of a knife? A knife may be more or less sharp, but there is no perfect sharpness (an edge one atom in width? I doubt such a blade could work), and even if there were, the perfect sharpness would not cause the sharpness of my own kitchen knives. Now sharpness is a perfection of a means to an end (of cutting things); so perhaps we need to consider only perfections of living things that are ends in themselves.

(I.e., whose final cause of their own happiness is within them.)

3. Dawkins' smelliness example suggests that there must exist a perfectly noxious skunk. The ability to spray stinky fluid is useful to the skunk but hardly defines it. Very well, let's focus on intrinsic or essential perfections of 2nd-grade things.

4. Swiftness is an essential perfection of a horse. A slow or lame horse is unlikely to survive and reproduce in the wild. Yet there is no self-subsisting swiftness; nor can any horse run at the speed of light; nor does the speed of light cause horses to run fast. I guess we must deal only with the most general essential perfections of life.

We are left with things like power, understanding, love, happiness, relation to time, unity, and so on. But at this point, the fourth way collapses, because all the analogies with (1)-(4), including "fire," have been eliminated.

Searching James Chastek's blog suggests that the principle "whenever something is more or less great by being more perfect, there is something most perfect" may be an "axiom." But I do not find it self-evident. So, I don't know how to salvage the Fourth Way.

I mean, it is conceivable that there is something most perfect, but conceivability does not entail possibility, and possibility does not entail actuality. The Fourth Way thus gives us only an idea of God as a perfect being without even spelling out the meaning of perfection, not a proof that this God exists or that He is even possible.

Perhaps if we assumed (b), that creaturely perfections are caused, then (a) would follow straightforwardly. Just as we deduced that God is pure act by considering creatures that are mixtures of act of potency, so we can argue that there is a perfect being by extrapolating from creatures' falling short of perfection though not completely.

It may be a non sequitur, though, since proving that God is an Unmoved Mover on the physical level is much easier than proving that He is a Happy / Perfect Attractor on the spiritual level.

Effects of Sin

Guilt means "a feeling of culpability for offenses" and is the opposite of righteousness.

Shame is "a condition of humiliating disgrace or disrepute" and is the opposite of glory.

And pain, of course, is the opposite to health, whether bodily or spiritual, and of pleasure.

Now we can associate St. Thomas' effects of sin with these:

1. Guilt corresponds to debt of punishment and the evil of fault.
2. Shame, to stain on the soul and the evil of self-hatred.
3. Pain, to corruption of nature and the evil of punishment.

A Proof of God’s Infinity

One of St. Thomas' proofs of the infinity of God is this:

Again, an effect cannot transcend its cause. But our intellect can only be from God, Who is the first cause of all things. Our intellect cannot think of anything greater than God. If, then, it can think of something greater than every finite being, it remains that God is not finite." (SCG, I, 43, [11])

The sense of infinitude he is promoting here is "spiritual greatness," meaning either completeness of nature and ad intra happiness or ad extra omnipotence.

This is very similar to Descartes' arguments in Meditations on First Philosophy, e.g.,

It is true that I have the idea of substance in me in virtue of the fact that I am a substance;

but this would not account for my having the idea of an infinite substance, when I am finite, unless this idea proceeded from some substance which really was infinite.

It might seem that the difference is that Descartes wants to prove God's existence (the idea of God is "the mark of the craftsman stamped on his work"), while St. Thomas is only concerned with His infinity.

But since proving God's existence is identical to demonstrating which attributes are co-instantiated in the same being, both philosophers are doing essentially the same thing.

Quine Confuses Modalities

Quine writes:

Perhaps I can evoke the appropriate sense of bewilderment as follows.

Mathematicians may conceivably be said to be necessarily rational and not necessarily two-legged; and cyclists necessarily two-legged and not necessarily rational.

But what of an individual who counts among his eccentricities both mathematics and cycling? Is this concrete individual necessarily rational and contingently two-legged or vice versa? (Plantinga, Nature of Necessity, Ch. 1, 2)

This is a case of confusion of necessity of the consequent with necessity of the consequence. In order to conclude that

(30) Zwier is necessarily bipedal,

we need

(31) Cyclists are necessarily bipedal


(32) Zwier is a cyclist.

But (31) can be read de dicto as □(x is a cyclist → x is bipedal), in which case it's true, yet (30) does not follow;

or de re as (x is a cyclist → □(x is bipedal)), from which (30) would follow but which is unfortunately false.

In other words, we have the following 4 true statements:

(1) □(x is a mathematician → x is rational)
(2) ~□(x is a mathematician → x is bipedal)
(3) □(x is a cyclist → x is bipedal)
(4) ~□(x is a cyclist → x is rational).

Suppose in the actual world x is both a mathematician and a cyclist. Then he is both rational and bipedial. Suppose in some world W our x is a cyclist and is irrational. Then in that world he is not a mathematician. And so on. Whence the bewilderment?

Contingent Identity + Leibniz’s “Law”

Allan Gibbard tries to understand when a lump of clay and a statue made from this lump are identical. There are situations in which they are not, if the clay and the statue are generated or corrupt at different times. But:

I make a clay statue of the infant Goliath in two pieces, one part above the waist and the other part below the waste.

Once I finish the two halves, I stick them together, thereby bringing into existence simultaneously a new piece of clay and a new statue. A day later I smash the statue, thereby bringing to an end both statue and piece of clay.

The statue and piece of clay persisted during exactly the same period of time. ("Contingent Identity," Journal of Philosophical Logic 4 (1975), 187-221)

Gibbard in this part of the paper thinks of the statue (Goliath) as form-in-matter: "By a statue here, I do not mean a shape of which there could be more than one token, but a concrete particular thing... A clay statue consists of a piece of clay in a specific shape."

And he thinks of the clay (Lumpl) as matter-under-particular-form: "They began at the same time, and on any usual account, they had the same shape, location, color, and so forth at each instant in their history; everything that happened to the one happened to the other..."

Obviously, the two are one and the same thing, even if different aspects of them are emphasized in their definitions.

But later on Gibbard suggests otherwise: "Take a possible world in which I squeeze Lumpl into a ball, and suppose all the molecules involved are clearly identified. There are still two distinct things in that world, the statue Goliath which I destroy by squeezing, and the piece of clay Lumpl which survives the squeezing."

If Lumpl survives the squeezing, then its particular shape cannot be its essential but must inevitably be an accidental property. But the statue's exact shape is essential to it. If it were remade into a statue of David, then the old statue would cease to exist and a new statue would come into being. What our author calls "persistence criteria" for the two things differ. Goliath's persistence criteria are more stringent that Lumpl's.

In short, Lumpl has the power to endure even if squeezed into a ball; Goliath does not have this power. Consequently, their essences differ, and they are discernible.

We can conclude that if Goliath and Lumpl are identical, then only contingently, in the actual world; but not necessarily, as in the possible world in which the statue is squeezed into a ball, Goliath corrupts, and Lumpl persists.

Therefore, the Leibniz's law of indiscernibility of identicals is false; but a weaker relation, "necessarily identical → indiscernible" probably holds.

De Re vs. De Dicto

Kenneth Konyndyk defines these two as follows:

Modality de re is modality thought of as applying to a thing (res), more precisely, as a way a thing possesses a property.

For example, one thing might be said to possess a property necessarily, or something can be said to possibly have some given property, as in the claims that Socrates is necessarily rational or Socrates is possibly a sailor.

Modality de dicto is the modality applied to a statement (dictum). It refers to the manner or mode of a statement's being true.

For example, it is necessarily true that all bachelors are unmarried. Here it is the statement (the dictum) that is said to be necessary. More exactly, it is the statement's being true that is necessary. (Introductory Modal Logic, 78-9)

Sometimes it is useful to interpret a proposition either de re or de dicto.

"The number of planets in the Solar system is 9," when interpreted de re, means "It is true of the number which is equal to the number of planets in the Solar system that that number is 9." Since the number of planets in the Solar system is, indeed, 9, the de re reading is a trivial "9 = 9." In order to carry information, our proposition must be read de dicto.

"Agatha believes that the tallest spy is a spy," when considered de dicto, is analytic and self-evidently true. Of course, the tallest spy is a spy! He must be, necessarily. The de re reading, on the contrary, looks like this: "There is an object in the actual world, x, of which Agatha believes something, namely that he is a spy; in addition, perhaps unbeknownst to her, x also happens to be the tallest spy out there." This is much more meaningful.

Consider the statement, "George IV wondered whether the author of Waverley was such-and-such." The de re reading is inappropriate, because it means: "George IV wondered of x which had the properties (1) of existing; (2) of being unique; (3) of having written Waverley, whether x was such-and-such." He may not have realized that x had these properties, though if he did, the de re reading would be equivalent to the de dicto reading.

In the statement "Socrates is necessarily rational" the modal modifier "necessarily" is applied de re, and the statement is true (it is the essence of men to be rational);

in the statement "It is necessary that Socrates is rational" the same modifier is applied de dicto, and the statement is false, because Socrates does not exist in all possible worlds.

On the other hand, "Necessarily, what is seen sitting is sitting" is de dicto and true; "What is seen sitting is sitting necessarily" is de re and false.

Whether Actual Grace Is Irresistible?

Actually bestowed grace would as a rule seem to be irresistible, unless it is a part of a series of soul-designing events, such that even if some grace in that series is resisted, nevertheless, the entire series accomplishes God's end which moreover could not be achieved with less unpleasantness or greater efficiency than by allowing that grace to be resisted.

Another possibility is that God may supply a grace that would be poorly received for the sake of some greatest good for the greatest number.

The only other reason to bestow a grace that is resisted is in order to have a better "legal" reason to condemn a person, which is nuts. God is a maker of gods not devils.

As the Catholic Encyclopedia relates, Jansen

did not shrink from reviling sufficient grace, understood in the Catholic sense, as a monstrous conception and a means of filling hell with reprobates, while later Jansenists discovered in it such a pernicious character as to infer the appropriateness of the prayer: ... "From sufficient grace, O Lord deliver us."

I agree with the Catholic opinion, even though they do distinguish sufficient and efficacious grace.

Further, to think that grace can fail to do what the omnipotent and omniscient God wants it to do seems absurd, as well: grace

may be considered, secondly, as it is from God the Mover, and thus it has a necessity -- not indeed of coercion, but of infallibility -- as regards what it is ordained to by God, since God's intention cannot fail...

Hence if God intends, while moving, that the one whose heart He moves should attain to grace, he will infallibly attain to it... (ST, II-I, 112, 3)

Natural virtue is a necessary condition for being eligible for grace, and it is also a quasi-sufficient condition -- for God is so good that He won't miss any opportunity for uplifting a person into deiformity. The Catholic Encyclopedia agrees:

God, out of mere liberality, does not withhold His grace from the one who accomplishes what he can with his natural moral strength, i.e. from the one who, by deliberate abstention from offenses, seeks to dispose God favorably towards him and thus prepares himself negatively for grace.

Some theologians... declared even this most mitigated and mildest interpretation to be Semipelagian. Most modern theological authorities, however,... see in it nothing else but the expression of the truth:

To the one who prepares himself negatively and places no obstacle to the ever-ready influence of grace, God in general is more inclined to offer his grace than to another who wallows in the mire of sin and thus neglects to accomplish what lies in his power.

In this manner the cause of the distribution of grace is located not in the dignity of nature, but, conformably to orthodoxy, in the universal will of God to save mankind.

It may be objected to this reasoning that "Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. I did not come to call the righteous but sinners." (Mk 2:17) Very well, grace for the sake of the individual receiving it can be divided into common (which heals nature) and sanctifying (which uplifts nature), e.g.,

For one [love] is common, whereby He loves "all things that are"..., and thereby gives things their natural being.

But the second is a special love, whereby He draws the rational creature above the condition of its nature to a participation of the Divine good; and according to this love He is said to love anyone simply, since it is by this love that God simply wishes the eternal good, which is Himself, for the creature. (110, 1)

I expect that most graces bestowed by God are in fact not resisted, since in the event that God foresees that a grace would be rejected, He would refrain from giving it in the first place.