Immigration Reform-ATiM Style

I’ve been thinking about this post all week and trying to come up with a clever angle to get a discussion going.  After a few brief exchanges with some of you I realized that most of us probably support some variety of reform that leads to citizenship, so what’s there to discuss right?  One thing I’d like to understand more clearly is why some of you support open borders or how you think that would actually work in reality.   I’m also curious about what everyone thinks the chances are of the Senate bill passing first the Senate and eventually the House.  I’m not really expecting it to pass the House at this point but think it might squeak past in the Senate.  And also, at 844 pages with 300 amendments already offered isn’t it just another boondoggle anyway?

The first thing I had trouble finding was a good summary of the bill, I love you guys but I’m not willing to read that many pages of gobbledegook to come up with the gist of the bill.  I’m reading a book I’m really enthralled with right now and am not giving that up for ATiM.  The best summary I could find was Marco Rubio’s…………..funny huh?

Here are a few highlights:

This legislation contains the toughest border immigration enforcement measures in U.S. history. It is based on six required security triggers that must be achieved before the newly legalized are allowed to apply for green cards. These six triggers include:

1. Border Security Plan: DHS must create, fund and initiate a border security plan (within 6 months of bill’s enactment).

2. Border Fence Plan: DHS must create, fund & initiate a border fence plan (within 6 months of bill’s enactment).

3. Border Security Metrics: DHS must achieve 100 percent border awareness and at least 90 percent apprehension rates in high-risk sectors of the U.S.-Mexico border (within 5 years of bill’s enactment).

4. Border Commission: If DHS fails to achieve #3, a Border Commission of border state officials and stakeholders is required to create & implement a plan to achieve 100 percent border awareness and at least 90 percent apprehension rates in high-risk sectors of the U.S.-Mexico border (within 10 years of bill’s enactment).

5. Employment Verification: Universal E-verify must be implemented (within 10 years of bill’s enactment).

6. Exit System To Stop Visa Overstays: Visa exit system must be implemented at all international airports & seaports (within 10 years of bill’s enactment).
Modernizing

Conservative Economists Say Modernizing Our System Will Grow Our Economy And Create Jobs: The modernization of our legal immigration system will be a net benefit for America as we make historic reforms towards a more merit-based immigration system that will help us attract entrepreneurs, innovators, investors, skilled workers and people driven by the desire to build a better life for themselves and, in turn, create jobs for American workers.

Protecting American Workers: This bill protects American workers from unwarranted immigration for jobs that Americans are willing and able to do. For example, the proposal would not allow any work visas to be issued if the unemployment rate in a certain area is above 8.5 percent, which is the norm in many cities.

Highly Skilled Workers: After educating the world’s brightest and most innovative minds, we will no longer send them home to benefit competing economies like China and India; we will instead staple green cards to their diplomas. We will also expand the highly skilled H1-B visa program from 65,000 to 110,000 to fill jobs Americans can’t do. To accomplish the move to a more merit-based immigration system, we eliminate certain categories of family preferences that have allowed for chain migration and completely eliminate the diversity visa lottery, among other reforms.

Guest Worker Program: The bill establishes a guest worker program for lower-skilled workers that ensures our future flow of workers is manageable, traceable, fair to American workers, and in line with our economy’s needs. The modernization of our visa programs will ensure people who want to come legally – and who our economy needs to come legally – can do so.

Agricultural Worker Program: A new agricultural guest worker visa program would be established to ensure an adequate agricultural workforce to safeguard our food supply. This program will also allow current undocumented farm workers who have made a substantial prior commitment to agricultural work in the United States to obtain legal status.

And then it goes on to detail how the bill deals with the illegal immigrants here now.  It explains why it’s not amnesty, how they’re going to deny Federal benefits until certain criteria are met, what to do about children (dreamers) brought here unwittingly by their parents and how the path for  immigrants who came her illegally will be longer and more difficult than it is for those who chose the legal path.  There’s a lot in there, and you can tell where the compromises are.

Here are a few comments from various people here that I would love to hear more about and am also wondering what everyone thinks of the bill the gang of eight crafted.

Mark:  I am for need based immigration. I think we should permit immigrants with talent and skill to come here and apply for citizenship after five years. I think we should allow many more immigrants in toto than we do now. But I want them to actually learn American history and become acculturated and be fluent in English before they take their oath of citizenship. I want their knowing and proud allegiance to our country. And I don’t want extended family reunification – I want it limited to spouse and minor children.

I agree with George that immigrants are our lifeblood. But without selectivity, I believe we can get blood poisoning.

Brent:  On immigration, I am to the left of both parties. Our economy’s biggest growth came during periods of greatest immigration. While there is a correlation / causation issue there (were immigrants flocking to the US because the economy was great or were immigrants making the economy great?) I think we need an influx of young people to balance out the aging baby boom generation. Since we can’t go back and change fertility rates, well that leaves immigration.

McWing:  I’d give citizenship on day one, also, I wouldn’t have any language requirement though I would not publish anything official in anything other than English. A common language is important, IMO. And since I think the welfare state will collapse anyway, sure, let them have at it, though I dont think that is why the overwhelming number of immigrants come here, for welfare. I, perhaps naively, think they come here to live and work in a society who’s governent interferes in their lives less than where they came from. Also, they’ll be paying taxes, so the schools will be funded adequately. I hope the parents demand English only/immersion for their kids, to give them a fighting chance once they hit the working world. I don’t think the border states will be swamped, people move to where there are jobs, immigrants are no different.

Scott:  I am instinctively in favor of open borders and easy immigration. But that cannot coexist with the kind of welfare state that we now have. I suppose if you assume the welfare state as it exists must eventually collapse anyway, then accelerating it and getting on with the recovery process sooner rather than later makes sense. In which case open borders and immigration is even more attractive.

Perhaps more of you have weighed in and I missed it so I’m curious what the rest of you think and is there any chance that the Senate bill is a launching pad for the kind of reform each of you wants?  As a Californian with a keen interest in Mexico and it’s people I probably wouldn’t go as far as McWing, although I might be persuaded, but the bill looks a little constipated with stumbling blocks to me.

There’s been all sorts of coverage lately and I’ve read a lot of it but one of the most interesting to me was this email exchange Greg Sargent had a couple of days ago on Cornyn’s suggested compromise and perhaps thwarting Presidential aspirations:

This has put Marco Rubio in a box, and it needs to be acknowledged that Cornyn’s move really does threaten the prospects for reform. Frank Sharry, of the pro-immigration America’s Voice, explains why in an email to me:

“Cornyn is trying to box Rubio in, and if he does, we’ve got a problem.  Cornyn is taking dead aim at hardening the triggers – threatens the path to citizenship in a big way – in hopes of dragging Rubio to the right. The problem is that Rubio going right loses many Dems. Dicey moment. Cornyn stepped out in front with a proposal for more border security in way that undermines the path to citizenship. Rubio either goes with Cornyn — to look more conservative — and threatens the bipartisan core support for reform, or says no to Cornyn and looks weak, damaging the chance to get 15 Republicans to come in board.”

In other words, Cornyn has undercut Rubio by staking out a position much further to the right of the Gang of Eight compromise that Rubio had been taking.

I’ve read, in a variety of opinions, that the only way immigration reform will pass is if Republican leadership and the big donors want it to pass and they’ll have to pressure Boehner to put it up for a vote and hope the Democrats will get it across the finish line.  I can’t help but wonder if that would finally be the end of Boehner’s Speakership though.

142 Responses

  1. I realize it’s a little late on a Friday for a new post but I figured everyone could just weigh in at their leisure and it might take us through the weekend. Consider it an open thread as well.

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  2. The Rubio bill is funny in that there really is no security required to be in place before Green Cards are issued, just “plans.”

    I don’t think it gets out of the Senate. The House will break it up in chunks with security (or a sham of it) first and citizenship last or never. That will cause enough red state D Senators to abandon the Rubio bill, it will lose cloture because of D votes. It will frustrate the White House because it’s supposed to die in the House, like the gun control bill did. It screws up his obstructionist narrative going into 2014.

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  3. “Plans”. I noticed that too. E-verify implemented in ten years? Sheesh, how long have they been trying to implement that.

    So, no reform then?

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  4. I don’t think so this year.

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  5. I wish I really understood what the big hang up was. I mean look at you guys. Scott has what appears to be a pretty cynical wish to speed up the process of the demise of the safety net, but even disregarding that, like the rest of you he supports easy immigration. Are all of you you just outliers or what?

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  6. Yes but you don’t have much influence on the Republican party do you? In some ways I think it’s too bad you’re all so principled. If you’d recognize the need for some safeguards for people who fall through the cracks for various reasons, maybe we’d make some progress on your better ideas.

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    • lms:

      Yes but you don’t have much influence on the Republican party do you?

      I don’t have much influence over anyone!

      If you’d recognize the need for some safeguards for people who fall through the cracks for various reasons…

      I’m fine with that, but government programs designed to capture most people are not that.

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  7. I personally wish ATiM wasn’t so heavily weighted with principled libertarians. You guys are tough to debate because everything fits so conveniently into your world view there’s never really any room for debate. It’s no wonder I lose every argument……hahaha

    I don’t generally see an area of compromise anywhere from any of you (libertarians). If I’m mistaken I wish someone would enlighten me. Regarding immigration, I think Mark has the better ideas. I welcome our southern neighbors but I think there should be some requirements before they can enjoy the so-called American dream while at the same time we shouldn’t make it damned near impossible.

    I don’t welcome what you guys believe is the inevitable demise of the safety net for obvious reasons. Some democrat didn’t wake up one morning and say to him/herself we need to tax ourselves so we have a little left over in our old age just because they had a dream. SS was designed to solve a problem, much the same way Medicare was. There were a lot of old people falling through the cracks. Now that I’m about to become one of those “old people” I can see how it could happen. Taking those benefits away will only take us back, not forward, imo.

    I think the bill in the Senate is really heavy handed and caters to too many special interests (how unusual) and yet I would tend to support it because it gets us a little closer to solving some of our immigration issues. I could be waiting another fifty years (which I don’t have obviously) for the perfect bill that fits not only libertarian principles but also my own. I’d rather move us toward incorporating immigrants in a way that doesn’t over burden our already shaky middle class. I think an influx of immigrants would be good for the country but I think it needs to be a controlled influx and one that benefits not only them but us.

    [Update] My first sentence sounded more harsh than I intended. I don’t want any of you to leave obviously, I just want more balance…….haha

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    • Talking to my Muslim clients over many years – they are legal immigrants from India and Pakistan and financially successful either in small biz or the professions – I hear how they monitor their community for people who don’t accept American ideas of freedom and report them to the FBI. They all attend the “Turkish” or modernist mosque which is very large. They have ditched the Sunni-Shia divide or crossed it. They can explain its history and think it is the worst kind of BS. I even have a pair who own a dry cleaning biz who are Muslim and Hindu and who joke about “only in America”. We now have some smaller and probably fundie mosques around, as well.

      These clients were always ready to reject tribalism for a chance to come to Australia, Canada, the USA, or the UK.

      With Muslims, I would want to be very careful about background checks, not because of terrorism fears per se, but because there are many for whom the sect to which they belong demands anti-democratic values. Again, this is not true for any of my Muslim clients, but they are the source of this distinction I am drawing. I think that many Muslim communities in America are self policing for “problems”, btw, according to my friend in the FBI.

      We should want to bring in young and healthy talented folks in large numbers because we are not growing younger as a population.

      We do need a bracero type program in western TX, NM, AZ, and southern CA. A bracero type program need not lead to citizenship, btw. The ranches and dry land farms of the southwest are so big and the population so small that there is a labor shortage there. If we told inner city unemployed youth that they could be ranch hands or fruit pickers for minimum wage plus provided trailer park or line shack housing do you really think they would come and do the work? Fat chance – and as ranch hands, especially, they would have a big learning curve. Never been around big animals? You got a lot to learn. So happens there are Mexican youths who know this work, especially. And they would rather work here seasonally and go home in many cases.

      I am just trying to point up some nuances that I don’t think are adequately dealt with.

      I agree that this flawed with special interest bill is much better than what we have and I do favor not rejecting much better simply because it is not very good.

      I oppose completely open borders on the simple premise that the carrying capacity of the USA is finite. I favor more immigration than we have, better conceived for our purposes as a nation.

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    • lms:

      You guys are tough to debate because everything fits so conveniently into your world view there’s never really any room for debate.

      I don’t think it is fair to say that everything fits “so conveniently”. First, I think there are hard cases that are not so easily handled by libertarian ideology. And there would certainly be outcomes in a libertarian world that I personally would find not so convenient. But I think what distinguishes a principled libertarian from others, and what makes it hard to debate us, is that we are generally content to follow our principles even if they result in outcomes that we do not particularly like. I don’t think others, and particularly liberals, are so content, and are willing and even eager to use the government to order the world to their liking, even if doing so is inconsistent with their professed ideals. And this inconsistency makes it difficult to defend policy preferences in a debate.

      To take one minor example, I can’t stand being around smokers. I absolutely hate it, so it would please me greatly if in restaurants, or bars, or anywhere really people were not allowed to smoke. So with regard to my personal preferences, I should love laws barring smoking in public places. But in fact I argue against them all the time, because they are a clear breach of property rights. If the owner of a bar wants to allow smoking, that is his right, just as it is my right not to go drinking at his bar because of the smoke. Others may profess to believe in property rights, but will be more than happy to toss the notion if necessary in order to achieve a world more to their liking…like a world in which smoking is not allowed in bars or restaurants. That, I think, is the biggest difference between libertarians and others.

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  8. OT but back to the hot news of the week. This guys has a different perspective that might be worth listening to on the NSA/PRISM debate. “I’m so confused.” Heh, what else is new?

    I know it’s big and scary that the government wants a data base of all phone calls. And it’s scary that they’re paying attention to the internet. And it’s scary that your cell phones have GPS installed. And it’s scary, too, that the little box that lets you go through the short toll lane on I-95 lets someone, somewhere know that you are on the move. Privacy is in decline around the world, largely because technology and big data have matured to the point where it is easy to create a net that monitors many daily interactions. Sometimes the data is valuable for commerce — witness those facebook ads for Italian shoes that my wife must endure — and sometimes for law enforcement and national security. But be honest, most of us are grudging participants in this dynamic. We want the cell phones. We like the internet. We don’t want to sit in the slow lane at the Harbor Tunnel toll plaza.

    The question is not should the resulting data exist. It does. And it forever will, to a greater and greater extent. And therefore, the present-day question can’t seriously be this: Should law enforcement in the legitimate pursuit of criminal activity pretend that such data does not exist. The question is more fundamental: Is government accessing the data for the legitimate public safety needs of the society, or are they accessing it in ways that abuse individual liberties and violate personal privacy — and in a manner that is unsupervised.

    http://davidsimon.com/we-are-shocked-shocked/

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  9. We will also expand the highly skilled H1-B visa program from 65,000 to 110,000 to fill jobs Americans can’t do.

    I find it hard to believe that there are are 110,000 jobs requiring skills that can only be obtained from overseas STEM graduates. In practice the H1-B program creates a form of high-tech indentured servitude. Visa program abuses are also rife in those programs that bring in Eastern European teenagers to staff hotels and restaurants in tourist resorts.

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  10. Fat chance – and as ranch hands, especially, they would have a big learning curve

    Funny story, my cousin was an inner city English teacher until about three years ago. Some of you may even have heard of Fremont High, they make the news here regularly. He was also the girls’ basketball coach. About 10 years ago he brought his team to our community for a weekend tournament and we invited him and all his players to stay here. It was during the summer and so they were able to swim, sleep on the floor slumber party style, and we even fed them. We saved the team and the parents quite a bit of money.

    We live in “Horse Town USA” believe it or not. Our house is surrounded on all but one side by horse trails. The first time someone rode by on a horse, which happens all the time, they were literally beside themselves. Most of them had never even seen a horse before, up close and personal. What a riot.

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  11. The David Simon article is the most coherent discussion I’ve read on what is actually done and how it is happening. It’s all about finding actionable information so that further investigation can be done. I do think the FISA Court is rubberstamping everything but top level administrators are at the mercy of those pleading necessity. They would be derelict to at least not ask for permission to do whatever they are doing. There is an invasion of privacy slippery slope but I’m not sure we are at it yet.

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  12. Gail Collins seems to have nailed the NSA:

    That was only one incident, but we do seem to have an ominous combination: an agency with a bad record on thriftiness, and practically everything it spends money on is secret.

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  13. This alternet piece makes some important points also. I’m still thinking.

    3. Underestimated: The erosion of constitutional rights. For two centuries, the U.S. Constitution’s Fourth Amendment barred the government from unreasonable search and seizure by police authorities. Kirk Wiebe, a former NSA intelligence analyst, told NPR on Thursday that collecting vast reams of electronic data was changing the “innocent-until-proven-guilty” foundation of constitutional law.

    “Now, unfortunately, people like the former director of NSA, Michael Hayden, and others have recast the Fourth Amendment from one that is based on probable cause in presenting evidence for subsequent invasion of privacy to one of reasonable suspicion,” Wiebe said. “That phrase has not been defined except by some managers controlling this information about you and me.”

    9. Underestimated: The power that government is accumulating. People do not realize how powerful the government is until they become its target. The most chilling aspect of the interview NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake gave on Democracy Now! was how his life came undone once the federal government decided he was its enemy—because he believed the press and public needed to know that earlier NSA electronic surveillance violated the Constitution. The power of the state—whether local police videotaping protesters or the Justice Department going after journalists and whistleblowers—is staggering.

    http://www.alternet.org/civil-liberties/surveillance-nsa?page=0%2C0

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  14. Mark, regards Bracero. I tend to agree with your assessment about farming ranching labor requirements. I might also add the caveat of the current pay scale. A higher pay might attract more American workers.

    There is another issue about illegal immigrants that goes unsaid. For the most part, they’re just better workers. They don’t complain (language barrier?), the don’t call in sick and work hard. Now, maybe it’s a fear of deportation, I tend to think that it’s more to do with this world living conditions and the scarcity of liberty and opportunity at home. We just don’t have that kind of pressure on our youth that they so in say, Hermisillo or Guaymas.

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  15. Regards surveillance, any abuse you can imagine has already occurred. Is there accountability?

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  16. For me, it isn’t about libertarianism, it is about economics. Part of the problem with Japan (and Europe to a lesser extent) is that they have aging populations. And, like it or not, old people don’t spend a lot, so you get this slow growth economy that really doesn’t go anywhere. Strong economies tend to have a lot of young people, and immigration is the way to bring young people into the economy. So, national security issues aside, I am for increasing immigration.

    Regarding the H1-B issue, one explanation I have heard is that we have dumbed down education over the past 20 years. FWIW, I am not sure I buy that, as my son (who is in 3rd grade) is doing basic algebra and story problems and I remember 3rd grade as being multiplication tables. So I don’t see a dramatic shift in standards (yes, I know – sample size of 1).

    The idea that immigrants come here and “take jobs’ is largely a canard. They add to economic growth which helps create jobs. I think increasing immigration will do a lot more for economic growth than a bunch of make-work pork barrel projects done under the guise of “stimulus” ever will.

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  17. Scott

    But I think what distinguishes a principled libertarian from others, and what makes it hard to debate us, is that we are generally content to follow our principles even if they result in outcomes that we do not particularly like

    And that’s precisely what’s so convenient about it. You never sway or have doubts or question whether the outcomes are perhaps not beneficial to the majority. It doesn’t matter, you stick to your principles and so you can always argue from that certainty.

    While I, on the other hand, do have doubts and question unintended consequences and balancing my rights with others’ etc. I’m a mass of inconsistencies…………..and I know it. To me life is a balancing act not a program that I’m meant to adhere to all the time. There are some freedoms I’m comfortable giving up and some sacrifices I’m willing to make for the greater good even if it means the government uses a little coercion to get there. There are other freedoms I cherish more and fight against giving up. If any of that even makes sense to anyone but me I’ll be shocked………….hahaha

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    • lms:

      You never…question whether the outcomes are perhaps not beneficial to the majority.

      Correct, because I do not believe government, especially the federal government, exists to provide benefits to the majority. I think it exists to protect the rights/freedom of all citizens, and most particularly those of the minority which the majority would like to target for their own benefit.

      While I, on the other hand, do have doubts and question unintended consequences and balancing my rights with others’ etc.

      As you know, I do not believe that rights need “balancing” because, properly understood, they cannot conflict.

      There are some freedoms I’m comfortable giving up and some sacrifices I’m willing to make for the greater good…

      The trouble is not in what you are comfortable giving up, but rather in what you are comfortable forcing others who disagree with you to give up against their will.

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      • lms:

        BTW, with regard to the “convenience” of a particular ideology, I think it is far more convenient to be happily unconcerned with consistency and principle when pursuing one’s preferences than it is to pursue those preferences with action consistent with previously stated principles.

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  18. Brent

    I agree with most of what you’ve said and I think your ideas could also co-exist with Mark’s caveats.

    This I especially agree with, which may be shocking.

    The idea that immigrants come here and “take jobs’ is largely a canard. They add to economic growth which helps create jobs. I think increasing immigration will do a lot more for economic growth than a bunch of make-work pork barrel projects done under the guise of “stimulus” ever will.

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  19. I saw we deport Russians and Canadians who can’t find the back of the net. Grr

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  20. Scott

    I think it exists to protect the rights/freedom of all citizens

    I agree but there are always going to be competing rights in my opinion and the reason we have the government we have with the legal system we have is specifically to protect our rights, including those of the minority as well as the will of the majority. I’m saying it’s not always easy to figure out, for some of us, who has the most compelling case. In civil rights it was property owners against blacks………………it took us a long time to figure that one out and there are still some who believe the property owners should have the right to refuse service. Theoretically the rights of property owners should supersede all else, but in reality sometimes it squashes the rights of the minority or even a moral right.

    But the courts decided and some would say they got it right while others continue to disagree.

    Another angle on your smoking ban, should workers have the right to a smoke free environment? Or are we going to say, if you want a smoke free environment go find a different job. Who’s the minority and whose rights are more compelling or justified? I am incapable of seeing this as a right or wrong issue. It’s a balancing act. I’m just built that way and even if you were able to prove to me the business owner should have complete control over the smoking environment at his establishment, I would still find a way to argue with you, even knowing in advance I would technically lose the argument. I’m like a defense lawyer I guess. I’d argue even knowing my client is guilty.

    I think as a country we decide some of these issues based upon what the majority decides and only then if it’s supported by the courts. I certainly don’t always agree with their decisions and I’m sure you don’t either but that’s the way we decided a long time ago it was going to work.

    It’s fun to argue about but I don’t believe there is always a definitive answer and who’s in charge of making sure our rights are properly understood anyway? You? The Supreme Court? Libertarians? We have a balance of power in our government for a reason and sure part of it is to protect the rights of the minority but there’s also a point where the majority has to just decide for the rest of us. That’s why we have elections and a divided government.

    If you want to discuss whether the government is working properly we could both agree that it isn’t but probably for different reasons even then.

    All I’m saying in a very round about way is that I don’t think I should have to apologize for not always being 100% sure of myself when I balance a proposed policy against the rights of the minority or whether coercion is justified or not. My political philosophy encompasses some room for compromise and pooling of resources even if it is through coercion and some pay more than others.

    We’re more than just a government, we’re a society, and it’s full of people who need our protection and our help occasionally. If it means we trample the rights of others sometimes to do that, then that’s what we do. There’s always someone to pull us back when we go too far, that’s the beauty of our political system.

    BTW, I’m not happily unconcerned with consistency and principles, I just try to recognize that 100% consistency isn’t always possible and that my principles aren’t the same as someone elses, nor should they be.

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  21. Like you, Lulu, I think representative government is supposed to be our servant, not our master, and that it is our job as citizens to make it and keep it so. Thus we have majority rule with limitations, and the limits are based on individual and minority rights set out in our charter as amended.

    Scott’s sense that the federal government is a master and not a servant is subjective. It gains objective support from the existence of the semi-permanent and large bureaucracy. We would all describe this behemoth as the result of the welfare state, and of the security state, I think.

    But follow me on this. The behemoth feels like a master and not a servant not because of what it does but because its direction cannot be changed absent heroic effort, and maybe it cannot be changed, period.

    If we are really running the ship, when we vote we can change direction. But first, we don’t agree on a direction, and second, if we did, turning the ship would still be brutally hard.

    It is why George keeps teasing [me] about “one more regulation”. The bigger it gets, the harder it is to steer. Takes on a life of its own. Makes political activism seem like something that ought to be reserved for school board elections, because it won’t work in D.C..

    So rent seekers with lobbyists pick at the behemoth and add self congratulatory regulation or deregulation. Takes NoVA’s expertise just to understand where the moving parts are.

    It is easy to become frustrated.

    I take it as our duty to stay informed and involved and to have these discussions and not give up. What we think here: liberal, moderate, conservative, libertarian, TEAperson; sometimes strikes a common chord. I think it does on immigration, at least contrasted with what the bozos are arguing in D.C. So maybe there is some hope we can influence someone who can influence someone else and we can get to adjust a moving part. Sometimes.

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    • mark:

      If we are really running the ship, when we vote we can change direction. But first, we don’t agree on a direction, and second, if we did, turning the ship would still be brutally hard.

      It’s because the ship is waaaaaay too big. The only possible solution (and there is every chance there is no solution at this late stage) is to stop voting to make it bigger. Alas, too many of “us” (and I use that term loosely) keep doing precisely the opposite.

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    • mark:

      Like you, Lulu, I think representative government is supposed to be our servant, not our master….

      I think representative government is supposed to be the servant of a political majority and the master of a political minority. There is no universal “we”. That is precisely why we need a constitution that strictly limits what the government is allowed to do.

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  22. Mark

    The bigger it gets, the harder it is to steer.

    Yes, I certainly agree with that and that the government is a behemoth cannot be denied. I wasn’t kidding above when I mentioned the 844 pages plus amendments….ridiculous. But all of that is different than what I’m talking about.

    I honestly want to know if everyone, or anyone, or who, agrees with Scott’s assertion that there is no balancing act between rights because if, as he claims, they are properly understood, and there is no conflict, then what is the purpose of our discussions or a two party system or even a Supreme Court?

    It is common knowledge here that I am neither a legal nor constitutional scholar, but I’ve always believed the balance between individual/state/property/majority/minority interests or rights was what the great political debate was about. If we already know which interest supersedes all others in every case and there is no question of justice or competing interest then wouldn’t it follow that we would have no need of a citizen directed government?

    That the government is huge and broken I’m not denying. That giving up isn’t an option, I’m also not denying. I just want to know that there is some confusion allowed when comparing the rights of say a 24 hour old fertilized egg versus a 15 year old girl. If it’s already set in stone and something we’re all supposed to already know then our decisions have already been made for us and our opinions don’t matter.

    I believe it’s that confusion that actually matters and which is the basis for progress and change.

    BTW, the fact that I came back here expressly means that I have no intention of giving up.

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    • lms:

      I honestly want to know if everyone, or anyone, or who, agrees with Scott’s assertion that there is no balancing act between rights because if, as he claims, they are properly understood, and there is no conflict, then what is the purpose of our discussions or a two party system or even a Supreme Court?

      Just to be clear, when I refer to rights being properly understood, I am referring to the concept of “rights”, not specific instances of rights. We can have disagreements and debates about whether or not this or that right attaches to this or that person in this or that instance, but we must begin with agreement on what it actually means to say that a person has a right to something. If we properly understand what it means to say that a person has a right to something, it can never be the case that rights conflict. To say that I have a right to something is, necessarily, to say that neither you nor anyone else can have a right to take that something away. Our rights cannot conflict. And this understanding of rights as a concept will, indeed must, then go on to help inform us when we argue about specific rights.

      Just to take the perennial topic of debate here (which, I will remind everyone, I did not re-introduce so don’t blame me!), if a 24 hour old fertilized human egg has a right to life, then a 15 year old girl does not have a right to destroy the life of that egg. You and I may not be able to agree on whether the premise is true, but we should be able to agree that the above if/then statement is true. So every time you or someone else talks about “balancing” conflicting rights, it tells me that we don’t even agree on this basic understanding of what a “right” even means.

      It is common knowledge here that I am neither a legal nor constitutional scholar, but I’ve always believed the balance between individual/state/property/majority/minority interests or rights was what the great political debate was about.

      Also, just to be clear, when I talk of rights not conflicting, I am talking about natural rights, not legal rights. Of course legal rights can conflict, since legal rights can be whatever politicians decide they are at any given time, including mutually exclusive things.

      Like

  23. Scott’s assertion that there is no balancing act between rights because if, as he claims, they are properly understood, and there is no conflict, then what is the purpose of our discussions or a two party system or even a Supreme Court.

    I haven’t been able to find where Scott said this, but no I wouldn’t agree that our rights are properly understood or defined. . . else we wouldn’t be at loggerheads all the time.

    Like

  24. OK, this just goes to show how little has changed. I’m reading a book written in 2000 and set mostly in Tampa, FL where a character is at a rally sponsored by what has to be a Rush Limbaugh caricature (the author is from Florida). This is the bit picked up by the evening newscast:

    The television camera pulled back to show C.C. Flag on a large stage.
    This isn’t Vista Isles, thought Zargaroza [snip] Behind them hung an American flag and a giant banner: “Proposition 213.”
    “Holy shit,” Zargoza yelled. “This is that stupid anti-immigration thing. This can’t be happening!”
    The TV panned over the large crowd in front of the stage. Several people waved signs: “They don’t look right!” “Different is evil!” and “If you can’t understand something, kill it!”

    Sound familiar? The author was writing it as farce–now it has become scarily close to the truth.

    Like

  25. McWing

    critique of Rubio’s amnesty bill

    Seriously, right? How anyone can put a bill together that encompasses 844 pages and all the triggers are virtually meaningless is beyond me. Maybe you’re right, just open the borders and be done with it.

    I also think Mark might be right, they need atim and our ideas in congress…..hahaha

    Like

  26. I haven’t been able to find where Scott said this

    Scott:

    As you know, I do not believe that rights need “balancing” because, properly understood, they cannot conflict.

    Like

  27. Seriously, right? How anyone can put a bill together that encompasses 844 pages and all the triggers are virtually meaningless is beyond me

    It’s by design.

    Like

  28. It’s by design

    Damn, we’re a cynical bunch, but you’re probably right.

    And speaking of cynicism, this piece was interesting. I’m not on board with judging the motives in this case but I can understand the sentiment. He bails himself out at the end though by simply appreciating it if it leads to reform.

    A group of evangelical leaders pushing for immigration reform:

    Recently, Dr. Russell Moore, of the Southern Baptist Convention, told reporters in a conference call that:

    “Evangelicals understand that our broken system is a moral issue; this isn’t just a legal issue, it isn’t a political issue or an economic issue only. It’s a moral issue and it’s been a stain on our country for too long. Now is the time for the country to come together for an immigration system that respects the God-given human dignity of every person.”

    Rev. Gabriel Salguero, president of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition, in the same call with reporters, said:

    “The pushback that we may have now is not what we had even a year ago or six months ago because people are sitting down, reading and reasoning. And [people] are in relationships with immigrants. They know they’re hardworking, they know they want to contribute to society in healthy ways.”

    Rev. Dan Krause, Lead Pastor of the Chugach Covenant Church in Anchorage, Alaska said:

    “As soon as we take them into the scripture and really show people, ‘Listen, God has spoken clearly about this issue,’ it’s fairly easy to convince somebody who has a high regard for scripture that God loves the stranger, the sojourner in our land and we need to be praying for reform.”

    The author wonders why it took so long and if there are the obvious electoral and demographic motives but then says:

    In a situation that has been so turned on its head, I suppose anything is possible. One thing is crystal clear, though. The change of heart is a true blessing for our undocumented immigrants, who may get their best shot at reform through the intervention of evangelicals. Ironic, huh?

    http://www.addictinginfo.org/2013/06/08/evangelicals-are-praying-for-gop-to-back-immigration-reform/#ixzz2VgJtq68R

    Like

  29. Scott:

    If we properly understand what it means to say that a person has a right to something, it can never be the case that rights conflict.

    That’s a little in the weeds for me. What do you define as a natural right btw? Is a “right to life” one of them, out of curiosity? If so, then to be honest we would have to define life, correct? Here’s the latest.

    It is a challenge for scientists and philosophers to define life in unequivocal terms. This is difficult partly because life is a process, not a pure substance.

    That’s from wiki which I think confirms that defining natural rights can be tricky at least in the example of the 24 hour old vs 15 year old. All I’m really arguing for is my “right” to be inconsistent and even open to persuasion, and challenge your definition of unequivocal rights. Again, I believe,

    legal rights can conflict, since legal rights can be whatever politicians decide they are at any given time, including mutually exclusive things.

    as you said yourself.

    And again, I challenge your adherence to your interpretation of rights as the easier and more convenient debating position compared to mine, which fluctuates somewhat based on a variety of influences which I take into consideration and try to balance. It may be inconsistent but I think it’s valid.

    Like

    • lms:

      What do you define as a natural right btw?

      A right is a moral entitlement to action. It means individual sovereignty to act without the permission of others. I used the term “natural” in order to distinguish it from legal rights. What do you mean when you use the term “right”?

      Is a “right to life” one of them, out of curiosity?

      Yes. It is the most fundamental right of all, upon which all others are founded.

      Like

      • Scott, for me, arguing that an early stage fetus has rights is akin to arguing that insects have rights but arguing that a late stage fetus does not is equally absurd. We may ideally come to a point [one I actually think we all agree upon] that a woman need not carry to term but an otherwise healthy fetus that can be saved outside the womb [Kelley suggested 25 weeks+, I think] should be delivered by C-section, and eventually placed for adoption. If that can become a business model it might actually happen.

        Like

        • Mark:

          Scott, for me, arguing that an early stage fetus has rights is akin to arguing that insects have rights but arguing that a late stage fetus does not is equally absurd.

          I don’t know how you can make either claim if you think that there is no objective truth value to claims about morality. To say that a late stage fetus has rights, and especially to say that it is “absurd” to say otherwise, is to make a claim about an objective moral reality.

          Like

    • lms:

      And again, I challenge your adherence to your interpretation of rights as the easier and more convenient debating position compared to mine, which fluctuates somewhat based on a variety of influences which I take into consideration and try to balance.

      I admit I don’t know exactly what you are trying to say here, but it is definitely a more “convenient” debating strategy to define one’s terms and be logical and consistent in their application, than to not do so. But I think “necessary” is a better word than “convenient”.

      Like

  30. This is so awesome…………our 35 year old niece won a gold medal today in the back stroke at the Summer Special Olympics in Long Beach, CA. All of her hard work paid off this year. She’s been swimming with me once a week at my masters’ class in addition to her regular practices.

    She’s swimming again tomorrow and we’re going down there to watch. Our daughter and her boyfriend were there today and she just called. She has three more races tomorrow.

    Like

    • Congrats to your niece, Lulu. And I know you would love her just as much if she lost, but there is a thrill of victory that beats the hell out of the agony of defeat.

      The belief in moral certainty, whether derived from religion or from philosophy, seems to me to be an exercise that unlike plain geometry will lead to incongruity. The notion that we can assign natural law and build from it seems to me to be hubris.

      I am quite clearly a moral relativist, as are you, Lulu. We have values that can be stated in the broadest terms. For example; we value truth and kindness, justice and mercy. We build our ethics on these values. It is quite possible that we infer our relativist morality from our ethics, rather than build our ethics from a doctrine of natural moral rights.

      We live our lives under ethical patterns. “Good manners”. “The Golden Rule”. “The Boy Scout Oath”. “The Criminal Law.” “The Rules of Baseball.” Certainly US Marines live by a code of conduct.

      For us, in personal life, I would guess we often hedge on the truth for the sake of kindness, where we judge that sharing the truth would do more harm than good. Conversely, we are often unkind in service of the truth when we judge that the kindness would do more harm than good. I’ll bet Scott does this too.

      For us, in public life, and I would guess for Scott, justice should be tempered by mercy. In fact, mercy loses meaning for us if there is no justice and justice for us loses meaning if there is no mercy. Scott may say that if we properly understood justice and mercy then we would always know they were not in conflict. But that is way too mechanistic, and a prideful approach, for Lulu and me. What is just punishment for an intentional wrong is different than what is just punishment for an accidental one, probably for all of us. Thus what is just punishment for a fully functioning adult is not just for someone who is not fully functional; a child, for instance. We can speak in general terms here about a range of responses, but Scott suggests a world where natural law provides a clear answer in every case.

      There is a rich history of natural rights and natural law philosophy and Scott did not invent it, so it is only by example that I use your name, Scott.

      Frankly, I suspect that our “values” are a product of nature, to some extent. We have instincts for self preservation, for group preservation, and we can infer from biology, for species preservation. That is about as close to a first cause as I can get, when I try to get outside the box. It helps me a little; “species preservation” becomes a relevant matter when talking about the carrying capacity of the Earth or of a region, or when we talk of nuclear proliferation (think here, say, of NK and Iran), or when we talk of pollution of air and water. Group preservation is perhaps what makes me want prospective citizens to both feel an allegiance to American ideals of freedom and learn English.

      But at this level of abstraction I don’t know if I believe what I am writing or if I am rationalizing my own fears and desires, or if I am making “makeweight” arguments.

      To be clear, I do not believe in Natural Rights or Natural Law. I do believe that a nation can be built around a set of broadly defined values and that ours has been. I do believe that natural law advocates were important in early defining those broad values for this nation and in GB, but it is also true that they argued vehemently about the weight of those values and about their application. And I think that arguing with a natural rights advocate sharpens my own perspective on many occasions because it forces me to examine values I might take for granted.

      Like

      • mark:

        The belief in moral certainty, whether derived from religion or from philosophy, seems to me to be an exercise that unlike plain geometry will lead to incongruity.

        I’m not sure what you mean by “moral certainty” here, but a rejection of moral relativism does not imply certainty about any given moral claim. To draw an analogy, God either exists or he does not, of this we can be certain. But that doesn’t mean that we can be certain that he does exist, or certain that he does not exist. In other words, just because we don’t have certainty about the truth value of claim regarding the universe does not imply that no truth value exists with regard to the claim.

        I am quite clearly a moral relativist, as are you, Lulu.

        I am doubtful that this is true, unless by relativism you mean nothing more than the obvious truism that different people can disagree about what is and is not moral. In fact I think very few, if any, people are truly moral relativists in the sense that they do not believe that moral claims refer to some external reality. Moral claims derive their meaning and force precisely from the notion that they are true regardless of what any individual may think about them. They are not mere statements about personal preferences or tastes, or even statements about a consensus of preferences. They are claims about an objective reality, and to say, for example, that is was wrong for blacks to be enslaved in the pre-Civil War south is to make a factual claim about that objective reality. It is not a statement of some subjective preference about which no objective truth exists.

        In essence, I think true moral relativists preclude themselves from even talking sensibly in terms of morality, right/wrong, or justice.

        We have values that can be stated in the broadest terms. For example; we value truth and kindness, justice and mercy.

        Justice is simply another way of saying morality. A just outcome is a moral outcome. And to say that you value justice is to say that it has some objective existence such that it can be recognized when it is present.

        To be clear, I do not believe in Natural Rights…

        On what grounds, then, might you have argued in 1860 Mississippi that to enslave a black person was wrong/immoral?

        Like

        • On what grounds, then, might you have argued in 1860 Mississippi that to enslave a black person was wrong/immoral?

          Scott, assuming that I could have argued without being lynched, I would have said that we must treat others as we think we should be treated. To a religious person I would have framed it in terms of Leviticus 19:18 or the Sermon on the Mount, and to a philosophical person I would have argued the greater good for society by example arising from mutual respect and equality before the law. I understand that other persons have reached similar conclusions from different backgrounds. I would try to argue to their background understanding, not from my assertion of moral rectitude. I don’t remember my moral rectitude as having been persuasive to others other than perhaps my children and grandchildren when they were small. But they may have been just humoring me.

          While it is not imminently germane, I recommend Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahnemann. I promise you will enjoy it. I thought of it in this context because of its analysis not of right and wrong or ethics or values or morals, but of thinking, itself. Which is, I think, a related study.

          Now for the honeydo list…

          Like

        • Mark:

          Perhaps I phrased my question poorly. I wasn’t wondering how you might go about trying to convince various other people that it was wrong to enslave a black person. I was wondering how you could intellectually justify the notion that it is wrong, in the absence of an acceptance of the concept of natural rights.

          Like

  31. Congrats, Lulu!

    Like

  32. Congrats to your niece, Lulu

    Thanks Mark. She began swimming in the Special Olympics five years ago but this was her first gold. Our daughter captured an absolutely priceless photo of her up on the podium yesterday and grinning from ear to ear. Her moments of such pride have been few and far between so I’m absolutely thrilled for her. I’m sure we’ll be hearing about it for years to come…..haha. We’ll see if she can do it again today but that hardly matters at this point.

    Thanks for your lengthy explanation to Scott as well. I knew we had a generally consistent value and belief system and you sure explained it better than I ever could. That must be the lawyer in you. Us psychologist/moms use less understandable terms…………. 😉

    Like

  33. Scott

    What do you mean when you use the term “right”?

    “It means individual sovereignty to act without the permission of others” works for me but I’ve always just thought of rights as being in harmony with the rule of law. I don’t really think of natural law in the realm of politics or policy. I believe our legal system was based upon a Judeo/Christian set of values, and I suppose moral authority, but I’m not sure I’d call that natural law.

    I brought up the right to life, which would be the closest thing to a natural law that I can think of, and assumed it would be the biggie to you, because in terms of the right to life of a fetus there is still a legitimate, in my opinion, debate.

    And so that proves the point, in my mind, that even the most basic of rights in both a legal and natural sense is just not as clear cut to me as it might be to you.

    You call that inconsistent, I call it under consideration.

    As far as debating someone with such clear cut adherence to rules (for lack of a better word), my point is that I think it’s easier for you to be consistent in everything because there is never a doubt in your mind of how you would answer a question in any given situation. That’s the way I perceive it anyway.

    If someone asks me what to you think about blahbedyblah, I have to think about it first and consider all the consequences and even then, while I use my internal guidelines of the difference between right and wrong or moral principles, I’m still open to changing my mind down the road…………

    Like

    • lms:

      And so that proves the point, in my mind, that even the most basic of rights in both a legal and natural sense is just not as clear cut to me as it might be to you.

      Do you have a right to life?

      Like

      • lms:

        A while ago you asked me about how I viewed “community”. Let me tell you about my day.

        I don’t know if you have ever heard of the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (MMRF), but it is an innovative research foundation created by a woman that lives in my town. Every year MMRF holds a 5k walk/run through town as a fundraiser, and this morning I was participating in the race. Below is a picture of the starting point of the race.

        http://wp.me/a289Rg-1zL

        All the tents you see with signs are local organizations, businesses and individuals who sponsor “teams” in the race. About 1,200 people showed up, all from various parts of the northeast, but most of them from New Canaan, and they raised about $330,000 dollars for MMRF. Now, when I think about a community “coming together” to do something, this is what I imagine. Local people actually getting together and doing something.

        Later in the afternoon I went to a food-packing event organized by a local high school organization, and sponsored by a charity called Feed My Starving Children. What FMSC does is make individual meal bags of vitamins, vegetables, soy, and rice, packs them in boxes, and sends the boxes overseas to various countries around the world. All day today local volunteers were working in 2 hour shifts to pack the bags, box them up, and put them on pallets to be sent overseas. My shift had 162 people working on it, so I would imagine over the course of the day nearly 1000 people helped out. My shift packed a total of 187 boxes, which equates to a little over 40,000 meals, for someone, somewhere. Again, when I think of the community “coming together” to do something, this is what I imagine, ie actually doing something.

        What I do not imagine is a bunch of politicians in a far away city passing a law, or collecting taxes, or beneficently doling out that money to favored constituencies. That, to me, is nothing even close to what it is to have my community do something.

        EDIT: I couldn’t get the picture to load into the comment, but if you click on the link below where the picture should be, you can see it.

        Like

  34. I second the thanking of Mark; maybe when I retire I’ll go to law school so that I can learn to express myself that well. You summed things up perfectly.

    Lulu, this is the niece that was injured in the car accident, correct? Kudos to her!! I imagine she can swim rings around me.

    Like

  35. Michi

    I have two nieces (my husband’s sisters’ daughters), one is an actress in NY currently doing a play in Vermont, and her older sister who was born mentally challenged, and has the mental capacity of about a 12 year old. She’s a great swimmer and lover of animals. She even works at Petco and rides the bus independently to get there. I’m really proud of her accomplishments.

    The niece I lost was my sister’s daughter but I’m not sure what you’re referring to as a car accident.

    And now we’re off to Long Beach ourselves.

    Like

  36. Lulu–I may be getting stories mixed up. I was thinking of the kids that you and your hubby ended up raising, that I thought were a niece and nephew.

    Like

  37. Scott:

    Do you have a right to life?

    Maybe not. Maybe she’s a sociopathic serial killer who has murdered eight people so far, and her persona on this forum is all made up. What is the point of your question? The fact that you see things in such black and white terms does not mean that you have the corner on being correct.

    Like

  38. I’ll note here that I tend to agree with Scott that rights, properly understood, can’t conflict. Note that this doesn’t preclude both us from self identifying as libertarians and still being on the opposite side of the abortion issue as I side with Ayn Rand on where the properly understood rights attach on this and he doesn’t.

    But, to circle back around to the original topic here, I’d also note that a lot of political debate concerns policies and interests, not “rights”. Specifically the debate over immigration doesn’t concern rights as far as I’m concerned. Foreign born persons don’t have a right to immigrate to the United States or to citizenship nor do current U.S. citizens have a right to live in a country with no immigration whatsoever. The debate here, properly understood, concerns optimal policy and various interests, not rights. Under the U.S. Constitution most of these questions are settled via elected government and majority rule (current filibuster questions notwithstanding).

    Where this gets conflated with ‘rights’ is when one side or the other decides instead to disregard the results of the democratic process in favor of trying their luck with the judicial system. As the judicial system, properly understood, isn’t supposed to be setting optimal policy or siding with one interest group or the other, this requires an argument crouched in the language of rights, specifically U.S. Constitutional rights and often requires expanding the previously settled meaning of said rights to encompass their preferred policy outcome.

    The other problem that comes to light both with the judicial arguments and with debating in general is that arguments based on ‘rights’ are supposed to have some consistency and not be totally arbitrary whereas arguments over good policy that are settled by majority rule aren’t necessarily bound by that.

    I.e. it’s perfectly fine from a ‘rights’ perspective for the government to make employer health insurance tax deductible but not individual, even if it’s not great policy. You don’t have a ‘right’ to the tax deduction.

    Thus, people who are making rights based arguments can get tripped up in debates when they aren’t consistent.

    Lastly with regards to this:

    “All I’m saying in a very round about way is that I don’t think I should have to apologize for not always being 100% sure of myself when I balance a proposed policy against the rights of the minority or whether coercion is justified or not.”

    I certainly don’t expect an apology for anything. Just state what you think.

    Like

    • jnc:

      I think I agree with most of what you said. One thing, though.

      Note that this doesn’t preclude both us from self identifying as libertarians and still being on the opposite side of the abortion issue as I side with Ayn Rand on where the properly understood rights attach on this and he doesn’t.

      You are absolutely right to point out the fact that agreement over the meaning of what a right is doesn’t necessarily mean agreement over which rights actually attach to which people. However, I wouldn’t exactly say we are on opposite sides of the abortion issue. I definitely think Rand was partially wrong (she needed to check her premises!), but as I have said previously, as a matter of policy ultimately I would fall on the side of allowing abortion until the point viability, which is at least partially on your/Rand’s side.

      Like

  39. Also with regards to the substance of the immigration issue, I side with Mark.

    Like

  40. Scott, apparently we are trendy now:

    “Libertarianism is in vogue. Again.
    By Chris Cillizza, Sunday, June 9, 1:52 PM”

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/libertarianism-is-in-vogue–again/2013/06/09/ab8ede42-d108-11e2-a73e-826d299ff459_story.html

    Like

  41. Michi

    Lulu–I may be getting stories mixed up.

    I thought you were wondering which of my nieces was in an accident. But yes, it was my sister and her husband who were in the accident. He was killed and she was disabled which is how we ended up with their kids.

    Like

  42. Scott

    Do you have a right to life?

    I think so but is that a trick question?

    Luckily I’m neither a serial killer nor a prostitute in TX who reneged on the deal.

    In his trial, Gilbert testified that he found her ad on Craigslist and hired her at a rate of $150 for 30 minutes. His understanding was that sex was part of the deal. When she left after 30 minutes and no sex, he shot her as she was getting in to her driver’s car, in what the defense said was his legal right under Texas penal code statute 9.42. This law says that deadly force is justified in the event of a nighttime theft. Gilbert’s defense claims that refusing to have sex with Gilbert or refund the money was theft, thus making the use of force legal.

    http://www.addictinginfo.org/2013/06/07/texas-jury-says-its-okay-to-murder-an-escort-who-refuses-sex/#ixzz2Vkyvbs31

    [UPDATE] I don’t know how accurate the reporting on this story is btw…if true it is certainly disturbing though.

    Like

  43. Scott, great community story and thank God we have communities across the country doing that sort of thing. I’ve always been involved in a charity work and so I really appreciate the effort you’ve put into that along with everyone else there.

    I’m sure MMRF patients and their families across the country appreciate the effort and that’s a lot of money as well.

    Like

    • lms:

      I’ve always been involved in a charity work and so I really appreciate the effort you’ve put into that along with everyone else there.

      Thanks. But just to be clear, I didn’t post about it in order to bring attention to what I am doing. As you know I don’t much like to talk about my personal life. I posted it to give you some sense of why I reject the notion that what the government does, especially the federal government, has anything to do with what “we” do as a community.

      Like

  44. jnc, thanks for all your comments re our debate.

    I probably just should have asked Scott how exactly “principled libertarians” get to a policy of open borders. That’s what I really wanted to know but got distracted.

    Don’t worry about Scott and I debating and me losing all the time………………..four years and counting now so I’m used to it. I’m simply trying to figure out why…..hahaha

    I think he cheats but I haven’t been able to prove it yet.

    I don’t seriously think you guys expect an apology from me for being inconsistent. I was only speaking metaphorically. Anyway, you know it always gives you hope I may jump over to “the dark side” one of these days. I do hope you’re not holding your breath though.

    One lingering question:

    Note that this doesn’t preclude both us from self identifying as libertarians and still being on the opposite side of the abortion issue as I side with Ayn Rand on where the properly understood rights attach on this and he doesn’t.

    This seems a little inconsistent with uniformly “properly understood rights” so now I’m confused again. If a right to life is such a natural law why are there so many different opinions among principled people as to when life begins in the abortion issue?

    Like

    • lms:

      This seems a little inconsistent with uniformly “properly understood rights” so now I’m confused again.

      As I mentioned earlier, by “properly understood” I mean the concept of a right in the abstract, not a specific instance of a right. It is the difference between saying we agree on what the term “right” means and we agree on what rights you have. We can agree on the former (and we should be able to) without agreeing on the latter.

      Like

  45. It’s a question of whether or not the fetus/unborn child is “alive” in the same sense as the mother herself, and therefore at what point does a “right to life” attach.

    Birth is a very clear delineation point.

    Ayn Rand on this:

    “Excerpt from “Of Living Death” in The Objectivist, October 1968:

    An embryo has no rights. Rights do not pertain to a potential, only to an actual being. A child cannot acquire any rights until it is born. The living take precedence over the not-yet-living (or the unborn).

    Abortion is a moral right—which should be left to the sole discretion of the woman involved; morally, nothing other than her wish in the matter is to be considered. Who can conceivably have the right to dictate to her what disposition she is to make of the functions of her own body?””

    http://www.aynrand.org/site/PageServer?pagename=objectivism_faq#obj_q2

    Like

    • jnc:

      Ayn Rand on this:

      I am well aware of Rand’s arguments (or, more accurately in some instances, her simple assertions). But her premises are incorrect, or at least challengeable. First, her premise that an embryo is not an “actual being” is hardly indisputable. It may not be the kind of being that has rights (that is, of course, the question) but to simply assert that it has no rights because it is not an “actual being” is to beg the question. Second, and perhaps more importantly, she assumes that abortion and freeing oneself of the embryo/fetus/baby is the same thing. This premise is plainly incorrect.

      And yes, birth is a very clear delineation point. So is conception.

      Like

  46. Maureen Dowd is wrong:

    “yet counterterrorism officials still couldn’t do basic police work and catch the Boston bombers before the marathon by following up on warnings from the Russians. ”

    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/09/opinion/sunday/dowd-peeping-president-obama.html?ref=opinion

    “basic police work” doesn’t entail stopping crimes before they are committed, but rather determining who did them after the fact, apprehending them, and then convicting them.

    The problem here of course is when the crime itself (a mass bombing) is so significant that “basic police work” doesn’t suffice and instead there’s a determination that they have to be prevented entirely.

    Like

  47. All I can say jnc is that if you and Scott, although you’re closer in agreement than I think you realized, all the right to life activists from the religious right and the Catholic Church and such, plus the full spectrum of the the lefts’ groups, not to mention the scientific community, can’t actually figure out the one true moment when life begins, then I don’t think I have anything to worry about when I say “rights” are debatable.

    But I do think I should stick to debating policy from now on.

    Like

  48. Actually that was sort of the point. Both Scott and I can agree on the nature of rights but disagree on when they attach.

    Like

  49. We’ve had this debate before.

    Also, PL is surprisingly readable and civil today for anyone who’s interested in checking out the discussion of the NSA issues and the leaks, etc.

    Like

  50. Do you mean this?

    I do not believe that rights need “balancing” because, properly understood, they cannot conflict.

    If so then I’m still confused. The legal system decides these conflicting rights issues all the time; fetus/mother, landlord/tenant, property owner/government (as in imminent domain), individual/environment and a host of others. If you’re saying they cannot coexist then of course I agree. If you’re saying justice is always obvious then I disagree.

    My point was that libertarians, and maybe I’m completely off track here, seem to have some sort of formula that makes them certain which right should prevail in all cases. And I’m not so confident. Perhaps my terminology is off but that was what I was thinking about. And I was merely speculating that this is why debating you guys is so difficult.

    Scott said himself in the smoking example that he doesn’t always like the outcome but he knows which side to come down on. I would look at the outcome and the rights of individuals to breathe clean air and wonder about it. I would even acknowledge that the property owner has the better claim but would still think the outcome would be better for everyone if the non-smoking environment won. He’s consistent , you’re consistent, I’m inconsistent.

    That’s why I’m always conceding points to you guys but still disagreeing. A great example is his claim that the only tool the government has is coercion, my response… so what. If people in this country are dying because they do not have access to health care whether it’s because of poverty or denial of service and the government coerces some of us to pay more in taxes so they can exercise their right to live, the balance between their right to live and our right to keep our money leans toward them IMO. If someone can come up with a better way to get there, I’m all ears but in the meantime, I don’t think it’s usurious and I think it’s worth it.

    But Scott’s right, it’s a tough position to defend, especially based on rights and government coercion. I think the world we live in is really complicated.

    Like

    • lms:

      The legal system decides these conflicting rights issues all the time…

      The legal system bases its judgments (or, at least, should) on legal rights, which I acknowledged can and do conflict. That is why I specified that I was talking about natural, not legal, rights.

      Like

  51. The NSA leaker’s decision to seek amnesty in China seems strange to me.

    Like

  52. It’s all about extradition treaties, but he made a mistake in that Hong Kong (where he actually is) does have an extradition treaty with the US, but China itself does not.

    Like

  53. Scott

    I posted it to give you some sense of why I reject the notion that what the government does, especially the federal government, has anything to do with what “we” do as a community.

    I understand that and I was primarily congratulating your community, of which you are a part, for contributing to the research and other efforts for MMRF, not intentionally singling you out. I personally think whatever efforts we all give to support our immediate community, a larger community of MMRF patients for example, or even a national or world community after a hurricane or tsunami, all just reaffirm to me the generosity of the American people.

    I wish it was always enough. How much more money did the government spend on Sandy or Katrina, the OK tornadoes (and these are people building homes in tornado alley) or fires in the west and south west and earthquakes in CA.

    Even in a downturn like the one we’re still crawling out of people find some way to help but I don’t see why you think there’s a separation between many of us happily volunteering our time and money and the government expecting us to pool an even larger resource to do the same thing. Obviously, as I said above, it shouldn’t be usurious, but why not tap into that same spirit.

    I’ve talked before about the sacrifices the American people made during WW2, gas rationing, women working and volunteering, factories re-tooling, taxes going up etc. That didn’t happen for Iraq, we got a tax cut and an all volunteer army. I think there’s something wrong with that.

    When we’re faced with evidence that the health care system is broken and there really are people dying, I think it’s fantastic that the free clinics rise up and travel the country, but it’s not going to be enough. I wish there had been a free market solution but I didn’t see one being offered and the government serves the people after all and an awful lot of us needed help.

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  54. Scott

    That is why I specified that I was talking about natural, not legal, rights.

    Could you give me another example of a natural right other than the right to life? It seems to me we’ve already established a conflict there, even if as jnc claims it’s a matter of when it attaches. That still seems like a conflict to me.

    Like

    • lms:

      It seems to me we’ve already established a conflict there, even if as jnc claims it’s a matter of when it attaches.

      All we have established is that jnc and I disagree at which point a right to life attaches to a human being. That does not imply a conflict between the rights of two different beings. We both agree that IF a being has a right to life, it cannot sensibly be said that the right conflicts with the rights of another being.

      Think of it this way: jnc and I both agree that IF a fetus has a right to life, THEN a women has no right to destroy the fetus. We also agree that IF a woman has a right to destroy a fetus, THEN the fetus has no right to life. That is to say, it makes no sense to say both that the fetus has a right to life AND a woman has the right to destroy it. The very meaning of the term “right” precludes both rights from co-existing.

      Where we disagree is over the truth of the premise in either of the above logical formulations. He thinks the latter premise is true, and I think the former premise is true. We agree about the nature of a right, but we simply disagree over the fact of a specific right’s existence in a specific instance.

      Like

  55. The world (and rights) are not so black and white as you would have them appear, Scott.

    And, yeah, there’s been a little bit of discussion about that data center lately.

    Like

  56. Tonight I was looking for the Dave Barry column where he talks about discovering fried beer at a state fair (PL really was very interesting and fun today) and came across this column of his. Almost sounds like he could have written if for PL:

    How To Argue Effectively
    By Dave Barry

    I argue very well. Ask any of my remaining friends. I can win an argument on any topic, against any opponent. People know this and steer clear of me at parties. Often, as a sign of their great respect, they don’t even invite me. You too can win arguments. Simply follow these rules:

    Drink Liquor
    Suppose you are at a party and some hotshot intellectual is expounding on the economy of Peru, a subject you know nothing about. If you’re drinking some health-fanatic drink like grapefruit juice, you’ll hang back, afraid to display your ignorance, while the hotshot enthralls your date. But if you drink several large martinis, you’ll discover you have strong views about the Peruvian economy. You’ll be a wealth of information. You’ll argue forcefully, offering searing insights and possibly breaking furniture. People will be impressed. Some may leave the room.

    Make Things Up
    Suppose, in the Peruvian economy argument, you are trying to prove the Peruvians are underpaid, a position you base solely on the fact that you are underpaid and you’ll be damned if you’re going to let a bunch of Peruvians be better off. Don’t say: “I think Peruvians are underpaid.” Say instead: “The average Peruvian’s salary in 1981 dollars adjusted for the revised tax base is $1,452.81 per annum, with is $836.07 below the mean gross poverty level.” NOTE: Always make up exact figures. If an opponent asks you where you got your information, make that up too. Say “This information comes from Dr. Hovel T. Moon’s study for the Buford Commission published on May 9, 1982. Didn’t you read it?” Say this in the same tone of voice you would use to say, “You left your soiled underwear in my bathroom.”

    Use Meaningless But Weighty-Sounding Words and Phrases
    Memorize this list:
    Let me put it this way
    In term of
    Vis-à-vis
    Per se
    As it were
    Qua
    So to speak
    You should also memorize some Latin abbreviations such as “Q.E.D.,” e.g.,” and “i.e.” These are all short for “I speak Latin, and you don’t.” Here’s how to use these words and phrases. Suppose you want to say, “Peruvians would like to order appetizers more often, but they don’t have enough money.” You never win arguments talking like that. But you WILL win if you say, “Let me put it this way In terms of appetizers vis-à-vis Peruvians qua Peruvians, they would like to order them more often, so to speak, but they do not have enough money per se, as it were. Q.E.D.” Only a fool would challenge that statement.

    Use Snappy and Irrelevant Comebacks
    You need an arsenal of all-purpose irrelevant phrases to fire back at your opponents when they make valid point. The best are:
    You’re begging the question
    You’re being defensive
    Don’t compare apples to oranges
    What are your parameters?
    This last one is especially valuable. Nobody (other than engineers and policy wonks) has the vaguest idea what “parameters” means. Here’s how to use your comebacks:

    You say: “As Abraham Lincoln said in 1873. . . “ Your opponent says: “Lincoln died in 1865.” You say: “You’re begging the question.”

    You say: “Liberians, like most Asians. . . “ Your opponent says: “Liberia is in Africa.” You say: “You’re being defensive.

    Compare Your Opponent to Adolf Hitler
    This is your heavy artillery, for when your opponent is obviously right and you are spectacularly wrong. Bring Hitler up subtly. Say, “That sound suspiciously like something Adolf Hitler might say.” Or “You certainly do remind me of Adolf Hitler.”

    So that’s it. You now know how to out-argue anybody. Do not try to pull any of this on people who generally carry weapons.

    I love Dave Barry. . .

    Like

    • Just finished a Dave Barry audiobook, Kelley. Insane City. Barry reads it.

      http://tinyurl.com/lh6gumg

      Repeated bouts of uncontrollable laughter.

      JNC, EJD contributes to the “Libertarian” conversation:

      http://tinyurl.com/mbblx8n

      Scott, one of the ethical frameworks I operate within is Judaism. Slavery violates my understanding of “Do not do unto others what you do not want done unto you” – Hillel’s response to the Roman soldier who asked him to explain the lessons of Judaism at swordpoint, while ordering Hillel to stand on one foot. It is that simple for me, personally.

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      • Mark:

        It is that simple for me, personally.

        That explains why you wouldn’t enslave someone, but it doesn’t explain why you would object to another person enslaving someone. Would you object to a non-Jew enslaving someone else? And if so, on what grounds, since the non-Jew does not share your ethical framework?

        It seems to me that if one is truly a moral relativist, then one has no grounds on which to object to the actions of anyone else who does not explicitly share your moral framework. This is why I am skeptical that anyone really is a moral relativist, since we all object to some actions as “wrong” regardless of the belief system of the actor….which is why we have and enforce law.

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        • Would you object to a non-Jew enslaving someone else? Yes.

          And if so, on what grounds, since the non-Jew does not share your ethical framework?
          My objection, internally for me, would be based on my ethics. If I knew the various frameworks from which my slaveholding neighbor operated, I would choose to convince her based on her own traditions, mine having little meaning or no relevance to her. The power to persuade depends on shared convictions, or at least on ones that are accepted by the listener.

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        • mark:

          My objection, internally for me, would be based on my ethics.

          But I don’t understand why, unless you think those ethics are applicable to your slaveholding neighbor…even if he disagrees with those ethics.

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        • Scott, the Golden Rule and/or most of its variants I take to be the baseline ethical consideration and thus applicable, where possible.

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        • Scott, the Golden Rule and/or most of its variants I take to be the baseline ethical consideration and thus applicable, where possible.

          The problem with applying the Golden Rule is determining whether it applies to positive rights or negative rights.

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        • Mark:

          Scott, the Golden Rule and/or most of its variants I take to be the baseline ethical consideration and thus applicable, where possible.

          But the question is whether you think they are applicable to people other than those who also hold them as a baseline of ethical consideration. If so (and I am guessing it is almost certainly so), then I think you are implicitly accepting the existence of an objective moral reality.

          As I have said before, I think the notions of right/wrong, moral/immoral, just/unjust, ethical/unethical, by their very nature presume the existence of some standard external to the actor himself. It is precisely from this presumption that claims about justice gain their force.

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        • The existence of disembodied objective moral reality is as irrelevant as the existence of disembodied God to me, and I am what I would call a doubting believer in God. That belief is irrelevant to me in this context because I would now act the same way whether you could prove or disprove God’s existence to me. Similarly for claims of objective moral authority; I don’t believe in them but if they exist and are proven by some method they will not change my behavior.

          This baseline ethic [GR] is either applicable to most societies in most situations or it simply is ineffective. Put another way, universal acceptance of this ethic and conduct consistent with it makes humanity relatively secure and able to avoid self destruction. It can be justified as a pragmatic working concept. That was sort of how Confucius saw it, from what I recall.

          We had this discussion about Kant, as well. You require universal moral justification for your world view while I only require ethical behavior in mine. I don’t care if someone believes humans are born sinners, so long as the believer treats humans with respect. I don’t care about your morality if you treat humans with respect and the Earth and its resources as finite, to be conserved. Your code of conduct could simply be modeled to obey your state law and totally divorced from what you believe and I will accept that. Call upon higher authority in order to justify slavery, for example, and you lose me. Call upon it to condemn slavery and I will think your higher authority is harmless, at worst.

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        • Mark:

          I don’t believe in them but if they exist and are proven by some method they will not change my behavior.

          I understand. But, again, the question is not about your behavior. It is about your judgement of other people’s behavior, and what such a judgment implies. To say that person X “should” do Y regardless of whether X thinks he should seems to me to necessarily imply a belief in a code of conduct that exists external to any individuals’ thought. Or, in a word, morality.

          Put another way, universal acceptance of this ethic and conduct consistent with it makes humanity relatively secure and able to avoid self destruction.

          To me this is an example of an objective moral standard, not moral relativism. Whether or not certain behavior threatens the security/existence of humanity is a matter of fact, not a matter of personal opinion or preference.

          I don’t care if someone believes humans are born sinners, so long as the believer treats humans with respect.

          How is this any different than simply saying “I don’t care what other people may think, morality requires that they treat others with respect”?

          BTW…you seem to view the distinction between ethics and morality as an important one. What is the relevant distinction?

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        • Mark:

          BTW, I think the Golden Rule fits in quite nicely with a libertarian worldview, and not nearly so well with other worldviews. I don’t want other people forcing me to do things that I do not willingly do, and so, as per the GR, I generally do not advocate forcing others to do things they do not willingly do.

          Those who would object to the government, say, taking 40% of the next dollar they make but who go on to vote for having the government take 40% of the next dollar someone else makes do not, in my view, quite grasp the spirit of the GR.

          Like

        • I take morality to refer to what is TRULY right or wrong independent of the values of a person or a group. When I say that I am a moral relativist I mean that I cannot discern what is TRULY right or wrong independent of the values of a person or group, and independent of history, as well, and I don’t trust that anyone can.

          I take ethics to be the rules of conduct for a group and I have made that clear by example.

          I am sure that one could postulate a morality and then derive ethics from it; that has been done.

          I think one could derive ethics from the practical requirements of the group, as well.

          I also think one can derive ethics from the values of the group, which is to say from the broad preferences concerning appropriate situational conduct.

          Ethics do not pretend to be anything but derivative.

          Morals pretend to be primary.

          Thus we have pretenses about sexual morality, for example, that no one here actually buys (plus some we may all buy). We have Rand’s assertion about abortion. We get absolute judgmental statements because the pretense of morality is that it stands outside the group, outside the individual.

          It is similar to the pretense of God as the source of morality.

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        • mark:

          When I say that I am a moral relativist I mean that I cannot discern what is TRULY right or wrong independent of the values of a person or group, and independent of history, as well, and I don’t trust that anyone can.

          I take a moral relativist to be someone who thinks there is no such thing as TRULY right or wrong. Is that you?

          I take ethics to be the rules of conduct for a group and I have made that clear by example.

          Do you ever find ethical behavior to be objectionable? For example, if the rules of a group allowed for the enslavement of black people by white people, that behavior would, by the above standard, be ethical. But I assume you would still object to it, no?

          Like

        • An action that fits someone else’s ethics but is antithetical to mine? If I hold the position dear, I think my ethical position is better than the other person’s. Otherwise it wouldn’t be an ethical position I hold dear.

          I do believe that the same conduct can be right or wrong. Thus, I believe that I could not rightly kill another human for a malicious or random purpose, but that I could rightly perform the same act in defense of myself, in defense of another, or in defense of my country. So I am a situational ethicist. I would try to do what I think is right, under the circumstances. That is as close as I can get to answering your question, because I class objective morality as an unknown, until further revelation.

          Like

        • Mark:

          An action that fits someone else’s ethics but is antithetical to mine?

          Someone else’s ethics (morals) could only be antithetical to yours if you universalize yours. That is exactly the pretense of relativism…that seemingly incompatible moral notions can be reconciled by declaring them personal or subjective to the individual/group which declares them to be their own.

          Is there any substantive difference that you can see between declaring your own ethic so “dear” that you would advocate force to prevent someone else from violating it (eg making slavery illegal) and simply declaring, as most people do, that you think to violate this dearly held ethic is wrong or immoral?

          I do believe that the same conduct can be right or wrong.

          I presume you are speaking only of your own conduct, not anyone else’s, since you already said that that you have no way of discerning what is right or wrong outside of knowing the values of the person or group about whom you are talking.

          Beyond that, I think that conduct is defined by both circumstances and intention. So I would never say that, to use your examples, killing someone for a random purpose is the “same” conduct as killing someone in self-defense. The two are totally different forms of conduct, and therefore result in a different moral judgements.

          Like

        • Beyond that, I think that conduct is defined by both circumstances and intention. So I would never say that, to use your examples, killing someone for a random purpose is the “same” conduct as killing someone in self-defense. The two are totally different forms of conduct, and therefore result in a different moral judgements.

          I actually did not think you were able to make that distinction and I am glad that you are.

          You have taken something I wrote and recontextualized it. I wrote:

          When I say that I am a moral relativist I mean that I cannot discern what is TRULY right or wrong independent of the values of a person or group, and independent of history, as well, and I don’t trust that anyone can.

          You took that to mean:

          you have no way of discerning what is right or wrong outside of knowing the values of the person or group about whom you are talking.

          But what I mean is that while I have strong views about what is right and what is wrong and while I would fight for those views or argue for them I do not believe I or any other human can call upon his own views and analysis to claim universal moral TRUTH. I might claim my views are valid. I might claim my views deserve respect. I will not claim that my views must be accepted as TRUTH.

          From where do you get your notion that there is an objective, defined, universal morality? How do you determine what it is? Do you derive it from your own thought process? From someone else’s thought process? Whose? In what age? From which culture?

          Like

        • Mark:

          I actually did not think you were able to make that distinction and I am glad that you are.

          Seriously? I can’t imagine what I have ever written here that could possibly have led you to conclude that I do not distinguish between random murder and self-defense.

          But what I mean is that while I have strong views about what is right and what is wrong…

          First, I don’t know what you mean by “right” and “wrong” in this context unless you mean moral/immoral. When I say that a certain kind of behavior, say enslaving black people, is wrong, what I mean, and what I think the vast majority of people mean, is that the behavior is immoral. If this is not what you mean, then what do you mean?

          Second, to have a “view” about whether the behavior of another person is right or wrong is to say that there is some truth to the matter about which one can for a view.

          …and while I would fight for those views or argue for them I do not believe I or any other human can call upon his own views and analysis to claim universal moral TRUTH.

          I think this is an entirely separate question to what we have been discussing. We have been discussing whether or not morality is a thing about which some truth exists, not whether any particular person can lay claim to knowing that truth, or how they might come about that knowledge (which is, of course, and interesting and difficult question itself.)

          I might claim my views are valid. I might claim my views deserve respect. I will not claim that my views must be accepted as TRUTH.

          I hope you won’t mind if I play that perennial ATiM wild card here and say that this seems to me to be just a semantic dodge. Humbleness about one’s ability to grasp the full TRUTH of some matter does not suggest that no truth to the matter actually exists, nor that claims about the matter are not attempts to identify that truth in some way. In what way are your views valid, and why do you think they deserve respect, if you do not think that they in some measure grasp some truth about the universe?

          BTW, you didn’t respond to this but I am interested: Is there any substantive difference that you can see between declaring your own ethic so “dear” that you would advocate force to prevent someone else from violating it (eg making slavery illegal) and simply declaring, as most people do, that you think to violate this dearly held ethic is wrong or immoral? I don’t see one.

          From where do you get your notion that there is an objective, defined, universal morality?

          To be clear I don’t think it has been defined anywhere. That is what we are all attempting to do with our judgments about what is right and wrong, and by establishing general principles that help us (and others) make those judgments about future actions. But to answer your question, it is partly intuition and partly learned, I suppose. And it may indeed be completely imaginary. I am not arguing that objective morality most definitely exists as a feature of the universe. I am simply arguing that most of us assume that it does. This assumption is ingrained in our interaction with others, in our law, even in our language, which is probably why relativists have a difficult time articulating their position in simple, straight forward terms. And maybe it is a bad assumption, but I suspect that the world would be an even uglier place for us if we all took the relativist position seriously and made the opposite assumption.

          Like

  57. Mark, EJD understands me. He chose the word easy, I used convenient.

    Anything government does beyond protecting people from violence or theft and enforcing contracts is seen as illegitimate.

    If you start there, taking a stand on the issues of the day is easy. All efforts to cut back on government functions — public schools, Medicare, environmental regulation, food stamps — should be supported. Anything that increases government activity (Obamacare, for example) should be opposed.

    Like

  58. Also this:

    This matters to our current politics because too many politicians are making decisions on the basis of a grand, utopian theory that they never can — or will — put into practice. They then use this theory to avoid a candid conversation about the messy choices governance requires. And this is why we have gridlock.

    Now, if I could use the English language as carefully as Dionne does then maybe what’s in my mind will some how magically appear on the screen………….haha

    Before we leave this thread I’d like to ask again how open borders are justified by principled libertarians disregarding the fact that jnc, a principled libertarian, agrees with Mark’s basic framework for immigration, as do I.

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    • lms:

      Before we leave this thread I’d like to ask again how open borders are justified by principled libertarians

      I don’t think libertarianism as a political ideology speaks directly to the issue of open borders, so it is not clear to me that principled libertarianism demands either open or closed borders.

      Like

  59. Scott

    That does not imply a conflict between the rights of two different beings. We both agree that IF a being has a right to life, it cannot sensibly be said that the right conflicts with the rights of another being.

    I understand that. And yet I think it’s only a matter of semantics again. Obviously the conflict lies in who actually has the right to life, and at what point, and therein lies the conflict. Would you like me to call them competing interests?

    Regardless, I think my original point still stands, you libertarians have the easier debate stance. If it doesn’t fit into your political framework it’s non-negotiable. My political framework fluctuates with the times, the economy, the world’s political climate, my evolving sense of the need of others, income inequality, abuse of the system, unfolding consequences etc.

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    • lms:

      And yet I think it’s only a matter of semantics again.

      Perhaps. But I don’t think I can explain my thinking any better or more clearly than I already have. A disagreement over whether or not a right exists does not imply a conflict between rights that are presumed to exist. If you think it does, so be it.

      Like

  60. And yet I think it’s only a matter of semantics again.

    Yes.

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  61. Scott

    When I asked if all of you were outliers (you, McWing and Brent), because of your support of “open borders and easy immigration”, you answered that no, you were just principled libertarians.

    Brent went on to explain that it was a purely economic decision but I never got an explanation other than “principled libertarian” from you and McWing. Jnc went on to say he agreed with Mark’s framework. So I’m still curious.

    Other than that I’m already working on my next post. 😉

    Like

    • lms:

      you answered that no, you were just principled libertarians.

      You are right…that wasn’t a good answer. I guess I had in mind the more generic question of why we might depart from Republican orthodoxy so often, but that wasn’t what you asked. My bad.

      I am actually quite torn. In principle I agree with Brent that for economic reasons immigration is not only good, but necessary. I am also inclined to prefer ease of mobility. But I also think that the massive welfare state that we have creates perverse incentives for people to come here, which counsels against open immigration.

      Like

  62. Scott

    But I don’t think I can explain my thinking any better or more clearly than I already have

    No worries…………..I actually learned a few things anyway. And it takes me about a million words to get where I want to go…………..hahaha

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  63. I’ll note here that I tend to agree with Scott that rights, properly understood, can’t conflict.

    The minute someone shits in the stream upriver from you or cuts down a tree you were used to forage from rights have been violated. All property rights and laws are based on some form of negotiation of rights.

    Like

  64. Yello

    negotiation of rights

    If rights cannot conflict then why negotiate them? That’s my point.

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  65. Yellow, both those cases are easily resolvable in libertarian ideology. In the first case the person down river sues the other one.

    In the second it depends on who owns the land and thus the tree.

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    • JNC, not so easy if the libertarian property doctrine is an absolute. Upstream guy owns his piece of the river. As YJ suggests, downstream rights are always up for grabs unless government intervenes to stop the bloodshed over water rights by forcing mediation of them.

      Property legal doctrines like “attractive nuisance” and “noxious use” arose over time as limits to property rights. These were pragmatic, often common law approaches, that balanced neighbors rights to enjoy property.

      Like

  66. Why non-libertarians seem to feel a need to get libertarians to concede certain points escapes me.

    The simple answer is that we have incompatible value systems.

    Like

  67. I see the “it’s never been tried” straw man is making the rounds.
    maybe because most people are authoritarians.

    Like

    • Dionne’s argument is that libertarianism was tried in the Robber Baron era and found wanting. The Jungle was an investigation into the laissez-faire caveat emptor food industry of the day. Not a time I want to return to.

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  68. Mark, most libertarian writings that are consistent have a much broader reach for the courts on individual harm as an offset for the lack of regulation. That’s why “tort reform” is incompatible with a true libertarian justice system. There can be no limit on damages.

    Now, if when you bought the downstream rights there was a clause that said this level of pollution was to be tolerated that would be one thing but absent that the upstream person couldn’t pollute at will if it impacted your property rights.

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    • Mark, most libertarian writings that are consistent have a much broader reach for the courts on individual harm as an offset for the lack of regulation.

      Yes. Agreed on the many libertarian legal writings I have read and on the majority emphasis on the common law vs. legislation.

      I have always read them as supporting a balancing of rights rather than a divining of a Right [noxious fume producer can do so if he pays his neighbors for it].

      Gotta go – but will ck back later.

      Like

  69. “yellojkt, on June 10, 2013 at 8:06 am said:

    Dionne’s argument is that libertarianism was tried in the Robber Baron era and found wanting. The Jungle was an investigation into the laissez-faire caveat emptor food industry of the day. Not a time I want to return to.”

    It’s a fair argument. I also agree with him on monopolies and antitrust which are anti-competitive and undermine free markets.

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  70. jnc

    Why non-libertarians seem to feel a need to get libertarians to concede certain points escapes me.

    I knoooooowwww, Scott never tries that on me…………….hahaha

    Also

    the upstream person couldn’t pollute at will if it impacted your property rights.

    Does that go for health as well?

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    • lms:

      I knoooooowwww, Scott never tries that on me…………….hahaha

      I mainly try to get people to concede that their policy prescriptions are incompatible with their own presumed or stated values. Usually unsuccessfully.

      Like

  71. i don’t see it. I see the robbon baron era a s direct result of the courts setting aside property rights in favor of a community benefit standard.

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  72. re: dionne’s — i think he’s playing off a recent salon article
    http://reason.com/blog/2013/06/10/ej-dionne-picks-a-bad-week-month-year-to

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  73. Thanks for the explanation Scott.

    Like

  74. Scott

    That sounds like conceding “certain points” to me, not to be argumentative or anything. I thought jnc deserved a rim shot for that one except I think he was being serious.

    Like

  75. “lmsinca, on June 10, 2013 at 9:21 am said:

    Scott

    That sounds like conceding “certain points” to me, not to be argumentative or anything. I thought jnc deserved a rim shot for that one except I think he was being serious.”

    I was. I’m much more comfortable at leaving things with “We don’t share the same value system” then trying to come to a false consensus.

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  76. You know what jnc, I love to argue with you guys but I’m not trying to come to a false consensus. Mainly, I’m trying to understand our differences, where they come from, why we’re so different and if there’s any room for, not so much consensus, but compromise.

    I do think the point of debate and even disagreement is to try to get people to concede points, mostly doesn’t happen, but I would hope if and when it does it wouldn’t be considered a false consensus.

    I thought this was actually a valuable thread (for me anyway) primarily because I learned more about libertarian views in the real world rather than theoretically. And I still think it’s very interesting that most of you guys are to the left of the Republican Party on immigration. I know that is the case sometimes, that you’re to the left, but I wasn’t really expecting it until I read the comments over the past couple of weeks.

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  77. Is it impossible for relativists to take the position that we all have either an intuitive or learned sense of morality and yet at the same time recognize that there is some evolution in morality as well? For example, slavery as well as our progression on civil rights. And at one time women were not allowed to vote or own property and the self defense angle in killing an abusive husband was unheard of. Doesn’t that evolution of moral thought prove, to some extent at least, that morality has evolved and is relative to a new understanding and pressure from an emerging thought or group?

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    • lms:

      Is it impossible for relativists to take the position that we all have either an intuitive or learned sense of morality and yet at the same time recognize that there is some evolution in morality as well?

      I would say that there is definitely an evolution of our understanding of morality. But I don’t think that suggests that morality is relative. I think if it is wrong to discriminate against someone on the basis of race today, it was equally wrong in 1950, even if many or even most people at the time didn’t recognize that it was wrong. Our understanding of the universe is constantly evolving, and I think that includes our understanding of morality.

      Like

      • I would say that there is definitely an evolution of our understanding of morality. But I don’t think that suggests that morality is relative.

        Given that you also think that the same act is “right” or “wrong” depending on the circumstances in which it occurs, but merely choose to define it as a different act under different circumstances, and that you think your view of “right” and “wrong” comes from your experience, your intuition, and the experience of others, and that you might concede that what you believe is “right” today you might be persuaded is “wrong” a generation from now, you have joined us in discussing these matters without resort to calling upon the higher authority of “Natural Rights” that are immutable and which could be defined for all and ever, if we were only to be perceptive enough.

        Welcome, Scott. We can now discuss policy based on whether it is better or worse policy, and why that would be.

        JNC – you wrote to the effect that libertarians and non-libertarians do not share values. Is it possible that it would be more accurate to write that libertarians and non-libertarians rank order their values differently?

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        • Mark:

          and that you might concede that what you believe is “right” today you might be persuaded is “wrong” a generation from now,

          If what was believed about, say, the age of the earth 30 years ago is different to what is believed today, does that suggest to you that there is no objective reality to the age of the earth?

          We can now discuss policy based on whether it is better or worse policy, and why that would be.

          We’ve always been able to do so. And “why that would be so” is quite often because to do otherwise would be a violation of natural rights.

          BTW, I meant to mention this in my last: It is interesting to note that it is precisely because I do not claim to have perfect moral knowledge that I have the political worldview that I have. Law is the cultural or societal codification of moral notions, imposed by force. Because I know that my moral notions might actually be incorrect, I am reluctant to impose them on others, hence I argue only for laws that themselves prevent such an imposition and for the widest range of freedom of individual action feasible. I find it somewhat ironic that those who dismiss the whole notion of a morality that is applicable to everyone are often the ones most eager to universalize their own notions of right and wrong by imposing them on others via the law.

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  78. Scott

    What about the current issue of SSM? There are people opposed who quote the bible, claim a moral superiority on the issue as though it were handed down from God, and overall are convinced, with moral certitude, that gays and lesbians must be excluded from marriage.

    I disagree on moral grounds. What am I? I’m not using an understanding of natural law as my moral code, I’m using what I believe is reason, fairness and an empathetic viewpoint. Isn’t my sense of morality in this case relative to the times and an emerging consensus?

    I don’t see where right and wrong have an absolute value in this case.

    We may decide in 50 years that my opinion was the correct one, but I don’t know that now.

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    • lms:

      I disagree on moral grounds. What am I?

      If you think that someone’s moral notions about something can be incorrect, and most especially if you think that an existing consensus about what is or is not moral can be incorrect, then you are definitely not a moral relativist.

      We may decide in 50 years that my opinion was the correct one, but I don’t know that now.

      In order to be able to contemplate that an opinion about a claim can be “correct”, one must believe that there is some objective truth regarding the claim.

      Like

      • Scott,
        As fun as your obsession with Absolute Natural Moral Truth is, the fact is that morality and ethics evolve. Capital punishment is considered barbaric in most parts of the world, slavery has been outlawed despite much resistance during the 19th century.

        Currently social mores on the female role in society are changing rapidly. Right now this is most advanced in ‘Western’ societies but soon I suspect it will spread to Islamic cultures and the Indian sub-continent.

        As for the future, we really don’t know what the mores will be a century from now. Clearly something we do now will seem abhorrent to future generations. I have no idea what but I suspect it will have something to do with either the rights of minors or the way we treat food animals. Perhaps our views on euthanasia will change as medical science makes death less inevitable. What I am certain of is that we have not reached the pinnacle of moral thinking now any more than we had at the time of the Renaissance or the Enlightenment.

        Like

        • yello:

          As fun as your obsession with Absolute Natural Moral Truth is…

          I don’t think I have ever used that phrase in my life. But if I am obsessed with anything, it is with the pretense of moral relativists that they do not pass moral judgments on the actions of others on the basis of some presumed moral reality.

          What I am certain of is that we have not reached the pinnacle of moral thinking now any more than we had at the time of the Renaissance or the Enlightenment.

          I agree. In fact I think I said effectively the same thing already to lms.

          Like

  79. Mark

    Welcome, Scott. We can now discuss policy based on whether it is better or worse policy, and why that would be.

    Fantastic!

    Like

  80. Scott

    I should have said on my moral grounds, which may be counter to a prevailing consensus.

    I’m not necessarily making the claim that I am a moral relativist. I haven’t actually thought about it that much but this is the definition I would use to claim that I might be. Part of my point was that I think opponents of SSM could try to claim the mantle of Natural Law and in that instance I would be the relativist. Just a thought.

    Anyway, it’s an interesting discussion.

    The philosophized notion that right and wrong are not absolute values, but are personalized according to the individual and his or her circumstances or cultural orientation. It can be used positively to effect change in the law (e.g., promoting tolerance for other customs or lifestyles) or negatively as a means to attempt justification for wrongdoing or lawbreaking. The opposite of moral relativism is moral absolutism, which espouses a fundamental, Natural Law of constant values and rules, and which judges all persons equally, irrespective of individual circumstances or cultural differences.

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  81. What do y’all think of English language requirements for citizenship? For green card status?

    I am for proficiency as a prereq to citizenship.

    I am open to less for green card, but probably not less than actively enrolled in English literacy courses.

    I don’t like “official language” because of the ludicrous results in Austria and France.

    I do believe, however, that English is the lingua USAna, the glue, in every age, for the nation of immigrants.

    Like

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