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Post 0

Saturday, November 24, 2012 - 10:22pmSanction this postReply
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"It's a dirty job but someone's gotta do it?"



Post 1

Sunday, November 25, 2012 - 7:25amSanction this postReply
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I dislike this poll but answered 75% because I do not have superpowers in either body or mind. A mob does not, either. But I am not doing it all alone and spreading the risk and cost seems like the best approach. Of course, if the "crimes" in question are non-objective ones, e.g. drug use or prostitution, then I would hope this "super majority" would have sense not to prosecute the perpetrators as criminals.



Post 2

Sunday, November 25, 2012 - 8:12amSanction this postReply
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In my eyes drug users and prostitutes are not criminals.



Post 3

Sunday, November 25, 2012 - 9:49amSanction this postReply
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Luke,

I created the poll after reading about an empirical investigation into social dynamics via the computer modelling of economically-interacting (value-exchanging) agents through time. The abstract is available here, and what follows are excerpts and then my comments.

Excerpts
In order to survive, punishers must engage in enough punishment of defectors so that the induced cooperation more than offsets the cost of punishing.
...
In contrast, ethnographic evidence indicates that punishment is coordinated by means of gossip and other communication among punishers, is contingent on the expected effectiveness of punishment in inducing cooperation, and is not undertaken unless it is judged as legitimate by most group members ...
...
We analyzed a model of the evolution of punishment that incorporates two empirically based features absent from previous work. First, punishment is coordinated among group members so that it is contingent on the number of others predisposed to participate in the punishment. This means that when individuals willing to punish are rare, they demur and so bear only the cost of signaling their willingness to punish. They thus avoid the cost of punishing when it does not pay. Second, consistent with the "strength in numbers" and "divide and rule" maxims punishment is characterized by increasing returns to scale, so the total cost of punishing a single free-rider declines as the number of punishers increases. Adding these two features resolves the problems with previous models.
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Cooperation and free-riding are not inherited strategies. Rather, they are choices that individuals make in light of the incentives provided by the prospect of punishment.
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Thus, as the frequency of punishers in the metapopulation increases from zero, the fraction of groups with the threshold number of punishers increases, and so does the expected fitness of punishers ...
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Once the fraction of threshold groups is high enough, the punishers’ advantage in these groups offsets their disadvantage in all other groups. Then, natural selection will increase the frequency of punishers.
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To explore the effects of genetic assortment, we dropped our assumption that groups are formed at random and assumed that the relatedness within groups is r > 0, so that individuals are more likely to interact with individuals similar to themselves than expected by chance ...
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... the equilibrium behavior assuming that r = 0.07, which is a rough estimate of the average relatedness within human foraging groups ...
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Thus, consistent with ethnographic observation the model predicts that only some individuals will engage in punishment. However, even when ô = 3—meaning that a minimum of four out of 18 individuals punish—groups achieve about two thirds of the maximum gains from cooperation attainable with higher thresholds ...
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... the present model is a more realistic representation of the nature and dynamics of human cooperation ...
My comments
What can be gleaned from above is that the model is more "realistic" than other models. This is because it incorporates ethnographic observation (i.e., it is checked against the standard of reality; rather than just being someone's rationalistic invention). You can model how you think people will behave, or you can model how they actually do behave. This is an instance of the latter. The main discovery was three-fold:

1) there is natural selection pressure in favor of "punishers" (i.e., people who recognize the value of justice so thoroughly that they are willing to act on it)
2) groups with at least 22% punishers (i.e., "justice-minded" individuals) do extremely well over time
3) groups with much less than that, do poorly and eventually go extinct

The next question you can ask is: How could you increase or decrease the frequency of "punishers" in society? Here's how you do it. To increase the frequency of punishers in society, you teach them the value of justice (i.e., our general welfare). To decrease the frequence of punishers in society, you indoctrinate them with the illegitimate value of specific welfare (i.e., "social justice" or, more aptly, injustice). When you convince others that your capricious re-allocation of value is good -- like when Obama utilized citizen tax dollars to prop-up Solyndra -- then you move society toward a vision of injustice. Alternatively, when you teach the principles of liberty, reason, individualism and the like, then you move society toward a vision of justice.

As more people become aware of justice as an objective value (i.e., something that is in our general welfare), punisher frequency will increase until you reach something that approximates laissez-faire capitalism. I know this for 2 reasons. One is the argument-from-first-principles best arrived at by reading Ayn Rand, and the other is the argument from empirical evidence (see above). As you can see, the first-principles argument integrates seamlessly with the empirical argument (what's good in theory is shown to be good in practice).

The reasoning you gave for your answer is incorporated into the study above, but you gave yourself a wide buffer zone. According to empirical investigation, you would not have needed to wait until 75% of others got on-board with the program of integrating justice into society -- by the time that a mere 25% of us are on-board, we are already benefitting more than if we had turned the other cheek.

Ed




Post 4

Sunday, November 25, 2012 - 9:56amSanction this postReply
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Jules,

I know which one you answered (you don't have to tell me!) and I need to caution you that, as yet, the empirical evidence does not support a naturally-selected-for increase in the expected fitness of a "Lone Ranger". What this means is that if you are the only guy in society willing to re-orient your behavior toward others because of measurable injustices, then you may not survive the ordeal, let alone maximize your expected fitness (e.g., longevity).

Ed

p.s. I answered that way, too.

:-)




Post 5

Sunday, November 25, 2012 - 10:39amSanction this postReply
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Ed,

"Lone Rangers" may survive well enough. All the "Lone Ranger" needs is a dark alley, a baseball bat, and a one-on-one confrontation with a rights violator.

Not sure how he would survive after rights violators learn never to travel alone and unarmed. Also, you have to worry about the invention of the lightbulb, those pesky things always illuminating those once dark alleys.

Dark alleys being well lit *hmph*; is nothing sacred?
(Edited by Kyle Jacob Biodrowski on 11/25, 10:40am)




Post 6

Sunday, November 25, 2012 - 10:54amSanction this postReply
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There is a certain danger in the "just minority" in that their view of "justice" may well be unjust, e.g. the aforementioned victimless crimes of drugs and prostitution.

This study may inform justice but is only part of a much more complex picture.



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Post 7

Sunday, November 25, 2012 - 11:50amSanction this postReply
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This was really tough question, Ed.  I found myself having to boil down to "deserted island" ethics, and almost clicked "even if I was the only one."  I clicked "if one other person was willing," though. 

  I'd still kill an intruder by myself, though.  I don't have a problem with that at all, and certainly don't need anyone approval.

Sunny Lohman expressed some half hearted shock at my idea of hiding a gun in my purse the next time I visited the theater.  I just wouldn't have a problem aiming for a head-shot at a lunatic mowing people down in their seats, even if the "rules" forbid it.  I'll take the idiotic social consequences of disabling evil if I'm able. No problem.




Post 8

Sunday, November 25, 2012 - 11:59amSanction this postReply
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We do not have the right to bear arms in Canada so I spent many years training in martial arts to "become" the weapon. Definately not ideal against a gun toting nutball scenario but it has saved my life on more than one occasion.



Post 9

Sunday, November 25, 2012 - 3:37pmSanction this postReply
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Kyle,
Not sure how he would survive after rights violators learn never to travel alone and unarmed.
This is a specific criticism that works against the Lone Ranger but becomes increasingly irrelevant under the Law of Large Numbers. These studies typically involve a million or more interactions (value exchanges) between economic agents, spread across a time frame of a hundred or more generations (i.e., social, economic, and political interactions followed for thousands of years). Under the Law of Large Numbers, criminals could not coalesce like you mentioned because they would create pockets of deprivation so large that they, themselves, would die off. Note how this would be true if, say, all lions banded together as one large hunting group. They would push themselves to eventual starvation because of how effective they would initially be at hunting wild game (the wild game would go extinct, followed shortly by the lions).

When you look at large numbers of interactions, you can see this play out before your very eyes. You can see whether a certain species could survive under levels of value-attainment or value-production. You can see the effects of value-redistribution. We no longer have to guess what would happen to humans under, say, capitalism, or socialism, or whatever. We can just look and see. No model is perfect, but models are getting better all of the time. The incorporation of real world dynamics into the model -- as seen in this study -- helps us predict what happens from various social and political policies.

Ed

(Edited by Ed Thompson on 11/25, 4:21pm)




Post 10

Sunday, November 25, 2012 - 3:54pmSanction this postReply
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Luke,
There is a certain danger in the "just minority" in that their view of "justice" may well be unjust ...
This point is like Kyle's above. It is relevant when you take a small or limited view and becomes increasingly irrelevant under the Law of Large Numbers. The danger of which you speak is only specific and short-lived danger, just like the examples above of the criminal gang or the lion pack. It is self-limiting. Followed long enough, the moral mistakes of a "just minority" would asymptotically approach zero -- they would become minimized over time. Let me support that view with an extreme analogy. Let's say that you have a small group of people who think that justice involves the subjugation of women (a dismissal of the value or merit of half of the population) and you let them compete economically against a group of people who adopt a morality that is more objective than that. Let's say it's against a group of Objectivists.

Who thrives over time?

If you follow the behavior of interacting agents who write-off value-trading with half of their population, and you compare and contrast their "fitness" against a population of free traders then, over time, you will see the 'free trader' population becomes ever more successful -- especially when viewed against the results of the first group. They may even invade and take over the first group. One part of the explanation for this discrepancy in outcomes is simply the numbers, there are more people trading in an Objectivist society (more value is exchanged, and better value gets exchanged at a faster rate). Another part of the explanation might be the resentment that the female individuals might harbor, leading some of them to destroy produced values, or otherwise harm the value producing males. There may be several other parts, too.

When followed long enough, these dynamics would appear.

Ed

(Edited by Ed Thompson on 11/25, 4:20pm)




Post 11

Sunday, November 25, 2012 - 4:07pmSanction this postReply
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Teresa (and others),

I want to stress that this is not so much about becoming some kind of a gun-toting "Chuck Norris" vigilante as it is about the more common experiences of everyday life. In real life, what happens when people cheat or harm you? One thing that might happen is that you scream bloody murder -- you alert others that there is an individual nearby who may not have everyone's best interest at heart. The study above mentions "gossip" as one avenue toward the exacting of justice against a known defector. You can simply bad-mouth him:

"That guy over there knocked an old lady down yesterday and ran off with her purse! He's a criminal!"

Once you are willing to cry foul or whistle-blow like that, you are starting to re-orient your behavior toward a more just and peaceful society. Now, what would it take for you to be able to bad-mouth a criminal? That is really where this poll begins. Would you be willing to be the only one to cry foul? What are the risks and benefits to that? One likely risk is that the criminal himself will cease to engage you in value-trading, so whatever value that might have been had from trading with him is something that will be forgone. A less likely risk is the criminal seeks out revenge, but when enough people agree on an objective code of law enforced by otherwise-disinterested third parties, this becomes increasingly irrelevant.

The benefit you get from taking those risks is increased trade with like-minded others. Alternatively, letting the criminal off without complaint will only ensure that he violates rights again -- either yours, or someone with whom you could trade (either way, it harms you to let criminals be criminals).

The extreme example is one where everyone in society is interested in justice except one person. This one person would find himself up against everyone else. Under this scenario, the risk to the population is very small -- there is no one to single out for revenge. What would happen to such a person? People would gossip about him (and stop trading value with him) and they may even physically gang up on him in defense. His prospects would be nil. He would be faced with a choice: become productive in an effort to repair your reputation, or die alone in the woods.

:-)

Ed

(Edited by Ed Thompson on 11/25, 4:46pm)




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Post 12

Sunday, November 25, 2012 - 6:09pmSanction this postReply
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Oooooh, I see.

It would be interesting to see how people in a cultural wasteland, like Detroit, would answer these questions.  




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Post 13

Sunday, November 25, 2012 - 10:36pmSanction this postReply
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Send Snake Pliskin into Detroit!
On a more serious note last year the entire country of Canada had under 700 murders. Detroit had over 3300. A city with a population of 700 000 had 3300 murders and 98% of Detroit voted for Obamarx..coincidence?

My own city of Edmonton has roughly the same population and had 47 and that was high!!

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/edmonton/story/2012/01/03/edmonton-murders-police-hiring.html



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Post 14

Monday, November 26, 2012 - 12:23pmSanction this postReply
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Jules,

Isn't it funny how cities like Detroit keep voting for the same corrupt politicians over and over again? Yet they will just keep voting Democrat, and keep getting screwed. What is the definition of crazy again?!

I live about 40 minutes outside of Detroit, safely out of the "Danger zone". It seems like there is a new murder every time I turn on the news.



Post 15

Monday, November 26, 2012 - 1:27pmSanction this postReply
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KJB:"Lone Rangers" may survive well enough. All the "Lone Ranger" needs is a dark alley, a baseball bat, and a one-on-one confrontation with a rights violator.
Tough talk.  Can you stand behind it?  Myself, I considered the nuanced meaning of "punish" to include simple shunning and exclusion. 

Everyone seems to think in terms of street crime, but white collar crime ("suite crime") is far more prevalent and destructive. One fifth of all new businesses that fail do so because of employee theft. And with a new firm, "employee" usually means corporate officer.

The paper that Ed cites necessarily includes the putative "criminal" (transgressor, deviator) within the population of those enforcing the rules.  This is salient.  I put up with governmentalists who think in terms of "perpetrators" and "the community."  Perps are in an of the community, by definition -- and we are all culpable at some time.  I know for a statistical fact that many nominally honest people commit transgressions.  This is an assumption of the study that Ed cited.  If you logically remove the offender as an element in the set, then the model fails.  The Lone Ranger still would work well in that case, but would not reflect the assumptions of the study.

And that was my own choice: just me.  I did not think in terms of beating up people in dark alleys - i.e., becoming an aggressor myself -  but in terms of my own actions to influence the next outcome. 

Beyond that, it is observably true that many self-identifed Objectivists still have the paradigms of religious conservativsm for their models of justice.  I suggest many alternatives.
Red Hook Community Justice Center
The Red Hook judge has an array of sanctions and services at his disposal. These include community restitution projects, short-term psychoeducational groups, and long-term treatment (e.g., drug treatment, mental health treatment, and trauma-focused psychotherapy). Red Hook features an on-site clinic staffed by social service professionals who use trauma- and evidence-informed approaches to assess and connect individuals to appropriate services. The Justice Center also works to connect court-involved youth to strengths-based programming, including art projects and peer education programs


That is sort of a "left wing" alternative.  Here is something more "right wing." (Incidentally, this report cites Mobil Oil for engaging its own environmental protection policies in 1956.) 
"In responding to and resolving the criminal behavior of employees, organizations routinely choose options other than criminal prosecution, for example, suspension without pay, transfer, job reassignment, job redesign (eliminating some job duties), civil restitution, and dismissal...

     While on the surface, it appears that organizations opt for less severe sanctions than would be imposed by the criminal justice system, in reality, the organizational sanctions may have greater impact...  In addition, the private systems of criminal justice are not always subject to principles of exclusionary evidence, fairness, and defendant rights which characterize the public criminal justice systems. The level of position, the amount of power, and socio-economic standing of the employee in the company may greatly influence the formality and type of company sanctions.  In general, private justice systems are characterized by informal negotiations and outcomes, and nonuniform standards and procedures among organizations and crime types."

(THE HALLCREST REPORTS. 1. Private Security and Police in America, William C. Cunningham and Todd Taylor, Stoneham, Mass. Butterworth-Heinemann, 1985. 2. Private Security Trends 1970 to 2000, William C. Cunningham and John J. Strauchs and Clifford W. Van Meter, Stoneham, Mass. Butterworth-Heinemann, 1990.)   ("This publication reports a 30-month descriptive research project performed by Hallcrest Systems, Inc., MacLean, Virginia, under a grant from the National Institute of Justice, U.S. Department of Justice.")
The Hallcrest Report I: Private Security and Police in America by William C. Cunningham and Todd H. Taylor, Butterworth-Heinemann, Boston, 1985. ("This publication reports a 30-month descriptive research project performed by Hallcrest Systems, Inc., MacLean, Virginia, under a grant from the National Institute of Justice, U.S. Department of Justice.")
The Hallcrest Report II: Private Security Trends 1970 to 2000, by William C. Cunningham, John J. Strauchs, Clifford W. Van Meter, Butterworth Heineman, Boston, 1990. ("This publication, The Hallcrest Report II: Private Security Trends (1970 to 2000), presents the results of a descriptive research project performed in 1989 and 1990 by Hallcrest Systems, Incorporated of MacLean, Virginia, under a grant (89-IJ-CX-0002) from the National Institute of Justice, U.S. Department of Justice.")

(Edited by Michael E. Marotta on 11/26, 1:32pm)




Post 16

Monday, November 26, 2012 - 2:32pmSanction this postReply
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Tough talk.  Can you stand behind it? 
Are you kidding? I swing from rooftop to rooftop every night, always on the prowl for some evil-doer, always ready to administer justice.

Myself, I considered the nuanced meaning of "punish" to include simple shunning and exclusion. 
Huh, I hope you don't take that approach when against a guy with a gun. Those people don't take well to the cold shoulder treatment.




Post 17

Monday, November 26, 2012 - 4:34pmSanction this postReply
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More to the point of the poll, I think I do usually act as to punish criminal like behavior, and I act on it alone.  I guess you'll have to think of my click as for #6, not #5, Ed.




Post 18

Tuesday, November 27, 2012 - 6:33amSanction this postReply
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This poll inspired me to write an article... thanks Ed.



Post 19

Tuesday, November 27, 2012 - 8:59amSanction this postReply
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Retribution is ideologically popular among religious conservatives, including Objectivists. Objectivists, of course, create a non-religious, secular moral argument.  Nonetheless, the congruency of the arguments is clear: those who are immoral must be punished.  The agency of retribution could be a lone "masked avenger," constitutional courts, or God.

Again, I point to the fact that the article, "Coordinated punishment of defectors" by Boyd, Gintis, and Bowles came from game theory, the same field as the famous "prisoner's dilemma."  You need to understand that for the context.  For one thing, the Prisoner's Dilemma suggests that you can change the behavior of a defector by rewarding them (even twice) rather than punishing them tit-for-tat.

Moreover, I tracked Prof. Gintis because his name is the least common.  I believe that Ed Thompson himself, given a different context, would condemn Gintis as a utilitarian or perhaps a post-modernist.  Herbert Gintis's other works include studies of "public education in capitalist America" and investigations into how the social status of the family determines the economic outcome of the individual.  Myself, I take learning where I can find it, or I never would have graduated with high honors from a midrange, Midwestern, state university. So, maybe these findings have some saliency. I believe that most people here would condemn this research as "cargo cult science" or "scientism."  It looks like science but is carried out by rote without firm theoretic foundations.

That said, I do question the theoretical underpinning of this article which is that you cannot have justice without popular consent. 
Both laboratory and field data suggest that people punish noncooperators even in one-shot interactions. Although such "altruistic punishment" may explain the high levels of cooperation in human societies, it creates an evolutionary puzzle: existing models suggest that altruistic cooperation among nonrelatives is evolutionarily stable only in small groups.
[...]
However, here we show that an important asymmetry between altruistic cooperation and altruistic punishment allows altruistic punishment to evolve in populations engaged in one-time, anonymous interactions. This process allows both altruistic punishment and altruistic cooperation to be maintained even when groups are large and other parameter values approximate conditions that characterize cultural evolution in the small-scale societies in which humans lived for most of our prehistory.

"The evolution of altruistic punishment,"  by Robert Boyd, Herbert Gintis, Samuel Bowles, and Peter J. Richerson. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America,Vol. 100, No. 6 (Mar. 18, 2003), pp. 3531-3535.


In other words, altruism aside, this study contradicts at least one of the key findings of the other.  Moreover, we have to realize that by "punishment" they do not necessarily mean Paleolithic hunters whacking someone.  Withholding a reward - such as a salary bonus for a sales clerk or walking out of a store when you do not find what you want - is also punishment.


MEM: Myself, I considered the nuanced meaning of "punish" to include simple shunning and exclusion. 

KJB: Huh, I hope you don't take that approach when against a guy with a gun. Those people don't take well to the cold shoulder treatment.




Kyle, I am unarmed and I face armed people all the time.  I work in Texas.  As when I worked in New Mexico, the law here specifically prohibits a security guard on duty from being armed unless he is licensed to be armed while on duty.  On the other hand, everyone has the right to carry openly; and many people carry concealed. I just assume that anyone I meet has a gun.  Ed has accused me of "Jedi mind tricks."  I call it "reason."   

(Edited by Michael E. Marotta on 11/27, 9:03am)




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