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Post 20

Saturday, May 13 - 4:53pmSanction this postReply
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The problem that Steve (among many others) is unable to solve is the a priori definition of common sense.  What is the difference between illegal aliens sneaking into America to get jobs cleaning bathrooms and Pancho Villa's raid on Columbus, New Mexico?  To Steve Wolfer, there is no difference because he has no rationalistic premise that can place those into their proper contexts. He thinks that he owns this country, but that I do not.  If a majority of people voted for open borders, that would be illegitimate to Steve, but if they voted to close the borders, that would be right and proper.  



Post 21

Saturday, May 13 - 4:55pmSanction this postReply
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Steve, if my comments were based on my misunderstanding the meaning of your posts, I'm sorry. 

 

I thought you argued that the commons in the US includes not only courthouses, but the right to enter or leave the boundaries over which the government has jurisdiction. (Okay, you didn't mention "leaving", but your argument could be stretched to encompass that, from my perspective.)

 

My counter was courthouses are properly owned by people who funded them--in the US that's nearly everyone, through taxes, fines and monetaary inflation. Government "owns" the courthouses in a strict agency relationship with its citizens. For proper government is a limited agent, of course, not a ruler. The president should not be a Majestic figure with Vision. He should be the executor of the laws. 

 

Anyway, I don't believe the government has moral justification to exclude people from moving to the USA, or to prevent them from leaving the USA, unless the people coming or going have committed (properly defined) crimes. This claim is consistent with the right of individuals to take care of themselves, to promote and sustain their own lives with their own efforts. To prohibit entry or exit is to violate their right to pursue life. To impose entry-exit demands is to overturn natural rights of those affected, including Americans who want to bargain with the excluded.

 

People who enter must not trespass on private property (a crime), or blow up court houses (another crime), or seek government benefits and support (extracted by force from citizen-subjects) But if people involved mind their own business, then their entry or exit is none of government's proper business. That voters select representatives who institute laws that violate the rights of immigrants or expatriots by halting their migrations is not justification. Government representatives have no moral authority to expand the tiny commons of a free society into a dragnet to coercively direct migration. 

 

In my understanding, the only defense of immigration restriction is the need to defend against big problems caused improper government meddling into our lives, such as setting up various welfare and other schemes. The solution is to end welfare-warfare and move toward a free society. Until that happens, some restrictions--the fewest possible--are necesssary.  

 

The idea of targeting populations for exclusion, based on prior restraint, is really unjust. Recall that immigration restrictions resulted in the murder of untold numbers of Jewish people, trapped in Germany and its territories in the nineteen thirties. Americans were unsympathetic to immigrants then, as many are today.



Post 22

Saturday, May 13 - 6:10pmSanction this postReply
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Marotta writes:

 

What is the difference between illegal aliens sneaking into America to get jobs cleaning bathrooms and Pancho Villa's raid on Columbus, New Mexico?

 

And he is concerned with my grasp of common sense?  What is the difference between a homeless man sneaking into Marotta's home to find a warm corner to sleep in, and a burgler sneaking into his home to rob him?  I don't know about anyone else but I have no problem what-so-ever seeing both the similarities (both are acts of trespass) and the differences (one is simply an uninvited guest versus the other who is engaged in outright theft).

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He [Steve] thinks that he owns this country, but that I do not.  If a majority of people voted for open borders, that would be illegitimate to Steve, but if they voted to close the borders, that would be right and proper.

I made it very clear, for those that read and think, that I recognize the concept of public ownership and that what is owned in common is managed by those we select and that we select those in government by voting.  Now  does that sound like "Steve thinks he owns the country, but Marotta doesn't"?

 

Does Marotta think that property rights can be violated by vote?  What about rape, if a majority of a group of men vote to rape the one woman that is there, is it suddenly okay to ignore her property rights in her body and enter it against her will? 

 

And the difference isn't between open borders and totally closed borders, just as the front door to Marotta's home is closed or open so as to allow him to control who has access to his property.
-------------------

 

Take a look at my last post and notice the arguments I made that Marotta stays silent on:
- Doesn't he believe he has a right to lock the doors on his home?
- What justification does he have for implying that those who don't support totally open borders are racists?
- Does he really believe that there are no uniquely American values?
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Progressives and many anarchists are blinded by a cult-like relationship to their theories such that they are immune to evidence and indifferent to outcomes.  Nothing can challenger their beliefs which are given a scripture-like reverence apart from logic.  It is a danger inherent in accepting floating abstractions. 



Post 23

Saturday, May 13 - 6:44pmSanction this postReply
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Mark,

 

I did say that the government has the right to control entry into our country by those who are not citizens and have not been given some form of legal residency (like a green card).

 

In no way does keeping out selected aliens amount to telling people they cannot leave.  My argument cannot be stretched to encompass that.  I can tell someone that he cannot come into my house because I own it and he has no legal right to enter or be in it.  But if he is in my house, by invitation or otherwise, I cannot tell him he can't leave.  I can't imprison him.  I can use force to defend against initiation of force, but I can't morally initiate force.  People can exercise property rights, but only where they have property rights.

 

Here is the heart of my approach:  You have the right to pursue your life.  But that doesn't mean you can do it in someone else's house without their permission.  That is a simple application of property rights.  I assume we agree on that.

 

If you want to bargain with someone and your bargain includes them being in my house, they are going to have to have my permission to be in that house.  Their right to bargain with you, and your right to bargain with them does not override my right to exclude them from my house.  I assume we agree on that.

 

Entry into a country is a civil matter.  It is only a moral right to enter this country if a person is a citizen (one of the owners).  We have geographic boundaries that mark the jurisdiction of our laws.  A difference of just a few feet means the huge difference between our laws and the laws of Mexico, for example.  Those few feet can be reasonably seen as very valuable.  We pay taxes, vote, fight wars and maintain our nation, its structures and its laws.  We, as a nation, own that special value that those few feet represent.  An alien has no more right to that value then he would to come into your house and eat your food.  There must be an invitation.

 

It is a fallacy to imagine that there is no value in being here.  It is a fallacy to think that this value is not owned (as you said, the county court house is owned by those who funded them and run by the government in a strict agency relationship).  It would be wrong to think that open borders wouldn't cause great harm to our nation.  Only proper assimulation can transfer those American values from the existing citizens to the new citizens.  What ever liberty still remains to us, will be lost if the next generations citizens vote it away and proper assimulation helps to pass on the torch.

 

We agree that welfare and the excessive amount of public property with all of its attendent costs massively aggrevate this problem.  And that welfare and excessive government managed property should be reduced for reasons quite apart from immigration complications.

 

But I'd say that government representatives have a moral duty to protect the not-so-tiny commons of a free society with very rational immigration policies.  It is protecting property rights and the property being protected is a key component in a nation of laws and our liberty. 

 

We agree that in a truly free society immigration numbers could be much higher before they caused any problems.



Post 24

Sunday, May 14 - 5:59amSanction this postReply
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I sanctioned Steve's post in #13 a couple of days ago because I appreciated his making the time to explain his reasoning.  As much as I agreed with his approach, I disagreed with his conclusions.  My brief comments above outlined my objections and stated my own conclusions.  

 

Many problems worry at Steve's overarching theory of "national ownership." Steve likens the United States of America to a corporation. I point out that the shareholders of a corporation or their elected board of directors are prohited from illegal or unlawful actions, such as declaring war on Spain, or buying and selling human beings.  In fact, while many corporate charters include the phrase "... or any other activity lawful within this state" that is nonetheless a limitation in action and in place.  A corporation cannot just vote to open a branch office in a place that does not allow it.  (Banking regulations are an example of that.)  

 

Moreover, Adam Smith and Ludwig von Mises both were suspicious of joint stock corporations. I do not find their arguments compelling, but they must be addressed. For one thing, while our political institutions are firmly based on "one person one vote" corporations grant votes based on shares owned. That, to me is reasonable, but would change how we vote in the USA and how our representatives vote in Congress. In other words, the "standard" district might have 700,000 people with some representatives having 1.2 votes and others 0.98.  We might decide that the average American pays $1300 a year in taxes and grant some people 0.1 votes and other 1000 votes.  At this point, we are no longer discussing immigration policy, but restructuring the USA.  I called that "science fiction."  It is the long and winding road that dedicated ideologues take when trying to fix all of the world's problems at once, starting with a single limited problem here and now.  

 

Smith and Mises also disliked the fact that corporations are credit-based enterprises. They both legitimized only those whose assets come from savings.  Again, we would have to restructure the American constitution (and the Constitution) to reconcile that problem because the Constitution allows the federal government to borrow money on the full faith and credit of the United States.

 

 In point of fact -- and this speaks to a deeper problem: Wolfer's lack of "boots on the ground" experience with the problems of immigration -- my wages in the Texas Military Department come from funding for Operation Secure Texas.  We guard 1300 miles of border between the United States of America and the United States of Mexico.  In addition, our Operation Lone Star is an annual medical mission, in which the Medical Rangers of the Texas State Guard deliver free treatment to communities in the border counties, serving as many as 10,000 people per day - with no questions asked.  

 

As Objectivists, we can ask many cogent questions about those activities, but I point out that the conservative, patriotic voters of Texas apparently support the elected representatives who have made that funding available for about 30 years. This is traditional to Texas.  And that raises a Constitutional issue that Steve Wolfer has not addressed.

 

The US Constitution, Art I Sec. 8 gives Congress the power to establish uniform rules of Naturalization.  Beyond that, it falls to the States themselves to regulate immigration into their own jurisdictions.  Steve Wolfer apparently takes the position that the USA is a unified, centralized nation-state in which the voters in Florida have as much say in Alaska as the voters in Hawaii do about what is proper in Maine, which ultimately denies the very concept of a federal republic of 50 states.

 

Steve keeps drawing analogies between my home and the USA but those analogies fail on the very point he insists: ownership.  If I have as much ownership right in the USA as Steve then I have as much right to allow in any visitors I choose -- and even choose to make them "family" members with full voting rights, if that is how I choose to run my home.  The fact is that such "Crusoe concepts" require much closer analysis than Steve has given them.

 

In fact (again) as much as I appreciated the efforts that Steve put into Post #13 (and some others), he ultimately failed to make a consistent case. Rather, in response, he resorted to name calling, which is typical of neo-Kantian range-of-the-moment, context-dropping muscle mystics in denial of the Law of Identity. (Just sayin'...)

 

(Edited by Michael E. Marotta on 5/14, 6:15am)



Post 25

Sunday, May 14 - 9:47amSanction this postReply
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I applaud Marotta's approach in post #24.  He is replying with arguments worth addressing (even though they fail to make his case).

 

He wrote:

 

Many problems worry at Steve's overarching theory of "national ownership." Steve likens the United States of America to a corporation. I point out that the shareholders of a corporation or their elected board of directors are prohited from illegal or unlawful actions, such as declaring war on Spain, or buying and selling human beings.  In fact, while many corporate charters include the phrase "... or any other activity lawful within this state" that is nonetheless a limitation in action and in place.  A corporation cannot just vote to open a branch office in a place that does not allow it.

I likened the shared ownership of corporations and the shared ownership of aspects of our nation.  Clearly they are not alike in all respects.  As to the shareholders of a corporation or their elected board of directors being prohibited from illegal activities... I don't see the point in mentioning that.  After all, elected members of the federal government, and the taxpayers who elected them are also prohibited from illegal activities.  The government itself is limited by the constitution.  I don't believe that this in anyway diminishes my arguement for the citizens of a nation being the owners of what the federal government manages for them.
----------------------------

 

Marotta wrote:

 

Moreover, Adam Smith and Ludwig von Mises both were suspicious of joint stock corporations. I do not find their arguments compelling, but they must be addressed. For one thing, while our political institutions are firmly based on "one person one vote" corporations grant votes based on shares owned. That, to me is reasonable, but would change how we vote in the USA and how our representatives vote in Congress.

Here he goes off on a tangent NOT indicated by anything I wrote.  I compared ownership and voting as having similarities between the nation and a corporation - not that they are, or should be, identical. 


NOWHERE did I suggest that we change the nature of the votes to elect people to national office.  You could have 10 people get together and sign a contract that in fact made them a kind of partnership, and they put money into a common bank account, and they write in their agreement that each person will have an equal vote in decisions they make as an organization... Or, they write in their agreement that each person will have a vote equal to the their portion of the common bank account.  I don't care what these 10 people do.  I think that equity arrangement with shareholders (where you can have many different classes of stock) is fine for them.  And I think that one man, one vote is the best arrangement for electing people to office.
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With all due respect to Smith and Mises, the modern corporation is the finest engine ever created for organizing the productive efforts of humans. 

 

From The Hurricane Years, by Cameron Hawley:

 

"The modern corporation is so much more than just a commercial enterprise.  Its the primary instrumentality of an entirely new civilization.  Other societies have been built with other instrumentalities - the city-state, the feudal demesne, the temple, the church - there has to be some way to organize and control man's pluralistic effort.

...  The corporation is the most efficient and effective instrumentality we've devised to organize human effort.  Take this terrific forward thrust we've had in the physical sciences, this enormous expansion of technology - is it because of a simple accumulation of knowledge?  No, it is because the corporation is using scientific research and development to promote the growth of a whole new civilization.

There's been scientific discovery for hundreds of years, but so little was ever done about it.  Science was no more than an exercise in intellect.  Its the corporation that's given it a point and purpose.  We call this the scientific age, but its not just science and technology that's changing the world - its planning, its organization, its management, its direction."

 

A productive theme is chosen, a corporation formed, people invest, people are hired, competition rules, success evolves, and with the shareholder-investor side handled by the equity markets very little of the corporations efforts are tied up in fund raising - instead they are left to pursue the theme (which could be anything from the production and sale of kitchen utensils, to a non-profit pursuing a cure for cancer).  We should revere the corporation as one of the truly great inventions.
---------------------------------

 

Marotta writes:

...this speaks to a deeper problem: Wolfer's lack of "boots on the ground" experience with the problems of immigration... (Where upon Marotta informs us that he is such a member)

 

It is true that I am not, nor ever have been a member of the Texas Military Department.  But honestly, does anyone think that disqualifies me from speaking intelligently about issues of political philosophy, law, or moral issues that revolve around immigration?  Seriously?
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Marotta wrote:

 

The US Constitution, Art I Sec. 8 gives Congress the power to establish uniform rules of Naturalization.  Beyond that, it falls to the States themselves to regulate immigration into their own jurisdictions.

 

My argument is that the federal government has the duty to protect the property rights of the owners of the common property under the care of the federal government, just as it has the right to protect against unlawful trespass into a military base.
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Marotta wrote:

 

Steve Wolfer apparently takes the position that the USA is a unified, centralized nation-state in which the voters in Florida have as much say in Alaska as the voters in Hawaii do about what is proper in Maine, which ultimately denies the very concept of a federal republic of 50 states.

 

No, that misstates my position.  When we vote for a president, the voters of Florida may very will have had more of say as to who will be president than will the voters of Maine.  Because the president is the president of all the nation, the majority of electoral votes rule.  The voters of Maine will select their own senators.  The borders we are talking about are the borders of the nation because it is entry into the nation.  It makes no sense to have Texas voting to have immigration control over the border with Mexico and Arizona voting to have the border with Mexico wide open.  Context.
----------------------------------------

 

Marotta wrote:

 

Steve keeps drawing analogies between my home and the USA but those analogies fail on the very point he insists: ownership.  If I have as much ownership right in the USA as Steve then I have as much right to allow in any visitors I choose -- and even choose to make them "family" members with full voting rights, if that is how I choose to run my home.

 

Again, Marotta is ignoring the heart of the argument I made: shared ownership.  Like a corporation, or even a house where there are more than one person's name on the deed.  If someone has their wife on the deed to their house, the wife will need to sign papers to sell the house.  Marotta (and perhaps his wife, however they choose to share their home) can choose who comes into their home.  But not into my home.  And I can't make rules about his home.  That is simple property rights.  Control goes with ownership.  With shared ownership the actions you can take are limited.  You can sell your shares in a corporation but not someone elses. Marotta can vote for a candidate who believes that immigration should be increased above current levels and I can vote for a candidate who believes differently.



Post 26

Tuesday, May 30 - 5:49pmSanction this postReply
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I don't buy the idea that citizens own "the commons", because, as I stated before, ethics derives from the need of individuals to choose how to act, to make appropriate choices. Only individuals think and choose; collectives cannot do so.  So the idea that the collective of legally recognized citizens "owns" a nation-state is not possible, since ownership is a political-ethical principle that applies to individuals only.

 

Also, ownership does not impart to the owner the right to over ride the natural rights of other individuals to pursue their own lives peacefully. That's not ownership; it's a coercively enforced privilege, akin to the "ownership" of a slave. People excluded from emigrating to ther US are not slaves of US citizens, but to the extent their natural right to pursue life has been overturned by physical force, then like slaves, they have been stripped of some important rights.

 

If citizens own something, then the object of their ownership must be precisely defined, just as precision is essentiaal to staking out claims of ownership to real and personal property. But citizens are not owners of the commons, as you use the term; they are "stakeholders", to borrow a phrase from progressives. The idea of citizen stakeholders in the commons--in which their "stakes" are imprecise, metaphorical and imposed by force--is identical to the false claims of progressives that workers have a "staake" in the company that hires them, or people in a neighborhood have the right, as stakeholders, to veto a new housing developement on land that stakeholders enjoy as open space for views, dog walking and watering, etc. 

 

Finally, I know you did not claim US staakeholders ought to have the power to prevent others from leaving, but I argue your premise does not exclude that position as a possibility. You argue stakeholders ought to prevent by force others from entering "their" country; and as I've shown, this is arbitary and unjust. But the injustice needn't be restricted to entrance; it could just as arbitarily be extended to encompass departures. For if the stakeholders "own" the commons, then they might decide that "their" commons would be damaged if other stakeholders moved away. That was the reasoning the communists used to prevent people from escaping the vast prison camp that was Eastern Europe and Russia. 



Post 27

Tuesday, May 30 - 10:23pmSanction this postReply
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Hi Mark,

 

I appreciate the chance to chew on this issue.

 

You wrote: 

 

I don't buy the idea that citizens own "the commons", because, as I stated before, ethics derives from the need of individuals to choose how to act, to make appropriate choices. Only individuals think and choose; collectives cannot do so.  So the idea that the collective of legally recognized citizens "owns" a nation-state is not possible, since ownership is a political-ethical principle that applies to individuals only.

 

1. I agree that ethics derives from the need of the individual to choose.


2. I agree that only individuals think and choose. 

 

But we disagree after that. 

 

For example, a publically owned corporation is a form of a collective.  A corporation is not an individual, but it does act, and it does so on choices made by those who manage that collectively-owned property.  It is only individuals who act - despite acting as agents in a way that make those actions into actions of the corporation.  They make choices, and the assumption is that they choose acts that benefit the owners. 

 

A shareholder does own a portion of that corporation.  There are specific rules (and laws) that describe the parameters of that kind of ownership. 


With a partnership, not a corporation, there is also shared ownership.  And it has its own rules (and laws) - usually defined by the partnership agreement. 

 

And a single propriotorship is another form of ownership with a set of rule to define its nature (and laws) and it can be run by a hired manager or agent.

 

So, I make the argument that at least some of what a government "owns" is really owned by the citizens of that jurisdiction (national or local).  The Federal level of government 'owns' military bases.  Well, in fact, they are United States military bases.  And that means they are owned by the citizens of the United States.  But like ownership ("collective ownership") of the military bases, is not the same (not the same rules of ownership) as the ownership of some shares of Ford Motors.  And it is not the same as ownership of your car. 

 

But different or not, I maintain it is a form of ownership.  And to say otherwise, is to deny a degree of our soveriegnty.  Our soveriegnty, as individuals, arise out of the fact that government is for the purpose of protecting OUR rights, and derives its only just powers from us.  The rules of the ownership need to be defined in our laws.  They don't grow on trees, and don't appear automatically just because a government is formed.  And if they are written in law, there is no guarantee that they are as well written as they should be, or that they arise out of individual rights - as all laws should.  But that is just the nature of laws.

 

I'll answer your objections in separate posts (to come later)... to make discussion cleaner. 

 

Do you have objections to the idea that there is some kind of collective ownership of what government manages... whether or not we have a good set of laws defining that, at this point in time?
-------------------------------



Post 28

Wednesday, May 31 - 12:32pmSanction this postReply
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Mark, I'll continue to work on the issues you raised.  You wrote:

 

... ownership does not impart to the owner the right to over ride the natural rights of other individuals to pursue their own lives peacefully. That's not ownership; it's a coercively enforced privilege, akin to the "ownership" of a slave. People excluded from emigrating to ther US are not slaves of US citizens, but to the extent their natural right to pursue life has been overturned by physical force, then like slaves, they have been stripped of some important rights.

I believe the best way to view "ownership" is as bundle of rights - each right in the bundle is defined in terms of an action the 'owner' can exercise relative to an entity.  For example, if you buy a car, and if you have good title (the car was sold to you by the lawful prior owner).  Your ownership relates to a set of actions that you can take relative to that car.  You can drive it, you can sell it, you can modify it, you can give it away, you can rent it out, you dispose of it, etc.  All actions.  None of the actions require someone's permission - they are rights.  That whole bundle of rights constitute your "ownership" of the car.

 

Note that if you had leased the car, you would acquire a bundle of rights, but it would not include the right to sell the car.  Your lease would spell out what rights came to you. 

 

Your right to drive the car (owned or leased) does NOT include the right to run over a person, or to drive down a private road posted "No Trespassing".  I can own a gun, but that ownership doesn't mean I can shoot someone in any situation other than self-defense.  I own a house and I DO HAVE THE RIGHT TO STOP SOMEONE FROM COMING INTO MY HOUSE WITHOUT MY PERMISSION.  They have a natural right to go where they want - BUT ONLY WHEN IT DOES NOT INCLUDE TRESPASS.

 

I can own a car.  I can not own a person.  That other person's natural rights exclude that.  When you exclude people from entering your home, you are exercising your rights and it does not violate the excluded person's rights.  They don't have the right to enter your house.

 

If America - the country - 'owns' its borders, the government can stop people from entering unless they are American citizens or green card or Visa holders.  People enter with permission.  If there are open borders than anyone can enter at any time and for any reason and we are forced to see borders as imaginary, of no legal consequence and would perhaps need a declaration of war to legally stop an invading nation.

 

I'll await your answer to my post above before going farther to establish my case for ownership of the common property of our nation by the citizens.  And then in another post relate it to borders.



Post 29

Wednesday, May 31 - 9:47pmSanction this postReply
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I appreciate your thoughtful attitude in your response to my comment, Steve. By the way, we are both opposed to the ideological nonsense of the progressive movement, so please don't assume I referenced progressives and stakeholders to rub dirt in your eye. The idea came to me as I was writing my comment. I'll try to respond to your first comment here tonight and your following comment tomorrow night, when I have more time.

 

People own shares in corporations and joint interests in condominiums and real property as joint tenants. There is nothing flawed in terms of ethics in "communal" ownership. If folks want to live in a commune, that's up to them. But those associations are voluntary, whereas positing ownership of some commons is involuntary to at least some of the owners, as I'll try to show.

 

The commons that is owned is goverment institutions that uphold individual freedom, or that's my assumption, anyway. Further, the commons might be defined as also including a culture that values freedom and reason, since such a culture is prerequisite to freedom. 

 

If Jones objects to the character of the commons, and to certain of its policies and prescriptions, as an owner of the commons, he is forced to give up freedom of assciation. He could leave the country, but that's an expensive alternative to staying where he is and being forced to support and associate with a project concering which he has objections. So Jones loses his right to free association through his ownership acquired involuntarily at birth, with which he wants no association.   

 

Of course, people ordinarily argue and disagree about policies and politics; even tiny movements like objectivism feature continuous disagreement about many issues. So the idea of people being joined together in an ownership arrangement to which they did not consent suggests a lot of dissatisfied owners. 

 

There is such a thing as ethical and political perfection. But if the commons falls short of perfection in some way, the idea of ownership runs into another new problem. One cannot own something that violates the rights of other people. For example, one cannot own Yellowstone Park as a citizen, because the park is a vast tract of land the size of some states, wherein private ownership has been prohibited. One has no right to prohibit ownership, which is the very purpose of public lands. So a commons that violates rights in any way cannot be owned, because those rights are aspects of the lives of people, which are owned by no one but themselves.

 

Finally, ownership has a different meaning and purpose than what you have posited in your idea of citizens owning the commons. The purpose of ownership is to recognize what individuals create and build themselves, so they can benefit or languish from the consequences of their choices and decisions. Ownership, meaning of course private property, gives individuals direct control over the consequences of their personal moral choices. Private property creates a zone of moral autonomy for individuals that otherwise would not be possible.

 

Collective ownership of the commons cannot provide individuals with direct control over their personal destinies, as does private property. It chains them to a regime that may be substantially beneficial to their interests, or not; but since the only public interest is individual freedom, the act of coercively marrying people to a regime sabotagues the public interest.  

 

I share your concern about the rapid erosion of our freedom and assume your desire to preserve its remnants inspired your thinking about this. But the battle is intellectual and cannot be won by trying to exclude bad thinkers. It can only be won by prevailing somewhere, sometime, in the arena of ideas, so that good politics can take root and flourish. 

 

Thanks for thinking about all this and for hearing me out. 



Post 30

Friday, June 2 - 10:47pmSanction this postReply
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Mark,

 

Thank you for sticking with this discussion.  I think there are some worthwhile things we can flesh out.  I haven't forgotten any of your objections or observations (like ownership of commons being restricted to those used in defense of individual rights, for example, or the lack of consent to the ownership I proposed, or the issue of ownership that appears to violate the rights of others.)  And I hope to get to each of them.  But, with your permission, I'll start by seeing if we agree on the fundamental aspects of two, inter-related, foundational concepts: The nature of ownership and the concept of rights.

 

Ownership first.

 

You acknowledge that people can own things in a collective fashion (as in shares of a corporation, joint tenants, etc.)

 

For each kind or category of ownership there are different rules and different laws and different understandings regarding the kind of ownership.  No one could take the rules for those actions allowed to a corporate shareholder and expect them to be the same rules for the actions permitted the joint tenants of house.  Yet they have things in common, because they are all kinds of ownership.

 

There is a joining of the concepts of ownership and rights - it lies in the concept of a bundle of rights relative to something, BEING what is owned.

 

To be philosophically precise, I believe one would NOT say that they "own" something, like a car, but rather that they have the right to take certain actions regarding that car.  Ownership shouldn't be thought of as about a thing (as in "I own this car"), but rather about rights that relate the 'owner' to the 'thing'  (as in "I own the right to drive this car") - this seems awkward, and isn't required for clear communications in most cases.  But it is valuable for philosophy and law. 

 

(Just a note: legal entities can 'own' things.  And the things that are owned can be physical or intellectual - as in patents or copyrights or digital entities or permissions.)

 

When I 'own' shares in a corporation, what I have is a bundle of rights relative to the the corporation.  Rights like, the right to sell some or all of those shares, the right to vote those shares at shareholder meetings,  the right to give the shares to any third party,  the right to collect any dividends issued while I am a registered shareholder as of the record date, etc.  What I really own is a bundle of rights. 

 

As is always the case, a valid description of a right is a description of an action -  an action that I can take without anyone's permission.  (And to be a valid right, it cannot violate a right of another person.)

 

Because these are best thought of as a bundle of rights, I can sell, or trade, some rights and keep others.  For example, I could make an agreement with the corportation to trade in a block of voting shares for non-voting shares that have a larger dividend payment.  That is the equivalent of selling the right in the bundle that lets me vote the shares. 

 

This bundle of rights concept is a powerful tool not just for understanding rights, property, ownership, and law... but it is also powerful in letting businesses and individuals to invent endless arrangments - more and more options available to each of us.  Prefered Stock, common stock, limited partnerships, buying a car, lease the car instead of buying, lease with option to buy, buy and then rent out to others, Uber with someone else's car, and so on, and so forth... without end.  This creativity can (and does) take place without this precise understanding of a bundle of rights being the proper way to conceptualize ownership.  But for philosophy and legal philosophy, we can get in trouble without that level of precision.

 

A right is always the right to take an action.  The action is always in regards to some entity.  The entity could be a house, a car, an patent on an idea, or your body.  The right is never an obligation.  Rights do not contain an obligation.  I have the right to sell my car, but I don't have to.  I have a right to drive it, but I don't have to.  We can get into a legal, contractual arrangement where we acquire both rights and obligations, but they are always separate parts even when in the same agreement.  That is because a right specifies an action, and proclaims it as an action needing no permission.

 

What I want to ask you, is to tell me if you disagree with any of the concepts I presented in this post.  (Or, if anything was unclear)  If not, I'll try to explain how I see it applying to government property and to answer the objections you raised.  Thanks.



Post 31

Tuesday, June 6 - 5:38pmSanction this postReply
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Thanks Steve, I agree.

 

The center of my concerns, objection, to the idea of collective ownership of the "defense or justice commons" is lack of voluntary agency. By that I mean lack of voluntary delegation, from client-citizen to the government, of the right to act with regard to particular matters relating to the establishment and execution of justice. 

 

If you have a way around this voluntarism issue of mine, okay I'm willing to think about it. But I can't now see one, because I think of natural rights as logically prior to government, not its derivative, as semi-authoritarian types--including some objectivists--argue.

 

I'll stop here, because I don't want to rehash stuff I've already argued-written.  This discussion ties directly into the nature of government and individual rights. I think of proper citizenship as much more client-agent, much less "civil authority"-"obedient citizen".  



Post 32

Wednesday, June 7 - 9:05amSanction this postReply
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Mark, we completely agree that natural rights are prior to government.  And, further, the ONLY proper purpose of government is protect those rights.  And I agree that a person's orientation regarding citizenship should be client-agent.

 

No person should be seen as having any obligations or duties other than those that are voluntary.  (We can voluntarily take on an obligation, like agreeing to make the payments associated with a mortgage, for example, or making a moral committment - an obligation - to care for a child.)

 

=== Negative versus Positive Actions ===


Note that this concept of "obligation" is only a relevant issue when it concerns positive actions, like the false assertion that we all owe a nation an obligation to spend two years of military service.  That would be a call a positive action (joining the military) that is being asserted as an obligation. 

 

We do have some negative obligations (obligations to not take an action).  For example, an obligation to not intiate force against another person.  We do have an obligation to not violate the rights of others because that is a logical requirement of the concept of rights.

 

=== Applying Positive/Negative to Government ===


The argument for or against an obligation to the government turns on the issue of individual rights.  Respecting the individual rights of others is the only obligation that we all start with at birth and can never escape.  (It is an obligation for negative actions)  It is kind of axiomatic that we can NOT choose to violate the right of others to choose.

 

This means that there is no logical argument against any action of a government as long as it stays strictly within the bounds of protecting rights.  We have an obligation to NOT act against the defense of individual rights - even if done by a government (no matter how much that idea pisses off anarchists).

 

=== Voluntary ===

 

1. We can't ask that others respect our right to choose while at the same time objecting to government acts that defend individual rights.

2. If there are property rights we each own in common (like a limited bundle of rights related to a federal court house) then we each should respect a government law/act to stop someone from destroying that building.

3. This is the heart of a govenment's moral authority.  If it acts to defends individual rights, it is moral.  Otherwise, it is not.

 

That is my argument for government restrictions on people who are not citizens of America entering the country.  We have a very limited bundle of rights as citizens in common property and the government is our agent in managing that property (we direct them by electing the people who do the managing).  Morally, they only have very limited acts they can do as agents - only those that don't violate individual rights.  Someone who is not a citizen of our country has no right to trespass.  If we are the owners of some property we have a right to prevent unauthorized access.



Post 33

Thursday, June 8 - 3:01pmSanction this postReply
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I wrote a longer fairly complete reply, but someone or something intruded and deleted my post from my computer, before I could post it. So I'm out of time.

 

I agree with what you wrote, but not with the part claiming common property that immigrants must respect. You haven't proven that there is a commons that constitutes property owned by citizens, or that self-supporting peaceful immigrants violate this ownership somehow. In fact, since people have the right to sustain and promote their lives and happiness through their own efforts, state prohibitions on their migrating to a more free and less threatening jurisdiction violates their natural right to live their lives as best they can. "Ownership" that entitles others to violate rights is a special privilege only, and is never justified.

 

Finally, all forms of authentic ownership require exacting definition of the property and rights at issue. One can't own ideas of other people, so one can't own cultural beliefs in freedom or of false values. One can't own freedom (or comparative freedom), except as an inidividual owns her own life; because all people are entitled to freedom. One can't own political institutions, because they are social/political procedures not relegated by their nature to exclusive use by whomever claims to own them. 

 

Government can own real and personal property, such as courthouses and ships, if these are held in trust for their clientel for the purpose of defending liberty rights. This ownership can, in a sense, be construed as ownership by citizens. Citizens own those assets, held in their behalf by the government in agency relationship, according to the extent of funding that any particular citizen has provided for their acquisition and maintenance. When Jones dies, he leaves his private property to others, who then acquire Jones' expired right to ownership of those assets held in trust. 

 

That is a completely different idea than what amounts to tribal ownership of a "stake" in a political jurisdiction, because the purpose of a proper jurisdiction is defense of the rights of individuals, not of a collective. Moreover, as I argued before, ownership can never entitle one to oppress the rights of others, such as for the purpose of obstructing emmigration or immigration. That is coercive privilege, not ownership. 

 

I agree that lots of false ideas were imported into American culture by, in the nineteenth and early twentieth century, immigrations from Germany, eastern Europe and Southern Europe. Their arrival lent support to the false ideals of progressivism, that in Europe was social democracy and Bismarkian socialism. Nor are immigrants in these times from the Midddle East etc. especially friendly to freedom, usually.

 

But trying to lock out bad ideas is a futile rear-guard defense. The only solution is promulgating correct ideas and superior philosophy, so that somewhere, someday, good ideas win the day. That's what you're achieving with your books, and while I'm at it, thank you for your good work.   



Post 34

Friday, June 9 - 10:06pmSanction this postReply
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Hi Mark,

 

You wrote:

 

You haven't proven that there is a commons that constitutes property owned by citizens, or that self-supporting peaceful immigrants violate this ownership somehow. In fact, since people have the right to sustain and promote their lives and happiness through their own efforts, state prohibitions on their migrating to a more free and less threatening jurisdiction violates their natural right to live their lives as best they can.

 

What I attempted to do in post #30 was to prove that it was reasonable to see things that are managed by the federal government as a kind of property of the citizens of that nation.  I showed that there are different kind of properties that are owned in common (public corporations, partnerships, etc.) and I pointed out that different kind of ownership have different rules.

 

To argue AGAINST the idea that citizens of a nation own (in common) what is managed by the government (i.e., government property) is to vest in government an ownership to which I say it has no right.  Either we, the citizens, have a limited kind of ownership of all federal properties, or the government owns it and has moral right to anything it wants with it and with no regard to any individual or all individuals - that is a prescription for totalitarianism.  Or, one could say that if the government takes control of anything that all ownership rights vanish as if that property were part of some alternate universe.  That makes no sense.  I say again, I can see no logical alternative to seeing government as the agent that manages property owned, in common, by the citizens.
-----------

 

Now, my argument about ownership must be acknowledged (or defeated) before one can say that immigrants can into the country by right, as opposed to by permission. 

 

So, does government totally own all that they manage and have moral as well as legal rights to do with all of that property as they wish and with no moral or legal obligation to heed any concern of the citizens?  Or, is everything managed by the government no longer even potential property - that it is some kind of non-property type of entity to which no rights and no ownership could ever be attached or considered?
------------

 

If the citizens have some kind of ownership in what government manages, then it is possible for trespass to exist.  That a peaceful, self-supporting immigrant might enter your house without permission, so he might enter our country without the permisson of the owners as granted (or refused) by the manager of the property - the government.

 

How do you determine if a person is peaceful and self-supporting without insisting on some kind of request for immigration?  You couldn't.  You'd have to take anyone, at any time, as if you had no border at all.  And only take action after someone violated a right.  You have to say one of two things: 1) Everyone has an absolute right to enter your house, until, and unless, they are proven to be rights violator. Or, 2) Because you have a right to determine who comes into your house, they get to enter only after they have received an invitation.

 

People do have the right to sustain and promote their own lives and happiness through their own efforts.  States can, and do prohibit people from breaking and entering, from theft, from trespass.  Their rights do not extend to violating the rights of others.  Just because my ownership of a share of a public corporation is held in common with others does not mean that my shares, nor the property managed by that corporation is up for grabs by peaceful individuals.  And, again, if we own our nation in common, then immigrant's rights do not include the right to violate our rights.  They can't enter your house without permission, and they can't enter the nation without permission.  No one is violating the rights of someone by refusing to accept trespass.  There are people with really, really nice houses.  But no matter how much better I imagine my life would be living in their house, my wishes don't give me a right to trespass.
--------------------

 

You wrote:

 

Government can own real and personal property, such as courthouses and ships, if these are held in trust for their clientel for the purpose of defending liberty rights. This ownership can, in a sense, be construed as ownership by citizens. Citizens own those assets, held in their behalf by the government in agency relationship, according to the extent of funding that any particular citizen has provided for their acquisition and maintenance.

 

We agree on most of that.  The specific rules of how much is owned by who is something that legal/political philosophers will need to hash out.  I see problems with ownership being in proportion to funding, unless voting is also weighted by funding, and then the funding would have to be solely for defense of individual rights.  And it is hard to see "Equal before the Law" co-existing with differing rates of ownership.  But maybe that could be done.

 

Also, the legal/political philosophers will have to decide about ownership of government held property that isn't used in defense of individual rights.  I'd say that property was a form of stolen property and that ownership was still vested in the hands of those from whom the money was taken to acquire it.... all very messy - BUT it is also beside the point.

 

I've explained above why common ownership entitles government to regulate immigration (as it regulate the use of the federal court house).  And the individual rights being protected are their property rights in this nation.  That is not tribal.  It is not oppressing anyones rights.  Immigrants don't have a right to enter this country.
---------------------

 

You wrote:

 

But trying to lock out bad ideas is a futile rear-guard defense. The only solution is promulgating correct ideas and superior philosophy, so that somewhere, someday, good ideas win the day. That's what you're achieving with your books, and while I'm at it, thank you for your good work.

 

If there was some magical button that I could press and only people who believed in liberty, understood individual rights, and had our best interests at heart would be the ones to enter our country, or to vote... would I press the button?  It would be very tempting.  But that is a hypothetical based upon nonsense.  The fact is that it couldn't be done.  And the political principle that rules here is freedom of thought.  Just as bad speech should be never be prevented and fought with good speech, the same is true of ideas.  We agree with that.

 

The reason for restricting immigration is to permit as many people as possible to enter the country (our property), but only as long as they are still assimilating (being people we want on our property).  If too many enter in a period of time they don't assimilate.  That means that they don't become American.  They don't pick up the baton of liberty and help carry it into the succeeding generations.  That is a problem.  Liberty is only possible while there are a significant number of people who have a basic idea of what it is and vote accordingly.  Ignorance can come from abroad as well as from our universities.

 

I won't lay out the full arguments, but I'd suggest to you that anarchy and open borders are interwined in such a way that over time you cannot have one without the other.

 

And thank you for the kind words about my books!



Post 35

Saturday, June 10 - 10:16amSanction this postReply
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Sorry, I'm out of juice on tbis subject. We disagree, that's all. Thanks.



Post 36

Saturday, June 10 - 3:10pmSanction this postReply
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I'll take that as a win, but no concession.  :-)



Post 37

Tuesday, July 25 - 8:26amSanction this postReply
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South Africa's 'Whites-only' town to launch digital currency

"The economy is contracting and the state is highly inefficient," says Roodt. "We have more private security guards than policemen in South Africa -- you have to look after yourself because the state won't do it.
 
"The conditions here are a driving force for these developments (with digital currency), people are looking for alternatives. This is one of the best places to experiment."
Interesting!


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