Thursday, April 8, 2021

Statistical Disparities Don’t Proof Discrimination in Voter ID Laws

HR-1, the Democrats’ massive bill, is being framed as a “voting rights bill,” even though the bill has nothing to do with voting rights, which we already have. So let’s think about what the Democrats mean when they and their media cohorts call their bill a “voting rights bill.” 


Here are some exempts from the New York Times Morning Report of 3/2/21 {see saved email}


The court will hear a case from Arizona in which Democratic officials are challenging two state provisions. One requires the disposal of any ballots cast at the wrong precinct, and another forbids people — like church leaders or party organizers — to collect absentee ballots for submission. The Democrats argue that these provisions especially affect minority voters and thus violate the Voting Rights Act. (Adam Liptak, The Times’s Supreme Court reporter, explains in more depth here.)


The Arizona lawsuit is an example of a main way that advocates have tried to protect voting rights over the past few decades: through the courts. Along the way, they have won some victories, including in a recent case from North Carolina.


Republican candidates will probably benefit from any changes that disproportionately affect Black and Latino voters, like the elimination of automatic registration. “The restrictions we’re seeing are going to have a greater impact on the communities that have been most traditionally disadvantaged,” says the Times.


[My emphasis]


Notice the framing. We see this a lot. The pros and cons of automatic registration are, at best, secondary. What matters? Statistical racial group disparities. The implication is that if you oppose automatic registration, you are intent on discouraging--suppressing, in Leftist jargon--votes of black and latino people. But why are people who believe individuals should choose to register and then proactively follow some simple registration procedure be branded as anti-voting rights? How is that against voting rights for Blacks and Latinos? Are we to assume that these people are less capable than others of following simple registration and identification procedures because of their skin color or genetics? Or is it perhaps that not everyone wants to register and vote. 


The point of pigeon-holing voter laws into a frame of racial discrimination, in fact, is to suppress debate on the merits of automatic registration and other proposals. That debate suppression starts with a totally unproven correlation--that statistical disparities necessarily “prove” some devious motive, such as racial discrimination.


Look at any voting law in any state, and you will find the Left framing the issue, at least in large part, in this way. There’s more. Consider this insidious paragraph:


The Supreme Court under Chief Justice John Roberts has generally ruled against voting-rights advocates, and most court observers expect the justices to allow Arizona’s restrictions to stand.


Notice the implication. If you oppose any of these voter laws, you are an advocate of voting rights. If you support any of these voter ID laws, you are against the right to vote. In other words, only the Left is for voting rights. Note that in all of these voter law cases, the laws are either not considered on the merits, or the merits are at best minimally worthy of discussion. Voter ID laws are only, or primarily, considered based on how it "affects" Black and Latino voters as per statistics, as if these people can act only on random forces rather than their own volition and initiative. 


Now, automatic registration, what to do about ballots cast at the wrong precincts, and people collecting absentee ballots for submission (known as vote harvesting) are legitimate issues for debate. But random effects on groups tells you nothing about the merits of the law. Statistics are not evidence for or against. Statistics can only point you to an area that may need investigation. Evidence, to be evidence, applies only to real life; that is, real people. If a law is objective and fair on its merits, how the statistical chips fall is irrelevant. If there is hard evidence that a law is discriminatory—that is, is targeted only at some ethic group by making it harder for them than others—that discrimination should be eliminated. But the so-called “voting rights advocates” never do that, at least not that I can see according to press accounts. That’s why they trot out statistics: They have no actual evidence.


Now let’s consider another piece from the Leftist press. In The GOP playbook for New Jersey: Attack voting rights, the New Jersey Star-Ledger editorial board [SLEB] opines:



Jack Ciattarelli, the clubhouse favorite for the GOP [2021 gubernatorial] nomination, . . . proposes “reforms” on his campaign website that actually Stop the Turnout, just like the red states do it: He supports a photo ID requirement at the polls, including a state ID for those who don’t drive, plus an ID-certification requirement for mail-in voters; and he wants to purge voters from the election rolls if they haven’t voted in four consecutive years, and mandate that they contact a county clerk if they want to restore their most cherished civil right.


Also, the ACLU found that voter ID laws are enforced in 34 states with Republican Legislatures for a reason: It is inherently discriminatory. Nearly 25 percent of Blacks of voting age don’t have a government-issued ID, compared with just 8 percent of white voters. Does that work? The Government Accountability Office says that photo ID laws reduce turnout by as much as 3 percent.


So unless your aim is to depress turnout, voter IDs serves no purpose. [sic]


My emphasis. 


Of course voter ID laws are "inherently discriminatory." Any rule discriminates against those who don’t follow it. The very necessity of filling out and delivering a mail-in ballot, or going to a polling place and waiting in line for your turn to enter the voting booth, could be said to depress turnout. Are those requirements discriminatory? Of course. Speed limits discriminate against drivers with a heavy foot. But are these rules racially discriminatory? Where's the evidence? The Star-Ledger provides none, beyond an un-attributed ACLU assertion, and statistical disparities, which prove nothing. What is inherently racist in the requirement for a government-issued ID? What's to stop any one of the 25% of blacks (if you can believe those stats)--or the 8% of whites, for that matter--from getting an ID provided by the government? A NJ Star-Ledger letter writer put it well


The editorial stated, that according to the ACLU, 34 other states with GOP-majority legislatures enforce voter ID laws, and the reason is that they are “inherently discriminatory.”


Does this mean that these states are also discriminating when they require people to produce an ID to get a driver’s license, or to show proof of age when buying alcohol or cigarettes? You must show ID to get on an airplane and even for some doctor’s visits. Does that mean that the government, airlines and doctors are being discriminatory?


The editorial states that 25% of Black people of voting age (compared with 8 percent of white people) do not have a government-issued ID. Seemingly, this means that 25% of Black Americans cannot legally buy cigarettes or alcohol, get on an airplane or drive a car. This is difficult to believe. (sic)


The Star-Ledger, which opposes every one of Ciattarelli proposals, does at least attempt to analyze each of Ciattarelli's proposed requirements. But it doesn’t really address any demerits of the proposals. The SLEB simply concludes that each requirement "depresses turnout." But, again, any rule that requires any effort can be said to depress turnout. Will some people not want to bother registering to vote because they’ve decided that the minimal effort to get the required ID is not worth their effort? Possibly. But so what? If that counts as "depressing turnout," then so be it. If a person really wanted to vote, he’d make the effort to comply with the rules (assuming the application of the law is not objectively determined to be rigged in some way against them). 


But then, registering one’s vehicle and complying with state-mandated safety/environmental vehicle inspections could be said to depress vehicle ownership. But it doesn’t, does it? Maybe some people value vehicle ownership more than voting. Surely, many people simply don't want to bother exerting any effort to vote, or have a conscientious objection to voting. If rules depress someone’s action, as any rule necessarily does, does this mean we should have no rules whatsoever? Who would trust an election result then?


The government's job is not to depress or maximize voter turnout. It's job is to ensure secure, safe, trustworthy elections through objectively fair rules. Some form of procedure is vital, and they should be as simple, easily understandable, easily accessible, and as demonstrably necessary as possible within the principles of ensuring secure, safe, trustworthy elections. At a glance, I'm uncomfortable with Ciattarelli's requirement to re-register after only four years. That seems too short. But even the Star-Ledger acknowledges that "the state clearly must keep records current by cancelling registrations of people who died, moved on, or are in prison." How do you do that without systematically imposing on voters to periodically re register? So I guess the Star-Ledger is OK with depressing voter turnout, as long as it is on its terms. 


But no, none of these voter ID proposals are inherently discriminatory based on race, and to my knowledge no one has produced a shred of evidence to back up that assertion, or the assertion that objective voter ID laws in any way violate voting rights. That’s why people who see racial discrimination in every voter ID law they don’t like fall back on the last refuge of every damned liar, statistics.


Once again, the issue is disingenuously framed: “Voting rights” apply only to the Left’s agenda. 


My view is that no intelligent discussion about voter laws can take place based on collectivist or racist considerations. The object of election laws should not be to maximize voter turnout. It should be to maximize ease of registering within the context of ensuring the maximum integrity of the election process. The rest is personal responsibility of each of us as individuals. Every individual has her own mind and free will. The only question is whether the law or procedure is fair, objective, equally enforced, and as equally accessible to all as possible. If it can be objectively shown that some voters face unreasonable hurdles to registering or voting, fix it. But stop race-baiting voter rights.  


Related Reading:


The Vote: Get Off Your Butt and Register—But Keep the Nanny State Out of It


Voting Rights are Not the ‘Most Fundamental Right’—or Even a Fundamental Right


16 Year Old Voters? How About 21?


Memo to John D. Atlas: How About Let's Not Suppress Anybody's Vote, or Voice


Freedom Is Not About the Right to Vote, So I’m Voting Anti-Democrat Across the Board


HR-1 is An Assault on Free Speech, Property Rights, Freedom of Conscience, and Privacy


Monday, April 5, 2021

More Censorship-by-Proxy: Totalitarian Congressional Threat to Media Companies

Walter Olson posted an article titled House Democrats Go Fox Hunting in which he covers a horrific letter sent by two powerful Democratic congresspersons to the major media companies:


When elected officials browbeat the executives of regulated telecom, video, and app companies trying to get them to drop the main news channel of the political opposition—which also happens to be the most popular channel in its market—you may think you’re living in an arbitrary strong‐​arm regime. But it’s happening this week in Washington, D.C.


On Monday, Reps. Anna Eshoo and Jerry McNerney, both California Democrats, sent a letter on congressional letterhead to top executives of various cable, satellite, and communications companies, including Alphabet, the parent of Google, which distributes video via its YouTube TV streaming service and Google Play app.


The letter denounces Fox News, as well as newer competitors to its right such as Newsmax and One America News Network, as purveyors of misinformation and extremism. And it gets directly to the point with its demands: “Are you planning to continue carrying Fox News [and the others] … both now and beyond any contract renewal date? If so, why?”


The tone of threat is not idle. Both Eshoo and McNerney are majority members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which draws up legislation and oversees regulation relevant to cable and telecom providers and technology firms generally.


This is shocking coming from American elected officials, who pledge upon being sworn in to uphold the U.S. constitution. This threat is directly contrary to the First Amendment. They should be impeached. 


It’s also shocking, though in this day and age not surprising, that some Americans agree. Here is one Comment left at the The Dispatch, where Olson’s article was originally published:


I’m all for this idea. Rights come with responsibility, Including the right to free speech. It’s time to stop letting corporations pour poison into the ear of the public for profit.


A middle ground is to separate news and opinion channels, and have regulations for what can be labeled news and what ombudsman policies must be in place in a news organization.


Here is the comment I would have posted if I were a paying subscriber:


If you gave this spiel to a hall full of dictators, you’d get a standing ovation. 


The only responsibility that accompanies individual rights is to respect the same rights of others, especially those who disagree with you. Using the government as your hired gun to silence, fine, and jail people who express views you disagree with is not respect. It is Al Capone politics.


So how do people in a free society sort out news from opinion, misinformation from truth, or oppose so-called “extremism?” Get off of your lazy mental ass and do the intellectual work yourself, then use your own free speech to counter, rebut, dispute, and correct, or in the worst case of libel or defamation, take to the civil courts. That’s how civil people deal with others. Turning to and empowering the politicians, with their coercive legal powers, to decide what is true, or extreme, or to target political adversaries is totalitarian cowardice. 


There is no “middle ground” between authoritarianism and liberty; between evil and good, or between an anti-American and an American. It’s either/or.


Related Reading:


The Banning of Alex Jones: Facebook Choice or Regulatory Extortion?


Facebook Backtracks on Free Speech Policy; Political Extortion?


The Life and Death of a Hollywood Blacklist: Sometimes censorship is a public-private partnership, by Jesse Walker for Reason.


Dem Rep Malinowski Reprises Trump in Proposed Legislative Attack on Social Media and Free Speech.


No, AOC, It's Not the Government's Job to 'Rein in Our Media': The First Amendment doesn't come with an exception for "disinformation," by Robby Soave for Reason


A Conversation About Facebook, the First Amendment, Antitrust, and “The Electronic Octopus”


Friday, April 2, 2021

Democracy Doesn’t ‘Win’ When Free Speech is Suppressed, Voting Rights of No Voting Rights.

I could hardly contain myself when I read the 3/31/21 front page New Jersey Star-Ledger article Murphy just made it easier to vote in N.J. amid national voting rights debate. He’s backed by Stacey Abrams.  Matt Arco, writing for NJ Advance Media for NJ.com, opens with


As a bitter debate over voting rights takes place on a national stage, Gov. Phil Murphy on Tuesday signed a law that will expand voting in New Jersey by allowing residents to cast their ballots in person up to 10 days before Election Day.


Arco doesn’t make direct reference to HR-1, the Democrats’ House of Representative bill dubbed the “For the People Act” (known as S-1 in the Senate). But that’s what is referred to when Arco speaks of “a bitter debate over voting rights takes place on a national stage.” In a section of the article drenched in disingenuousness, Arco reports: 


[Voting rights activist Stacey] Abrams argued Republicans want to restrict the number of people who vote in an attempt to win elections.


“They don’t believe that quantity matters, that it’s about the quality of the vote. My question is how do you qualify the utility of a vote?” she said. “I believe that citizenship in the United States of America is a premise that we must stand on, and it says that we have the right to be heard. We are always, always as a nation stronger when every voice is included.”


The New Jersey bill passed the state Legislature the same day George’s governor signed the controversial voting package.


“Our democracy wins when we open the door to our polling places instead of slamming them shut,” Murphy said Tuesday.


“Dozens of other states are considering new ways to suppress one of the most fundamental rights of citizenship,” he added. “They claim to love our constitution but only if they get to define who the ‘we’ is in ‘we the people.’”


S-1 is hyped as a “Voting Rights Act.” But beneath that slogan are provisions that threaten more fundamental rights to freedom of speech, association, conscience, privacy, and petition. S-1 severely restricts independent political spending, the means of free speech, by groups of individuals like corporations, unions, and Super Pacs, violating free speech and association rights; provides for “public” funding of elections, violating freedom of conscience by forcing the taxpayer to fund politicians’ campaigns without the taxpayer’s consent and/or even if the politician’s policies violate the taxpayer’s conscientious beliefs; force disclosure of contributions to political action organizations, which violates the donors’ privacy rights by outlawing the confidentiality of donors; sharply increases requirements on lobbying, making it much harder for private citizens to peaceably assemble to petition the government.


Taken together, S-1 is a broad-based rollback of the First Amendment. It violates the very inalienable rights which gives substance, meaning, and effectiveness to elections, and substantially reduces the ability of voters to hold their elected political leaders accountable. 


Abrams “argued Republicans want to restrict the number of people who vote” even as S-1 aims to restrict First Amendment freedoms to speak out and debate election issues. Abrams says “We are always, always as a nation stronger when every voice is included” even as our most important voice, our free speech, is being progressively excluded. Abrams says “I believe that citizenship in the United States of America is a premise that we must stand on, and it says that we have the right to be heard,” even as our ability to be heard, our First Amendment freedoms, are being suppressed. 


Murphy says “Our democracy wins when we open the door to our polling places instead of slamming them shut,” even as S-1 imposes major provisions that slam the door on free expression and public debate. The only “winners” are the politicians, who don’t have to listen to those pesky big-mouth citizens’ criticizing, questioning, and holding then accountable. Democracy, in fact, loses. Murphy says “Dozens of other states [with new voter ID laws] are considering new ways to suppress one of the most fundamental rights of citizenship” even as the Federal Government advances a bill to suppress our much more fundamental inalienable individual rights to freedom of speech, association, conscience, privacy, and petition. Murphy claims Voter ID proponents “claim to love our constitution but only if they get to define who the ‘we’ is in ‘we the people,’” even as Democrats exclude from “we the people” people who engage in political activism through their First Amendment rights. 


The popularly known “Voting Rights Act”—officially labeled, with a straight face, the “For the People Act”—is an insult to actual people who take their actual right to vote seriously. I believe voting should be as easy as possible consistent with laws that secure safe, fraud-free, trustworthy elections. But these alleged defenders of voting rights have a mountain of nerve complaining about Republican efforts to “suppress” the vote. Many of these GOP laws may make little sense. But Democrats Murphy, Abrams, et al should take a look at what their own party is doing to suppress people’s freedom to engage in electoral politics and campaigns. 


With monumental disingenuousness, in response to new proposed voting laws, Abrams whines that “In 43 states across this country, we are seeing an onset and an attack on democracy.” I could sympathize if the issue of the democratic process was really just about voting. It’s not--not even close. Your most powerful voice is not your single, lonely one-among-millions vote. Your most powerful voice is your freedom of expression guaranteed by rights enumerated in the First Amendment and other unenumerated rights covered by the Ninth Amendment, such as privacy. Without intellectual freedom who needs a vote? Who is really attacking democracy? The answer is obvious to anyone who actually understands that American democracy starts with intellectual freedom, not the right to vote.


Related Reading:

HR-1 is An Assault on Free Speech, Property Rights, Freedom of Conscience, and Privacy


The Vote: Get Off Your Butt and Register—But Keep the Nanny State Out of It


Voting Rights are Not the ‘Most Fundamental Right’—or Even a Fundamental Right


Open Primaries Discourage 'Extremism': What's Good About That?


John Farmer's Understanding of Free Speech Rights as Non-Absolute is Dangerous and Wrong


Thursday, April 1, 2021

Happy April Fools Day

Happy April Fools Day -- and there are a lot of fools out there these days.

Monday, March 29, 2021

Jane Elliot’s Trick Collectivist Question, and My Individualist Response

Jane Elliot, Anti-Racism activist, diversity educator, crusader against “discrimination,” posed a question to an audience at one of her lectures. Here is a transcription


Jane Elliott: (00:01)

I want every white person in this room who would be happy to be treated as this society in general treats our citizens, our black citizens, if you, as a white person, would be happy to receive the same treatment that our black citizens do in this society, please stand.


Audience: (00:17)

(silence)


Jane Elliott: (00:18)

You didn’t understand the directions. If you white folks want to be treated the way blacks are in this society, stand.


Audience: (00:29)

(silence)


Jane Elliott: (00:29)

Nobody’s standing here. That says very plainly that you know what’s happening, you know you don’t want it for you. I want to know why you’re so willing to accept it or to allow it to happen for others.


Count me as standing. 


Society is made up of individuals. I, a “white” person, can only speak for the part of society I control, myself. I believe in the Golden Rule. I treat all of my fellow citizens, regardless of skin color, with respect for their individuality, integrity, and rights. I judge people based on their character, not skin color. I would have no problem being treated the same. I would be happy to receive the same treatment that our Black citizens receive from me. 


And neither am I “willing to accept or to allow” others to be subjected to racist treatment. And, I will presume, neither would most of Elliot’s audience, despite their not responding to her challenge. Does this mean they are willing to accept bigotry from others?


Apparently, Elliot’s audience didn’t know how to respond when the trap was sprung. And then she makes a truly despicable, evidence-free accusation: 


Nobody’s standing here. That says very plainly that you know what’s happening, you know you don’t want it for you. I want to know why you’re so willing to accept it or to allow it to happen for others.


Elliot uses her audience’s confusion to accuse them of knowingly being “willing to accept” bigotry, injustice, and racism, which she attributes to “society,” not her audience members personally or individually. This is a cheap shot. I wonder what response she would have gotten if her challenge was, “I want every white person in this room, as an independent member of society, who would be happy to be treated as he/she general treats our citizens, our black citizens, if you, as a white person, would be happy to receive the same treatment that our black citizens do from you, please stand.” 


It’s true that black Americans have been treated horribly by wide swaths of our society. This treatment was most egregious when racists were in control of the legal apparatus of the state, as under slavery and, later, under Jim Crow. And, yes, there were people who were not themselves racist but who shamefully looked the other way—who knew what’s happening, and were, through personal inaction, sanctioned the injustice that happened to others. 


But there was also a powerful counter-attack on the slavers and racists in this country. Fueled by the promise of equality and individual rights articulated in the Declaration of Independence, these genuine American heroes seized political power from the racists, which is why we no longer have slavery or Jim Crow. I wonder how these heroes against bigotry would have responded to Elliot’s trick question. Likely, they would have been stunned into silence, and then accused by Elliot of doing nothing about the treatment of black Americans! On Elliot’s collectivist premise, the white 19th Century Abolitionists probably would not have stood. Are they to be accused of “willing to accept or to allow slavery to happen for others?” On Elliot's collectivist premises, the white 20th Century Civil Rights supporters and activists who stood with Martin Luther King probably would not have stood. Are they to be accused of “willing to accept or to allow Jim Crow and racist exclusion to happen for others?”


I will not be trapped by collectivist premises. Nor will I be blamed for allowing whatever lingering racism still exists in America. Neither should anyone else. Elliot is part of the movement to tar America with the racist label for all posterity. But she and her ilk can be disarmed by understanding that the fundamental battle in America is individualism versus collectivism; that racism is a manifestation of collectivism; that individualism is the only antidote to racism; and that those who embrace collectivism have no claim to the anti-racism label. That noble label belongs to the individualists. 


What any one individual can do is limited. “Society in general” is a lot of people. But we can do something—embrace individualism in our personal lives and in any activism within our limited resources. Advocate individualism. Judge people by the content of their character, beliefs, and actions, not by the color of their skin. And then expose the absurdity and unfairness of the race-baiters. That is true anti-racism.


Related Reading:


The Racism of the ‘Anti-Racists’


Individualism vs. Collectivism: Our Future, Our Choice—Craig Biddle  


The Founding Fathers, Not ‘Diversity,’ is the Solution to ‘Our Racialized Society’


Fighting Racism With Collectivism is No Way to Exterminate Racism


Racism -- Ayn Rand


How to Overcome Bigotry in a Free Society


Jamaican, gay and Ayn Rand made it OK: My amazing "Atlas Shrugged" love story: “I was young, atheist and gay in a very homophobic country. I had no intellectual armor, until I discovered Ayn Rand” --Jason Hill, professor of philosophy at De Paul University in Chicago, author of We Have Overcome: An Immigrant's Letter to the American People, and a scholar with 1776unites.


Jason Hill Vindicates the American Dream against Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Delusional Race Rhetoric by Timothy Sandefur for The Objective Standard


Related Viewing:


 John McWhorter: America Has Never Been Less Racist -- Reason interview

Friday, March 26, 2021

How Does Civility Relate to 'Agree to Disagree'?

The following meme was shared on my Facebook feed:


-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Civility is defined as “formal politeness and courtesy in behavior or speech.” 


My Facebook comments, .


Civility is possible as long as freedom of speech is unfettered. But make no mistake. The [political and legal] differences are profound, and civility can't paper it over. Either we retain (and restore) a constitution that protects individual rights and a government limited to that purpose, or we don't. If we don't, then there is no right to disagree and no respect. Respecting each other's viewpoint only works when each leaves those who disagree to go on about her life unmolested. Respect disappears when factions get to use the governmental apparatus to impose their viewpoints (and values) on everyone else by law, whether they consent or not. The [latter] is the politics we increasingly have now. That's why elections have become life-and-death battlegrounds. It's still tolerable because we still have the freedom to fight back with better ideas, free elections, and objective courts. All of that is increasingly at risk.


Apparently in response to my comment, another correspondent posted:


Agree to disagree and work toward finding solutions Thank you for your legacies ,JusticesGinsberg and Scalia. [sic]


I did not reply online. This correspondent is subtly altering the point of the meme. “Agree to disagree” has a nice ring to it. But it is never defined. I’ve addressed this line before (See "related reading" below). I’ll do so again here.


What, exactly, does it mean to “agree to disagree”? How do you “work toward finding solutions” when one party won’t allow the other to pursue their own course? If a parent wants an alternative to the public school for her child, but is still forced to pay for the public school through her taxes, where is the “agree to disagree”? The only solution is to free the parent to choose an alternative to the public school and allow the school taxes to follow her child to the parent’s choice of education. But try advocating school choice to any defender of public schools. She will say, “fine, switch your child to private schooling. But you don’t get to redirect your tax money for that purpose.” In effect, the public school defender is not “agreeing to disagree” with the dissenting parent, because she still insists on taking the parent’s money, without her consent, to support schools the parent doesn’t believe is good for her child. When one party gets to force their solution on the other party through government legal coercion, then the “winner” is not allowing disagreement. 


Agree to disagree presupposes the right to disagree. The right to disagree means the right not to support that which one doesn’t agree with. No solution to any issue is possible until all parties resolve to renounce force, and respect the rights of others to act on their own judgement. This doesn’t have to mean 100% satisfaction for either party. A solution may involve compromises that leaves each side partially satisfied but also accepting some things they don’t like. But as long as the agreement is voluntary, it’s morally acceptable. Voluntarism must reign, including in our politics. Then and only then can agree to disagree have any meaning, especially in the political and legal context (which is the context that the meme addresses). 


So how does civility relate to “agree to disagree”? Obviously, agree to disagree is the fundamentally important concept, morally and practically. Disrespectful people, even scoundrels, can be civil. In fact, a civil scoundrel is the most dangerous kind of person. But the commitment to allow and leave others free to disagree, including in the realm of politics and law, is the sign of a genuinely virtuous person. 


Related Reading:


What does it Mean to Say: "We'll Have to Agree to Disagree?"


For ‘Agree to Disagree’ to have Meaning, We Must Respect Each Others’ Rights


The ‘RIGHT’ to Disagree Must Also Mean the Right Not to be Forced


Is “Agree to Disagree” Really Possible?—Dr. Michael Hurd


Hurd approaches this issue from a personal, rather than political or legal, context. Here is an excerpt:


"Many disagreements won’t take away from your friendship. “Bill and I don’t like the same kind of movies, but we do connect on key things, and I like that about him. I’ll spend time with him doing non-movie things.” There are also political, religious or philosophical disagreements among friends. The reader asks at what point she should no longer be friends. There’s no preordained formula, other than the standard I’m offering here. There are a lot of bad philosophical ideas with which we are brainwashed from childhood. Some people internalize these ideas more than others. You can’t necessarily hold that against someone if they otherwise bring value to your life."


Tuesday, March 23, 2021

QUORA: 'How is capitalism NOT a zero-sum game -- Answers and Replies [Part 2, Political Philosophy]

Recently, I posted an answer to the Quora* question, How is capitalism NOT a zero-sum game?, which is also available on my 1/14/21 blog post. I followed that up by posting a reply to Pascal Morimacil’s answer, available on my blog post of 2/3/21. I then had a conversation with Morimacil. Before I get to that, Morimacil’s answer is reposted here in full:


The basic idea is that if you consider every transaction individually, without looking at anything else, then it kinda seems like both people are better off, since they agree to the trade.


So for example, you pay rent for the right to exist somewhere, and then someone else lets you exist without evicting you. It’s said to be win-win. So, a creation of wealth.


You could analyze a mugging that way, and declare it to be a win-win wealth creating situation.

The victim is paying for the right to exist, and the mugger lets them exist without shooting them. Win-win. If the victim thinks the price is too high, they can just decide not to pay.


You kind of have to ignore the gun, or the threat of eviction

And if you also ignore a lot of other things, like pollution and so on, and rising wealth inequality, well, at some point you are just deciding that money changing hands means things are getting better for everyone.


You can read my reply here, also posted to my blog on 2/3/21. A back-and-forth ensued with Morimacil, which I will post in stages by subject. The subjects are economic, epistemological, and political philosophy. We started with the economic aspect, specifically Morimacil’s landlord/mugger analogy. My economic exchange (Part 1) is posted on 3/8/21. On political philosophy, specifically Capitalism, Morimacil answered:


And if you also ignore a lot of other things, like pollution and so on, and rising wealth inequality, well, at some point you are just deciding that money changing hands means things are getting better for everyone.


My reply:


As to the last two points touched upon, wealth inequality is a natural consequence of the varying productive abilities and personal circumstances of human beings, when left equally free to flourish by the justice, political equality, liberty rights, and constitutionalism of capitalism. Productive work and trade, to the extent it is free of aggressive force as it is under capitalism, expands the amount of wealth, as happens with the renter and the landlord. Trade doesn’t merely divide up a fixed quantity of wealth, like what happens between the mugger and his victim.  Under capitalism, wealth inequality is not a proof of zero-sum economics, but a progressive consequence of the win-win nature of capitalism--that an individual’s economic success is tied not to theft but on the diversity of productive ability to create value for others. Those who create the most value for the most people tend to be more wealthy than those who produce less value for fewer people. As long as every transaction is consensual and freely judged by each to be a net gain, it is win-win, not zero-sum. Pollution is a side effect of industry and is resolvable through technological innovation and proper law. History has shown that capitalist economies are much better at alleviating pollution than centrally planned (socialist) economies because technological innovation and proper (rights-protecting) law are features of free markets, not dictatorships. The same freedom of capitalism that facilitates economic progress facilitates solutions to pollution. Today we live in the cleanest ever environment for humans, especially in the U.S., not in spite of but because of the prosperity.


Morimacil came back with:


And then you talk about how wealth inequality is because of productive ability, but a passive income is not production.

Rent seeking enables people to get income and then more wealth, based on how much wealth they own, not on how productive they are.

Then you try to say "creating value" instead, but again, not evicting people isn't "creating value".

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And then you are trying to say that laws about environmental protection are not planned, and that them being enacted at the country level isn't centralization?

Also kind of sweeping aside all the pollution and environmental issues that popped up in the last couple of centuries, and pretending that capitalism is great, because it can create problems, and then commodify people's needs?


Morimacil obviously doesn’t know the difference between government central planning and objective law. I posted this rebuttal:


Capitalism, to distill it down to its essentials, is individual political, economic, and intellectual freedom, secured by objective law. Objective law—law that is clearly defined and clearly implemented—can include rational environmental law. That is not central planning, but its opposite--the protector of the rights-respecting citizen’s freedom to plan and govern his own life without coercive interference. It is why human life has gotten so dramatically better, longer, safer, and cleaner over the past 250 years--and continues on its upward trajectory to this day (despite temporary setbacks like the Covid-19 pandemic). Central planning, in fact, is not law at all. It is the absence of law--and of individual rights. It is arbitrary rule of men over men which leaves no room for people to plan and govern their own lives.


This is Morimacil’s attempt at defining Capitalism philosophically:


Capitalism is the arbitrary rule of owners over others. With a government that is coercive, and working for the owners.


People do all sorts of things within any system, but that’s what capitalism is fundamentally about.


Here is my reply:


You’re almost right. Ownership, or private property, doesn’t give you control of others. But it is your means of controlling your own destiny. And it protects you from those who would control you. A government in a capitalist system definitely protects owners, by coercive means if necessary, from criminals who would take others’ property. And it’s not arbitrary rule, but rule of objective law. A government for securing property rights is certainly one thing that “capitalism is fundamentally about,” though it is not the most fundamental aspect of capitalism, which is more broadly to protect individual rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness equally and at all times. Ownership, or proper, rights is in large part what makes Capitalism the only moral social system.


The right to acquire, keep, and use private property is vital to human life and flourishing. It is not only materially valuable. It is spiritually vital. Your property reflects your thought, convictions, and values. It is part of your identity and self-esteem and self-ownership. Property ownership is not only a means of pursuing your happiness. It fosters mutual respect and peaceful coexistence among people by establishing boundaries. Private property fosters shared prosperity through trade. Without rights to the product of your efforts, no other rights are practicable. If you don’t have absolute ownership and control of what you earn, then someone else does. Then your life is at others’ mercy. All rights, including rights to free speech, matters of conscience, protection from unreasonable searches and seizures, et al, are meaningless.


The enemies of private property are enemies of humanity. Marx, the arch enemy of private property, ignited a trail of human devastation that even religion can’t match. Marxist regimes impoverished a billion people and killed 100 million innocents in their attempts to build propertyless societies. A government that does not “work for the owners” by protecting ownership rights is not a legitimate government. It is a criminal enterprise working for thieves and looters, including rent deadbeats.


Related Reading:


Cornerstone of Liberty: Property Rights in 21st Century America by Timothy Sandefur  


The Capitalist Manifesto by Andrew Bernstein  


QUORA: ‘Why has modern capitalism risen in the West?’


QUORA: ‘How do capitalists justify the inequality/high disparity part of a capitalistic society that a socialistic system tends to stop?’


QUORA: 'Can certain forms of capitalism be made to work for the people instead of just the elite?'


QUORA*: ‘Is it fair to claim that capitalism does not create better lives, but simply shifts the suffering somewhere else?’


QUORA: 'Why do people think capitalism is ethical?'


QUORA: ‘Is it fair to say capitalism has killed more people than communism?’


QUORA *: 'How is capitalism good despite the fact that it creates higher and lower classes?'


QUORA: '[W]hy do we ignore all the examples of capitalism failing, like the major divide between the wealthy and the poor in the US?'


QUORA: ‘Given that I live in a capitalist society, how can I avoid having my labor exploited?’


QUORA: "Is having an 'Anarcho-capitalist' society possible?"


On ‘Capitalist Government’ and Corporate Bailouts


QUORA: ‘Is capitalism voluntary?’

 

QUORA: ‘Is fascism a capitalist ideology?‘

 

QUORA: ‘Can democracy survive capitalism?’