Cactus Club July 1998

Cycle III:Part 3

2 July 1998.................the Levelers

It is now time for a history lesson on the origins of natural rights political philosophy from Nick Elliott. Please read "The Levelers: Libertarian Revolutionaries". Questions: In the quest for a just society, which is the better solution----evolutionary common law or statutory law? Can we have both or will they eventually conflict with each other? (PD)

3 July 1998...........John Locke

Here is an article by George M. Stephens on John Locke. Question: Is the philosophy of John Locke advancing or receding in America and the rest of the world in terms of practical applications? (PD)

4 July 1998.............freedom and democracy

Social harmony involves a consideration of moral and legal philosophy and the optimum form of government. The following articles provide a good mixture of these concepts as they challenge our understanding of basic social institutions. The first one is "On Democracy in Our Republic". Then please read "Republics and Democracies" by Robert Welch. Question: Is democracy a good idea or not? (PD)

5 July 1998..........response to 2 July 1998

I notice that you use the word "law" in two senses, referring both to evolutionary common law and statutory law. For your information, in my own effort to wash the state out of my mind, I have generally stopped using "law" to refer to acts of state. Acts of state I call "legislation" or "statutes".

I think the first codifiers of law, Hammurabi for instance, won a great coup when they got themselves called "givers of law". In fact the law already existed. The first codifiers merely wrote down what people already knew.

This stretching of the meaning of "law", to include the writings of the King's scribe, started the blindness in which people cannot see that order might emanate from voluntary rather than from state institutions. And I concur with the gist of the question: it is important that we work to reestablish the distinction.

Now, to answer part of the question more directly, we do have both types of order, whether we like it or not. Voluntary order and state-forced order coexist in a conflict that has lasted ever since the birth of the state. So, while I definitely prefer the voluntary flavor of order, I recognize that the state is a foe which will not go away because I wish it away. So the questions which I find interesting are: how and why are particular battles in this 5,000-year-old war won or lost? (RH)

6 July 1998............what are "rights" and how many do we have?

Quoting from MORAL RIGHTS AND POLITICAL FREEDOM by Tara Smith-----------"Rights are individuals' moral claims to individual freedom of action. Historically, this has been the dominant conception of rights. John Locke, the most influential philosophical advocate of rights, held that every person is born with a right to freedom. The insecurity of this freedom in the state of nature propels us to establish a government, but once under government, the concern to safeguard liberty remains paramount. Locke repeatedly invokes this objective when discussing more technical questions about the administration of governmental authority (such as the limits of legislative power, government financing, and the dissolution of government). Right' service to liberty reverberates throughout Locke's political theory. Indeed, Locke spoke about rights as a means of speaking about freedom. In recent years, rights scholars have devoted more attention to some of Locke's predecessors. Hugo Grotius is often credited with ushering in the modern conception of rights. One commentator writes that Grotius' conception of a right initiated a "new way of understanding the sphere of control belonging to individuals." Note that designating a person's legitimate sphere of control is a jurisdictional issue. It offers no guidance concerning how a person should conduct herself within that sphere. In other words, even Grotius seemed to realize that rights govern the issue of which person is entitled to determine actions in a given domain---i.e.what a person should be free to do." Questions: Does a person have a "right" to privacy? How about civil "rights" and animal "rights"? How do we determine what is and is not a "right"? (PD)

8 July 1998................socionomists, classical liberals, and post modern intellectualists

After spending a week of studying Austrian Economics and Classical Liberal Political Theory at a retreat with my students, I returned reinvigorated yet more skeptical of typically classical liberal theory, particularly in the area of morality/rights/ethics.

One of my students commented that most current thinkers, writers, pundits in the libertarian/classical liberal vein carry on discussion as if Nietzsche and Heidegger had never written, i.e., classical liberals underestimate the forcefulness of the postmodern critique of rationality. Particularly, in the area of social norms and mores, rationality can be deadly to customs and, in a world where all moral grounding is suspect, custom may be the only bulwark against nihilism.

I responded that much of Austrian economics is undergirded by a critique of hubristic rationalism, and that, insofar as some Austrians approach economics as an interpretive social science, discussions of method quite rightly involve much Continental philosophy (Weber, Heidegger). In fact, Mises' and Rothbard's discussions of the acting being and the condition of acting throughout time sound quite a bit like Heidegger. I also added that empirically one observes that the societies closest to the ideals of classical liberalism tend to be the most prosperous, least violent and most culturally productive ones, ie, at least for now, some form of liberalism is working. Even so, I must confess that my experience with classical liberals has, generally, left me with the impression that we tend to ignore or underestimate the profound effect those like Nietzsche, Heidegger, Husserl, Sartre, Kojeve, Foucault, or Camus have had on currents of American thought and on the American political debate generally. Leftists, insofar as they are intellectual descendants from versions of Continental philosophy, care very much for these figures. Also, some on the Right, Straussians and others (tending to come from either Chicago or Claremont McKenna), note the importance of these thinkers even as they claim to combat them. However, the classical liberal/libertarian community seems not to engage them. My questions, after such a long preamble, are simple: have classical liberals neglected a large portion of the intellectual battlefield? And why or why not? (TW)

Question: Is there anything that a socionomist and a classical liberal philosopher would disagree on and is there anything that they would agree on with a post modern intellectualist? (PD)

9 July 1998..............response to 8 July 1998

Most socionomists would regard the writings of Adam Ferguson as more significant than those of Adam Smith and would regard Smith's THEORY OF MORAL SENTIMENTS as more significant than THE WEALTH OF NATIONS. Most classical liberal philosophers would reverse this order and most post modern intellectualists would prefer the intellectualism of David Hume to either Ferguson or Smith, whose ideas were less abstract than Hume since they were derived from an observation of real world human actions. (PD)

10 July 1998................response to 6 July 1998

As I theorize, the concept of "rights" emerges as a natural consequence of socionomic forces in evolution. As life grows, it evolves centers which can process information and make choices. Each of these decision-making centers strives to extend the range of its choices, strives to affect ever more circumstances in its environment. But the widening circles of control come into conflict; if one center controls a particular choice then another center cannot control it.

Fortunately it is possible for the decision-making centers to strike a balance. Since life is a positive-sum game, the environment offers resources which a typical center can exploit without provoking significant resistance from other centers. A typical center learns that it serves itself best by making choices which minimize conflicts with other centers. Thus, as these centers churn their way through life, they regularly allow other centers certain "rights". That, in my opinion, is the origin of rights. (RH)

11 July 1998..............response to 3 July 1998

If Locke believed that men create governments to secure rights, he should have hopped into a time machine and read _The State_, by Franz Oppenheimer (first published in German around 1908; now available in translation from Laissez Faire books). I am fairly convinced that Locke was flat wrong about this. The state is a parasite which grows where it can.

The state grows by procuring for itself the "performance" of ever more civil functions. And, a few generations after it has taken over a function, all living persons will have forgotten that there was ever a debate about whether the state needed to perform this function. For example, most living Americans cannot now imagine life without zoning. These Americans might say, "Men form governments to provide for social needs, such as community planning." And Locke evidently lived at a time when government's seizure of protection of rights had long since receded from memory. (RH)

14 July 1998................government ownership, market failure, and natural rights

Quoting from SIMPLE RULES FOR A COMPLEX WORLD------------"Today there is little general sentiment in the United States or abroad in favor of the collective ownership of the means of production that bore the brunt of Hayek's withering criticism. Instead the newer pattern is to preach the virtue of markets in the abstract, and then to insist that government regulation of private enterprises is necessary to correct the legion of supposed specific market failures that arise in complex modern institutions. Just such a tempting argument might lead to the government domination of health care in the Unites States. In one sense I view this book as a reply to the argument that regulation is normally desirable even in circumstances where government ownership of the means of production is not." Questions: Is there any difference between government ownership of the means of production and government regulation of a complex economic system in terms of natural rights legal philosophy? Isn't market failure a strong argument against this philosophy? (PD)

16 July 1998...............illegal drugs, society, and natural rights

Please read Walter Kirn's review of Mike Gray's new book DRUG CRAZY. Questions: Do people have a natural right to ingest drugs and would the recognition of this right lead to more or less social development, order, and harmony? Wouldn't moral anarchy be the ultimate result of the acceptance of a natural rights legal philosophy? (PD)

18 July 1998..............Rothbard, property rights, and moral science

Quoting from the new introduction to THE ETHICS OF LIBERTY by Murray Rothbard written by Hans-Hermann Hoppe------------"In an age of intellectual hyperspecialization, Murray N. Rothbard was a grand system builder. An economist by profession, Rothbard was the creator of a system of social and political philosophy based on economics and ethics as its cornerstones. For centuries, economics and ethics (political philosophy) had diverged from their common origin into seemingly unrelated intellectual enterprises. Economics was a value-free "positive" science, and ethics (if it was a science at all) was a "normative" science. As a result of this separation, the concept of property had increasingly disappeared from both disciplines. For economists, property sounded too normative, and for political philosophers property smacked of mundane economics. Rothbard's unique contribution is the rediscovery of property and property rights as the common foundation of both economics and political philosophy, and the systematic reconstruction and conceptual integration of modern, marginalist economics and natural-law political philosophy into a unified moral science: libertarianism." Questions: Is the concept of property and property rights the common foundation of both economics and political philosophy? Is libertarianism a moral science or a political movement? What does libertarianism have to say, if anything, about E.O. Wilson's article "The Biological Basis of Morality"(TCC Dialogue, 10 May 1998)? (PD)

21 July 1998..............natural rights, The Bill of Rights, and angry rhetoric

Please read "I'm Tired" by L. Neil Smith. Questions: Do we live in a police state? Are we property? Isn't the Bill of Rights just an overly complicated attempt to secure what Tara Smith calls "freedom of action" and Murray Rothbard and Richard Epstein call property rights, i.e. our natural right to use our justly obtained property in any non-invasive way we chose? Is this angry rhetoric appropriate? Shouldn't we eliminate appeals to our emotions and consider these matters on a strictly academic basis? Or is it too late for that? (PD)

22 July 1998..............politics and politics

Politics( the art of forming coalitions to gain, maintain, and increase power) preceded human societal evolution (See CHIMPANZEE POLITICS on our RRL). According to the dictionary, power is "the ability to do, act, or produce". Henry Ford, along with many others in his coalition, had power to reduce the cost of transportation so that the average person could afford to own a car. During the relatively brief period of societal evolution, politics (power searching) has separated into two forms. The State is a form which includes the use of violence. Civil Society (families, business firms, and non-profit organizations such as charities and clubs) is a form of politics which excludes the use of violence. Note that another definition of power in the dictionary is "the abililty to control others". This definition is often associated with the forceful control of other people's actions. It remains to be seen how long the State will co-exist, in dynamic tension, with Civil Society. Civil Society is based on the rule of law which can be discovered through thoughtful observation of natural law in action. This system (based on ownership rights, contracts, and voluntary exchange) allows for social organization without the use of coercion. Those who operate under the other system, The State, must pass what they call "laws", and find ways to have them generally accepted (such as democracy), in order to survive. These "laws" allow for the legitimate use of violence. Man-made laws in conflict with natural laws cause unintended consequences which often work against the full realization of our social potential. (PD)

23 July 1998.............response to 21 July 1998

I believe that the anger which L. Neil Smith displays in "I'm Tired" is a natural reaction to loss. Smith believes that the police power of the state could be restrained if the Bill of Rights were enforced. He feels frustration, loss, and anger when evidence shows abandonment of the Bill of Rights. I have felt such anger but I tire more quickly than Smith, as my rants are now both short and rare.

Desiring to escape anger, which was torturing me more than anyone else, I have wondered about the nature of anger. Though no psychologist, I propose that anger almost always consists of an attempt to change someone's practice. A farmer does not get angry at the sky for failing to rain, because the farmer knows that the sky will not be moved by his anger. But the farmer might get angry with his teenage son for failing to finish the chores.

Our statist neighbors have not been moved a bit, it seems to me, by all the anger which we libertarians have expressed at them. So, rather than linger in self-corroding anger, I advocate that we study our circumstances dispassionately, scientifically. Perhaps we can find a fresh approach to securing our rights. (RH)

24 July, justice, and jurors

Quoting from THE LAW by Frederic Bastiat-----------"The law has been used to destroy its own objective: It has been applied to annihilating the justice that it was supposed to maintain; to limiting and destroying rights which its real purpose was to respect. The law has placed the collective force at the disposal of the unscrupulous who wish, wihout risk, to exploit the person, liberty, and property of others. It has converted plunder into a right, in order to protect plunder. And it has converted lawful defense into a crime, in order to punish lawful defense. ________Man can live and satisfy his wants only by ceaseless labor;by the ceaseless application of his faculties to natural resources. This process is the origin of property. But it is also true that a man may live and satisfy his wants by seizing and consuming the products of the labor of others. This process is the origin of plunder.________Men naturally rebel against the injustice of which they are victims. Thus, when plunder is organized by law for the profit of those who make the law, all the plundered classes try somehow to enter---by peaceful or revolutionary means---into the making of laws. According to their degree of enlightenment, these plundered classes may propose one of two entirely different purposes when they attempt to attain political power: Either they may wish to stop lawful plunder, or they may wish to share in it." Questions: Is there such a thing as an unjust law in a democracy and if so what is the criteria for determining which laws are unjust? And what should a person do if they are on a jury and the facts prove that the law was violated but the juror thinks the law is unjust? (PD)

25 July 1998............socionomics and pedagogy

One of the issues in pedagogy (the art or science of teaching) concerns concept development. To explain the concept of a cup, you can show someone a large brown cup and a small white cup and explain that they are both cups. The student then learns that large and small, brown and white, are not what makes a cup a cup. You can also show different designs and different materials. After looking at all of these cups the student begins to understand what is a cup. So too with more abstract concepts like spontaneous order, ownership rights, and spiritual growth. Repetition with variety is an effective way to understand these concepts also. The Cactus Club is a good place to go for those who want to learn concepts related to socionomics------the new interdisciplinary approach to the study of social relationships. (PD)

26 July 1998..............Men without Chests

Quoting from THE ABOLITION OF MAN by C.S. Lewis-----------"It still remains true that no justification of virtue will enable a man to be virtuous. Without the aid of trained emotions the intellect is powerless against the animal organism. I had sooner play cards against a man who was quite sceptical about ethics, but bred to believe that "a gentleman does not cheat," than against an irreproachable moral philosopher who had been brought up among sharpers.________We were told it all long ago by Plato. As the king governs by his executive, so Reason in man must rule the mere appetites by means of the "spirited element." The head rules the belly through the chest--the seat , as Alanus tells us, of Magnanimity, of emotions organized by trained habit into stable sentiments. The Chest---Magnanimity--Sentiment--these are the indispensable liaison officers between cerebral man and visceral man. It may even be said that it is by this middle element that man is man: for by his intellect he is mere spirit and by his appetite mere animal." Comment: Once again C.S. Lewis leads us back to Part I as he discusses the connection between reason and emotion. Questions: Can emotions be trained? What emotions might come into play when doing a cost/benefit analysis of a legal system based on natural law and natural rights? (PD)

27 July 1998...............response to 25 July 1998

May I point out that your pedagological example is a good illustration of "operationalizing" definitions consistent with Bridgman's milestone work in the philosophy of science (P. W. Bridgman, "The Nature of Physical Theory," Princeton Univ. Press, 1936, Chapter II, Operations). Notice how a successful teacher undertakes to instruct the student HOW TO LOOK AT the "cup" concept, i.e. observe and indentify it in no uncertain terms with the senses engaged properly to the conscious brain.

Had Ayn Rand understood this simple aspect of scientific practice in connection with her marvelous expositions on the importance of non-contradictory identification, she might have accomplished more than a romantic attachment to some heroic abstractions. The same could be said for Andrew Galambos who is an even sadder case because he was able to teach operationalism but he failed to practice it in his expositions of "volitional science." Consequently, he too left in his wake some inspiring notions of society that remain abstractions for his students to argue but not practice.

I am not suggesting that the task of operationalizing social concepts is an easy one. It is not easy even in physics which deals with the simplest and most readily observed of all natural phenomena. Thus, I cannot fault Rand and Galambos for their insufficiencies in this respect. I can say, however, that there will be no authentic science of society (however named) prior to some progress in operationalizing the key concepts that differentiate human life in nature. We who wish to participate in the advancement of such a science for all the good reasons must contend with many venerable traditions and usages to come up with operationally coherent terms by which means bonafide social knowledge can be developed, accredited and taught.

We presently associate such terms as individual life, liberty, freedom, ethics, morality, property, happiness, spontaneity, order, ownership, contract, rights, tolerance, reciprocity, exchange, authority, etc. with what we believe we "know" about society as a humane living order. But we don't know how to reliably teach anyone else how he can "see" what it is we are so focussed on. If we cannot explain how we are looking at these phenomena, perhaps we have merely conjured them up in our imaginations. Others cannot "see" inside our heads, so how DO we develop a consensus on the important elements of a durable social environment?

Without an operational language of discourse that facilitates testing and falsification, scientific philosophy is just as dependent on polemics as theology when it comes to persuading others and propagating belief and practice. A babel of diverse opinions then stand in place of a few "natural laws." Such "laws" are notions (formerly opinions and hypotheses) that have become dignified by confidence developed through scientific method that they are consistent with nature.

I will leave this topic for the time being with the understanding that what I mean by such terms as "scientific method" and "natural law" is not to be taken for granted. Some years ago, I wrote out a one- page explanation which I titled "One, Two, Three, Four; This is the Way to Know More." My treatment was based on Galambos' admirably concise exposition along the same lines. Battered by accusations of oversimplification by other presumably knowledgeable scientists, I undertook to research the history and conscious practice of "scientific method" going back to Aristotle to try and resolve the diverse opinions on the subject.

I now have a 130-page monograph with over 100 cited references entitled "Scientific Method--In Search of Legitimate Authority in Society," which only strengthens the concise statement I started with and reveals that scientific method is a universal practice among humans, albeit largely unconscious. This work is destined for publication as an occasional paper of the Heather Foundation. If you are interested in it, please contact Spencer MacCallum ( regarding availability. Meanwhile, I am attaching a short piece recently done entitled "How Science Works According to Lowi" in the hope that you can read it and appreciate my approach as applied above. (AL) Note: attachment not included.

29 July 1998............... Is socionomics a "science" or a "study"?

My input on pedagogy and the response by Al Lowi suggest these questions........ Is socionomics a "science" or a "study" of social relationships? And why does it matter, if at all? Here are some related ideas by Al Lowi to guide us in this TCC Dialogue. (PD)