25 June 2007

the tyranny of ignorance

i'm firmly convinced that individuals are completely unable to step away from their own beliefs to consider how others might think. i read the same heavily biased article on some "tax dodgers" as the folks at DoF. (i fall into the category of someone who digs the idea of "live free or die," but would not actually attempt it.) DoF makes some decent points proving my notion, but makes the fatal flaw of evoking the nazis in #2. there's a debate winner. still, i'm always at a loss that people could react this way to a fellow who is standing up for all their rights. some folks are happy to be sheep.

btw, thanks to all of you who put these boobs in power. think there's no connection? how can anyone be convinced that simply changing parties or people in power can change the state of things?


  1. This is a serious, non-sarcastic question : Is the Constitution a social contract between the government and the people?

  2. i don't see it that way entirely--at least inasmuchas i disagree with many modern interpretations of convenience for justifying all the powers and programs the gubmint arrogates to itself. it DOES grant powers to the gubmint, though, which necessarily binds people to accepting that power. i see it largely as a limitation placed on the government only. i put a lot of weight in amendments 9 and 10 that essentially say that whatever isn't mentioned therein is up to us.

  3. If it grants power to the government, then who does the granting? I would say that the people (the governed) grant that power. And as such, since they are agreeing to grant that power, isn't that a contract? It may be a contract that only, as you say, limits that power. But in that case, what powers DOES the government have? It seems like it's assumed that it's infinite in nature. Yet we then turn around and assume that our rights under that uber-powerful government are also unlimited? How does that work?

    Again, I'm not trying to be sarcastic. I'm really wondering about the root of governmental power, and therefore the cause of governmental corruption.

  4. that's a huge topic in and of itself. i believe corruption is human nature: as people discover they have power, they exploit it, perhaps thinking it will only be used for good initially (e.g. The One Ring). when the gubmint is "granted" so much power, by whatever means, the opportunity for corruption increases, as does the likelihood.

    i'm a BIG believer in term limits and manadatory sunsets for laws.

  5. scavinger,

    The "social contract" theory of Locke and Rousseau fails on a number of levels. To begin with, the concept of a contractual agreement rests on a voluntary foundation... you can't contract a person into slavery, for example (which is, at the end of the day, the relationship the government seeks to establish with you). You can't contract someone into paying taxes, either. You might contract that someone pay a fee for services you provide to them, but you can not establish a contract whereby you can fee them against their will (ie, if they resist your provision of services). Another error in social contract theory is its applicability... maybe you, him and that guy over there get together and agree to let a government rule you, but that doesn't mean it now can rightfully rule ME or that guy wayyyyy over there. In other words, "society" can't sign an all-inclusive contract because some people might choose to opt-out or may have never delegated such decision-making power to "society" in the first place (that's a bit of a Catch-22 if you think about it hard enough).

    If you're honestly interested in the subject, I reccommend reading what some of the primary proponents of the idea have had to say themselves (such as Rousseau). Then I suggest you square that with Lysander Spooner's reasoning and see what kind of a conclusion you reach.

    John Q Public,

    Thanks much for linking to my article at DoF. I have to take issue with your complaint of my allusion to Nazi Germany (or Communist Russia, or Communist China, or insert totalitarian regime here), partly because you said I evoked the Nazis when really I simply alluded to one aspect of their reign, which, as I pointed out just now, was not necessarily unique to them. I specifically avoided using "gas chambers" and instead used "death camps" because I believe the gulag system of the USSR was a system of death camps as well.

    Either way, you criticize me, I take it, by leaning on some extremist crutch to win an argument. In defense, I don't think I leaned on that crutch at all. I believe you could take away all mention of death camps from #2 and I still would've made a salient argument. I included the death camp bit to add some emphasis and to try to point out that this is where the logic I challenged leads to. Some people don't appreciate slippery slope arguments-- apparently those people are unaware that totalitarian regimes don't usually show up over night but rather come to power through a gradual, historical process. The varied German-speaking nations were already on their way to a Nazi finale in the 1860's... maybe earlier. Hitler can't be blamed on Versailles alone, or even Napoleon alone.

    A valid argument must survive not only in the logical median but at the logical extremes. Hitler and his cohorts were a logical extreme. I meant only to make this clear to other people who might not have realized it themselves.

    However, I may refrain from such language in the future if I see that it has the opposite effect of the one I intended on particular members of the audience.

    Thanks again for the link.

  6. >> I believe you could take away all mention of death camps from #2 and I still would've made a salient argument

    well, i'm down with your argument(s). but i do believe that in attempting to convince others, the use of nazis tends to fall on deaf ears. your statement above tells me you should remove it. it's more likely to turn people away than to draw them in.

    i also think people choose not to see the extreme ends of logical arguments, perhaps feeling that "we" could never let that happen, of course failing to learn from history in any way.