Re: `capitalist' character values

From: Russell Blackford (
Date: Mon Jul 23 2001 - 20:42:07 MDT

Felix said

>OK, I'll take your minarchist state. Works fine. But then add some valuable
>services that recognize commonly used contracts. These laws are to be used
>as "default" contracts, recognized by the state unless something else has
>been signed. If you want to trade with my company and don't want to obey
>the Corporation Act, just negotiate a new contract. (Now that's is not
>fully possible today.)

Well, I have a few problems with this. Eg what is the justification for such
a modification to contract law which seems to shift bargaining power in a
particular direction at the direction of the state? However, Mike has
answered your post point by point and I will not do so, since I think he has
said a lot of the obvious things in response, as well as some that I am
scratching my head about.

Intead, I want to make clear that it's not "my minarchist state". I don't
actually subscribe to any version of a minarchist state (even though I am a
strong advocate of the value of freedom and I can therefore see at least
some attractions in libertarianism). I'm really just asking questions about
what values, ethical commitments, political analysis, etc, underpin various
libertarian or minarchist view expressed on this list.

I'm asking the questions for at least two reasons: (1) I have an
intellectual interest in all this stuff, so I'd simply like to know what
people think, just out of interest; (2) I see some very strong, even
impassioned, statements made from time to time by Jerry, among others, and
I'd like to know whether there is any political theory (fully developed or
otherwise) behind those statements or whether they merely express an
emotional aversion to paying taxes. The questions I'm asking are some of
those that I think a proper theory would have to deal with.

I suppose a third point is that it's just possible that we may at some stage
need some detailed political theory to underpin transhumanism. I really hope
not and I applaud the Extropian Principles for allowing a range of views as
long as there's an open society.

However, take an example. I disagree with laws being passed to ban stem cell
research. I am willing to campaign against such laws being passed (and have
been doing so in a small way). If they are passed, I am willing to campaign
for their repeal (and would doubtless do so on some scale or other).
However, if such laws are actually passed, should I recognise their
legitimacy while campaigning against them? Should I encourage people to
break such laws? Or is it more important to protect the integrity of the
system of legal norms? I don't think these questions have arisen in practice
as yet, but I suppose they could. Even if we are just interested in them
intellectually, we'd need a theory of political obligation and related
matters to solve them. So I'm interested to find out what theories people
are actually working with.

(Again, speaking for myself, I would not consider such laws somehow morally
null and void. I'd just consider that they should be repealed. I might,
however, be prepared to contribute in some way to lawful attempts to avoid
them, such as by helping people set up research in a jurisdiction where it
is not banned. There may well be other views about this.)

I don't claim to be a libertarian, except in some small-l sense that would
include just about everyone on this list and Noam Chomsky to boot. I am
someone who has an interest in libertarianism, a lot of Enlightenment
liberal intuitions, some curiosity, and a worry about any theory that might
require us to re-shape our intuitions to the point where we lack compassion.



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