Friday, June 5, 2009

Ex Post Facto Rationalizations in Ethics

Below is a full reply to Cork's post on abortion:

The legitimacy of abortion should have nothing to do with your interpretation of the non-aggression and the proportionality principle. The non-aggression principle can have potentially arbitrary interpretations.

As you know, not all self-described "libertarian anarchists" hold the same views. For instance, some libertarians support animal rights, some oppose abortion, some criticize retributive punishment, and some others support some parental authority. Those views conflict and compete with one another to attract attention.

As we have said previously, one could interpret the non-aggression principle in about a gazillion ways. Some anti-abortionists might feel cognitive dissonance, and thus interpret abortion as a form of aggression. Likewise, some others may interpret retributive punishment as a form of invasion against the criminal. Let us recall the problems of interpreting the non-aggression principle.

Does does the "non-aggression principle" allow "right to self-defense" or the "right to violently punish others"? Does the "non-aggression principle" allow trespassing or hate speech? We will show that the term "aggression" is highly vague.

Some will define "aggression" as "the initiation of physical violence." However, the term physical violence is also vague. Does "physical violence" include noise pollution? Does it include perceived threats of violence? Does "physical violence" include fraud? Whether noise pollution, threats of violence, and fraud are "physical violence" still begs the question.

Libertarians usually defend the right for broadcasters to homestead radio frequencies. However, if a malicious broadcaster "trespasses" another broadcaster's radio frequency, can we label this as "physical violence"? Obviously, the criminal changed nothing physical or tangible. This, also, begs the question whether if we should consider it as "physical violence." This same argument applies with the ownership of domain names.

Consequentially, it begs the question to ask whether anti-defamation laws violate the non-aggression principle. It also begs the question to ask whether the prohibition of nuclear weapons violate the non-aggression principle. In addition, it begs the question to ask whether ordering carbon dioxide polluters to pay restitution violates the non-aggression principle.

Libertarians define "individual sovereignty" as a state in which no one commits aggression against any individual. So far so good.

However, as we recall above, the word "aggression" has arbitrary interpretations. As a result, "individual sovereignty," which depends on the definition of "aggression," also has arbitrary interpretations. I found your usage of "self-ownership" in you elucidation above, therefore, as problematic.

As a consequence, we should only establish the definition of "libertarianism," "non-aggression principle," and "self-ownership" only prototypically. By "prototypically" we meant the prototype theory of classification. Libertarianism does not have any clear-cut "essence," and so does not "aggression" and "personal sovereignty."

Let us take abortion as an example of the arbitrariness of law.

The genuine causes of the abortion controversy arise from religion, empathy, and the definition of life.

Referring to the non-aggression principle constitutes as a type of cognitive dissonance. Judges, for example, use the law to legitimize their evil decrees. They have the power to interpret the law in any biased way, even though the law appears "objective" to the general population.

Legitimizing morality in the name of "it confirms/violates the non-aggression principle" is an appeal to the rule of law. It does not state any reason of the immorality itself, but an appeal to the law of non-aggression. It also begs the question if specific acts violate the non-aggression principle.

"Unborn babies" are parasites and if the mother does not want one in her body, she should not be forced to support one.

I have an objection. It depends on your definition of "parasite."

Aging can also be considered a parasite. So does cancer. If cancer is a parasite, does it give any right for the patient to steal money from a rich person for his treatment? It is a type of theft against the rich person.

Anti-abortionists consider fetuses as living beings. Like the cancer patent, the mother does not have any right to murder against another person, the fetus.

However, I do not oppose abortion. I am making a point that the non-aggression principle and laws can have potentially arbitrary interpretations, and could possibly justify any evil behavior.

The reason the cancer patient should not be allowed to steal from a "rich person" is because the rich person is *not* the parasite.

That is a common objection, but it still depends on the your interpretation of "parasite."

You agree that life is more valuable than property. The rich person can be interpreted as a kind of "parasite" you allow the person to be rich at the expense of killing someone. The rich person could just donate his money on the condition that the mother does not abort the child. So the rich person is causing the mother the kill her child by not donating to the mother. Therefore, you are valuing the rich person's property greater that you value the fetus's life. You do not support subsidizing the mother giving birth instead of aborting her child.

The law forbids murder and rape. Therefore, the would-be murderers and the would-be rapists cannot satisfy their preferences. The would-be victims of murder and rape are technically "parasites" in a sense, because we our preferences for life and against rape are brought about the expense of the preferences of the murderers and rapists. The victims of rape and murder are parasites in a sense and the murderers and rapists are the "victims" in a sense.

So do laws that forbid petty crimes such as adultery. Suppose a wife has cheated on her husband with another man. The wife, here, can both be a victim and a predator. She is a "victim" of the in the sense that the anti-adultery law does not grant her the liberty to cheat on her husband, then punished for it. She is an predator in a sense since she violated the adultery law and that she has angered her husband.

So the rich person can technically be interpreted as a parasite, in a sense. The enforcement of property rights have positive effects on the intelligent and the productive people, at the expense of the unproductive, the lazy, and the dim-witted people. Since the rich person is rich because of property rights, he is a parasite to the poor people. And, because, the enforcement of "property rights" is just a law that makes some more productive at the expense of others, it can form parasites and the exploited: The enforcement of property rights exploit the mentally incompetent, the disabled people, and the unproductive people.

The rich person is a parasite to the fetus in a way that the rich is not subsidizing the mother on the condition that the mother will not abort the fetus.

My point is that the rich person can be interpreted as a "parasite" in a sense, depending on one's self-knowledge. But we have to go back to my original point is that it is circular reasoning to justify laws from the non-aggression principle. It begs the question.

Anti-murder laws restrain the would-be murderer's liberty at the expense of the would-be victim's liberty to be alive. Anti-adultery laws retrain the would-be cheater's liberty at the expense of the spouse's liberty to not be cheated. Property laws restrain the disabled, lazy, mentally incompetent, and the unproductive's liberty at the expense of the liberty of the productive, efficient, and intelligent to create wealth. Pro-abortion laws restrain the fetus's liberty to stay alive at the expense of the rich person's willingness to not donate money to the pregnant mother.

Those who violate the non-aggression principle are labelled parasites, predators, aggressors, or criminals. Those who have experienced a violation of the non-aggression principle are called the victims, the prey, the exploited.

So terms such as "parasite," "predator," "aggressor," "tortfeasor," "criminal," "victim," and "prey" depend on one's definition or interpretation of the non-aggression principle or the law. These terms have different meanings according to one's perspective to the law.

Even libertarians themselves have different meanings for these terms. Some libertarians oppose retributive punishment, some oppose abortion, and some support animal rights. They therefore, have different interpretations of the words such as "parasite," "predator," and "victim." Your argument for abortion is like telling a libertarian who supports animal rights that the abused animals are not the "victims" of human "predators." Since they hold a differing interpretation of "aggression," your usage of these terms are circular, and might never influence them.

This is the reason why your sophistic arguments do not work. What we should be really debating with the anti-abortionists is religion and what constitutes human life.

Here's an example of natural law:

  1. Each and every individual should enjoy the full product of his labor. No one else other than the individual can accurately estimate cost of labor that he has worked to produce a good. Therefore, no one else can exchange his good with another good or take his good without the individual's permission because the cost labor he has put into producing the good may be more than others may have perceived. Exchanging a good without consent should be forbidden because the individual may lose some fruits of his labor due to the fact that others may underestimate how much labor one worked to produce that good.
  2. If both parties agree to exchange, the exchange is voluntary. Each individual can accurately estimate how much labor he has worked to produce his respective good. Each individual can also estimate the usability of his traders' goods. Therefore, both would maintain their full products of their labor, plus the value each benefited from the exchange.

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