A new blog

[Update 26 Feb 2009: For whatever it is worth, I withdraw my recommendation. K.M. was right; I was wrong (see comments below). The reason? The comments on this post.]

I wrote a post on ethics a couple of days back, and WordPress’ Sphere-based “related posts” technology displayed a link to Francois Tremblay’s blog – Check Your Premises. I am not very good at names or faces, but the name sounded familiar. Then I realized that its the same person who wrote an article arguing “The Case for Objective Morality” at strongatheism.net. And its an article I had linked to in one of my comments on a post on morality that I had written about six months back.

Tremblay is a former Objectivist, and presently a left-libertarian – a Mutualist. This is the first entry of his blog-

This is the first entry of Check Your Premises, so I should explain what I’m doing here exactly. This is, more or less, a philosophical blog, but only in the general sense.

Why should we care about such a sterile, pointless field as philosophy? My blog name, I think, gives the answer. Philosophy, at its best (most of philosophy is useless junk), forces us to acknowledge and reconsider our premises.

There is a huge gap between intelligence and wisdom. Intelligence is the capacity to build and understand a field, assuming a number of premises. Wisdom is our capacity to acknowledge and correct those premises when they are wrong. Both are crucial capacities in order to live a happy and productive life. People who have both are rare (and I do not hold to the pretension of being one of them).

[…]

Virtually everyone is a delusional wreck, not by ignorance, but by conditioning. If everyone reconsidered all of their premises, there is no doubt in my mind that people’s thinking would change in a rather drastic way, and so would the world. But doing such a thing requires tremendous energy, capacity to adapt, and education. And most people are hopeless. This is not pessimism but simply the grim reality of things as they stand under the once again ever-tightening noose of collectivism and irrationalism.

[…]

Are these assumptions valid? Are my assumptions any more valid than the ones in the examples? How can we know?

The answer is very simple, but at the same time very involved and demanding:

Check your premises.

I have omitted major portions. So read the complete post.

Needless to say, I haven’t read everything he’s written. But I intend to do that over a period of time. Do visit the blog.

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Comments

  • Francois Tremblay  On January 25, 2009 at 9:36 am

    Thank you for the support!

  • K. M.  On January 27, 2009 at 11:23 pm

    Wow, I followed some of the links with morbid curiosity – VHEMT’s homepage and their answer to the question “Why don’t you just kill yourself?”

    Seriously though, I was shocked at your support for such a contradictory mixture of ideas as objective morality, voluntary extinction, anti-collectivism, socialism, anarchism etc…

    As far as the arguments for anarchism go, we already have anarchy, with one big rogue gang (the government) which does not agree. All the anarchists are free (as free as they would be in any anarchy) to form their own groups (or stay separate) if they so wish. So what exactly is the complaint?

  • Francois Tremblay  On January 27, 2009 at 11:42 pm

    There’s really nothing shocking about my positions. They are all very harmonious, to me anyway.

    Anarchists are free to “form their own groups” like anyone else, sure, but not to live without government or capitalism. Government and capitalists cannot be escaped because they claim the globe.

  • K. M.  On January 28, 2009 at 12:55 am

    Francois,
    “Government and capitalists cannot be escaped because they claim the globe.”
    And will continue to do so. If your only solution to that is “They should not do so”, that is just a moral position, not a political one. The anarchist claim that no government is necessary, translates to the claim that no politics is necessary.

    Anyway, this particular debate has been beaten to death in so many places, that I don’t think either of us will have anything new to say. So that is all I am going to say. I might care about a debate with AristotleTheGeek (who I believe has not quite made up his mind?) but not with someone who has. (That is not a comment on anyone’s honesty, just my choice in spending my time)

  • Francois Tremblay  On January 28, 2009 at 1:14 am

    “And will continue to do so. If your only solution to that is “They should not do so”, that is just a moral position, not a political one. The anarchist claim that no government is necessary, translates to the claim that no politics is necessary.”

    Well, we may have a different definition of politics than you do. But I assure you that it is stronger than a simple moral claim. We actually do want to implement a different organization in society, one not based on coercion, classes and monopolies but rather on voluntary action and mutual aid, and Anarchists have done so whenever they have been able to do so. It is not simply a matter of thinking a situation is not right, but also to act.

    “Anyway, this particular debate has been beaten to death in so many places, that I don’t think either of us will have anything new to say.”

    Fair enough.

  • Aristotle The Geek  On January 28, 2009 at 1:18 am

    “I was shocked at your support for such a contradictory mixture of ideas as objective morality, voluntary extinction, anti-collectivism, socialism, anarchism etc…”
    One by one.
    * Objective morality-
    you know my position, and I know yours.

    * voluntary extinction or VHEMT-
    I don’t believe in it, nor in suicide unless it is to put an end to life when medically speaking, dying would be better than living. The first time I read about it, I put it down to either of two separate things-
    a) non-violent environmentalism.
    b) a position akin to Eduard von Hartmann’s theory of the “cosmic suicide”. I quote Copleston-

    [v]on Hartmann looks forward to a time when the human race in general will have so developed its consciousness of the real state of affairs that a cosmic suicide will take place. Schopenhauer was wrong in suggesting that an individual can attain annihilation by self-denial and asceticism. What is needed is the greatest possible development of consciousness, so that in the end humanity may understand the folly of volition, commit suicide and, with its own destruction, bring the world-process to an end.

    I think its the former. I won’t be surprised if people believe in it, but would be curious to know why.

    * anti-collectivism- everyone’s for it.

    * socialism-
    I don’t know the exact left-libertarian position, but consider this. When newspaper op-eds proclaim ad-infinitum about the “end of capitalism” what are they exactly talking about? Half-corporatism (wall street, special interests etc), and half-capitalism (deregulation etc.) And when we talk of socialism what do we refer to – USSR, China and India pre-1991 – coercive socialism. Is there something else? Apparently yes. And I am willing to listen, not necessarily agree, to that side.

    * anarchism-
    Rothbard was an anarcho-capitalist. And he said that if people could agree to a particular “libertarian code,” anarcho-capitalism might work. Anarchy here means devoid of government control, not burn-everything-in-sight-because-no-one-will-touch-you.

    “As far as the arguments for anarchism go, we already have anarchy, with one big rogue gang (the government) which does not agree.”
    That is correct, but then what is the guarantee that a government that is put in place to only provide the three services – protection against internal and external aggression, and legal services won’t swell up like every state in history has? That’s why I am in the middle when it comes to government – I am not totally convinced of either position’s viability, or even the metaphysical necessity of having a government.

    Robert Nozick too, just like Rand (but from a different base), tried to justify the necessity of government. And Murray Rothbard offers a critique (pdf).

  • Francois Tremblay  On January 28, 2009 at 7:44 am

    “a) non-violent environmentalism.
    b) a position akin to Eduard von Hartmann’s theory of the “cosmic suicide”.”

    Wrong on both counts, at least for me.

  • K. M.  On January 29, 2009 at 10:16 pm

    Aristotle,
    *Socialism-
    The first thing that comes to mind is the labor theory of value and the egalitarianism that it implies. That to me is the motivator of socialism. And since the labor theory does not work in a free market (because all “labor” is not equal) – government or no government, socialism has always been (and will always be) coercive. Non-coercive socialism is a bad fantasy.

    *Anarchism-
    My position is not that government is a regrettable necessity because people are not good enough. Government is a metaphysical necessity because objective laws are needed. As to the problem of government growing out of control, that is a separate matter. Whether someone calls it a government (de-jure and de-facto monopoly) or a gang (only de-facto monopoly) makes no difference if rights are being violated.
    I haven’t read Murray Rothbard (will do so when I get time)

  • Aristotle The Geek  On January 30, 2009 at 12:30 am

    “The first thing that comes to mind is the labor theory of value and the egalitarianism that it implies.”
    Right. But socialism seems to have as many definitions as libertarianism does. Gandhi was a socialist – a non-violent one, a left-libertarian. And minarchists – people who believe in small government – too call themselves libertarians, but of the right. About left-libertarianism, the “left” comes from Bastiat and the seating arrangement in the French parliament. Rothbard is an anarcho-capitalist – he believes in capitalism but not in government – and that is categorized under left-libertarianism for this very reason.

    The main point is – a single phrase does not always explain what a particular ideology is all about.

    On my part, I don’t believe in the labor theory of value, but in price as discovered by demand and supply in a free market. As far as people keep out of my way – they don’t interfere with what I do – I don’t give a damn about what they believe in.

    “Non-coercive socialism is a bad fantasy.”
    Force is about protecting rights – their infringement. If someone doesn’t recognize property rights, using force to evict people who have occupied some property is legitimate as far as he is concerned. In that sense, unless the socialists’ position is merely an ideological one – like Gandhi, they are willing to let people “come to their senses” – they will use force to enforce their ideals. That’s what capitalists will do too according to their ideology – the enforcement of intellectual property rights, for example. On the other hand, some people like the Austrians – they too are capitalists – have a theory of ipr based on scarcity. And for them, ipr can only exist through State monopoly. What, then, is coercion, and what is legitimate use of force?

    I am not defending Tremblay’s positions here – my linking to a blog does not necessarily mean an endorsement of every idea it stands for – but consider Mutualism for a moment-

    Mutualism is based on a labor theory of value which holds that when labor or its product is sold, in exchange, it ought to receive goods or services embodying “the amount of labor necessary to produce an article of exactly similar and equal utility”. Receiving anything less would be considered exploitation, theft of labor, or usury.

    Some mutualists believe that if the state did not intervene, as a result of increased competition in the marketplace, individuals would receive no more income than that in proportion to the amount of labor they exert. And this they find desirable. Mutualists oppose the idea of individuals receiving an income through loans, investments, and rent, as they believe these individuals are not laboring. Some of them argue that if state intervention ceased, these types of incomes would disappear due to increased competition in capital. Though Proudhon opposed this type of income, he expressed: “… I never meant to … forbid or suppress, by sovereign decree, ground rent and interest on capital. I believe that all these forms of human activity should remain free and optional for all.”

    Insofar as they ensure the workers right to the full product of their labor, mutualists support markets and private property in the product of labor. However, they argue for conditional titles to land, whose private ownership is legitimate only so long as it remains in use or occupation (which Proudhon called “possession.”) Proudhon’s Mutualism reluctantly supports labor-owned cooperative firms and associations “only in those cases where it is not possible for the public to rely on private industry,” preferring a society of individual entrepreneurs. As for capital goods (man-made, non-land, “means of production”), mutualist opinions differs on whether these should be commonly managed public assets or private property.

    If the utopian free market – whether an anarchist one, or some other kind – ever does manage to rise out of the ocean of human stupidity, all ideologies will automatically rise and fall on the basis of their viability. If some do require force to get them up and running, we will automatically know which one that was.

    On my part, till some one can convince me that I am wrong, I am for laissez-faire capitalism. But I don’t mind taking a look at what others are saying.

    “Government is a metaphysical necessity because objective laws are needed.”
    Laws against theft murder etc. I believe you are referring to Rand’s “Nature of Government” essay, and the example she gave about two defense agencies fighting against each other. But Rothbard, and I haven’t read him in full either, gives many examples of how it could work. My position against government is based on empirical evidence – there hasn’t been a single case in history where government has limited itself. Though history is not a definite evidence against necessity of government, it does merit consideration.

    When you say government, it automatically becomes a nation – its writ will run over entire territories, without any competition. The only competition will come from other governments/ nations. The libertarian/ non-minarchist position is that societies will automatically come up with courts and defense arrangements that will remove the need for any government. Those who violate contracts won’t be able to do business because of trust issues; groups of businessmen will come together and accept the jurisdiction of a particular court etc etc. Murder, rape, violation of property rights etc too would be covered by the “libertarian code” – something that people will have to agree to if they want to live in society. And empirical evidence does seem to exist to support that.

    Find some time and read Rothbard, and let me do the same. We will resume the debate on government then.

  • K. M.  On January 30, 2009 at 11:13 pm

    What, then, is coercion, and what is legitimate use of force?”
    Indeed. If land titles etc are conditional, then what I would call loot would be called justice by the mutualist. The question is “Are they conditional?”

    If the utopian free market …
    The same issue of what is legitimate force comes up here too. What is a free market?

    Find some time and read Rothbard, and let me do the same. We will resume the debate on government then.
    All right. I will comment on this thread again after I have done so.

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