Exploring the Ethics of Human Freedom Message Board Meeting Notes › 13/12/26: Meeting Notes: Should we study the Ethics of Human Freedom?

13/12/26: Meeting Notes: Should we study the Ethics of Human Freedom?

Group Organizer
Westwood, MA
Post #: 62
Introduction of Topic
Leader: Dennis

- Ethics: Determine whether action is “Good” vs. “Evil”
- Ethics of Human Freedom: AKA Natural Rights Theory; Non-aggression Principle; libertarian ethics
— An ethical system that concludes that it is per se evil to initiate violence against otherwise peaceful people

- Competing ethics: Most people agree that violence should not be initiated, but competing ethics contend that there are other Goods that sometimes demand the initiation of violence.

- Problem: When can one know that the threshold of need for violence has been achieved?
— — e.g., Utilitarianism: Uncalculable: Must know all the impacts of given action, Calculate the good for all living and unborn humans of each impact; Subtract the Bad for all living and unborn humans of each impact; if positive number results, then it is ethically Good to initiate violence.

— — Usually comes down to some Authority:
— — — A priestly caste who can interpret the omniscient God’s assessment of Good
— — — Philosoher Kings, or “good” kings, who are almost godly Wise in the impacts across all people, and rule for the maximum Good of their Subjects
— — — Democracy — The good of the greater number of living voters is a close enough estimate of social utility
— — — Representative Democracy with Technocrats: Combination of demos and philosopher kings
— — — (In effect, though, I find that usually the most sociopathic humans, winningly using sophistic arguments of knowledge of the Good, are those who decide when to use violence)
— Often those propounding Authority imagine that the person in charge will know them, will care about them, and will desire the best outcome for them - they act as though they, or their close personal agent bosom buddy friend, will wield the violence of the state in order to remake the world to their autocratic liking.

People who argue for liberty are most often arguing from effect (consequences)
— "If you want what will likely be the best utilitarian outcome, allow humans freedom."
This seems based in a belief that if we provide enough proof of general benefits, others will come around

But oftentimes we are arguing with people who imagine that they will be wielding the violence to create their perfect image of the world. We offer tentative proof of a more generally beneficial outcome, when they imagine instantly creating exactly the world they want.

I have not been impressed with our progress using the argument from effect.
That is, IMO, we have been getting our asses kicked by sophistic arguments and false morality.

For example, Obama recently declared that there was *no* proof that raising the minimum wage adversely impacted the poor or minorities.

After casually dismissing the mountains of evidence, he then countered with an argument from morality:
"It is Good to provide everyone with a living wage."

Take-away 1: Arguments from effect must ultimately fail. If we have not accumulated enough evidence and theory to convince those who are obviously aware of it of the easy and obvious case of the deleterious impact of minimum wage laws, then we can never produce enough evidence to satisfy them on almost any issue.

Take-away 2: The other side is constantly using arguments from (false) morality -- perhaps because they understand how powerful that argument is. They appear to have the moral high road, even though what they are proposing, when looked at carefully, is morally repugnant.

Take-away 3: Their morality always hides the Gun in the Room, using euphemisms. (e.g., Kidnap -> arrest; rape cages -> jail; theft -> taxes; counterfeiting -> monetary easing). If the Gun in the Room were made visible, they would not be able to hide the required evil violence for their "morality"

Take-away 4: They often deny outright the violence inherent in the State, or get angry when we insist on pointing it out. Why do they want to deny us this approach because of its power? Because it is too hard for them to see that the State is based on the initiation of violence? No. They are experiencing great cognitive dissonance because, if they accept the obvious — that the state is the application of violence against otherwise innocent people —they, in their own moral codes, would be clearly supporting Evil. They must try to prevent us from speaking this approach.

Take-away 5: Historical fights for expanding human freedom have been won — not based on arguments from effect -- but on arguments grounded firmly in a clear ethic. We did not have to explain where women would work if they were allowed in the workplace; our argument was simple -- they are humans and deserve to be free to do with their own lives as they will. We did not have to project how the cotton would be picked without hundreds of thousands of slaves. Again, the argument was ethical; blacks are human and deserve the simple respect to be free to choose how they live their own lives. All major victories in past were won on ethics, libertarian ethics, not on effect.

What if we are the descendants of the Abolitionist movement? What if the movement towards human freedom is not a political movement, or an economic movement, but an ethical movement?

So, I believe, "Yes, it is worth our time to study the ethics of human freedom."

To study it, we would need to do two things:

1) Understand ourselves more clearly the foundation of a rational, consistent, universal ethics of human freedom
2) Learn how to communicate the ethics of human freedom to others clearly, concisely, compassionately, and convincingly.

Humans want to be Good. This is why our enemies use arguments from false morals all the time. Ours it eh only ethic that in congruent with the most fundamental definition of Good as understood by every child and every human.

Our path may be to shine light through the feigned blindness that allows everyone to hide their violence behind false morals and proxy actors. What if we found effective ways to keep pointing out the Gun in the Room and reminded them, “This is not the type of person you are! You do not use violence against innocent, otherwise peaceful human beings who only want to live their life differently. You want to treat other people peacefully and respectfully, voluntarily cooperating in a win-win for all involved."
Group Organizer
Westwood, MA
Post #: 63

Asher underlined how statists have to rely on euphemisms. The regular populace do not see the violence. Although he has advanced economics, he cannot explain economics to the general populations. The argument has to come from morality.

Asher noted a study (reference?) in which, when people were confronted with contrary facts to their position, the people clung to their misguided beliefs even stronger. He suggested that perhaps they confuse their identity with their position, and contrary facts confront their identity.

Roberta noted that there was a human psychology issue. If someone is introduced to a new idea, the listener takes a short period to decide whether it fits their world view. If they decide it does not, they never have to think about the issue again. It is already decided. They shut off that part of their brain.

Roberta argued that animal rights is at the same stage that human rights were during slavery.

Roberta also wanted to understand why coercion was only physical — why not economic coercion.

Tom talked about how the Bill of Rights were supposed to protect us from government over-reach but that it had been eviscerated. Asher added in that documents do not protect against government guns.

Joe noted that while Stalin quipped about the Pope’s condemnation , “How many divisions does he have?”, the power of ideas actually trump guns.
Group Organizer
Westwood, MA
Post #: 64
The discussion then went to individual introductions around the topic.

Roberta is not currently political but spends her time studying philosophy and religion. She came into freedom from the peace movement — anti-militatry. She loves the US and believes it can be better. Her passion is animal rights and believes it’s the next frontier, primarily higher order animals (whales, chimps). She will defend herself physically if she is attacked.

Joe, a Japanese translator, noted this was his first libertarian function. He is primarily interested in Social Justice. Sympathizes with the Occupy movement. He has been concerned with the increasing concentration of wealth, with the rigging of the political system, with the propaganda, and with the excessive foreign policy. He was impressed with Ron Paul. He would like to study whether there is objective ethics.

Rich, a software and game developer, spends time on philosophy, Austrian economics, and psychology. He believes ethics are critically important, and that much of the poor ethics and support for government comes from how children are raised. They should also be raised by the Non-Agrgession Principle. His influences are Stefan Molyneux, Murray Rothbard, and Ayn Rand.

Charlie is a lawyer who has an interest in ethics. He believes it is difficult to argue from morality.

Brian was once attracted to the Non-Aggression Principle, but now calls himself a Responsibilitarian. He is concerned that the non-initiation of force would allow for some people to endanger others (storying dynamite, feeding rats,) or to not help others whereas he would naturally help them. (I pull his baby out of the water, but he won’t lift a finger for my baby; complete pacifists). Free-rider problem. He believes in (coerced?) reciprocal altruism.

Brian defined ethics as competing moral systems that support the survival of various groups. All moral codes promote self interest. Property arises because of mutual enlightened self-interest — if I refrain from stealing your property, you refrain from stealing mine. But once someone breaks into someone’s home, morality has broken down.

Brandon agreed with Brian that ethics has value if it de-escalates conflict. If it does not, then ethics has broken down. Wants to examine the difference between positive and negative rights and the difference between positive rights and positive liberties.

Tom is a lawyer with a background in economics and finance. His interest is how to resolve issues. He dislikes the misconception that we live in a democracy — it’s a constitutional republic where individual rights were to be protected, but the Bill of Rights, the only thing protecting minorities, has been eviscerated. Should not believe documents can protect us. Tom would like the group to work towards building a code of ethics that cannot be disputed.

Chris is interested where we are headed with technology and how it can impact human freedom (e.g., drones, AI, swarm robotics). He tends to be pragmatic and think globally. How can different countries sit at the same table? Everyone should have a voice. How does one hold a meaningful conversation with 7 billion citizens. He pointed to Rwanda where they meet in 7 people groups and then push ideas up. Who protects minorities?

Bandon is the Libertarian Party press secretary. His influences are Lysander Spooner and Ben Tucker. He has discussed freedom ideas with all types of people in all types of ways. He does not believe that ethical arguments win — only consequentialist arguments. What do they get out of it. How to sell. Morality becomes too abstract for people. They easily turn you off if you stop using the euphemisms and start calling, for example, arrests “kidnapping”, etc. They will then dismiss you out of hand. People do not understand that government is force. They believe that government is us. Many ethical arguments fail big time e.g., Who will pay for the poor. They believe poor need some sort of safety net. Politicians win on false promises. People will never agree on what morality is.

Natalya is an Austrian economist, a libertarian, and open to other ideas. She believes social issues are so clearly outside the state’s purview that she primarily focuses on fiscal issues and the 2nd amendment. Her influences are Milton Friedman, Mises, Ron Paul, Lord Acton. She is upset by the entitlement mentality, believing that this robs people of ability to take care of themselves, of being resonsible. She is also concerned about victimless crimes, militarization of the police, and unfunded mandates.

Asher voted for Obama but now identifies himself as an anarcho-capitalist influenced by Stefan Molyneux. He does not believe in having rulers. Slavery is wrong. He believes in raising children peacefully so that they readily recognize the violence of the state. He believes one way to succeed is to remove ourselves from the system.

Marina believes that people who do not take care for themselves should be left to die. She dislikes the conflation of "morality" and "ethics". She dislikes "social justice". She believes ethics must allow you to defend your property. She does not believe she should be forced to pay for anyone who did not prepare for Bad Things well enough. She likes to be interrupted and dislikes monologues.

Dennis is an ex-serial entrepreneur. He comes from the Left and found libertarianism by (1.5 year long) argument from ethical principles with a conservative. After almost 35 years believing that human freedom was just an education away, he is quite impressed with people's inability to grasp basic consequential arguments, and wants to explore ethical approaches in more depth. He is the Organizer of the Personal Growth Network and believes that the Human Potential movement, which seeks inner freedom should be a natural ally of the libertarian movement, which seeks external freedom; if all that potential is released, but then squashed by the state, what is the purpose? His main influences are Murray Rothbard, Stefan Molyneux, and Huemer,.
Group Organizer
Westwood, MA
Post #: 65
The above are the product of my poor memory and hastily scribbled notes. Please correct or expand or discuss any of the above by adding your comments.
Brian M.
user 42361012
Upton, MA
Post #: 134
Your notes do not capture my position very well.

"Brian was once attracted to the Non-Aggression Principle, but now calls himself a Responsibilitarian."
Th­e two halves of this sentence are orthogonal. They are not mutually exclusive. I still believe in the non-initiation of aggression. I just have a different idea of what counts as initiation than most libertarians. I also put all sorts of criterial restrictions on what a responder to agression can do, such as requiring proportionality, consideration of future restitution, etc.

"He is concerned that the non-initiation of force would allow for some people to endanger others (storying dynamite, feeding rats,)"
The concepts of force, fraud, and trespass as I have read them in Libertarian literature seem not to capture endangering and risk based trespass. Thus forcing my neighbor to stop endangering and risky behavior (to stop leaving out dog food which is attracting rats and endangering me, or forcing them to move that dynamite they've stored on their property next to my window) can look like I'm the initiator, when actually I'm the responder.

"or to not help others whereas he would naturally help them."
I think people can freeload off other peoples human nature. Libertarianism doesn't seem to capture and compensate for this. I don't think "moral shunning" is sufficient. I in fact think certain such behaviors can rightly be thought of a criminal in nature. Shooting ones starving neighbor when they attempt to dip into your ample food hoard and promise to pay you back later would be an example. Most people would share some food, and we know that by nature all humans are fallible and thus can find them in the situation of starvation. It is also human nature (no matter how mean spirited the person) to accept help when desparate. Very few mean-spirited people who would shoot someone merely for setting foot on their property will refuse food when starving. This is a situation where we can force reciprocity as a criminal matter (the same way we force reciprocity in the case of property rights).

This does not mean I believe you have to help every sad sack that comes along, or sad sacks that are on the other side of the planet. There are plenty of situations where you can let someone else starve to death and be perfectly ethical about it.

One reason you do not have to (literally) help people on the other side of the planet is because it is impossible to free ride off of them. If you were starving it is highly unlikely you'd ever run into someone so far away which would could help you. Distance matters.

This was not me making a full argument for my position. It is more like an outline. I would use all sorts of examples (like how they excluded gold miners from entering territories without sufficient supplys to sustain themselves on the grounds that they were certain to run out, and then in a state of starvation endanger other miners in the area).

"(I pull his baby out of the water, but he won’t lift a finger for my baby; complete pacifists). Free-rider problem. He believes in (coerced?) reciprocal altruism."

Yes, under certain circumstances you can coerce pacifists but it is not neccesarily an initiation of force (when their are criminals infesting their property and trespassing against you using pacifist resources it is perfectly acceptable to claim some of those resources to pay for the defense of the pacifists). I can make someone pay to control the rats on their property. I can also force them to take perventative measures against such known problems.

Brian defined ethics as competing moral systems that support the survival of various groups. All moral codes promote self interest.
I did not define ethics as competing moral systems. I just pointed out that "moralities" are survival strategies that compete. I will not define ethics at this time.

Property arises because of mutual enlightened self-interest — if I refrain from stealing your property, you refrain from stealing mine.
Good enough. However not all moralities respect property rights, and those that do have differing scopes. In some moral systems you have the right to own other people for instance. In others, like communism, there is no individual right to property.

But once someone breaks into someone’s home, morality has broken down.
This is an insufficient criteria to make that claim. I said that "reciprocity" not "morality" can break down under certain circumstances, such as starvation. One can't reciprocate when one is dead. So any moral system based on reciprocity is going to hit a boundary condition which is problematic. My own moral system deals with this in a way designed to preserve and restore the conditions of reciprocity. In my moral system a starving man can morally take food from an unoccupied house given certain very limited circumstances (he has reasonable reason to believe he will not cause the starvation of the owner, he advertizes his appropriation, he will have the means to repay the owner [which he can't do if the owner dies], etc.). On the other hand, if the owner is home he can only deny help under special circumstances (there is no possibility of the starving man paying restitution, etc.). There are of course situations in which there is no possibilty to restore reciprocity (both are starving) in which case there is indeed a breakdown in the conditions neccessary for the maintanence of ethical behavior based on reciprocity. We can still judge the non-owner as morally culpable in this last situation, because he is ultimately responsible for his own starvation, and could not repay the owner. He can only claim in an emergency that which he can repay at some point in the future.

My moral system is based in part on mutuallly beneificial reciprocity. This may not be an issue for other moral systems. For example, the morality of a mafia family may be that you can kill others and take theirs stuff just because you are Italian, and are stronger.

Group Organizer
Westwood, MA
Post #: 78
Thanks, Brian, for clarifying where you start and improving my poor notes, memory, and word choices. A lot of the issues you touch on would be great for a full meeting! Please pull out the ones you are most excited about and add them to our list:
A former member
Post #: 33
At Dennis' request, I'm copying and pasting my direct response to him in full relative to his notes on myself and a further conversation which then go on to flesh out some broad-stroke thoughts on developing a guiding documents and the role of technology. And I apply some of what I read on positive and negative rights in anticipation of the meeting on Monday.

Begin communication:

In regards to your notes, one correction. I am not concerned about who will speak on behalf of the minorities. That was actually Tom. My concern is how do we utilize technology to create opportunity for equalization of voice so that each individual has best private/free-enterprise access to their "negative" right to free speech so that they can speak for themselves instead of having to rely on a political power broker. That reliance weakens the citizen‎. The opportunity for voice is already happening in the private sector in various ways through channels like Twitter and Reddit.

Outside of your notes, I would like to correct another comment of yours. You said that I wanted everyone to agree. That couldn't be further from the truth. I think much more abstractly than that. I want everyone to have a voice, the actual channels necessary to apply free speech in the same capacity as anyone else (if they want to use them). I don't care about full agreement as that is 100% impossible and therefore not pragmatic. All ethics and politics must be pragmatic as pragmatic ethics is largely defined on Wikipedia. It has been very easy to think of ethics as immutable within a generation or two here to for. But now, technology is moving so fast that the very definition of humans and intelligence is moving within decades and so the yardstick of ethics must be moved as discussed alongside.

In addition there are some like Corporations now who can pay more and essentially have more free speech than any citizen could have. Free speech can now be bought which by logic means it is no longer free. Are negative rights affected? Yes, when the purchase of more speech affects laws.

Part of the genius of the founding fathers was to make guiding documents that could perceive of the necessary liberties of each citizen and within the country/state populous. And this has essentially required relatively few amendments‎. But amendments are still happening over 200 years later which is to my point that this ethical code that you are seeking to engage and document must also be written with the same expansive foresight to allow for a greatest freedom for greatest number of citizens as a living document.

End Communication.

Thanks to Dennis for opening and moderating this Freedom Dialogue, especially with the maturity that he brings in facilitating the wide variety of voices at the table.

Chris J.
Group Organizer
Westwood, MA
Post #: 91
Thank you, Chris, for taking the time to clarify your valuable points from our meeting. I will try to remember and will take notes, but often I misunderstand things, project things into what was said, miss important points, misattribute points, not realize important shadings, etc. In addition, after the meeting, it is usual for participants to want to revise, expand, reverse, or clarify the points they started at the meeting.

I put my meeting notes up here to serve only as a starting point for participants to iterate their thoughts to the group. Please take it, not as a final record of what you said, but as a reflection of how one listener (mis) heard you, and as a starting point to extend the conversation.

Thank you to everyone who takes the time to help us to better understand each other in this important topic area!
Powered by mvnForum

People in this
Meetup are also in:

Sign up

Meetup members, Log in

By clicking "Sign up" or "Sign up using Facebook", you confirm that you accept our Terms of Service & Privacy Policy