Overlordship

Bryan Caplan points to an interesting argument about citizens being owned by the government.

Although they may not be fully conscious of it, progressives and social democrats are saying that everything is owned by the state. Or, perhaps, that the substructure upon which topsoil, buildings, and other things sit is owned by the state. Either way, simply by being in the United States, you voluntarily agree to all government rules.

The state’s dominion is the entire polity. As long as you are in the United States, according to the progressives, it is your contractual obligation to abide by the rules. You believe in honoring contracts, don’t you?

That is more or less the view taken by progressives. But, as Caplan points out, it is also taken by conservatives.

You have to bring up the subject of immigration. Then you will see many a conservative become an Overlord of Immigration. … If the Overlord locks the doors of Our Nation, then, it is the immigrant who is breaking and entering – even if his landlord, employer, and grocer welcome him with open arms.

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96 Responses to Overlordship

  1. Another common instance of the ‘overlordship’ argument is when lefties grumble about separation of church and state, and the need to exclude religious expressions from public areas.

    Since everything and everyone is theoretically owned by the state (according this worldview) religious expression, and therefore religion, is effectively banned and supplanted by the state.

  2. dover_beach

    I think Caplan’s argument confuses authority with dominion. The right to rule (make laws, etc.) does not imply that one owns anything; authority merely involves recognition and acknowledgement of this right. Dominion, itself, does not involve a right to rule but a right to manage one’s own estate (estate management). If there is a problem with progressives it is that the pursuit of substantive ends involves estate management rather than ruling. Thus, living in a state that is increasingly concerned with substantive ends is marked by ever increasing managerial control and thus approximates more clearly dominion (or estate management) rather than ruling (or the administration of justice).

  3. Rococo Liberal

    Beautifully put, DB

  4. Michael Sutcliffe

    Of course, Dover, as we’ve discussed a million times before, most people would make a big distinction between ‘ruling’ which implies absolute or unquestionable power like a king (to most people, perhaps even everyone but you!) and ‘the administration of justice’ which implies restricitons, rational systems of values and laws, and transparency on what power can be exercised.

    Furthermore, ‘right to rule’ is a contradiction to most rational people (but not you, of course) because a ruler has absolute power like a king (according to most people, but not you of course) but in order to have the ‘right’ to exercise this power implies that there are conditions that must be met for this power to be exercised, which contradicts the ‘absolute’ aspect of ‘ruling’. Unless you actually believe that certain bloodlines do naturally pass down authority by genetics, or that god in fact does give certain people a special authority to exercise power (which you might, but hey that’s your prerogative).

  5. Michael Sutcliffe

    However, Dover, that little faux pas aside, as RL says, I agree your main point is very insightful.

  6. dover_beach

    Of course, Dover, as we’ve discussed a million times before, most people would make a big distinction between ‘ruling’ which implies absolute or unquestionable power like a king (to most people, perhaps even everyone but you!) and ‘the administration of justice’ which implies restricitons, rational systems of values and laws, and transparency on what power can be exercised.

    MS, you are confused. Firstly, ruling is the administration of justice joined with the need to maintain a particular jurisdiction over time. Secondly, there is nothing absolute about ruling except that there is no supreme authority beyond it. There is certainly not a claim that because one’s authority is absolute, that, so too, is one’s power. In fact, much of your confusion is a symptom of your incapacity to recognise a difference between authority and power. Authority essentially rests upon opinion; power is something related to our capacity to procure what we want and to avoid what we are averse to. Now, sure, rulers enjoy power but it isn’t this power that confers authority.

    Furthermore, ‘right to rule’ is a contradiction to most rational people (but not you, of course) because a ruler has absolute power like a king (according to most people, but not you of course) but in order to have the ‘right’ to exercise this power implies that there are conditions that must be met for this power to be exercised, which contradicts the ‘absolute’ aspect of ‘ruling’.

    The ‘right to rule’ is not a contradiction and it has nothing to do with power, but authority. And you are, sad to say, also confusing ‘absolute’ with ‘unconditional’. To say that a ruler’s authority is absolute is simply to say that it is sovereign; that is, that one cannot appeal to anything beyond it. In this sense, we can say that the judicial decisions of the HC are absolute, as are the legislative decisions of the Federal Parliament, none of which means that eachs decisions are also unconditional.

    Unless you actually believe that certain bloodlines do naturally pass down authority by genetics, or that god in fact does give certain people a special authority to exercise power (which you might, but hey that’s your prerogative).

    No, if you pay any attention to what I’ve written, my saying that “authority merely involves recognition and acknowledgement of this right” means that authority and thus the ‘right to rule’ is an endowment and it continues so long as we, those who fall within it’s jurisdiction, continue to recognise and acknowledge in our actions the authority of the laws therein. It is really that simple.

  7. I couldn’t see any reference to immigration in the Caplan piece.

    I also think Caplan relies too much on Hume and Smith, when this issue of the relationship with the sovereign was addressed more clearly by John Locke and Thomas Hobbes well before them.

    Progressives go with Hobbes view, that all rights are positive and derive from the sovereign. Libertarians go with Locke and agree rights are inherent but some may be relinquished to the sovereign.

    As I understand it, Locke was a key influence on the framers of the US constitution.

  8. Ken Nielsen

    And a sociologist believes that the state owns all our income and so can decide how much we should be allowed to receive after it has taken what it wants.
    The Myth of Pre Tax Income

    Pretax income means income in the absence of taxes. But in the absence of taxes there would be no government, in the absence of government there would be anarchy, and in a state of anarchy no one would have any income. Pretax income, then, must be zero – or, equivalently, there is no such thing as pretax income

    There are many fascinating extensions to this reasoning:
    Because the state allows us to be born, by forbidding late term abortions and such, it owns our life and can do with it what it wishes or end it when it wishes.
    Similarly, all property belongs to the state…
    The state has created copyright law, so it owns everything written or published….

  9. Rococo Liberal

    Dover is really on form today.

    Modern western governments intrude into our lives much more than any absolute monarch did in 17th or 18th century Europe. Modern technology ensures that modern governments have far more power than their predecessors. The fact that modern western governments are democratidcally elected (after a fashion) also gives them the authority that absolute monarchs derived from the belief that they ruled by God’s grace.

    The point is that it doesn’t matter from whence the authority of the ruler springs, as long as it is seen as legitimate by the ruled. A Monarch will be great HoS if you have a long history of Monarchy under which the role of the Monarch has evolved over the years. On the other hand, if you want to set up a new polity and ditch your cultural history, then by all means have an elected HoS.

    I think I agree that lefties see the State as owners of us all, because they favour the collective over the individual. Conservatives see us as all owing allegiance to the State as autonomous moral beings, but see the State as being our creature designed to preserve as many of our unlimited rights as is possible.

  10. C.L.

    Conservatives see us as all owing allegiance to the State as autonomous moral beings…

    To a point. We owed no allegiance to the imbeciles running World War I.

    The point is that it doesn’t matter from whence the authority of the ruler springs, as long as it is seen as legitimate by the ruled.

    Very interesting point in light of recent polls in the US which show that a majority of people believe the state now operates without the consent of the governed.

  11. PSC

    Modern western governments intrude into our lives much more than any absolute monarch did in 17th or 18th century Europe.

    Hmmm. Just waiting for the reincarnation of Charles I to summon me to the Star Chamber.

  12. Peter Patton

    RL

    Modern western governments intrude into our lives much more than any absolute monarch did in 17th or 18th century Europe.

    And yet today, we are per capita 1,000 times wealthier than those privileged government-free serfs, who live twice as long.

    By your own reasoning, you must me praying for a time when we are completely Socialist, no?

  13. Peter Patton

    Although they may not be fully conscious of it, progressives and social democrats are saying that everything is owned by the state

    What an idiot. This is what Socialists believe, not ‘social democrats’ and ‘progressives’ (who/whatever they are).

  14. Peter Patton

    You have to bring up the subject of immigration. Then you will see many a conservative become an Overlord of Immigration. … If the Overlord locks the doors of Our Nation, then, it is the immigrant who is breaking and entering – even if his landlord, employer, and grocer welcome him with open arms.

    What an idiot. Outsiders have absolutely no claim on our territory whatsoever, whereas we do.

  15. Peter Patton

    The fact that modern western governments are democratidcally elected (after a fashion) also gives them the authority that absolute monarchs derived from the belief that they ruled by God’s grace.

    What an idiot. No they don’t. They know full well their power/authority is derived from – and prescribed by – the Constitution, and periodic elections.

  16. Peter Patton

    Oh, and I’m sure you meant

    The point is that it doesn’t matter from whence the authority of the ruler springs

  17. dover_beach

    Not sure why you’re laying into RL, PP.

    RL: Modern western governments intrude into our lives much more than any absolute monarch did in 17th or 18th century Europe.

    PP: And yet today, we are per capita 1,000 times wealthier than those privileged government-free serfs, who live twice as long.

    RL is more or less right. And there is nothing to suggest that our wealth is a consequence of this increasing intrusion.

    What an idiot. No they don’t. They know full well their power/authority is derived from – and prescribed by – the Constitution, and periodic elections.

    How do constitutions confer authority?

  18. FDB

    What a truly bizarre piece.

    Authority derived from elections equals overlording dominion, does it?

    What useless, simplistic guff.

  19. .

    It’s not simplistic at all. It’s about agency theory. Even socialists should get fired up about this stuff. As the principal, and Government as our agent, are you happy with public healthcare for example, purely on a judgment of management?

    Anyone with any interest in Government should be concerned. Either they claim authority from you or claim to exercise their own over you for your own good.

  20. FDB

    Dot, all I need do to destroy the analogy is imagine what the average health care coverage/quality of ordinary citizens would be like under a real overlord.

    Overblown crap like this is just an excuse for not thinking up genuine, workable criticisms of public policy.

    The questions you raise about the performance of authorities are real ones, and you’re right that anyone interested in government should be ‘concerned’ but these points are not relevant to the discussion Klein’s having with himself about tyrannical democracy.

  21. jtfsoon

    I agree. Caplan’s argument is simplistic nonsense and rhetorical confusion. And you can’t advocate for a radical cause like open borders immigration simply by calling your opponents ‘overlords’. I should note that Caplan is also a pacifist. He is a mother lode of simplistic libertarian arguments.

  22. jtfsoon

    Either way, simply by being in the United States, you voluntarily agree to all government rules.

    Well yes, pretty much. You may disagree with the continuation of those rules by arguing against them and trying to convince others. But you implicitly agree to abide by the terms of the social contract as long as you’re in the country.

  23. dover_beach

    Authority derived from elections equals overlording dominion, does it?

    What useless, simplistic guff.

    If that was Caplan’s argument it would be, happily it isn’t. It nevertheless remains true that ‘democratic’ decisions can certainly involve the exercise of dominion.

    It’s not simplistic at all. It’s about agency theory. Even socialists should get fired up about this stuff. As the principal, and Government as our agent, are you happy with public healthcare for example, purely on a judgment of management?

    Anyone with any interest in Government should be concerned. Either they claim authority from you or claim to exercise their own over you for your own good.

    Firstly, I don’t think principal/ agent is particularly, appropriate; better to think of this in terms of trustee and beneficiary where the government is the trustee and the people are it’s beneficiaries. Secondly, what you’re concerned about isn’t authority, but the exercise of managerial control when ruling would simply be sufficient. The difference is that between coaching and umpiring; governments increasingly not only want to umpire the plays, they also want to direct the play.

  24. Mr. Papaya

    You have to bring up the subject of immigration. Then you will see many a conservative become an Overlord of Immigration. … If the Overlord locks the doors of Our Nation, then, it is the immigrant who is breaking and entering – even if his landlord, employer, and grocer welcome him with open arms.

    What rubbish. Caplan verbals conservatives as opposing immigration at all, then prosecutes based on that supposition. That’s getting old.

  25. dover_beach

    Dot, all I need do to destroy the analogy is imagine what the average health care coverage/quality of ordinary citizens would be like under a real overlord.

    FDB, you don’t destroy analogies empirically. And anyway, health care in Nazi Germany was on a par with contemporary democracies so your point fails either way.

  26. Julie

    health care in Nazi Germany was on a par with contemporary democracies

    Surely health care was not available to Jews and other undesirables and so was not ‘on a par with contemporary democracies’.

  27. FDB

    “FDB, you don’t destroy analogies empirically.”

    You’re quite correct.

    Sorry, I shouldn’t have used the word ‘analogy’ to describe what is actually a statement of genuine equivalence.

    But it’s destroyed, in any case.

  28. dover_beach

    Sorry, I shouldn’t have used the word ‘analogy’ to describe what is actually a statement of genuine equivalence.

    FDB, it was neither of those things. And, no, it wasn’t destroyed, as I’ve demonstrated, either conceptually or empirically. You haven’t in any way shown that democratic decisions can never involve the exercise of dominion because this is impossible. The manner in which a government is constituted tells us nothing about the character of it’s engagements. This was wonderfully illustrated, although unwittingly, by Nozick in Anarchy, State and Utopia.

  29. Peter Patton

    db

    How do constitutions confer authority?

    What an odd question. How do they not confer authority?

  30. Peter Patton

    RL is more or less right. And there is nothing to suggest that our wealth is a consequence of this increasing intrusion.

    Well what is being achieved by mentioning 17/18th century Europe?

  31. dover_beach

    It’s not odd at all; if the question is straightforward – I accept that it is – you can just answer it.

  32. dover_beach

    Well what is being achieved by mentioning 17/18th century Europe?

    That isn’t RL’s fault, but MS’s since the latter referred to absolutism and kingship, and the 17th/ 18th century is famous for absolute monarchies.

  33. Peter Patton

    db

    I am not “faulting” RL for anything. I am faulting that quote. An analogy has two parts. The first here is government intrusion: the comparison is between western governments in 2011 and 17/18th century european absolute monarchies. So what is the second comparison? Presumably something very bad about 17/18th century, which – like government intrusion today – is much worse today. The way the analogy is set up is that this second deprivation we allegedly suffer in 2011 is caused by the first deprivation – government intrusion.

    As this second deprivation was not mentioned, I thought I would posit a difference between our lives then and now. Clearly, you think I have chosen the wrong one. Please explain what the correct comparison is.

  34. Peter Patton

    Once we have that out of the way, then we can expose the initial claim for the idiocy it is. The problem with site is they constantly rely on this sort of historical analogizing to make points about the superiority of their take on liberty/ariniansm, but the analogies are invariably either just plain wrong or ridiculously ill-informed. Have you read their foragers versus farmers stuff? It is yet another example of the autism typical of modern academic economics.

  35. dover_beach

    PP, I think we may be speaking about different things, what quote are you referring to?

  36. Rococo Liberal

    And yet today, we are per capita 1,000 times wealthier than those privileged government-free serfs, who live twice as long.

    This silly statement is a classic case of post hoc propter hoc

  37. Rococo Liberal

    Oh, and I’m sure you meant:

    By your own reasoning, you must mbe praying for a time when we are completely Socialist, no?

  38. Rococo Liberal

    They know full well their power/authority is derived from – and prescribed by – the Constitution, and periodic elections.

    What utter simplistic bollocks, PP

    Firstly power and authority are two different things. Laws give power, but authority is an intellectual/cultural force. maybe it would be best terjmed ‘legitmacy’

    Secondly, the Constitution has force because it is an Act of the UK Parliament. The latter has force through the Crown’s concessions over the centuries. However, the Crown’s power and authority stem from the mists of history. A constituion is merely a framework for deciding how government will be formed and what powers it has.

    At the time the Oz Constitution was drafted, the intellectual climate and public mood favoured democratically elected Parliaments. The Constitution . Hence, democracy in Oz owes its authority and legitmacy to the ongoing preference of its citizens for democacy. I agree that our Constitution’s success means that simple people now somehow think it is the moral wellspring of our polity, but it is merely a set of rules that enforces what most of us think of as the legitimate moral authority of democratic elections.

    If enough Australians decided that democacy did not have the moral legitimacy, then I am sure we would change our system of selecting our governors, whether by Constitutional means or not. That is after all what the Americans did in 1776. They decided that political authority should come from the people, not the King, hence their Constitution which lays down the ground rules for the exercise of political power.

    BTW As Charles I noted, subjects can have liberty under a Monarch. The right to selecting the government doesn’t confer liberty of itself. My point is that in fact politicians can use democracy as a fig leaf for denuding the citizens of liberties.

  39. Peter Patton

    Good grief, your logic is worse than your grasp of constitutional history and Sociology 101.

    I said

    They [modern western governments] know full well their power/authority is derived from – and prescribed by – the Constitution, and periodic elections.

    which means that a Constitution details what powers a government has.

    You say, I am talking “utter simplistic bollocks”. You very kindly offer an alternative to my utter simplistic bollocks.

    A constituion is merely a framework for deciding how government will be formed and what powers it has.

    which I do believe is precisely the “utter simplistic bollocks” you derided above.

  40. Peter Patton

    At the time the Oz Constitution was drafted, the intellectual climate and public mood favoured democratically elected Parliaments

    Not in Australia it didn’t, which is why we do not have a democratic constitution. Our Constitution establishes a a representative federal constitutional monarchy.

  41. Peter Patton

    If enough Australians decided that democacy did not have the moral legitimacy, then I am sure we would change our system of selecting our governors, whether by Constitutional means or not

    In other words, you agree with me that the source of authority for our governments is periodic elections. In other words, you have agreed completely with what you insist is “utter simplistic bollocks.” Jesus wept.

  42. .

    The ACT constitution is interesting. It is like a vassal republic rather than a federated monarchical sub polity.

  43. dover_beach

    Good grief, your logic is worse than your grasp of constitutional history and Sociology 101.

    PP, RL’s point above is that though the Constitution sets out the powers of the office of authority and its apparatuses, it does not itself confer authority since that is something related to the opinions of those whom are subject to it’s power.

    In other words, you agree with me that the source of authority for our governments is periodic elections.

    His, and my point, is that it isn’t periodic elections, among other things, that confer authority but our belief in periodic elections which confers authority. That is why authority is a matter of opinion.

  44. Peter Patton

    In other words, any claim made by you or RL about the Australian govt’s authority is not only unfalsifiable, but unverifiable, ergo utter bollocks.

  45. dover_beach

    In other words, any claim made by you or RL about the Australian govt’s authority is not only unfalsifiable, but unverifiable, ergo utter bollocks.

    Why would that be the case? We can investigate a people’s beliefs about authority by reading or listening to what they say about authority and thus determine that the source of a government’s authority, not it’s power, is that it coincides with the people’s beliefs about authority. That is why every form of authority is nevertheless always an endowment of those who fall within its ambit.

  46. Peter Patton

    dot

    I’ve never thought about the ACT Constitution before? Does it have an upper house? A Head of State?

  47. .

    Maybe best to have a quick look yourself. Of course you may notice it is like a local council:

    http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/cth/consol_act/acta1988482/

    More like a colony, really.

  48. dover_beach

    I’ve never thought about the ACT Constitution before? Does it have an upper house? A Head of State?

    No, and no.

  49. dover_beach

    Where does the Australian Capital Territory (Self-Government) Act 1988 derive it’s authority from?

  50. Peter Patton

    What a shemozzle. It has the same plenary powers of the States, which were former colonies, to make laws for “peace, order, and good government”; but then goes into enormous detail denying the LA powers in relation to porn and euthanasia! :)

  51. Peter Patton

    Canberra: Australia’s hotspot for Sex and Death! :)

  52. .

    I don’t even fair to call it a constitution. Is it?

    Could have the Brits changed ours before 1942 if we liked it or not?

  53. Jarrah

    “His, and my point, is that it isn’t periodic elections, among other things, that confer authority but our belief in periodic elections which confers authority. That is why authority is a matter of opinion.”

    You are making lots of sense, d_b. I’m not sure why you didn’t apply the same reasoning to our discussion about morality.

  54. dover_beach

    You’d have to refresh my memory about that, Jarrah.

  55. Peter Patton

    Well, the Statute of Westminster did not apply to the States – that’s what the Australia Acts in 1986 achieved – so technically, the States were still subject to the Colonial Laws Validity Act (Imp) 1865. The CLVA gave the colonial States full legislative effect, EXCEPT to the extent any State legislation was repugnant to UK Imperial legislation that was passed with any colonial State in mind.

    So, theoretically, the UK Parliament could still legislate for the States, until 1986. Then, there are Crown prerogative powers, which the Governor – and therefore the UK Parliament – could exercise, again, before 1986. But always remember that the UK Crown’s prerogative powers over the Australian States and Commonwealth were always subject to the UK Parliament.

    So before 1942 – well at least 1931 – the UK Parliament could theoretically have changed both the Commonwealth and State Constitutions through changes in the Imperial parliamentary legislation, which authorized those Constitutions – 1853 for NSW and 1900 for Australia. But not after 1941 for the Cth and 1986 for the States.

  56. Jarrah

    Dover, it was when I was saying there is no way to judge morality except through a moral framework (there is no Platonic ideal), that determining what is moral depends on a commonly-agreed morality, and therefore morality is a matter of majority opinion.

  57. Michael Sutcliffe

    and therefore morality is a matter of majority opinion.

    Do you agree with this Dover?

  58. dover_beach

    Jarrah, I’ve never doubted that judging a morality requires a framework but accepting this doesn’t mean that what is moral depends upon majority opinion since a majority can always decide to act in ways contrary to their own morality.

  59. jtfsoon

    we have no direct pipeline to God so strictly speaking morality is a matter of opinion or agreement

  60. C.L.

    …morality is a matter of majority opinion.

    I think this was essentially Goldhagen’s thesis in Hitler’s Willing Executioners. It also explained the endurance and potency of segregation and lynching in the old South.

    But those in the minority opposing such travesties were the ones espousing true, objective morality.

  61. dover_beach

    Yes, but there are more or less reasoned opinions.

  62. Michael Sutcliffe

    Dover, am I right to assume you’re claiming a moral position based in reason is superior to one based in something like mysticism even if the majority opinion holds to the latter?

  63. rog

    Morality, ie our knowledge of right and wrong, is intrinsic to humans. Religion gets its morality from people and you dont have to believe in a or any god to be religious.

  64. Jarrah

    “objective morality”

    No such thing.

    “Yes, but there are more or less reasoned opinions.”

    This I agree with. I believe certain moralities are better than others because they have more compelling reasoning behind them.

    Of course, how I measure how compelling they are is directed by what moral framework I apply to them!

  65. Michael Sutcliffe

    Of course, how I measure how compelling they are is directed by what moral framework I apply to them!

    I’d say you’re measuring against some yardstick of ‘goodness’ and it depends on what you consider as ‘good’. Do you think there are any things that are a universal good for human beings?

  66. Jarrah

    “I’d say you’re measuring against some yardstick of ‘goodness’ and it depends on what you consider as ‘good’.”

    Exactly. Morality is wonderfully circular.

    “Do you think there are any things that are a universal good for human beings?”

    A difficult question. Probably not.

  67. Michael Sutcliffe

    No common humanity?

  68. FDB

    “Laws give power, but authority is an intellectual/cultural force.”

    Precisely the reverse of correct. Not bad definitions, but you’ve given them to the wrong terms.

    “maybe it [authority I assume - FDB] would be best terjmed [sic] ‘legitmacy’[sic]”

    Yes, and as a lawyer, you ought to see the giveaway in the term ‘legitimacy’, assuming that’s the word you were trying to type. HINT: it’s not a reference to legs.

  69. Jarrah

    “No common humanity?”

    That’s not what you asked. I understood your question to mean – is there a thing that is good for all humans at all times. This takes us into the murky waters of the self and personhood, so is difficult to answer.

  70. Peter Patton

    and therefore morality is a matter of majority opinion.

    Given notions or tenets of morality are basically passed down, I doubt we can say much opinion goes into morality at all, let alone “majority”. I’ve come around to the view that, yes, Virginia, morality is exclusively a religious phenomenon.

    But even in increasingly atheist societies the legacy of religious morality is extremely sticky, and will remain so. Our language, mythology, and institutions – legal, political, civic, cultural – change very incrementally.

  71. Peter Patton

    There is no such as “common humanity”, which is why morality tends to be local.

  72. Michael Sutcliffe

    That’s not what you asked. I understood your question to mean – is there a thing that is good for all humans at all times.

    That is what I asked and the two are related. Don’t jump straight into the deep end. Are there any basics, how hard can it be? Food, water, shelter, oxygen, doesn’t every human want these?…..do all humans want the ability to choose to keep living?

    This takes us into the murky waters of the self and personhood, so is difficult to answer.

    There’s two aspects of morality here: firstly, how should I act in my own life, or what constitutes a good life? Secondly, how should I deal with other human beings? (Or you can consider the second a subset of the first if you like). For the purposes of an easier and productive debate let’s just limit this to ‘what is the morally correct way to deal with other human beings’? Do you think there are any universal rules in how you should deal with other human beings? Again, let’s just keep it simple: do you think it’s OK to steal other people’s stuff just because you want it, should you kill people you don’t like even if they’re minding their own business, if you have religious convictions should you have the right to impose them on others. Start by answering some of those and explaining your position.

  73. dover_beach

    MS:
    Dover, am I right to assume you’re claiming a moral position based in reason is superior to one based in something like mysticism even if the majority opinion holds to the latter?

    MS, what would make you think otherwise?

    Jarrah:
    “objective morality”

    No such thing.

    This is wrong, I think. There are certain types of conduct, like murder or theft, we can say, objectively, are bad and that they hinder the pursuit of good lives.

    FDB:
    “Laws give power, but authority is an intellectual/cultural force.”

    Precisely the reverse of correct. Not bad definitions, but you’ve given them to the wrong terms.

    What do you think are the right terms then? Law does give power; the Romans called it potestas. And authority is an intellectual/ cultural force; the Romans called it auctoritas. Politically and historically speaking, the Consuls enjoyed potestas while the Senate auctoritas. This meant more or less that the Consuls were the one’s recognised as being able to make executive decisions whereas the Senate was entrusted with the task of giving advice to the consuls (which they could ignore).

    “maybe it [authority I assume - FDB] would be best terjmed [sic] ‘legitmacy’[sic]”

    Yes, and as a lawyer, you ought to see the giveaway in the term ‘legitimacy’, assuming that’s the word you were trying to type. HINT: it’s not a reference to legs.

  74. dover_beach

    Oops, I forget to format and comment on FDB’s last point:

    “maybe it [authority I assume - FDB] would be best terjmed [sic] ‘legitmacy’[sic]”

    Yes, and as a lawyer, you ought to see the giveaway in the term ‘legitimacy’, assuming that’s the word you were trying to type. HINT: it’s not a reference to legs.

    No, I think authority serves adequately; legitimacy can nevertheless be used to qualify types of relationships, etc. What is the “giveaway” BTW?

  75. Michael Sutcliffe

    MS, what would make you think otherwise?

    I just like hearing you say it! :)

    This is wrong, I think. There are certain types of conduct, like murder or theft, we can say, objectively, are bad and that they hinder the pursuit of good lives.

    Bravo.

  76. Peter Patton

    I think he is referring to the leges/lex part of ‘legitimacy’. You know how persnickety these classicist drummers can be. ;)

  77. Peter Patton

    Actually ‘murder’ and ‘theft’ are legal terms. The underlying behavior they proscribe is not necessarily immoral in all circumstances in all cultures, such as – for example – vengeance cultures, or “property is theft” cultures.

  78. FDB

    Power can and is held and exercised without authority.

    Whatever the Romans said, that’s the English usage. Authority is the formal, legal allocation of power.

    We often hear the phrase – “you didn’t have the authority to do what you did”… it makes very little sense conversely to say “you didn’t have the power to do what you did”. The proof of power is all in the pudding – authority is on paper.

  79. dover_beach

    Oh, yes, thanks, PP; but I don’t see how that helps his argument. We want an explanation of why the law (or anything for that matter) can come to have authority, and an explanation that goes: the law has authority because it is law, is not a very good explanation.

  80. dover_beach

    Power can and is held and exercised without authority.

    Whatever the Romans said, that’s the English usage. Authority is the formal, legal allocation of power.

    I agree, as did the Romans, that is why they distinguished potestas from potentia.

    We often hear the phrase – “you didn’t have the authority to do what you did”… it makes very little sense conversely to say “you didn’t have the power to do what you did”. The proof of power is all in the pudding – authority is on paper.

    Again, generally, I agree. But lawyers have this unfortunate habit of referring to the “powers” of government (just think of constitutional law and references to the corporations power, etc) although they mean it in the sense of potestas which more or less means authorised/ legal power.

  81. Peter Patton

    I don’t think bringing a fascist dictatorship like ancient Rome into the discussion really helps your case.

  82. FDB

    “the law has authority because it is law, is not a very good explanation”

    First there was the Word.

    People have been copping out with the same ‘explanation’ since we first put chisel to template. It seems on the face of it unlikely that we’ll suddenly find an answer here, but you’re welcome to keep trying.

  83. pedro

    “the law has authority because it is law, is not a very good explanation”

    True, the correct statement is that the law has authority when you will get whacked if caught not complying.

    “We often hear the phrase – “you didn’t have the authority to do what you did”… it makes very little sense conversely to say “you didn’t have the power to do what you did”. The proof of power is all in the pudding – authority is on paper.

    Again, generally, I agree. But lawyers have this unfortunate habit of referring to the “powers” of government (just think of constitutional law and references to the corporations power, etc) although they mean it in the sense of potestas which more or less means authorised/ legal power.”

    Actually that is just a different meaning of power. The common lawyer translation for ultra vires is “beyond power”.

  84. Peter Patton

    ?? ???? ?? ? ?????, ??? ? ????? ?? ???? ??? ????, ??? ???? ?? ? ?????.

    In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

  85. Peter Patton

    Ultimately, and discussion of ‘power’ is a discussion about violence.

  86. Peter Patton

    And god’s pretty powerful, dudes.

  87. pedro

    “Ultimately, and discussion of ‘power’ is a discussion about violence.”

    Yes, the Maoster had that bit right.

    “And god’s pretty powerful, dudes.”

    Only in your imagination. ;-)

  88. dover_beach

    PP:
    I don’t think bringing a fascist dictatorship like ancient Rome into the discussion really helps your case.

    You forgot the smiley face, PP.

    FDB:
    First there was the Word.

    People have been copping out with the same ‘explanation’ since we first put chisel to template. It seems on the face of it unlikely that we’ll suddenly find an answer here, but you’re welcome to keep trying.

    Actually, no. Again, to use the Roman example, in the beginning, there was not lex, but mores (and fas and nefas). Lex came to have authority; it never had authority from the beginning.

    Pedro:
    True, the correct statement is that the law has authority when you will get whacked if caught not complying.

    No, but that is what legal realists believe.

    Actually that is just a different meaning of power. The common lawyer translation for ultra vires is “beyond power”.

    Regarding the first, yes, but it marks an important difference between authorised power and unauthorised power. Regarding the second, yes, but all that means is that the state or it’s agent may have acted beyond the scope of their potestas. If all that was meant by ‘power’ in “beyond power” was potentia it would be absurd since potentia is only bounded by what one can procure or avert. And to procure or avert what one wills is always to act within the bounds of one’s potentia; to have acted ultra vires in this sense is to have failed.

  89. pedro

    Dover, I was only saying that power also means authority. My experience of the law makes me a legal realist.

  90. Peter Patton

    Lex came to have authority; it never had authority from the beginning

    .

    Tell that to a Jew.

  91. Peter Patton

    Besides, the law in imperial Rome was whatever the fascist dictator – the emperor – said.

  92. dover_beach

    Pedro:
    Dover, I was only saying that power also means authority.

    It can’t also mean authority since we need to distinguish between authorised and unauthorised uses of power, among other things. And civil power is always annexed to civil authority.

    My experience of the law makes me a legal realist.

    Except its very difficult to make sense of the law in realist terms; 20th C legal realism was a cul de sac.

    PP:
    “Lex came to have authority; it never had authority from the beginning”

    Tell that to a Jew.

    The law of Moses was never lex, PP. Lex is something that is created, amended and repealed by human beings.

    Besides, the law in imperial Rome was whatever the fascist dictator – the emperor – said.

    I have in mind the Roman Republic, not Imperial Rome.
    The problem with Imperial Rome is that the various offices that were previously distributed where concentrated in the single office of Emperor.

  93. C.L.

    “objective morality”

    No such thing

    Of course there is such a thing. There is, in fact, no other form of true morality. Public majority opinion is morally irrelevant – as Goldhagen exhaustively demonstrated.

  94. Peter Patton

    db

    Actually, the emperor just got all the powers, which the King had before the Republic.

  95. Peter Patton

    As I said, ancient Rome does your case no favors.

  96. dover_beach

    Actually, the emperor just got all the powers, which the King had before the Republic.

    As I said, ancient Rome does your case no favors.

    I’m not sure what you think my case is PP.

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