In A State Of Nature

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John Locke In a State of NatureJohn Locke was one of the most influential political philosophers that the Founders drew from. In particular, his Second Treatise On Government. His starting place was from what he called being in a “State of Nature.” Here’s my short form take on it.

In a state of nature, i.e. no government, an individual human being by himself has the absolute freedom to do whatever he wants and has no choice but to accept the consequences, for better or worse, of doing so. But people are pretty weak, compared to other animals. Our only real survival tool is using what’s between our ears.

The primary goal of any individual is to survive, having the absolute natural right to life. Survival depends on taking the actions needed to do so, the absolute natural right to liberty. It also depends on keeping the results of your efforts; food, shelter, tools, clothing, territory and so on. So people have an absolute natural right to defend, with deadly force if needed, themselves and their property (which is what the term of art “pursuit of happiness” means in expanded form to include intangibles).

Now, what happens when other people come into the picture? Working and interacting with other people greatly increases your odds of survival. People can spend some of their time doing what they’re best at or prefer to do and trade that with others who do what you don’t. We can choose, if we see it’s in our best interests to do so, to combine our efforts to accomplish what no one person could do by themselves. But none of this changes the basic absolute individual natural rights.

We have some weaknesses too. We don’t know everything and often make mistakes. If they aren’t fatal, we need to learn from them and go on. All too often, we act on emotion rather than reason. Again, if those actions aren’t fatal we need to learn from them and go on.

But when other people are around, we need to find a way to keep the consequences of acting on those weaknesses from outweighing the benefits of interacting with each other.

If someone takes what you’ve spent time and effort on making or trading for, you’re angry, very angry. If you think you know who did it your normal reaction is to try and get it back and punish the person who did it so badly that they’re never going to do it again.

But what if you’re wrong and it was someone else? What if the punishment you would dole out based on your emotional reaction is way too harsh for the actual damage done? Now we have the need for an external organization that equally protects the rights of all parties to the best of its ability. It puts reason and deliberation and judgement back into the picture.

LadyJustice In a State of NatureAt least in theory, the people who are judging don’t have an emotional bias. They have the time to actually look at the evidence and decide if the person accused really is the person who did it. They can weigh the harm done against the range of possible penalties and decides what seems sufficient. They can require restitution (which is something we do too little of) to the person harmed.

There is one caveat in all of this which is that the organization has to have the authority to use force, deadly force if needed, to enact its decision. It is exactly the same force that an individual has an absolute natural right to use when in a state of nature to defend himself and his property that is delegated to the government and is the derived source of all proper government powers.

Some forms of government do do a much better job of protecting the absolute natural rights of individuals than others. If the current form isn’t getting the job done, in the judgement of the people who are subject to it, they can withdraw their authorization and set up a new organization (government) that they believe will work better at maximising the benefits of living with others while minimizing the costs in terms of what seems most important to them.

Take all this and then put it into the context of the Declaration of Independence and see if it sounds familiar.

Things Worth Checking Out, 7-5-14

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Hilarious column from Reason taking a very tongue-in-cheek approach to outlawing volunteerism.

And another on the ExIm (Export-Import Bank) authorization. It’s about as Crony Capitalistic an organization as you can get.

I’ve run across this video once before, but forgot to get the code for it. What is the scientific method as described by Dr. Richard Feynman, a Nobel prize (and many others) winning physicist? Then compare that definition to the Global Warming/Climate Change/Alarmist crowd. Hint: None of the theories and models have come close to accurately predicting the facts on the ground (or in the air or water).
It’s getting late, so this will have to do me for tonight.

Rights And The Declaration Of Independence

Declaration of Independence

Sorry for not being here lately. Sometimes earning money to pay the bills has to take precedence. This is an expanded version of a comment I made on PBS at (http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/finding-empowerment-words-founding-fathers/). Fascinating … [Continue reading]

The Well-Regulated Definition

Fireworks in Cluj Napoca

he phrase "Well-Regulated" is so long out of use that dictionaries no longer cover it as a phrase. Since the word "regulated," in common (non-scientific) usage requires an external regulator, many people assume that a well regulated militia requires … [Continue reading]

Things Worth Checking Out 6-22-14

Let's take a look inside those unemployment numbers. We're still a LONG way from a healthy job market. Our Decimated Labor Force at The Weekly Standard shows that it's not "just the baby boomers retiring" that are drawing down the participation rate … [Continue reading]

Name That Period

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Climate Change Severe Weather Trends

SeaSurfaceTempOVerTime

One of the consequences of catastrophic climate change is the increase in severe weather events. Here, in graphic form are the trends for some types of severe weather such as tornadoes, hurricanes and droughts     Maybe … [Continue reading]

A Living Wage – Why Those Evil, Greedy Corporations Just Won’t Pay It

I get so tired of hearing that complaint. A Living Wage? My first question is, just what defines a living wage? Considering there are hundreds of millions of people living (barely surviving, but living) on less than $1 a day, I'd say just about any … [Continue reading]

Gun Control? Crime, Death And The Media

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As usual, whenever there's a "newsworthy" crime that involves guns in any way, you can be certain of one thing ... there will be calls for more gun control. People die every day from unnatural causes and most of those deaths are tragedies, in one way … [Continue reading]

Thoughts For The Day

Obama took an unplanned trip to Afghanistan for ...? Did he do anything there other than to try to make news? How many millions, if not tens of millions of dollars did it cost to make the morale boosting trip? Who was he trying to boost? The troops … [Continue reading]