Monday, July 13, 2015

The Right Exercise

Blogging isn't actually dead, but like the people who do it, it is changing.  One of the blogs I regularly read (it says exactly that right there in the right side column) is Borepatch which offers commentary on guns and whatever else twinges his/their attention meter.  Reletively recent co-blogger ASM826 has taken up the load while Borepatch himself attends to too-long neglected motorcycle jockeying (he offers continued Proof of Life here though).  In a series of recent posts ASM826 discusses the concept of "rights" with fellow commenters, beginning with this post which illustrates the distinction of process that exists between the pontificational approach of journalism and the conversational interaction of blogging. 

ASM826 sets out to discuss the recent debates over historical icons and symbols and, in response to commenters posts this discourse about the distinctions between rights and privilege and some of the ramifications of how both those things are and ought to be expressed.  The part he wrote that I found of particular interest was this:

So too, the guy who stands up and says, "I believe in the right to free speech, but..." doesn't believe in free speech. He believes in regulated speech, approved speech, controlled speech. It's the kind of thinking that puts up cattle fences outside a convention hall and calls it a "free speech zone". It's the kind of thinking that creates a law that bans "hate speech".
 My comment (among several others, often focused on something else also said) was:

People who demand acknowledgement of their rights, but refuse to acknowledge limits on the exercise of their rights don't understand how rights work.

People who object to other's exercise of their rights because they find such exercise offensive also don't understand how rights work.

People who think that the exercise of rights can ever be anything but contentious, or occur equilaterally without the threat of third-party force, don't understand how exercise works.

Pop quiz: Stipulate that everyone has the same rights; whose rights go first/farthest? Who says?

I'll wait. 
I felt confident that my observation had struck at least a minor chord when I read the follow up post in which ASM826 made mention:

The pop quiz? We only have the rights and freedoms we are willing to defend.
While I don't disagree with this sentiment, as I noted in reply it doesn't really address the issue I was commenting on:

Rights are the sole property of individual human beings, and all humans possess rights. It is the exercise of those rights, both individually and in groups, that is the contentious issue.

Human social constructs like nations or religions are all efforts to regulate the exercise of individual's rights in a pluralistic setting utilizing various methods. Again, the contention arises from the degree and partiality of the regulation on the exercise of the rights. Efforts to claim ownership of others rights are merely efforts at regulating expression of those rights.

No claim is being made by me as to the propriety or effectiveness of any particular effort at regulating expression of rights, but it seems less than useful to argue about what isn't occuring (your rights cannot be taken from you) while ignoring the necessity for the existence of what actually is being abused and misappropriated (who gets to exercise their rights, how).

Much like jokes, if you have to explain a quiz the hoped-for effect is largely destroyed. That noted, to the exact degree you are unwilling to defend other's exercise of their rights, you are actively working against the exercise of your own. The resulting mutual loss of freedom is merely the to-be-expected outcome, also often referred to as Bad Luck. To engage in disputation over the existence or ownership of rights is to miss the point of the exercise entirely.

Yes, puns are a terrible personal failing.
I've only just very briefly excerpted ASM826's words here, you really do need to follow the links and RTWT to understand his point(s) and place all the comments in their proper context.  Also, if you would like to read a truly sterling example of "miss(ing) the point of the exercise entirely", I direct your attention to the Paul Bonneau comment immediately following mine (and quoted here):

"That noted, to the exact degree you are unwilling to defend other's exercise of their rights, you are actively working against the exercise of your own. The resulting mutual loss of freedom is merely the to-be-expected outcome, also often referred to as Bad Luck. To engage in disputation over the existence or ownership of rights is to miss the point of the exercise entirely."

So, even if they are non-existent, just memes, our liberty depends on accepting this fiction?

No. There are no rights. There is only self-interest and will and action. The concept of rights has been usurped and turned to the benefit of the ruling class. They are thrilled to have you believe their job is to protect and define what rights you have. That is the modern-day function of rights, just a tool for the ruling class to keep us under their thumb.

Every expression of a right is made stronger and clearer by eliminating any mention of right. What is the stronger statement? "I have a right to bear arms", or "I won't be disarmed."

I realize most people find it impossible to think outside the box.
At this point, I wish to make clear that the purpose of this post is two-fold; one, to more widely disseminate the discussion of rights and their expression being conducted on the Borepatch blog page, and two, to allow me to dissect the statement I quote above separately from the Borepatch forum.

I assert the position that the existence of rights within human beings is a thoroughly discussed and long since universally established condition inherent to humanity's existence.  I further assert that modern debates about rights actually involve the exercise of rights, and the restriction on exercise of rights.  As demonstrated by M. Bonneau, discussions regarding rights are frequent targets of efforts to rehash long settled debates concerning the existence of rights by, from the evidence quoted above, people either unfamiliar with children or themselves examples thereof.  Case in point, his question regarding the relative rhetorical strengths of the two cited statements is irrelevant.  The former asserts an established fact of human nature, while the latter challenges the expression of other's rights and implies threat to those who might wish to do so themselves.  Should any feel so inclined, feel free to Fisk further in the comments.

Rights could be considered analogous to the existence of human hair or skin coloration in the same way that expression of those rights could be compared to expression of human conscience.  The right to kill another human may or may not be wrongful behavior, but that the right and the impulse to exercise it exists within all humans is beyond contention.  Thus any further discussion of merit should address the development of processes whereby such expression of rights (all rights) can be most widely distributed between all humans with as little damaging impact upon one another as can be provided for in advance.  Development of a process whereby such impact can be mediated after-the-fact should be the minimum requirement for any human association laying claim to the title "civilization".

Rights are.  Exercise of rights will and, I think necessarily must be, a matter of unresolvable contention between those seeking to exercise their rights in any degree of proximity to other humans.  Unresolvable, but not irremediable, I submit.  I think a good argument could be made that the majority of human history, philosophy and religion records efforts at just such attempts at mediation.

To some one's benefit, at least.  More rarely, to many someones.  Very occasionally, to the majority of someones.

All of these efforts at mediation between individual exercise of human rights involve some restriction on the exercise of (to be honest, most of them require the total restriction - to the point of outright denial of existence - of almost everyones) rights as a matter of necessity.  You cannot exercise your rights in an unrestricted fashion without impinging on my right to not be so impinged upon.   

And vice versa.

Discussions of rights focus on the equitable exercise of rights by humans, among humans, at variable degrees of remove from each other, to include each other's individual and mutual property.  So, pretty much unresolvable by definition, if only due to the variability of the circumstances and degree and number of involved parties.  Any mediation process must necessarily be capable of the required level of complexity that may arise. In the modern human context, government is the mediation process we have developed (and continue to modify) which uses law and regulation as the means of arriving at the necessary mediation between our competing interests (the definition of which we also continue to modify).  Please tell me that no one reading this is at all surprised that factions devoted to advancing themselves purely through manipulation of the established mediation processes arose right alongside development of those processes.

Sun Tzu didn't have to look all that far for examples of the inter-related nature of the impulses he sought to codify.  No one works to take away your rights (and couldn't if they did).  Lots of people work to restrict your opportunity to exercise your rights.  Working to assure continued opportunity to exercise your rights must necessarily include everyone else being able to do so also (or guess which group you belong to).  Efforts to deny recognition of other's possession of rights equal to your own are merely efforts to steal from them. 

Which introduces the concept of "liberty", defined in this circumstance as the measure of a given individuals opportunity to exercise his rights.

By that definition, liberty cannot be unconstrained.  Measuring liberty must always revolve around maintaining the means for the most humans being able to exercise their rights to the maximum extent that continued opportunity for exercise of the rights of others permits.  Liberty therefore becomes the measure of the limits of cooperative exercise of individual rights within a mediatable circumstance.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

The Future Is Here (follow the links)

Chris Byrne has a new post up Moving Towards Post Scarcity in which he keys in on probably the most important factor in further advancing human development - abundant energy.  Chris focuses on thorium nuclear reactor technology (see this excellent Brian Wang Next Big Future post from 2011 for more on thorium reactor technology) (and here for more recent molten salt reactor technology development progress) and refinement of existing electrical distribution networks into more localized structures.  This topic, and "future-ism" generally, has had my irregular attention for several years now, so I always enjoy reading another's perspective.