Thursday, November 15, 2012

A Secession Question

So people are rightfully making fun of these modern secessionists.

Here's a question: would you advocate supressing secession by force?

I think I would, if it were declared and didn't go through some constitutional process (i.e. - an amendment that says "the state of Texas shall no longer be governed by this Constitution"). If they just declared it and left I think I would.

It's not that I think secession is un-American. It's thoroughly American. But it's also traitorous and unconstitutional. And in this case it would be a very bad idea that would impose costs on everyone north of Mexico and south of Canada (and north of Canada, for that matter - I didn't forget you guys!). Actually it would probably impose costs on Mexico and Canada too.

The point is, it's traitorous and unconstitutional and clearly does not carry a payoff that makes it worth committing treason and violating the Constitution over. A war over it would be terrible, but I think over the very long run it would be better than letting them go.

If they actually managed to pass a constitutional amendment disolving the Union I'd think it was a dumb idea, but I would consider it legitimate.

49 comments:

  1. For me it depends a upon the settlement.

    Do they plan to abandon their citizens social security, and medicare "entitlements". Would they allow for the federal property/facilities within their borders to be transferred, and pay for the cost?

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  2. Traitorous is a loaded term in this context, and in fact, treason is defined in the Constitution as warring against the states. So, you would be committing treason by using war to prevent their secession, not a state peacefully leaving the union that they voluntarily joined. That aside, I don't see anything in the Constitution referring to secession, and in fact, the states are reserved all rights not delegated to the Federal government. So, leaving the voluntary union would be one of these rights reserved to the states.

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    1. The states are signed on to the Constitution as the law of the land.

      If they break that commitment outside of venues provided for in the Constitution, I can't see how that is anything but unconstitutional.

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    2. Provisionally, so long as they are a party to the constitution. I see nothing here preventing them from leaving a union that they voluntarily entered. And, as I pointed out, the constitution was pretty clear that treason is levying war against the states, so your proposal (to levy war against seceding states) is entirely unconstitutional.

      Now, you might say that since the state seceded that this part of the constitution no longer applies. However, one must look at this from both sides. Certainly, a state declaring secession no longer thinks that it is a part of the union, but those wishing to prevent such secession certainly think that such a state is still part of the union. And since they are the parties to the constitution, and are levying war against a state to prevent secession, they are indeed engaging in an unconstitutional act, as well as treason.

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    3. Also, I don't think that levying war against a seceding state is consistent with any sense of a just war.

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    4. Oh, and just to repeat, secession isn't mentioned at all in the constitution, so there exists no "venues" other than those that are reserved to the discretion of the states.

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  3. The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

    There is no power granted to the federal government to prohibit secession. Virginia was expressly promised by the proponents of the constitution that it retained a right of secession and nullification.

    You're a pretty vicious and gunslingin' kind of guy, DK. Drones for the Pakistanis and invasion of states by the feds. Can the president order individual pro-secessionist citizens to be murdered with drone launched missiles? If he starts a war on a state, can the state shoot back with missiles aimed at Keynesians? Especially if the shooters wear official military uniforms?

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    1. You're a pretty vicious and gunslingin' kind of guy, DK. Drones for the Pakistanis and invasion of states by the feds. Can the president order individual pro-secessionist citizens to be murdered with drone launched missiles?

      Yes because that's Constitutional. There are pieces of paper with the targets written on them and everything. Obama said so.

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  4. Out of curiosity what do you think about the situation in Scotland and their upcoming vote on independence?

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    1. I don't know enough about it or British constitutionalism.

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  5. Daniel suppose I just want to leave the United States permanently? Like physically get up and leave? Is that OK or can I be shot?

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    1. I don't understand - why wouldn't that be OK?

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    2. I don't understand - why wouldn't that be OK?

      Well what if everyone in Texas wanted to get up and leave? That would be OK, right? You couldn't shoot them?

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    3. xgsmmy (formerly anon/nonanon)November 16, 2012 at 1:43 AM

      Bob,,I don't understand your argument either, but it's highly unlikely *everyone* in any particular state would favor secession.

      Daniel, I'm thinking there is really no difference between secession and an independence movement other than anti-federalist interpretations of the constitution.

      I've been thinking about the libertarian free state movement in this regard. That libertarians should all collectively "colonize" a small state like New Hampshire and push for independence. It would be like they're own Israel.

      (I just noticed it says "all anonymous comments will be deleted.")

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    4. Just wanted to add that secessionists would perhaps do better to pick an relatively unpopulated area of the country as opposed to a state and trying to make it an independent territory within that state. (Although, perhaps that's the difference I'm missing between independence and secession.)

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  6. Daniel, This is why one needs a deep understanding and theory of legitimate democratic authority. I find the anti-secession stance very difficult to square with a normatively-meaningful account of democracy, one grounded in a morally appealing theory of We the People.

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    1. If you mean there are a lot of tensions in constitutional democracies, I'd agree with that. Generally speaking I think they're dynamic tensions that check each other or provide a way for the system to evolve. But I'm not sure what kind of "squaring" you're expecting to see.

      The other day I think I hit on a big difference between you and me. See I just have trouble with this idea that we can talk about "democratic theory" as if it has some kind of independent existence that must be free of tension with all other institutions or value systems it comes into contact with (say, liberalism). We can talk about theories of how democracy operates in the real world. But I have trouble with this "deep understanding of legitimacy" thing. Legitimacy doesn't come from a nailed down, polished theory. It comes from people that live under these institutions. In other words I don't see how institutions are like "dark matter" in the universe. That's a real inconsistency that physicists have to be able to explain. But a tension between different political institutions? Why can't people just live with the tension? Why does it have to be ironed out?

      We generally think that the physical universe has to be all ironed out and consistent. Human society is part of the physical universe, of course, so I have expectations about consistency in psychology, economics, political science, etc. as well. But I don't see why living under a constitutional democratic union that may have tensions is illegitimate just because it gives political philosophers a headache.

      That is how we smart apes live. Philosophy is useful to talk us through it and provide us with insights, but it seems to me legitimacy and keeping the philosophers happy are two quite different things.

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    2. And I know that goes against everything you do day in and day out - but I also know there are at least some philosophers that share my hesitation on these types of questions you're posing.

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  7. We can think of this in terms of two foundational questions.

    (1) What does legitimate political authority and political obligation consist in?
    (a) Fundamentally, members of a legitimate political community have *special obligations* towards each other. We can understand special obligations by contrasting them with our natural moral duties. Natural duties are owed to all persons in virtue of some special feature all persons possess (e.g., shared moral personhood, human dignity). These duties are general and non-voluntary, and they do not depend upon institutions or roles. Special moral requirements, by contrast, are those that arise out of special relationships (e.g., friendship, family) or special transactions (e.g., promises, contracts). These obligations are special, not general, in that they are owed to particular persons or groups (e.g., you do not have promissory obligations to 3rd parties (although you may have some estoppels claims, but those are special cases). Thus, citizen’s obligations are special: they owe each other *additional* moral concern, a concern that is beyond what we owe all persons in virtue of our shared humanity.

    (b) Fundamentally, citizens of a morally legitimate political community live according to the rules of an overarching political/legal order. This is the idea of legitimate political authority: a legitimate polity is partially constituted by a special moral relationship between the polity in general and the citizen as a particular. The polity possesses the normative power to alter the moral landscape. The government institutions possess the capacity to issue directives (e.g., laws) that are *morally binding* on their citizens. In other words, legitimate governments possess the moral power to place citizens under new moral obligations simply by issues directives. Legitimate political authority and political obligation is partially constituted by an obligation of obedience: one must follow the directive whether or not you think it is right, and you must follow it *because* it is the directive of the political community.

    (2) How does democracy make a difference?
    That is the fundamental question to consider. One requires an account of the democratic ideal. This ideal is at a very general level thought to be something like “We the People govern ourselves”. It is an ideal of collective self-determination. But in interpreting the democratic ideal, we must keep in mind what was said above regarding special obligations, legitimate political authority, and political obligation. Why would we attribute to certain persons special moral obligations, requirements that are in addition to what we owe everyone as moral persons? Why would this group--the polity--possess the special moral capacity to make binding decisions, directives with the special ability to alter the existing moral landscape? What is it about these people and this polity that we are willing to say that the persons subject to the decision-making mechanisms are *morally bound* to obey?

    These are all very important and difficult questions. Personally, I think that a commitment to violent resistance to a particular subset’s desire to leave the collective undermines the polity’s claim to legitimate political community. But this is something that I cannot completely flesh out here. I see a tension in what needs to be said in answering (1) and (2), with your stance on secession.

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  8. My memory -- which may be mistaken, since I'm real old and all that -- is that the issue of whether states could secede from the Federal Union came up once before in American history. I don't recall all the trifling details except that a President from Illinois was somehow involved.

    Could all you experts enlighten me, please?

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    1. So, you're saying that we should invade Normandy?

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  9. Mike, There are two issues that you can consider. First, whether secession is "legal" under federal/state law. Second, whether secession is morally permissible. The first question is a purely legal question, the second a question for moral and political philosophy. What is somewhat interesting, however, is that your reference to Lincoln and the Civil War has no bearing on *either* question. It is not the case that, under federal law, a President can unilaterally determine the constitutional status of secession. It is also not the case that, under federal law, a "war against seceding states" settles the legal status of secession.

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  10. I obviously disagree. Speculating here, I also think that you are in practice committed to a much more robust moral vision of the political than you like to think, but I don’t know you personally so this is as I said mere speculation based on the concepts and normative language you make use of in blogging. This is not something we can resolve here (the implications of using normative language, reason giving, public justification, etc.).

    Although unsolicited (and probably have no interest), here is where I am coming from. My interest in moral and political philosophy arose out of my willingness to make moral judgments and engage in passionate public debate about what ought to be done, etc.. As an agent with a first-person moral point of view, I became hesitant when I discovered reasons to question the coherence and ultimate justifications for particular moral beliefs and ultimately my moral/political worldview. I came to recognize that many of my judgments rested on implicit assumptions that I had not worked out, and because I had not thought them through, I found that I did not have a thoughtful response after a few rounds of “why?” responses from those I was in deliberation with. And I found that I was not at all comfortable with this, with making normative demands on others when I could not provide adequate responses to their requests for moral justification. So when one uses terms like “ought”, “should”, “self-government”, “democratic decision”, “constitutional”, “we”, “our”, and uses these terms in ways that presuppose normative significance, I believe such a person should have views that provide justification for the implicit moral force the speaker intends the words to convey. In other words, if one is willing to make demands on others, they ought to try to work these things out. This is, of course, a first person moral claim on my part. You can accept it or reject it. But I think it goes to how one perceives themselves as a thoughtful and reflective person, that moral and political practice is a very serious business, and that all those willing to engage in it ought to be cautious and have reason and justification for what they do and proclaim. As a result, I think this kind of pragmatic view of the political and moral realm is in the end useless in actual practice and tends to be parasitic on an implicit theory of the good or the right that ultimately drives the agent in moral/political discourse.

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    1. "Parasitic" is an interesting word choice.

      You're assuming that there's some foundationalist basis for these implicit theories of the good that a pragmatic approach is somehow undercutting.

      I doubt that. I think these are moral intuitions that we've evolved. They're not random - we evolved them for quite good reasons. And it's worth thinking about them. But I don't think "parasitic" is right. You're concerned that there is a philosophical foundation that pragmatists fail to tend to at their peril. But of course if there is no philosophical foundation at all, there's no parasitism.

      I think we philosophize about this sort of thing because (1.) thinking through a problem carefully is always helpful, and (2.) we want to feel like things are "justified" - that's an evolved desire too, and probably for good reason, and finally (3.) it helps us creatively generate new moral stances.

      But I don't think these moral intuitions are in any great danger.

      And I actually think that if you take an institutional arrangement that emerges and survives because it works and force it to act like an equation - force it to all square - run some very real risks. That's the difference between a philosophical perspective and a social scientific perspective. I think we can try to understand these institutions and use what we find out to make a difference. But I'm not sure we can take a made up template of what we consider to be "squared" or "legitimate" or "consistent", try to apply it to real live institutions, and throw out the ones that don't meet that criteria and keep (or create) the ones that do.

      Democracy is just a set of institutions and arrangements that emerge out of the fact that thinking, self-conscious primates living in community have gotten to the point in our ability to communicate that we can actually organize ourselves by offering our individual perspectives and coming up with some kind of compromise that's a sort of weighted average of everyone's views, and we've gotten smart enough as primates to recognize that that actually makes people fairly happy under certain conditions.

      That's the thing that one particular species of primates do that you and I mutually take interest in. I doubt we can say much more than that about the essential nature of democracy. We can understand it's operation scientifically. But I wonder about how much we can say about more nebulous qualities of it like "legitimacy".

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  11. (1) I think we are in danger of talking past each other. My comment above was in regards to the internal point of view of those engaging in moral and political discourse. So when Daniel Kuehn uses those words, he is making moral demands on people. That's what "legitimacy" is about in political philosophy. Laws make moral demands on people. Do those directives have moral force? Or are they just people pushing each other around? How ought we to view the law? How ought we view the political realm?

    (2)When you use words like "works", "good reasons", etc., as a justification for some practice you, the person DK, are implicitly committed to certain theories of what is good, what is it that makes something "work", etc.

    On that note, I gotta go work write this paper about Kant's theory of space and time, and rap about Nelson Goodman's "riddle of inducation". I would obviously prefer to discuss these issues. But such is life.

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  12. One more and then I'm really done. The point about intuitions. I'm still not sure where I stand on this issue, which is a major one not just for moral philosophy but for all areas of philosophy, knowledge, etc. But specifically with regards to moral/political philosophy. Peopel *revise* their moral beliefs in recognition of conflicting moral intuitions. That's Rawls' entire program of reflective equilibrium. I dont know where I stand on this issue, but I dont think making the evolutionary point has much bearing on how we ought to respond in the face of *demands for justification*. I also have quibbles with your conservatism regarding social institutions, but that is a way larger issue and has many dangers vis-a-vis people talking past each other (ideal vs. nonideal theory, how they need to interact, etc. Very complicated stuff).

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    1. Just to clarify: talking things through, changing our views, and finding a new equilibrium through talk seems like a pretty neat evolutionary trick too. I'm not saying we're intuition robots.

      The question is, is this a process of discovering through rigorous philosophy a fundamental moral reality - or is it creating through a reflective (and hopefully rigorous) philosophy a new moral reality?

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  13. DK, secession is actually constitutionally permitted. There is no expressed authority in the constitution that grants the federal government the right to use force to hold an individual, or a group of individuals (states) "hostage" in the union. Therefore, the right to secede is actually retained by the individual states, not the federal government.

    Then there is the historical fact that the states prior to ratification were promised by the federalists that they would be able to secede if they wanted.

    Secession is highly, highly "American". The country was created by a secession!

    Your claim that it does not carry a payoff is actually just you arrogating your subjective judgments to a seeming objective level, as if it is true for everyone else. But if states want to secede (and I am not saying they do or they don't, I am saying IF they want to secede), then by the very fact that they choose secession proves the gains exceed the costs. It's how I know you find gains exceeding the losses by making this blog post, instead of doing something else that would incur you with losses.

    You said you are "OK" if Bob as an individual secedes. OK, then presumably you would be OK if Bob and Jack secede. And if you're OK with that, then you should be OK with Bob, Jack and Mary seceding. Keep going, and you should be OK with 100 people, 1000 people, 10,000 people, 100,000 people, 1,000,000 people, 10,000,000 people, whole states seceding.

    Like most violence apologists, you understand small truths like it's wrong to initiate force against another individual. But somewhere between that and the large truths, you do a 180 and all of a sudden, you are willing to use lethal force against 10,000,000 million Bobs if they want to secede.

    There is a huge gap in consistency in your worldview.

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    1. re: "Secession is highly, highly "American". The country was created by a secession!"

      Right, I agree.

      re: "Your claim that it does not carry a payoff is actually just you arrogating your subjective judgments to a seeming objective level, as if it is true for everyone else."

      No, not at all. I've never claimed that was anything other than my judgement. I have to scratch my head at people who don't share it, but I've never once said that it's objective as far as I know.

      re: "But if states want to secede (and I am not saying they do or they don't, I am saying IF they want to secede), then by the very fact that they choose secession proves the gains exceed the costs."

      This just isn't true.

      re: "It's how I know you find gains exceeding the losses by making this blog post, instead of doing something else that would incur you with losses."

      Well this is why I pose the title question. And of course we've gotta wait for something to actually happen to really get some insight.

      re: "You said you are "OK" if Bob as an individual secedes. OK, then presumably you would be OK if Bob and Jack secede. And if you're OK with that, then you should be OK with Bob, Jack and Mary seceding. Keep going, and you should be OK with 100 people, 1000 people, 10,000 people, 100,000 people, 1,000,000 people, 10,000,000 people, whole states seceding."

      If every single person in a state wanted to secede, I'd probably be fine with it. You have to know this is not what we're talking about. Where is your normal railing against majoritarianism?

      re: "There is a huge gap in consistency in your worldview."

      OK, but as I pointed out above you're not really accurately representing what I'm saying on several key points.

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    2. Suppose a single county within New Hampshire votes to secede from the state of NH and from the United States, and suppose the NH state government decides to peacefully accept the county's decision.

      Would you urge the U.S. military to invade the county and kill the secessionists, in order to prevent them from freeing themselves?

      Would you urge that the governor of NH be tried for treason, for failing to attack the county himself?

      If you would not urge the military to initiate violence in this case, then how many counties would have to secede before you WOULD like to see people killed?

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    3. I'd urge the U.S. Congress to accept the secession but urge the NH county to reconsider.

      I don't know why the governor should be tried for treason. States have a right to vote on these jurisdictional changes, and Congress has to vote on it too.

      I would never like to see people killed.

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    4. Okay, if you wouldn't consider it treasonous for one county in New Hampshire to secede from the U.S. then why would you have a problem if all the counties in Texas secede?

      What is your guiding principle here?

      Would you be happier if Texas left one or two counties behind?

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    5. What would be treasonous, as I've said, is doing it unconstitutionally and illegally.

      The Constitution suggests that these things need to be voted on by (1.) the legislatures of the states involved, and (2.) the Congress.

      If (1.) votes "yes", that in and of itself does not strike me as treasonous. Why would it be? Voting for something you or I don't like doesn't rank as "treason", bestquest.

      If the impact on the country would be negligible, I would encourage the Congress to vote "yes", but probably encourage the state to reconsider voting at all (ie - vote again and vote "no"). If it has a bigger impact, I'd have to encourage the Congress to vote "no". I would not want California or Texas to secede.

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    6. "If every single person in a state wanted to secede, I'd probably be fine with it."

      Well, if that is your opinion on secession, why does this not also hold true for other political actions?

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  14. Texas secession is not a great example as this has zero chance of happening in anything resembling the real world. Suppose, though, that Puerto Rico decided to secede. Or Alaska or Hawaii. Would you favor using force to stop it then?

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  15. You have declared that you advocate supressing secession by force. But you also assert that you would never like to see people killed.

    I'll just tell you how that sounds to me, and ask for your reaction.

    It sounds like a slave master who declares that he never likes to see slaves whipped, but who regularly whips disobedient slaves.

    Forcing people to remain obedient to a master, against their will, is always a monstrous moral outrage, whether the master is a slaveholder or a "Congress."

    The picture does not change if the servants have a theoretical but wholly impractical legalistic mechanism for securing their freedom. (e.g. The slaves could purchase their freedom! The people could elect congressmen who would pass a constitutional amendment granting them liberty from congressmen!)

    This topic is a question of morality, not a question of legality.

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    1. Bestquest, I think it is easy to disagree with Daniel without comparing him to a slave master. Similarly, you trivialize slavery and the experience of being a slave by placing it in the same category as "citizen of an illegitimate state". The same thing is done by some feminists who claim that all sex is "rape". You can make points about the injustice or illegitimacy of a socio/legal/political order without reference to concepts that find their force in the very specific nature of a very specific experience.

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    2. Freedom is a vague concept (vagueness is the hot topic these days in the philosophy of language, logic, epistemology). Although you are likely not a Nozickian, it is helpful to think about his story of the slave in order to understand why freedom in general is a difficult philosophical question. The story of the slave is at bottom an example of the Sorites Paradox applied to the concept of freedom. So we can obtain a better understanding of "freedom" if we add additional truth values to the simple True/False or Yes/No dichotomy, perhaps by adding weak negation / strong negation to our logical tools. So instead of thinking in terms of slave/free, we think in terms of (1) definitely slave, (2) possibly slave, (3) ? , (4) possibly not a slave, (5) definitely not a slave [you can add whatever values you want for the extension of the concept "slave" or "freedom", just as long as you keep in mind that this is a continuum].

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  16. Hume, I think you missed the point of Nozick's Slave Tale (http://www.duke.edu/web/philsociety/taleofslave.html). His point wasn’t that freedom is an ambiguous concept. His point was that the slave in his tale remained a slave in each and every situation Nozick listed, and that so-called "citizens" are, in fact, slaves.

    Their lives, their property and their privileges may be taken at any time, at the whim of their master. Plenty of Vietnam draftees are demonstrating this at the moment, as they lie rotting in their graves. Millions of other citizen-slaves are demonstrating it by rotting in jail cells where they are being punished for victimless "crimes."

    It is impossible to exaggerate the monstrous immorality of citizen-slavery, or the callous cruelty of those who would advocate killing secessionists who attempt to throw off their shackles.

    I suspect you might be suffering from Stockholm Syndrome.

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  17. Bestquest, I fully understand what Nozick's story was all about. The problem with his account is the same problem with the skeptic who says there is no such thing as a "heap" of sand or there is no such thing as a "bald" man. Again, it is the Sorites Paradox and results from vague concepts.

    I am very sympathetic with your worldview. I consider myself libertarian-ish / philosophical anarchist-ish. But the quick answer to your examples is simply this: those people are "conscripts" who died in an unjust war. Those people in prison are unjustly imprisoned, that is, they are "prisoners". And those people are in a fundamentally different position than your everyday "citizen". Human language is a great thing. Ordinary expressions contain subtle distinctions about the world that the users of the language thought important to make, and this on-going process developed over thousands of years. It is therefore enlightening to explicate the subtle differences embodied in similar-but-distinguishable terms. You lose much of what is going on by conflating distinct concepts. And I fear that this has happened with your belief that "citizen" and "slave" are basically the same thing.

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    1. I disagree that Nozick's Tale is an example of the Sorites Paradox. There is an extremely bright line between a slave and a free individual.

      If a person's life, or any portion of his liberty or property can legally be taken from him by force, against his will, then he is a slave, even if the taking never occurs. He is legally viewed as property, and his body and the products of his labor are available to be disposed of according to someone else's whims.

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    2. Bestquest, I think you are operating with an account of a "concept" that is different from what most philosophers are accustomed to. What you have just done is stipulate an idiosyncratic definition. If that is how you want to define "slave", then you are more than within your rights to do so. Unfortunately, you will not be able to engage in fruitful discussion with other persons, because most of the speaking world do not use the word "slave" in the same way as you do. Instead, it marks out a distinct concept or idea. For almost every person who has ever considered the concept of slavery, the extension of the concept was limited much more narrowly than you would like, and it certainly did not include within it "citizen". In fact, if we used your criteria for a "slave", everyone, including lawmakers, would be a slave in every legal/political order we could conceive of that legally permits self-defense, contracts litigation, any type of retribution or imprisonment, etc. Of course, I'm sure you have some story for distinguishing different sorts of actions. But now we recognize that, even on your stipulated definition, there is no "extremely bright line".

      Clarity of thought requires recognizing subtleties. Although I don't think we need to reflect on life and the world are around us for too long before we recognize that there are important differences in the phenomenological experience of "being a slave" and "being a citizen", it is important to keep the differences in mind in engaging in philosophical reflection and public discourse (perhaps "freedom" is the concept I should have stressed in my example as what is vague in the story of the slave, and it is this vagueness that allows Nozick to play on our intuitions in the thought experiment).

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    3. I agree that "freedom" is a vague concept. I will go further and assert that it has been misused by propagandists to such an extent that it no longer has any useful, commonly understood definition. It is a dead word and its putrefying corpse is dangerous.

      If Nozick's used the word "freedom" in his tale I can't spot it. I only see "slave."

      I do not recognize anything important in the definition of "draftee" that is not also an element in the definition of "slave." I realize that people are propagandized to respect draftees and sneer at slaves, but having the respect of non-thinking jingoistic idiots does not magically endow an enslaved soldier with liberty. In essence he is still just a glorified slave.

      Those who pretend otherwise are partially responsible for trapping the draftee in his unjust predicament. They helped apply the societal pressure necessary to lure him into meek submission.

      The same applies to other classes of slaves, such as the so-called "taxpayer." Pretending that such people are not laboring for much of each day in involuntary servitude to benefit a class of parasites who are morally unfit to lick shit off their boots just traps them in a perpetual cycle of socially-accepted victimhood.

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  18. Bestquest, Your claims are implausible, so I guess we are just going to have to disagree. Here are a few parting thoughts.

    "I do not recognize anything important in the definition of "draftee" that is not also an element in the definition of 'slave.' ... The same applies to other classes of slaves, such as the so-called 'taxpayer.'"

    My father was a draftee in Vietnam. I would say, and he would most certainly agree, that there is a huge difference between the life he lived before and the life he lived after the war on the one hand and the life of a slave on another. In fact, *my* life would be drastically different if he were a slave rather than a draftee (I would then also be a slave). He lost many friends in that war and it was a moral tragedy that never should have happened. But I would bet my father would have preferred to have lived the 21 years as a US citizen and died in that war then live the same amount of years as a slave. There's just no comparison between the two. It's not even a serious question. I am a taxpayer and I tend to consider the US tax system morally illegitimate and unjustified. That being said, I do not fall pray to shallow thinking and compare my situation to that of those subject to institutionalized slavery. The American instantiation of slavery was particularly egregious and you belittle the moral tragedy of the experience by looking for some common denominator between it and the 21st century U.S. citizen. I worry that many libertarians/anarcho-types do not take moral and political philosophy seriously, and this is unfortunate because I tend to believe that good libertarian philosophers are on the right track.

    It is not very difficult to recognize the difference between living the life of a slave and living the life of a U.S. citizen, and you have not provided a remotely plausible account of slavery or citizenship that would make any thoughtful person think otherwise. I also tend to think that at a deeper level you do not really believe your rhetoric either. Here's a thought experiment. Suppose a dictator, call her Dictator Rothbard, came up to you and, with a gun pointed at your head and tanks at her back, offered the following choices. (1) You get to pick between being a slave or a U.S. citizen (as such a citizen lives on Nov. 18, 2012), or (2) Dictator Rothbard chooses for you (if there is no real difference, why care?), or (3) we flip a coin, heads you get to go live in the wilderness on your own with whoever is willing to come with you, not subject to the legal/political order, tails you are a slave for life under the conditions of historical slavery (and your children are slaves for the rest of their lives, and their children, and their children's children, etc.). Which would you pick? I know what I would pick. And I would tend to question your veracity if you chose otherwise. The point of the thought experiment is not to legitimize or justify the U.S. govt. Rather, it is to bring out the intuitively obvious differences between "slave" and "U.S. citizen".

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  19. "If Nozick's used the word "freedom" in his tale I can't spot it. I only see "slave.""

    Try providing a conception of slavery without reference to "freedom" or some similar concept. In fact, your own stipulative definition defines slavery in terms of "liberty". And this is exactly why Nozick's story plays on our intuitions. Slavery necessarily makes use of the concept of freedom (or liberty or autonomy, etc.) and it is a vague concept.

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    1. Definition of slavery without using the word "freedom":

      If your earnings or possessions can legally be seized without your consent, or if you can legally be forced to do work against your will, then you are a slave.

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  20. It's been fun over at Murphy's hasn't it Daniel?

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  21. RPM: "Daniel suppose I just want to leave the United States permanently? Like physically get up and leave? Is that OK or can I be shot?"

    You can leave; you can't unilaterally declare yourself immune to the laws. That's what secession entails: "your writ no longer runs here."

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