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Rob the Obscure | 261 comments I don't think so...


Rob the Obscure | 261 comments Philosophers frequently disagree. In fact, they often do so vehemently. No surprise to me that the two would have seen the ideas put forth in Republic in very different, even contradictory, ways.


Rob the Obscure | 261 comments Patrice wrote: "I guess the question is "how seriously did Plato take those ideas?" Wasn't it a dialectic? And now I'm wondering if there wasn't some mockery involved. Wasn't the goal to make us think, rather ..."

It's an interesting question. I guess we'll never know for sure. My reading of it didn't indicate any sort of tongue-in-cheek nature to the writing. Remembering Plato's basic philosophical position distinguishing between "ideas" as perfect concepts, and reality as a shadow of that (the Cave analogy), it would make sense to me that he was holding up the ideas in the Republic as an ideal...not really feeling that it was possible to achieve it perfectly, but as an ideal to work toward so that the form of governance was "directionally correct", if not perfect. That view, to me, holds up well in light of his philosophy as a whole.

I also think that if there were significant reason, from a scholarly viewpoint, to doubt Plato's seriousness, then it would be a viewpoint discussed and debated much more prominently among philosophers, historians, and Hellenists, and not a fringe sort of comment or research question.


message 4: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 140 comments Patrice wrote: "I guess the question is "how seriously did Plato take those ideas?" ..."

That's a good question. It's also a good question how many of those ideas originated with Socrates and are passed through Plato, and how many originated with Plato. We must always keep in mind the duality of Socrates/Plato, because Socrates had a habit of tossing out outrageous ideas in order to challenge people to think about them and rebut them as a way of reaching a different truth, Plato, as I read his purer works (the Laws, for example) didn't seem to follow that same intellectual strategy.

That said, I think the ideas in the Republic were meant to be taken seriously, but we have to remember the purpose of the dialogue. It was not a political treatise on how to create the perfect state, but rather it is an examination of what is the just life, looking at that question in the parallel contexts of the individual and the state which individuals create in their attempt to create a just society.


Rob the Obscure | 261 comments Alexis de Tocqueville wrote long after Aristophanes. It is reasonable to assume that he was aware of Aristophanes.

However, his portrayal of democracy was certainly not sarcastic.

Because a writer comes after another probably means primarily this - he comes after another. Not sure how much more can be drawn from that.


message 6: by Bill (last edited Mar 04, 2011 08:57PM) (new)

Bill (BIll_B) | 188 comments Patrice wrote: "I believe that both Aristophanes and Plato had similar ideas about democracy. They didn't like it!"

They hadn't yet seen all the experiments which prove, as Churchill said, "That democracy is the worse system, except for all the others". Or he said something like that...

Also, I think the virtues of democracy arise from a source completely different then its intent and its premise--which is that the majority of people know what the best policies are. This seems blatant nonsense to me.

I think our democracy works only because of the bill of rights--which allows diversity of expression--and therefore insures that many opposing interests have access to manipulating the masses. Which, in turn, assures that no one interest is entrenched in power for too long.

I wonder if my opinion is represented in any particular political philosopher. Anyone?


Rob the Obscure | 261 comments The core of it is this: although an interesting question academically, whether or not the majority of the people "know what the best policies are" is not really the point. The point is that if the majority want to screw up the country, then they have the power to do so.

Conversely, no one who thinks he/she knows what is best, even if they have a minority of support, is free to impose that on the majority of the people.

Ergo, the majority has the right to be wrong.

Moreover, we must remember that "wrongness" and "rightness" are largely in the eyes of the beholder. And to remember that is critical. Here's why: if one thinks the majority is totally screwing things up, they should still completely support their power to do so! Why? Because, when it is their turn, they also want to have the power to effect the change THEY see as fit and proper.

Illustration: 8 years of George Bush, followed by the election of Obama. (Don't get sidetracked, now. This has NOTHING to do with whether one likes Obama or likes Bush. It has ONLY to do with the fact that there was a major swing, and that was only accomplished through a democratic republic. Otherwise, you run the risk of Gaddafi.)


message 8: by Bill (last edited Mar 04, 2011 09:38PM) (new)

Bill (BIll_B) | 188 comments Robert wrote: "although an interesting question academically, whether or not the majority of the people "know what the best policies are" is not really the point...."

I agree thats not the point of why democracies work. I think I said exactly that--though perhaps not as well as I could have.

I was saying it because I think most people have the conception that democracy is good because the majority of the people get a chance to vote what is in their best interest and will do so. Maybe I'm wrong there--maybe most people don't think this.

I think you and I pretty much agree--I can't really find a lot of difference in our posts.

BTW--I like both Obama and Bush. Don't see a whole lot of difference between them.


Rob the Obscure | 261 comments Bill wrote: "Robert wrote: "although an interesting question academically, whether or not the majority of the people "know what the best policies are" is not really the point...."

I agree thats not the point o..."


OK...I get what you are saying. I was taking exception with the implication that this "majority knows best" idea is the "intent" of democracy. I don't think it is, as I indicated. If I misunderstood, and we agree, that's fine.

I must say, though. I am truly amazed that you don't see much difference between Bush and Obama. That's a statement that, at face value, just stops me in my tracks. To me, they are about as much alike as urban cowboy bars and the Metropolitan Opera.


message 10: by Bill (last edited Mar 05, 2011 01:12PM) (new)

Bill (BIll_B) | 188 comments Robert wrote: "I was taking exception with the implication that this "majority knows best" idea is the "intent" of democracy...."

I was saying that I think most people believe this is the intent of democracy. Not that it actually is the intent by the founders of a particular democracy.

Regarding Obama and Bush. I mean not much difference between them in the two most important policy arenas: The role of America in the world, and the role of government in America. I think they are very similar in their outlook in these two areas. I don't think Obama would have invaded Iraq, but that was more a difference in judgement then it was in attitude. As Obama said at the time "I'm not against wars, I'm against stupid wars". And after all, he continued Bush's programs in Iraq and Afghanistan. As well as the 'War on Terror'

I also think they have very similar ideas of what it means to be an American. Which is why they are almost identical on the illegal immigration issue.

Personality wise, there is a difference. I much appreciate Obama's superior articulateness. I also like, what seems to be, his more evaluative approach to decision making. But I think they are both good men, who work hard and conscientiously, both honestly concerned with average Americans and doing what was best for them. They both get a rap for arrogance, I can see where people see that in them, but I really don't think either one is as arrogant as their haters try to portray them.


message 11: by Rob the Obscure (new)

Rob the Obscure | 261 comments Well, I don't agree. But that's fine. I think they are very different in what it means to be an American - worlds apart. I also think they are very different in their approach to international relations. I think Bush has a nationalism that basically sees America as privileged and superior in the world. I don't think Obama feels that way.

I also disagree that they are both good, conscientious men. I think Bush is a war criminal and should be prosecuted as such.


message 12: by Bill (new)

Bill (BIll_B) | 188 comments Robert wrote: "Well, I don't agree. But that's fine. I think they are very different in what it means to be an American - worlds apart. I also think they are very different in their approach to international r..."

I'm reluctant to get into these types of conversations. I could go over to HuffPo for that. I tend to think goodreads is above it. But I do think you're selective in your outrage. Obama has drastically stepped up drone attacks in Pakistan to kill suspected terrorists in suspected hideouts with considerable collateral damage. These are people executed on foreign soil, along with their families, without any sort of due process other then intelligence reports.


message 13: by Rob the Obscure (new)

Rob the Obscure | 261 comments Bill wrote: "Robert wrote: "Well, I don't agree. But that's fine. I think they are very different in what it means to be an American - worlds apart. I also think they are very different in their approach to ..."

Above what? I'm not angry. Just disagreeing with you, that's all.

Yes, I am opposed to what Obama is doing in Afghanistan and Pakistan. However, whether I agree or not there is one thing we know - it is not an illegal war based on a total bald-faced lie. That's the difference.


message 14: by Bill (new)

Bill (BIll_B) | 188 comments Robert wrote: "Bill wrote: "Above what? I'm not angry. Just disagreeing with you, that's all..."

I meant above politics. Which I see as different then discussion of political theory. I didn't think you were angry at me.

I don't think those villagers in Pakistan, and their collateral damage, would be quite as ready as you to draw the differences you do. But then, they're not involved in our domestic politics either.


message 15: by Rob the Obscure (new)

Rob the Obscure | 261 comments Bill wrote: "I don't think those villagers in Pakistan, and their collateral damage, would be quite as ready as you to draw the differences you do. But then, they're not involved in our domestic politics either.
"


Correct


message 16: by Tyler (new)

Tyler  (tyler-d) | 444 comments About the Greek idea of democracy, I can see that people didn't like the majoritarian nature of it, even at the time. I think the ancient Greeks were confused about the idea of the majority having the right to have its way. It took a lot of time before philosophers began disputing the idea that "rights," whatever they are, could properly be attributed to a group of people, such as a majority.

The idea that rights can belong only to individuals took off rather recently, and it's the recognition of that idea that has made democracy a viable alternative to other forms of government. So Patrice is right -- democracy works only because of a Bill of Rights.

It draws attention to what a vague word democracy is. When people say they want it, I'm not sure I automatically know just what it is they're insisting on.

About Obama and Bush I'll say that I see a difference in style, but little in substance.

About the wars what strikes me is that we seem to know what we're fighting against, but the country has no clue what it's fighting for. That is both dangerous and morally compromising. It reminds me of Vietnam.

About the Mideast revolutions, I'm certain that they're the real deal, and that the people, at least in Tunisia and Egypt, are bringing about democracies that protect minority rights at the same time. I'm very surprised.


message 17: by Rob the Obscure (new)

Rob the Obscure | 261 comments If it were up to me, we wouldn't be at war in either Afghanistan or Iraq. I'm not saying there would be no military activity at all - it just wouldn't be a traditional war.

I guess I'm just flabbergasted that people can say there is not much substantive difference between Bush and Obama. I guess it has something to do with the reference point. Compared to Stalin or Mao, I guess they aren't that different. However, on the scale of American political theory, I think they are not even in the same neighborhood, let alone room...in terms of substantive thinking I mean, not style.

But I guess that's a great thing about this country - we can hold our own perspectives and voice them without fear of imprisonment or worse.


message 18: by Tyler (last edited Mar 13, 2011 09:04AM) (new)

Tyler  (tyler-d) | 444 comments I guess I'm just flabbergasted that people can say there is not much substantive difference between Bush and Obama. I guess it has something to do with the reference point.

Yes, I agree. I'm using a more inclusive reference point. The disagreements between the parties are relatively minor in light of the big picture.

Here are a couple of examples. When Obama took over, he retained all of Bush's financial advisors. Why would he have done that? Because he and Bush aren't that far apart on issues pertaining to financial regulation -- neither wants to change the status quo.

As another example, people were infuriated by Obama's expansion of health care. But Bush did exactly the same thing back in 2006, when he created a vast new program, Medicare Part D, to cover the costs of prescription drugs. There are questions about cost containment in both cases, but in neither has that been addressed.


message 19: by Rob the Obscure (new)

Rob the Obscure | 261 comments Tyler wrote: "I guess I'm just flabbergasted that people can say there is not much substantive difference between Bush and Obama. I guess it has something to do with the reference point.

Yes, I agree. I'm usi..."


Do you honestly feel that creating Medicare part D and the current health reform bill are comparable in their scope and the depth of departure from status quo?


message 20: by Tyler (new)

Tyler  (tyler-d) | 444 comments The scope of the Obama expansion is greater, but the nature of each program is the same, each being devoid of meaningful ways to hold down health care costs. If that's the case, doesn't that point to some broader issue that makes the particular disagreement between the two parties comparatively minor?


message 21: by Bill (new)

Bill (BIll_B) | 188 comments I agree with Tyler, the most significant difference between Bush and Obama is that Bush invaded Iraq, and there is relatively little difference otherwise.

And even on Iraq, while Obama would not have done that had he been president at the time, it would not be for the reasons Robert gives; i.e. that it was an illegal war. It has never been Obama's objection that the war was illegal, his was always the simple objection that it wasn't sufficiently justified.

There is little doubt, to me, that if Obama felt another country's government represented a serious threat, he would do preemptive war (and to hell with the UN) just as Bush did. He simply didn't feel this was warranted with Iraq.


message 22: by Rob the Obscure (new)

Rob the Obscure | 261 comments Bill wrote: "There is little doubt, to me, that if Obama felt another country's government represented a serious threat, he would do preemptive war (and to hell with the UN) just as Bush did. He simply didn't feel this was warranted with Iraq. ..."

Well, since this particular part of the conversation is pure speculation, I won't drag it on except to say that there is significant doubt, to me, that this would be the case.


message 23: by Rob the Obscure (new)

Rob the Obscure | 261 comments Tyler wrote: "The scope of the Obama expansion is greater, but the nature of each program is the same, each being devoid of meaningful ways to hold down health care costs. If that's the case, doesn't that point ..."

I guess I would have to ask what you would consider "meaningful ways" to hold down health costs.

In the current reform act there are:
- strong incentives for hospitals and systems to reduce their costs
- strong incentives for them to improve quality
- "meaningful use" incentives worth 10s of millions for health systems to integrate their information systems around electronic health records, which will do a great deal to reduce costs and redundant, non-value added work
- reimbursement changes to push the various parts of the so-called "system" toward integration through the creation of "Accountable Care Organizations" that are inclusive of the whole continuum (pre-acute care, hospital acute care, physician care, post-acute care, home care, etc.) wherein there will be a global payment driving health care systems to think about the linkages and handoffs within the parts.

...all this while increasing covered access to over 35M citizens who do not currently have it.

I would call that a substantive difference easily, and would also say that there are enormous changes that will push toward driving down cost, the first stage of which will address the waste and redundancy that is ubiquitous in the system.


message 24: by Tyler (last edited Mar 13, 2011 10:00AM) (new)

Tyler  (tyler-d) | 444 comments I hope you're right about those steps amounting to a check on costs. And the exclusion of pre-existing conditions is significant, too.

The problem is the insurance companies themselves. As far as I can tell, they have no incentives to hold down premiums. And because the government is committed to getting everyone on private insurance plans with no corresponding limits on what those companies can charge, I think the costs are going to keep going up and the bulk of the increase will end up hidden in the general deficit.

In other words, this scheme, like the financial bailout, will amount to an unlimited transfer of wealth from public to private hands, and the taxpayers will inherit the bill. This modus operandi of government action nowadays is explained by the need for pragmatism in politics -- unless somebody gets paid off, nobody gets anything.

But this very pragmatism is the wider issue that makes differences between the two ruling political parties comparatively minor. Yet this way of doing business isn't even part of the political debate. The result is that the government has lost its ability to plan ahead and can only do what the politics of the moment dictate.

For this same reason, I don't think these calls by the Tea Party for massive spending cuts are going to come to anything. Somebody has to be paid off to take any action, so the end result will be a wash.

With the political system the way it is now, cutting spending will mean that we will not have universal health care coverage, and universal coverage means we will not be able to control spending. Why does it have to be that artificial dichotomy? That's the issue neither party addresses. They have both embedded these rules into the political system, and we have no other polical parties powerful enough do away with this modus operandi.

My point is that the gains from universal health care are as you say, but they will not stand under the current political system.


message 25: by Rob the Obscure (new)

Rob the Obscure | 261 comments Tyler wrote: "My point is that the gains from universal health care are as you say, but they will not stand under the current political system. ..."

I fear you are correct - they very well may not stand. However, I'm not sure what to do about that.

A couple of points that I think it's important not to forget:

- There was a public option in the original bill that Obama sponsored. It would have gone much further toward universal coverage. To your point about the political system, it was blocked after the last election.

- Unfortunately, not everyone in this country sees things the same (laughs). I think it is clear that Obama was looking for a significant change in direction in many areas, only one of which was healthcare. However, he is smart enough to realize that even he can't buck the system - the last election made it clear in spades that this country was not ready for fundamental change. So, as a realist, he is weighing the options for getting ANYTHING done at all, which is better than holding fast to a position ideologically which, at the present time, wouldn't wash due to (in my opinion) lack of thinking, and/or lack of courage on the part of the electorate. "To everything there is a season..."

One wonders whether fundamental change can happen here without revolution. What is going on in the middle east is interesting in this regard - obviously our system is not a monarchy, or a dictatorship. But to your point, in a sense it is a dictatorship of the two-party system. How long as the green party been out there floundering around with absolutely no impact? How long has Ralph Nader been out there as a voice that is more laughed at than taken seriously? As an entrenched, and now increasingly polar, two-party system, there is, in a sense, a "dictatorship" going on. A rubber band, stretched equally from both sides has no option but to break. Is that what it will take?


message 26: by Tyler (last edited Mar 14, 2011 08:59AM) (new)

Tyler  (tyler-d) | 444 comments I have to say I'm riveted by the revolution in Egypt (and Tunisia). Part of it is that I get this sneaking sense that I'd somehow like to do here what they just did there. But why? Don't we already have democracy and freedom? Why does it feel to me as if we don't?

Perhaps it's just your point: we have a two-party system that feels like it's actually a one-party state. Nothing meaningful seems possible in the current political situation. And that's what it felt like in Egypt, too.


message 27: by Rob the Obscure (new)

Rob the Obscure | 261 comments Tyler wrote: "I have to say I'm riveted by the revolution in Egypt (and Tunisia). Partly it's because I've lived there and know so many people there, so I know what a one-party state is like close up and I care ..."

It's an interesting thing to think about. However, when someone I know calls for revolution, here is the question that always confronts, and which I pass on to them, and I now pass on to you, my friend: let's just say you had the chance to do it here. What would you replace it with?


message 28: by Bill (new)

Bill (BIll_B) | 188 comments Tyler wrote: "I have to say I'm riveted by the revolution in Egypt (and Tunisia). Partly it's because I've lived there and know so many people there, so I know what a one-party state is like close up. A I care a..."

So because we don't pass universal health care, we're not much different then Egypt. Thats fringe talk, frankly.


message 29: by Tyler (new)

Tyler  (tyler-d) | 444 comments I'm not calling for a revolution -- it's just the feeling I get that the system is permanently broken. So it's not a matter of replacing something; it's rather a matter of finding a way for common people to insert themselves directly into the political process, as they did over there, and which they need to do in any system from time to time.


message 30: by Bill (new)

Bill (BIll_B) | 188 comments The system is designed to be broken. The founders weren't fond of the idea of the government being a well oiled machine.


message 31: by Tyler (new)

Tyler  (tyler-d) | 444 comments Or, perhaps, if the system wasn't designed to be broken, it has be from time to time to keep it responsive to people's needs.


message 32: by Bill (last edited Mar 13, 2011 10:54AM) (new)

Bill (BIll_B) | 188 comments I really don't think the founders had the people 'needs' in mind. They had their liberty in mind..thats was their primary focus. The government is designed to protect liberty, not respond to peoples needs. I mean the federal government.


message 33: by Tyler (new)

Tyler  (tyler-d) | 444 comments Well, they certainly defended their liberty to keep slaves.


message 34: by Bill (last edited Mar 13, 2011 11:13AM) (new)

Bill (BIll_B) | 188 comments Tyler wrote: "Well, they certainly defended their liberty to keep slaves."

Yep. The slaves didn't count in their liberty agenda. Doesn't take away from the fact that they had a liberty agenda. The inherent hypocrisy and inconsistency eventually worked itself out though, didn't it? In fact, its amazing how fast it did come to a head. The system was so good that an institution which had been the norm in almost every civilization since the dawn of civilization, was brought to an end in less then 100 years.

I'd bet a government founded on meeting the 'needs' of its people rather then their liberty would not have been nearly so quick to end slavery. Although it probably would have been fairly quick to pass laws enforcing more humane treatment of them.


message 35: by Rob the Obscure (new)

Rob the Obscure | 261 comments Bill wrote: "So because we don't pass universal health care, we're not much different then Egypt. Thats fringe talk, frankly. "

That's not what Tyler or I said, Bill. You are being reductionistic. Read it again without drawing out a couple of phrases and ignoring the context.


message 36: by Rob the Obscure (new)

Rob the Obscure | 261 comments I think the common people insert themselves in the process everyday.

On the heels of Bush, they elected Obama.

In the midst of economic downturn, and the rise of the Tea Party, they got immediately pissed and cleaned house in the legislature.

How much more insertion would you need?


message 37: by Tyler (last edited Mar 13, 2011 02:55PM) (new)

Tyler  (tyler-d) | 444 comments Hi Bill --

The inherent hypocrisy and inconsistency eventually worked itself out though, didn't it?

There is nothing inconsistent about it if the notion of liberty is detached from that of equality. I don't think there is a right to liberty as such because there are many kinds of liberties, and each is justified independently of the other.


message 38: by Tyler (new)

Tyler  (tyler-d) | 444 comments How much more insertion would you need?

Obama's election and the rise of the Tea Party aren't examples of common people inserting themselves into the political process. They are examples of people being devoured by it.

Millions of Egyptians taking to the streets to put a stop to legal but criminal behavior by their government is an example of people interfering directly with the political process.

I agree with your earlier point that we can't have the same sort of revolution in a mature democracy. But that still leaves the fact -- or perhaps it's just my feeling of the matter -- that common people here cannot meaningfully affect the course of political events these days.


message 39: by Rob the Obscure (new)

Rob the Obscure | 261 comments Tyler wrote: "How much more insertion would you need?

Obama's election and the rise of the Tea Party aren't examples of common people inserting themselves into the political process. They are examples of peop..."


I don't know what you mean. I can't surmise why you would say that. When the direction of politics radically changes with elections, why is that not people inserting themselves? Why is that people being devoured? Do you just feel that people were devoured because some of them were on the losing side of the election? I don't get your point.

Or maybe you could explain what it WOULD look like for common people to "insert" themselves?


message 40: by Tyler (last edited Mar 13, 2011 02:54PM) (new)

Tyler  (tyler-d) | 444 comments Robert, that's my point. The direction of politics did not radically change with the elections or the advent of the Tea Party. It may seem as if it did close up, but over the long run I don't see how either event changed the course of politics. It doesn't matter whether you're on the winning or losing side in an election that's not going to make much difference anyway.


Or maybe you could explain what it WOULD look like for common people to "insert" themselves?

If a mature democracy can't replicate an event such as what Egypt went through, then your question is well placed indeed. No, I cannot say what such an event in our context would look like. But I think Bill's earlier comment, that the system was designed to be broken, has relevance for us. The political system right now is completely static, or stable, if you will, and that's not necessarily healthy.


message 41: by Bill (last edited Mar 13, 2011 03:36PM) (new)

Bill (BIll_B) | 188 comments Tyler wrote: "There is nothing inconsistent about it if the notion of liberty is detached from that of equality. I don't think there is a right to liberty as such because there are many kinds of liberties, and each is justified independently of the other. ..."

You're only able to say this by denying what liberty, as well as equality, meant to the founders. We've had this discussion before.

Liberty means unhindered exercise of certain unalienable rights of all humanity. The fact that all men are created equal means precisely that they all have been endowed by the creator with these rights.

Liberty is not something that the Government can give anyone--God created us with these rights. These rights can be infringed upon, i.e. slavery, but it is the purpose of government to prevent this from happening. The slave was not given his freedom by the government--his freedom was something that was rightfully his to begin with and was taken from him by the enslaver.

So to say that liberty can exist without equality is nonsense once you understand that equality means nothing more then that all men have certain inalienable rights.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights

This means simply that all men are created equally free.


So your idea that any liberty needs justification is false as well--these liberties are self-evident. They are only obfuscated when people start trying to make 'liberty' mean the government is supposed to provide everyone with health care, etc. and 'equality' means the government is supposed to try to equal out everyones circumstances in life.

In my humble opinion.


message 42: by Tyler (last edited Mar 13, 2011 04:04PM) (new)

Tyler  (tyler-d) | 444 comments All I've said is that there is no one right to liberty because there is no one definition of liberty, and your post didn't provide one that I could tell.

There are kinds of liberty, and each one is justified independently of the other. That was my philosophical point. The problem is that liberties will often conflict with rights, most importantly the right to equal treatment. I think that right arises prior to the various liberties we have, and that the most important liberties will turn out to be grounded in the right to equal treatment.

We can say we have the liberty to drive any way we want, but that liberty must give way the government's policy of smooth traffic flow. Thus, we do not really have an unalienable liberty to drive the wrong way in traffic. The fact that not all liberties are this trivial just shows that there's no one liberty that subsumes every other one.


message 43: by Bill (new)

Bill (BIll_B) | 188 comments Tyler wrote: "The problem is that liberties will often conflict with rights, most importantly the right to equal treatment. I think that right arises prior to the various liberties we have, and that the most important liberties will turn out to be grounded in the right to equal treatment. .."

What does a right to equal treatment mean? You have a right to be nice to Robert and rude to me. You can send me $0 by mail and $100 to Robert. I have no right to equal treatment from you.

However, we both equally have a right to be protected should you decide to enslave one of us.

Thus, we do not really have an unalienable liberty to drive the wrong way in traffic. The fact that not all liberties are this trivial just shows that there's no one liberty that subsumes every other one.

The certain inalienable rights that the founding fathers were concerned with were not trivial. You can say that they have to do with different areas of life if you want, but you can't say that liberty is many different things. Liberty is one thing--it is the free exercise of inalienable rights. We can argue over whether a particular right is unalienable or not, but we should be able to agree what free exercise of a right, (no matter what the right,) is.


message 44: by Tyler (last edited Mar 13, 2011 04:59PM) (new)

Tyler  (tyler-d) | 444 comments Liberty is one thing--it is the free exercise of inalienable rights.

Okay, and those rights are distinct from one another, whatever they are. So there's not one liberty any more than there's one right, as far as I can tell. Or, to reverse the terms, is there a "right to liberty"? I don't think so, for the same reason, and for the further reason that rights and liberties are going to conflict at some point. If they never do, we wouldn't need courts or even government, would we?

Now let's say we dispense with any notion of equality, be it equal treatment (before the law) or any other kind, legal or moral. How, then, do you justify the rights? Once you dispense with a notion of equality, however that's defined, then you will have no basis for liberties.

Calling something an unalienable right doesn't help here -- all it does is move the question back to the state of nature. And again, how can humans have any unalienable rights or liberties if they aren't thought of as in some way equal to one another?

This points up the contradiction you drew attention to earlier concerning the Founding Fathers and slavery. The only way to argue against slavery had to in some way recognize a concept of equal treatment.


message 45: by Bill (last edited Mar 13, 2011 06:25PM) (new)

Bill (BIll_B) | 188 comments how can humans have any unalienable rights or liberties if they aren't thought of as in some way equal to one another?


They can't, this is my point. And we don't have to wonder in what way people are equal. They are equal in a very specific way and in no other way. They are equal in that all have the same unalienable rights. Unalienable is an important word here because it is a right everyone has regardless of circumstances. Unalienable rights are not granted by the government, neither can they be. They are protected, by the government, from being infringed upon--either by government itself or others.

But some of us have rights that others don't have--these may be legally granted by the government or other entities for which certain circumstances are needed to qualify. These are alienable rights.

So free speech is protected for everyone equally. Its not something given to someone--its something that is their's by right of being human. It's unalienable.

But food stamps is a right based on your circumstances. Its alienable. It can be abolished for all, or applied based on income. It is not something that is your right because you are human. It is something that the government grants you for whatever reason the government has decided to do so.

This points up the contradiction you drew attention to earlier concerning the Founding Fathers and slavery. The only way to argue against slavery had to in some way recognize a concept of equal treatment.

You can use the phrase equal treatment. I think the phrase equal rights is more accurate. And the way to argue against slavery is to say that All men are created equal, and are endowed....with certain unalienable rights. I think this is beautiful terminology and we only confuse the issue by trying to use new ones.


message 46: by Tyler (last edited Mar 14, 2011 02:41PM) (new)

Tyler  (tyler-d) | 444 comments Hi Bill --

We're thinking about the relationship between rights and liberties slightly differently, but what you say makes sense. I appreciate the way you lay out your examples. I was trying to express a similar (but maybe not the same) idea when I mentioned that liberties and rights often conflict so that one or the other has to yield.

The right to free speech is an example of one of the most rigorously recognized rights, but even it has limits at the margins, so what you mean by unalienable becomes a question even there. I mention that because what I've been considering lately is the way by which something we've come to recognize as a moral right becomes, or doesn't become, a political right. So I'm trying to see how the concept of alienable and unalienable rights plays itself out in both the moral and the political spheres.


message 47: by Bill (new)

Bill (BIll_B) | 188 comments Tyler wrote: "Hi Bill --

We're thinking about the relationship between rights and liberties slightly differently, but what you say makes sense. I appreciate the way you lay out your examples. I was trying to ..."



Thanks. The way I see it an unalienable right of a particular individual can be abrogated if it is reasonably determined that it interferes with the unalienable rights of others. Hence a murderer can be imprisoned.

Or a suspected individual spy for the Japanese during WW2 could have his unalienable rights reasonably abrogated by being interned. What is not justifiable is to abrogate the unalienable rights of a whole group of people by interning them all based on cultural or racial heritage.

So the alienation of unalienable rights can be considered only on an individual case by case basis.

At the moment, I can't think of any other limits to unalienable rights, then this; that sometimes a particular individual, in a particular case, abuses the unalienable rights of others and therefore abrogates their own.


message 48: by Rob the Obscure (new)

Rob the Obscure | 261 comments Tyler wrote: "I hope you're right about those steps amounting to a check on costs. And the exclusion of pre-existing conditions is significant, too.

The problem is the insurance companies themselves. As far ..."



Tyler -a link that may interest you:



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