Who I have become, and why I blog what I blog: Nick’s introduction

Greetings WordPressers! Nick Gibson here, to say hello and whatnot. The topic of this introductory entry is basically what makes me tick…like a clock with a nice clear set of directions, here we go.

My love affair with sociology began in my undergrad program at Cal State San Bernardino, and was buffered by my master’s work at Cal State Fullerton and three years of Ph.D.-level work at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. That sociology applies to all facets of life is intrinsic to an explanation of what sociology is; yet without a concrete example of how the application of sociology works, the waters of thought can be murky. My first, and most direct example of ‘anything is fair game in sociology’ came when my undergrad mentor introduced me to the study of conspiracy theories. It wasn’t just about what the theory was; we dug into how theories are transmitted, what people did about belief in conspiracy theories, and the effects conspiracy theories have on micro and macro-level relationships. A professor of mine from UH Manoa said once: at its most simple, sociology is the study of relationships in all forms, places, and spaces. Relationships between people, relationships between people and institutions, relationships between institutions themselves, and how people socially exist and create the social experience within institutions, and about narratives and definitions. So, with an eye toward an analysis of relationships, I have managed to explore a whole lot of social phenomena, including 9/11 conspiracy theories. And boy, is it fun.

Sociology can also be exhausting. By exhausting, I mean that it is very difficult to turn the sociology off. Or, as a friend of mine now holding an assistant prof position at Pacific U in Oregon puts it, it is practically impossible to ‘put the sociology back in the bag’. Even while watching comedy, I see and hear things that trigger a sociological cringe and discussion in my head. But it’s much more wonderful than not, and I’m grateful. Here’s why: there is an important message that I learned, and it is that as a relatively very socially privileged straight, white, cis-gendered male, I have always been able to, and still can, ignore the effects of a privileged social position without much thought. To be perpetually tuned in, is to attempt to mirror the social locations of people without the same kinds of identifiable social indicators. To be always aware, is to attempt to pay attention to the presumptions and assumptions that most of us, at least those of us who grew up in the United States, share. I have been taught, indoctrinated, trained, pick-your-forcible-learning verb, to believe and act upon narratives about other people at a basic, fundamental, and usually unconscious level. Those unconscious lessons become real-world experiences, typically to the detriment of people without social privilege. And that, dear readers, pisses me off.

Yeah, I get angry about social privilege. Mostly because I didn’t earn it, yet benefit from it almost all the time. As an undergrad instructor at UH Manoa and Hawaii Pacific University, I explained this to my students in every course I led. We are taught through media programming (movies, TV shows, music, news shows), political discourse, our social networks, and our legal system, to believe things about our fellow human beings that simply are not true. To me, this is scary. Most folks react in defense, yet given enough time, most folks also seem to eventually get ‘it’. That ‘it’ is what is most important here. That ‘it’ is the thing that makes all the socialization and social training we experience understandable. That ‘it’, is the realization that we learn everything we know, and if everything we know about the world isn’t always true, the fault doesn’t necessarily lie with one person and their belief system. The term ‘fault’ isn’t necessarily the most accurate term to describe what this means. Tim Wise discusses this interplay of blame, fault, guilt, and responsibility quite nicely. Guilt is something we should feel, as people aiming to treat others well, when we do something that harms another. Responsibility is something we decide to take because of the kind of people we try to be. What does this mean? This means that if we are attempting to add goodness to the world, we must explore the experience of becoming comfortable with being uncomfortable. We must willingly engage in discussion about those things that involve feeling vulnerable, allowing for growth and self-reflection. We must take some risks, to feel positive change and shift our world toward a more just future.

I self-reflect on a constant basis, as many folks do without putting the same term to the behavior. I teach my students to self-reflect. I catch myself thinking things that piss me off, and work to shift what that means about what I have been taught against my will. My gender, assigned to me and taught to me without my active knowledge, provides me with social comfort. I must pay attention to that if I am to live what I believe. My race, assigned to and placed upon me without my active knowledge, affords me generous comfort. I must recognize the experiences shaded by race (all of my experiences, as far as I can tell), and talk about what that means. My sexuality, taught to me as the standard and ‘normal’, provides me a very comfortable social existence. If I do not work to build a more just and equitable world in my relatively tiny existence, I am not taking responsibility, and I am not living my beliefs. It is these three huge concepts that I work to make obvious to others. They inform why I do what I do, and why I aim to accomplish more as time passes.

Let’s entertain some thoughts, and make our world what we wish it to be. I wish for an equitable, just, thoughtful, and welcoming society. Even though I experience mostly the best that people have to offer, I want better for everyone. Myself included.

28 responses

  1. Great introduction, Nick. Thank you. I’m the same way with history, race, culture that you are about sociology. Everywhere I look, everything I hear goes through those filters or social lenses. In some ways, I’m really more of a sociologist than a historian – but really all the subjects are very mixed together when we look closely.

  2. Agreed, Andrew. From my perspective, doing and thinking from the sociological perspective involves all the social sciences, similar to, I imagine, coming from a historical narrative perspective. Obviously, this is a major point of similarity between us, and possibly a similarity many of the bloggers here may have. That, and entertaining thoughts responsibly.

  3. Hello there. I originally stumbled upon Andrew’s blog, and saw a promotion for this collective blog on his website. I presume that the purpose of this site is to stimulate conversation, so I thought I’d share a few thoughts I had while reading your introduction. I am of the opinion that every claim should be examined, but none of my comments are meant to be hostile or condescending.

    What stands out to me here is this line: “That ‘it’, is the realization that we learn everything we know.” I am trying to discern what the precise implications of this statement are in your mind. Is it merely that we should be skeptical of claims made, or is it something more profound, something akin to the claim that everything we know should be properly termed an outgrowth of the social construction of reality?

    Another theme you make reference to at several points is the notion of ‘justice.’ Forgive me but I am always concerned with definitions of terms — what is justice in your worldview? I see that you embrace ‘equality,’ and it seems you are referring to a particular kind of behavioral, interactional or even ideological equality in which no individual or group of people is implicitly evaluated as better or worse. Please do correct me if I’m wrong, but is this the extent of equality’s relationship with justice — or does it extend into equality of circumstance or opportunity? I also wonder: if my interpretation is correct, and you are making the normative claim that this sort of ideological, interactional equality is good, what sorts of things could and should be done to achieve such equality?

    Lastly, you say this: “This means that if we are attempting to add goodness to the world, we must explore the experience of becoming comfortable with being uncomfortable.” I am not sure what exactly constitutes ‘goodness’ in this context. Again, it seems you are implying that equality of some variety is the good.

  4. Great discussion points. I’m assuming this is Patrick, from my Urban Soc class? The Hawaii email gave it away…

    In order: the realization that socialization is a complete process, from learning social norms and values to learning how to interact with and perceive others, is I think a troubling realization for many folks. I think it can be difficult to take full stock of how much of our knowledge is simply stuff we’ve collectively made up along the lines of historical narratives. So, if we’re talking about learning how to address our fundamental biases regarding race, gender, sexuality, economic class, and plain old knowing things, we have to take into account that the presumptions we have about other human beings are bits of learned knowledge we thread together. We aren’t ‘objective seers’ so much as socially conditioned observers.

    In terms of justice, coming from a sociological standpoint there is a general definition that is accepted under most conditions. It is the equity of opportunity and equity of the standing among all groups of people in daily life. For instance, a white male and an African American male are not treated equally in our ‘justice system’. This is obvious when we look at the disparities in sentencing for similar criminal activity. So equity or justice in this case would be equitable treatment under the law of the land…laws that we have made up over time, and look to for guidance today.

    Goodness here simply means whether or not we are trying to leave people feeling better or worse for our part in their experiences. I don’t mean in a topical way, although that helps. But I mean, are we trying to simply gain as much as possible, or are we trying to make the world better for our time in it. This is considerably difficult to tangibly define, but I don’t think it is impossible to understand in a cultural context. For example, when we have opportunities to act on behalf of those with historically fewer opportunities, are we taking the time to do so? Are we having conversations about the tangible effects of things like FHA loan programs and welfare programs, which actually work quite well? Or, are we buying into the media-fed sound bites regarding laziness and people accessing welfare, or the inequity that lasted for decades in terms of federal home loan programs, subsequently feeding today’s level of economic inequality? Welfare was argued for by congresspeople and senators, so that women wouldn’t have to work while raising children as single parents. Now we hear that these same ideals don’t apply, because it feeds laziness and adds to the deficit…programs we could afford quite easily if war wasn’t on the top of our spending list. Goodness is the opposite of sadness, so my definition really isn’t meant to be a philosophical conundrum, although it does invite philosophical inquiry.

    Hope things are well for you.

  5. Hey there. Yeah, you guessed it — that’s me. I first saw Andrew’s blog a few weeks ago (I think I found it through a google search for something), and saw him reference this blog. I was surprised to see you on here. Thanks for the response. I don’t have much time to respond at the moment, however. I hope things are well for you, too. I’ll get back to you on here as soon as I can.

  6. OK. I see where you’re coming from more clearly, now. I agree with you regarding equality under the law, but I have some problems with the notion of equality of opportunity primarily (although not exclusively) due to its inescapable implications. To wit, by upholding it as a principle, one is tacitly committed to violence of an institutional sort (i.e. state sponsored), for there is no other means by which equality of opportunity could feasibly emerge.

    But before I get too far into the that, I think it is important to first recognize that defining the confines of what could be termed ‘reasonably anticipated opportunity’ is altogether arbitrary. While it is common in political discourse to conceptualize opportunity as a principally economic issue (e.g. in terms of professional or educational opportunity), it is quite an arbitrary delineation I argue. After all, what’s to say that any particular realm is more worthy or even exclusively worthy of equality? To put it another way, if calls for economic equality are legitimate, why wouldn’t other manifestations of equality be similarly justified? To illustrate what I mean, I will use some rather absurd examples, but the point is not to be absurd for the sake of absurdity — it is to reveal the absurdities of the principle of equal opportunity by applying it to varying contexts.

    For example, I’m rather short for an American male (approximately 167 centimeters). I am probably statistically less likely to ever have a female companion over 175 centimeters. It could thus be said that my romantic opportunities are inherently delimited due to socio-cultural evaluations of height. How could this be resolved? There are only two ways: (1) I (or the collective ‘we’) could implore tall American females to reconsider the value they place on height (this could be termed the voluntary path) or (2) I (or the collective ‘we’) could force a certain percentage of tall females to intermingle with short males — to make it equal (this could be termed the non-voluntary path). Another example: the vast majority of daycare centers and early childhood educational institutions are staffed by females. This could in part be due to two things: (1) a general preference for women to pursue such careers, and (2) a generally held albeit oftentimes implicit view that grown men should not be hanging around and touching little kids as women do. Suppose I strongly desire to work in an early childhood institute, but I find that my employment options are limited. Most schools do not want to hire me since their customers overwhelmingly prefer women. How can this be resolved? Again, there are two ways. I can (1) implore employers to hire me despite protestations from their paying customers or (2) I can call upon the state to force early childhood educators to hire a certain percentage of men so as to correct this injustice.

    People differ in countless ways — in height, eyesight, strength, foot size, health, intelligence, beauty, virtue, inheritance, environment, body shape… in every conceivable way people differ. Equality of opportunity is in a very important sense contrary to the human condition — there is no means by which it could conceivably come about in the absence of totalitarian violence. This is an unavoidable fact. Since every choice (indeed every act) is in and of itself an act of discrimination — that is to say, choosing or doing X is to simultaneously not choose or do all non-X — it follows that asymmetrical opportunities are an ineluctable consequence of human action. Yet, one is mistaken in condemning inequality as such, for in the absence of coercion, opportunities will necessarily reflect the voluntary value judgments of every individual. This inequality, as it were, is a natural result of praxeological realities. What equality of opportunity calls for, however, is a forced revaluation of things; it demands that individuals act in a way contrary to their voluntary and preferred tendencies — it is therefore inextricably committed to coercion in its implementation.

    It can be thought of another way, and perhaps this is even more pertinent. You commented that equality should also include equality under the law. But I think you are supporting contradictory principles: equality of opportunity does not imply equality under the law but rather equality by the law. Consider this brief quotation from Hayek:

    “From the fact that people are very different it follows that, if we treat them equally, the result must be inequality in their actual position, and that the only way to place them in an equal position would be to treat them differently. Equality before the law and material equality are therefore not only different but are in conflict with each other; and we can achieve either one or the other, but not both at the same time.”

    Regarding particular policy implementations: while I see what you are referring to in the politicized nature of state subsidization, I disagree with the claim that any of those policies should have been or should be implemented, and I think if you support equality under the law, you should be opposed to all varieties of state coercion as well. This is because any subsidization of any kind is an example of attempted equality by the law, not under it (not to mention the violence inherent in any such policy implementation). It is an institutionalized means of punishing and rewarding people for being unequal, for being different. It is rather apparent to me that subsidization of group X at the expense of group Y necessarily implies unequal treatment under the law.

  7. What we’re ending up equating here as similar enough to legitimately compare, and you mentioned they would be absurd, which they were, are height, gender, sexual preferences, and state interference in our economic experiences. So to say that it makes legitimate sense to interfere in people’s sexuality, which we would be saying if we took a height-body shape-sexual preference metaphor. I don’t think we can make a legitimate comparison. Likewise for the gender norms and workplace preferences. First, it is pretty much always illegal to deny someone a job because of their gender, and anyone who thinks men shouldn’t work with children because: men shouldn’t work with children, needs SOC 101 like whoa. I get the point, and enjoy the absurdity, but I don’t think that gender, which is learned behavior over the course of a lifetime, and height, which you can’t do very much about barring invasive and weird surgery, quite get to the heart of the argument I think you’re making, which I believe you do pretty well later.

    First, we cannot do anything about sexuality as people experience desire, and make them do things that go against that without being, legitimately, absurd. Asking people not to be attracted to folks over or under a certain height, or shaped a certain way, simply isn’t realistic. It is realistic to demand that people in legitimate possession political and economic power don’t hurt others purposely. Here’s why making the human case for economic justice works: Hayek sounds fancy saying that if we treat people as different than we’re treating people differently and that’s just wrong. But it’s a logical fallacy. We aren’t treating people differently if we’re admitting that economic inequality exists, and it is our duty to do something about it. What we’re treating differently are people’s situational outcomes based on experiences, and they are different. Especially when we take into account how most wealthy folks today acquired their wealth: inheritance. I bet wealthy folks would love to hear that our best and brightest are against economic justice because freedom from state control of all kinds is more important than condemning oppression and economic violence.

    Going to this level of Libertarian philosophical intent is in effect outside the realm of what is simply realistic, as fun as it is to play with. It has been recognized that for society to exist in as violence-free a state of organization as possible, equity is an important realm of state interference in terms of economics and politics. Being effectively free from state interference in all things great and small simply doesn’t work, if our intention is a just society with an absence of the oppression of human beings. That is what I’m saying should be our intention not just nationally but globally: working toward the absence of oppression in both form and outcome. It’s nice to think about folks not wanting to hurt other folks, but the hurt we’re talking about is systemic, institutional, and far-reaching, and state interference is simply necessary. State coercion to not be a douchebag is still necessary, and often it is state coercion that leads great change. Think the Civil Rights Act of 1964; we’re still fighting about that in the face of all the evidence that not only is it still necessary, but we don’t even see the reasons why it is necessary more often than not because of the inherent nature of institutional inequity.

  8. In general, I disagree. I mentioned they are absurd, but that comment (and my ‘absurd’ examples) need to be considered in the proper context. They are absurd in no inherent sense — there is nothing inherent about them that makes them absurd. Whether they are absurd or not is an imputation, it is a value judgment. While you may make the claim that gender, sexual or economic realms are more worthy of equality than others, it is, again, an imputation — a value judgment. In other words, these are arbitrary declarations, and there is simply no way around this. The comparisons are legitimate in conceptual terms — you merely weigh them differently. What’s to say your evaluation is any more valid than mine or anyone else’s? There is no means by which to do so.

    As for it being legitimate to stop people in positions of economic power from hurting people: what I dislike particularly about this sentiment is the intensely broad nature of its implications. What does it mean to ‘hurt’ someone? Clearly, violations of non-contradictory rights (actual negative obligatory ones) qualifies. But what you support is in fact a violation of rights — you are implicitly advocating violence while simultaneously decrying the supposed ‘injustice’ people experience.

    As for Hayek’s comment: you have framed it in a completely incorrect light. What he refers to by ‘we’ is the state apparatus. He is referring to the tendency of states to use violence (e.g. political means of ANY kind) to legislate equality. Any such policy necessarily implies unequal treatment. If I suggest that impoverished people should be given a state subsidy because they are poor and that is sad, I am advocating that people be treated differently under the law. I am suggesting that group X has a special claim to the property of group Y. All such policies can only be realized with coercive means — not voluntary ones. According to what principle should these policies be advanced? There is no principled means by which to do so. If the state were to legislate according to feelings of ‘hurt’ (as you reference) outside of actual violations of negative obligatory rights, where would it end and where would it begin? What would qualify as ‘hurt’, and based on what? If I run a business better than you, you could certainly claim that you are ‘hurt’ financially, but in what sense would this justify violence? If you received a job, and I did not, I could certainly claim financial hurt against both you and the employer, but in what sense would this justify violence? If you achieved greatness, and I did not, I could certainly claim that my self-esteem was hurt by your success, but in what sense does this justify violence?

    As for the comments regarding the state apparatus and society: I would challenge the basis of all of those claims — although that is not particularly the topic of the article. Suffice it to say that it is in a very important sense contradictory to suggest that an institution that functions exclusively by means of violence is necessary to stop it. Any action of the state, which is not designed to exclusively respond to violations of negative obligatory rights, is an implicit act of violence — no matter how supposedly noble or kindhearted it is. If I suggested that the state should subsidize population X, I am advocating violence because there is no means by which the state can accomplish such a thing in its absence. The state is NOT a productive institution. It functions by means of coerced income.

    Further, I think your views grant a gigantic blank check to the state. If the goal is to minimize oppression and hurt, ask yourself what does that imply? Even more importantly, what is oppression? And again: why is your definition inherently right and mine or someone else’s inherently wrong? And what precisely (in absolutely specific terms) constitutes economic violence? If you are suggesting that disproportionate outcomes implies violence, I beg to differ.

    Also, in what way is it my duty to address the existence of inequality? As I referenced in my previous response, inequality is a logical implication of human action itself. I argued precisely the opposite: that is is nonsensical to address it as it cannot be done in principled terms. Additionally, I still do not see how you can reconcile equality under the law with institutionalized state violence. In what way am I equal under the law to person X if I am forced (at the point of a gun) by law to subsidize them? Like I said, such a situation necessarily implies unequal treatment under the law.

    As for the Civil Rights Act: that, too, was a violation of non-contradictory negative obligatory rights. My view is essentially this: while I agree that the state should not treat people unequally, I completely disagree with the notion that private individuals have any such obligation. Coercion is at complete odds with a non-contradictory rights-based framework (and by that I mean a conception of rights predicated on negative obligations). I also do not know what you mean by saying that state coercion as manifested in the civil rights act is necessary. Necessary for what? The market itself (in the absence of state coercion e.g. cronyism) disincentivizes discrimination. There has been a great deal of literature on this. I would recommend Rothbard and friends.

    I will have to respond with more at a later point. An emergency of sorts has arisen.

  9. One more comment before I have to head out: you suggest in the first paragraph of your article that my comparisons are largely illegitimate because they are things for which nothing can be done barring invasive and weird surgery — for example. But I think you should ask yourself what must be done to even attempt to create economic equality. There are two important facts to consider: first, economic exchanges are inextricably linked to subjective value judgments (in a Misean sense) — insofar as those values are reflections of exchanges themselves. Second, the underlying causes of inequality (i.e. the reason people are valued differently and thus are faced with inequality) are human characteristics of innumerable sorts. This is merely to say that the most fundamental reason person X is not equal to person Y in economic outcomes is because economic actors have disproportionately evaluated their perceptible traits (this is by no means limited to physical qualities; it refers to every possible means by which people are evaluated in the course of voluntary exchange, which is in a very real sense limitless). From these two broad realities, it follows that there are very limited means by which the goal of economic equality can be approached — all of which necessitate violence on a totalitarian scale.

    One option would be to eradicate all differences in every perceptible human characteristic. This would imply some kind of “invasive and weird surgery.” Another option would be to force all economic actors to evaluate people according to state-approved standards. The other option is to merely steal what some have, and give it to others. In what sense are any of these options inherently better than another? Further, why is theft acceptable while forced surgeries are not? They both violate individual rights, and both could be said to further the egalitarian cause. I could just as equally say that theft is by far the worse evil.

    The point is: these are all arbitrary evaluations. All one can resort to in such a discussion are emotional considerations, which by their vary nature differ across individuals.

  10. @higginspt

    No offense, man, but come on. The world is of course full of all kinds of differences. We’re each made of countless “individual differences” (as psychologist call them). But these differences each have gigantic differences in terms of their social, cultural, psychological weight and implications. Being taller or shorter is totally different than being heterosexual or homosexual; being a man v a woman; being “black” vs “white.” Just as I responded to your comments about my WWZ article: These differences are real. We can’t dismiss difference and responsibility because there are so many differences. You also have to consider social binaries. You have to look at how things actually function. People haven’t faced en masse discrimination because of how tall or short they are, but they have because of their race (e.g., lynching, enslavement, segregation), gender, sexuality, etc. To speak to your comment on my privilege article: Your comments indicate how very privileged you are – you are so privileged that you can’t or won’t acknowledge the significant degree to which you are a product of nurture. Consider, if you will, how your life would be different if your skin color, sexuality, and religion were different.

  11. @streetphilosopher42

    Hey Nick,
    I find the concept of equity interesting. Ironically, however, I’ve actually only heard the term used a handful of times ever. From what I understand, it basically means that to treat everyone exactly equal is to treat no one equally. Take a look at this image (https://www.dropbox.com/s/9q0edwrw1grm7mi/Equality-to-Liberals-and-Conservatives1.png) for an example. The right side shows equality with equity considered – each person needs something different for the playing filed to be truly equal. Is this how you understand equity? Out of all the books and articles I have read about civil rights, none of them discuss equality and civil rights with a specific discussion of equity. It’s odd.

    Also, on the note of Libertarian ideologies: You’re very correct. In an ideal world, we wouldn’t need the government (as problematic as it is) to make laws that say discrimination and hate crimes are wrong. Countless historical examples indicate that everyday people can be, to put it simply, very mean and hateful. It’s good that we have a way to “punish” such individuals.

  12. Andrew: yes, that is my aim in using the term equity to establish a thought process by which we examine inequality as a real thing, take into account historical and present-day issues contributing to inequality, and determine the most effective means to provide as many people as possible with the opportunities that we here in the USA like to say everyone has. Tim Wise uses equity relatively frequently, but I think you’re accurate in saying it’s not as common as we would think.

    Patrick: taxation is not violent, nor is government support for people without access to economic means of production. I think saying that government is inherently violent, is only possible if one has the perspective of someone who does not require help to survive. See Andrew’s posts on privilege as a perspective; those of us with privilege can only really see the privilege once we try to look through a person’s eyes without our privilege. If we say that government intervention is inherently evil, we can only say that because either, 1) we have not needed government support at some point in our lives to simply survive; or 2) we believe what others have said who did not require support to survive. Those who publish books about how government isn’t necessary, is evil when used to support those without economic means, are typically not people who have lived in poverty.

  13. Andrew: let me ask you to first do this — please define terms. What is a privilege? What is discrimination? Is it a social attribute or characteristic not uniformly dispensed to all individuals/groupings? Your article seems to implicitly define privilege as an advantage of some kind not uniformly apparent in every group. This begs the question: what is an advantage exactly? In other words, what can be said to be a ‘good’ privilege and a ‘bad’ one? In your article on academic privilege, you suggest that being easily able to win an argument is a privilege. But in what sense couldn’t an implication of the inverse equally be a privilege? If I were to argue that mentally handicapped people are privileged because their minds are not preoccupied by discourse and argumentation, how could my interpretation be said to be inherently wrong and yours inherently right? The answer: it can’t. All you can do is say that you feel I am wrong due to reasons X Y and Z. I can just as easily respond that I feel you are wrong due to reasons X Y and Z. The point I was and am making is that your positions are completely arbitrary and indefensible. These arguments regarding equality and privilege are infinitely expansive as a result of their own premises.

    Regarding my inability to perceive my own privilege: I recognize the critique being made — I’ve read McIntosh, as well. I just happen to be of the position that her egalitarian views are contradictory. I referenced the ‘unearned entitlement’ concept as a principal example.

    Per the World War Z article: as I pointed out, I could just as easily critique the film from any number of group perspectives. Which one is more valid than the other and why? Why is your perspective right and someone else’s wrong? If I were to critique the film from the perspective of balding men (as I referenced in my responses), why is that necessarily less valid than your critique predicated on race? There is no way to make any fact-based claim here. These are emotional pleas. They are normative claims. There is no inherent truth value to any of them.

    Regarding government: taxation is by definition violent, and ‘government support’ is an extension of such violence. To summarize Rothbard: The state is the institution that strives to maintain its monopoly on the use of violence and force within a delineated area. It is the only organization in society “that obtains its revenue not by voluntary contribution or payment for services rendered but by coercion.” Every service or ‘support’ offered by the government is an extension of its coercion. It is violence manifested in a very real sense. One can say government intervention is inherently evil because it is violence itself that they are condemning. Any potential or actual ‘need’ that I may now or in the future have for government support would in no way alter reality.

    Regarding government and discrimination: I would just reference my previous comments regarding market processes in the absence of coercion.

  14. @higginspt

    I don’t have time at the moment to respond in detail, but this comment really struck a nerve:

    “If I were to argue that mentally handicapped people are privileged because their minds are not preoccupied by discourse and argumentation, how could my interpretation be said to be inherently wrong and yours inherently right? The answer: it can’t.”

    Do you know any one who is mentally disabled? I do. I have an uncle and an aunt who are very mentally disabled. I guarantee you that they would love as would everyone in the family if they had “normal” mental abilities.

    Even as a slightly disabled person, I wish I could run or play sports. You can’t say I’m saved from the stress and sweat of running or something.

    We could go all day trying to excuse the actions of some and the unfounded privilege of a few by using reverse logic or twisting/tweaking the core mores, just or unjust, that guide our society.

    As for definitions, as I tell my students, google is an excellent dictionary. ;)

  15. @streetphilosopher42

    Thanks. I need to read/watch more of his stuff.

    Without taxes, naturally, there would be no roads, no mail, no schools, no hospitals, no national security, no presidents, no elected officials, no 911, etc.

    Libertarian arguments are great in the ideal but they just don’t work in the real world.

  16. Use google? Alright. Then my previous definition is valid. If that is the case, we are dealing with completely arbitrary evaluations. Don’t get me wrong: I recognize that these are sensitive issues. I do know mentally disabled people — my cousin and my brother. The point in using that example was to draw attention to the fact that everything you claim in every argument you make hinges on your personal beliefs — nothing more. If someone were to make an opposing claim, all you could fall back on are emotional pleas, which you just now did. This was precisely what I was trying to make apparent. The fact that I or you may have a strong emotional connection to a certain perspective does not in anyway change the fact that ‘privilege’ is infinitely expansive, and implies arbitrary evaluations.

    Regarding taxes: you are misinformed of economic history, and the market itself. There is no reason to assume that hospitals, schools, roads, mail would not exist. All of these things exist even now despite massive government monopolies in some private form. Assuming that they would not is to misunderstand the market. I don’t really think the feasibility of private enterprise in the absence of coercion is the topic of this comment thread, but if you’d like I am more than happy to provide some references discussing these topics in far greater detail than I can here.

  17. Just to clarify this sentence as it could be misleading: ” The point in using that example was to draw attention to the fact that everything you claim in every argument you make hinges on your personal beliefs — nothing more.” I should have made this more apparent, but I meant within the confines of discussions of privilege.

  18. Re: “The point in using that example was to draw attention to the fact that everything you claim in every argument you make hinges on your personal beliefs — nothing more.”

    Not personal beliefs per se but societal mores and beliefs, perhaps.

  19. Wait. Are you saying that because your personal view is a reflection of social mores that it is therefore ineluctably correct?

    That’s what I am illustrating here: that it is not necessarily right. Nor is the inverse. You have yet to demonstrate that your personal belief is right and mine is wrong. You need me to cite scholarly research to establish the normative dilemma inherent in your views?

  20. Further, I would also challenge the basis of the social more claim. At what point is something a social more? How many dissenters are required for it to lose its ‘more’ status? If there are disagreements, is a contrary view immediately discredited because a ‘more’ exists? This is a rather foolish argument.

  21. I’m not making a semantic argument. I am simply pointing out the arbitrariness of the evaluations inherent in your arguments. I am certain that you have plenty of reference material that will share a similar view, but that in no way addresses the problems I pointed out. I am suggesting that the premises you tacitly assume allow for an infinitely expansive application of ‘privilege.’ Attempting to limit it by saying, “Well, clearly these are better privileges than those” is again an arbitrary evaluation. These are emotional arguments being made, not factual ones. They are predicated on certain values, but the validity of the values has yet to be established. The basis of arguments is important, and should not be ignored.

  22. Let me ask you a question: why do you need references in order to respond to the problems I have presented? I have pointed out problems, the existence or non-existence of scholarly research has no bearing on what I have said. There is no need for an appeal to authority. You are free to respond to what I have pointed out or not.

  23. Scholars support their assertions by building on/engaging in conversation with other scholars. Primary source evidence is always good, too. You’ve yet to really provide support for your opinions.

  24. Are we not engaging in conversation at this very moment? I think your critique is flawed. I am NOT making an empirical claim — nothing I am saying in anyway presupposes evidence. What I am instead doing is analyzing the basis of your claims. I am pointing out the fact that your argument presupposes the validity of certain values, but such a presupposition is arbitrary. I have suggested that other values could similarly be presupposed. What then? You merely asserted that my values were absurd — again, another value judgment. I’ll say again: the existence or non-existence of scholarly research has no bearing on what I have said. I have discussed in detail my critique several times. You are free to respond or not, but you are mistaken if you assume that what I have said is invalid without scholarly references. Argumentum ad auctoritatem.

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