Sunday, September 24, 2017

Rethinking the Lockean Proviso

Libertarian property rights and the Lockean sufficiency proviso - The Washington Post - Fabian Wendt, Volokh Conspiracy:

September 22, 2017 - "John Locke’s Second Treatise of Government (1689) contains a defense of private property that makes use of the idea of labor-mixing. In §27, Locke writes: ‘[…] for this labour being the unquestionable property of the labourer, no man but he can have a right to what that is once joined to, at least where there is enough, and as good, left in common for others.’ The ‘at least’ clause has become known as the ‘Lockean proviso’. It is usually understood as specifying a limit to labor-based acquisition of private property.

"Since libertarians care a lot about private property and its justification, the Lockean proviso has been an important tenet in libertarian theories of justice....  Right-libertarians either reject the Lockean proviso or endorse very weak interpretations of it, while left-libertarians endorse some egalitarian interpretation of the Lockean proviso (which allows appropriation until one has one’s equal share of natural resources or as long as the appropriation is compatible with equality of opportunity for welfare).

"In between right- and left-libertarianism, there is room for moderate interpretations of the proviso, and in particular for a sufficientarian interpretation, a sufficiency proviso. It is remarkable that this option has rarely been defended. The resulting theory of justice can be called ‘moderate libertarianism’.... [M]oderate libertarianism has advantages over both left- and right-libertarianism because it better coheres with the most plausible rationale for endorsing a libertarian theory of justice in the first place.

"What is this rationale for endorsing a libertarian theory of justice? It starts with the rather trivial fact that persons are purposive beings. They have the capacity to pursue all kinds of projects. Almost all projects require external resources, and they require being able to count on one’s resources. For that reason, persons as project-pursuers need the opportunity to acquire private property in external resources in one way or another. Following Eric Mack, one can take this to establish a ‘natural right to the practice of private property’. Together with the idea of self-ownership, this natural right can be regarded as the core of a libertarian theory of justice. Note that the project pursuit rationale for libertarianism does not rely on the moral force of Lockean labor-mixing. Rather, private property as a practice is justified as being responsive to persons as project pursuers....

"[I]f one embraces a libertarian theory of justice due to the project pursuit rationale, then one should also embrace a sufficientarian proviso. The basic idea is simple: Without sufficient resources, people are unable to live their lives as project pursuers. Because this is so, a libertarian who advances a libertarian theory of justice because s/he cares about people as project pursuers must also care about everyone actually having sufficient resources for living a life as a project-pursuer. This is why some sort of sufficientarian proviso should be incorporated into a libertarian theory of justice."

"First of all, my sufficiency proviso does not apply to specific acts of appropriation, but to the practice of private property as a whole. The practice of private property is justified because private property is necessary for living as a project pursuer, but it can only be justified under condition that it actually enables everyone to live as a project pursuer.

"Second, the sufficiency proviso does not unconditionally require us to bring everyone above the sufficiency threshold. The proviso only prescribes that the practice of private property should be designed in a way that makes sure that everyone has sufficient resources to live as a project pursuer, if this is possible without undermining the point of having a practice of private property in the first place."

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Saturday, September 23, 2017

The morality of rule-breaking

Rule-Breaking is Necessary and Moral - Foundation for Economic Education - Working for a free and prosperous world - David Kelley, Atlas Society:

September 3, 2017 - "By 'rules' I mean self-contained prescriptions about concrete actions or situations, telling you what to do or how to do it. Fasten your seat belt. Don't smoke in elevators. Don't have sex on the first date. Don't drive over the speed limit. Don't hit below the belt. For many rules, there is a rationale provided by some broader principle. But when rules take the place of principles, as is happening more and more often today,... don't let them get in your way....

"Large regions of social life that ought to be governed – and to a large extent used to be governed – by principles of courtesy, justice, and mutual respect have now been bureaucratized by rules. Movie theaters find it necessary to inform their patrons that talking during the movie is forbidden. Interactions between men and women in the workplace are now regulated by sexual harassment rules that attempt to replace the principle of respect and the exercise of judgment....

"Because they are so concrete, no set of rules could possibly cover every situation and action to which the corresponding principle applies. This defect is particularly serious in ethics, the field that provides the broadest and most fundamental level of guidance for human action.

"The advantage of principles is the advantage of concepts: They unite an open-ended number of particular cases under a single abstraction. Of course we pay a price for this ... one has to apply a principle to a particular case by the exercise of judgment, taking account of the specific facts about the context.... But this points to a second defect of rules....

"Rules are formulated for specific contexts, but they never fully specify the nature or limitations of that context. As a result, rules invariably have exceptions and they often conflict with each other. Someone trying to follow the rules without the benefit of broader principles will have no way to determine when he is faced with an exception, or how to resolve a conflict.... The exercise of judgment cannot be eliminated from human life, and the attempt to do so by erecting a network of rules has destructive consequences in public as well as private affairs.

"There is a final defect that rules have in virtue of their concreteness. It is the most serious defect of all, and ... most pronounced in the realm of ethics: Unless rules are anchored in principles, they cannot be rationally justified.... They can be accepted only on faith or authority – i.e., as arbitrary edicts....

"In social contexts, rules laid down by an authority are sometimes necessary to prevent conflicts among people.... But even in this context, rules have all the defects we discussed: they cannot cover every situation, they have exceptions, and if they are detached from rational principles they are an arbitrary expression of will.... Rules that are arbitrary or issued chiefly as a means of asserting authority invite rule-breaking by those independent enough to bridle at subjection to another's will....

"We do need objective standards. But objectivity requires principles, not rules. The choice is to be principled, acting on one's own understanding of reality, or to be ruled – by an explicit authority or by the cramped and encrusted dictates of tradition. For anyone who values his own life and his own autonomy, that's an easy choice."

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Friday, September 22, 2017

Roger Ver backing new country project

Roger Ver Joins Other Libertarians In Announcing a New Nation - Jon Buck, Cointelegraph:

September 22, 2017 -" Olivier Janssens, founder of Freedom Investments, and Roger Ver, of Bitcoin Foundation fame ... [are] seeking to establish [an] independent nation, governed by libertarian values, and invites anyone who shares their political views or are just ‘free thinkers’ to join them....

"However, the team has yet to disclose the location, nor has indicated what entry standards would be required.

"The locations being evaluated include areas with safe, conflict-free areas, proximity to economic centers in the US, Europe, and Asia, and accessibility by water. The team is hoping to offer a stable government with substantial national debt a way to eliminate some of that debt with a land lease to FreeSociety.

"Roger Ver, in his announcement ... was quick to point out that participants could join. Legally, the country will have a constitution, but only after final negotiations are complete. The team hopes to establish a precedent for future sovereign nations, stating:
It is important to establish a proper rule of law, as our project will set an example for the industry and create an important precedent with governments and the world. We want to make sure the constitution is solid but avoid the inefficiencies of existing government structures."
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Thursday, September 21, 2017

MIT grads build reactor that uses nuclear waste

Can Reusing Spent Nuclear Fuel Solve Our Energy Problems? - Gary Strauss, National Geographic:

September 19, 2016 - "Nuclear ... engineer Leslie Dewan believes that a safe, environmentally friendly, next-generation nuclear reactor isn’t just feasible — it's commercially viable.

"As cofounder and CEO of Boston-based startup Transatomic Power, Dewan and fellow Massachusetts Institute of Technology grad Mark Massie are working on commercial-scale development of a molten salt reactor first prototyped in the 1960s at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

"'“We’ve changed the design to make it more compact, power dense, and able to run on spent nuclear fuel,' says the 31-year-old Dewan, a National Geographic Emerging Explorer....

"Unlike most traditional nuclear reactors that use water as a coolant and are fueled by solid uranium pellets, molten salt reactors [are] fueled by uranium dissolved in liquid salt, consuming fuel more slowly and efficiently.

 "Transatomic's reactor is also designed to automatically shut down during a power outage, with fuel draining into an escape tank and freezing solid, avoiding the kind of meltdown that has made more traditional nuclear power plant development abhorrent to power companies, alternative-energy proponets, environmentalists, and policymakers, many of whom remain alarmed by the prospect of more nuclear power.

 "Transatomic ... offers a solution to the problem of where to store spent nuclear fuel, which has long vexed scientists. Typical nuclear reactors consume only a fraction of the energy in their uranium fuel, which has lead to vast amounts of spent radioactive fuel rods.

"Transatomic's molten salt reactors would use that spent waste.

"''The world’s stockpile of nuclear waste is about 300,000 metric tons, about a football field’s worth that’s two meters deep,' Dewan says. 'There’s a tremendous amount of energy that’s left. With that waste, a waste-consuming molten salt reactor could produce enough electrical energy to power the world for decades.'"

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Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Illinois governor signs civil forfeiture reform

Rauner enacts civil asset forfeiture reform |

"September 20, 2017 - "Gov. Bruce Rauner today signed HB303, bipartisan legislation aimed at reforming Illinois’ asset forfeiture system. The reforms will increase transparency and shift burdens of proof to protect innocent citizens while maintaining the proper use of asset forfeiture as a tool for law enforcement. Gov. Rauner was joined by Illinois State Police (ISP) officials, ACLU members, legislators, and advocate organizations.

"'Illinois residents should be protected from the unfair seizure of their private property,' Gov. Rauner said. 'This legislation will enact needed reforms to prevent abuse of the civil asset forfeiture process, while maintaining its importance as a critical tool for law enforcement to make our communities safer.'

"When properly applied, asset forfeiture strikes at the economic foundation of criminal activity.... However, if asset forfeiture is misused, it can have major economic ramifications on Illinoisans who may be innocent of any wrongdoing. The forfeiture of cash, a vehicle, or even a home can also affect their family members and exacerbate financial insecurity.

"This important piece of legislation will provide for greater public transparency in Asset Forfeiture proceedings through the collection and publicly accessible reporting of forfeiture data, as well as additional sanction authority for abuse and violations of forfeiture rules by the ISP.

"HB 303 also shifts the burden of proving guilt to the government, and increases the burden of proof to mirror that of the federal government in forfeiture cases from probable cause to a preponderance of the evidence, a fair and equitable standard. It also makes a number of other changes such as eliminating restrictive bonding requirements and adjusting the threshold amounts of money subject to forfeiture as well as the levels of cannabis and controlled substance possession that can lead to forfeiture proceedings as a way to thoughtfully limit the use of this system to its intended purposes."

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Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Chinese government banning digital currencies

China orders Bitcoin exchanges in capital city to close - BBC News:

September 19, 2017 - "China is moving forward with plans to shut down Bitcoin exchanges in the country, starting with trading platforms in key cities.

"All Bitcoin exchanges in Beijing and Shanghai have been ordered to submit plans for winding down their operations by 20 September....

"Chinese authorities decided to ban digital currencies as part of a plan for reducing the country's financial risks.

"A website set up by the Chinese central bank warned that cryptocurrencies are 'increasingly used as a tool in criminal activities such as money laundering, drug trafficking, smuggling, and illegal fundraising'.

"According to a document leaked online by users on the social network Weibo that was seen by Coindesk, Chinese regulators ordered all cryptocurrency exchanges in Beijing to stop registering new user registration by midnight local time on 15 September, and ... to send regulators a detailed 'risk-free' plan of how they intend to exit the market before 18:30 local time on Wednesday 20 September.

"The regulator also ordered the exchanges to submit DVDs containing all user trading and holding data to the local authorities.....

"'China is shutting the exchanges down for good reasons - I think it's right they're being cautious at this time,' Paul Armstrong, an emerging technology adviser and author of the book Disruptive Technologies, told the BBC.... However, Mr Armstrong does not think that this will be the end of Bitcoin in China for good.

"'They're shutting it down for now, but it doesn't mean that in six months or so they won't create new Bitcoin regulations like Japan and Australia did," he said. 'All the other countries have digital currencies and are making important decisions about it, so it doesn't make sense for China to dismiss it out of hand.'"

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Monday, September 18, 2017

US House votes to block civil forfeiture expansion

In Surprise Vote, House Passes Amendment to Restrict Asset Forfeiture - Zaid Jilani, The Intercept:

September 12, 2017 - "In a surprise move, the House of Representatives on Tuesday approved an amendment to the Make America Secure and Prosperous Appropriations Act that will roll back Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s expansion of asset forfeiture.

"Amendment No. 126 was sponsored by a bipartisan group of nine members, led by Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich. He was joined by Democratic Reps. Ro Khanna of California; Washington state’s Pramila Jayapal, ... and Hawaii’s Tulsi Gabbard.

"Civil asset forfeiture is a practice in which law enforcement can take assets from a person who is suspected of a crime, even without a charge or conviction. Sessions revived the Justice Department’s Equitable Sharing Program, which allowed state and local police agencies to take assets and then give them to the federal government — which would in turn give a chunk back to local police. This served as a way for these local agencies to skirt past state laws designed to limit asset forfeiture....

"Amash, the prime mover of the amendment, spoke forcefully in favor of the Obama-era rules.... 'Unfortunately these restrictions were revoked in June of this year. My amendment would restore them by prohibiting the use of funds to do adoptive forfeitures that were banned under the 2015 rules,' he explained.

"Virginia Democratic Rep. Don Beyer reached across the aisle to voice support for Amash’s effort. 'Civil asset forfeiture without limits presents one of the strongest threats to our civil, property, and constitutional rights,' he said on the floor. 'It creates a perverse incentive to seek profits over justice.'

"The amendment passed with a voice vote, meaning it had overwhelming support.

"Republican Reps. Mark Sanford of South Carolina, Raúl Labrador of Idaho, and Dana Rohrabacher of California joined in the effort, along with Democrat Earl Blumenauer of Oregon."

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