I’m hoping that after this go around with Larry “[T]he Barefoot Bum” I’ll have said enough that perhaps I can get back to what I was trying to argue earlier. In the very least this may shine a sliver of light on perhaps the direction I’d like to take with it. To begin with, I’d like to try and break these things down more logically in an effort to make the tangled web more understandable (at least for myself anyway… I’m starting to sense that Larry is getting a bit frustrated, and I don’t want that.).
Let’s break this whole thing in a little bit different way to separate out all the terms:
A.) Consistently Determinable: a statement is consistently determinable if, given a context, i.e. some statements and inference rules, everyone will consistently assent or dissent to some statement.
B.) Objectively Determinable: A statement that is consistently determinable without introducing any properties of any minds.
C.) Subjectively Determinable: A statement that requires introducing properties of minds to be consistently determinable. (socially constructed).
D.) Ownership (is): Subjectively and social constructed. (we should be able to assume here that ownership is then “subjectively determinable”).
E.) Possession: arbitrarily labeled as objectively determinable.
Secondly there’s the manner with which Larry says we can evaluate social constructions:
i.) We can socially construct political judgments (judgments of justice and injustice) only on the basis of objectively determinable facts.
ii.) Another method of evaluation is to say that we can socially construct not only on the basis of objective facts, but also on subjective facts, such as agreements, laws, etc. (and earlier Larry states on, agreements, titles, deeds, leases, statutes, and regulations)
I would argue that if we’re going to remain consistent that “ii” should actually read:
ii.a) Another method of evaluation is to say that we can socially construct on the basis of subjectively determinable facts. (e.g. agreements, titles, deeds, leases, statutes, and regulations)***
And then of course a third option could be that we:
iii.) A final method of evaluating social constructs is to evaluate based on a combination of both subjectively and objectively determinable facts.
Let’s now flesh out how all this mess is supposed to work. We’ll start by looking at the way we can evaluate the social construction of ownership. If we base ownership only on the basis of “i”, then we’re explicitly agreeing that you own something if we can observe that you possess something, nothing more and nothing less. The most dangerous and obvious problem with this (among many) is the fact that it encourages a competition over thievery. After all, if we’re all socially agreeing that ownership is mere possession (“E” above, by way of “B”), then if I have it, it’s mine. So right at the start we can completely eliminate the idea that any sense can be made of “i”, and for reasons already argued the other issues over “B”.
With that mess out of the way, the only way we can hope to evaluate the concept of ownership is through “ii”, which I think we can rightly say is “ii.a”. In other words ownership must be subjectively determinable and contain such evidence for ownership as titles, deeds, receipts, etc..
I suppose I should say “not so fast Andrew”, because we can of course go by way of “iii”. In that case, ownership would require that you have both title, deed (etc.) by way of “ii.a”, and actual physical possession by way of “i”. Here’s the problem though, since I can’t always be in a state of “B”, I need to the state of “C” to legitimize my ownership when I’m not around. But if “C” legitimizes my ownership when “B” cannot be determined (i.e. a car in a mall parking lot) then what the heck do I need “B” for when it can be determined? Simply put you could suppose an situation where you were in a state of “B” relative to some possession in hand, then further suppose that someone took it. However if that person who did the taking was in a state of “C” relative to the taken object, he’d be in the right. Therefore “B” and “i” are still irrelevant.
Hopefully with all of this I’ve established (through the explicit use of Larry’s terms) that the only way to have sensible ownership is through “ii.a”. Any case then, where Larry wants to revert back to some use of “B” is just in some sense a confusion of his own terms and understanding - or perhaps that's just on the Libertarians part.
Moving along Larry states, “I have with my own ears heard Libertarians argue that taxation are objectionable, regardless of any social constructions, because it has the same objective facts as other cases we judge as unjust expropriation…” Of course, if these Libertarians are arguing using the same irrational assemblage of terms that Larry has put together, then I’d have to agree with Larry here. Since I’d argue that “i” through “B” is utter nonsense, then this statement by a Libertarian would also be as such. From there he states, “They (Libertarians) also argue, however, that enforcement of agreements is permissible, even though they have the same objective facts as unjust expropriation, because of the existence of the social constructions of agreements and ownership.” Since we only have “ii.a” to go on then all we need do is reaffirm the premise of the mitigation of coercion against property rights / ownership, all on it’s own. If that’s the premise, it need not include any other socially constructed agreements that don’t entail ownership. So when Larry states here, “…but arguing that social constructions in general cannot establish justice-relevant facts when one does not like a particular construction, and arguing that social constructions in general can establish justice-relevant facts when one does like a particular construction, is self-contradictory.” Where I would in some sense agree with this, I would also further this by saying that all we have are social constructions (according to the language again) so either the Libertarian and/or Larry are confused here. I would again say that social constructions can, do, and have to establish justice relevant facts, so it really comes down what those socially constructed facts will be.
As to taxes I would say this briefly:
Tax money is something I have ownership of, and not by way of “B”, because as we’ve already shown that doesn’t even make any sense, but by way of “C”. Now if for you this causes the dilemma of definition, i.e. we can just say that the government has ownership of that money, well I’d say that that’s simply not true and you’re only defining it as such for the convenience of your argument. Additionally taxes, whereas they are a social construction, are not at all like the agreements we talked about with respect to ownership by way of “ii.a”, in which case my accusation of your category mistake still stands. i.e. I have not agreed to pay taxes, was never at any time given a choice to pay or not pay, or given the option to come to some agreement. So again taxes and ownership, whereas they are both social constructions, are not both agreements of the same kind, and are not both serving the purpose of ownership.
In conclusion (and to repeat some already stated items) I would eschew the objective/subjective idea of convenience and say that to one extent or another all we do as people is exchange justifications for one thing or another, and develop social conventions for this or that thing or idea; that’s all we have. From my perspective all we can do is say that we want property rights (socially defined in some manner) protected and free from coercion. At the same time we can also affirm the desire for limited government and taxation without getting into any messy logical binds just by saying that’s what we want. The only issue that arises out of this is what are the implications of such a system and is such a system something we want? Now of course that excludes me (I suppose) from many of the Libertarian positions of justification that Larry is talking about, and perhaps in that I’m either not much of a Libertarian, or just one of a different kind. We’ll see.
First and foremost your comment on me just having a “revelation from God” is a low blow. By the definition of God we’re all used to westerners using, I’m every bit an atheist as you are, and in general call myself an atheist. My historical exploration of religion has been from the perspective of an Idealist and Nominalist, which as far as your concerned should be pretty noncontroversial and free of “pie in the sky” revelations. But touche’ good sir.