24 October 2006

Greenpeace want you to turn ALL the lights out

I notice Greenpeace are up in arms because the Queen (or whoever advises her) wants to light the Palace so that the tourists and see it better in the gloomy evenings of a British winter. Now I have no fervent opinion either way, it seems their business what they light up (with the usual proviso of not using my money to do it of course). What I don't understand is where Greenpeace draws their line in the sand? For example they say the palace will be "lit up like Blackpool Tower", that implies a certain frivolity about the lighting, but does that mean they don't think Blackpool Tower should be lit either? How far do we go, at what stage is lighting permitted? Football games seem to use a hell of a lot of electric light, maybe we should force them to only play on sunny days? I certainly hope the Greenpeace office isn't open outside of daylight hours, although no doubt they think their logically inconsistent outpourings are worthy of electric lighting.

'Natural Rights' are ultimately foundationalist

Johan at frimarknadsanarkist has an old essay Rights Do Not Exist on ASC. Unfortunately the subsequent comment thread seemed to descend into people ranting about how not believing in 'natural' rights meant you want to kill babies and the usual non-sequiturs!

However, an interesting question is what exactly natural rights sympathisers mean when they use the term rights. I think they are correct in saying it is more than mere approval or disapproval, maybe it is just a 'right-for' as someone mentioned in that thread. In this case it comes down to your ends and as I have argued before, ancap is about means not ends. So although 'natural righters' generally have similar ends to me (i.e. individual freedom) which generates similar 'natural rights' to the preferences I hold, ultimately their 'rights' are still ends based and categorically not universal.

It was also admitted in that thread that virtually all, if not all, argument about positive principles rests on shakey ontological grounds. Now this is fine for a non-rights inter-subjectivist ethical system, but is highly problematic for a foundationalist system of natural rights as we have the same old problem of no universally agreed foundation or even definition of the problem.

19 October 2006

It's quite simple really

"Ethics is in origin the art of recommending to others the sacrifices required for cooperation with oneself."

Bertrand Russell (1872–1970)
A Free Man’s Worship and Other Essays, ch. 6 (1976).

17 October 2006

What's so natural about rights?

As an anarcho-capitalist I do not hold with the idea of a positive right, in that such a right automatically entails the bondage of the individual to the collective. However, I am now also beginning to doubt the usefulness of trying to argue from negative rights, this is partly because it seems to create situations where negative rights suggest one course of action whilst the would be adherent of negative rights prefers another course of action (suggesting that the negative rights have somehow broken down in the particular instance). It is also because in situations where we do want the effect of negative rights, we can eliminate the need for 'rights'. An example of this is your right not to be killed, surely this is equivalent to the lack of anyone else with the right to kill you. I think this line of reasoning can lead to an non-rights based explanation for why anarcho-capitalism is the preferable system for the general furthering of individual goals.

This article, A Positive Account of Property Rights, by David Friedman, led me to thinking that maybe rights (or more specifically 'natural rights') are actually problematic for a systematic description of the basis for anarcho-capitalism. Rights are still talked about here, but they are specifically contractual, not philosophical. This then explains their origin and integrates them into a more evolutionary system, which has the potential to deal with the ambiguity apparent in philosophical systems of rights and ethics.

16 October 2006

A lady with your drink?

Well, I haven't been pouring over many dusty library economics books recently, instead my girl and I have been experiencing the more glamourous side of London nightlife. After much drama (including my girlfriend trekking over to the venue) we managed to get tickets to see Dita Von Teese at London's Koko Club, a show which had sold out in hours rather than days. Apparently it was her first performance in Britain since 1998. Interestingly we later saw tickets on Ebay going for as much as £255 a piece! (There's some economics for you - supply and demand, there was a hell of a lot of demand and very little supply!).

Unfortunately when we got there the queue was round the block and unless you were one of the first in you got to see nothing. Fortunately, a quiet word in a few ears got us into the VIP lounge (with other such notables as Amy Winehouse & Gary Kemp, who we think was standing next to us, but to be honest wasn't as interesting as the spectacle on stage) where the view was far superior and a stroll to a virtually empty bar, much more civilised.

I'm not sure how you review a show involving a scantily clad woman splashing about in an oversized champagne glass, but if you get the chance to see her (and it may mean a street brawl for a ticket) I'd recommend it. The main impression I took away from the performance is of someone who is able to look glamourous, amusing and alluring without looking trashy - a character that many of todays 'celebrities' clearly find painfully difficult to achieve.

Dita Von Teese