Michael Shermer's Moral Arc

Posted by  $  MikeMarotta 1 year, 5 months ago to History
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“Again, I am not arguing that reason alone will get us there; we need legislation and laws to enforce civil rights, and a strong police and military to back up the state’s claim to hold a monopoly on the legitimate use of force to back up those laws. But those forces are themselves premised on being grounded in reason, and the legislation is backed by rational arguments.” (page 257)
SOURCE URL: https://necessaryfacts.blogspot.com/2017/07/michael-shermers-moral-arc.html


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  • Posted by chad 1 year, 5 months ago
    For the state to hold the 'legitimate' monopoly on force even if based on reason and rational arguments it immediately presumes I have no right to use force until contacting the government. Makes self defense impossible. Even if the government starts out with reason and objective rational arguments no guarantee it will remain that way, i.e. the US government based on a constitution that limited the governments authority has evolved into the government determining what rights the citizens have.
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    • Posted by  $  1 year, 5 months ago
      That is not true. Your proposed argument would never come from the principles of Objectivism, which is what this site is about, ultimately: the philosophy of Ayn Rand. Of course you have the right to self-defense. You do not have the right to retaliation. That is what is meant both by Shermer and by Rand by the legitimate monopoly on force.

      That argument was developed and refined over the course of 150 years.

      Your strawman is a peculiar interpretation, not one that I have read from a recognized source.
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  • Posted by pcaswani 1 year, 5 months ago
    In a piece in Scientific American Shermer argues that anti-gun control advocates were irrational. Out went any regard for his rationality.
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    • Posted by  $  1 year, 5 months ago
      Even Ayn Rand recognized legitimate powers of the government that included the possibility of gun control.

      http://www.michaelshermer.com/2013/10...

      http://www.michaelshermer.com/2013/05...

      I did not see where he "argues that anti-gun control advocates were irrational." He said that as a libertarian, he long advocated for open ownership of guns, but changed his mind when he considered the facts.

      He seems quite rational.

      BTW:


      From Ayn Rand Answers: the Best of Her Q&A, edited by Robert Mayhew © 2005 by The Estate of Ayn Rand.

      Q: What is your opinion of gun control laws?
      A: I do not know enough about it to have an opinion, except to say that it is not of primary importance. Forbidding guns or registering them is not going to stop criminals from having them; nor is it a great threat to the private, non-criminal citizen if he has to register the fact that he has a gun. It is not an important issue, unless you're ready to begin a private uprising right now, which isn't very practical. [Ford Hall Forum, 1971]

      Q: What's your attitude toward gun control?
      A: It is a complex, technical issue in the philosophy of law. Handguns are instruments for killing people -- they are not carried for hunting animals -- and you have no right to kill people. You do have the right to self-defense, however. I don't know how the issue is going to be resolved to protect you without giving you the privilege to kill people at whim.
      [Ford Hall Forum, 1973]
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      • Posted by pcaswani 1 year, 5 months ago
        I will lookup and read the article again. I felt his thrust was toward banning of guns by private citizens, which is what most gun control advocates really aim for. I do not see a problem with registering of arms. Thank you for your response.
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  • Posted by CircuitGuy 1 year, 5 months ago
    This reminds me of Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind. The author, Harari, says religion and culture give us shortcuts in dealing with strangers. We don't have to learn how a stranger does things because once we learn their religion or nationality, there are traits we can know they are likely to have and stories we know inform their worldview.

    He also says the the free market is just another set of traits like that, like the beliefs of a religion, that allow us to meet a stranger and interact with him without figuring everything out from scratch. I disagree with this. I think markets emerge naturally from respecting people's right to trade what they make.

    I think Harari would read the line "trade breaks down the natural animosity between strangers while simultaneously elevating trust between them" and say trade just happens to be our system. If we did not believe in trade but believed in the same religion, it would work the same way.

    I don't agree with that, but I still loved that book for its unrelated point of how their were many species in parallel to humankind around the the time anatomically modern humans appeared.
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    • Posted by  $  1 year, 5 months ago
      Thanks. I just placed a request at my branch library. I am number 57 in line. The library holds 25 copies. Must be a good book.

      I think that you would enjoy Debt: The First 5000 Years by David Graeber. Graeber is an anthropologist and he cites evidence from others in his field to show that trade did not begin with economic calculation. Trade began with gifting. Gifting creates a debt, if only a debt of gratitude. We see that even today when both parties across the counter say "thank you." As a left wing anarchist, Graeber is less sanguine about modern international central debt banking. (Except for his being a communist, he could be speaking for a large contingency here, though not for me.) Similarly, money did not begin with barter. No example of a barter economy evolving into a money economy is known. Better known is how barter replaces money when money is not available - hyperinflation, war, prison... As with your experience of Harari's work, I found a lot arguable, but a lot deeply valuable.
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      • Posted by CircuitGuy 1 year, 5 months ago
        "As a left wing anarchist, Graeber is less sanguine about modern international central debt banking."
        Harari does a good job spelling out modern banking. Someone has a good idea, he says, and investors give her money, which she puts in the bank. The bank can lend out the part she doesn't spend. She hires a supplier, and when he cashes her check, Harari invites us to image it goes into the same bank. The supplier pays his employees, who receive direct deposits in this same bank. So all these people are working to serve one another in mutual trades without using something of real value to trade. It's our believe that the fiat money that makes us able to use it without tying up real value as a medium of exchange. It seems like far-left and far-right people, whatever that means, don't like it. I think it's great. I don't even think it's a leap of faith as Harari suggests. There's some value of having a pile of something of value to trade, but there are also costs of protecting it and transporting it. I see use of fiat money as rational behavior, not akin to members of a religion agreeing to the same creed.
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        • Posted by  $  1 year, 4 months ago
          It is not "religion" but I agree that it is an idea. As a conceptualization of a truth, it works. That is the test of reality. Gold, silver, and copper are largely useless as metals. Copper is more useful than the other two because of its abundance, though aluminum is now known to be far more common. The precious metals cannot hold an edge. The make poor tools. At best, they need to be alloyed. Copper and tin make bronze. But there's not much you can do with silver and gold.

          But conceptually, they allowed an explosion in trade and commerce since the 7th century BCE. And all the moreso even as the disastrous volumes of the Comstock Lode took the world off the silver standard. Silver still has a place in the money matrix.

          But I agree that despite what hard money people claim, the stuff has no magical powers. Paper is just as good. America is proof positive of that. The Spanish conquered the Incas and Aztecs and looted millions of tons of precious metals. It did not make Spain rich. After independence, Mexico sold silver for gold to the merchants of Europe who trade with China. She did not become rich. Meanwhile the British colonies had no gold or silver. Massachusetts pioneered in paper money. And here we are today.

          I collect common stock certificates. Both Adam Smith and Carl Menger disliked joint-stock corporations because their capital came from speculative borrowing. Obviously, that is not a problem, but a significant strength, perhaps the sine qua non of enterprise.
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          • Posted by CircuitGuy 1 year, 4 months ago
            That's how I see it too.

            "But there's not much you can do with silver and gold. "
            I think of it has having value in contacts. The oxide that forms on it is thin, conductive, and wipes with contact. This makes electrical contacts reliable. I think of its value as coming from that, but your comment suggests if it weren't for its status as a historical store of value, it would be a lot cheaper.
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  • -1
    Posted by CircuitGuy 1 year, 5 months ago
    This review makes me want to read the book.
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    • Posted by  $  1 year, 5 months ago
      It is mostly about the rise of equality, of the end of slavery, of equal rights for women, and for gender minorities. All of those came as a consequence of the rise of science following the Age of Reason. But, as I said, for me, accepting all of that in the first place, I found other tidbits.

      The paper that he cited by Joseph Henrich and collaborators testing "The Ultimatum Game" and other experiments on people around the world has been a topic on Objectivist Living and on Rebirth of Reason. I found the paper compelling, but I have been dismayed by how many people refuse to read 45 pages, but still feel knowledgeable enough to comment.
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