« Animal Rights Without Controversy? | Main | Defusing DRM »

February 13, 2006

Comments

Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Bob

Another example of the whims of the majority. Currently, Abortion is a right. It may not be tomorrow (figuratively, of course).

My point? Just because Picasso is considered "art" today, doesn't mean Picasso won't be considered rubbish tomorrow.

Many already consider Picasso rubbish, myself included, but that is neither here nor there.

The Law Fairy

Bob, interesting take on things, but you didn't answer the second question I asked -- what about the qualitative dimension to property rights? Should they be absolute? And, if not, how do we draw limits?

Kimball Corson

Don't hold your breath on Picassos becoming worthless in the future. Good art does hold its value. To be sure there are shooting star fads, but serious art hangs on persistently.

I start with Bob's take in reverse order. If he had a Devici or a Picasso and an unwavering urge to destroy it, I believe the state should stop him, for as Abe Lincoln put it property ". . .is a positive good in the world," the clear implication being that it should not be destroyed and taken out of the world. Rights in property that will likely be well valued by posterity have externalities that justify that. Others care and that matters.

On the aids issue, what if I had "the" chemical cure and I refused to sell it or priced it at $1 million for the 2 oz bottle. Should the state intervene? I think so. How is less clear. Millions should not die on my quirky or greedy whim (depending on what I spent, if anything, to get the cure).

The self-curing aids patient is interesting because his cure may be unique to him and of little value to others and because to study him well, you have to take his time, which is a portion of his life. I would need to know more to make a judgment. Were I he, I'd cooperate, but I see his point of view.

There should be limits to property rights and not just in the odd and rare case. Zoning limits property rights all the time, sometimes capriciously and without compensation or having the change priced in to the property timely. The question, in the particular instance, requires specific answers, usually turning on the extent of positive and negative externalities and the reasons for them.

As several have said, “everything is related to everything else.”

The Law Fairy

The AIDS case is distinct for another reason. In fact, interestingly enough, there are laws that prevent us from harming our own bodies as well -- for instance, laws against suicide. These laws are a more appropriate analogy to laws against destroying valuable artwork. If the law was that you *had* to destroy or turn over the artwork because, let's say, it was unpatriotic, then it would be more akin to telling the supposedly cured AIDS patient that he had to turn over his body to the government.

I don't see how the abortion analogy fits. Determining that something is a constitutional right is not a matter of taste, as you say art is, it's a matter of jurisprudence. How are determinations of artistic quality at all the same thing?

Kimball Corson

Aside from religious or other morally based concerns about abortion being murder, the operating principle of Roe v Wade is that when the fetus is not typically viable outside the woman's body (the first trimester), it is a part of her body and her right of privacy lets her decide what to do with it. After that, it is deemed viable and a separate entity, subject to the protections of the state against murder, etc.

Often there are no real externalities to her decision in the first trimester, although as a Chicago economist argues based on the data, the abortion of low socioeconomic fetuses permitted by Roe v wade has caused a massive ensuing drop in US crime rates. The externalities in these instances are negative and very substantial and strongly auger for abortion, the route typically taken when there is insufficient money, love or concern to support the fetus.

However, here we have negative externalities to non-destruction, not positive externalities precluding destruction, so the analogy to destruction of a fine painting does not apply. On the other hand, say a higher socioeconomic fetus is aborted that would have been a genius who would have contributed greatly to humankind and its welfare, then destruction of that fetus becomes very analogous to destruction of a valuable painting. The externalities are all positive and very substantial, just as with the fine painting. Yet the law, looking at other considerations, ignores these differences.

I think we need to pay closer attention to what we want to destroy and what the effects of destruction are or are likely to be.

The Law Fairy

Kimball, I have to disagree. Any kind of moral or economic or other calculus related to abortion is fundamentally different from a calculus related to mere property rights. Bob will probably disagree with me here, since he appears to take the quasi-Marxist view that personal rights are property rights.

As you note, the issue with abortion is, for pro-choicers, that the growing baby is part of the woman's body, and she therefore has some degree of control over what happens to him/her/it. By the way, there is a decent argument for legal abortion that takes into account the human-ness of the fetus, but that's neither here nor there.

Now: if personal/bodily rights (I would call this a right to self-determination) are no different, qualitatively, from property rights (the right to control your *things*), then you may be correct that the calculus should be the same -- let's look at the social benefits of isolated action X, say, killing poor fetuses/babies (or killing girl fetuses/babies, as is common in some countries). But if personal/bodily rights have something important about them that makes them *different* from basic rights over things, as I strongly believe they do, then a simple social benefit calculus is insufficient -- not to mention the horrific and elitist implications of making it okay, or "more" okay, to abort poor people's babies than rich people's.

My primary point here is simply that abortion is a *much* more complicated and important issue than whether or not you can torch *things* that have social value. It's apples and oranges, and I think it is imprecise and incorrect to insert the hot-button issue of abortion here, where it's neither appropriate nor applicable.

Kimball Corson

Law Fairy writes:

"Any kind of moral or economic or other calculus related to abortion is fundamentally different from a calculus related to mere property rights."

I respond:

There is an economics of property rights basically holding that as resources become progressively and relatively scarce in regard to the demand for them, public rights of use in them wane and private rights in them become ever better defined. Economics and property rights are therefore closely tied together and always have been.

From a personal point of view, which should be and is considered under Roe v Wade for the first trimester for the mother, abortion is complicated and entails the issues you describe for the individual woman. From a societal point of view, the issue, beyond that, is very different. The abolition of slavery did not do away with property rights in people, it only assigned them to the individuals themselves and imposed limitations on their disposition and use. Abortion has an aspect of this very problem and the law is alienation or disposition of the fetus, as a part of the mother, is allowed during the first trimester. The decision of whether to abort is personal, and as you describe or suggest, but property rights and societal issues are implicitly involved as I show here.

Law Fairy writes:

“. . . a simple social benefit calculus is insufficient -- not to mention the horrific and elitist implications of making it okay, or "more" okay, to abort poor people's babies than rich people's.”

I respond:

A social benefit analysis may be insufficient for the mother, but it should be a part, I argue, of her considerations. Socially, the analysis matters a great deal, for reasons of crime, avoidance of social problems, societal cross-subsidies to provide social services, the absolute burden of those services, the social cost of crime, the impact on social progress, etc. These issues are societally very important, yet arise as external effects of the birth decision. That is why I argue they should also be considered by prospective mothers as well, and there is some evidence that in one or another way they are often are, especially by poor, lower class mothers.

Also, the distinction is not always simply between “poor people's babies” and “rich people's [babies].” The real issues are, for each prospective fetus and from society’s point of view, those I describe, not necessarily wealth. However, wealth may be a rough proxy variable, but that is only because of the underlying genetic conditions and the sorting out that has occurred on that basis, among others. in previous generations. Moreover, genius has a habit of popping up in odd places and this is reinforced by the regression toward the mean phenomenon of characteristics, such as IQ and the like, which are normally distributed.

The issue of whether to kill or keep a part of you is personal to each woman and she should be allowed some leeway, as Roe v Wade permits, to make that decision herself. But it is foolish to deny or try to ignore the external, societal effects of that decision which the woman should also try to consider as well, as many women do.

Law Fairy writes:

“I think it is imprecise and incorrect to insert the hot-button issue of abortion here, where it's neither appropriate nor applicable.”

I respond:

I disagree, as I have explained in my last post and this one. The fact that abortion is a “hot button issue” is largely due to the disparate and conflicting religious and moral viewpoints brought to bear on the problem of defining a woman’s property rights to a part of her body in this quarter. The problem is, as I see it, the societal perspectives I suggest are too much swamped in the endless emotional debates and arguments. And I don’t think that should be. The societal issues are more important than the religious debates, in my view.

Bob

Fairy,

"what about the qualitative dimension to property rights? Should they be absolute? And, if not, how do we draw limits?"

I believe they are absolute. Why? Because how would you enforce a law that separates property rights from ownership? It would be a nightmare and would involve on infringing on all our other rights in order to enforce this separation. This law would necessarily have to violate every right listed in our Bill of Rights in order to be enforced.

For example, if I had a Picasso, I could destroy it without anyone knowing. I could replace it with a copy and nobody would be the wiser until after my death. So, tell me, how would you enforce your idea of "not really your property" rights without violating all my other rights.

Bob

Kimball,

"Don't hold your breath on Picassos becoming worthless in the future. Good art does hold its value. To be sure there are shooting star fads, but serious art hangs on persistently."

This is an opinion, not a fact.

There are many artists and authors who have been reclassified as hacks. Art is not science. Art is emotional. As we change, our preferences change. Art is not immortal. Art preferences are different based on age, ethnicity, language, religion, etc. For different reasons, many people find Picasso to be garbage, many find Michealangelo to be offensive, many find the art of Farrah Fawcett to be magnificent (lol, you ought to check it out, it sells for huge sums, don't ask me why?).

When you say "good art" is rare and valuable, the word "good" is just your opinion. Yes, it may also be the opinion of many others at this point and time. That does not make this "good art" good. Even art experts disagree on may pieces of art, so don't bring in experts as testimony, because expert opinions are, after all, just opinions too.

"If he had a Devinci or a Picasso and an unwavering urge to destroy it, I believe the state should stop him... Rights in property that will likely be well valued by posterity have externalities that justify that."

I disagree. Just because something is valued by you doesn't give you the right to take it from me. You may buy it from me, but you can't take it. As long as it is mine, I can do with it what I wish. If, somehow, you found out that I was going to destroy it, you could offer to buy it. But to take/steal it from me is illegal. And to have the state take/steal it from me is just as illegal. Or do you also believe that the majority (the state) can do things that individuals cannot (like steal)? Do you believe that "might make right?"

"On the aids issue, what if I had "the" chemical cure and I refused to sell it or priced it at $1 million for the 2 oz bottle. Should the state intervene? I think so."

Then what is my motivation to find the cure if I cannot profit from my work? I would choose to destroy the cure than to let you steal it from me. Selfish? Yes, but more selfish of you to steal it from me in the name of altruistic ideals, because you see, you lose nothing. I am the one losing.

"There should be limits to property rights and not just in the odd and rare case. Zoning limits property rights all the time, sometimes capriciously and without compensation or having the change priced in to the property timely."

I disagree. And by your own admission here, zoning laws are unfair. Why? Because it is impossible to fairly separate property rights from ownership without violating individual rights. Zoning laws may be legal, but they are definitely political and not lawful. Basically, they smack of fascism, where citizens are allowed to "own" (and I use this word lightly) the property, but control of the property remains with the state.

The Law Fairy

Bob,

Here's the problem. By "absolute," I take it you mean you should be able to do whatever you want with your property. I disagree, and my view is the one that our government in fact stands by, as does basically everyone other than anarchists. It's far more feasible than the anarchist world you seem to favor.

I'm sure you're familiar with the adage "your right to swing your fist stops at my nose." That is to say, your personal and/or property rights are limited to the extent that they harm others. If, as several of us have argued here, destroying priceless works of art causes harm, this should be taken into account in determining whether or not property rights should be limited on this basis.

If you want to take the argument that "harm" should only include direct physical harm, then theft is not wrong, as long as no one is physically imperiled by the theft. So how do you distinguish your argument?

If you still take the position that property rights are aboslute... well, no offense, but I hope we never meet in person.

The Law Fairy

I know you wrote this in response to Kimball, but think about what you're saying here:

"Then what is my motivation to find the cure if I cannot profit from my work? I would choose to destroy the cure than to let you steal it from me. Selfish? Yes, but more selfish of you to steal it from me in the name of altruistic ideals, because you see, you lose nothing. I am the one losing."

You would rather let people DIE than lose some money? Do you seriously ascribe no differential value between money and life?? And it is not the case that your destroying the cure wouldn't harm someone like Kimball. For all we know, a dear relative or close friend of his could be dying of AIDS. I myself have lost a family member to AIDS. I can assure you, losing a *person* hurts one hell of a lot more than losing *money*.

Bob

Fairy,

"The AIDS case is distinct for another reason. In fact, interestingly enough, there are laws that prevent us from harming our own bodies as well -- for instance, laws against suicide."

Yes, this is currently true in our country, but our laws are not consistent. We still allow people to drink and smoke. Euthanasia (a form of suicide) is being allowed, but currently only with the help doctors. Again, these laws are difficult to enforce and infringe on our personal and property rights. I have made millions of decisions about my life throught my life, but when it comes time to die...the state takes over? Why? Because of your (not mine) antiquated religious morality that preaches that my life belongs to God, so I don't have the right to take it? Do I own my life, or not?

"These laws are a more appropriate analogy to laws against destroying valuable artwork."

How are they more appropriate? These laws are all political modifications of property rights. That's all.

"If the law was that you *had* to destroy or turn over the artwork because, let's say, it was unpatriotic, then it would be more akin to telling the supposedly cured AIDS patient that he had to turn over his body to the government."

Okay? And this proves what? That political laws are fair and consistent? I don't think so.

"I don't see how the abortion analogy fits."

Well, it depends on whether you believe that the baby has a right to his life. Does the baby own his own body, or does the mother own the baby? I believe that the baby has property rights in his own body. I believe that the baby is a separate entity and human being, with rights. I understand that many people disagree with my view. Disagreement noted, but not accepted. And no, I am not some right wing religious fundamentalist (as you can see from my previous statements). I am actaully an atheist. I just believe in property rights.

"Determining that something is a constitutional right is not a matter of taste, as you say art is, it's a matter of jurisprudence."

Of course.

"How are determinations of artistic quality at all the same thing?"

They're not. Please read my previous post.

Bob

All,

Look, on this abortion issue. I did not bring it up to debate it. I brought it up to show that the majority changes it's mind from time to time. Therefore, laws change to accomodate the current opinion. Abortion used to be illegal. Roe v Wade made it legal. Currently, the Supreme Court is looking at this issue again. They may very well make abortion illegal again. That was the only point I was trying to make...that the current opinion about any issue, or peice of artwork, can change at any time.

And fairy,

If you really think that determining whether a law is constitutional or not is a matter of jurisprudence, you have not been paying attention. 99% of all law is political and has nothing to do with jurisprudence.

Bob

Kimball,

"Aside from religious or other morally based concerns about abortion being murder, the operating principle of Roe v Wade is that when the fetus is not typically viable outside the woman's body (the first trimester), it is a part of her body and her right of privacy lets her decide what to do with it. After that, it is deemed viable and a separate entity, subject to the protections of the state against murder, etc."

What was that case where a black man was convicted of 2 counts of first degree murder when he killed a white woman who was 2 months pregnant? So, is the baby a separate entity only after 3 months, or not?

"Often there are no real externalities to her decision in the first trimester..."

How in the hell would we ever know that? That could've been Picasso in there.

"although as a Chicago economist argues based on the data, the abortion of low socioeconomic fetuses permitted by Roe v wade has caused a massive ensuing drop in US crime rates."

Ah, abortion is good because it kills off future gang-bangers. Oh, I see now.

"The externalities in these instances are negative and very substantial and strongly auger for abortion, the route typically taken when there is insufficient money, love or concern to support the fetus."

Well, that would be a good case for using contraception, but a very weak case for killing the innocent baby.

"However, here we have negative externalities to non-destruction..."

Ever heard of adoption? Yes, I realize that you believe that killing the baby is easier and less messy, but adoption could work.

"...not positive externalities precluding destruction, so the analogy to destruction of a fine painting does not apply."

I just gotta say here...you're nuts!

"On the other hand, say a higher socioeconomic fetus is aborted that would have been a genius who would have contributed greatly to humankind and its welfare, then destruction of that fetus becomes very analogous to destruction of a valuable painting. The externalities are all positive and very substantial, just as with the fine painting."

So, you're saying that a genius could not come from a lower socioeconomic class? Omg, you're an elitist. You realize, of course, that Einstein was from this lower socioeconomic class. Hell, so were most artists, writers, etc. Hell, most of them were drunks and addicts too. Man, you're just plain sick, you know that?

"Yet the law, looking at other considerations, ignores these differences."

I hope so.

"I think we need to pay closer attention to what we want to destroy and what the effects of destruction are or are likely to be."

Yes, I see you do. All the poor people line up on the left, rich people on the right. Okay, gunners, fire! Problem solved. You must be one sad $%#.

Bob

Fairy,

"Any kind of moral or economic or other calculus related to abortion is fundamentally different from a calculus related to mere property rights. Bob will probably disagree with me here, since he appears to take the quasi-Marxist view that personal rights are property rights."

True, but I don't like to be pigeon-holed as a quasi-Marxist, lol.

"then a simple social benefit calculus is insufficient -- not to mention the horrific and elitist implications of making it okay, or "more" okay, to abort poor people's babies than rich people's."

Right on!

"My primary point here is simply that abortion is a *much* more complicated and important issue than whether or not you can torch *things* that have social value."

Oh well,you were doing so well, too, lol. Of course, you understand by now that I don't think it's complicated at all. Individual rights and property rights are one and the same.

"It's apples and oranges, and I think it is imprecise and incorrect to insert the hot-button issue of abortion here, where it's neither appropriate nor applicable."

Like I said before, I was using abortion as an example of how the preferences and opinions of the majority will change laws as well as redefine "good" art.

Bob

Kimball,

"There is an economics of property rights basically holding that as resources become progressively and relatively scarce in regard to the demand for them, public rights of use in them wane and private rights in them become ever better defined. Economics and property rights are therefore closely tied together and always have been."

That is if you believe in the "pie theory." Myself, I believe in the "abundance theory."

"The abolition of slavery did not do away with property rights in people, it only assigned them to the individuals themselves ..."

See, people are property, and they have property rights to themselves.

"...and imposed limitations on their disposition and use."

And then they went an ruined it with political laws - you can "own" yourself, but the state still controls you. Ownership without control is fascism.

"A social benefit analysis may be insufficient for the mother, but it should be a part, I argue, of her considerations. Socially, the analysis matters a great deal, for reasons of crime, avoidance of social problems, societal cross-subsidies to provide social services, the absolute burden of those services, the social cost of crime, the impact on social progress, etc. These issues are societally very important, yet arise as external effects of the birth decision. That is why I argue they should also be considered by prospective mothers as well, and there is some evidence that in one or another way they are often are, especially by poor, lower class mothers. "

Damn, you're such an elitist. Too bad your mother wasn't poor. If she was, then what the hell happened?

"Also, the distinction is not always simply between “poor people's babies” and “rich people's [babies].” The real issues are, for each prospective fetus and from society’s point of view, those I describe, not necessarily wealth. However, wealth may be a rough proxy variable, but that is only because of the underlying genetic conditions and the sorting out that has occurred on that basis, among others. in previous generations. Moreover, genius has a habit of popping up in odd places and this is reinforced by the regression toward the mean phenomenon of characteristics, such as IQ and the like, which are normally distributed."

My god, it's people like you that prove god doesn't exist. lol, look, i said "my god," and I'm an atheist, lol.

"The issue of whether to kill or keep a part of you is personal to each woman and she should be allowed some leeway, as Roe v Wade permits, to make that decision herself."

Yeah, we should let the woman be selfish and kill her child.

"But it is foolish to deny or try to ignore the external, societal effects of that decision which the woman should also try to consider as well, as many women do."

External, societal effects like losing respect for life? That must be why we make war so much. Lives are expendable.

"... due to the disparate and conflicting religious and moral viewpoints brought to bear on the problem of defining a woman’s property rights to a part of her body in this quarter."

Why just this quarter? Why not the first half? Why not 100 days? The time is arbitrary. It was a compromise. Totally political, non-scientific.

"The problem is, as I see it, the societal perspectives I suggest are too much swamped in the endless emotional debates and arguments."

Too true.

"And I don’t think that should be. The societal issues are more important than the religious debates, in my view."

True again, but the societal issues you argue from are still different than the ones I argue from.

The Law Fairy

I think we're getting a little off-track here. Bob, you may not have intended for the abortion analogy (still not a good one) to erupt into an argument about abortion, but that was precisely my point with the "hot-button" comment -- you bring up something like abortion where it really isn't applicable, or at the very least, where it isn't necessary, and you open a can of worms you can't always close.

I vote for ignoring the abortion thing and saving it for a post addressing abortion. Same for the social value-versus-religious value thing.

Bob, the problem with the point you were trying to make about society's attitudes changing doesn't completely address the issue. Moral right legislation (note: I use this term in the classic French sense, specifically addressing the rights of artists that inhere in them as expressed through their works; I am not talking about morally-based legislation), where it exists, is imprecise and imperfect. There are a few issues here: either artwork has value, or it does not. I assume, Bob, that you take it to have value, since you say you own some. If artwork has value, from whence does it arise? It must be something more than the simple materialistic value of the canvas and paint. Art, in this sense, is more than the sum of its parts. You are free to disagree, of course: would you then abolish all copyright, trademark, and patent protection?

Copyright, in particular, would suffer from your "absolute property rights" rhetoric. If I own a physical copy of a book, I am not free to xerox it as many times as I want and pass it out to strangers for a minimal fee. This is because the author retains intellectual property rights in the book. The ownership is not of the book itself, but of the thoughts, the ideas, the expression in the book. The book, like the painting, is more than the sum of its parts. Too, with paintings, artists and society are seen to retain some sort of property or quasi-proprietary rights in the work. Thus, destruction of the sole copy of the work infringes on others' rights.

Think, too, about laws against destruction of evidence. Should Enron be allowed to shred its accounting statements? Should accused criminals have absolute power to prevent their property from being disturbed in the face of a valid warrant? If so, how are we to run an orderly society? And if not, how does this square with your notion of absolute property rights?

Kimball Corson

Bob swings a wide and undiscerning axe, in my view. But let me start at the beginning.

Great art, literature and music are not just matters of opinion. There is such a thing as classic art, literature and music, where the key meaning of the word “classic” is that such art, literature and music have lasting significance or worth; they are enduring. That Bach has outlasted Bill Haley makes the point and where the point can be made, the concept of that which is classic holds. To be sure fads abound, but the test of time sorts them out and only the classics by definition survive.

The postmodernistic, nihilistic view that everything is equal and transitory and all subject to a jumbled mixed of conflicting opinion is an argument I heard from my son, who himself never believed it but wanted to hear what I had to say, when he was an early teenager. The view is simply not supported by the empirical evidence or long term market pricings. That many Aunt Millies do not like and could not afford a Picasso is neither here nor there. Classic art, literature and music are made so by the informed and studied connociente of each generation who steep themselves in such matters and make it their focus to know and refine their sensibilities. They aid the rest of us to learn and understand and use our means to provide confirmation. To be sure, at the edges and as a matter of central tendency, some things come and go, but the core holds up very well, thank you.

Further, just because you think art valuations are arbitrary and subject to caprice and whim, does not give you unlimited property rights in any great art you may have ironically stumbled into, for the reasons Law Fairy and I have carefully explained: negative inter and intra generational externalities abound to preclude your claimed absolutist right of destruction. Your round house swing of destruction stops at their noses, as Law Fairy has explained.

You “quote mine” me on the next topic: an aids cure. What I said was:
“On the aids issue, what if I had "the" chemical cure and I refused to sell it or priced it at $1 million for the 2 oz bottle. Should the state intervene? I think so. How is less clear. Millions should not die on my quirky or greedy whim (depending on what I spent, if anything, to get the cure).”

Ignoring the last two sentences here, you then argue, “Then what is my motivation to find the cure if I cannot profit from my work? I would choose to destroy the cure than to let you steal it from me. Selfish? Yes, but more selfish of you to steal it from me in the name of altruistic ideals, because you see, you lose nothing. I am the one losing.”

No one said you could not earn a nice profit from your work. If you stumbled upon your cure and it cost you only $10,000 to discover it and $6 to produce each 2 oz bottle of it, why should you be able to charge everyone $1 million for the 2 oz bottle so that only the very wealthy can afford it and the rest die or suffer? Again, your round house swing, born of greed, should stop at their noses and your absolutist rights should be curbed. If on the other hand, your development costs were $10 billion and production costs are $850,000 for a 2 oz bottle, that is another matter.

Your absolutist position on property rights assumes there are no negative or positive externalities connected with your disposition and use of your property. But that is not the case. Your approach is no more than to say I want to do what I want and to hell with everyone else. That does not work in a collective social order and if you cannot curb the results of your thinking, then the state should.

Hopping to my next post, Bob takes issue with my contention that Roe v Wade decided that during the first trimester, the fetus was not typically viable outside of the woman’s body, so legally it was to be deemed a part of her body and subject to her rights of privacy which in turn allows her to keep or dispose of it. He does so by citing an inconsistent case where a black man was charged with the murder of a 2 month old fetus when he killed the mother. I respond that an isolated lower court inconsistency does not alter the current law of the land as determined by the Supreme Court.

Bob then takes great umbrage at my next statement that "[o]ften there are no real externalities” to a decision to abort, writing “How in the hell would we ever know that? That could've been Picasso in there.” I respond that prospective mothers often have very good and keen sensibilities in this regard. If no one anywhere in the extended family draws or has any artistic interest or capacity whatsoever, a Picasso is improbable or very unlikely. Genetic studies show various classes of talents and abilities tend to bunch in clusters within families across and within generations, even if they are not well developed in specific instances.

Bob then quotes me correctly to say "a Chicago economist argues based on the data, the abortion of low socioeconomic fetuses permitted by Roe v wade has caused a massive ensuing drop in US crime rates and responds to my comment by saying, “Ah, abortion is good because it kills off future gang-bangers. Oh, I see now.” I reply, that is not how I would put it. Better said, mothers carefully chose to abort future criminals -- often realizing that the criminal behaviors of the putative father and his brothers are suggestive and make that socially and personally the sensible choice.

Bob goes on to quote me as saying "The externalities in these instances are negative and very substantial and strongly auger for abortion, the route typically taken when there is insufficient money, love or concern to support the fetus," but he then argues, “Well, that would be a good case for using contraception, but a very weak case for killing the innocent baby.” I respond that when abortion decisions are made, contraception is no longer a realistic option, and secondly, that – inflammatory rhetoric aside -- the existence of very substantial prospective negative externalities are in fact a good reason for a first trimester abortion. Missing the point, Bob then says, “Ever heard of adoption? Yes, I realize that you believe that killing the baby is easier and less messy, but adoption could work.” Again inflammatory rhetoric aside.
I content adoption would not work because the likelihood is the adopted child will still become a criminal. Although the American Academy of Science does not want researchers studying this sensitive topic, the truth is steadily leaking out anyway and we do not like the results.

I wrote, ‘strong negative externalities urging abortion or destruction is a different situation than strong positive externalities precluding destruction, so the analogy to the timely destruction of a fetus to the intended destruction of a fine painting is not a good one.” Bob responds, “I just gotta say here...you're nuts!” I reply, emotionalism and name calling often preclude or limit thought and understanding.

Bob quotes me as saying, "On the other hand, say a higher socioeconomic fetus is aborted that would have been a genius who would have contributed greatly to humankind and its welfare, then destruction of that fetus becomes very analogous to destruction of a valuable painting. The externalities are all positive and very substantial, just as with the fine painting." Bob then goes one to react, “So, you're saying that a genius could not come from a lower socioeconomic class? Omg, you're an elitist. You realize, of course, that Einstein was from this lower socioeconomic class. Hell, so were most artists, writers, etc. Hell, most of them were drunks and addicts too. Man, you're just plain sick, you know that?”
I respond, Again, Bob is playing silly, shabby games here. As I explained to Law Fairy before Bob wrote his ad homenium slur,

“ . . . [t]he distinction is not always simply between “poor people's babies” and “rich people's [babies].” The real issues are, for each prospective fetus and from society’s point of view, those I describe, not necessarily wealth. However, wealth may be a rough proxy variable, but that is only because of the underlying genetic conditions and the sorting out that has occurred on that basis, among others. in previous generations. Moreover, genius has a habit of popping up in odd places . . .”

My key points are that during the first trimester, a prospective mother also ought to try to also consider if there will be substantial and likely positive or negative externalities to her decision on whether to abort, which I think is important for the good of the society, but that the law and others ignore these considerations. Bob reacts with the comment, “I hope so.”

Finally, I argue that “ . . . we need to pay closer attention to what we want to destroy and what the effects of destruction are or are likely to be." Again, Bob reacts badly: “Yes, I see you do. All the poor people line up on the left, rich people on the right. Okay, gunners, fire! Problem solved. You must be one sad $%#.” I respond, with too many mindsets like Bob’s in this matter social progress is going to be very difficult and any we get will probably have much attending foolish, too.

Kimball Corson

Law Fairy writes,

"I vote for ignoring the abortion thing and saving it for a post addressing abortion. Same for the social value-versus-religious value thing."

Query: Inasmuch as wandering is a venerable tradition on these threads because thoughts lead where they will, is this not Mother's dictum in disguise mandating that if we do not have something nice -- i.e., non-offending -- to say, we should not say anything?

Bob

Fairy,

"There are a few issues here: either artwork has value, or it does not. I assume, Bob, that you take it to have value, since you say you own some. If artwork has value, from whence does it arise?"

To me, all value comes from the individual. All value is relative. What I may value, you may not. You may value Picasso; I wouldn't pay one thin dime for it.

"It must be something more than the simple materialistic value of the canvas and paint. Art, in this sense, is more than the sum of its parts."

Of course, as is most anything.

"You are free to disagree, of course: would you then abolish all copyright, trademark, and patent protection?"

Of course not, but we are not speaking of the same thing now. Copyright, trademark and patent protects the individual creator, not society's unearned claim to the artist's work. I believe that the individual absolutley owns his creations until he dies. Then, society may use it freely.

"Copyright, in particular, would suffer from your "absolute property rights" rhetoric. If I own a physical copy of a book, I am not free to xerox it as many times as I want and pass it out to strangers for a minimal fee. This is because the author retains intellectual property rights in the book. The ownership is not of the book itself, but of the thoughts, the ideas, the expression in the book."

Absolutely. When it comes to books, it is the ideas that are owned. Copies are made and sold by the author. The author should be protected.

"The book, like the painting, is more than the sum of its parts."

Books are not quite like paintings. Authors works are copyrighted because their work can be duplicated easily. Artist's works cannot be duplicated. They can be forged, but experts candistinguish conterfeits from originals. But now we are speaking anout special cases and I think this distracts from the main point. Besides, today there is much art, too, that can easily be duplicated - photgraphs, for instance.

"Too, with paintings, artists and society are seen to retain some sort of property or quasi-proprietary rights in the work."

Here I disagree with you. Yes, artists retain property rights to their work, but society has no claim on an individuals work. This is the main point I am trying to argue.

"Thus, destruction of the sole copy of the work infringes on others' rights."

Not at all, as other's (society, the state, or whatever you want to name them) can make no claim on my creations.

"Think, too, about laws against destruction of evidence. Should Enron be allowed to shred its accounting statements?"

Yes. Why should they keep self-incriminating evidence? Yes, it makes law enforcement more difficult, but that is no reason to force people to self-incriminate. That's why we have the 4th and 5th Amendments.

"Should accused criminals have absolute power to prevent their property from being disturbed in the face of a valid warrant?"

Actaully, I believe so. Circumstantial evidence is rarely convincing in court, although it may put the investigators on the proper "trail." Besides, just because you "accuse" someone, doesn't mean they are guilty. And I don't think there is any such animal as an "accused criminal." One is not a criminal until after the verdict is "guilty."

"If so, how are we to run an orderly society?"

Well, it will be harder on law enforcement, but we would be a more free and better society for it.

"And if not, how does this square with your notion of absolute property rights?"

It squares perfectly.

Bob

Here is my question to you all...

Under what circumstances is it moral for a group to do that which is not moral for a member of a group to do alone?

It is the KEY question. It is a radical question that strikes to the root of the whole dilemma of government. Anyone who answers honestly and abides by ALL consequences knows where he stands.

If you believe that circumstances exist, then you must also believe that society has a claim on your creations, your work, your production, your body, and your mind. The consequence for you that believe this...is slavery.

Yes, I feel that strongly.

The Law Fairy

Kimball, I absolutely appreciate and agree with your concern about Big Brother (or, lol, Big Mother) limiting what we can talk about. My vote for sticking to the art issues had less to do with meandering off-topic than it did with the fact that, in my opinion, such meandering was not really getting us anywhere. But, of course, people are free to comment on what they wish and I believe it should remain so.

Kimball Corson

Bob quotes me as saying:

"There is an economics of property rights basically holding that as resources become progressively and relatively scarce in regard to the demand for them, public rights of use in them wane and private rights in them become ever better defined. Economics and property rights are therefore closely tied together and always have been." He then writes: “That is if you believe in the ‘pie theory.’ Myself, I believe in the ‘abundance theory.’" I reply, actually the theory I refer to has elements of both. The idea is relative scarcity. Supply can be fixed (pie theory) or expandable. Either way, goods and services are scarce to one degree or another in light of the quantity demanded.

I wrote, "The abolition of slavery did not do away with property rights in people, it only assigned them to the individuals themselves ..." Bob responds, “See, people are property, and they have property rights to themselves.” I reply, we agree.

I wrote, the abolition of slavery ". . . imposed limitations on the disposition and use" by a person of his or her property rights in him or herself.” Bob responds, “And then they went an ruined it with political laws - you can "own" yourself, but the state still controls you. Ownership without control is fascism.” I reply. The fact we live closely together means the exercise of one’s unfettered rights to do what he wants can impinge on the rights of others and so the law tries to control these problems. But the attending result is we loose some rights in us to do what we want. To that extent, you are right.

I wrote, "A social benefit analysis may be insufficient for the mother, but it should be a part, I argue, of her considerations. Socially, the analysis matters a great deal, for reasons of crime, avoidance of social problems, societal cross-subsidies to provide social services, the absolute burden of those services, the social cost of crime, the impact on social progress, etc. These issues are societally very important, yet arise as external effects of the birth decision. That is why I argue they should also be considered by prospective mothers as well, and there is some evidence that in one or another way they are often are, especially by poor, lower class mothers. "

Bob responds. “Damn, you're such an elitist. Too bad your mother wasn't poor. If she was, then what the hell happened?” I reply, she and my father both started very poor, each had faith in his or her abilities, got excellent educations (he, at an ivy league university before World War I and she, later), decided kids would be a good idea, had my brother and me, made considerable money, lived well and died, and my brother and I got good educations too – and not paid for by our parents at all. Their theory was we were smart, healthy and ambitious and would get what we wanted in life. If that included education, then we would do well there too. That is what happened, for both of us. I guess poor means just that and for then. Not necessarily stupid and not necessarily forever poor.

Bob quoted me as saying, "Also, the distinction is not always simply between “poor people's babies” and “rich people's [babies].” The real issues are, for each prospective fetus and from society’s point of view, those I describe, not necessarily wealth. However, wealth may be a rough proxy variable, but that is only because of the underlying genetic conditions and the sorting out that has occurred on that basis, among others. in previous generations. Moreover, genius has a habit of popping up in odd places . . ."

He then writes, “My god, it's people like you that prove god doesn't exist. lol, look, i said "my god," and I'm an atheist, lol.” I reply. I just think we need to get our heads out of the clouds, stop focusing on the next life and start paying more and better attention to the present one. We probably could have eliminated poverty in America with the money and effort that has been spent on the abortion debate and religious squabbling and fighting. If God is guiding us in our daily affairs, I don’t think He is doing too good a job of it.

I wrote, "The issue of whether to kill or keep a part of you is personal to each woman and she should be allowed some leeway, as Roe v Wade permits, to make that decision herself." Bob reacts, “Yeah, we should let the woman be selfish and kill her child.” I reply, she may be saving all of us a lot of trouble by doing so. If she genuinely believed her child would amount to something and provide a positive contribution, she probably would not have an abortion and the result would probably be beneficial.

I wrote, "But it is foolish to deny or try to ignore the external, societal effects of that decision which the woman should also try to consider as well, as many women do." Bob responds, “External, societal effects like losing respect for life? That must be why we make war so much. Lives are expendable.” I reply, look, the law allows first trimester abortions. If a woman is going to consider one, all I ask is that we encourage her to and she in fact consider the societal prospects I urge. For these reasons and those in Roe v Wade, I am in favor of first trimester abortions. I think our chances of social progress are greater with such a limited abortion opportunity than not. I think we loose respect for life when we are all beset by social problems and the attending uncertainties they entail and we fall to fighting among ourselves, often over foolish stuff, instead of having stable, fun lives where we can enjoy each other.

I referred "... to the disparate and conflicting religious and moral viewpoints brought to bear on the problem of defining a woman’s property rights to a part of her body in this quarter." Bob responds. “[Why the first trimester?]
Why not the first half? Why not 100 days? The time is arbitrary. It was a compromise. Totally political, non-scientific.” I reply, We agree the period is somewhat arbitrary. The intent was to give the woman some time and also the fetus is less viable out of the womb during the first trimester than in the second and third, so it can arguably be better said then to be a part of the woman’s body than later. But too be sure, social and political elements played a role too in the decision.

I wrote, "The problem is, as I see it, the societal perspectives I suggest are too much swamped in the endless emotional debates and arguments."
Bob responds, “Too true.” I reply, then we agree this far.

I wrote, "And I don’t think that should be. The societal issues are more important than the religious debates, in my view." Bob responds, “True again, but the societal issues you argue from are still different than the ones I argue from.” I reply that I think that is the case.

Kimball Corson

Law Fairy,

But I do think it gets us somewhere. We need to be open to new and better thoughts and continuing self evaluation in our thinking.

Consider Bob and my first and second exchange series. The second puts us closer to understanding each other and knowing where and why we agree and disagree than no exchange at all. So I cannot agree here.

We need to put our best feet forward in the areas where that is the hardest to do, engage with each other in those areas and see where that does or should take us and try to understand why what happens happens.

Kimball Corson

Bob poses the question:

"Under what circumstances is it moral for a group to do that which is not moral for a member of a group to do alone?"

I respond most obliquely. It is much harder for an individual to delude himself about the truth of a matter if he is alone than if he is in a group of similarly deluded or like minded people. Mutual self-delusion is mutually reinforcing. Anti-abortion activists do not spend much of their time with pro-lifers and visa versa. Tree huggers and oil barons are separate groups as well. Too, self- delusion becomes much easier alone or in groups where the true of the matter at issue is less clear or accessible only by serious or uncomfortable thoughts.

The comments to this entry are closed.