Author Topic: Politics  (Read 626 times)

Offline FlatAssembler

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Politics
« on: October 17, 2017, 09:13:46 PM »
So, what do you guys here think about politics?
I think that anarchists are right. Government isn't actively trying to protect us. The police only comes after a psychopath has already murdered someone. And then they put him in a place not where he will rehabilitate, but to a place from which he will return with even more psychological problems, that made him murder in the first place. For all we know, they could just be making things worse.
It's often said that the government makes people less greedy. But it seems obvious that the opposite is true. It gives people a sense of entitlement. It often makes laws such as "You have the right to be taken care of when you are sick, therefore we will force people to give you some money for the medicines." or "If you try to help other students during difficult tests, you will get punished for that." Furthermore, neither Proto-Indo-European nor Proto-Afro-Asiatic nor Proto-Uralic had even a word for "to have".
It would be interesting to hear what people educated in social sciences think.

Offline panini

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Re: Politics
« Reply #1 on: October 18, 2017, 10:54:49 AM »
I would say that I do not at all think the question is on-topic for a linguistics forum, but since I can't actually find any policy statement about being on-topic for this sub-forum, I will answer, and Daniel can decide if this needs to be terminated.

My first observation is that you're not distinguishing (as you should) between the purpose of government and the actual facts of particular governments. The purpose of government is to protect individuals from the initiation of force against them. The fact is that governments don't limit themselves to just that. On one end of the scale, there are oppressive regimes such as North Korea or Zimbabwe which plainly do other things. On the other end, there are governments like that of the US, Canada, Norway, Japan and so on which basically intend, or intended, to perform the proper function of government. However, for the most part politicians and society at large now view the function of government to be "get me what I want". The meaning of the term "rights" has changed massively in the past 75 or so years.

To the extent that that is true, indeed the government is not trying to protect the rights of individuals. However, they will still say that they are trying to protect us, it's just that "us" could be society at large, all members, many members, some members... and it's undetermined what they are trying to protect against (rain? violence? immorality?).

You raise a specific point about not coming after a psychopath until it is too late. That is a result of a basic fact of human fallibility: nobody has an infinitely correct theory of when to use force to protect rights. One response to a psychopath is that he is inherently dangerous and should, if discovered, be taken and imprisoned or rehabilitated by force (that's the old way of doing things) – the idea is that certain conditions pose an intrinsic threat, and the threatener has to be dealt with. But at least until the psycho does something other than have a particular mental condition, he hasn't violated anybody's right, so he should be left alone (that's the new way of dealing with mental illness). One of the reasons why this problem doesn't have a clear resolution is that theories of rights and law are predicated on the premise that people can freely chose their actions by using reason: however, there are mental conditions where that is not true. IMO, faulting government because it hasn't magically solved this philosophical puzzle is unreasonable.

The anarchists are completely wrong, because declaring that "there should be no government" ignores the purpose of government, and encourages arbitrary vigilante action. If I think that so-and-so is a danger to me, who is to say that I don't have the right to gun that guy down? And his buddies equally have the right to gun me down in retribution. What government brings to the table is a set of fixed rules, that say objectively when you can gun down a person, and when you have to leave it to the police to do so (hint: if the guy is actually trying to cut off your head, you have the right to defend yourself).

Now to respond to the linguistic observation, there also was no PIE / Proto-AA / Proto-Uralic word for "computer" or "airplane". And yet, such things exist, and are furthermore good things. So I don't see that there is a connection between what words exist in various proto-languages and how governments should be structured.









Offline Daniel

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Re: Politics
« Reply #2 on: October 18, 2017, 03:30:10 PM »
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I would say that I do not at all think the question is on-topic for a linguistics forum, but since I can't actually find any policy statement about being on-topic for this sub-forum, I will answer, and Daniel can decide if this needs to be terminated.
I agree. Off topic discussions are appropriate here, but if any topic becomes a problem it will be closed. Politics is interesting, but "let's talk about politics on the internet" rarely leads to anything but arguments, but we'll see...

--

On the topic of anarchy, I'll just add also that while I agree with the practical problems with many governments, it is also impractical to have anarchy because at some point someone will take power, and the farther from an organized form of government that is, the worse it will tend to be.

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As for "have" in proto-languages, I agree with panini. The word "pizza" can't be reconstructed either, but that doesn't mean I don't enjoy eating it. Regardless, that's a misleading description of those proto-languages. Although there wasn't necessarily a word meaning "have", I do know (roughly) how to say "have" in those proto-languages: combine an existential verb with a preposition/case, just as it was done in Latin (and still is in Arabic, Russian, etc.): mihi liber est "there is a book to me" (Latin), nilikuwa na kitabu "I was with a book" (Swahili), etc. That pattern (something like it anyway) is very common around the world, so you might consider a verb for "have" to be the unusual strategy. It's not exactly an action, certainly not very active. On the other hand, similar verbs like "hold" or "own" probably can be reconstructed in many cases.
And would you really want to go back to a hunter-gatherer lifestyle? I'm not sure what you are arguing!
« Last Edit: October 19, 2017, 01:17:30 AM by Daniel »
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Offline FlatAssembler

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Re: Politics
« Reply #3 on: October 24, 2017, 11:41:16 AM »
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Nobody has an infinitely correct theory of when to use force to protect rights.
If someone wants to use force, he has to prove that it's necessary to use it. I don't think it's been proven that force can be used to lower the homicide rates. If somebody claims there should be a law preventing gay marriage or abortion, he has to prove that law would do more harm than good. The same goes for the laws supposed to prevent murder.
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It is also impractical to have anarchy because at some point someone will take power, and the farther from an organized form of government that is, the worse it will tend to be.
To become a dictator, you basically need to brainwash an entire nation. Why do you think it would be easier to do that in an anarchy? It seems to me it's easier to do that if you already have a government, because, well, you can control the media by censorships.
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And would you really want to go back to a hunter-gatherer lifestyle?
Why would getting rid of a government return us back to a hunter-gather lifestyle?

Offline Daniel

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Re: Politics
« Reply #4 on: October 24, 2017, 12:22:01 PM »
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To become a dictator, you basically need to brainwash an entire nation.
Or just have the biggest guns in a power vacuum and declare yourself dictator. It's easier than a coups.

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Why would getting rid of a government return us back to a hunter-gather lifestyle?
I didn't say that. I just pointed out that the reconstruction of prehistoric languages doesn't solve modern problems. It doesn't matter if they did or did not have words for it.
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Offline panini

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Re: Politics
« Reply #5 on: October 24, 2017, 06:35:46 PM »
If someone wants to use force, he has to prove that it's necessary to use it.
The problem is that under the anarchist premise, there's nobody that you have to prove this to. Which means one of two things: you have to accept the pacifist premise and can never use force even if someone is going to kill you (bad choice: might doesn't make right), or you decide whether to use force – and the decision will be based not on whether it is necessary, rather it will be based on whether you can get away with it (bad choice: might doesn't make right).

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To become a dictator, you basically need to brainwash an entire nation.
That's not true: what you need is a politic system which does not guarantee individuals rights. Perhaps you're thinking in terms of "what would it take to convert the US into North Korea". Right now, if you don't like what the US government is doing, you can publicly object and perhaps persuade others, especially campaigning for candidates that support your viewpoint. Those candidates, if elected in large enough numbers, can bring about the changes that you want. So: if you want a dictatorship, the most important first step is to suppress the expression of unpopular opinions (hate speech law, unconstitutional in the US, are a great first step; allowing thugs to beat up the opposition is another, used quite effectively in Nazi Germany). The second most important step is simply to continuously drum in the message that the purpose of government is to bring about the conditions that The People desire (that it has nothing to do with protecting individual rights).

There are other ways to bring about dictatorships: look at North Korea, Cuba, Zimbabwe, Eritrea, Burma, Sudan, Uzbekistan, Saudi Arabia, Uganda, Iran, Iraq, Syria, and pessimistically I predict South Sudan. Dictatorships are made possible when there is no system of government and laws that protects the rights of individuals: a dictator can easily step into the void. The key here is to overthrow a mildly repressive regime, and replace it with a massively oppressive regime.

In my experience, all discussions of anarchy fail to adequately consider how that state of no-government could be brought about. Plan A is to randomly throw bombs until the existing government collapses: and then what? A repressive regime rises, to protect the populace from the bomb-throwers. Plan B involves an invasion from the outside: Denmark sends its military to the US and physically obliterates the government: and then what? See Plan A, or the variant that we become slaves of Denmark.

Plan C is the slow path, where you rationally persuade others to vote for highly limited government, thereby shrinking government substantially. But still, you have to come to terms with the problem that there are people out there who will not respect your rights, and will not even recognize your rights. There are people out there who do not believe in property ownership as a right, and therefore have no problem with stealing my stuff. A government provides stability in protection of rights: you know that you have the right to buy a house, and to keep the house and live and work in it, and that right will not suddenly disappear because a different Worker's Council gains popularity.




Offline FlatAssembler

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Re: Politics
« Reply #6 on: October 26, 2017, 10:54:31 PM »
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Or just have the biggest guns in a power vacuum and declare yourself dictator. It's easier than a coups.
Just have the biggest guns? Well, if most of the other people have guns, that's not going to help you.
There is no evidence that's going to happen. The only dictatorships in recent history happened when there was already a government. In the case of Hitler, government even directly supported it by there being a law enabling someone to become a dictator.
Us not knowing exactly what will happen in an anarchy is not a justification for a government to use force.
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I just pointed out that the reconstruction of prehistoric languages doesn't solve modern problems.
Well, no, but perhaps they could tell us something about the human nature.
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The problem is that under the anarchist premise, there's nobody that you have to prove this to.
Look, most of us will never find ourselves in a situation when it's justified to use force. Things such as a train which is going to fall in a hole being stoppable only by throwing a fat man on a railroad don't happen in real life.
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You need a politic system which does not guarantee individuals rights.
Rights are there primarily to protect us from the government. Right to live is there to prevent the governments to make laws requiring the death penalty. There being no government wouldn't be that we have no rights, it would be that we have infinite rights.
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In my experience, all discussions of anarchy fail to adequately consider how that state of no-government could be brought about.
To me it seems like it will come by itself. Governments have less and less power over time. In the middle ages, the knights were bossing everyone around, yet you couldn't safely cross a street because of the criminals. Now people have realized that bossing everyone around doesn't really prevent crime. People value personal liberty more and more over time. The slavery basically disappeared. And not because of the government, the government was one who was putting the liberators into prisons. If the trend continues, we will eventually end up in an anarchy.

Offline Daniel

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Re: Politics
« Reply #7 on: October 27, 2017, 05:00:02 AM »
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There being no government wouldn't be that we have no rights, it would be that we have infinite rights.
Sorry, but that's complete nonsense. Two examples:
1. If there was no government, I could kill you, and nothing would happen to me as long as you couldn't physically stop me. There, your rights are back to zero. Governments also protect us.
2. The majority would have de facto rule, so racism (for example) would be unchecked. Minorities would have reduced or no rights, and slavery would be uncontrolled. Governments keep things balanced.

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The only dictatorships in recent history happened when there was already a government.
There are two ways to disagree with this statement:
1. That's a given, because everywhere in the world with people has a government. Anarchy isn't a real thing (it's in general a fiction, but especially in the world today). If you say "but wait, let's have anarchy instead", then I say simply "and who would enforce that? the government?"
2. Well, what about countries splitting due to military force and then power being seized in one part and apparently moving in the direction of a dictatorship? https://www.voanews.com/a/fomer-south-sudan-vice-president-says-country-moving-toward-dictatorship/1712347.html That's 'recent'. If you want to disagree with my phrasing literally, then just look at coups instead. Those are very real. Or what's happening in Syria at the moment. That's anarchy, due to the region being destabilized and different groups grabbing at power. So, do you still like anarchy? It's a recipe for dictatorships. Or generally authoritarian regimes, whatever the details.

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Governments have less and less power over time.
So why are you so opposed to having a weak government? Wouldn't that be the optimal solution?
(Regardless, it depends on what you mean by 'power'. Some counter points are: nuclear weapons, modern technology like bugging phones, or the complex details of modern tax law like what you can or can't do with your own money.)

Have you seen (or heard of) The Purge? While it's an extreme example, that's what would happen if there was no system of checks and balances at all. The natural result would be that, among the survivors, someone would take charge and set up some kind of de facto police force. That's what gangs do. That's what happens in prisons (where this is no "government" among the inmates obviously). And so forth. From this, a government would eventually form, even if it was in smaller units than the large countries we have today.

Do you like running water? The Romans figured out complex plumbing as part of what their government provided. Same with electricity and so forth. A totally capitalist model could potentially replace that, but how would it be anything like "infinite rights" if you had to pay for it? And you're surely seen a post-modern corporate-apocalypse sci-fi movie right? Where the corporations run everything?

In the end, "government" is just a larger, social version of families or 'tribes' where you decide to live in agreement with people. There must be rules (whether written or just assumed), and there must be some sort of enforcement (even if that's just getting into physical fights to show dominance like animals do to determine the alpha wolves or whatever-- that's also effectively government).

Everyone can agree: governments should not be overly powerful, and there are many theoretical and practical problems with them. But anarchy is the opposite extreme, not a solution either.

This is why I was hesitant to discuss this topic at all here. Go ahead, I'm not saying you can't. But I'm going to take a step back, because it's sort of hard to believe I have to come up with arguments to explain why anarchy also has problems. Discussing things in extremes is absurd, and that applies to just about any topic.
« Last Edit: October 27, 2017, 05:12:02 AM by Daniel »
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Offline FlatAssembler

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Re: Politics
« Reply #8 on: October 28, 2017, 07:32:32 AM »
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Governments also protect us.
Let me paraphrase what I said earlier. How exactly is the government protecting us? The police only comes after a psychopath has already murdered someone. And then they put him in a place not where he will rehabilitate, but to a place from which he will return with even more psychological problems, that made him murder in the first place. For all we know, they could just be making things worse.
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Minorities would have reduced or no rights, and slavery would be uncontrolled.
Again, let me paraphrase what I said earlier. How is the government responsible for the end of slavery? Government is what enabled the slavery by putting the liberators into prisons.
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That's a given, because everywhere in the world with people has a government.
That's simply not true. Somalia was an anarchy for around two decades. And you know what happened? Absolutely nothing. In 2004, after being stateless for more than a decade, its murder rate was less than half of the Africa's average murder rate. Today they have a democratic government (and, apparently, very few people bother to vote there). Ireland was allegedly an anarchy for centuries, and, again, nothing special happened.
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Would it be anything like "infinite rights" if you had to pay for it?
There is no free lunch. We are already paying for those things. We just pay them through taxes. And, through the taxes, we also need to pay the expensive and likely useless institutions like the police and the courts.
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And you're surely seen a post-modern corporate-apocalypse sci-fi movie right?
I just don't get how can people think it's a right analogy. Why would people destroy everything when a government ceases to exist? The wealth we have will continue to exist. The museums the government has payed to be built, the roads the government has payed to be built… They wouldn't somehow magically immediately disappear. If you can make money by sustaining them, somebody will do it. Otherwise, the resources that were used to sustain those things would be used in a more productive way.
Suppose you hear on the news that murder was legalized. Would you get a gun and start shooting people around? No? Then why do you assume other people would?

Offline Daniel

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Re: Politics
« Reply #9 on: October 28, 2017, 09:04:37 AM »
There's no hope we're going to agree here.

You're selecting anecdotes that support your position and denying any facts (or anecdotes) that don't.

For illustrative purposes I'll reply to one argument and then stop:

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How is the government responsible for the end of slavery? Government is what enabled the slavery by putting the liberators into prisons.
That's an absurdly one-sided "analysis". I again can't believe I have to argue this point.
1. Governments can enable or forbid slavery. Simple.
2. There was effectively no government in the Americas after the Europeans conquered it. Sure the land "belonged" to various European countries thousands of miles away, but individuals were more or less doing what they did. And that included owning slaves. It was considered by some to be an overreach of government power to stop slavery (from the perspective of the slave owners, that is).
Youv'e heard of the American Civil War, right? That whole thing was the government stopping people from owning slaves. To say that the government only locked up liberators is nonsense. That did happen of course, but that was not the only thing that happened.

OK, I'm done.
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Offline panini

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Re: Politics
« Reply #10 on: October 28, 2017, 10:12:56 AM »
FA, should not be narrowly concerned just with dictatorships, you should be concerned with violation of individual rights. Systematic suppression of rights by the government (a dictatorship) is one example; systematic suppression of rights by a replacement quasi-government which has overthrown or otherwise displaced the previous government is another (e.g. ISIS-controlled Iraq and Syria, Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, Cuba, the Reign of Terror); generalized barbaric chaos with highly localized brutalism is a third (e.g. Somalia, Yemen, South Sudan).

There is a simple reason why most of us will not find outselves in a situation where it’s justified to use force: because most of us live in civilized contries where the use of force is tightly regulated by the government. It is not necessary for me to install gun emplacements to ward off barbarians (even single barbarians), instead I can leave that job to the sheriff. If I have a dispute with my neighbor over what I think is an invasion of my land, I can peacefully take the dispute to the court and get an objective assessment of whose claim is correct.

There are rare occasions where I have to at least rely on low-level preparedness to use force, if I’m in a less than civilized country. Some people are not so lucky, and have to face murderous attacks by thugs on a regular basis – e.g. Kibera in Kenya, Somalia, those living in the Acholi nationalist terrorism shadow in Uganda, Congo etc.. Given a choice of being murdered by local thugs, or the lesser chance of being murdered or at least oppressed by organized government thugs, few people will support the greater certainty of death under anarchy because the alternative of having a repressive government is so repugnant.

The existence of rights is not contingent on some purpose such as “being there to protect us from government”. Rights are a fact about the nature of humans: you have a right to plant crops on your land if you want, to harvest and eat them if you want, or to sell them if you want. Rights are not “granted” or “created”, they are recognized (or not).

The utopic state of no-government, where every individual agrees with every other individual about what your rights are, and everyone respects those rights, could in an imaginary universe come about by magically changing the minds of every person on Earth, and then somehow magically keeping those minds changed. Perhaps it will actually become technologically possible sometime in the future to physically force incorrect thought out of the minds of others. As long as people are free to chose their actions, people will be free to respect the rights of others, or to ignore them.

Your appraisal of the decrease of government power is over-optimistic. Compared to the bad old days of English despotic kings, Caligula, Ivan the Terrible, things are overall better. Compared to just 100 years ago, government in the US has become significantly more oppressive, and within very recent history, Russia has re-collapsed from a budding free nation to a dictatorship. The number and severity of dictatorships has soared just over the past 40 years: Zimbabwe, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Belarus, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Venezuela. People do not generally value personal liberty more and more over time: they value their personal interests, and if that comes at the expense of others at the hands of government, that is what happens in a democracy (where the will of “the people” is supreme). Statism is waxing, not waning.

I don't think it's productive to ignore fundamental principles, or to make up fake facts about the idyllic conditions of collapsed governments like Somalia, Syria, Iraq and so on. "Murder rate" is a government statistic – when there is no government, "murder rate" is simply made up. A good way to get a clue about violence in post-collapse Somalia is to ask the victims about their experiences.





Offline ForumExplorer

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Re: Politics
« Reply #11 on: October 29, 2017, 04:46:24 AM »
Those are the threads I enjoy.

So, Daniel and Panini, what are your political ideologies? Obviously you aren't anarchists. Are you conservative, liberal or libertarian? Or something else?

And, Daniel, do you still think that FlatAssembler is a bright guy?

Offline ForumExplorer

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Re: Politics
« Reply #12 on: October 31, 2017, 10:20:29 AM »
What? You are uncomfortable talking about your political beliefs?

Offline Daniel

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Re: Politics
« Reply #13 on: October 31, 2017, 11:21:37 AM »
I have already said I don't want to get into politics here.

And as I've said to you elsewhere, I don't get why you're here. I have literally no interest in discussing things with you, because you aren't here for Linguistics. This is a Linguistics forum. Go somewhere that is designed for being off topic, like Reddit.

You vary between ad hominem arguments and off topic tangents. It's not helpful (or welcome).

There, some forum politics, since you insisted I talk about politics.
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Offline ForumExplorer

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Re: Politics
« Reply #14 on: October 31, 2017, 01:09:10 PM »
People on other forums mostly aren't educated in social sciences. Linguistics, on the other hand, appears to be a very hard social science. So, it could be meaningful to know which political ideology the linguists subscribe to. Historians are mostly left-wingers. And history doesn't appear to be such a hard science. Economists are mostly right-wingers, and economics appears to be a bit more of a science than history. Linguistics appears to be even more scientific than economics is. It's probably less scientific than physics is, but it studies things somewhat relevant to politics. So, again, are you conservative, liberal or libertarian? Or maybe something else?

Also, do you still think that FlatAssembler is a bright guy, when you have found out his political views are so radically different from yours?