Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Thinking harder about social contracts

I have been tickled lately by the support of no less a light of freedom than Sunni Maravillosa, who recently gave these humble environs a very nice review, and now has some thoughtful responses to yesterday's musings about social contracts and the Bill of Rights.

Writers write for a number of reasons, and one is to express ideas that we think deserve to be voiced. But any writer who's not a moron also puts ideas out there to be tested, to see if they really stand up to scrutiny or if they need revision. I love blogging because this kind of analysis can happen almost instantly.

When I wrote that "I, too, have often wondered if freedom and liberty can work in a world where 'most times people do not act rationally,'" of course I was begging for someone to come along and tell me that they can indeed work, and/or that my assumption is wrong. After all, the idea that people don't always act in their best interests, i.e., rationally, is central to nanny government and tyranny. Sunni does me an enormous favor and suggests my assumption indeed needs to be examined more carefully.

"That assertion is put forward by researchers time and again, and I cringe whenever I hear it, for it's insidiously destructive. The first definition of rational in my dictionary is 'based on reasoning.' But any individual with a modicum of experience in human interaction knows that individuals' reasonings can be widely divergent -- sometimes even though they lead to the same result ..."

Sunni also has some thoughts about my description of the Constitution as a contract that means what it says:

"But the Constitution doesn't allow men and women their full freedom; it set up a system of governance and taxation that of necessity constrains peaceful people's liberty."

That's a really good point and gives me a chance to bring up an awesome essay that was recently brought to my attention that I've been meaning to write about - one that introduced me to the concepts of "positive" and "negative" freedom and reminded me the "default" position is freedom: We are inherently free beings, and manmade contracts and institutions are designed to set restrictions on that freedom. I don't know yet that I embrace all of this writer's points, but it's thought-provoking and that's always good.

Sunni concludes: "Don't get me wrong -- living in a society where the Bill of Rights is respected would be much better than the current USSA. It just isn't the end point I'm working for." My first instinct is I think I agree. Thanks, Sunni, for helping to clarify my thinking.

The other big Sunni news is that her Freedom Summit talk, "Things You Need to Know About Freedom - But Probably Don't Want to Hear," is now available for download thanks to Kirsten and the Poddy Talk podcast - along with a lengthy conversation between Kirsten and Sunni. I'll be listening in during my morning commute today - sounds like a great way to start the day.


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