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Asteroid Shrugged
February 26, 2011 11:09 PM   Subscribe

Sasha Volokh shows that some people are satire proof.
posted by kmz (83 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
I think it’s O.K. to violate people’s rights (e.g. through taxation) if the result is that you protect people’s rights to some greater extent (e.g. through police, courts, the military). But it’s not obvious to me that the Earth being hit by an asteroid (or, say, someone being hit by lightning or a falling tree) violates anyone’s rights

what
posted by Rhaomi at 11:14 PM on February 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Doesn't know his asteroid from a hole in the ground.
posted by twoleftfeet at 11:16 PM on February 26, 2011 [6 favorites]


...much like my view that patents are highly useful but morally unjustifiable...

Heh, I read that as "my view that my parents are..." anywayz... nothing to see here.
posted by fartknocker at 11:18 PM on February 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think a lot of US style political ideology really overlooks that, with apologies to Gertrude Stein, Dead is Dead is Dead is Dead. It's comfortable to come up with absurd Manichean understandings of the world when you're in a hyper litigitious place that faces no large scale internal cessation movements or irredentism or serious military challenges. If X kills you it's bad, if Y kills you that's good and you were just inconveniently in the way. This sort of reasoning (dying from an asteroid is better than dying from being shot in the face) is just a symptom of taking that state to an extreme insular parochial context and bringing it home.
posted by the mad poster! at 11:20 PM on February 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


I guess the position is that "violation of rights" is something that requires a conscious entity, perhaps specifically a human entity, to perform? (And there's the additional odd assumption that preventing "violation of rights" is the only legitimate function of government.) Volokh elaborates that these are his positions in the comments.

Are these typical stances? It's been a while since I followed the peculiarities of the philosophy that calls itself libertarianism on the net.
posted by hattifattener at 11:29 PM on February 26, 2011


Isn't "right of a living person to continue living" a thing?
posted by amethysts at 11:30 PM on February 26, 2011


Reading that essay makes my brain hurt.
posted by zardoz at 11:30 PM on February 26, 2011


I was under the impression that we carried Certain inherent rights.
posted by Wyatt at 11:31 PM on February 26, 2011


Rock Hudson was great in that!
posted by clavdivs at 11:35 PM on February 26, 2011


There are some sorts of people with whom it is impossible to argue without personally insulting them. Libertarians are, if not first, very high up on that list.

Proof by re-definition isn't a political philosophy. No, sorry, I don't care what Ayn Rand said, it just isn't.
posted by 1adam12 at 11:35 PM on February 26, 2011 [7 favorites]


I feel like one of those computers in Star Trek. The ones Kirk used to kill with nonsense. She seems to be implying that it would be moral to keep the impending destruction of the earth secret from the population in order to prevent looting and social dislocation.

I'm trying to imagine the ethical framework that would even BEGIN to suggest that's okay, and I can feel a sharp pain at the back of my skull.
posted by Grimgrin at 11:41 PM on February 26, 2011 [12 favorites]


Wyatt, his position seems to be that violation of rights by another human being is qualitatively morally different from violation by other means. Death, bondage and the acceptance of misery are part of the background condition of reality, so promoting life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are not valid functions of government. Only preventing another human being from interfering with same is legitimate.

I think this makes an interesting discussion point in order to elucidate what one does think is a legitimate act, but as an actual, held belief it's kind of weird.
posted by hattifattener at 11:42 PM on February 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


This Volokh, sharp as he is, did not point out the strongest reason to reject rash bloated-budget action by some centralized command-and-control nanny state on the asteroid issue. Which is, of course, that the impact of the asteroid and its total destruction of humanity remains just a scientific theory, despite the "consensus" of grant-addicted, fear-mongering, collisio-nazi astronomers looking to add another zero to their parasitic federal research welfare.

Until there's clear evidence in the form of everyone being pulverized into dust that there is in fact an asteroid on an unavoidable collision course with the earth and that it would in fact be "catastrophic" to any given human population, the sensible and, if you will, skeptical agent of reason would obviously oppose intervention by big government.

Satire-resistent? Yes. But satire-proof? Not quite.
posted by gompa at 11:50 PM on February 26, 2011 [43 favorites]


If taking action to prevent the annihilation of the human race and the entire planet is not a legitimate function of government, then what use is any other government service? Certainly there is room for legitimate debate on the mechanism that should be used and on how to pay for it. There is even room for debate on exactly how much of a threat the asteroid poses (gompa's lovely satire notwithstanding). However, at its most fundamental level, government is about a community coming together to solve common problems that threaten the population's future prosperity. If an asteroid hurtling toward earth is not a problem worthy of collective government action, what the heck is?

This doesn't really even seem like he's making a political argument here. It's more of a weird fatalist statement where he's decided that since the asteroid is an "act of god," everyone should turn off their brains and wait patiently to die because its somehow inappropriate for government to use society's resources to directly prevent its own annihilation. That's not a political philosophy, it's a suicide cult.
posted by zachlipton at 12:00 AM on February 27, 2011 [9 favorites]


I kept scrolling down through the comments for lulz.

There were none.
posted by Clave at 12:06 AM on February 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


That's not a political philosophy, it's a suicide cult.

The logical end of the cult of fuck-you-pal-I-got-mine.
posted by brennen at 12:16 AM on February 27, 2011 [23 favorites]


I've long considered Libertarianism to be the politics of the sociopath
posted by quarsan at 12:18 AM on February 27, 2011 [11 favorites]


Isn't this just a sci-fi version of the campaign against socialist fire departments (also previously discussed in its non-parodic version)? I mean, mutatis mutandis (since Volokh likes to embellish his arguments with Latinate jargon), "it's not obvious to me that dying in a fire violates anyone's rights" either.
posted by RogerB at 12:19 AM on February 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


it's a suicide cult

Don't drink the Kool-Aid!
posted by XhaustedProphet at 12:19 AM on February 27, 2011


Look, this is silly. The guy is a law professor and he's trying to spin out, in an abstracted, law-professor way, the implications of a particular first principle in political philosophy. He even recognizes that the result he reaches is absurd. It's an intellectual exercise, it doesn't show that anyone is "satire proof," and this post is the MeFi equivalent of chum in the water, and the chum isn't even that tasty.
posted by eugenen at 12:23 AM on February 27, 2011 [24 favorites]


If you did a poll of Americans' response to an asteroid heading towards Earth, 25% would be Sasha Volokh's opinion, 50% would be some variation on gompa's satire, and the rest of us would die horrible fiery deaths knowing our civilization deserved it.
posted by dirigibleman at 12:29 AM on February 27, 2011 [6 favorites]



This Volokh, sharp as he is, did not point out the strongest reason to reject rash bloated-budget action by some centralized command-and-control nanny state on the asteroid issue. Which is, of course, that the impact of the asteroid and its total destruction of humanity remains just a scientific theory, despite the "consensus" of grant-addicted, fear-mongering, collisio-nazi astronomers looking to add another zero to their parasitic federal research welfare.


Fuck. Shit. This is actually what will happen if we find a doomsday asteroid.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 12:38 AM on February 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


However, at its most fundamental level, government is about a community coming together to solve common problems

I agree, but Volokh — like most net.libertarians — seems to put government in some special category all its own, different from all other human endeavors, and subject to a bunch of moral constraints that seem to be axiomatic, not supported by an argument.

the rest of us would die horrible fiery deaths knowing our civilization deserved it

This may happen anyway!
posted by hattifattener at 12:42 AM on February 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


It will happen exactly according to that documentary with John Cusack called "2012."
posted by XhaustedProphet at 12:49 AM on February 27, 2011


Here's some more funtime! Here's a lengthy comment thread started by someone arguing that government should stop the asteroid not because using tax money is immoral, but because a government shouldn't have the resources for deflecting an asteroid, that only private entities should have such immense power.
posted by dirigibleman at 12:51 AM on February 27, 2011


"government should NOT stop the..."
posted by dirigibleman at 12:52 AM on February 27, 2011


This is libertarian humor and the fact that you cannot recognise it makes me sad, although also somewhat smug.
posted by Joe in Australia at 1:11 AM on February 27, 2011


It's an intellectual exercise, it doesn't show that anyone is "satire proof," and this post is the MeFi equivalent of chum in the water, and the chum isn't even that tasty.

Ideas have applications. This idea is absurd when it's applied. Hence we're talking about the wackness of the idea. Political philosophy doesn't exist in a vacuum. The way you test it *is* by discussing its effects. Explanations of legal and political theories are full of hypotheticals. This theory fails when taken rigidly to its conclusion.

And you're far too complacent about the actual power these ideas have when they're let out the academic cage. It's these very people who go to think tanks and give weasly politicians intellectual firepower to support deliriously stupid plans.
posted by the mad poster! at 1:29 AM on February 27, 2011


The fact that you are a smug libertarian who supports a racist, socialist middle-eastern state makes me a watermelon, although I am also a meerkat.
posted by Avenger at 1:29 AM on February 27, 2011 [7 favorites]


This is libertarian humor

Oxymoron, obv.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 1:33 AM on February 27, 2011


Proof:

"Humor is the denial of metaphysical importance to that which you laugh at. The classic example: you see a very snooty, very well dressed dowager walking down the street, and then she slips on a banana peel . . . . What’s funny about it? It’s the contrast of the woman’s pretensions to reality. She acted very grand, but reality undercut it with a plain banana peel. That’s the denial of the metaphysical validity or importance of the pretensions of that woman. Therefore, humor is a destructive element—which is quite all right, but its value and its morality depend on what it is that you are laughing at. If what you are laughing at is the evil in the world (provided that you take it seriously, but occasionally you permit yourself to laugh at it), that’s fine. [To] laugh at that which is good, at heroes, at values, and above all at yourself [is] monstrous . . . . The worst evil that you can do, psychologically, is to laugh at yourself. That means spitting in your own face."

Ayn Rand
posted by PeterMcDermott at 1:36 AM on February 27, 2011 [13 favorites]


This is libertarian humor

Oxymoron, obv.


But I'm laughing at them, not with them. Besides which, as a socialist, I believe all attempts at humor and absurdo ad reductum, should only be made by the government and should not be privatized lest it be monopolized by certain individuals greedy to eat up and stockpile absurdo ad reductum all for themselves. And let's face it, at the end of the day, this is the true intent of libertarianism; to lock themselves away in their lavish self-made palatial mansions with their private roads and security and fire personnel and sanitation services and airports and deny the rest of the people true satire.
posted by Skygazer at 1:43 AM on February 27, 2011 [5 favorites]


The classic example: you see a very snooty, very well dressed dowager walking down the street, and then she slips on a banana peel . . . .

Hmmm...point taken, BUT are we talking about a collective banana peel or a subjectivist banana peel? That is key, for to discuss a collective banana peel is to truly be on a slippery slope, while if we're discussing a subjectivist banana peel that is the by-product of an individual's self-affirmation, well that's just the price of FREEDOM.
posted by Skygazer at 1:47 AM on February 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


did the slipping lady really consent to converting her potential energy to kinetic energy for your enjoyment? I think a study of the consensuality of gravity needs to be undertaken. Of particular note is the fact that the heat generated from friction as she slipped dissipates valuelessly and thus our restitution should consist of not only helping her up but a warm cup of coffee.
posted by the mad poster! at 2:14 AM on February 27, 2011 [5 favorites]


I'm pretty libertarian, but lowercase L, and I'm afraid I'm firmly in the 'loopy' camp on this one. I think he (she? not sure, but I'll assume it's a guy) has kind of gotten lost in his mental maps, defining government only in the sense of protecting citizens from other citizens and societies, rather than external threats. And he's so stuck on the principle of not compelling cooperation, even in times of emergency, that he's willing to let everyone on the entire planet die so that his morals aren't compromised. As a rough approximation, anything that's going to outright kill billions of people, if there's a good option that results in fewer deaths, probably doesn't rank high on the morality scale.

A more typical libertarian argument is that it would be better to handle the asteroid threat through donations and private enterprise, because once the threat is dealt with, you'll end up with a government agency that wants to keep getting paychecks, and will invent new reasons for us to pay them. The 'APA' (asteroid prevention agency) would come up with a long list of other threats it should be dealing with, even if they're highly, highly improbable. And we'd end up paying their salaries pretty much forever. Probably the most fundamental drive of all bureaucracies is to expand themselves.

I'm reminded of an essay by Robert X. Cringley, immediately after 9/11, when we were all still stunned and disbelieving. He said, roughly, "There's one thing I can guarantee here. Every agency in the Federal government will, as a response to the disaster, propose doing more of what they were already doing." And boy, we he ever right.

But, in this specific case, that of a truly transcendent, worldwide threat, that would be an acceptable price to pay. No, it shouldn't happen, but it would. But I'd rather see this kind of problem handled by government anyway, because the penalty for failure would be so extraordinarily high.

Clinging to first principles, while the rock hurtles in from overhead, strikes me as just about as stupid as it gets.

In more normal times, the libertarian argument often has a lot of validity; they're absolutely right about what happens to government programs, how they so often turn out to be permanent financial burdens we carry because of a temporary issue. Keeping things running on a voluntary basis means they naturally dry up and blow away after some period of time. It also means that the more stupid government programs would never happen at all, like the food price fixing for farmers that was started in the Depression and is still going.

But there are times when the long-term cost of getting the government involved is worth it, and I'd certainly say this would be one.
posted by Malor at 2:30 AM on February 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


he's willing to let everyone on the entire planet die so that his morals aren't compromised.

That is what is referred to as having principals and sticking to them. Not that they are necessarily the right ones...

Most people's ethical guidelines really, in actuality lie on a stacked system. That is, they have a foundational principal and subordinate principals for which every other principal above it relies on.

For example, I think most people including most Americans have as a foundational principal "prevent suffering/death." Subordinate to that is likely "freedom of action." Most people dont explicitly realize that and hence you get these tea partiers who still want their Medicare.

With the dedicated and explicit anarchist/libertarian "freedom from coercion" is typically the first principal with the background that all other principals "prevent suffering/death" will naturally flow from that in a desirable way ceterus paribus.
posted by AndrewKemendo at 2:52 AM on February 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm always curious to know inside which non-accredited, hand-built wooden shed a libertarian lawyer got his or her degree at.
posted by bardic at 2:58 AM on February 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


And here I thought it would be about this.
posted by cthuljew at 3:16 AM on February 27, 2011


I modestly propose we launch libertarians head-first at an impending asteroid. Their thick skulls might save the human race, after all.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:58 AM on February 27, 2011 [10 favorites]


Libertarianism, communism, economics, religion - all have this really weird view of people as actors. When we're people. Churches, bureaucracies, industry, government - all made of people, people. And we don't fully understand ourselves, nor the decisions we make as individuals. Let alone the ones we make collectively. We never follow the scripts we write, even if we think we want to.

With nearly 7 billion of us breathing each other's air and more on the way as I type, this is an interesting situation.

As a race, we fix things when they need fixing. Hindsight normally suggests that earlier, more enlightened action would have been preferable, but resisting or perverting the perception of danger is just as bad as not perceiving it at all when it comes to taking early action. That won't change. Formulating a distant ideal situation and working towards it: never happens that way. And a good thing too. We make lousy gods, and a sure sign that someone's not to be trusted is if they say otherwise. Especially about themselves. But people do like their gods...

We'll carry on iterating our way into the future, with a high failure rate. If we're actually smart, we'll find a better way to identify and learn from our mistakes, and I have some hope that we'll evolve that skill as we build more perceptive and capable thinking machines.

Until then, pay taxes, vote, be compassionate, keep thinking, play out your beliefs, and disrespect the bastards who say they can't be wrong.
posted by Devonian at 4:00 AM on February 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


1. To have rights, you must exercise those rights, else they are, at best, a legal fiction.
2. To do that, you need to be alive.

ARGUMENT STATUS: COUNTERED
posted by LogicalDash at 4:05 AM on February 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Obviously, every being has the right to decide for itself whether or not to cease to exist. Therefore, it follows that every being has the right to decide for itself whether or not to exist. By conceiving a child, parents deprive their offspring of this right (q.v. "I didn't ask to be born."). This is a heinous infringement on the child's autonomy. I hereby call upon all Libertarians to cease to engage in reproductive activity immediately. Subsequently, any child that wishes to exist will bring itself into existence independently--by its own bootstraps, if you will--and will nevermore be hampered by the efforts of socialist "do-gooders" to deny it its full potential.
posted by Faint of Butt at 5:17 AM on February 27, 2011 [6 favorites]


If there's a right to life, then who should my grandparents sue? God? Father Time? Can we get a class action suit against the dude with the sickle?
posted by anotherpanacea at 6:09 AM on February 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Bryan Caplan once suggested the asteroid hypo to me as a reductio ad absurdum against my view. But a reductio ad absurdum doesn’t work against someone who’s willing to be absurd [...]

I love this. Note to Sasha -- if somebody is applying a reductio ad absurdum to your argument in an effort to disprove it, you aren't the person he is trying to convince. He is trying to convince everybody that is listening to the two of you argue. And it is probably working. You might not mind that your argument leads you to a ridiculous and untenable conclusion, but I bet most of them do.
posted by penduluum at 6:10 AM on February 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


Look, this is silly. The guy is a law professor and he's trying to spin out, in an abstracted, law-professor way, the implications of a particular first principle in political philosophy. He even recognizes that the result he reaches is absurd. It's an intellectual exercise, it doesn't show that anyone is "satire proof," and this post is the MeFi equivalent of chum in the water, and the chum isn't even that tasty.

He's not simply spinning out the implications of a particular first principle; he's saying that he supports those implications: "Reductio ad absurdum doesn’t work against someone who’s willing to be absurd." And since Volokh is one of the leading libertarian intellectuals, I would say that calling him out on his views is anything but chum in the water.
posted by outlandishmarxist at 6:25 AM on February 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


To further back up my point that Volokh is not practicing some benign thought experiment, here's a sample from one of his comments:

My view (which is not unusual for libertarians) is that government occupies no special position. Whether it acts morally is judged by the same standard as whether a group of people, a gang, a mafia, etc., act morally. So, presumptively, taking money from people involuntarily (taxation) is immoral. But I believe that stuff that’s presumptively immoral becomes moral if the result of that rights violation is to protect other rights to a greater extent. So taxation is justifiable if and only if that taxation leads to a greater protection of rights. So to see whether the asteroid program is justifiable, we have to see whether it would protect rights (which would be automatically true if an asteroid impact would violate rights).
posted by outlandishmarxist at 6:29 AM on February 27, 2011


Wait, Sasha Volokh is for real? I thought it was satire. Turns out it's just your typical navel-gazing mental masturbatory bullshit.
posted by JeffK at 6:34 AM on February 27, 2011


"Let me ask a question...just think about this for a moment...Where did this asteroid come from? I mean, the mainstream media wants you to think, 'Oooh asteroids are just oooout there, man, they're just flooooating around...'

But consider this..what.if you wanted to utterly destroy our way of life, create maximum chaos and then, I don't know...install a caliphate? Wouldn't a deadly asteroid impact be the first thing you would think of? Wouldn't that be exactly what you needed? I think it would. And that's why..."

Yes, Glenn Beck, ladies and gentlemen. Like unleashing Godzilla to combat the Rodan problem. The process will be ugly, and many will live to regret it, but damn it, we will live!
posted by PlusDistance at 6:45 AM on February 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Just wanted to say, best post title ever.
posted by SeizeTheDay at 7:03 AM on February 27, 2011 [6 favorites]


Anyone who tries to ground the entirety of political and social life in a grand First Principle is going to be faced with this sort of choice all the time: live with conclusions that seem utterly mad, or introduce some equivalent of the cosmological constant to bring the theory back in line with actual lived experience. I admire Volokh's acknowledgment of this problem; but I'm a bit frightened by people who rigorously investigate their premises, falsify them, and then refuse to discard them anyway.
posted by steambadger at 7:04 AM on February 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


The problem is that if you, logically, allow for the government to fight of asteroids, then what logical reason do you have to fight off global warming or take other health and safety precations? None! So for this guy the low probability of all of humanity perishing in an asteroid strike is OK so long as the 99.99999% probability of it not happening is coincident with no asteroids and no prevention of global warming, no regulations and no bla bla bla. It's a gamble.

Anyway he's an idiot of course (and I did check, it's a dude)
posted by delmoi at 7:05 AM on February 27, 2011



The thing that always gets me is how authoritarian Libertarians actually are.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 7:19 AM on February 27, 2011 [9 favorites]


Can we get a class action suit against the dude with the sickle?

I bet you could find a libertarian lawyer who'd take that case on a contingency fee basis.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 7:51 AM on February 27, 2011


I think he (she? not sure, but I'll assume it's a guy)

Yes, Sasha Volokh (whose real name is Alexander Volokh) is a man.

I knew this without checking because I know that all 18 authors of The Volokh Conspiracy are men.

Sasha Volokh is not to be confused with the more famous Eugene Volokh, who also writes for that blog.
posted by John Cohen at 8:06 AM on February 27, 2011


Does anyone remember the row over "something called volcano monitoring" in 2009? Bobby Jindal called it "wasteful spending", and said that Congress should instead monitor "the eruption of spending in Washington, D.C." This did not attract a vigorous defence from the libertarian net. Most libertarians would disagree with Sasha. He says this repeatedly. Most libertarians would look at asteroid defence and say that as a public good it's at least potentially something a government should be involved in.

posted by topynate at 8:07 AM on February 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Don't drink the Kool-Aid!

Derail, but the Right's use (and to a much lesser extent, a few guys on the left) of this idiom has always been profoundly disturbing to me, given that it's essentially a tongue-in-cheek reference to a rather horrific disaster.

It's very much Not Okay to say "Don't shower at Auchwitz" as an argument against your political opponents. Why are Jonestown references gleefully accepted and used by the right-wing?
posted by schmod at 8:21 AM on February 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's very much Not Okay to say "Don't shower at Auchwitz" as an argument against your political opponents. Why are Jonestown references gleefully accepted and used by the right-wing?

Because although they were duped or whatever, they were there more or less voluntarily.

And because it wasn't part of a plan to completely eliminate a centuries old culture entirely off the map.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 8:24 AM on February 27, 2011


the Right's use (and to a much lesser extent, a few guys on the left)

I don't think its origins and usage bear that out.

Oh, Pogo_Fuzzybutt, just, no. You know how many kids were fed cyanide in Jonestown?
posted by topynate at 8:28 AM on February 27, 2011


Eugenen's point seems to have been lost in the sauce here, but it was really on target. The guy isn't an idiot, or an asshole- he's just a law professor.

This is a law professor hypothetical. It's classic. He's carrying out an argument to a logical extreme to see if the argument holds together at the extreme. This kind of thought experiment is done all the time In this case, the author isn't even sure his argument holds up. Volokh even says at the end "This does make me uncomfortable. . . so I am open to persuasion."

If push came to shove, this guy clearly would not actually want the government to sit on its hands. He would want the government to blow up the damn asteroid.

I'm not a big fan of the guy, the blog, or the whole libertarian movement generally. But give the guy a break; he's actually examining his system of beliefs in a critical manner, and pointing out where and when his moral/ethical framework breaks down in the face of reality. We should be PROMOTING this type of critical thinking activity in right-wing thought, not demonizing it.
posted by HabeasCorpus at 8:31 AM on February 27, 2011 [7 favorites]


I guess the position is that "violation of rights" is something that requires a conscious entity, perhaps specifically a human entity, to perform? (And there's the additional odd assumption that preventing "violation of rights" is the only legitimate function of government.)

Ohhh. I feel silly for never having really understood this. But this makes sense; they can't bring themselves to believe that any force other than individual humans ought to be of any concern when it comes to government and "rights".

I guess I knew this when it comes to groups of people, institutions, social and economic structures, etc. But I never really thought they were that serious about all of it.
posted by graphnerd at 8:32 AM on February 27, 2011


I can see why someone would make the mistake that Sasha is a humorless law professor if you're not familiar with the Volokh Conspiracy. The VC discusses legal references from pop culture all the time. They are particularly fond of Star Trek. See e.g, their discussions of Law and the Multiverse, Federations in Science Fiction, When and why did the Federation turn Socialist??, and The Law of Star Trek. It's a ridiculously fun way to think and explore your own views about the Constitution, so I think labeling Sasha as "satire proof" in this case is a bit unfair. Believe it or not, law professors do have senses of humor; it's just that most normal humans don't find jokes about Old Man Wickard and his crop of Commerce Clause-hating wheat particularly good for the lulz.
posted by Dr. Zira at 9:10 AM on February 27, 2011


So, presumptively, taking money from people involuntarily (taxation) is immoral. But I believe that stuff that’s presumptively immoral becomes moral if the result of that rights violation is to protect other rights to a greater extent. So taxation is justifiable if and only if that taxation leads to a greater protection of rights.

First, I'm amazed that an intelligent person can describe taxation as taking money from someone involuntarily (unless my compliance with *all* laws is involuntary. In which case I'm still amazed). Second, did he really say that the ends justify the means?

Also, I'm intrigued by this "greater protection of rights" thing. Does my payment of taxes have to lead to a greater protection of rights for me or is it sufficient if it leads to a greater protection of rights for society as a whole? What if society's rights are better protected, but mine are worse?
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 9:11 AM on February 27, 2011


They are particularly fond of Star Trek. See e.g, their discussions of Law and the Multiverse, Federations in Science Fiction, When and why did the Federation turn Socialist??, and The Law of Star Trek.

Are you offering this as evidence in support of your thesis, Dr. Zira?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 9:30 AM on February 27, 2011


slow down Peter you're killin em
posted by the mad poster! at 9:58 AM on February 27, 2011


It's satire within satire within satire. Sort of like Inception, but with lawyers and without the BRRRRRRROOOOMMMMMMMMM.
posted by Dr. Zira at 10:05 AM on February 27, 2011


Metafilter: The chum isn't even that tasty

had to be said
posted by tspae at 10:16 AM on February 27, 2011


And since Volokh is one of the leading libertarian intellectuals, I would say that calling him out on his views is anything but chum in the water.

You're confusing Sasha Volokh for Eugene Volokh, for whom the blog is named. Also, it's not really accurate to call Eugene Volokh a "leading libertarian intellectual"; to the extent that he's a libertarian anything, or a leading libertarian anything, it's among law professors and law students and not among the public at large. I mean, I think Eugene Volokh is a very smart guy who makes good arguments and I agree with him on many things, but he's hardly a prominent figure on the national political scene.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 10:26 AM on February 27, 2011


Just wanted to say, best post title ever.

I know!! Wicked good right...
posted by Skygazer at 10:53 AM on February 27, 2011


He is right. How are we to know if we are saving some welfare queen who never even paid taxes. Much better to let the free market do its job, the sudden demand for space ships would certainly boost the economy.
posted by Ad hominem at 10:55 AM on February 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


And who amongst us will speak for the rights of Asteroids?? Those brave self-sufficient and self-willed, self-actualized uber-space objects that travel nobly, alone, and unceasing and without complaint through the cold dark vast emptiness of space seeking simply to end their trajectory through the cosmos and penetrate, indeed violate, a beautiful blue green planet forcefully and creating a new paradigm of death (and therefore life). This asteroid, this space intrepid rock; let us dub it: Space Roark.
posted by Skygazer at 11:09 AM on February 27, 2011 [4 favorites]


Yes, Sasha Volokh (whose real name is Alexander Volokh) is a man.

Sasha is Russian for 'Alex'. It's like saying "Joe (whose real name is JOSEPH)".
posted by Sebmojo at 12:36 PM on February 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


First, I'm amazed that an intelligent person can describe taxation as taking money from someone involuntarily (unless my compliance with *all* laws is involuntary. In which case I'm still amazed).

Oh, c'mon. I am, under the current dispensation where we haven't yet worked out a better alternative for collectively providing certain goods and ameliorating various evils than the existence of the state, not personally all that freaked out by taxation, particularly since we have a system that tends towards the scary accumulation of wealth in dangerously few hands. In fact, there are a bunch of people that (all else being equal), I would really like to see taxed more heavily.

But come on.
posted by brennen at 1:18 PM on February 27, 2011


(Then again, It's Never Lurgi, perhaps we simply work with different understandings of "voluntary". I do not know very many people who I think would routinely surrender large chunks of their income to their government if simply asked politely. Or to put it another way, if there were not strong legal sanctions on the failure to do so. Considerably more so for businesses, the barely-scraping-by poor, and the wealthy. There's certainly compulsion/coercion involved in taxation, and while I have different feelings about the moral content of that coercion under present circumstances than right libertarians do, I don't see how it's particularly helpful to deny this.)
posted by brennen at 1:37 PM on February 27, 2011


herefore, humor is a destructive element—which is quite all right, but its value and its morality depend on what it is that you are laughing at. If what you are laughing at is the evil in the world (provided that you take it seriously, but occasionally you permit yourself to laugh at it), that’s fine. [To] laugh at that which is good, at heroes, at values, and above all at yourself [is] monstrous . . . . The worst evil that you can do, psychologically, is to laugh at yourself. That means spitting in your own face."

I never thought I'd agree with Ayn Rand....

Obviously, every being has the right to decide for itself whether or not to cease to exist. Therefore, it follows that every being has the right to decide for itself whether or not to exist. By conceiving a child, parents deprive their offspring of this right (q.v. "I didn't ask to be born."). This is a heinous infringement on the child's autonomy. I hereby call upon all Libertarians to cease to engage in reproductive activity immediately. Subsequently, any child that wishes to exist will bring itself into existence independently--by its own bootstraps, if you will--and will nevermore be hampered by the efforts of socialist "do-gooders" to deny it its full potential.
posted by Faint of Butt at 5:17 AM on February 27 [6 favorites +] [!]


you joke, but i think that creating a conscious being that will die is a form of murder
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 7:44 PM on February 27, 2011


The difficult thing about being a reasoning person trying to lead an ethical life is that every choice you make has good and bad effects and even if you have a clear idea of the Good you have never work from perfect knowledge of the facts and you can never see all the repercussions of your actions. Also, new stuff keeps coming up: new technologies, new cultural clashes, new shortages of resources... it's endless. So as a reasoning ethical being you must remain nimble and open-minded and curious and humble and ready to change your mind and be willing to balance one principle against another. Also, to admit mistakes and try again.

It's exhausting and upsetting. Is it any wonder that people convince themselves that the whole mess can be avoided by finding that one principle that will explain it all away? Or that they they will follow that one principle off a cliff rather than face the responsibility of being a moral creature?
posted by Trace McJoy at 8:30 PM on February 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


The same just happened on Facebook, when a friend of mine posted a link to this article.

A whackjob mutual acquaintance opined in on the comments, "Would it be so horrible to you bleeding heart liberals if he didn't win reelection?"... Which has absolutely nothing to do with the thread topic... and missed the humor of the article.

We tried to point out this irony to him. He got angry, posted defensive nonsense, and emailed me privately to call me a dick.

Classic.

Why are so many Republicans living, breathing parodies of Republicans?
posted by IAmBroom at 8:32 PM on February 27, 2011


Sort of like Inception, but with lawyers and without the BRRRRRRROOOOMMMMMMMMM.

^ And there's the brrrrrroooooommmm above. ^
posted by Samizdata at 5:54 AM on February 28, 2011


"This does make me uncomfortable. . . so I am open to persuasion."

The monster! If only the satire-proof were this self-reflective.
posted by Marty Marx at 6:31 AM on February 28, 2011


Heh, a different satire of the asteroid scenario.
KENT BROCKMAN: The rocket foolishly soared too high, and lost control of its servo guidance mechanism, leaving us with some... (looking at his watch) six hours to live. (A screen behind him displays a countdown timer) So, let's go live now to the charred remains of the only bridge out of town with Arnie Pie and Arnie in the Sky!

ARNIE: With the bridge gone and the airport unfortunately on the other side of the bridge, a number of citizens are attempting to jump the gorge with their cars. It's a silent testament to the never-give-up and never-think-things-out spirit of our citizens.

KENT BROCKMAN: With our utter annihilation imminent, our federal government has snapped into action. We go live now via satellite to the floor of the United States congress.

SPEAKER: Then it is unanimous, we are going to approve the bill to evacuate the town of Springfield in the great state of--

CONGRESSMAN: Wait a second, I want to tack on a rider to that bill - $30 million of taxpayer money to support the perverted arts.

SPEAKER: All in favor of the amended Springfield-slash-pervert bill?

FLOOR: Boo!

SPEAKER: Bill defeated.

KENT BROCKMAN: I've said it before and I'll say it again: democracy simply doesn't work. Now, over the years, a newsman learns a number of things that for one reason or another, he just cannot report. It doesn't seem to matter now, so... the following people are gay.

A list of names scroll up the screen very quickly.

MARGE: Turn it off!
--Bart's Comet
posted by jng at 12:18 PM on February 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yes, Sasha Volokh (whose real name is Alexander Volokh) is a man.

Sasha is Russian for 'Alex'. It's like saying "Joe (whose real name is JOSEPH)".


Please forgive me for lacking your knowledge of Russian.
posted by John Cohen at 9:10 PM on February 28, 2011


Nyet.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 9:24 PM on February 28, 2011


Sort of like Inception, but with lawyers and without the BRRRRRRROOOOMMMMMMMMM.

^ And there's the brrrrrroooooommmm above. ^


Too close to home, eh, Samizdata? Sorry about that.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:07 PM on March 1, 2011


new sockpuppet
SatireProof
posted by LogicalDash at 4:31 PM on March 2, 2011


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