J Thomas on May 13, 2011, 07:17:02 pm


Two men get into a fight. One of them loses, and then sues the other for crimes against ZAP. Who should win, Plaintiff or Defendant, and why?

Do you believe that from the information you gave, it should cut-and-dried, the same answer every time?  


Hypothetical cases seem to have value only when they're not stretched too far.  In an earlier post, I'd made mention of a situation in which the honk of a car's horn, not intended to cause injury or even to get the attention of a fellow standing across the street, so startles that person as to induce ventricular fibrillation and death.

I did not try to press for any determination that he driver of the car had been at fault for the other man's death, but only to make it clear that human beings cannot exist in society without inadvertently doing things that affect other people.  Conscious choice, purposeful action, only goes so far to guide each person's interface with other folks, close by and remote.

Yes, your example shows that people do affect each other even when they don't intend to. I say that it's a cultural issue which effects are considered actionable. Like, 30 years ago nobody cared much about peanut allergies. Now kids die from being in the same room with a peanut and it's a big issue. Before, you could smear anything you wanted with peanut butter and it was only an esthetic issue. Now, you can get in serious trouble just by bringing a peanut butter sandwich to work. Some places. What gets you in trouble is not the actual consequences, but the cultural assumptions about what ought to be acceptable.

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With the "Two men get into a fight" scenario as offered, there's simply not enough information provided for anyone to reasonably determine "Who should win...and why?" in any subsequent arbitration.

Exactly. With Sandy's example, either there is not enough information, or the simple fact that the accident happened on private property is enough to decide in favor of the store. For any accident.

I like extreme examples because they can show the law is wrong. If the law has a solid moral basis, it can handle extreme cases. However, in practice the idea is to get something that can be defended most of the time. If it seems OK to most people most of the time, that's good enough. So in argument people don't want to even consider cases which make stupid laws look ridiculous. They won't happen every often in practice, so who cares?

So, we have the LOL who trips and falls and then wants to sue. She has no grounds because she was in the store.

And we have another LOL who is slowly walking (as fast as she can) in the same aisle that a fork lift is using, and the fork lift operator isn't paying attention. He knocks her down and drives over her legs. Surprised, he backs up and drives over her legs again. Realizing that something is wrong, he lowers his load to the ground crushing her. Is anybody liable? No, nobody has any responsibility because she was in the store.

That doesn't sound right to me. But maybe it ought to be right. I might see how good that approach is, after a lot more thought.

SandySandfort on May 13, 2011, 07:49:47 pm
So the real issue I have that makes me doubtful on this issue is that I think some power to initiate force is implicit in the ability to decide between English Common Law, Xeer Law, and so on and so forth, in the first place. (But then, you've said different arbitrators might use different bases. That one makes my head hurt, but that may be my fault and not yours.)

Let me state that slightly differently. Different arbiters would probably offer different types of arbitration services. The importance of this is that it is another aspect of choice in a free market. I wasn't kidding about throwing the I Ching. At least one rather strange hippie-dippy commune in San Francisco used that very method to resolve disputes among its communards. Since everybody agreed to it, it worked well enough for them. Go figure.

So if you and your otherwise friendly neighbor have a dispute, you might seek an arbitrator who permits hearsay evidence or is an expert in the area that is the basis for your arbitration. If so, that is not my business, your business, J Thomas' business or the "community's" business.

My purely gut guess is that most people would just use whatever the usual standard was; the "default" setting, as it were. That's the way it usually works around the world. Most arbitrations follow rules of resolution that are some close approximation of those followed by the American Arbitration Association.

Incidentally, couple of interesting approaches to dispute resolution can be found in local Community Boards and in the way Black Rock Rangers find solutions to disputes or other problems at Burning Man.

J Thomas on May 13, 2011, 08:03:22 pm

Are my personal motives for taking the positions I've articulated - stated or inferred - relevant to this discussion? 

Nope.

That's true. No matter what your reasons are for taking a position, your arguments might still be good ones or bad ones. You could have a personal bias which makes you take up the truth for your own benighted ends. It's still the truth.

However, I find it interesting to look at the metadiscussion about people's biases. For example, in the global warming issue, believers tend to be politically liberal while deniers tend to be politically conservative. Deniers often claim that believers believe because they want more government. And I do see an element of that -- once someone makes the mistake of depending on governments to force everybody to do the right thing, any giant problem will tend to lead to more government. On the other side, believers tend to claim that deniers mostly want to deny anything that might affect business profits. And I see that clearly, it's a big deal to reduce the rate that we consume nonrenewable resources, when that means we consume less stuff, and there's no proof the problems will even be that severe in our lifetimes. Not to be too impolite, but political conservatives are often greedy pigs who personally want to consume as much as they possibly can.

None of this affects the actual truth, but it could help the arguments a lot. So, conservatives might look for ways to encourage the market to do things we all know it needs to do anyway, like develop better alternative energy sources (which is currently risky because energy prices are so volatile, because of the particular market structure we have adopted). People who believe in global warming could rally behind that. And believers might look for ways to build a new better economy, not just look for survival but better wealth. The more the two sides agree about what to do in the short run, the less difference it makes what they believe.


SandySandfort on May 13, 2011, 08:23:34 pm
Everyone see that? He avoids the questions, about whom he would find for and why. Thus avoiding having to show his "reasoning" on the underlying question. So once again we hear his crickets. Answer the damned question, McFly, or are you chicken?  

Might be nice if Counselor Weasel were to demonstrate where the hell he'd asked a question pertinent to the issue at hand. How the devil can my purely hypothetical determination in a hypothetical particular case on the basis of (let's be charitable) holographic hypothetical "what-if?" information be relevant to what we're discussing?

No real person is actually being called upon to serve as an arbiter in this hypothetical episode, nor is there sufficient information given even to make Counselor Weasel's "slip-and-fall, scenario" a remotely useful hypothetical (were I to take on the responsibility of arbitrage, I'd insist on learning a helluva lot more about the matter than Counselor Weasel was allowing), nor could there be any point to pursuing Counselor Weasel's straw man down the trail blazed by the nitrocellulose dog chasing the asbestos cat through hell.

Silly me. For a second I thought our soi-disant "doctor" was going to man up and answer the question. First, he claims that I haven't asked a question (or at least that he needs to given directions). Then he asks what the relevance of the hypothetical is (but ignores my specific explanation that it would show us his "reasoning"). He says--and this is the funny one--"No real person is actually being called upon to serve as an arbiter," even though I have specifically ask for his ruling in arbitration. So is he or is he not a "real person"? Then he claims there is not sufficient information, yet does not ask for the additional information. Finally he gives a cutesy, irrelevant little attempt at humor and quickly exits, stage left. I'm sorry, that is just pathetic.

Indulge me, answer the question so you can see me fall on my face trying to address your wise and insightful answer. BTW, I assume you will skinny away again, because at heart you are a coward. If so, I think I will just let you rave on. You certainly do not need my help to make a fool of yourself; you do quite well on your own.  :P

Two notes: First, I'm guessing "hospital orderly." With your hostility, I cannot imagine anyone letting you practice and interact with patients. Second, look into anger management therapy. You need it. That is indisputable.

Note to Forum members: There are assholes in every walk of life. If your doctor (or lawyer, for that matter) is an asshole, it is your prerogative to bring them to heel. If necessary, remind them who is the employer and who is the employee. There is no such thing as "doctor's orders." If your doctor doesn't understand the relationship, fire him and find a doctor who understand that he who pays the piper, calls the tune.

Tucci78 on May 13, 2011, 08:23:54 pm
Yes. Sandy Sandfort has presented the idea that you can ban anything you want on your own property, and that all property has an owner who has that right. He has not yet suggested any limit whatsoever to that right.

I strongly doubt that this will be a tenable basis to create a society. It does make for a simple legal system, though. Any landowner who wants to, posts a notice that says he makes all the rules. So if neither disputant has escaped his property yet, he can just decide whatever he wants based on whatever he wants to base it on. Or he can decline to judge and throw one or both disputant off his property to settle matters some other way.

Strikes me as kind of Galambosian.  Or maybe the better referent is the "Personal Autonomous Zone" concept.  

It's not really that much of a system for organizing an open society - the interaction of human beings in a division-of-labor economy - but rather a profoundly antisocial condition that would tend to encyst the insistent party within the walls he's chosen to erect.  

Ever read F. Paul Wilson's An Enemy of the State (1980)?  Think "Eastern Sect KYFHO" and "Flinters."  Might could make that kind of society.  

Might certainly be people interested in interacting with such a person under his rules, whatever they might be, however they might vary from the Zero Aggression Principle, to whatever extent the proprietor regards the concept of other people's rights as human beings.  Some people will go anywhere, do anything, if there's the reasonable prospect of profit in it.  

As for those who'd choose to batten down their hatches and declare their sovereign immunity from consequentiality within their personal realms....

Well, every man to hell in his own handbasket, right?  
"I is a great believer in peaceful settlements," Jik-jik assured him. "Ain't nobody as peaceful as a dead trouble-maker."
-- Keith Laumer, Retief's War (1966)

J Thomas on May 13, 2011, 08:56:56 pm
Yes. Sandy Sandfort has presented the idea that you can ban anything you want on your own property, and that all property has an owner who has that right. He has not yet suggested any limit whatsoever to that right.

I strongly doubt that this will be a tenable basis to create a society. It does make for a simple legal system, though. Any landowner who wants to, posts a notice that says he makes all the rules. So if neither disputant has escaped his property yet, he can just decide whatever he wants based on whatever he wants to base it on. Or he can decline to judge and throw one or both disputant off his property to settle matters some other way.


....

It's not really that much of a system for organizing an open society - the interaction of human beings in a division-of-labor economy - but rather a profoundly antisocial condition that would tend to encyst the insistent party within the walls he's chosen to erect.  

....

I may have misunderstood. Sandy may explain further. And it's OK if he changes his mind too. There's nothing wrong with saying "It seemed like a good idea at the time but now I have a better idea". I'd hate to be stuck with the position that I know it all already and I'm not going to learn anything.

Tucci78 on May 13, 2011, 08:58:13 pm
I like extreme examples because they can show the law is wrong. If the law has a solid moral basis, it can handle extreme cases. However, in practice the idea is to get something that can be defended most of the time. If it seems OK to most people most of the time, that's good enough. So in argument people don't want to even consider cases which make stupid laws look ridiculous. They won't happen every often in practice, so who cares?

Well, there's a reason for the expression "Hard cases make bad law," by which is meant that legal precedents (case law) deriving from such "extreme examples" - and statute law created to address such extreme and therefore exceptional eventualities - tend pretty reliably to make a mess of the judicial machinery that's supposed to handle the usual-and-customary stuff.

It's got to be understood that the "solid moral basis" of law some cases will not always be immediately appreciable, though I'd think that the application of the ZAP would hose away a lot of the mud. 

Too much of modern law - it seems to me - is caught up in a proceduralism that's about as genuinely relevant to the resolution of dispute and the protection of human rights as is Kabuki theater.  There's so much focus on "CYA" that the inefficiencies overtake the maintenance of the real (nominal?) objective. 

Some years ago, a labor attorney explained to me that this has been one of the reasons why dispute resolution has increasingly been managed by way of arbitration rather than litigation.  The court cases get the noise in the news media, but the real work seems more and more to get done across the table from an arbiter.

But making "stupid laws look ridiculous" seems to me a useful objective.  In The Moon is a Harsh Mistress," Heinlein proposed (by way of Professor de la Paz) that a bicameral legislature consist of one chamber that makes the laws - passing them only with a two-thirds majority - while the other does nothing but repeal laws, by way of the votes of one-third of the membership.

Might be good to debride the statute books in such a "democratic" fashion ("If a bill is so poor that it cannot command two-thirds of your consents, is it not likely that it would make a poor law? And if a law is disliked by as many as one-third is it not likely that you would be better off without it?") in addition to embracing jury nullification. 

So, we have the LOL who trips and falls and then wants to sue. She has no grounds because she was in the store.

And we have another LOL who is slowly walking (as fast as she can) in the same aisle that a fork lift is using, and the fork lift operator isn't paying attention. He knocks her down and drives over her legs. Surprised, he backs up and drives over her legs again. Realizing that something is wrong, he lowers his load to the ground crushing her. Is anybody liable? No, nobody has any responsibility because she was in the store.

That doesn't sound right to me. But maybe it ought to be right. I might see how good that approach is, after a lot more thought.

Certainly might get Counselor Weasel's hypothetical "limited liability" farmers' co-op burned to the ground by way of retaliation, too, mightn't it? 

The purpose of peaceable resolution (by way of compensation for damages) in matters of negligent and intentional torts is to avoid resort to those informal methods which result in corpsifications.
"I is a great believer in peaceful settlements," Jik-jik assured him. "Ain't nobody as peaceful as a dead trouble-maker."
-- Keith Laumer, Retief's War (1966)

Tucci78 on May 13, 2011, 09:41:46 pm
For example, in the global warming issue, believers tend to be politically liberal while deniers tend to be politically conservative. Deniers often claim that believers believe because they want more government.

I'm certainly a "minarchist" libertarian - and therefore considered by the MSM hairspray addicts to be "extreme right-wing" - but what really ticked me off when the "FOIA2009.zip" archive hit the 'Net on 17 November 2009 was the confirmation that the AGW fraudsters had been perverting peer review and extorting the suppression of research results disproving the CO2 forcing hypothesis in the scientific literature throughout.

The gibbering fantasies of Counselor Weasel notwithstanding, I'm a physician with experience both of clinical medicine and academic publishing.  I've brought review and research papers through peer review in referee'd journals, and I've done some peer review myself.  On both sides, I've found it valuable both in improving the manuscripts I'd had a hand in writing and in obliging me to dig conscientiously through the literature to ensure that my personal fund of knowledge was adequate to do a proper job in vetting other guys' work. 

If you come at either job honestly and with a sense of responsibility to the people you're serving - and that includes the readers who are going to be relying on the stuff you've had a part in getting published - it's a hell of a learning experience. 

Those mother bastard "climatologists" had been corrupting peer review.

It had long been suspected.  The indicators had been obvious even to me for a decade at least, and I'm in medicine, not atmospheric physics or meteorology.  But it wasn't until Climategate that I had it made pikestaff plain to me just how thoroughly these criminal conspirators had gotten their squidlike tentacles into the discipline they were infesting.  Gawd, just considering the number of postgraduate students and post-doctoral fellows whose lives' work had been driven off the proverbial cliff into uselessness and contemptibility by the thieving, lying, power-drunken scum who'd pushed this bogosity so far....

Makes the thumbs to twitch in search of throats to crush even now.

And I do see an element of that -- once someone makes the mistake of depending on governments to force everybody to do the right thing, any giant problem will tend to lead to more government. On the other side, believers tend to claim that deniers mostly want to deny anything that might affect business profits. And I see that clearly, it's a big deal to reduce the rate that we consume nonrenewable resources, when that means we consume less stuff, and there's no proof the problems will even be that severe in our lifetimes. Not to be too impolite, but political conservatives are often greedy pigs who personally want to consume as much as they possibly can.

Yeah. It's not pleasant to find one's course even remotely congruent to those of either the social/traditionalist "conservatives" or the "Rotarian socialist" Hamiltonians. 

In their case, I've had to take consolation in the fact that even a stopped clock (we're talking analog, damnit) is right twice a day. 

None of this affects the actual truth, but it could help the arguments a lot. So, conservatives might look for ways to encourage the market to do things we all know it needs to do anyway, like develop better alternative energy sources (which is currently risky because energy prices are so volatile, because of the particular market structure we have adopted). People who believe in global warming could rally behind that. And believers might look for ways to build a new better economy, not just look for survival but better wealth. The more the two sides agree about what to do in the short run, the less difference it makes what they believe.

They woh't do either by intention, I'm pretty sure.  I'm certainly not gonna count on it. 

What's with the fixation on "alternative energy sources," though? You're a science fiction fan, right? This comments thread derives from a graphic novel about life in the asteroid belt.

Those planetesimals out there - which represent the same primordial stuff from which Terra got slammed together - are chiefly nickel-iron and carbonaceous chondrites.

You think there wasn't a whole helluva lot of carbonaceous chondritic material aggregated into the Earth during its accretion?

Coal is definitely fossil fuel, but there's a helluva lot of it.  Not likely to run out for several centuries, even with accelerated consumption.

Natural gas - methane?  There are planets out there - Uranus and Neptune - where the oceans are principally composed of liquid methane.  I recall one of Asimov's science articles in Fantasy & Science Fiction some decades ago - titled "The Thalassogens" - about the sea-forming chemicals in the solar system.  Water, ammonia, and methane

CH4 is a commonplace in this solar system, including here on the Earth, and as a fuel for combustion (to generate usable energy) we ain't never, ever gonna run out.

As for liquid petroleum - "rock oil" - the persistent maintenance of the notion that it's entirely (or even primarily) a fossil fuel has got to go away now. Oil exploration based upon the theory that the stuff is abiotic - the product of all those carbonaceous chondrites slammed together four billion years ago - is proving more and more successful in finding reserves suitable for exploitation. 

Most of those "believers" in the AGW fraud are socialistic Luddites.  That's the ones who aren't plain goddam fascisti, drunken on power and the illusions of power. 

Science fiction fen - particularly those of us who appreciate "hard" SF, and who have come to know and respect scrupulous "planet builders" like Hal Clement and Poul Anderson and H. Beam Piper - didn't get fooled for one goddam minute by the PhD'd incompetents and charlatans who've been pushing the AGW hoax since about 1979.

After all, it was obvious bullpuckey from the git-go, right?
« Last Edit: May 13, 2011, 10:07:24 pm by Tucci78 »
"I is a great believer in peaceful settlements," Jik-jik assured him. "Ain't nobody as peaceful as a dead trouble-maker."
-- Keith Laumer, Retief's War (1966)

Tucci78 on May 13, 2011, 10:58:52 pm
Kind of a "second thought" addendum here. Sorry.

Yes, your example [honk the horn, trigger v-fib] shows that people do affect each other even when they don't intend to. I say that it's a cultural issue which effects are considered actionable. Like, 30 years ago nobody cared much about peanut allergies. Now kids die from being in the same room with a peanut and it's a big issue. Before, you could smear anything you wanted with peanut butter and it was only an esthetic issue. Now, you can get in serious trouble just by bringing a peanut butter sandwich to work. Some places. What gets you in trouble is not the actual consequences, but the cultural assumptions about what ought to be acceptable.

Well, there's also the fact that people learn about stuff. I'd never thought to look into the matter, but I wouldn't be at all surprised to find that people had been showing up in Emergency Departments (and on coroners' slabs) as the result of anaphylactic reactions to peanut allergens for some buncha decades, and we'd just not picked up on the real cause of their morbidity and mortality. 

Since the '70s, I've seen whole categories of therapeutic modalities come and go - and some of 'em come right to hellangone back again.  If you're familiar with Milton and Rose Friedman's Free to Choose (1980) and the TV series from which they wrote it, you might remember mention of beta-blockers.  From the documentary series, I quote Friedman:

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Well, if you examine the therapeutic benefits of significant drugs that haven't arrived in the U.S. but are available somewhere in the rest of the world, such as in Britain, you can come across numerous examples where the patient has suffered. For example, there are one or two drugs called beta blockers which now can prevent death after heart attack, we call it secondary prevention of coronary death after myocardial infarction, which if available here, could be saving about 10,000 lives a year in the United States. In the ten years after the 1962 amendments no drug was approved for hypertension. That's for the control the blood pressure in the United States, where as several were approve in Britain. In the entire cardiovascular area, only one drug was approved in the five year period from 67 to 72. And this can be correlated with known organizational problems at FDA.

I got to see beta blockers - starting with propranolol (Inderal) come to the U.S. market, become heavily prescribed for the management of hypertension, and then gradually decline in usage as the calcium channel blockers, the angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, and angiotensin receptor blockers (ARB's) became available.

The calcium channel blockers (all of them L-type channel blockers; there are also N-type, P/Q-type, and R-type calcium channels) used for the management of hypertension have tended to fall into relative disuse because they were shown to confer less long-term cardiovascular survival benefit than were the early-generation lipid-soluble beta-blockers, and not only in the management of patients with hypertension but also those with histories of myocardial infarction and post-MI congestive heart failure.

Hell, in the latter category, the decision not to put these people on maintenance therapy with metoprolol or another beta-blocker has got to be explicitly supported, or else the physician responsible is open to being considered derelict in his duty to the patient. 

The FDA still "kills" lots of patients every year, though, by subordinating the review and approval of new pharmaceutical products to their bureaucratic imperative.  That's been a constant throughout my professional life.

Regarding the current arguably fanatic banning of peanut products, I'm not inclined to be too much disturbed.  They're really not being all that unreasonable about it when you consider the fact that Reese's Peanut Butter Cups and peanut M&Ms still get sold by the millions in vending machines all over the place.  Chocolate-enrobed and packaged peanut goodies don't put allergic patients at risk, as long as they avoid opening and consuming 'em.

I'd have you note that we've also been taking greater pains to provide people with insect sting allergies with immediate access to self-administered epinephrine injections (something almost unheard of in my youth), and folks with reactive airway disease with both maintenance and rescue beta-agonist inhalant medications as well as maintenance membrane stabilizers and (especially) glucocorticosteroid inhalers.

People we just kinda "expected" to get brought in dead are living way the hell past their first deadly encounters with the allergic diathesis, and we've found ways to keep them up and running around in spite of the Reaper's best efforts.
« Last Edit: May 13, 2011, 11:03:55 pm by Tucci78 »
"I is a great believer in peaceful settlements," Jik-jik assured him. "Ain't nobody as peaceful as a dead trouble-maker."
-- Keith Laumer, Retief's War (1966)

quadibloc on May 14, 2011, 03:23:57 am
For example, in the global warming issue, believers tend to be politically liberal while deniers tend to be politically conservative.
This is certainly true. And it's understandable.

Political liberals have less of a problem with the government promoting some forms of energy production while restricting others. People who are environmental activists are more likely to be political liberals.

Political conservatives tend to value the economic (and consequent military) strength of their countries. They mistrust government regulation. Some might also be social conservatives who are skeptical of the authority of science - because, for example, for religious reasons, they accept arguments that scientists are wrong about evolution.

But while being aware of bias lets you discount arguments on both sides from a large number of people, it doesn't guide you to the truth.

I am inclined to accept the reality of global warming for a number of reasons:

the basic science behind it is straightforward,

it is the consensus of scientists in the field, and the hard sciences are still relatively free from political bias.

Also, the precedent of the ozone layer has made it seem reasonable to me that human activity is now reaching the point where its effects are on a global scale, and I am risk averse by temperament.

But my own (partial) political conservatism leads me to discredit claims that nuclear power is risky (since they tend not to come from the scientific establishment) and to favor it therefore as a way to keep the economy and the nation strong for both liberal (jobs) and conservative (defense) reasons.

J Thomas on May 14, 2011, 06:47:37 am

Well, there's a reason for the expression "Hard cases make bad law," by which is meant that legal precedents (case law) deriving from such "extreme examples" - and statute law created to address such extreme and therefore exceptional eventualities - tend pretty reliably to make a mess of the judicial machinery that's supposed to handle the usual-and-customary stuff.

I'm not sure I followed that. Are you saying that if they build precedent around "hard" cases that take a lot of work to straighten out, that it results in too heavy a workload for the "easy" cases that could otherwise be handled quickly? A practical matter, since "justice" takes too much work?

Or is it that changes in legal precedent based on a solid foundation would be disruptive for the mass of existing law that's based on simple injustice?

Quote
....

In The Moon is a Harsh Mistress," Heinlein proposed (by way of Professor de la Paz) that a bicameral legislature consist of one chamber that makes the laws - passing them only with a two-thirds majority - while the other does nothing but repeal laws, by way of the votes of one-third of the membership.

One of my uncles suggested that each new law should include a section to repeal an old law. And for a limited time, maybe the next 50 years, to clear up the backlog of obsolete law, each new law should repeal two old laws. The idea may not have been original with him but he didn't tell me where he heard it.

Christopher Anvil, in a short story I don't remember title for, suggested having a Council of Dunces chosen by lottery at fairly short intervals, who would veto proposed laws if the meaning was not adequately clear to laymen.

Frank Herbert, in The Dosadi Experiment, briefly described Gowachin law which had a death penalty for giving professional legal advice or legal representation. They made it illegal to be a lawyer.

Tucci78 on May 14, 2011, 07:28:36 am
..."Hard cases make bad law" ...

I'm not sure I followed that. Are you saying that if they build precedent around "hard" cases that take a lot of work to straighten out, that it results in too heavy a workload for the "easy" cases that could otherwise be handled quickly? A practical matter, since "justice" takes too much work?

Or is it that changes in legal precedent based on a solid foundation would be disruptive for the mass of existing law that's based on simple injustice?

Not at all. The reasoned contention - ratified by experience - is that the "solid foundation" of "legal precedent" tends more reliably to derive from what happens in the great majority of not-so-"hard" cases, not only because such episodes account for most of what gets brought into court but also because the establishment of precedent law preponderantly on the basis of the more frequently occurring problems tends to prevent matters from being brought into court, and even to prevent the problems themselves from developing.  They establish a "better-we-don't-go-there" guidance, and the more understandable that guidance is to the non-lawyer, the better. 

Develop those guidances on the basis of the rare "hard" cases, and you get large numbers of commonplace contratemps being handled inappropriately, inefficiently, ineffectively. 

The "hard" cases happen, no denying it, and they have to be decided, but unless we're dealing with truly stupid statutes at the root of the problem (by "stupid" I mean legislation which aggressively violates individual rights, and it's a damned good idea to get rid of them), such "hard" cases tend to cause nasty headaches well beyond the scope of their particulars. 

One of my uncles suggested that each new law should include a section to repeal an old law. And for a limited time, maybe the next 50 years, to clear up the backlog of obsolete law, each new law should repeal two old laws. The idea may not have been original with him but he didn't tell me where he heard it.

Christopher Anvil, in a short story I don't remember title for, suggested having a Council of Dunces chosen by lottery at fairly short intervals, who would veto proposed laws if the meaning was not adequately clear to laymen.

Frank Herbert, in The Dosadi Experiment, briefly described Gowachin law which had a death penalty for giving professional legal advice or legal representation. They made it illegal to be a lawyer.

I remember the Christopher Anvil story, but I can't put a title to it, either.  The notion of choosing legislators by lottery has always appealed to me, if only because it reduces the potential for the "demosclerosis" we suffer when we have government controlled by popularity contest winners.

Seems to me that the only time when these sphincters aren't campaigning is when they're diddling adolescents and children, and even then I expect them to argue that their real purpose is to cater to the "youth vote."

Making it "illegal to be a lawyer" sounds tempting on the face of it, but all that'd do is to create a black market for legal advice (if not representation).  If there are going to be formal, explicitly articulated codes of law in any polity, there are going to be people who develop expert knowledge of those codes, and those experts are going to be consulted for advice about "rocks and shoals," whether they call themselves lawyers or not.
"I is a great believer in peaceful settlements," Jik-jik assured him. "Ain't nobody as peaceful as a dead trouble-maker."
-- Keith Laumer, Retief's War (1966)

Tucci78 on May 14, 2011, 07:48:27 am
I am inclined to accept the reality of global warming for a number of reasons:

the basic science behind it is straightforward,

it is the consensus of scientists in the field, and the hard sciences are still relatively free from political bias.

Oh? And they doctored their data, corrupted peer review (turning it into "pal review"), put the hammerlock on journal editors, lied in their research grant applications, and generally did everything they could in the way of suppressio veri, suggestio falsi because their entirely fabricated "consensus" was just so bulletproof, right?

Hey, I don't mind you getting suckered so spectacularly.  Some people just love getting jerked off by filthy and diseased scum of the earth.

Just don't expect any honest human being ever to accept this fraudulent crap as the basis for statute law or regulations imposed on us by violent aggression.

"I is a great believer in peaceful settlements," Jik-jik assured him. "Ain't nobody as peaceful as a dead trouble-maker."
-- Keith Laumer, Retief's War (1966)

J Thomas on May 14, 2011, 08:04:43 am

Those mother bastard "climatologists" had been corrupting peer review.

Note that this does not affect the truth. It only makes it harder to tell whose research to believe. Their conclusions could be right even if their methods were wrong.

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None of this affects the actual truth, but it could help the arguments a lot. So, conservatives might look for ways to encourage the market to do things we all know it needs to do anyway, like develop better alternative energy sources (which is currently risky because energy prices are so volatile, because of the particular market structure we have adopted). People who believe in global warming could rally behind that. And believers might look for ways to build a new better economy, not just look for survival but better wealth. The more the two sides agree about what to do in the short run, the less difference it makes what they believe.


They woh't do either by intention, I'm pretty sure.  I'm certainly not gonna count on it.

I'm afraid you're right.

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What's with the fixation on "alternative energy sources," though? You're a science fiction fan, right? This comments thread derives from a graphic novel about life in the asteroid belt.

Those planetesimals out there - which represent the same primordial stuff from which Terra got slammed together - are chiefly nickel-iron and carbonaceous chondrites.

You think there wasn't a whole helluva lot of carbonaceous chondritic material aggregated into the Earth during its accretion?

Coal is definitely fossil fuel, but there's a helluva lot of it.  Not likely to run out for several centuries, even with accelerated consumption.

The USA and China have a lot of coal. How much of it we can use is a technical question -- estimates of our usable reserves cannot be firm. On the one hand a lot of estimated reserves haven't even considered how to extract them, and by current methods are useless. On the other hand we will surely find better methods with time. One central concern is politicians interfering wrongly in markets -- they can change the incentives so that we mine coal even when it takes more energy to mine it and use it than we get back from it.

We have enough coal for US needs for a long time, provided those needs don't increase. We don't have enough coal for the rest of the world, just USA and China.

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Natural gas - methane?  There are planets out there - Uranus and Neptune - where the oceans are principally composed of liquid methane.  I recall one of Asimov's science articles in Fantasy & Science Fiction some decades ago - titled "The Thalassogens" - about the sea-forming chemicals in the solar system.  Water, ammonia, and methane

CH4 is a commonplace in this solar system, including here on the Earth, and as a fuel for combustion (to generate usable energy) we ain't never, ever gonna run out.

I strongly doubt it will ever be practical to mine methane on Uranus and bring it to Terra to burn.

There's some deep methane, for example coming from ocean vents, and it's a diffuse source. We'll find out how useful it is.

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As for liquid petroleum - "rock oil" - the persistent maintenance of the notion that it's entirely (or even primarily) a fossil fuel has got to go away now. Oil exploration based upon the theory that the stuff is abiotic - the product of all those carbonaceous chondrites slammed together four billion years ago - is proving more and more successful in finding reserves suitable for exploitation.

Got to go away now? Maybe wait for the science? It's predictable that the exploration would work, either way. If there isn't much abiotic oil, still we've mostly already explored the likely sources that standard theory predicts. So if the oil is mostly found, what we'll find now will be the anomalies that the old successful methods didn't catch. Any theory which says to drill where they didn't before will be more successful than the theories which give no new chances. But there haven't been such big successes from abiotic theory yet. Mostly little successes which are predictable either way. Or maybe I'm out of date on this. 

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Most of those "believers" in the AGW fraud are socialistic Luddites.  That's the ones who aren't plain goddam fascisti, drunken on power and the illusions of power.

There are certainly a lot of biased people on both sides.

So, look -- every living thing needs an energy source, and life has harnessed lots and lots of sources. There are bacteria that oxidise iron with sulfur, because that's what they have available. There are some that turn sulfuric acid into hydrogen sulfide, and use the oxygen to oxidise something else. The hydrogen sulfide percolates up to someplace where there's enough oxygen to oxidise it into sulfuric acid again. There are organisms that photosynthesize with sulfur.

There are organisms that release H2. The H2 tends to rise to the top of the atmosphere where the solar wind blows it away, and when there's more hydrogen leaving than the solar wind replaces, the earth loses hydrogen on average. Maybe part of the reason we can have so much free oxygen now is that the hydrogen which used to keep that oxygen as water has been blown away over geological time.

Humans have been burning stuff ever since we invented fire, and it's a good trick. We're better off if that isn't our main trick for energy. Not if we want a whole lot of energy. We can find more ways to collect energy, and of course we have to disperse it when we're done with it too. I'd like us to find ways to run the earth that let us keep it a place we want to live.

Going into space and taking with us as much of an ecology as we want to support us, might be easier for the people who make it there. I have a suspicion that for awhile, until the new systems are thoroughly debugged, immigrants are going to be searched carefully before they get on the shuttle. "No, you can't take this hairspray or this deodorant. We aren't sure what it will do to the algae and we don't want it in our algae-burgers or air. Your flamethrower will have to be locked up for the duration of the passage, captain's orders. You didn't clear ahead of time that this make-up is rated habitat-safe? Let me look at it. Sodium benzotriazolyl butylphenol sulfonate. No."

But back to the point -- people's biases seem to strongly influence their conclusions, so we don't want to accept biased people as authorities. Biased people can also present correct reasoning from accurate data. They are far more likely to find that if it supports their conclusions, but still they might be right.

So I say, don't take anybody as an authority unless you lack the time to look at the issue yourself. In that case you will naturally accept as an authority somebody you already agree with. Look at the arguments people present and imagine how they could be right, regardless of their bias. Do that with whatever arguments turn up. Imagine biases that nobody present actually has and see what arguments you can find to support those. Put everything that looks like it's true together and see what you get.

Finally, look for a synthesis that various biased people might not disagree too much with, even if it's obviously wrong, if it tends to lead in a good direction. It's useless to try to present the most truthful argument you can when both of the main prejudiced sides will inevitably ignore it. Usually, members of both sides will look at the bulk of what you say and decide whether you are for them or else for the enemy. If they think you're for them they'll welcome you into the club and ignore you except to cheer when you echo their arguments. If they think you're for the enemy they'll ridicule you and look for ways to ridicule what you say. If you don't look like either one they'll ignore you.

It's hard.

SandySandfort on May 14, 2011, 08:19:10 am
I may have misunderstood. Sandy may explain further. And it's OK if he changes his mind too. There's nothing wrong with saying "It seemed like a good idea at the time but now I have a better idea". I'd hate to be stuck with the position that I know it all already and I'm not going to learn anything.

The big mistake everyone seems to be making is assuming that because a person can make silly or onerous rules for their own property, the will make such rules and be antisocial. That doesn't happen now; why would it happen in a freer society? I don't permit smoking in my house. Does that make me "antisocial"? I think it just means I want to preserve the comfort and health of myself and the majority of people who come to my home.

Under our socio-legal system, I would be perfectly within my rights to require visitors to my home to take off their pants, paint their asses like a mandrill baboon and wear a bishop's miter. But I don't. I leave the reason I do not do so, as an exercise for the student.

Even with those massive violation of the ZAP that are called "public accommodations" laws, malls, hotels, restaurants, discos, etc. could be way more restrictive than they are. Most of the time, most such businesses strive to be as inclusive as possible. I won't go to a restaurant that requires a tie and coat, but I don't think that makes them "antisocial." Some people favor those restaurants. Voila!, the free market in action.

J Thomas, as much as you think that extremely unlikely and silly scenarios, somehow prove or disprove anything, they don't. Those are what Rand called "lifeboat" scenarios. Their relevance to 99.99% of human interactions is zero. If you want to test to destruction--in engineering or life--you first establish a functioning baseline and then realistically ramp things up until something breaks down. Then you can start your analysis.

I once dated a civil engineering student. Before one of our dates, she proudly showed me a broken block of concrete that she had made. Her pride did not arise from her block being unbroken, it wasn't. What she was gleeful about was the very high pressure it withstood before it failed. Engineers do not, and cannot, build bridges that will never fail. They build them for the 7.5 earthquake or the hundred year flood or whatever and that is sufficient the vast majority of the time.

So it is with social systems. They should be judged on the basis of how they perform in the majority of cases, not on the basis of some scenario that posits a mall that bans, left-handed, albino pygmies... with dandruff. Perfection is not possible. We make things that work in the vast majority of real-life situations and hope for the best. If there is a breakdown, we don't necessarily throw out the system, we refine it.

It is child's play to come up with totally unrealistic, extreme scenarios under which any system will break down. The important question is, what systems works best under the greatest variety of reasonably anticipated circumstances. For me, that is something like the social system that serves as the default setting in EFT. For further clarification, read what I wrote about successive approximations.

 

anything