jdperren

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About jdperren

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  1. Yes, that's what I meant. Add anything you think will be helpful.
  2. By all means, add any that you think are true and needed for additional clarity.
  3. Very useful additions to the discussion, thank you. I would add a qualifier in the form of a question, though. Even in the scenario where the industry (or it could be one lone individual, it doesn't matter in principle) was the first to explore and exploit an area, how large an area can they claim and affect? Can they claim the entire area of California if they were the first ones to set foot there? If they affect the water 500 miles west from their factory to the point that it is unusable in Colorado is that rightful behavior? I agree entirely with your point about the usability. The degree of material matters, as many of my examples have suggested.
  4. Again, you are discounting the degree of harm involved. Businesses have a right to expel heat, CO2, etc. (The air has more than one purpose.) Just not to the degree that it makes the air unbreathable, excessively hot, etc. The point of the story about arm swinging is that your right to swing your arms extends short of the position of my nose and at least with much less force than will produce a bloody nose.
  5. I think we are making progress now. I agree that there are certainly a wide range of normal circumstances in life when one is obligated to assume a reasonable level of risk. No one has the right to shift the burden to others to provide them with a bubble through which to move with complete safety in life. In any case, that's impossible to achieve. But I do not agree that the chemical plant has the right to poison a well, even if the homeowner could test the well in advance of the purchase. One has to consider the normal level of technology in a given society at a given period, of course. During the Middle Ages, if your water supply was befouled by human waste, you might have a case. But in the modern context where the poisoning of wells is not a normal part of business, the plant is obligated to take measures to prevent poisoning private wells and to clean them up if that occurs. The same is true if my next door neighbor regularly pours toxic waste into the water table from which we both draw water. He has the right to poison his own water if he wishes. He does not have the right to poison a common pool. If doesn't matter that I can judge the situation before my purchase. I shouldn't have to bear the burden of the cost of the test because it's still him poisoning a well that is not his own by fouling a common pool to a lethal level. Of course, there are levels of risk, discomfort, etc that are reasonable to assume. We can not reasonably demand that the chemical plant spend billions to remove every molecule of sulfur from the effluent when that level does no harm. I think you are giving insufficient weight in one case to the fact that these are common resources. In the other slant, you are ignoring the right of the homeowner not to be poisoned -- decidedly a form of the initiation of force -- on the grounds that that is "normal operations." It is normal operations for debt collectors in Jersey City, New Jersey to threaten or inflict harm in order to collect money from local businessmen. You wouldn't say, I don't think, that someone considering the purchase of a store in that neighborhood assumes the risk of such a thing happening because it's 'business as usual' in that town. Now ordinary businessmen are not criminals and it should not be assumed that they are; certainly in the normal course of business they are not. But when their actions are such as to willfully inflict grievous bodily harm or property damage, that can very well be a criminal act. The law is supposed to 'point a gun' at such people at such times. We disagree, among other things, on what is the normal level of operations and what risks a newcomer is expected to bear. I assert that the way to move that forward, in part, is to pay attention to the degree of risk and or harm involved in those operations. Yes, the homeowner can gain knowledge before a purchase and act accordingly, just as the potential store owner can judge Jersey City and act accordingly. It's nonetheless true that the law should clean up Jersey City and require all the citizens to respect the rights of others. One of those rights entails the right not to have one's arms busted, nor one's water supply poisoned.
  6. I think I can possibly cut this short by just making some positive assertions and not asking any more questions. You're walking down a public street and without your knowledge someone is swinging their arms around. They connect with your head. Ok, maybe the first time was an accident. But now that he knows you're in the vicinity, he is morally (and legally should be) required to stop swinging his arms. It's a public street and it's for walking, not for arm swinging. That goes ditto times ten when he's swinging his arms on my property where I enjoy swinging my own arms; and if he wants to join me and swing in a mutually safe way, he's a welcome guest. Of course, you have to ask why the darn fool was swinging his arms around in the first place where he knows people are likely to get bopped. If that constitutes an infringement of his freedom to swing his arms, so be it. If that 'holds his productive activity at bay' because swinging his arms nets him quarters in his violin case, I'm fine with that. I shouldn't have to cross the street, especially if his arms are so large they require me to move to another town. He doesn't have the right to hit me in the head willfully and forcefully. On the contrary, I have the right to walk down a public street, and even more so my own property, without having my head bopped. End of story.
  7. I don't know precisely how it's being done in this hypothetical scenario, but reliable tests show that it is definitely produced by the chemical plant. The company didn't know that they were poisoning the well when I moved it. They know now. They agree with the reliable tests referred to in my first sentence. I don't see what difference it makes whether my well is isolated or whether it's part of an underground cache that several owners draw from, but you can cover both cases if you think it makes a difference. I don't. The well existed when I bought the house, but neither the seller nor the chemical plant knew it was being poisoned when the purchase was made. Frankly, I don't think it makes any difference whether I moved in first or the chemical plant existed first, but I gather you do in terms of who is required to assume what risks. What matters is that they know now what is happening. They are the ones putting a lethal toxin into my water supply. It also doesn't make any difference whether it is a chemical plant making gobs of money or just my next door neighbor being careless. (Similarly, in the case of my O2 example, it doesn't make any difference whether the O2 machine was used for a commercial purpose or whether my neighbor was just amusing himself by operating the machine past a level that was known to be far past safe.) Should they be legally required to clean it up or not? (Should my neighbor be required to turn down the setting on his O2 machine, or am I just out of luck and have to move to avoid having my child killed?) [As an aside, I believe your use of dramatic language like 'at the point of a gun' is misdirecting. Everything the government does is in a sense 'at the point of a gun'. They arrest criminals at the point of a gun. They redress torts at the point of a gun, metaphorically speaking.]
  8. Brian, Thank you for answering my questions. Your position is much clearer to me now. One final set of short questions and then I'm done for now. "But what is the difference in principle between my nuclear power plant heat generation example and the chemical plant, or even a sole individual, that pumps toxic effluent into my well? Would you agree that there is no difference in principle, but assert that in neither case has any right of mine been violated?" Jeff Perren Is it your contention that the chemical company has the right to poison my well? Suppose they had no knowledge it was happening and I had none when I bought the place. If I understand your position, you would say cleaning it up is solely my responsibility. Is that your position? If they do have the right, is it because it had been going on since before I moved in or because they are engaged in a productive activity I have no right to "hold at bay" or what? Suppose they knew (but the seller did not) before I moved in. They didn't say anything, but I had no reason to ask them. (The previous owner used only bottled water.) Jeff
  9. Erich, Thank you for the considerable amplification here. You are right, we don't disagree. This is my own view. But I would add two things: (1) With respect to the global warming issue, we are all being dragged into it and attacked, whether we like it or not. (2) Not all who accept the validity of some form of AGW are the sorts of people you describe. In fact, most are not. In those cases, I find it valuable to have a substantial amount of well-founded information available beyond just ethical and political arguments to bring to bear. I find a combination to be an effective approach. Is in-depth scientific knowledge absolutely necessary here? No, but as a practical matter, it's very helpful. One can argue all day about whether it should be needed or whether people should be persuaded by philosophical arguments alone. (We have been.) But, in fact, they often are not. In some cases, it is enough. It's a matter of circumstances and degrees.
  10. --- An interesting position and one with merit. I'd like to explore some of its implications. First, I'll start by agreeing with one version of the principles you state. I enter a casino where smoking takes place. It is so thick that within a week I contract terminal lung cancer. [An aside: No, I don't believe secondary smoke rises to the level of harm requiring government intervention. Stay with me.] I agree that in such a case, I have no right to sue anyone, nor to require that even this single casino owner make any changes whatever, much less any right to legislation against smoking in casinos. It's just my tough luck. I took the risk, knowing the circumstances. Now, a completely different scenario. A factory produces a secondary byproduct, a small amount of sulfur dioxide. At the rate we can reasonably project the factory to grow, it will produce double the amount in five years. Then triple, then quadruple. I.e. a linear increase each five years. At this rate, it will be a thousand years before any harmful amount of sulfur dioxide is produced. Plenty of time for the technology to change so that the situation need not concern even the most ardent environmentalist. (Ignore that they will make trouble anyway. Not relevant here. We're not discussing the wishes of lunatics.) Anyone who "doesn't like" the level produced in, say 20 years, can move. An enterprising scientist discovers something very new. It turns out that, despite what was formerly thought, after 30 more years of operation, the level of SO2 will be such that the rate becomes non-linear. Rather than doubling or tripling, it begins to rise exponentially. The factory owners are not to blame. They employed their best scientists to watch the output and this is simply new knowledge. It's unfortunate that the scientist is a zealous socialist, so other scientists (and concerned laymen) check his results very carefully. Nearly all agree, though one or two remain unconvinced. Everyone involved in the checking process has impeccable credentials. Time passes and the effects of the output begin to become clearer. The people in the town will very likely (95% confidence level) get emphysema if they choose to remain. They can move or not, choosing to accept what is now a completely different level of risk than anyone could predict when their homes were bought. The homes grew up around the factory. Should the factory be legally allowed to do nothing to mitigate the effects and continue to operate as before? Installing machinery to counteract the effect is within current technology, but will reduce profits by 10%. Revised version: Now, change the scenario slightly. 25% of the homeowners in the town had homes there before the factory existed. They discussed the building of the factory at the time it was proposed with the owners. The owners were honest about the level of output and provided their best projections about growth. The homeowners accepted the risk and agreed to sell some of their land to the factory owners to build the factory, though they have no ownership stake in the company. The factory was built. They were happy. The other 75% built or bought homes after the factory was already in operation for five years or more. The original 25% are considering leaving. Should the homeowners accept a reduction in the value of their homes to ½ the market value it had a week earlier before the scientific discovery became known? I.e. are the factory owners liable in any way for mitigating the cost of the homeowner's reduced sale price? Is the answer to that altered in any way if the factory owners are discovered to have suppressed the news of the discovery by one month, long enough for them to sell their homes? A penultimate twist: The factory's product is so popular, there is before the first 20 years has elapsed such a factory in every major urban center in the U.S. No worries. No one's rights are being violated; there is a free market system throughout the U.S. protected by the rule of objective law and almost no one is arguing the situation be any different. Then the discovery is made and validated. The only places to move are the rural areas or out of the U.S. A final twist: The factory owners licensed the technology to Europe, China, India, you name it. There are such factories in every urban city on the globe. Does any government anywhere (all of which have adopted an improved version of the U.S. constitution and are fully committed to the free market) in the world have any proper role whatever in any of these scenarios? Of course, the scenario could be modified in all sorts of ways and all sorts of reasonable responses are possible. One could argue that the best thing to do is leave the factory owners completely alone and let the free market react to solve the problem, if someone chooses to solve it. The question is, does anyone have any right to any government action requiring the factory owners to mitigate the effects to any degree whatever? I.e. do downstream law notions have any role here at all? If I understand your position, you would say NO!, no one has any such rights. Is that your position? Jeff P.S. By the way, your assertion that the context is CHANGE not ERADICATION begs the question of how much warming is taking place, which you can't know without investigating the science, but we can let that go without exploration for now.
  11. Thank you for your earlier post summarizing clearly your views. On to the latest. I'm not 100% sure what principle you are referring to, but I'm guessing it's what you say near the end " ... by what right do you demand the stagnation or decay of human productive activity?" That's a principle I do not hold, nor do any of my examples or statements imply or rest on it. To the contrary, though it's not germane, I hold that industrial civilization is glorious. Every novel I write features it, and the heroes who create it, prominently and proudly. I'd happily pay five times my current electric rate to have 5,000 new nuclear power plants built around the country in five years time. I'd very much like to see the viros and the various governments get out of the way so that could happen. Your assertion, if you are asserting it, that my position amounts to that is only made plausible by glossing over several key elements in my previous examples and statements. In particular: I gather you are denying that any form of downstream laws applies here. (I assume you don't deny that some downstream laws should exist and sometimes need to be legally enforced. If you do deny that, we can take that up separately.) But what is the difference in principle between my nuclear power plant heat generation example and the chemical plant, or even a sole individual, that pumps toxic effluent into my well? Would you agree that there is no difference in principle, but assert that in neither case has any right of mine been violated? What is the difference in principle between those and my O2 sucking example? In one case something is added, in another something taken away. But in both cases there is destruction to life and/or property. You ignore the details of my O2 example when you do not respond to the effects that occurred, in particular the death of my child. (I don't even have children, but if you think I'm being emotionally manipulative here, change the dead person to a very ugly, rude environmentalist. The principle is the same.) Is your response: "Well, caveat emptor. You knew it was possible that the O2 would be depleted to the point of causing death and chose to live there."? My response is: Yes, the possibility of noise, pollution, higher temperatures, etc exists with the growth of industrial civilization as productive activity takes place. Bring it on! But when that noise, pollution, higher temperatures, etc rises to the level that grievous bodily harm or property damage takes place, haven't the rights to life and property been violated? To emphasize: You ask, "by what right?" The right to life, for one. But the right to life implies the right not to be murdered. (My O2/child example.) That implies that no one has a right to murder. The right to life extends to protecting use of those things that life depends on, such as oxygen, water, a certain air temperature range, etc. These, in most cases, are common elements available to all and sundry. Until the need and ability to divvy them up and assign individual property rights (as is done to some extent with water) arises, no one may simply do as he pleases without any possibility of restriction. Not when he is violating the rights of life and property of rights-respecting individuals. You write that "A violation of rights occurs when force is initiated." True, but why is the initiation of force relevant to rights? At least because of two key components. "Initiation" suggests that someone made a choice that began an action with knowledge of the outcome. I.e. (ignoring the issues here of negligence, etc) you are only held responsible for actions you started where you could reasonably foresee the consequences. "Force" is relevant to the issue because it harms, it interferes with our ability to choose and carry out the actions needed to sustain our lives and to produce the values they require. I don't see the direct relevance of the issue of "implicit permission" in the case of the handshake example. It's certainly possible to violate someone's rights whether they gave you implicit permission or not, whether they even know you. No one gives "implicit permission" to the mugger to be near them provided the mugger doesn't conk them on the head. The rights violation occurs in virtue of the deliberate conking and the fact that the conking is injurious. In any case, you're neglecting the point of the example again. It was only to show that an issue of degree is definitely relevant in deciding whether a right has been violated. Putting a molecule of sulfur dioxide into the air space on my back deck is not a violation of my rights whether I gave anyone permission or not, independent of any expectation or knowledge I had. Putting a lethal concentration of sulfur dioxide into the airspace near the back of my deck is decidedly a violation of my right. (Somewhere in between those two extremes, we have difficult cases.) What right, you ask? The right to life, the right not to be done deliberate grievous harm by another person. (If required in order to make the example less ambiguous, suppose that I moved here before the sulfur dioxide plant moved in and started knocking off me and my neighbors. Is this a request for stagnation of industry and productive activity? No, I simply require, and assert that I have a right, that those who produce sulfur dioxide —— and I'm very glad there are companies that do —— do so in a way that doesn't kill me.) If, for example, it were the case that humans actually flourished the more sulfur dioxide was produced in the airspace on the back deck, clearly no right of mine would be violated. How could you violate my rights by doing me a benefit? (Setting aside cases in which I'm desirous of flourishing on my own steam and so don't want others contributing to my concentration of sulfur dioxide.) You keep ignoring or glossing over the issue of degree. (Remember, here we're assuming the rise is man-made.) You are implicitly assuming that the degree of warming is not to the level that people are dropping like mosquitoes. Either that, or you are asserting that degree is irrelevant. That, lets go to an extreme to clearly illustrate the principle, a 50C rise is okay no matter the consequences for some individual human life because industrial civilization is good and we should accept any consequences that follow therefrom. Now, all that said, let me make some closing comments and then I fear I will have little time to continue afterwards. The global warming issue involves several questions: 1. Is a general warming occurring that will continue for a few decades or longer? The evidence is mixed, but probably it is and will. 2. Is it, or will it be over the next 100 years, substantial? So far, it doesn't appear so. 3. Further, if warming is occurring, is it to the degree that it is a serious threat to human life for those in the U.S.? Not so far as I can tell, and there are many reasons to believe it is likely to be to a degree that will actually be beneficial. 4. Is any warming that might be occurring substantially the result of human actions? That's extremely unlikely, given the evidence and knowledge available to date. (Do my answers sound like someone who believes in AGW? I hope not.) But we couldn't even hope to answer any of those questions unless someone were studying the relevant sciences. I value knowing something about the results and reasoning behind those investigations. Why? In order to discourage those who have very different answers to questions 1-4, to influence the views of those they have influenced, and to have hard facts and good scientific judgments to add to and support the moral and political arguments I pound them with.
  12. I'm not an expert in the law so designing appropriate ones to deal with situations isn't my forte. That said, in this case, I can't see any reason to go beyond action against the individual machine user. In general, I don't favor pre-emptive regulations against businesses, etc. I'm in favor of the minimal government and government actions needed to protect rights. Even when they are violated, there are many instances where government may have a proper role in principle, but it's better if the parties work it out privately. (Arbitration proceedings where contract violations play a part, for example. Here government and laws set the background, but private parties carry out the resolution.) But I'd like to keep my participation in the discussion limited to the issue of how much and what kind of knowledge is needed to effectively combat AGW. I think the issues you raise are important an interesting but I'm reluctant to go too far afield. The example is only to illustrate the point that degrees matter, i.e. that it's possible (indeed common) for an action of some degree to not violate a right, but the same action carried to a higher degree can. Even that is only an adjunct to the primary topic. [i'll won't be able to respond further until much later today. Thanks to everyone who is participating.]
  13. Another example showing that degrees matter, i.e. something done to a lesser degree doesn't violate any right, but done to a larger degree does. We have adjoining properties. You have a machine in your yard that consumes oxygen very fast. But at one setting it only consumes a small amount. The concentration of oxygen on your property is now slightly lower than it was a little while earlier. Oxygen on my property at a higher concentration flows toward your property. So far no problem. You're not consuming enough for me to be concerned about. Now, you crank up the machine. You start lowering the concentration of oxygen in your backyard very rapidly. The large gradient causes oxygen to flow in large quantities very rapidly from my property over to yours. It becomes so low in my yard that my children playing quietly in my yard keel over and die. You knew this would happen if you cranked up your machine. You are liable for the death of my children. You have committed willful murder, a definite violation of the right to life. Of course, I can't actually explain why my children died unless I studied some atmospheric physics and knew about gradients and how lowering the concentration of oxygen in one place causes it to flow from an area of higher concentration to one of a lower concentration. But luckily, a scientist nearby can explain it to the judge. You on the other hand knew very well that the effect would occur, but you didn't care because your machine's operation was benefiting you in some way. Now, I'm actually a big fan of these oxygen machines because they provide definite benefits in moderation. But at too high a level, they are dangerous. (Note: this is just a fantasy, and does not reflect my view of industrial civilization.)
  14. Because in the case of the small temperature changes, there is no harm, therefore no violation of rights. At a certain point there is harm. For example, I shake your hand with a force of 10 newtons. There is no harm; in fact, you may find it pleasant. Then, I squeeze your hand during shaking hands with a force of 500 newtons or 5000 newtons (I don't actually know where harm to the body is done because Brian has persuaded me that an in-depth study of physiology is unnecessary knowing that it will harm you, and your hand is crushed. I have violated your rights. A matter of degree often determines whether a right has been violated. There are borderline cases, of course. That's what makes real life harder than armchair discussions of rights. Nevertheless, it is so and we should deal with those degrees and real life situations. Is it your contention that human activity can raise the temperature around my home to any arbitrarily high degree and there will at no point be a violation of my rights by anyone? Somewhere between 1 degree C and a blowtorch that combusts my house, I contend that someone has violated my rights to life and property, yes. Now, I have answered a fair number of questions, some of them at some length. You, on the other hand, have mostly denied, disagreed, and asked questions. Perhaps you could just lay out your positive position so we both know where each stands. Cheers, Jeff
  15. Sorry, our posts crossed. I'll think about this some more. But off the top of my head I'd say no I don't think this person's right has been violated solely in virtue of the fact that the temperature change is man made. But everything depends on degree (pun intended). What if a local nuclear power plant spews hot water into my yard. Do I have a right to complain? Ok, now, instead of hot water and my yard, it's hot air and the airspace enveloping my house. And it isn't 5 or 10 degrees (I assume you mean F, but lets use C instead), it is 40C hotter. Do I now have a right to government protection from their action? (Even though I strongly favor nuclear power plants and have no objection to living near one under normal circumstances.) Ok, now extend the hypothetical. It isn't one nuclear power plant, but the cumulative effect of all the activities of all the human activity in the city. Now what?