Tuesday, May 30, 2017

The Logical and Epistemological Derivation and Progression of Rights

Here's a post I started writing about... two years ago I think? Maybe three? In response to a question about what rights were, and how we know they are rights etc... but I never finished it. The same question came up today, so I figured I'd finish the post. 
... It's still not QUITE finished... I need to do a bit more of an edit... but it's MOSTLY finished. 
By the by... if you think something is circular, or a tautology, you're reading it wrong. There are no tautologies here, there are only derivations from first principle, with reference to falsifiability, and non-contradiction; presented as logical and consequential proofs.
Meaning that all derivations FROM first principles in the progression can be derived back TO first principles, without contradiction or falsification... and that many but not all of them have, in order to illustrate this. 
As sentient beings, of sound mind, able to make our own choices and direct our own efforts; and to accept the requirements, obligations and consequences thereof; we have fundamental and inherent rights, which pre-exist and presuppose any society, state, collective, or other entity.

Rights exist because of self ownership, not because of society, or the state, or collective agreement or consent.We own ourselves, in the entire... rights, benefits, obligations and consequences.

We are not the property of others, or of society; and society (or the state, or any other collective or individual) is not the grantor of rights... though if legitimate, society, or the state, should be a guarantor of rights.

This is generally colloquially referred to as the propertarian principle of individual rights, or the principal of self ownership.

To my knowledge, it is the only logical derivation and progression of individual rights, as and from fundamental first principle, which does not require outside appeal to authority (i.e. faith, God, society, the state, the monarch etc... though conveniently, it also does not contradict most concepts of faith in God either)... though there may be others I am not familiar with.

This is a nearly universally recognized (if not necessarily universally accepted) principle, by those who actually study such principles (philosophy and philosophers), and the nature of principles, knowledge, and truth (epistemology... a field of philosophy which asks "how does one know anything at all, and within such knowledge, how does one know what is true and what is not).

It is generally accepted as the foundational first principle of the enlightenment... and critically it IS, clearly and explicity, the fundamental principle of the constitution of the United States... and of the nation defined by it.

Rights are not granted or provided by the constitution, or the state, or society... our rights are fundamental, inherent, and pre-existing... they are recognized, and protected by the constitution, by the state organized and formed by it, and... hopefully... by the society living with that state.

First, to get it out of the way right up front... lets talk about God for a minute:

  1. Some believe there is no such thing as property, nor can there be... only stewardship
  2. Some believe that we are Gods property

There can be conceptions of rights without property, including without self ownership, or even without individuals, as we think of them... but they are entirely different from conceptions of rights where there can be and is property... Generally granted by "tradition", or "honor" or "god" or "gods" etc... They are not derivable from any logical first principle, but instead require appeal to authority (even if that authority is "honor" or "tradition").

In most Christian and Jewish theological concepts which include people being God's property, this is morally and ethically indistinguishable from self ownership in the context of the propertarian principle; except internally, to your own moral judgement and conscience, of your stewardship of Gods property (as delegated to you, the individual...though certain Christians theorize and promulgate more explicitly collective stewardship as well).

In Islam, you are owned by God, and are in total submission to God... That is the literal meaning of Islam. You are owned by, and submit to the will of, God, in all things, at all times. Anything you or anyone else has, is Gods property, you only have temporary posession, use, and stewardship of it... including yourself. You have no rights, nor does anyone else... only privileges granted by God, as God wills it.

This piece is not about the epistemology of faith however, it is about the epistemology of rights.

So next, lets get the other common concepts of "rights"... which by the individual conception of rights are not truly rights at all... out of the way.

Some believe that there are superior beings, who have rights inherently (or granted by God, or society, or position etc..); and inferior beings, who do not, or whose rights are inferior to others (unless granted superior rights by those who posess them), and who can be the property of another, or can be subject to another. This is the fundamental principle of nobility or monarchy, and of certain types of oligarchy, and other explicitly hierarchical societies.

Some believe that people... or at least our bodies, and the fruits and products of them, and their efforts (wealth, profit, property etc...) are the property of "society" or some other collective entity or construct. If you believe that individuals are societies property... then you don't believe in rights at all... though you may call them rights, they are not: They are grants of privilege, immunity, entitlement, license, or franchise. They can be given, taken, and modified, as society decides. This is the fundamental principal of most collectivist societies.

It is also the fundamental presumption most people seem to have, in most societies around the world today... including, sadly, most people in America. They THINK they believe in rights, and in individuals... but they believe that rights are grants of society, or the state, or the constitution; and can be granted, modified, or revoked, as the needs or preferences of society require them to be.

They THINK they believe they are individuals, and own themselves... but they believe that society decides on rights... and if society decides, then you don't actually own yourself, society owns you.

What about right and wrong?

In either of these alternate conceptions; as the superior individuals, or society as a whole, are the arbiter of rights, then there can be no standard of right or wrong, except as determined by those superior individuals, or by common consent; and when society changes its mind, then what right, and what is wrong, also change.

There are no right and wrong... only allowed or not... Which, sadly, is what all too many believe.

If there ARE individual rights, beginning with property rights, then at least some things are inherently and objectively wrong... with or without society, even if society says they otherwise... Specifically those things which violate the rights of others, by force or fraud.

Oh and, if one knowingly does this wrong, by choice, then one willingly consents to their rights being abrogated as a consequence... We respect each others rights, so that others respect ours, and if they violate ours, we don't have to respect theirs... though we still should, and we shouldn't disregard their rights to any degree greater than required to compensate us for the violation of our rights, or to prevent further violation or abrogation of others rights.

THAT is the ACTUAL social contract by the way...

...Not some BS about society and altruism etc... etc... etc...

A contract, is valid consideration, offered for valid consideration in return; voluntarily accepted, with valid exchange and acceptance of said consideration, according to specified terms.

This equal offer of consideration of rights, fulfills all requirements of a contract; both as individuals, and collectively... as all so called "collective rights" are not... they either do not exist, or they are rights delegated to the collective by others.

... Remember... I said this was a full logical derivation and progression... 
Might makes right?

Three other important things to get out of the way...

1. Just because someone, or some society, or some state doesn't know about or recognize or accept such rights, doesn't mean they don't exist

2. Just because someone, or some society, or some state, is violating or abrogating such rights, does not mean they do not exist.

3. Just because someone, or some society, or some state, has the power, or has granted themselves the authority, to violate or abrogate such rights, does not mean they do not exist.

To "think" otherwise, is to make the same logical error, as thinking that because people violate the law, there is no law; the same logical error as thinking that because people do wrong, that there is no right or wrong.

This is the difference between licit, and legitimate authority and force. Licit, is that which is allowed by "authority"... be it society, the state, the monarch etc... Legitimate is that which respects both law, and rights... and the law itself must be licit and legitimate to be right.

Rights cannot be disposessed of, only respected, violated, or abrogated; whether by force, fraud, or willing consent.

... Willing limitation of rights, competition of rights, and intersection of rights in such contexts are MUCH more complicated questions...


As I said above... The propertarian principal of individual rights, provides for a logical derivation and progression of rights, from first principle, without external appeal to authority.

So... here is the logical and epistemological progression and proof of individual rights; from, in reference to, and in the context of; the propertarian principle of individual rights, or the principle of self ownership.

First, our assumptions, and statement of principle...

Sentient individuals exist.

Property exists.

Rights exist.

Property may be held privately, by sentient individuals.

Sentient individuals may not legitimately be property of other individuals or entitites.

If we are sentient individuals, not owned by society, or any other superior individual or entity, then we must own ourselves.

Now, we derive our progression of rights...

If we own ourselves, then there must be rights, inherent to our nature as sentient individuals... These rights begin with, and proceed from, the right of self ownership; because without rights, there is no ownership... only possession.

If there is an inherent right of self ownership, and we are sentient beings, then we must have the right to freedom of conscience.

If we own ourselves, and have freedom of conscience, then we cannot be dispossessed of our rights even by willing consent; as self ownership and freedom of conscience cannot be dispossessed of without negating sentience and individuality.

If we own ourselves, have freedom of conscience and cannot be disposessed of our rights, then our rights can only be abrogated or violated by force, fraud, or willing consent.

If we own ourselves, have freedom of conscience, cannot be disposessed of our rights, and our rights can only be abrogated or violated by force, fraud, or willing consent; then all sentient individuals have the same rights, and no individual can have any rights that are superior or inferior to the rights of any other individual.

If all sentient individuals have the same rights, which cannot be superior or inferior to any other, then no sentient individual can be superior or inferior to another.

If no sentient individual can be superior or inferior to any other, then no individual can own any other or be owned by any other.

If we own ourselves, have freedom of conscience, and cannot be dispossessed of our rights, then we must have the right of private property, which consists of the rights of posession, determination, use, exclusion, disposal, and benefit of such property (including our selves in the entire).

If we own ourselves, have freedom of conscience, and have the right of private property, then we must have the right of defense of self.

If we own ourselves, have freedom of conscience, and have the right of private property, then we must have the right of self determination.

If we own ourselves, have freedom of conscience, have the right to private property, and the right to self determination, then we must have the right of association.

If we own ourselves, have freedom of conscience, have the right to private property, the right to self determination, and the right to free association, then we must have the right to form contract.

If we own ourselves, have freedom of conscience, have the right to private property, and the right to self determination, the right of association, and the right to form contract; we must also have the right to form voluntary collectives of individuals and to delegate certain rights and powers to them.

If we can form a voluntary collective of individuals, all individuals have the same rights which cannot be disposessed, no individuals can be superior or inferior to any other, and no individual can own or be owned by any other...

 ....then no collective of individuals can be a separate entity unto itself with rights separate from the rights of the individuals making up the collective, nor can any collective of individuals be superior or inferior to any individual, nor possess or exercise rights not posessed by all individuals, or which are superior to those of any individual.

... Thus, we are able to have societies, and states, which respect and protect individual rights, and which do not violate or abrogate them; without requiring collective rights, or collective ownership.

That's the epistemological progression from the propertarian principle, through to the existence of societies and states, with the exclusion of collective rights, and collective ownership... It is a complete chain of reasoning, derivable from and to first principles... progression and regression.

All things which are ACTUALLY rights, as opposed to grants, franchises, etc... can and must be logically and epistemologically justified within this progression, or from this progression. All things which cannot be logically and epistemologically justified within or from this progression... as dervied from and in the context of the propertarian principle... are not, and can not be, rights. They are something else, that are not rights.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Fail Fast, Fail Frequently, Fail Forward

Being "detail oriented" is generally considered a good thing. It can be a great asset... even a critical requirement... for people like engineers, writers and editors, reporters, accountants, MBAs and analysts, and academics.

As such, being "detail oriented" is often mistaken by those groups of people (and those who rely on them, or think of them a benchmarks to judge themselves, and others) as a hallmark of ...or even a requirement for.... intelligence, competence, and success.

Conversely, not being "detail oriented", can appear as, or be taken (improperly) as; a sign of disorganization, a short attention span, even stupidity and incompetence.


Being "detail oriented", is not always the right thing, or the necessary thing. Sometimes, it even gets in the way or is actively harmful.

Jimmy Carter was incredibly detail oriented, as were both Bill Clinton, and Woodrow Wilson...

... didn't work out so well for those three as president...

Mostly, It just made them micromanaging, and indecisive... Delaying decisions or actions until they had "enough data"; "delegating" to subordinates,  without giving them actual authority for decision making; and making decisions, only to modify or even reverse them, when "new information" arrived... whether that information merited such action or not, and disregarding the negative consequences of doing so.

...You know.... the usual result, when a "detail oriented" person has far too much information; far too little ability to judge the relevance, importance, or quality of information they have, and properly filter and route it; far too little expertise or experience in a particular subject or issue (or sometimes far too much, in which case they may start to second guess and over think things,nor to prematurely optimize); and not enough time or resources to sufficiently remedy any of these problems.

When a "detail oriented" person finds themselves caught in such a situation (unless they are one of those who can naturally step back, and see systemic complexities, and interactions, in the "big picture", and then properly generalize, and relate them to other data, other systems, other problems etc... ) they will naturally tend to fixate on the details they DO understand... regardless of the acttual importance of those items, or the quality of the data..... and establish confirmation bias based simplifications and logic chains, that affirm their own illusions of control over the issue... but actually, most likely  just make things worse.

It's hubris... and it is a near universal problem... even for those of us who have been specifically trained to recognize and avoid it... because the real world is far too complex, with far too many dependent variables, and far too few independent variables, with far too few ways to properly simplify arend sennd ND abstract data arend senndndbnd problem sets; even just to ACTUALLY understand, never mind successfully control very much, very well.

... Unfortunately our brains are VERY good at creating a convincing illusion of control...

...Until we crash, hard, into reality... And hopefully don't break anything.... or anyone... too badly.

...And of course, when it's a president who is having this problem, the consequences can be a lot more serious than when it's just some guy...

When you don't have the time to actually become an expert or authority on the 300 plus absolutely critical subjects you have to make decisions about every single day... you don't need to be more detail oriented... What you need, is to be able to very quickly understand the important principles, the overall context, what the most important and relevant details are, and what the variables, options, and consequences of various specifics of your decision may be.

Under those circumstances, being "detail oriented" actually serves to distract you, and gives you the illusion of greater understanding, expertise and control, than you actually have.

... which leads to even greater tendency towards not only initial error... but then a worsening death spiral of error and hubris.

You don't need to get all the details right... because you can't... it's not actually possible.

You need to be able to decide and act fast... but in the right way...

You have to observe, orient, and simplify to decision points; make decisions and set direction; effectively drive action and execution; then analyze the results of actions taken, and iteratively improve.

...and that's not a common ability, nor is it easy...

A very large portion of my profession, involves taking a huge amount of very detailed, very hard to understand, very technical information; documenting all of it thoroughly, along with context and history,  best practices, requirements, regulations, limitations and constraints... plus references etc...

Distilling all of those hundreds, or sometimes thousands of pages, down into both a detailed report with EVERYTHING... and far more importantly, a short summary; including the background and context, the important principles and issues, the most critical details, the risks and consequences, the costs and benefits etc...writing out specific requirements and recommendations, and prioritizing them, with an outline of actions that may be taken on such recommmendations.

It may have taken me and my team anywhere from a week, to as much as six months, to gather all the background and requirements, run all the testing, gather all the data, perform all the analysis etc...; with another five to ten days, full time, of writing it all up, into both the full report and the summary... maybe even twenty or more additional days, including outlines, drafts, revisions and the like... A full working month...

Then, I have to present that to the people who are financially and legally responsible for the operations of the organization... and they need to immediately, or at least very quickly, decide what to do about particular requirements, particular problems, particular options etc... Often in the room, right then. And they need to give a legal signoff, often with multiple literal signatures and copies, sent to auditors, regulators, courts etc...

Frequently, I have as little as 15 minutes TOTAL to make my presentation and explanations, answer any questions, and get approvals etc...

...Meaning the execs only have a few minutes to understand, and make their decisions as well...

If they get it wrong, or execute on it badly, they can personally be fined thousands  or even millions of dollars, or possibly even go to jail; in addition to the consequences to the organization, which may include huge losses of information, of direct revenue, and most importantly loss of confidence and reputation.

Good leaders, may go back and re-read the whole report later... certainly they will have at least two subordinates they trust, and who will come at it from at least two different directions and perspectives, dissect it in detail and review it with them...  but they don't have time right now.... Right now, they need to orient, decide, and act

To do THAT,  they will rely on the input from their trusted subordinates... and from me, the expert...

...They don't read the full report right now...they read the summary, and the charts, and the important notes etc... and they also read ME, as I'm presenting... and they read their own people, and their reactions or how something sits with them.

Theynobswrve the data, and they observe and analyze my word choice, tone, posture, and demeanor... and those of their peoples... and how they convey meaning. How certain I am of what I'm saying, and how competent and how knowledgeable am I, based on how comfortable and relaxed I am with my own work, and with the subject matter as a whole... even if the report may be unpleasant or distressing. How I weight the variables and options. My level of comfort and certainty... or discomfort and uncertainty... with my data, my analysis, my recommendations... everything...

...then based on this observation and analysis, they orient themselves to the problem properly,  make a decision right then, so they can make all the necessary supporting decisions, and take whatever immediate actions may be required....

...So that we can start moving and acting, as quickly as possible...and so that we can FAIL as quickly as possibly, as small as possible, and therefore we can iterate again... improving and correcting, as we go.

Because they don't expect to get every decision exactly right, the first time, every time... Or EVER for that matter... because it's almost impossible to do so...

... Becausenthey understand.. it's a lot easier to get it right by orienting on what you think are the right problems, and what you think is the right direction; acting on your analysis, until you get stuck into it, and find things you need to change; then iterating, and iterating, until you get it right.

Plan, do, check, act... repeated..... until you get it done, and get it right.

Fail fast, fail frequently, fail forward.

You might have noted, there is another president right now... who is essentially the polar opposite of Jimmy Carter... and  who is being portrayed as being stupid, incompetent, having a short attention span, and being rash... too quick to judge, moving too fast, without waiting for better data or understanding all the details...

Yeah... pretty obvious ain't it?

Now... I don't think Trump is some kind of genius... In fact, I detest the man on a personal level, and at best I'm unimpressed with him as a businesssman... a don't think he has any business being president, and I very much doubt that he will have a good and successful presidency... though I hope I am wrong, and he's very successful, and does very well for the country...

...But... I can say, that I recognize very clearly, the pattern of someone who is used to doing just what I described here... Orienting, deciding, and acting quickly, then failing quickly, deciding and acting again, and iteratively improving... or at least trying to.

He doesn't deliberate, or delegate, once he's already involved directly, or has to make a decision.... He delegates everything possible right up until he HAS to make that decision, and then gets involved directly; makes the decision, without second guessing, and acts on it, until it fails or requires revision. Then he makes another decision, acts on it, and If it fails, it fails... and they fix it again, and again, until you fix all the problems you can find... and hopefully, you're  successful.

Because every success, large or small, is made up of many small failures.

You decide and act as fast as possible, so you can fail as fast as possible... and  you want to know as quickly as possibly so you can fix or replace as quickly as possible.

Trump is TRYING to do this in office... and it's sometimes working, but mostly not... for various reasons, none of them good...

But... if you're paying any real attention at all, it should be clear at this point.... the narratives being drawn around the Trump administration?

Well... the media doesn't seem to actually get anything else right... why would they get this one right?

Especially since it would be against their own goals, and their own interests, to do so....