Positive rights vs negative rights & how that may or may not apply to our current situation

barged in

It’s the Internet, Goaticide. Everyone is barging

I meant it in the sense that you didn’t read the thread and were kind of rude. Hey, you changed my avatar name. That was very clever.

Go read some YouTube comments and weep.

I wouldn’t say you’re quite as bad as YouTube commenters. Give yourself some slack. :wink:

No, because I lived in a state that makes not one iota of difference electorally. I didn’t have to vote. Now I’m in a state where my vote will make not one iota of difference because it is so red they hand out those little books to the schoolchildren. The logic is situational, so your blanket statement doesn’t apply.

Well, if you read the thread and my posts within it, you’d see where I addressed that. :smile:

I know one thing I would do differently: I wouldn’t have given him $50.

You would have given him $500?

Electing Democrats doesn’t stop wars! It just delays them for a while.

If we elect Democrats consecutively into Presidential office for once in modern history, we may get a different result. But, we’ve never tried it…

Some of these men above initiated vastly more extensive open wars than others.

Of course, I’d rather see someone who wouldn’t take us into any fruitless wars (big or small) at all, but the leftist status quo won’t have him just yet, in my opinion.

So in the meantime, I’ll continue to push for the lesser evil for long term, progressive change that can eventually lead to more substantial change for the better with third parties, etc.

And, of course, support things like this:

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This is definitely all about you, then. Or, at least, this weird hijacking of the thread is, anyway.

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Or, at least, this weird hijacking of the thread is, anyway.

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@Cowicide and @awjt Both of you cut back on the insults and snark or you’ll be having a break.

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I just did a bunch of analysis on Canadian elections (since I’m Canadian) and was a little surprised [you won’t believe these N amazing results about elections!] by how undetermined the future is by the past. Sure, incumbents won a little over 80% of the time, but that’s 20% of the time they lost and about 40% of those losses (so 8% overall) were to parties that had come in third or fourth in the previous election. There is one case in recent years where someone who won with 70% of the vote went on to lose the next election to a party that came in third in the previous election, 39.8% to 39.1%. Basically anyone doing analysis based on the past would have said the riding was not worth voting in, but it turns out to be one of the closest races in the country.

Obviously Canada and America are very different. Having three or four viable parties running in a riding creates pressures that two parties don’t. Also, I understand the gerrymandering has gone wild down there and some districts (is this what they are called?) look like proofs of the Banach-Tarski Paradox, but I wonder if the past really predicts the future so strongly. We have a region up here that looks a locked up as some of your decided states, but it’s only been locked up for the Conservatives since 1971, before then it was locked up for the Liberals.

Everyone who has ever had a come-from-behind or surprise win has done so precisely by winning in places that others didn’t think they would win. Mostly we know who will win ahead of time, except when we don’t, and that seems to happen every few elections.

Does anyone know if/where I could download spreadsheets or .csv’s of american election results? I’d be interested to do some of the same analysis and see how entrenched things are.

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Bbbbbbbut we are getting along now?

@Falcor knows it’s a tenuous peace accord at best.

I don’t see this anywhere

My mistake, it was in the first part I linked to at the top of this thread that was continued here.

If you are not in a battleground state, then your vote is worth very little… or to use my oft-repeated phrase: worthless. But go ahead, enlighten me as I know you will.

Prepare for enlightenment! :smiley:

Depending on the situation, a vote can still be a symbolic gesture with real world results. Democrats tend to (not always, of course) lean further right with less support even if they win. And, Democrats who lose by wide margins tend to adjust their positions even further right due to a lack of perceived support.

Even a Democrat who truly wants to push forward a progressive agenda will take stock at some point if they can’t even get into office at all or just barely made it into office for the first term. By not showing support, Democratic voters often shoot themselves in the foot by putting candidates into a position where they believe they need to bend further right in order to at least get some progressive agendas put forward in their second term.

At the very least, instead of abstaining it would have been better to vote for a far-left third party candidate if one was available. At least the Democrat who lost can look at those votes (if there was enough of them) and figure she or he should have offered a further left platform. Then again, that can backfire if there weren’t very many votes for the third party and the Democrat will simply shift right as I explained in my previous paragraph.

Voting is a barometer for politicians. You may not like it, but it’s a side effect of human nature and a struggling representative democracy within our republic.

I love the guy, he can’t be President. And it’s not for the reasons you probably think I’m gonna say.

Vermont has had a strong countercurrent of progressive politics for decades. Bernie has done extremely little to shape the message, corral the resources and mount a group offensive. Vermont has had strong progressive candidates, including for Governor, and yet Bernie’s coalition-building activity has been lackluster. Progressives continually fall flat on their faces in Vermont, the one place where they would be likely to get in, if they had good backing and better organization. Do I blame Bernie? No. But neither has he helped much.

Right, that’s basically what the article said that I linked to when I mentioned Bernie.

If he ever got on the Presidential ballot, I’d gladly throw away my vote on him!

I’d do one better – I’d do everything in my power to support his campaign and give him a chance to win. If in the end, he falls flat and can’t win despite everyone’s best efforts, I’d vote for a lesser evil instead to prevent more wars, less health care, human suffering, etc. Sometimes less is more.

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Does anyone know if/where I could download spreadsheets or .csv’s of american election results? I’d be interested to do some of the same analysis and see how entrenched things are.


Now that the trite disturbance is over. I’ve been curious about something you said earlier here:

dacree revealed his partisan agenda after playing coy for so long

What was the partisan agenda? I think I missed it.

dacree did make a complaint that partisans of voting were just D-zombies looking to bash Rs. He pulled back pretty quick into non-specific coyness again, but with so much verbiage spilled it’s tough to cover one’s tracks.

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Ah, I didn’t see that. Looks like you flushed him out.

If you are going to base your morality off a quotation from that document, you kind of have to accept that their idea of “liberty” is not violated by voting in elections.

You know very well that I’m not basing my morality on that document. It was provided as an alternate to the U.S. constitution for illustrative purposes. There is much in both documents I consider ludicrous such as the irony of stating that all men are born with inalienable rights such a life liberty etc at the beginning of a document that forms a republic government.

How did they come to this state without agreeing to be in it? Perhaps the six men are prisoners and the cake has been dropped into their mutual cell.

You’ll need to provide the scenario if a specific answer is to be given.

I also find it interesting that you think that if all the people own the cake equally then cutting into equal pieces is necessarily fair. What if that sixth person, an equal owner of the cake, objects to the division because they wanted the cake for the aesthetics of the cake as a whole and don’t even care to eat it?

This is why it is important to determine the specifics up front. At this rate, you can spoon out any imagined scenario you would like but none of that goes to your point that voting is simply a model of group decision making. You stated yourself that these scenarios have rules to be followed.

To me, that’s a critical point. Who makes the rules? Who enforces them? Is it possible to be subject to the rules if you do not volunteer to becomes a member of this decision making group? In a modern voting system the answer to that last question is quite clear. Voting is immoral in that it takes away the freedom of a person to not participate - we are talking political here, group decision making though it is, it lacks the equivalence to cake needed to support continuing your line of reasoning. The situation is further compounded by the ability of the voted to act as a proxy for the voter in harming the innocent while simultaneously freeing the voter from the normal societal repercussions for such an action.

If you can’t discuss scenarios without all facts being stipulated then your entire system is useless for reality where there is always unknown information.

I didn’t know that very well.

At any rate, you certainly based your argument off the content of those documents. You wanted to try to say, “Look, we all agree that we are all born equal with certain inalienable rights,” in a way that we would all have to nod at, so you did. But the problem is that you have to specific which inalienable rights we are all born with (and who exactly is born with them, the US constitution allowed slavery for quite a while).

I personally think that, “Life, liberty and the [pursuit of happiness / security of the person]” is a nonsense phrase that should have been left out. You think that it is the only part that we should keep. You want to argue in logic, but one of your premises is that we have some kind of absolute autonomy or freedom in the world. No one here agrees with that premise and your attempt to show that we do agree referenced a document that I clearly showed has a different concept liberty than the one you are trying to put forward.

So we’ve discovered what the real disagreement here is. It is not that you can form a cogent argument and that no one else can, it is that you take as a given something that no one else takes as a given.

I know you don’t like people attacking the “form” of your argument or debating in facts, but your argument is about as useful as the following:

  1. Cottage Cheese is the only fair basis of government
  2. Our government is not based on cottage cheese
    Conclusion: Our government is not fair

No one accepts your (1), so no one is going to accept your conclusion. That’s what I meant when I said, “Logic is empty.” It is the rules about the relationship between propositions but it is completely silent on their content. Without good content, logic is just Propostion 1 through Proposition N.

And speaking of logic being empty, let’s go back to what I said in the first place:

I don’t even think that the kind of absolute right you are talking about is a thing that could be (a belief in unicorns or bigfoot would be better grounded) let alone that we have the specific one you mention above all others. I’m still pretty sure that, as far as actually proving anything to anyone goes, you’ve got a serious ontological problem.

Again, the problem is that you are totally divorced from reality. Please explain to me what “not participating” would look like. Our current system still allows people to find unused patches of wilderness, set up shacks, and grow cabbages for themselves is that’s how they want to live their lives.

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So then no system is useful since there is always the unknown. C’mon Humbabella. You can do better than that.

I used those documents to illustrate a point and not as a basis for argument. This is exactly why evidence should be kept our of morality debates since it will be interpreted differently by different people - conclusions and all that.

No one here agrees with that premise … you take as a given something that no one else takes as a given
Now you are on to meaningless hyperbole and verging on the no true Scotsman fallacy.

Some of us see those who think voting is having their voice herd are out of touch with reality. I never said we should not participate. I’ve been arguing for participation all along. My position is that your dollar is the best form of participation.

Wow, that’s silly. No, in real life people make decisions without having all the facts and accept that sometimes that won’t work out well without passing moral judgments about it. Real life systems are messy and accept trade-offs.

Generally when someone accuses me of making a logical fallacy without actually explaining why what I said was wrong, I assume they think that the purpose of knowing about logical fallacies is to attack other people rather than to try to make their own thinking better. I actually have no idea where I might have done anything like this. You have a notion of liberty which is absolute, which is violated by other people voting. I contend that is nothing like what other people mean when they talk about liberty, and most people understand that liberty is a thing that exists in greater and lesser degrees and that is necessarily limited by the liberty of others around them.

I’m still pretty sure the “fact” that we are all born with certain rights is an important premise in your argument that voting is immoral. If you can clarify by making the argument without that premise - or with only the premise that we are born with some rights, not with any right in particular - then I’ll happily concede that your reference those documents was peripheral.

Of course you didn’t, but you did say, just today:

And then I asked what you meant by not participating. If you think voting is immoral because it denies people the right to not participate, then I think that’s a legitimate question. If there is a meaningful way that people could refuse to participate that they are currently prevented from doing by voting then it would make sense to weigh the harm being done by that against the value of voting. (And that’s how we do things in real life, balance harms against goods because you can’t absolutely do no harm or absolutely step on no one’s rights)

And you’ve been arguing that voting is an immoral form of participation. If you came in here to say that how you spend your money is more meaningful in shaping society than how you vote I wouldn’t have argued at all (some others would have and did, but I’m not committed to either side of that debate - which is, by the way, about facts).

I’ve even mentioned in this thread that I largely haven’t voted, so I’m not even remotely arguing that voting is a worthwhile exercise or even a moral imperative (recently I’ve done math that suggests to me it is a worthwhile exercise, but that math doesn’t apply to the US). There is a big step down from “this doesn’t matter much” to “this is a moral wrong.”


The right we are all born with can be boiled down to self determination. Most people can agree that right exists in as much as it does not hinder another person from doing the same. Yet, once we introduce a system of voting, it becomes possible for the majority to decide to do something like attack another country. Once we pass that threshold, it is a short trip to voting that a person can be conscripted in to the military whereby you can compel a person to either kill others or support the war machine. In this way, voting is immoral.

Another example is taxes and spending. Under a system of voting the majority decides where tax dollars are spent. If the majority wants to build nuclear weapons, those objectors in the minority are forced to pay taxes which are used to build weapons of mass destruction. In this way, voting is immoral.

Perhaps a more equitable construct would be to set a tax rate and allow each person to decide where the money they pay in taxes will be spent. Those who want a war machine can find it. Those who want clean energy can fund it. etc. Think crowd funding. By intelligent application of your financial resources, one can make a direct and positive (or negative if that;s what they want) impact on the world while giving each person direct control over their social and governmental participation.
I’m quite sure that society and humanity can get along quite well without stripping away the dignity and self determination of others at the governmental scale.

But with the faculty of reason, it is possible I will decide to commit murder. In this way, using the faculty of reason is immoral.

The idea that a system of decision making itself is immoral because it may decide upon immoral outcomes is clearly incorrect.

Most people agree that one-person-one-vote is a more equitable system than one-dollar-one-vote. The system you are proposing has been used throughout history, and those who want to fund the war machine have funded it, generally for the purpose of taking over those who didn’t want to fund the war machine. If the war machine is the problem, then simply letting people decide whether to not to build it is not the solution.

In most contemporary democracies if the majority voted to oppress the minority they would run into a problem with human rights. Like I said, in real life we know that there are problems with everything so we build in systems to try to guard against those problems. In many places a legislative, executive and judicial branch all have different oversight functions and the ability to limit one another when they go out of bounds. It’s far from perfect but it seems to be the best that anyone has actually implemented. There probably is a better system, but I highly doubt it can be arrived at by taking any one principle (such as self-determination) and holding it absolute above all others.

[Emphasis mine] This is why your ideas sound crazy. Why on earth would we let people have negative impacts just because that’s what they want. In your mind you were born with a right and no responsibilities.

This is why I said you have a problem with your premises.

This is complete 100% bullshit. Total nonsense. The only right you are inherently born with is the right to die. Rights are legal constructs and our rights are given to us by other people. They exist only so far as they can be enforced.

When you are born you might be drowned in a flood, struck by lightning or murdered by another person and what of your “self determination”? Reality is that the only reason you even lived long enough to conceptualize yourself so that there could possibly be such a thing as self determination is because other people afforded you that luxury. If you decide not to return the favour to society then it is not society that is being immoral.

Reality is not declaring yourself to be an architect, it is being eaten by dogs.

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Here’s the first part you’ve said that I wouldn’t agree with. I would consider rights things that people do inherently deserve, that then need to be recognized and respected by other people. I’m not sure how much that changes beyond phrasing, though.

While dacree has talked about how voting need not respect rights, it’s not like that’s something that happens automatically otherwise. In particular there’s no reason to expect trusting all decisions to money would respect them, unless like the comic I posted, you simply declare there is no coercion, no externalities, no actions taken to ostracize minorities, and so on.

That’s of course completely divergent with reality, where markets and oligarchies on their own have a terrible record for those things, and well-regulated democracy seems to be the best for respecting rights so far. But I’m not sure the rights go away when law ignores them; they’re why we argue for certain legal systems, right?

Actually, it seems I’m a much stronger believer in rights than dacree, since I don’t think anyone can be counted as less than human just because they have a different philosophical framework around why they shouldn’t be harming others. Man, is that creepy.

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I understand where this idea comes from, but to me it’s a noble lie. I think we put ourselves at risk by pretending that we aren’t the source of our rights and that they are anything more than a social construct.

Human rights - beyond the legal framework - are fairy dust to me. I mean, what is one of these rights? Where is it? How much does it weigh? At what point in evolution did we transform from non-rights-having things to rights-having things? Is there a gene for that?

I’m not saying that just to be a jerk, those questions really mean something to me. Why do humans get rights and other apes don’t, or, rather, why don’t they get the exact same set of rights we do? The only reason is because we are the ones who say who gets them. If someone or something doesn’t have rights, that’s on us.

I’d personally like to abolish human rights and replace them with a universal declaration of human responsibilities. Your “right” to dignity is fairly nebulous and up to a lot more interpretation than my “responsibility” to treat you with dignity. I feel the latter makes it a lot more clear what needs to change.

Almost everyone is, since to dacree only one right counts. I’m probably a stronger believer in what almost everyone means when they say “rights” than dacree and I literally don’t believe in them at all - at least I don’t think the exercising those rights is immoral.


Well, they’re ethical principles. My half-considered opinion has been to treat them as a sort of solution to a problem, somewhat like scientific models, good airplane design, or at least musical tuning. So maybe not really pre-existing, but not really arbitrary constructs in the sense that one would be as good as another, either.

As for where they kick in, reality is too continuous for me to imagine anything but a spectrum. I’d consider though where individuals start having significantly different natures, and where behavior is flexible enough to meaningfully ask how they should act. That essentially implies a question of responsibilities, so I wouldn’t object to phrasing things that way, but to me it seems like the two are complementary perspectives.

I realize that’s all very blurry, and maybe not helpful as a result, but I think most cases are far enough from the lines for that not to matter. For cases that aren’t, there are philosophers who’ve spent far more time trying to articulate the details than me. :wink:

I don’t know if that offers any real insight, and like I said I don’t think it makes much difference in practice. But it’s at least germane to the topic, so for what it’s worth those are my attempted answers.


To be honest it sounds like we agree completely.

“Rights are a solution to a problem, somewhat like scientific models” - A reasonable way to speak about rights.

“The only right you are born with is the right to die” - A stark reminder that without society all the rights in the world don’t matter in response to an argument that we should dismantle the most functional societies that exist to protect the most abstract of rights.

In context, I think these statements are very compatible.