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Semiformalishmaybe

Restatement on Foundations - Try 2

(This is "Try 2" because the first time I tried to post it, I started to basically write a book. I liked what I was starting to write, and might reuse the original, but .. Trimming this thing waaay down for here, in a way that hopefully keeps most of the interesting stuff. Someday, if I don't get around to actually writing books, some poor sod is going to go through my writings and try to figure out if there's anything interesting that can be salvaged, hopefully)

I occasionally come across yet-another-foundations-of-political-philosophy post with people laying down their axioms and moving through rights to their idea of social order. Some of them distinguish natural rights from legal rights, and for some these concepts are unitary. I don't think in terms of rights, although the closest I could say by analogue to that (alien-to-me) way of thinking is that there are no
natural rights and plenty of legal rights; your "legal rights" are part of the social compact, and whatever you think those should be are what you and everyone else will struggle to make into legal rights; natural rights are an unnecessary multiplication of philosophical entities. I also don't exactly think in terms of axioms; I think we develop our philosophy by long attempts to reconcile/create/adjust broad principles and our judgement on specific matters, eventually reaching what John Rawls called reflective equilibrium. The broad principles are as close as most people get to axioms, and while they do have creative power in helping us approach new situations, we would adjust them if we didn't like how our judgement turned out and there were a reasonable adjustment that would not destroy too many of our other existing liked judgements.

Some broad principles and structure for my political philosophy, principly on two main topics: property/privilege and norms/centralisation:

First note, I reject any man-on-an-island appeals when approaching political topics. We are not solitary creatures; we are only mentally and physically healthy, and our lives only have meaning, when we are part of a social network with other humans. It does not make sense to think of politics or norms when a person is alone, first because relations and norms are always specific to the society, second because the content of morality is primarily interpersonal; we might consider environmental and artistic matters to potentially be matters of morality, but they are not the main show, and third because anyone in that situation would go insane before too long.

Second note: there are (rough) levels of civilisation and interaction:
*At base, there is power politics, where people directly strive to meet their interests using whatever means they can, including not-exclusively violence. The mark of power politics is a lack of extrapersonal norms dictating results; it is a relation decided by personalities, raw conflict, and few norms
*Second, there are norms based on understood strength, where those with power have the general ability to enforce their ideas on the rest of the population (whatever those ideas are; they may be altruistic), and the meaningful uncertainty in this system is caused by conflicts between the powerful
*Third, there are norms based on societal consensus, where people have individual norms and the sum effect of those norms, mediated by tradition, forms the rules for society. Such a system often but does not always have someone to apply the norms, but such a person is also usually not strictly needed most of the time because most people roughly accept the consensus
*Fourth, there are norms that are abstracted into laws, where the inconsistent application of norms is guarded against through codification into laws and institutions devoted to reasonably impartial application of those laws.

Basic intuitions:
*Property and wealth are kinds of privilege
*Privilege is provisional. This means that it is assigned to people when and where it is in society's interests to do so, and revoked when it is in society's interests to do so
*Society should recognise a spectrum of needs and interests of its members, and attempt to strongly satisfy basic needs of all of its members before allocating resources to privilege.
*The difference between needs and interests is fluid; to the extent that privilege can inspire a useful social end, some additional privilege may be traded for some resources that are spent on those who are not receiving the incentive, but the incentives should be reasonably mild and never deeply impact the health or potential of those who are left out from it
*Privilege must be entirely visible to the body politic, both in terms of the basic structure and in terms of the actual privilege of all members of society. The body politic should have some direct means of adjusting the levels of and qualifications for privilege.
*Stronger forms of necessity justify extralegal reallocation of nonvital privilege - if someone were, for example, require insulin rapidly lest they die, it would be justified to sieze, without use of the law, insulin sufficient to reasonably sustain their life, provided that insulin was not already immediately being used to sustain other life.
*People should prefer legal means to resolve disputes over extralegal/illegal ones, restricting the latter to areas where their interest cannot reasonably be accomodated by legal means and is very strong, knowing that by stepping beyond the bounds of the law they are opening themself to potential legal sanction, and that they are damaging social stability
*Society must permit dissent in the form of words in designated public forums. No lese majeste considerations are permitted.
*Society's general institutions should have some democratic elements which impact laws of personal behaviour.
*Society may establish a topical pale with a strong supermajority in their democratic elements, which limits publication of specified views outside the realm of forums devoted to discussion of the pale. A topical pale may be lifted through some kind of democratic process

Three red lines for society:
*Society must never demand or officially knowingly propogate an untruth in the long-term
*Society must never, under any circumstances, condone torture
*Society must never force someone to continue to live against their will
In all other circumstances, principles may, in principle, be weighed against necessity. (This list of red lines is not necessarily exhaustive, but is not meant to be very large; I have purposefully excluded many things that others would consider to be red lines, but there is a chance I may have forgetten to include things or may become convinced other things should be considered red lines)

Comments

Is stimulus-deprived solitary confinement, as done at ADX Florence or in "the hole" in some prisons, torture?
Yes. It is a nuanced kind of torture in the sense that through some rare accident, occasionally people are isolated from others in remote environments, and some people with particularly unusual mental traits might not suffer as much, but for the majority of people and cross-culturally, it would naturally constitute torture. Humans are social beings. Excessive isolation from other humans creates lasting psychological damage, although not quite as severely as lack of sleep or other kinds of torture do.

I believe that with the right justification, execution is permissible, and that incarceration is permissible. Incarceration must be humane; reasonable opportunities for sound sleep, physical integrity, socialisation, healthy access to food and water, clothing, exercise, medicine, and reasonable dignity must be provided. Lack of these things is not acceptable (lack of some of them amount to torture).
I think I agree with most of this other than re. execution. Particularly, denial of access to the world via radio/TV/newspaper seems unacceptable. But let me play devils' advocate.

Can a very violent, unpredictable prisoner be kept in solitary confinement to protect other prisoners/guards/visitors?
Can an organized crime kingpin who has been known to order hits (directly by mail/phone, or indirectly via other prisoners) be kept incommunicado or with extremely limited interaction?
I actualy don't think access to the outside world is necessary for those in prison, as it's not a basic human need.

A very violent, unpredictable prisoner can be kept out of reach of other people but kept in ways where they can still see and hear/speak with them.

An organised crime kingpin could be kept with prisoners who do not share any language with him/her.
"An organised crime kingpin could be kept with prisoners who do not share any language with him/her."

Despite the bitching and moaning of anti-immigration pundits like Lou Dobbs, it's hard to find people in America who don't speak ANY English. Probably even harder in, say, Canada.

Is surveillance of their every word or action acceptable?

Allegedly, there are people with the power to...
http://www.rickross.com/reference/aryan_brotherhood/aryan_brotherhood10.html
Ahh. I might not have a great answer to this specific problem; would need to think about it, although nothing that amounts to torture would be acceptable. Execution remains an option (in the case of crime lord), but it might not be appropriate for all problems of this type.

I don't think total surveillance amounts to torture, but it might be impractical.