Month: April, 2012

Fantasy, Reality, Legislation, and the Drug War

This article by Reason.com’s Mike Riggs was recently posted about drug war.  Several characters within the Obama White House have been parroting the typical half-and-less-than-half truths.  Hope and change indeed.

I don’t advocate drug use.  In fact, I advocate the exact opposite: not drug use. Let me make something clear: unless you have a legitimate medical reason to use certain chemicals, you shouldn’t hurt your body with those chemicals.  It’s immoral, sinful, counterproductive, and will get expensive.  I’m not out to make your choices for you, but if you want my advice, there it is.

Some people imagine that the opposite is anti-drug legislation.  They are wrong.

In fantasy land, legislation fixes problems.  “Make it a law” that everyone buys health insurance, earns a certain minimum hourly rate of pay, and doesn’t use or sell certain intoxicating chemicals, then magically everyone has health insurance, is both productive on a certain level and compensated for it, and doesn’t use drugs! Done!

In reality, legislation that does anything other than directly protect people and their property from violence distorts free markets.  “Make it a law” that everyone buys health insurance, and health insurance prices skyrocket.  Minimum wage legislation makes everyone unwilling or unable to find a job that pays a certain hourly rate unemployable.  The drug war merely drives the drug trade into the black market.

What does that do?  It makes drugs artificially scarce, driving up prices and driving down the safety and quality.  It makes the profit margins massive and the industry criminal, drawing the most ruthless criminals into the trade.  It also makes the government unable to place a reasonable consumption tax on such an item.

It fills prisons.  The United States has the most restrictive drug laws in the world, and also has the most drug related crime and highest prison population by percentage.  Prisoners cost money.  The government must take this money from somewhere else.

Prisoners tend to remain in prison.  The single greatest indicator of whether or not an individual will go to prison in the future is whether or not he has been to prison in the past.  It’s a big resume stain and time wasted not gaining valuable skills.  Double whammy; huge comparative disadvantage.  So what do they turn to? Crime.  Costs money to enforce those crimes and put the ex-cons through trials and back into prison.

So the drug war:

–Might keep some people from using drugs
–Fills prisons, which is expensive
–Drives down government revenue by keeping otherwise productive people in prison
–Drives down government revenue by keeping a taxable item off the market
–Raises crime, which is dangerous and expensive
–Creates a market in which violence thrives
–Creates a market in which the product is more unsafe

And that list is far from exhaustive.

All to keep some people who want to use drugs from using drugs.  Which, by the way, how’s that going?

End the War on Drugs.  End all wars on ill-defined, abstract nouns.

Advertisements

The Problem of Consequentialist Public Policy

It’s been a few days since I’ve posted.  I’ve been busy.

In that time, I posted the following on facebook:

Requesting that members of an organization ethically opposed to contraception, or anyone else, not be forced (yes, with very real threats of lethal force) to give up their property to pay for other people’s contraception is not the same thing as denying access to contraception. Denial is an action. Therefore, inaction is not denial (modus tollens). Not paying for other people’s stuff is inaction, not action.

It’s no “War on Women.” It’s stopping the war on property

Which drew a response from my long time friend, the always thoughtful Sean Sheehan.    The rest of the exchange was as follows (click the picture to enlarge):

My main issue with Sean’s line of thought is the consequentialism of it: if X benefits from some action, then X should pay for it.

If X benefits from it

This makes an implicit assumption: we know X will have a net benefit from something.  It makes the assumption that you can predict the future.

Not that such an assumption is always bad.  People speculate all the time.  It keeps prices more stable.  It keeps money more sound.  The assumption that there will be greater benefit in the future from some foregone benefit now is the nature of investment, and investment makes us more prosperous.

If you have a half of tank of gas now, but you think the price will be higher in a few days, you’re more likely to fill up now.  This increases demand now, raising the current price.  If you think the price will be lower in a few days, you’re less likely to fill up now.  This decreases demand now, lowering the current price.   This being done on a massive scale “smooths” the transition of prices from one state to the next, making current prices reflect future prices, making them more stable. Decisions based on expectations about the future are not inherently bad things.

Making them for other people, on the other hand, is.

I think this is particularly relevant to the case of subsidized contraception in an effort to drive down unwanted pregnancies.  While admittedly a very simplified equation, it is fairly representative of the truth:

Unwanted pregnancies = amount of unprotected sex * natural conception rate + amount of sex with contraception * rate of conception while using contraception

Subsidizing contraception makes the market price cheaper.  You’ll get no argument from me.  This decreases the opportunity cost for persons to use contraception.  Likely then, many more persons will use contraception.

But does that decrease the number of unwanted pregnancies?  Maybe, but suffice it to say I know we don’t know that for sure.  Being on contraception decreases the perceived risk associated with having sex.  This greatly increases the amount of sex with contraception.

That increase makes sex in general more widespread, and therefore more acceptable in society.  There is increased societal pressure for girls to engage in sexual intercourse.  If girl A and girl B are both after guy C, girl B, even if she’s not on contraception, feels more pressure to have sex with guy C if she thinks girl A will do so because girl A is more likely to be on contraception.  This increases the perceived opportunity cost of not having unprotected sex with guy C, raising the amount of unprotected sex as well.

So even if contraception subsidies do make the market price of contraception cheaper, I see no reason to believe they actually, necessarily reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies.  The exact opposite may be the effect.

Even if contraception subsidies do lead to fewer unwanted pregnancies, is that necessarily a good thing?  Sure, more women would be less educated; that’s not good.  But there would be greater population: greater population leads to greater division of labor, leading to greater specialization, leading to greater comparative advantage, leading to greater prosperity.  There would likely be more marriages in the absence of contraception subsidies, and married couples tend to be more productive, and make more money, than two single people.

That’s the danger of making public policy based on consequentialist ethics: we don’t know the future.  We don’t know the full impact of every little decision, and sometimes, the actual consequences of a policy can be the exact opposite of what was intended.  Government intrusion into medical care has made it more expensive.  Welfare has led to more people unable to provide for themselves.  Housing subsidies led to a massive housing bubble and financial collapse, leading to mass numbers of people getting kicked out of homes.  Greater restrictions on the availability of firearms tend to lead to more firearm-related crimes.

Speculation is fine.  Forcing everybody to speculate simultaneously, and speculate the same way, is dangerous.  Just because I may think you’d benefit from filling your tank now doesn’t mean that you should, and by no means gives me the right to force you to do so.  Even if I’m right about the price of gasoline, and we can’t be certain that I am, how do I know that you weren’t going to use that money for something even better, something that would have made you more money than the money you would have lost by waiting to fill up your tank?

Then X should pay for it

I tried to demonstrate by an industrial analogy that such is a complicated matter.  If Company A invests in a technology that drives down their production costs of product B, it will likely drive down the free market price of whatever good or service they are producing.  This will drive down the free market price of competing goods, such as product C from Company D.  If I purchase product C, I am benefiting from that initial company’s investment: I am able to save money on my purchase.  Do I have a moral responsibility to pay for the initial company’s investment?

A legitimate question is, “Do I pay, in some way, for Company A’s initial investment?”  The answer is sort of.  I’m not completely isolated from the risk associated with the investment.  If Company A’s investment is a failure, company A is less wealthy.  They may have to downsize, making some people poorer, making their ability to make direct or indirect mutually beneficial exchanges with me less likely.  They may exit the particular product market, driving up demand for competing product C, making product C more expensive.  To be sure, I am not isolated from the results of Company A’s investment.

And that’s just it: completely “free riders” are somewhat of a myth in the free market.  We are not completely isolated from the decisions of others.  I bear a burden if Company A’s investment is a failure, and I get a benefit if it is successful.  Even if I have nothing whatsoever do to with Company A; even if I don’t realize it.

But what we do have in a free market are incentives.  Incentives for risk taking.  Incentives for prudence.  Incentives that keep the brunt of the benefits and failures on the one who controls the resources.  Deviation from the market distorts those natural incentives.

There Can be no Ethics Without God or Why You Might Already be a Theist

A frequent statement from atheists and secular agnostics is that they don’t need God to be good.  That they can be “good for goodness’ sake.”  I partially agree: you don’t need to believe that there is a God in order to exhibit behavior, even exclusively exhibit behavior, that is consistent with that which is truly good.  You don’t need to believe that God commands such a thing (and/or will reward you for it, and/or will not punish you if you don’t) in order to aid the poor, orphaned, and widowed, or do anything else that is good.   Indeed, I’ve witnessed many atheists do exactly that.  That’s not the point I’m trying to make.

What I will prove, however, is that such actions are not, in and of themselves, reasonable.  Or at the very least, justified.  Indeed, this is the stated position of such atheist philosophers as Nietzsche and Rorty.  I won’t be telling the consistent, well thought out atheist anything they don’t already know.

For the sake of argument, I’ll leave open the academic possibility that something can be good apart from being justified or deemed as good, but if it is, something cannot be good if it is inconsistent with what has been deemed as good.  I won’t assume that there is no “goodness” property apart from being deemed as such, and I won’t assume that all things that are good can be proven as being good.  Rather, just that “goodness” can be a real, logically consistent property of things.  Things cannot be both good AND not good.

1. Definition 1. g: good
2. Definition 2: J: justified or deemed by proper authority as good
3. Definition 3: C: consistent with that which has been justified or deemed by proper authority as good
4. Axiom 1: If something is justified or deemed by proper authority as good, then it is good. J –> g
5. Axiom 2: If something is both good and logically consistent with that which has been justified or deemed by proper authority as good, then it is good: C /\ g –> g
6. MT 4: If something is not good, then it is not justified or deemed by proper authority as good. ~g –> ~J
7. MT 5, DeMorgan’s law: If something is not good, then it is not both good and logically consistent with that which has been justified or deemed by proper authority as good.  ~g –> ~g \/ ~C
8. Conjunction Introduction, 6, 7: If something is not good, then it is both not justified or deemed by proper authority as good AND not good OR not logically consistent with that which has been justified or deemed by proper authority as good. ~g –> ~J /\ (~g \/ ~C)
9. DeMorgan’s law, 8: If something is not good then it is not justified or deemed by proper authority as good OR both good and logically consistent with that which has been justified or deemed by proper authority as good. ~g –> ~[J \/ (g /\ C)]
10. Law of the excluded middle: All things are either justified or deemed by proper authority as good OR  good and consistent with that which has been deemed as good OR not.  [J \/ (C \/ g] \/ ~ [J \/ (c \/ g)]
11.  Material Implication, 8:   Therefore, All things are either good or not justified or deemed by proper authority as good OR both good and logically consistent with that which has been justified or deemed by proper authority as good. ~ [J \/ (g /\ C)] \/ g

12. This, in and of itself, does not completely prove that if something is good, then it is either justified or deemed as good by a proper authority or is good and is consistent with that which is good.  So we’ll prove by showing that the opposite is necessarily not true: if something, anything, is not good AND  justified or deemed as good by a proper authority or both good and consistent with that which is good.  Proposition 1:  ~g /\ [J \/ (g /\ C)] 
13. MP 9,12, reductio ad impossibilem: Something is not good, therefore it is not justified or deemed as good by a proper authority or is both good and consistent with that which is justified or deemed as good.  Something cannot be both [J \/ (g /\ C)] and ~[J \/ (g /\ C)].  Therefore, by 11, all things that are good are justified or deemed as good by a proper authority or both good and consistent with that wich has been deemed as good by a proper authority. g –> J \/ (g /\ C)

You either have to reject the axioms or logic to deny the conclusion. 

The question comes in with what exactly a proper authority is.  If it is a person or persons, be it yourself, someone else, or some construct of humanity (a corporation, a government), where did they get such authority?  It is impossible that everyone or every human construct has this authority, as not everything that one person justifies or deems as good is done so by everyone else, or at a minimum, they are not consistent with one another.  If it is only a particular person, then again, where did they get it?  Why are they different from everyone else?  If it is their access to violence and punishment, that still doesn’t explain (1) why they’re right or (2) why compliance for fear of such a thing is good.  Even if it were, why is your survival desirable?

If one tries to ascribe such an attribute to nature, a dead god, or to the “betterment of mankind” or some other abstraction, the same question arises: why?  Nature and mankind are capable of things that seem terrible.  What makes its / their survival, laws, or best interest desirable, let alone good?  What makes “betterment” “better?”

If one tries to ascribe such an attribute to an imperfect god, we can make no assertion that what it deems good is justifiable as good, or that such a being is correct.  It’s imperfect.

It is only by a living, perfect God with the inherent ability to justify and deem such things that true goodness exists.  If you believe in true goodness, you’re being inconsistent to say you don’t believe in a living, perfect God.

Adam was Physically Immortal? No.

There is an incredibly common belief among Christians (not to mention practitioners of Judaism, Islam, and others who take the Book of Genesis seriously): that Adam was created physically immortal and only ceased being so once he ate from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil in the Garden of Eden.  It is the belief of Roman Catholics, most Protestants, and others.  This belief is used to justify notions that our birth and human nature are somehow different than it would otherwise be because of Adam’s sin.

As with anything, we should search the Bible concerning the matter:  Adam is mentioned by name 20 times in the NIV and NASB, 29 times in the KJV.  Pronouns happen, as does the difficult distinction between the words for “Adam” and “man / men.” Never, not once, ever does the Bible explicitly or implicitly say Adam’s flesh was created immortal.

Of those, some were ostensibly for genealogy / historical purposes alone, and have no discernible bearing on this doctrine (Jude 1:14, Luke 3:38, 1 Chronicles 1:1, for example) beyond that which is necessarily implied from others: that Adam existed on this plane of existence, and was a singular, literal, person, inasmuch as the text treats Adam the exact same as all other literal, singular people.

God does proclaim that Adam will return to the dust after his sin, but is that a change?

Genesis 3:17-19:

 17And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life;  18Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field;  19In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.

Yes, God does proclaim that Adam will die a physical death in this passage, but nowhere is it stated that this is a change from Adam’s previous state.  In fact, God proclaims that Adam shall eat the herb of the field and work the ground, and this was not a change from Adam’s previous state.  God commanded Adam to subdue the garden and have dominion over the animals in Genesis 1:28.  There is no reason, therefore, to assume that a future physical death, in and of itself, is a change from Adam’s previous condition.

What changes is Adam’s state of mind about the conditions in which he is in.  “in sorrow” Adam would eat of it and work it.  He would not eat bread without “the sweat of thy face.”  Though I’d be the first to admit that it’s not explicitly stated, the same can be said of death.  Death would now bring grief and sorrow instead of just being a normal, natural, beautiful part of nature in which a sinless, living soul (1 Corinthians 15:44) passed from this plane of existence to the next.

The Bible says your flesh is like Adam’s flesh

Several come in Genesis chapter 5, which are both genealogical and relevant to this discussion. Genesis 5:1-6:

1This is the book of the generations of Adam. In the day that God created man, in the likeness of God made he him;  2Male and female created he them; and blessed them, and called their name Adam, in the day when they were created.  3And Adam lived an hundred and thirty years, and begat a son in his own likeness, and after his image; and called his name Seth:  4And the days of Adam after he had begotten Seth were eight hundred years: and he begat sons and daughters:  5And all the days that Adam lived were nine hundred and thirty years: and he died.  6And Seth lived an hundred and five years, and begat Enos:

So it goes on, and is repeated in 1 Chronicles 1 to a much larger degree.  So we see that Adam is quite clearly treated as a literal, singular person on this plane of existence when he fathered Seth, who fathered Enos.  1 Chronicles 1 goes all the way from Adam to Jacob and Esau, treating them all as is they are real individuals.

Adam begat his sons in his own image, just as Adam was created in God’s image.  Adam was created by God, but not a begotten son.  Jesus is God’s only begotten Son (John 3:16), because Jesus is actually God.  Adam begat sons who were human, who begat sons who were human, just as Adam was human.

1 Corinthians 15:47-48:

 47The first man is of the earth, earthy; the second man is the Lord from heaven.  48As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly.

You have a body that is earthly, as Adam’s.  Verse 48 makes this clear: your body is earthly, just as Adam’s was.  Your flesh is not immortal; neither was Adam’s.

1 Corinthians 15:39

39All flesh is not the same flesh: but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of beasts, another of fishes, and another of birds.

There is only one kind of flesh of men.  If we are to believe that Adam was a real man, he had the same kind of flesh you do: a mortal kind.

When did God say Adam would die, and why does that matter?

Genesis 2:16-17:

16And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat:  17But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.

So God says Adam would die in the day that he ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  As noted above, this was not a physical death, because Adam lived much longer than that.  It is not possible that God meant this in a physical sense unless God changed his mind, because “in that day” is not all that negotiable.

Do other passages about Adam contradict this?

There are 4 passages in the Bible that deal specifically with the typology of Adam.  I quote the KJV from Hosea chapter 6, which does not mention Adam by name, but that’s due to ambiguity in the source texts.  Most translations do say “like Adam” in verse 7.  Hosea 6:5-7, Romans 5:12-18, 1 Corinthians 15:20-22, 1 Corinthians 15:44-45

5Therefore have I hewed them by the prophets; I have slain them by the words of my mouth: and thy judgments are as the light that goeth forth.  6For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.  7But they like men [Adam] have transgressed the covenant: there have they dealt treacherously against me.
——–
12Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:  13(For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law.  14Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come.  15But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many.  16And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift: for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offences unto justification.  17For if by one man’s offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.)  18Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.
——–
20But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.  21For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.  22For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.
——–
44It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.  45And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit.

Not one of those passages say Adam’s flesh was created immortal.  They do say that through Adam, sin entered the world, and spiritual death through sin, because every person has chosen to sin.  If sin exists in creation but was not a part of it, it had to enter the world through a creative source: that source was Adam.  You choose spiritual death by choosing sin, being joined to the way of Adam.  They also, in tandem, say that you can choose resurrection from this death by choosing the way of Jesus.

What does extra-Biblical reality have to say about this?

God created the sun before Adam.  The sun is a star.  All starts eventually go supernova.  When the sun does go through its God-ordained end stages, it will consume the earth.  Therefore, God did not did not create Adam in such a way that his physical body could withstand creation forever.  Therefore, Adam was not created physically immortal.  His physical body was never intended to withstand God’s creation forever.

Some will try to say that sin corrupts DNA, and that’s why Adam died and passed on death, even though he was created immortal, and this is how death passes on throughout the generations.  There is (1) little to no reason to believe this is true, and (2) it completely fails to reconcile Adam’s immortality to the previous paragraph.

If we believe the Bible is true, 100% consistent with itself, and 100% consistent with reality, there is no room for an Adam that was created physically immortal.  An immortal Adam is inconsistent with the Bible and inconsistent with reality.  Adam died, and we will all taste that physical death.  We can also be united with Christ’s death, that we will be raised with Him also.