The Tale of the Slave

We know that conscription is slavery and empire is slavery but what is slavery?

“The Tale of the Slave” from Robert Nozick, Anarchy, State, and Utopia, pp. 290-292.

Consider the following sequence of cases, which we shall call the Tale of the Slave, and imagine it is about you.

1. There is a slave completely at the mercy of his brutal master’s whims. He often is cruelly beaten, called out in the middle of the night, and so on.

2. The master is kindlier and beats the slave only for stated infractions of his rules (not fulfilling the work quota, and so on). He gives the slave some free time.

3. The master has a group of slaves, and he decides how things are to be allocated among them on nice grounds, taking into account their needs, merit, and so on.

4. The master allows his slaves four days on their own and requires them to work only three days a week on his land. The rest of the time is their own.

5. The master allows his slaves to go off and work in the city (or anywhere they wish) for wages. He requires only that they send back to him three-sevenths of their wages. He also retains the power to recall them to the plantation if some emergency threatens his land; and to raise or lower the three-sevenths amount required to be turned over to him. He further retains the right to restrict the slaves from participating in certain dangerous activities that threaten his financial return, for example, mountain climbing, cigarette smoking.

6. The master allows all of his 10,000 slaves, except you, to vote, and the joint decision is made by all of them. There is open discussion, and so forth, among them, and they have the power to determine to what uses to put whatever percentage of your (and their) earnings they decide to take; what activities legitimately may be forbidden to you, and so on.

Let us pause in this sequence of cases to take stock. If the master contracts this transfer of power so that he cannot withdraw it, you have a change of master. You now have 10,000 masters instead of just one; rather you have one 10,000-headed master. Perhaps the 10,000 even will be kindlier than the benevolent master in case 2. Still, they are your master. However, still more can be done. A kindly single master (as in case 2) might allow his slave(s) to speak up and try to persuade him to make a certain decision. The 10,000-headed monster can do this also.

7. Though still not having the vote, you are at liberty (and are given the right) to enter into the discussions of the 10,000, to try to persuade them to adopt various policies and to treat you and themselves in a certain way. They then go off to vote to decide upon policies covering the vast range of their powers.

8. In appreciation of your useful contributions to discussion, the 10,000 allow you to vote if they are deadlocked; they commit themselves to this procedure. After the discussion you mark your vote on a slip of paper, and they go off and vote. In the eventuality that they divide evenly on some issue, 5,000 for and 5,000 against, they look at your ballot and count it in. This has never yet happened; they have never yet had occasion to open your ballot. (A single master also might commit himself to letting his slave decide any issue concerning him about which he, the master, was absolutely indifferent.)

9. They throw your vote in with theirs. If they are exactly tied your vote carries the issue. Otherwise it makes no difference to the electoral outcome.

The question is: which transition from case 1 to case 9 made it no longer the tale of a slave.

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To Hell with Ted Rall. Now Tell Me Where He’s Wrong.

This essay by Ted Rall has sent Instaredundant and his posse into a holy furor. “Rall supports the Iraqi insurgents!” shrieks the blob.

Come on, guys, that’s simple-minded even for you. But let’s grant that Rall is, in Reynolds’ words (actually, he probably took them from someone else), a “loathsome human being.” Fine. Now address the message itself, and tell me that this is not exactly what the insurgents believe and say to potential recruits. If this is their reasoning–and it pretty clearly is–then what the hell sort of victory can we expect in Iraq? Reynolds’ circle of jerks hates Ted Rall for the same reason the government hates Nathaniel Heatwole– he has kicked over their theoretical fortress of toothpicks.

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From Wednesday’s Today show:

Couric: “You say you’re not a hero…”
Lynch: “No.”
Couric: “…you’re a survivor.”
Lynch: “Exactly.”
Couric: “But, Rick, you think Jessica Lynch is a hero.”
Bragg: “Yeah, we’ve argued about this, too, a lot. But, you know, I’ve said this before, I think that every soldier there, every sergeant with two children at home, every soldier like Lori Piestewa who have the guts to crawl into the cab of a truck and go into a war while the rest of us sit at home watching it on the news, I think they’re heroes. I think they have to be. And I don’t — obviously, there are soldiers who were the dramatic hero, though, the ones who attack mortar positions and more of what we think of as the pure American hero, but I think it takes a certain amount of heroism to just go.
Couric: “And survive.”
Bragg: “Yeah.”

Note that when Lynch uses the term “survivor,” she’s downplaying her own accomplishment, which, let’s be frank, amounts to respiring, albeit under harrowing circumstances. Lynch thus showed herself to be far more morally astute than Couric or Bragg.

Forum on PATRIOT Acts — Tonight in Oakland, California

Our good friends at the Independent Institute are putting on a very important forum tonight in Oakland, California.

Terrorism expert James Bovard, Margaret Russell of the ACLU, and Georgetown University Professor of Law David Cole will explain the dangerous PATRIOT Acts.

Call 510-632-1366 for tickets ($10-15).