Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Eloquent Peasant

Like the Libertarians I have a malaise, an irrational belief that rationality will prevail. Libertarians hold that people interacting in a rationale manner will lead to a utopian society. Recognizing that people don't act rationale, I envision a benign government that will at least provide a level playing field. Obviously, governments act irrationally too, hence my post "Deficit Spending - Fiscal Insanity".

What prompted this post, is the posting of "A look at the legal system" on the Analog webpage. In that series of posts, Pawyilee brought up the story of "The Eloquent Peasant" (Wikipedia Entry). The story concerns an Egyptian peasant named Khunanup who is wronged by Nemtinakht circa 2040 – 1674 B.C. The story is essentially an appeal by Khunanup to the Egyptian government of that time for justice, which he eventually gets.

My first big take away of this story is that society 4,000 years ago was a lot more sophisticated than one thinks. So, not only can we be provisional in terms of space; but we can be provincial in time too. A good lesson in humility.

But I started out discussing Libertarians and rationality? Well Libertarian thought is based on the concept that rationale people can work out solutions using rationality with minimal government intervention. Khunanu, in his appeal to the Egyptian government for justice, raises many of the same issues that I have concerning the Libertarian position. He rationally demonstrated to Nemtinakht that an injustice was done to him. However, Nemtinakht because he had "power" refused negotiate. Not very Libertarian of Nemtinakht. It would be gratifying to credit Khunanu with the recognition that certain aspects of Libertarian ideology are irrational, but (as far as I know) there weren't any Libertarian's back then.

Since Khunanu was unable to achieve a resolution with Nemtinakht he appealed to the Egyptian government for justice. I am not going to go through all nine appeal themes. I will highlight the four that seem most relevant to my hopped for utopian government as a means of addressing my perception of Libertarian "shortcomings".
  • Justice is Essential for an Orderly State.
  • The Judge Has a Great Charge
  • An Unjust Judge Participates in the Wrongdoer’s Acts
  • The Judge Must Protect the Weak
I will endeavor to summarize the four points above. Please take a look at "Nanny State Hypocrisy?" In that post, I discussed that certain Libertarians advocate that government must stay out of interfering with business, yet in the very same breath they claim that government must take an active role in protecting business. This implies a tiered legal system where some would have the privilege of legal protection while others would not. Such a system would be inherently unjust. If the system is unjust, why should anyone respect the law? The translator writes:"The poor, the one who suffers injustice, is left with little recourse if the judge does not mete out justice with straight measure. That destroys the foundations of justice. Foundations once destroyed, what can the just man do?" With little recourse, one could assume anarchy as a logical outcome.

In order to maintain an orderly state, the judge must act in a fair manner. The translator writes: "A judge who judges unjustly not only commits an infraction against the virtue of justice, but he becomes a participant, a co-conspirator in the crime of the wrongdoer."

Like Nemtinakht some Libertarians seem to believe they can put a "blanket" in the road with impunity and expect the State to protect them. Passage of the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act, Sonny Bono Act is an example of a law specifically implemented to protect a business thereby figuratively "stealing" from public domain which would make the government a criminal co-conspirator. The fallacy of this perceived corporate right to place a "blanket" is nicely summarized by the translator: "This is a symbol of how injustice—which is a private appropriation of another’s right—blocks the public right-of-way, justice, which is the “good way” of the simple as Khunanup calls it. Like a public thoroughfare, justice is a res publica, and its self-appropriation by the selfish and overreaching is a barricade to its proper function." I hope that those Libertarians who seem to believe that economic power somehow entitles them to State protection will appreciate the thoughts of Khunanu, "The Eloquent Peasant".

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