Saturday, December 28, 2013

The U in UPB: Universality

I've been thinking about some questions and quibbles from my discussion of UPB with Stefan Molyneux, from FDR2549, Evil is a Confession of Inadequacy, recorded December 6, 2013. 
The discussion starts at about 55 minutes into the show. I have posted a full transcript.  In this post, I want to think about universality.

Stef says, "All moral claims, claim universality."  "All UPB does is say if you're making a moral claim it has to be universal, if it fails the universality test, it's an invalid moral theory.  The UPB framework validates moral propositions by demanding that they be internally consistent and universal in terms of time, place, and individuals." What does Stef mean by "universal?"

What would break universality? If X is true now, but it wasn't true last year, it is not universal. If it applies to you, but not to me, it is not universal. If it is true in Texas but not in Tahiti, it is not universal. At first this seems clear. Imagine some person making a choice at a time and place. Any moral restriction that applies to one particular person, time, or place must apply to all of them. But who do we mean when we say "all of them?"

One obvious complication is that this cannot apply to some persons (infants are the most obvious example, perhaps those with brain injuries, etc.). On the other hand, such persons tend to face practical limits that prevent them from being placed in a position where they face a serious moral choice. So UPB does not apply to all persons in the same way.

How does Stef argue in favor of his universality requirement? Having one moral rule for some and another for others is like having two different sorts of mathematics. The only two mathematics we can imagine are correct mathematics and incorrect mathematics. These are analogous to UPB and non-UPB. I suppose Stef's opponents would say that morality is more like language, there can be more than one. More on this topic here.

If universality did not hold, a skeptic should be able to give an example of a plausible moral proposition that breaks universality. Can we think of an example of a tempting candidate moral proposition that fails as a result of universality?

How about, "Killing is wrong, except in self-defense?" We can interpret that as applying to all persons, times, and places, so no problem. That is, specifying exceptions based on circumstances (other than who, where, and when) does not violate universality?

How about, "Agents of the police may do some things that others are not allowed to do?" Stef clearly would reject this both because it fails universality and because he believes the state is not legitimate. Many ordinary people would accept it. Perhaps this is one of the surprising results Stef promised.

How about "Adults should not seduce children?" At least some children are mature enough to be considered moral agents and have UPB apply to them. Must we amend this statement to make it universal, as in "No one should seduce children?" Keep in mind, the children include those who are seventeen years old. It works well as "no moral agent should seduce someone who is not a moral agent." There are other age restrictions in society, some quite arbitrary. Must we abandon them all? 

Lets go back to "Killing is wrong, except in self-defense." Clearly Stef believes something like this. In the book, he often uses the word "murder," as in 'Don't murder' is UPB. But this just pushes the problem into the semantics of the word "murder." That is, our decision about whether killing in self-defense is acceptable or not will determine whether self-defense will be excluded or included from our definition of "murder," and both cases satisfy universality. Maybe we can generalize this semantic sleight-of-hand to other situations, and redefine our words to describe crimes in a way that implicitly excludes circumstances that absolute universality would include.  E.g. Refraining from theft is UPB, but we might define theft so that it excludes taxation by a "legitimate" government agency. Going back to the special moral proposition regarding police, what if we define kidnapping so that it excludes seizure of criminal suspects by the police? I think Stef would want some sort of restriction requiring universality of time, place, and actor in such definitions. How do we resolve this? I'm not sure.

Could propositions in the following form pass the UPB universality test?
You will be punished if you don't do X frequently enough. Vague.
You will be punished if you do X more than Y times. Arbitrary.
Can we restate these in a way that satisfies universality by redefining terms? That is, could we include some idea about frequency or locality in the definition of X? 

General moral propositions occupy one level of abstraction, specific derived statements fit in another. Property rights provide an example. By analogy: Newton's equation (universal) predicts that when we fire the cannon at this angle in this landscape, the ball will travel this distance (not universal). Similarly, "observe property rights" is UPB, and leads to the specific non-universal application, "This is my car, you would be wrong to drive it without my permission."

If we accept "everyone should respect property rights" as UPB, that does not settle the question of what specific rules of property to follow.

Can we reorient our terms so that all moral claims are a claim of property rights? 
Can we use UPB to derive the NAP and property rights, then use those to derive everything else?

I apologize for my patchy thinking here, this does not qualify as an actual essay. Blog post, okay, maybe.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Government PR Disaster Immunity?

Watergate, Waco, Ruby Ridge, Katrina, Iran-Contra, Iran hostage crisis.

Government is antifragile, scandals sink particular politicians, never the system that created them.
Government is antifragile with respect to politics and violence. More violence means stronger government, until the government falls. And then what replaces the government will be another government, probably worse. Because the state and society compete for mindshare and resources, that which strengthens the state weakens society.

Knock down government today and people will rebuild it tomorrow. They would do this because they believe in the legitimacy of government, and because they can't see any good alternatives. If you want to change what they would build after a collapse, you must change their beliefs about what is possible. Before the collapse arrives, they must possess already the tools, the raw materials, and the working prototypes of a different sort of world. If we can create a social laboratory to develop these tools and skills, we can end the cycle. These tools will entice our allies and befuddle our enemies, because they do not threaten violence. And because the state and society compete for mindshare and resources, that which strengthens society weakens the state.

I've noticed that people like to ignore evidence of government misconduct. Government takes credit for society's success, while passing off blame for failure, ineptitude, or corruption to particular persons. Individuals lose elections, lose jobs, or even go to jail, but the system remains. Nixon was a crook, but "the president" inspires hope. People quote Acton, but they misapply him. 

Similarly, when society works, it works invisibly. When it fails, we easily exaggerate its flaws.

 We can pursue the objective of increasing popular tolerance for experimentation and individual, organizational, and social learning.

FDR in a thimble

Here are some ideas that seem to come up on FDR often. I am convinced of some, unsure about others. Please add any I missed to the comments section.
  • Just as battered wives are entitled to divorce their abusers, abused children are entitled to separate from their abusive parents when they become adults. If the parent denies the abuse, or refuses to accept responsibility, separation is urgent. The ordinary public resist this idea.
  • Hitting or yelling at kids is bad for them. You may be fine, but if you were hit or yelled at as a kid, you could have been even more awesome.
  • Manipulators will hold their children to a high standard of morality, but make exceptions for themselves.
  • Nearly everyone is carrying baggage from childhood, this is why they reject ideas based on good evidence and logic.
  • If you don't deal with your own childhood, you will inflict something similar on your own kids.
  • Honesty and integrity are important for happiness and the good life. Being dishonest with those you love will destroy the relationship.
  • Morality motivates people better than self-interest, efficiency, or consequences. Give them a why and they will find a how. 
  • Common thinking on morality consists largely of post hoc rationalizations and motivated reasoning. 
  • Someone who has never experienced manipulation, who was raised around people who showed consistent honesty, integrity, and patience and who refrained from yelling, hitting, insulting or punishing, will not give manipulators a chance to pull their tricks. It takes two to dance that tango, and those who never learn this pattern of victimhood will never be victimizable.
  • We seek truth using logic and evidence. We must recognize confirmation bias etc., but we can gain certainty with relative ease if we possess self-knowledge.
  • You know a lot more about yourself and your relationships and the people you are close to than you admit consciously to yourself. Self-knowledge will bring this to consciousness.
  • The elite replaced slavery with democracy because they thought it would increase their profits. Take the chains off, put up a fence, free-range slaves will give you more profit.
  • If you disprove UPB, you disprove logic.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Motivating Change

If you want people to change their behavior, you must show them new alternatives. Rarely can you just talk about such alternatives. If you want a good reaction, you need to show that it works in practice, give people a working prototype, a proof of concept.

It all boils down to motivation, communication, and belief. If I can make you believe anything I want, motivating you will not be that difficult (though there are a few additional things I should know about motivation). So it is important both to know how to persuade others, and how others may try to persuade us.

We can break this down further, by trying to separate those methods of persuasion that depend on truth from those that do not. If someone is "playing fair", sticking to honest methods, we should play along with enthusiasm. If they talk us out of something, then we should be happy to learn a purer truth. It is difficult for us to challenge our own ideas and we should feel gratitude when someone helps us do so. If someone plays "dirty pool", we want to detect it and call them on it, even if they are arguing in favor of something we believe. What could be more valuable for us to know, than how to check the reliability of our own beliefs, and how to detect when someone is trying to slip one past us? This should be taught starting in kindergarten and be part of every graduate program.

Haidt thinks persuasion evolved so we could maintain our status in the tribe. Truth takes a slow second to whatever helps us to fit in. We are better at adapting to what others believe than at detecting the actual truth. Am I agreeing with Haidt, or is this different? He sees rational argument as a tool used by the brain to justify selfish actions. The intuition decides about something, the conscious mind then justifies it. But where did the intuition come from?

Haidt's 6 moral foundations are motivators.

What demo project would show clear evidence of the strength of the decentralized, non aggressive approach?

If Caplan is correct, convincing people to change their minds is necessary and sufficient. Unpopular policies usually do not survive long in democracies. What makes policies popular? What makes them change?
There are some narrow margins where putting pressure on politicians and bureaucrats accomplish something, but lack of broad support would limit the accomplishments. So whatever tactic we adopt, we should make our central object the accumulation of broad public support.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Stef's UPB elevator pitch

Below is a partial transcript of my discussion of UPB with Stefan Molyneux, from FDR2549, Evil is a Confession of Inadequacy, recorded December 6, 2013.  The discussion starts at about 55 minutes into the show. I have taken some liberties in transcribing, leaving out some conversational hemming and hawing, and removing some digressions.

I still don't have a solid grip on Stef's ideas. I hope to blog more about it later, and once those entries exist, you should be able to find that page by clicking on this search which shows all my blog entries labelled "UPB." There are already numerous hits, but those are all based on my reading of the book. When I add new entries, the search will find them too.

D: Hello. I want to talk about UPB.
S: Alright, let's do it brother. 
D: Okay, I was hoping to get your elevator pitch for UPB, the quick and dirty, short and sweet version. Because I have trouble summarizing it for myself. But I just found something great on page 100, that I think is a good starting place. It says, "The UPB framework validates moral propositions by demanding that they be internally consistent and universal in terms of time, place, and individuals."
S: Yeah I'll give you the elevator pitch. All moral claims claim universality. All moral propositions claim universality. Whether it's explicit or implicit, they differ from aesthetics in the universality of the claim. And the claim is universally preferable behavior. It distinguishes itself from physics. And physics is universally measurable behavior or universally detectable behavior, something like that. Physics theory is universal by nature, if it's not universal it's not physics. For moral propositions, universally preferable behavior is proposed. UPB focuses on that and says if you make a claim of universally preferable behavior, we must test whether it is universally preferable behavior. In other words, whether the behavior can be enacted universally, by all people at all times (who are moral agents, you know fetuses there is some gray area). But basically, if you're going to make a moral claim, then it has to be universal. It has to be preferable universally and it has to be behavior not thought, for reasons I sort of go into in the book. So if you say, "thou shalt steal," it cannot be validated, according to universally preferable behavior. It cannot be universally preferable behavior for everyone to steal, because stealing is the act of taking someone's property who doesn't want you to take it. In other words, it's asymmetric. Someone has to want your iPad, and you have to not want them to take your iPad, in order for the theft to have occurred. And therefore universality is broken, in that with regards to the iPad, two people have opposite moral desires or opposite preferences. One is to keep, one is to steal. And the stealing can only be achieved, if the person wants to keep. If you want to give it away, it's charity or something like that. So "thou shalt steal" cannot be sustained in terms of universality. It's logically completely impossible. "Thou shalt rape", rape is unwanted, therefore it cannot be universalized to all people. "Thou shalt murder", murder is unwanted, cannot be universalized to all people. "Thou shalt assault," cannot be universalized, since assault is something definitely not wanted, which is why we don't charge people in a boxing ring with assault, because they're there voluntarily and it's not unwanted. You may want to win but you can't charge someone with assault, that's implicit. So all moral propositions claim universality, all moral propositions which failed the test of universality cannot be moral propositions at all. The moment your moral proposition fails the test of universality, it is no longer in the realm of ethics, it is no longer a moral proposition. It's exactly the same in physics, if you say "The law of  gravity is universal except for these three rocks" then it's no longer a physics theory. Then it's madness. All UPB does is say if you're making a moral claim it has to be universal, if it fails the universality test, it's an invalid moral theory. Does that help at all?
D: Yes to some extent. I think it's also interesting though that the realm of property, at the high level of abstraction we can say okay stealing is bad, but the universality breaks down as in okay this is my car it's okay for me to drive it, sorry you can't drive it you don't own it. So it would be wrong...
S: Hang on. You got to be precise. I just gave you a whole description here and you went back into random land when it came to your language. "Stealing is bad" , that's not moral language. That's like naughty child language. That's not philosophical language. It's like me saying I refuted Einstein's theory of relativity because relativity is bad. You wouldn't get far in a physics paper with that as your sole argument. It's not "stealing is bad," it's that violations of property rights cannot be universalized. And therefore all moral theories which are predicated on violations of property rights are invalid. 
D: The universality is at a different level. It's sort of like saying, rocks behave differently on the surface of the earth then they would out in outerspace, but still there's one theory of Gravity that explains everything in a universal way. 
S: Yeah, if I make a claim in physics that my theory applies to all matter, then I cannot simultaneously exclude certain matter. [... 1:03:10.] 
D: I had another point, I should've made notes.
S: No, listen, this is horribly difficult stuff. I've had 30 years and it still makes my brain fart fairly regularly.  It is challenging stuff.
D: The thing that was always throwing me off, was that it wasn't like here are the assumptions, here's the logic, and here's the conclusion. It's more like this is a process, there are moral propositions, we apply the process to the moral proposition to say it fails or it passes, ...
S: Hang on a sec. To sort of explain the challenge, for those who are less familiar with it, morality is owned by religion and consequentialism, and both of those are two sides of the same coin. So religion says do this or God throws you in hell and if you do this God puts you in heaven. I mean that's just fundamentally consequentialism. That's not a rational argument, it's not reason and evidence, it's just Pascal's wager. Some seriously eternally bad shit's going to happen to you if you don't do X. And in the secular world...
D: Trust me I'm God, I'm smart, I know what you should be doing.
S: We'll, yes, except, ...
D: Just do what I say, don't think about it.
S: Which is why you get shunning in religious communities. That's just the mark of a bad argument. "I'm shunning you for disagreeing with me." That's one form of consequentialism. Consequentialism also transfers itself to the secular world. Where you say, taxation is the initiation of force. If there's no taxation the poor will starve, the sick will die in the streets, and there will be no roads. Roads are built by companies hired by governments and no one else can hire them, right? So this is just consequentialism. And consequentialism has no place in philosophy.  It's really hard for us to get that in terms of ethics because all we ever hear about is consequentialism, do this or I'll spank you, do this, be nice or we're going home. Kids, stop fighting with each other or I'm turning this car around and I'm driving it home. Finish your homework or you'll get a detention, pass this test or you don't get to the next grade. [...] and to understand that you just need to understand the argument that says that the very of relativity is incorrect because it might lead to an atomic bomb. Well that may or may not be true but it has no bearing on whether the theory of relativity is correct or incorrect. Newtonian physics is incorrect because it allows people to sail over to the new world where they kill the Incas. No. Consequentialism has no bearing whatsoever on the truth or falsehood of a proposition. And because we are so mired in consequentialism which is the opposite of philosophy ( religion and statism are both the opposites of philosophy because one relies on lies and the other relies on force, both of which are the opposite of philosophy) and so it's very hard for us to think of ethics outside of consequentialism.  It's really hard for philosophy to rise up from its 3000 year grave, and attempt to take back ethics into the realm of reason. Because it's all just consequentialism, nightmare scenarios, catastrophe scenarios, massive bribery scenarios, you'll go to jail, you'll go to heaven, you'll burn in hell, it's all just emotional aggression and manipulation that is in the realm of ethics so that simply returning it to the realm of reason and evidence is really really hard for us. I just really wanted some point that out.
D: Okay, but the theory itself doesn't really generate propositions that are candidates for being universally preferable, there are ideas out there in the culture and then it says "yes this one passes" or "this one fails." Am I correct?
S: I'm sorry I don't understand what you just said. [...]
D: Stealing is not universally preferred.
S: No again you have to get used to describing it in the right way. Stealing could be universally preferred. In other words, everyone in the world could wake up tomorrow and just decide to become a thief. It's not likely, but it's possible. But I'm saying is that stealing cannot be universally preferable. Stealing cannot be university preferable, and it is not consequentialist, it's not because well if everyone steals nobody will produce anything and we will all starve to death. That's maybe true but it's irrelevant to the falsehood of the proposition that stealing is universally preferable. Stealing cannot be universally preferable because in order for it to be stealing somebody has to not want to be stolen from. Therefore it breaks the test of universality. Stealing cannot be universally preferable and therefore we should steal or stealing is good or stealing is universally preferable is false. It cannot work logically, it doesn't work logically, and it doesn't really take that long to figure that out. It's just that, again, we have so much noise from the consequentialists and the fear-mongers about ethics.
D: My question is about where do the universally preferable propositions, propositions about universally preferable behavior come from? They're not sort of springing from the theory. You find a statement lying around in culture and you apply the method to them and method says oh, this one passes and it's true or it fails it's false. Is that anywhere near?
S: Yeah, thou shalt not steal, stealing cannot be universally preferable behavior. The 10 Commandments, thou shalt not kill, murder cannot be universally preferable behavior. You can universally respect property rights, everyone can do that because that doesn't require a contradiction like stealing that's one person respecting one person violating for it to occur. Therefore the person who's violating can't be respecting and the person who's respecting can't be violating. Respect for property rights, the inviolability of another person's chosen physical boundaries, rape, punching, stabbing, murder or whatever, respect for persons and property can be universally achieved. Not in practice, but the proposition works logically. Respect property, everyone can achieve that. Guy in a coma can achieve that, he's not stealing from anyone. 
D: I was just using that as an example. So there are a certain number of these propositions that would pass and be considered true by the method. Do we know the complete set of those?
S:  I don't know for sure but I that we have enough of a set for about five generations of hard work. And that's enough for me. You know it's like saying do we have enough bricks to build 10 cities? Well, we have enough bricks to build eight cities so let's get going. 
D: Okay I was just curious.
S: That's a fine point and if we get to where we discover semi sentient crystals living on Betelgeuse's planets, whatever, but we've got enough to do at the moment with spanking and the Federal Reserve and national debts and taxes and wars and military and police and the war on drugs we've got enough to keep us busy for a couple of generations at least. Maybe there's more, but to keep looking rather than to act is not that responsible. 
D: I missed it if it was in your version of the elevator pitch but, the idea that if you disprove UPB with logic, that is self-detonating, because somehow logic presupposes UPB. 
S: Well to disprove is to use universality. I can't prove that one jazz player is "better than" another. And I can't prove that one song is "better than" another. You might appeal to popularity and so on. You can prove or disprove mathematical and physics theories, and rational proofs. So if somebody uses the word "proof," then they're talking about universal absolutes. Proof. Boom! Universal absolutes. Not "I like John Coletrane better than Eddie Winter" or whatever, to mix my genres. Somebody says proof, bang, universality, logic, rigor, absolutes they're right there. They are not talking about pistachio versus rocky road ice cream. And so when somebody says, I am disproving UPB, which requires universality, what they're saying is, it is universally preferable behavior to reject universally preferable behavior, which is a complete logic fail. [1:14:04 long digression on childhood trauma 1:18:00]
D: So, the universality of the logic is sort of okay here's the syllogism here's the logic, it works the same way for everybody no one's going to say "This step doesn't work for me because I have a different logic." 
S: The moment they say different logic then it is no longer ethical. It's no longer a moral thing. As soon as someone says that ethics is relative, they're saying science is subjective. It's a contradiction. Ethics is not subjective.  Taste is subjective. [digress on tv 1:19:50 ] So the moment somebody says I have a different logic or it's subjective or whatever it's relativistic or its cultural, they don't know what ethics is.
Ethics is universal. And if you're saying it's subjective or relative or cultural, it's just wrong. It's like saying that math is a personal preference. It's not. Once you say math it's not a personal preference. [...]

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Hayek on Individualism

"What, then, are the essential characteristics of true individualism? [...] It is primarily a theory of society, an attempt to understand the forces which determine the social life of man, and only in the second instance a set of political maxims derived from this view of society. This fact should by itself be sufficient to refute the silliest of the common misunderstandings: The belief that individualism postulates (or bases its arguments on the assumption of) the existence of isolated or self–contained individuals, instead of starting from men whose whole nature and character is determined by their existence in society. [...] But it's basic contention [...] is that there is no other way toward an understanding of social phenomena but through our understanding of individual actions directed toward other people and guided by their expected behavior. This argument is directed primarily against the properly collectivist theories of society which pretend to be able directly to comprehend social wholes like society, etc., as entities sui generis which exist independently of the individuals which compose them. [...] By tracing the combined effect of individual actions, we discover that many of the institutions on which human achievements rest have arisen and are functioning without a designing and directing mind; that, as Adam Ferguson expressed it, "nations stumble upon establishments, which are indeed the result of human action but not the result of human design"; and that the spontaneous collaboration of free men often creates things which are greater than their individual minds can never fully comprehend. [...]
"The difference between this view, [...] and the view which traces all discoverable order to deliberate design is the first great contrast between the true individualism of the British thinkers of the 18th century and the so-called individualism of the Cartesian school. But it is merely one aspect of an even wider difference between a view which in general rates rather low the place which reason plays in human affairs, which contends that man has achieved what he has in spite of the fact he is only partly guided by reason, and that his individual reason is very limited and imperfect, and a view which assumes that Reason, with a capital R, is always fully and equally available to all humans and that everything which man achieves is the direct result of, and therefore subject to, the control of individual reason. One might even say that the former is a product of an acute consciousness of the limitations of the individual mind which induces an attitude of humility toward the impersonal and anonymous social processes by which individuals help to create things greater than they know, while the latter is the product of an exaggerated belief in the powers of individual reason and of a consequent contempt for anything which has not been consciously designed by it or is not fully intelligible to it.
"The anti-rationalistic approach, which regards man not as a highly rational and intelligent but as a very irrational and fallible being, whose individual errors are corrected only in the course of a social process, and which aims at making the best of a very imperfect material, is probably the most characteristic feature of English individualism."
Friedrich Hayek
Individualism and Economic Order, pp 6-9.

Friday, November 29, 2013

False consciousness of state victims

Those who violate silly laws (drug users, prostitutes, gamblers, black marketers, etc.) have not undermined the religion of the state enough to give up their own faith in government. Who already feels skeptical toward the benevolence of government? The poor, prison inmates, ex-cons, gamblers, prostitutes, and drug users. How can the government go on tricking them so well for so long?

The miracles of voluntary interaction and spontaneous order are all around us, but they remain invisible to the average person. How do we pull back the curtain?

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Libertarian Challenge Thought Experiment

Imagine a tyrannical oligarchy conquered the world, transferred ownership of all property to themselves, then declared a libertarian utopia. That is, repeal all laws, and (depending on what flavor of libertarianism you favor) establish either minimal states or competing defense associations, but everyone has to pay rent to the former oligarchs. Would the liberated tax slaves be justified in redistributing property, or what? If the LTS seize property, does that count as theft or justice? If it counts as justice, how do we ever condemn any kind of theft? Is this an example where we can justify coercion? If we can justify it in this case, what prevents us from justifying arbitrary asset seizure? What principle applies?

We could make this even more extreme by changing the oligarchy to a dictatorship. So one person owns everything except for the other persons. This is not at all realistic, but does it help illustrate the principle? Is there anyone who would want to defend the property rights of the former dictator? Yet if we seize his assets, can we criticize any arbitrary seizure? What principle applies when we confiscate the FD that would not apply to a random person? Perhaps we must accuse him of possessing ill-gotten gains, that his ownership resulted from theft and coercion.
How could the FD hope to hang on to what he's got? Maybe he would try to divide his enemies into rival factions, promising all of them something they want if they gain control of the others. Perhaps he would encourage them to form a conventional government, so that he could bribe the officials to help him maintain his position.
If the economy grows, the FD's relative share of wealth will shrink. Growth requires entrepreneurship, FD would not be able to supply all entrepreneurship himself, he would need to share some upside risk with entrepreneurs. 
Is it better to be free but have nothing but your labor, or to be a tax slave with some assets? 
If we must rectify all existing misdeeds before establishing a just society, we have a lot of work cut out for us. But if we ignore them, we face different problems, perhaps as large?
I am not at all happy with this post, but I am too impatient to work on it any longer. I hope that interested readers will contribute in the comments, because I feel like I am missing something obvious.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Kickstart Civil Disobedience?

What if we crowd-sourced civil disobedience? Participants would sign up and only if the crowd got sufficiently large would the activism proceed. Adam Kokesh had thousands sign up on Facebook, but only a fraction showed up. What if they had to pay to sign up, then they got their money back if they showed up and got arrested? The money of the no-shows (or those who didn't get arrested) could be used to bail out those who were arrested. Would this count as criminal conspiracy? Wealthy but timid supporters could sponsor those who lack cash.
My candidates for targets: wiretapping laws (used against public recording or recording public officials), 2 party laws, videoing police, pot smoking. 

Rapping the NAP

 "The precondition of a civilized society is the barring of physical force from social relationships. ... In a civilized society, force may be used only in retaliation and only against those who initiate its use."
Ayn Rand
It all depends on what you can twist to fit retaliation and initiation. Perhaps a conventional mind would consider all lawbreaking to initiate force, even in consensual crimes, just as Rand's followers consider fraud and theft to be initiation. What sorts of retaliation are allowed? Is there any expiration date on a violation, so that what would be retaliation in one case would be initiation in another, though the only difference between them is the amount of time that passed between the initiation and the retaliation?
I am not comfortable claiming that any action that remains within the NAP satisfies morality. I am much more comfortable claiming that anything that violates the NAP, violates morality.

Advertising, PR, Mind Control, and Business Ethics

If advertising and public relations were absolutely effective, we would all be mindless zombie slaves, and no one would be questioning the role of advertising in our lives. Yet if they were completely worthless, it seems unlikely that anyone would pay for them.
Some advertising consists of informing consumers about their options. No problem there.
Some advertising is intended to increase the market for an item. When the producer genuinely believes that a good improves the lives of consumers, again no problem. (Or must an ethical producer do research to assure that this is so, and not just a convenient belief?) If the producer has no such belief, what does ethics demand? Some goods are fun but frivolous, others are compelling yet dangerous. If congress legalized drugs, how would I react to an ad for heroin? 

Libertarian pessimism, optimism, politics, and?

pessimistic libertarian believes that society cannot avoid some degree of coercion, but seeks to minimize coercion within some reasonable constraints. An optimistic libertarian seeks to abolish coercion, to base society entirely on cooperation. A political libertarian thinks that one can participate in the political system (vote, etc.) without participating in coercion or legitimizing the system. (If your participation does nothing to change the outcome, are you actually participating?) What should we call the opposite sort of libertarian? Voluntaryists oppose political participation, but have some additional beliefs. Are there any anti-political pessimistic libertarians?

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Was Confucius a libertarian?

A friend told me, "Confucius insists that moral rulers need no coercive measures in order to rule, and that rulers who do coerce are not worthy of their authoritative position."
I  enthusiastically agree with this principle. I wonder how many  moral rulers we can discover in history, defined in this way? I wonder, did Confucius provide any examples?
Confucius [...] argues that the best government is one that rules through "rites" (lǐ) and people's natural morality, rather than by using bribery and coercion. He explained that this is one of the most important analects: "If the people be led by laws, and uniformity sought to be given them by punishments, they will try to avoid the punishment, but have no sense of shame. If they be led by virtue, and uniformity sought to be given them by the rules of propriety, they will have the sense of the shame, and moreover will become good." (Translated by James Legge) in the Great Learning (大學). This "sense of shame" is an internalisation of duty, where the punishment precedes the evil action, instead of following it in the form of laws as in Legalism.
 Confucius believed that the motivation behind moral actions must be moral. If a person acts morally because he/she is coerced by fear then the person is not benevolent. Thus, laws do not develop moral character.

Delegating Coercion

A friend gave me trouble about my definition of libertarianism: "But just about your only definition of libertarians is that they prefer voluntary cooperation over coercion, and that, I think, brings just about the whole world under the tent, save for a few demagogues and the badly deranged."

To which I replied, channeling Larkin Rose: Pardon my cynicism. Most people choose cooperation over coercion when dealing with others face-to-face. The story changes when they can delegate the coercion through the mechanisms of voting, legislation, the military, and law enforcement. Then they enthusiastically support the coercion of those with different opinions or circumstances, forcing these others into their favourite one-size-fits-all scheme. It helps if they can tell themselves a story about it all being for the common good, though that is not strictly required. In the end, they probably do not even realize any coercion has happened. They  compartmentalize their link to injustice and place it carefully out of sight. 

Progressives coerce in the name of equality, the environment, and helping the poor. Conservatives coerce in the name of family values, property values, and patriotism. In both cases, they categorize the victims of their coercion as the "other," as "deserving" what they get. I can earn moral blame or virtue only when I choose without coercion. My good deeds earn me no merit if I do them only to escape punishment or seeking a reward.

Where are the boundaries of cooperation, coercion, extrinsic motivation, intrinsic motivation, rewards, and punishments? Nature will punish us if we do unwise things, and reward us for other things we do. Is nature coercing us? Can we cooperate with nature without personifying it? If a slave loves his slavery, would that mean that his master's threats and abuse do not qualify as coercion?

Monday, October 7, 2013

Judgements and regrets

Regret: When I behaved in the way which I now regret, what need of mine was I trying to meet?
Anger: The behavior of others may stimulate anger but can't cause it. Anger signifies we blame or judge others. If we connect to our needs, we may feel strong emotions, but not anger. What unmet need of mine is being expressed through this moralistic judgment? I am angry because I need ... Breathe. Empathize with the other. Identify the thoughts that are making you angry. Connect to the needs behind those thoughts. Speak the anger, transformed into needs and feelings.
Swallow the frog: I choose to ... Because I want ...
Badly paraphrased/plagiarized from M. Rosenberg.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

The criminal state

"States are criminal organizations. All states, not just the obviously totalitarian or repressive ones. The only possible exceptions to this sweeping claim are those mini–states that are, in effect, swollen bits of private property, such as the Vatican. I intend this statement to be understood literally and not as some form of rhetorical exaggeration. The argument is simple. Theft, robbery, kidnapping and murder are all crimes. Those who engage in such activities, whether on their own behalf or on behalf of others are, by definition, criminals. In taxing the people of a country, the state engages in an activity that is morally equivalent to theft or robbery; in putting some people in prison, especially those who are convicted of so–called victimless crimes or when it drafts people into the armed services, the state is guilty of kidnapping or false imprisonment; in engaging in wars that are other than purely defensive or, even if defensive, when the means of defense employed are disproportionate and indiscriminate, the state is guilty of manslaughter or murder.
"For many people, perhaps most, these contentions will seem both shocking and absurd. Some will immediately object that taxation is clearly not theft. They may say as Greg Duncan does that since you don't have legal title to all your pre-tax income the state commits no crime in appropriating that part of your income to which it is entitled. The problem with this objection is that it completely begs the question – is the state entitled to part of your income?"
Gerard Casey

Sunday, September 15, 2013

The State is a Unicorn

"A parable: Behold the unicorn. Now the unicorn is the ideal pack animal. It can carry large amounts of cargo. It eats nothing but rainbows. And it's flatulence smells of fresh strawberries. It's clearly the ideal pack animal, save for one thing: it doesn't exist. 
"The state is a unicorn. There is no such thing as the state. [...] There's no such thing as the collective, the Uber-mind that has all the information that markets are assumed to lack. So I would hope that before you say "Markets fail," that is, the first pig is ugly, and therefore I want the unseen pig, in this case a unicorn, to solve these problems for me, substitute in this: next time you say I want the state to do x, say I want politicians I actually know to be in charge of this, because they're better informed, because they have a longer time horizon, and I think you'll see that that's nonsense. Politicians are looking for the next election; if they lose, they're done. Now it's perfectly true that people in markets (stockholders, managers) have very short time horizons. But so do politicians. We're in a situation where we have two pretty bad choices. And the idea that we're going to pick one over the other means that we're doomed to continue to make the mistakes that have gotten us to this point in the first place."
Mike Munger, econtalk, about one hour and six minutes in.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

NVC Niff Clotes: Chapter Thirteen: Expressing Appreciation inNonviolent Communication

Rosenberg regards "praise and compliments to be life-alienating." The praiser sits in judgement. Some use flattery for manipulative purposes, but even an honest compliment can misfire. Rosenberg wants to make sure that expressions of appreciation celebrate gratitude. Then when we receive such expressions we can choose something other than egotism or false humility. We can receive joyfully.
More cultural conditioning: "We tend to notice what's wrong rather than what's right." We can improve our lives by noticing what others do to enrich our lives, and taking time to appreciate it.
NVC-style appreciation has three parts: "We state (1) the action that has contributed to our well-being, (2) the particular need of ours that has been fulfilled, and (3) the feelings of pleasure engendered as a result."
"We are often uncomfortable with simple giving and receiving."

Previous chapter 

NVC Niff Clotes: Chapter Twelve: Liberating Ourselves and CounselingOthers

Rosenberg wants to help us overcome damage done by our cultural conditioning. We've learned to play the game by rules that don't get us what we want, even when we win. If we gain consciousness of our feelings and needs, we gain the tools we need to break out, to gain a measure of self-knowledge, to overcome depression. "Depression is indicative of a state of alienation from our own needs."
Does Rosenberg really give us the insight we need to find self-empathy? Is it possible to live in NVC, to use it all the time? If not, is it possible to switch it on when we need it?
Rosenberg asks us to recognize our conditioning, bring our emotions to consciousness, and identify our needs. Can we? If we do, will it work?
Previous chapter | Next chapter

NVC Niff Clotes: Chapter Eleven: The Protective Use of Force

"The intention behind the protective use of force is to prevent injury or injustice, never to punish or to cause individuals to suffer, repent, or change. The punitive use of force tends to generate hostility and to reinforce resistance to the very behavior we are seeking. Punishment damages Goodwill and self-esteem and shifts our attention from the intrinsic value of an action to external consequences. "
This chapter conveys a simple, brief message, acknowledging the necessity of the use of force in rare and specific circumstances. Rosenburg differentiates between protective and punitive uses of force. He neglects the coercive use of force, but what he says about punishment works for coercion, too.
Rosenberg includes the use of certain sorts of language under the category of use of force. This includes using blame to discredit another person or withholding gratification such as a parent taking away driving privileges and or withdrawal of caring or respect. He considers this a very powerful threat. 
Punishment is ineffective because we want not only to change what people do but also to influence why they do it, remaking respectful and empathic towards them. If people do things for the wrong reasons they may sabotage the ultimate goal. If we coerce people into doing our will, we undermine our long-term interests. 
At one point Rosenburg mentions the difficulty of clarifying the difference between NVC and permissiveness. Unfortunately he doesn't elaborate at this point. A permissive parent or teacher neglects their own needs. Rosenberg would have us keep listening and using NVC until we achieve empathy. At that point when we see the other's needs and our own, and we both feel heard, we may be able to negotiate to a win-win solution. 

Previous chapter | Next chapter

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Seeking Liberty in the Second Realm

 "Second Realm" describes a strategy for achieving liberty. The authors (pseudonomously known as smuggler and XYZ) want freedom very soon, and because only a small minority of society currently loves liberty, they concentrate on approaches that small groups can use. They want to find or create a territory (similar to Hakim Bey's TAZ) where they're hard to harass or spy upon, so that the so-called authorities may decide to tolerate them.
It's hard to summarize what I liked about this small free online book. Books on "how to get there" rarely show up on my radar, and I liked their focus on small groups in the near future, before the ancap rapture turns on the light for all the Statists. They describe the first steps we could take toward a more open society, willing to learn from experiments rather than impose solutions from the top down. If something can start small and grow, without asking any one's permission, that seems more doable than grand political visions.
Unfortunately, I can easily think of weaknesses in the book. Their strategy depends on obscurity to evade interference from the so-called authorities, but obscurity brings costs of its own. Transparency enables  accountability, so secrecy provides fertile soil where corruption can grow. Obscurity may cause problems among group members, or between members and neighbors, or P.R. problems.
Despite the focus on immediate, small scale action, the book provides no practical examples of a group that has succeeded with this approach (perhaps one exists, but succeeded in remaining obscure). The authors mention the mafia and biker gangs as examples of separate cultures that sometimes succeed in this approach. While those sorts of groups indeed manage to establish a second realm for themselves where they can impose their own rules, they hardly seem like good candidates for emulation. Even ignoring their reputations for violence, the mafia centers on operating related businesses, and bikers center on biking. What analogous unifying characteristic could liberty lovers find that would unite them? Everyone knows that organizing individualists makes cat herding look easy.
What about drug users, prostitutes, gamblers, black market sellers, and black market customers? The dominance system has forced them to adopt obscurity. Do they have safe places, a second realm? Could they live their lives there if they chose to do so? Could we just infiltrate these existing groups? Radicalize them? Organize them? Their social potency derives from their lack of any sort of organization, unification, or connection as a group. They seem mostly to accept the culture's moralistic judgement against them, and do not see their own marginal status as evidence of the illegitimacy of the dominance system. What has happened to them as the cost of surveillance dropped and it's pervasiveness increased?
Perhaps the Quakers, or the Amish provide a better prototype. Libertarians could form a philosophical gypsy goth Quaker tribe. They might embrace radical openness, sacrificing privacy for transparency. Instead of hiding in obscurity, they could fight corruption with sousveillance.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

NVC Niff Clotes:Chapter Ten: Expressing Anger Fully

Anger is a tragic expression of unmet needs. Our culture trains us to react to anger with blame, but this sends us in the wrong direction. Unless we express the underlying need, even violence expresses our anger superficially. NVC does not advise us to stifle our anger, but rather to express it fully in an effective way.
"The first step to fully expressing anger in NVC is to divorce the person from any responsibility for our anger." Actions of others never cause our anger, though they may act as a stimulus. Our culture teaches us that we can make someone feel something, but if we believe this, we have been tricked. Persons sometimes use guilt to control others. "The cause of anger lies in our thinking-in thoughts of blame and judgement." 
Instead we may succeed by shining "the light of consciousness on our own feelings and needs" and connecting "to the life that is within us." "When we are connected to our need," we "may have strong feelings, but we are never angry." Anger "is disconnected from needs." 
We also may "shine the light of consciousness on the other person's feelings and needs" in order to convert anger into more productive thoughts, behaviors and feelings.
"At the core of all anger is a need that is not being fulfilled. Thus anger can be valuable if we use it [...] to realize we have a need that isn't being met." "Anger [...] co-opts our energy by directing it toward punishing people rather than meeting our needs."
This is not intuitive, and also I have trouble identifying my needs under such circumstances. Is this the sort of thing that we could evaluate only by reading it, or do we need some empirical testing?  Or is it an advanced skill we can develop only after long practice? Or is it just BS?
"Violence comes from the belief that other people cause our pain and therefore deserve punishment." Any "judgement of another person diminishes the likelihood of our needs being met." This seems plausible to me, but how would I know?
When we judge others, we put ourselves in an oppositional stance toward them, and when they feel defensive they are less likely to care about achieving win-win. We have started in win-lose mode, and each party will focus on winning rather than getting a positive outcome. We may succeed "in using such judgements to intimidate people into meeting our needs," but "we will pay for it later" in all likelihood. 
"Four steps to expressing Anger"
1) Breathe (slow down, deliberate).
2) "Identify our judgmental thoughts."
3) "Connect with our needs."
4) "Express our feelings and unmet needs."
This will work better if we empathize with the other person first. "The more we hear them, the more they will hear us." 
Blaming can cause someone to hate themselves, or to hate the blamer, but is unlikely in either case to change their behavior in a positive way.
All this is difficult and requires practice.
Many people react against this idea of avoiding judgement. It sounds like we should give a pass to violent and selfish persons. Rosenberg does not restrict this idea to particular circumstances, or illustrate extreme cases. He seems to make a general and universal case, without explaining how to replace our existing social institutions of punishment. Perhaps NVC can prevent some murders, but what sort of negotiation can we have in cases where murder was not prevented? If we take Rosenberg to the extreme, and eliminate all punishments and deterrents from our culture, what can we replace them with to achieve justice? If Rosenberg has an answer, he does not state it explicitly. I will duck the question by pointing out that this chapter is meant to address how I can deal with anger more effectively, not how members of society may choose to deter crime.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

NVC Niff Clotes: Chapter Nine: Connecting Compassionately With Ourselves

I delayed this chapter because I have trouble with it and I think it is important. I did a lot of hilighting in this chapter. I still have a way to go to fully integrate this knowledge.
In this chapter Rosenberg discusses self-compassion, how we can use NVC to improve the way we treat ourselves. Our culture promotes a style of self-evaluation that leads to blaming oneself rather than learning and growing as a result of mistakes. "Shame is a form of self-hatred, and actions taken in reaction to shame are not free and joyful acts." Why not shoot for freedom and joy instead? Rosenberg wants to show us how.
"Should" is a powerful negative word that denies the role of choice in our actions. When we don't allow ourselves to choose, we resist the demand we place on ourselves.  Demands take the joy out of our actions. Even if we do as we "should", the coercive aspect spoils it. 
"Self-judgements, like all judgements, are tragic expressions of unmet needs." If we can figure out the need we were pursuing, we can change the experience from shame and guilt to something more positive and learn from the experience. The regret we feel is NVC mourning. Once we recognize our need, we can pursue it more effectively, connect emphatically with ourselves, and forgive ourselves.
If we do something because we choose to do so to fulfill a need, we can adopt a more positive attitude and turn it into play.
Rosenberg describes an exercise. Write down things you feel you "must" do. Put "I choose to " in front and "because I want" at the end, and then fill in the because part (unless you decide you choose not to!).
Rosenberg lists some extrinsic motivators: money, approval, punishment, shame, guilt, duty. These are not needs. Is this really clear? I choose to do my taxes (currently) because I want to avoid punishment. I hate the process even more than I resent paying. I have long since become accustomed to the idea of paying tax, but I have never adjusted to trying to decipher the annoying instructions, or even the accountant's "simplification" of my part of the process. I'd be willing to pay a lot more if I could give to charity and skip the record keeping and form filing. They want me to calculate things I don't care about and remember stuff I'd rather forget. Maybe I should consider switching to an accountant who is more willing to help out. But I can't imagine turning it into play. Am I denying choice? I can fill out the forms, or I can risk jail, or ... What? Adjust my attitude? I could use it as an exercise for snarking at the IRS agents, but that is another good way to end up in Kafkaland. I think I just have a tragic need to avoid jail, and tax season will never "serve life" for me.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Why Would a Cop Ever Ask Someone to Stop Videoing?

Cop wants to protect his own privacy.
Cop wants to protect the privacy of someone else.
Some aspect of an investigation must remain secret or it will fail. For instance, video of a meeting between a regular cop and and undercover cop or informant could endanger the undercover cop or informant. OTOH, maybe such meetings should not occur in public?
A reasonable cop would be willing to cite his reason and clarify whether this is a request or a command with legal backing.
Have I overlooked something? Please put it in the comments.

Baochan Daohu, the End of Chinese collective Farming

Anonymous farmers put an end to collective farming in China by means of quiet disobedience. The process was called baochan daohu, "return production to the household". The government initially resisted, then tried to guide, then tolerated this process. The following quote explaining baochan daohu comes from "China's Grassroots Movement Toward Greater Freedom" by Kate Zhou. She has written a book "How the Farmers Changed China" on the topic, giving details of what happened and the official government responses.

Grassroots De-collectivization Movement (Baochan Daohu)
The Chinese grassroots movement toward liberty started with baochan daohu, the practice of contracting production to the household. Haunted by memories of disastrous collectivization policies, which led to 10-40 million people dying during the Great Leap Famine of 1959-1961, Chinese farmers were eager to gain greater individual control over food production. The tragic deaths of so many people played an important role in the onset of liberalization, formed the backdrop for the success of rural de-collectivization, and set the stage for like-minded individuals to pursue common objectives without the need for leadership or ideology.
Mao Zedongs’s death in 1976 brought about change in China’s political climate and the government began experimenting with assigning land to small groups of households, allowing desperately poor farmers to break away from the inefficient communes. Even though the party leadership opposed assigning land to individual households, families determined to farm their own plot of land frequently bribed local officials, and the movement gained momentum, greatly increasing output and incomes. These gains were evident and the news traveled so rapidly that it was impossible to stop the proliferation of this new system to nearly all communes. Chinese people often say that baochan daohu spread like a chicken pest; when one family’s chicken catches the disease, the whole village catches it. When one village caught it, the whole county caught it.
Baochan daohu was in essence an unorganized grassroots phenomenon. Those involved were not leaders, and most remain unknown because they did not engage in face-to-face confrontation with the state. Simply wishing to be left alone, they acted against the socialist planned economic system. The aggregate result was the mechanism for a slow social and economic transformation of rural China, away from collectivism and toward free markets. By 1982, more than 90 percent of rural people were engaged in the household production system and by the end of 1983, most of the communes disappeared, which had major social, economic, and political significance for China. 

Language, Liberty, and Lakoff: Coercive Rhetoric vs. Transparent Rhetoric

I reviewed "Don't Think of an Elephant" by George Lakoff at 
Lakoff uses the idea of conceptual frames. Conceptual frames work at a preconscious level to assist thought. Lakoff's favorite example is the frame used by many republicans, the strict father frame. Lakoff thinks this is a master metaphor which drives the success of much of the republican idea agenda. Government is the strict father, who must punish the bad children. Good citizens are obedient and disciplined. Foreign policy is a game of tit-for-tat and winners need a big military and big police force to enforce discipline and punish the disobedient like a big tough daddy.
Lakoff wants democrats to fight back with a nurturing parent frame. Kids should share their toys, pay their taxes, support big social programs and international cooperation.
In my review I point out the limitations and inappropriateness of these as metaphors for government.
But is Lakoff correct in thinking these frames work in convincing people? If we believe that, what does that imply about the existing political process? Nothing good.
I want to know about frames for reasons of intellectual self-defense. What will political discourse look like if people begin to bring their conceptual frames to consciousness and debate those directly?
I feel like there are many other ideas that follow from this, but I am too distracted to distill them from the fermented mush this book made of my brain. If you have any ideas, please comment.

Will there be charity in Ancapistan?

Assume that the need for charity and people's attitudes about charity don't change, then there will be charity. Removing tax incentives will tend to reduce charitable giving, increased perception of need (replacement of "government charity") will tend to increase it.
Make optimistic assumptions about the economic results of privatizing everything, and need may greatly be reduced. Make pessimistic assumptions, and mutual aid remains, strengthened by the absence of government interference and crowding out.
The things that people, especially progressives, like about the government "taking care" of the poor:
* the government can force those other bad people to pay their "fair share" whether they like it or not.
* someone else's problem, I don't have to get my hands dirty but I don't have to feel guilty about it either.
* if people get to choose whether or not to contribute, there may not be enough money. Under the current system, if there's not enough money, I can blame those bad people who disagree with me politically.
How much money is wasted by political lobbying on each side of this issue? How much of this effort consists of the cheerleaders for each side goading their supporters into a group frenzy of team spirit, aimed more at perpetuating the process than accomplishing the goal?
I suspect that if this was done by rational people with serious goals, they would build in metrics to measure how successful government programs are and how cost-effective. They would encourage different experiments to gather knowledge and experience, allowing participants to give input into how they are helped and what they consider success. My (admittedly biased and non-expert) opinion is that the system is bureaucratic, monolithic, insensitive, and unaccountable. 

Sunday, July 21, 2013

NVC Niff Clotes: Chapter Eight: The Power of Empathy

This chapter about empathy seems especially difficult to me, though still valuable. I have grabbed a few ideas from it, but you might be better off skimming the chapter rather than reading this post if your goal is to review. Rosenberg tells some interesting stories that I can't summarize.
We have more difficulty empathizing with those above us in a hierarchy. We may tend to hear all communications from that sort of person as commands or evaluations, and face the temptation to react with the usual automatic reactions.
We need not tolerate dull conversation, but rather can choose instead to interrupt and try to re-establish empathy. If this move succeeds, the speaker will feel grateful.
"As listeners, we don't need insights into psychological dynamics or training in psychotherapy. What is essential is our ability to be present to what's really going on within—to the unique feelings and needs a person is experiencing in that very moment."
I will risk redundancy to gripe again about Rosenberg's metaphor of "presence". I can see what this is not, it is not me thinking about how to argue against what is being said, or analyzing it, or daydreaming. But how do I actually achieve presence? Not much help. Can I know what the other is thinking and feeling without being present? I think Rosenberg would say yes. I wish he would give more hints about this missing ingredient. Somehow I must recognize when the other feels that I really have heard her, or not. So there are at least three elements to it, the content of the communication (including an important emotional component), my focus of attention, and the exchange of meta-information which includes "did you hear me?" Yikes. Perhaps it also has to do with staying focused and not allowing my automatic responses learned since childhood to grab me and take me off down a path of conclusion jumping and near-instinctive reactions.
"The more we connect with the feelings and needs behind their words, the less frightening it is to open up to other people."
"Our ability to offer empathy can allow us to stay vulnerable, defuse potential violence, hear the word no without taking it as a rejection, revive a lifeless conversation, and even hear the feelings and needs expressed through silence. Time and again, people transcend the paralyzing effects of psychological pain when they have sufficient contact with someone who can hear them empathically."