Wednesday’s Forum

Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. CSK says:
  2. Kathy says:


    Promises, promises.

  3. Gavin says:

    And the policies of that third party would be.. Everything the same, just no Cheeto Jesus.

    They’d get no votes outside of DC. The cruelty is the point.

    Your 2022 Republican Party, ladies and gentlemen!

  4. MarkedMan says:

    I’m really curious how the vote against Cheney will go. The fact that it’s a secret ballot alters the math.

  5. Kurtz says:

    I say if that happens, we all run for the house as Dems in districts where the vote looks to be split. Start the OTB caucus. I volunteer to hire an all trans staff and have them hang around outside Greene’s office all day.

  6. CSK says:

    Yes, it does alter the math. If it’s a secret ballot, a lot more people will support her.

  7. Teve says:

    Liz Cheney is urging her party to escape from Crazytown. We’ll see if they oblige.

  8. Teve says:

    Federal judge denies NRA attempt to declare bankruptcy in win for New York state attorney general

    I do honestly love that the NRA chief spent donations on fancy clothes in Beverly Hills and vacations and &c.

  9. Kathy says:

    Some years ago I heard that newton dismissed the possibility that the speed of light, undetermined in his time, could be infinite. He’s claimed to have said it would be bright everywhere all the time.

    Suppose we have a visible light photon formed in the Sun. Let’s name it Lux (ha, ha). Lux emerges from the Sun in the direction of the Moon. About 8:30 minutes later, it hits the Moon, and gets reflected towards the Earth. In around a second it passes through Earth’s atmosphere, where Lux is not absorbed nor scattered by it. It hits the ocean, and gets reflected once more, this time in the direction of Alpha Centauri.

    After around 4.5 years, Lux reaches a planet in the Centaurian system and finally gets absorbed into some atom it hits at the right time.

    If the speed of light were infinite, Lux would experience all these events simultaneously. It would emerge from the Sun, bounce off the Moon, bounce off the Earth, and be absorbed by an atom at the same time. It would be as if the surface of the Sun, the Moon, the Earth, and the Centaurian planet were all in the same place.

    Wait, there’s more.

    We made Lux a visible light photon. there are photons in all sorts of wavelengths from gamma rays, the most energetic, to very long wavelength radio waves*. And they are produced in all the stars, and by other means in other places (like fire, electric light, bioluminescence, lightning, etc.).

    If the speed of light were infinite, all photons would be in every place they could be at the same time. Some are infrared, which transmit heat. Some are x-rays and gamma rays, which are penetrating radiation, etc. So then the universe would be bright all over, as Newton said, but also hot and radioactive everywhere.

    What one can come up with in the morning shower.

    *As I recall, there’s no lower limit to a photon’s wavelength, it all depends on its energy. So there could be photons with wavelengths as wide as the universe.

  10. CSK says:

    This is funny:

    Jonathan V. Last makes a good point. You can be as rich as Croesus, but all you have to do to establish yourself as a working class hero is support The Big Lie.

  11. JohnSF says:

    Well, this is something ….

    Anti-Maskers Ready to Start Masking—to Protect Themselves From the Vaccinated

    Whatever works, I suppose.

  12. Well its official. Cheney is out as a member of the GOP House leadership.

    The transformation of the GOP into a Trump Cult is complete.

  13. Jen says:

    @JohnSF: Good grief. That one article contains enough anti-vax nuttery to fill a Bingo card:

    – vaccine shedding
    – colloidal silver
    – “it’s not a vaccine”
    – Natural News
    – “Plandemic”
    – quarantining people who have been vaccinated…etc.

    But, not to worry, it can all be resolved by drinking pine needle tea. Okay then.


  14. Kathy says:


    I vote we volunteer them all to work unprotected in COVID-19 wards in India.

    That will really cull the herd.

  15. Teve says:

    @Jen: The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines just have the RNA that lets your ribosomes produce the spike proteins. It is physically impossible for them to cause you to shed virus particles. They’re preying on the clueless.

  16. Teve says:

    @Teve: plus, the 5g reception I get from Bill Gate’s chips is fantastic!

  17. Sleeping Dog says:

    What do police from around the world think of American style policing?

    If you can’t access the paywall, they think what you think they do,

  18. KM says:

    @Jen :
    WTF is pine needle tea?? Nobody was drinking that back in the day unless they *had* to; any stories about it saving people from disease or illness was because they literally had nothing else and got desperate. You would have taken the bark of other trees first since that’s actually beneficial. It sounds like the scotch tape bottle-showerhead of tea – nothing else useful around and we need some vitamins so let’s use this! If you’re gonna die from scurvy sharpish, cool go for it; if you have other options, what the hell are you thinking? People would have had willow bark available if they had access to pine needles as they tend to grow in the same climates. Make yourself some aspirin people, don’t chug watered down pine sap!

  19. CSK says:

    If it’s not a vaccine, why are they concerned about “vaccine shedding”?

  20. Jen says:

    @Teve: I know!

    @KM: I know! (also, blech, it’d taste like Pine-Sol)

    @CSK: I know!

  21. Kathy says:

    Imagine if only vaccinated people would shed spike proteins for months and months.

    Others would breathe them in and make antibodies. We could vaccinate the whole world with only a few dozen million doses.

  22. KM says:

    What interesting is they are claiming it’s spreading vaccine spiked proteins, not COVID proteins or “cells”. In other words, they think it’s creating something unique in your body that can magically defy biology to get them. You’re the factory to create the New Thing That Not COVID Since That’s a Hoax – now when they get sick, it’s not COVID but the New Thing designed to kill off the True Believers!

    They think it’s a bioweapon of some sort but lack the ability to vocalizing their insanity. They’re worried it’s altering people a la vampires wherein you can spread your “essence” by some sort of “contact” (bites or shedding). It did something to you that made you different and being exposed to you will infect them with your Otherness. This way they can blame future illness on the evil vaccine and still claim COVID is fake.

  23. KM says:

    @Jen :
    I’m actually offended by pine needle tea as someone who’s grandma was big into old world herbals. I grew up with feverfew and willowbark tea instead of aspirin if at all possible; she grew tea roses on a trellis outside the kitchen window to pop into the tea kettle on command. Beef tea and ‘lemon barley water when you were sick and valerian to help you sleep (FYI all taste like wet dog unless you know what you’re doing). I keep ginger treats and tea for the pregnant staff in my office and there’s an excellent mint tea I’ll break out for the Itis and stomachaches to get you up and running again.

    But pine needles? Hard pass. I bet even my gram would side-eye it if offered. Some things work and some things are just city idiots playing in the woods.

  24. Kathy says:


    Perhaps we could convince them of the amazing curative powers of wild almonds?

    FYI wild almonds tend to be poisonous.

  25. Jen says:

    @KM: Apparently, some Native Americans have used pine needle tea as help for respiratory illnesses, BUT (and this is a big one) you need to know what you are doing because some species of pines are toxic to humans and can cause miscarriages (odd, that’s exactly what these nuts are saying about “vaccine shedding”) etc.

    Native Americans and other cultures have brewed pine needles into tea for medicinal use for centuries. This includes Blue spruce (Picea pungens), Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) and ponderosa pine. Douglas fir may be beneficial for arthritis. Pine needles, in general, have been used for respiratory problems and externally for a number of skin conditions. However, miscarriage, low birth weight and other similar toxic reactions may occur in humans and domestic animals after eating pine needles.

    However, the risk may not be as severe and life-threatening as it is for cattle and other livestock. Although people often enjoy pine needle tea with no ill effect, pine needles are not recommended for use by humans and pets.

  26. dazedandconfused says:


    Where things get weird is at the speed of light time stops, so from Lux’s perspective the events of changing direction are all that exist and Lux experiences them all simultaneously.

  27. CSK says:

    A lot of the people promoting dubious remedies for Covid have an interest in peddling those remedies, which should be no surprise to anyone.

  28. sam says:


    don’t chug watered down pine sap!

    Having drunk cheap retsina, I can certainly attest to that.

  29. MarkedMan says:

    @MarkedMan: According to Politico, the rules were different for this vote. No secret ballot but instead a voice vote. I suspect McCarthy knew he would lose a secret ballot

  30. Kathy says:


    A science popularizer I used to follow, Enrique Ganem, said the special theory of relativity isn’t hard to understand, but rather hard to believe.

  31. sam says:


    There was a young lady named Bright,
    Whose speed was far faster than light;
    She started one day
    In a relative way,
    And returned on the previous night.

  32. Kathy says:


    You know, when it comes to bogus cancer cures, I totally get it. Cancer treatments are horrible, almost like medically-inflicted torture (there’s been progress in some cancers, though), and depending on the stage of the cancer and other factors, they may not even be terribly effective.

    So drinking some foul-tasting brew, or magic crystals, or all such goopy nonsense lets you pretend you’re treating the cancer, and have a nicer time doing so. You will die sooner, or you will plain die, but at least you will be spared considerable pain and suffering. It’s not illogical to fear pain more than death, either.

    But in the case of COVID, the exact reverse is going on. The disease is horrible, hard to treat, it can take weeks for even mild cases to recover, there’s a big chance of lifetime sequelae. The vaccine, which has an excellent chance to keep you from getting sick and and even better one to keep you from suffering through COVID, only has very short-term side effects, which are rather mild, and don’t happen to everyone.

    So there’s no rationale to avoid the vaccine. It’s all stupidity.

    Back before Jenner discovered that cowpox could prevent smallpox, there was variolation. This involved introducing puss or ground-up pustules from smallpox patients into uninfected, healthy people. Between 2 and 3% of people undergoing this treatment died from it. A larger percentage fell ill with varying severity and recovered. Most experienced few effects and later would not catch smallpox.

    Those are lousy numbers for prevention. But the death rate from smallpox was much bigger than that, over 30%. And even those who recovered from smallpox, usually wound up with scars on the face and all over the body.

  33. CSK says:

    I suppose the point about those who refuse the Covid-19 vaccines is that they don’t believe anything you just wrote–which, by the way, was excellent.

  34. CSK says:

    So we never get a final tally? Good Lord, can you imagine what Trump would say if this had happened to him?

  35. Jay L Gischer says:

    Someone here – I don’t remember who – linked a video by Innuendo Studios describing tactics of the alt-right. This led me to this video, also by Innuendo Studios, describing “How the Alt-Right is Like an Abusive Relationship”. It is brilliant. It is what I was looking for – which is the core psychology behind a lot of this stuff. And the terminology is “disorganized attachment”. I know a bit about attachment and this really stuck with me. I highly recommend this video.

    Interesting: the Alt Right is like a cult in that it weaponizes disorganized attachment. It is not like a cult in that the relationship with the leader is very, very different. The Alt Right is probably not the work of some person, but something that has emerged and perhaps converged – abetted by the way social media makes it really easy to isolate and estrange people.

    Highly recommended.

  36. Kathy says:


    I come for the conversation. I stay because my head won’t fit through the door. 🙂

  37. “Remaining silent emboldens the liar. I will not participate in that.

    “Those who refuse to accept the rulings of our courts are at war with the Constitution. Our duty is clear. Every one of us, who has sworn the oath must act to prevent the unraveling of our democracy. This is not about policy. This is not about partisanship. This is about our duty as Americans.” -Rep. Liz Cheney

    She’s absolutely right

  38. CSK says:

    Yeah; same here.

  39. The average price of a new car is over $40,000.

    Clearly most Americans can’t afford this.

    Are car companies doing this to push people into insanely long financing deals or leasing? Either way it’s a joke.

  40. Meanwhile ths average price of a used car is over $25,000.

    Part of the reason for this is that usex car dealers are competing against auto manufacturers who are lettong and helping their dealerships sell “certified used cars” .

  41. The vote to replace Liz Cheney, who was ousted today as the No. 3 member of House GOP leadership is Friday.

    Elsie Stefink is the only candidate. I hope she’s content with the way she sold her soul to the Trump Cult.

  42. CSK says:

    @Doug Mataconis:
    The irony is that Stefanik was less inclined to vote for Trump’s agenda than was Cheney. But, no matter. But hey, Stefanik’s willing to promote the lie that Biden stole the election.

    Nothing else counts.

  43. flat earth luddite says:

    @Teve: I know, and the news updates in 3-D are wonderful!

  44. Kylopod says:

    @CSK: The funny thing about the way former Trump critics are so easily accepted into Trumpworld is that their past “sins” aren’t just forgiven, but forgotten. It’s like they never happened. Hell, if Cheney herself were to do a 180 tomorrow and transform (back) into Trump asskisser, she’d stand a good chance of winding up working for his 2024 campaign.

    The way it works, it isn’t quite like a Christian redemption story. I actually think a big part of it is that the Trumpists (and especially Trump himself) enjoy the former critic’s collapse into total obsequity. They’re not looking for someone to trust, they’re looking for someone to degrade, because it proves Trump’s absolute domination and power better than anything else.

  45. MarkedMan says:

    @CSK: No final tally. Someone requested a recorded vote and it was denied.

  46. CSK says:

    I think you’re absolutely right. And they do enjoy degrading their former opponents. In fact, they delight in it.

    I remember the day after the election in 2016, the Trumpkins over at weren’t just rejoicing, they were gloating over how it was now their turn for revenge, not only against the Democrats, but against any Republican who’d dared to express reservations about Trump.

    You’d think from the way they were acting that they’d been made to suffer terribly under previous administrations.

    I wonder if the ones who voted to dump Cheney will hasten to brag about it to their constituents.

  47. Mimai says:

    This is making the rounds (as are some fun variants). Thought it might be interesting to hear from the OTBers. Feel free to ask/answer an adjacent question if that floats your boat.

    You’re on a first date with someone, and they tell you the name of their favorite book. You immediately leave. What’s the book?

  48. Kylopod says:


    You’re on a first date with someone, and they tell you the name of their favorite book. You immediately leave. What’s the book?

    Is this really a challenging question? The problem is it’s almost too easy. You know what a lot of us would say. There isn’t even one book that would provoke this reaction from most of us here, I take it. Anything by Ann Coulter, Michelle Malkin, Tucker Carlson…. you get the idea. I could date a conservative, but not a Fox-bot. Not someone defending white supremacy.

    Maybe in posing the question here we should stick to non-political books.

  49. Joe says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    she sold her soul to the Trump Cult.

    Hope she got a good price and can at least buy a used car if not a new one.

  50. CSK says:

    Where do I begin? Anything by Mary Higgins Clarke, Danielle Steel, Stephanie Meyer…

    Okay: The Prophet, by Kahlil Gibran

    I don’t counted what you cited as books.

  51. CSK says:

    God forbid I should forget anything by Tom Clancy.

  52. Mimai says:


    Maybe in posing the question here we should stick to non-political books.

    Sure, like I said, whatever floats your boat.

  53. dazedandconfused says:

    Atlas Shrugged.

  54. Sleeping Dog says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    This why all the to do last week about the US’s inability to reach herd immunity was simply hot air.

  55. Kathy says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    The answer is: yes, the vaccines will work against the Indian variant.

    The hard question is. how well will the vaccines work against this variant? That we’ll have to find out by experience.

  56. Sleeping Dog says:


    The Bible

  57. Kathy says:


    I could make a very long list. Starting with Mein Kampf and moving down from there.

  58. Kylopod says:


    I could make a very long list. Starting with Mein Kampf and moving down from there.

    A more concise way of making the same point I was trying to make.

  59. JohnMcC says:

    @Mimai: The Turner Diaries?

  60. Kathy says:

    @Sleeping Dog:

    Good one.

  61. Jen says:


    50 Shades of Grey (or is it Gray? I can’t remember and I don’t want that in my search history…)

    I have plenty more, but a friend of mine warned me off of that book (not that I’d considered it) because she said the grammar and dialogue would drive me nuts.

  62. CSK says:

    I can’t remember who wrote that, either, but I understand it’s execrable–not that I know anyone who’d admit to having read it.

  63. Jen says:

    @CSK: Our library keeps getting multiple copies donated for the book sale. It’s crazy how popular that series was…

  64. CSK says:

    Crap sells.

  65. Kathy says:

    Somehow I got ahead of my workload, so I’m browsing through older OTB posts.

    Here’s one that should be really frightening: One Million Dead from COVID-19 Worldwide

    The graphic is for worldwide numbers at the end of September 2020, not quite six months ago. In short:

    33.5 million cases
    1.006 million deaths

    As of yesterday, and I reiterate no quite six months later, the worldwide numbers are:

    159.89 million cases
    3.32 million deaths

    Overall, I give the present iteration of humanity a failing grade in handling the pandemic, with a some notable exceptions. The much-vaunted Western Civilization ranks low, with America indisputably at the bottom (though India is working hard to change that).

  66. Kurtz says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Most Americans can’t afford that.

    Just throw it over the fence with the rest of shit 40-60% of Americans can’t afford. Ya know, those luxuries like shelter and access to healthcare.

    Financialization of everything. Passive income icentivized over productive activity. Stagnant wages; skyrocketing salaries. Rights subject to a wealth check. Election success dependent on funding rather than persuasion.

    There is a common denominator here. I keep squinting–but it… But…my eyes…They refuse to focus.

  67. Mimai says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Let me push on this a bit….for shits and giggles. Let’s start with the “necessities” as a way of working toward the “luxuries.”

    Necessities: food, clothing, shelter seem obvious. What else?

  68. CSK says:

    @Mimai: Medical care.

  69. Mimai says:


    This is good. Without getting too much into the weeds at this point, could we put some rough boundaries around that (for the sake of argument)? Eg, primary care? All care sans elective?

  70. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Mimai: Asked the Interwebs (because I have no creativity) and what people were saying here was what I saw there–stuff by Rand, the Bible, Mein Kampf seem to be the biggies. For my personal reaction, I’d be inclined to go with any title generally recognized as “literature” but only because my interpretational theory is when you tie a book to a chair and beat it with a rubber hose, it agrees to be whatever you want. I suspect that we’d not have much to talk about in the long run. Particularly if the person in question “likes reading” (not that I don’t, but I’m not particularly “contemplative” about what I read).

  71. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @CSK: Hey! Watch it! I resemble that remark. (But I didn’t read any of the “Shades of Grey.” Erotica has never had any appeal for some reason.)

  72. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Kathy: Yay! Checked my county’s Covid numbers. We’re down under 150 current cases (but still over 100) for the first time in about 9 or 10 months (~100K total population) and had only 3 new cases yesterday. Maybe we’re finally starting to flatten our curve here.

  73. Jax says:

    @Mimai: Basic medical care, including dental and vision. It’s hard to get a decent job with no teeth and bad eyeballs. Stuff like insulin, asthma medications, things that keep workers alive on a daily basis, need to be low cost.

  74. grumpy realist says:

    @Mimai: @dazedandconfused: I’d say “anything by Ayn Rand aside from Anthem” would be my first guess. (Anthem I’ve heard is more autobiographical than anything else.) But “Atlas Shrugged” or “The Fountainhead”? Um, no.

    (I might say “anything by Dan Brown” as well. His writing makes my teeth hurt.)

  75. Kurtz says:


    It’s a tough question once one goes beyond food and water. Those are baseline, because a person can only live so long without them.

    Perhaps more importantly, there are so many different approaches to look at each potential need, and multiple ways to look at the whole with each example sorted.

    Where do you put sleep? Is that fully covered under shelter? Does a car count as shelter? For the dirt bag movement, long-haul truck drivers, and Amazon arbitragers, yes they would consider a car their shelter. For most, no.

    If we are going to accept that access to guns is a fundamental right, rather than an auxiliary right in support of the fundamental right to security, doesn’t shelter also fall under that rubric as well?

    Healthcare is also strange, as you point out. Everyone will need it at some point, but some won’t need it for decades. On this point, one of the issues I’ve had with our laissez faire friends is they emphasize moral hazards, but ignore others.

    Your specific field may be the best illustration here: at one point does mental healthcare become a necessity for a patient? Is the standard a danger posed? What do you do if someone is on Pristiq long-term but loses access? (one of our friends here recently spoke about a similar situation with their wife.) The risk of a person who loses access is unpredictable AND the nature of the category of risk is unpredictable.

    My preferred approach is to look at it this way:

    Draw a distinction between necessities regardless of societal structure and necessities that a particular societal structure adds to that baseline list of intrinsic needs.

  76. Mimai says:


    You raise important points that could take us in lots of directions. But for the sake of focus, perhaps I’ll note that it is instructive how many question marks arise when one scratches just below the surface. I suppose this is what I was hoping to highlight (and grapple with) in my initial comment.

    I get frustrated by most discussions of these issues (note, I’m speaking generally, not about this comment thread specifically). To much “Look how expensive X is…that’s unacceptable, immoral, [yada yada yada]!” Not enough “Where does X fit in my [our] taxonomy of needs, wants, etc?” Even less of the “What is the source and context of these needs, wants, etc?”

    Is this last thing what you’re getting at with your preferred approach of how to look at it? Perhaps I’m misunderstanding you, but it seems to me your approach is the negation of context, which is hard for me to wrap my head around. How does one define “intrinsic needs” that are divorced from “societal structure”? And moreover, how does one distinguish needs from wants without taking context into account (paging Rene Girard)?

  77. Kurtz says:


    I have a long response almost finished. I hope to discuss it further with you tomorrow.
    It’s late, so here is the short version.

    I define needs divorced from societal structure as the basic, physical requirements to continue living. So food, water, shelter, sleep, clothing.

    Those are needs independent of any society–term them biological. Exiting social order will not alter those basic requirements.

  78. Kurtz says:


    I didn’t touch on one other thing that falls under biological needs: sociality. I avoided it on purpose to maintain focus. I think one thing that classical liberalism, especially it’s more economics-focused adherents and descendents, fails to truly grapple with is the extent to which society is a function of evolutionary mechanisms rather than a technology derived from biological endowment.

    Analogy: the biological endowment of language as distinct from the derived technology of writing.

    Specific variations of social order are like different writing systems.

  79. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @grumpy realist: Anthem is terrible. I made the mistake of assigning it to a Language Arts class I had one year. I was embarrassed at having made them read it. Worst, most transparent story evah! The students were predicting the climax and denouement at the end of about page 5, I think. 🙁

  80. Mimai says:


    …physical requirements to continue living. So food, water, shelter, sleep, clothing. Those are needs independent of any society…

    This is helpful, thanks. On the one hand, it seems silly to specify. On the other hand, definitions are essential, even for the basic (heh) stuff.

    I didn’t touch on one other thing that falls under biological needs: sociality.

    This seems in tension to your other point. Perhaps you resolve it in your longer response. Rather than push on it right now, I will instead agree with your sentiment about the economic fetishists (my term, maybe uncharitable) and their failure to give due attention/respect to the entirety of the social dimension. They often focus exclusively on the trade aspect and little else.

    Interestingly, the anti-religionists often do similarly….that is, they fail to appreciate the social binding mechanism of religion and its (likely) evolutionary roots. Funny how people who position themselves as political/social enemies are often on the same “team” from a functional POV. This is more than just hypocrisy. But that is a different discussion.

  81. Kurtz says:


    This seems in tension to your other point. Perhaps you resolve it in your longer response.

    There are some simple ways to resolve those tensions. The more I think about it, it seems like a really promising angle to pursue in the context of the ethics as well. I’m only saying that as a reminder to myself for when I go with the longer explanations. (It may also give us a frame to view Brennan’s arguments about democracy as well.)

    I will instead agree with your sentiment about the economic fetishists (my term, maybe uncharitable) and their failure to give due attention/respect to the entirety of the social dimension. They often focus exclusively on the trade aspect and little else.

    1.) it’s more charitable than what I would call that segment: property paraphiliacs 😉

    2.) One of the reasons I cite Rothbard: he resisted the 20th century revisionism that placed socialism outside classical liberalism. The Cold War is fascinating for me, because it was corrosive to domestic politics, but may have been beneficial in geopolitics from a systemic perspective.*

    I’m firm in my atheism. But I am not an anti-theist. Of the four horsemen of atheism, I much prefer Dennett. He’s more rigorous in his treatment of religion than even Dawkins and seems to be on a different playing field (different sport?) than Hitchens and Harris.

    *different discussion for another time.

  82. Mimai says:


    The more I think about it, it seems like a really promising angle to pursue in the context of the ethics as well.

    Yes, this is very relevant to ethics. I love to engage in purely theoretical mental masturbation as much as the next guy, but ethics are fundamentally (and I mean that word in its true sense…don’t get me started on its misuse) rooted in human sociology. That said, you did make a point about “physical requirements” to sustain life, which is what I reacted to. No need to go back to that, as it doesn’t advance the discussion.

    It is this implicit sociology that underlies many of “our” disagreements on matters of needs vs. wants/desires. Layer on the different definitions of rights (positive vs. negative) and look the $%&# out….wars get started over less.

    But going back to the comment that sparked this: avg price of new/used car, assertion that most can’t afford it, calling it a “joke.” It’s interesting to me how differently people approach this and react to it.

    [rhetorical questions] Are you a stats person, economic justice person, efficient markets person, just deserts person, relative deprivation person, burn it all down person, etc? Do you even know what type of person you are….most of the time, for specific issues, for specific people? These are the questions that I like to probe on – both to hear from people with other perspectives and also to understand my own perspective(s) better. So much easier to do in person, over long walks/evenings/etc…….but online casts a wider net so there’s that (width vs. depth).

    property paraphiliacs

    Nice, I will steal that…..and use it without proper attribution (sorry, not sorry).

    I’m firm in my atheism. But I am not an anti-theist….

    Did you see that recent Scott A. post on internet atheism, feminism, and wokeism? Methinks you will dig it.

  83. Kurtz says:


    I saw the post and dug it. And I laughed about the talking about the internet means “we are talking about crazy people.” And then I thought, “oh.”

    My long post is pretty scattered and bloated. My Word document entitled “OTB posts and fragments” grows daily. I will strive for clarity here.

    Anyway. What I meant by an interesting approach to ethics was that under no circumstances can a society change whether a human being can continue to live without water and caloric intake.

    If we accept that as true, does this give us an entry-point to foundationalism? Or do we still have to justify a natural right to life outside of any societal context? It seems to me that if we don’t have a natural right to continue living, then why are we even discussing any other natural rights?

    But if we can agree that at whatever point CNS complexity is sufficient to give rise to consciousness, we inherit an inalienable right to life, then we have to evaluate any other proposed natural right in the context of whether it interferes with the foundational right to life.

    For example, if Elvis has a natural right to full autonomy with no restriction beyond his own beliefs, no one else has any right to autonomy in relation to the King. The King can give anyone he pleases a California Smile. To question that action would violate the foundational principle, that Elvis has the right to full autonomy.

    So, to suggest we all possess a natural right to life upon the acquisition of consciousness is to limit every person’s autonomy in relation to each other just enough to allow for that right for all. (If one person is given full autonomy, it dictates that no one else does.)

    I tend to be squeamish about foundational approaches to ethics, because it’s pretty difficult to derive them from a place outside of the social context.

    But it seems to me that if we accept that no human society can change the fact that a human being requires water and caloric intake to continue living, then it may open the door to a foundational approach that doesn’t rely on social context.

    Does that make more sense?

    Why there is no tension:

    Sociality in general may indeed be a biological need, but that hardly means that it dictates a specific form of social order no more than the biological capacity for language dictates a specific language.* But it may rule out some potential structures based on whether its conventions arrogates an individual’s right to life.

    * Or as a more germane parallel: the need for caloric intake need not dictate we eat oranges rather than apples.

  84. Mimai says:


    under no circumstances can a society change whether a human being can continue to live without water and caloric intake.

    Well, at least not yet anyway. But yes, we can accept this as true for now.

    Re natural right to living, I think we can accept this as well – Cioran is one of my fave philosophers but I’m no anti-natalist or misanthrope (or psychopath for that matter).

    I also agree with your take on autonomy vis-a-vis self and others.

    Re your squemishness, I think it’s similar to my previous point about ethics being inherently social. And even if we could decontextualize their foundation, then what? Stated differently, my perspective is that all ethics are applied ethics. I think we agree on this, yes?

    Where I’m still struggling is when you write

    But it seems to me that if we accept that no human society can change the fact that a human being requires water and caloric intake to continue living, then it may open the door to a foundational approach that doesn’t rely on social context.

    You seem to be saying that if we accept [1] humans require water/calories to live, and [2] this requirement is independent of society (ie, a marooned sailor needs water/calories just as much as a person living on kibbutzim), then we can conclude/assume [3].

    I agree with [1] and [2] but I’m not sure what your [3] is saying. Social contact is indeed baked into the human cake. And it has all kinds of biological underpinnings, correlates, and consequences (incidentally, this is the type of thing that my lab studies). But the “biology” of this is of a different kind than water/calories. Are we in agreement and just using different words?

  85. Mimai says:


    Sociality in general may indeed be a biological need, but that hardly means that it dictates a specific form of social order no more than the biological capacity for language dictates a specific language.* But it may rule out some potential structures based on whether its conventions arrogates an individual’s right to life.

    Forgot to respond to this. I agree with the first part.

    The “rule out” part I want to clarify. Do you mean that it prevents the establishment of such a social structure? Do you mean that it constrains the proliferation/viability of such a social structure? Both?

    I think that if we accept the biological pressure toward social contact, the establishment can proceed but the proliferation cannot. After all, such a social system is suicidal in the end.