Monday, December 31, 2012

Memorize: Sci-Fi Short

A decent Swedish concept film by aspiring directors Jimmy Eriksson and Erik Ramberg.  The film takes place in 2027, where everyone is implanted with a chip which can record everything an individual sees. This new technology allows the stylish paramilitary police unit known as the Special Surveillance Unit (SSU) to effectively become judge, jury and executioner a la Judge Dredd.

Though it is a short film, and as such has a limited scope, I would liked to have seen a deeper exploration of the technology as opposed to the non-stop action scenes.  Also the lack of dialogue made it feel a little off.  On the other hand, I thought it did a wonderful job of conveying a futuristic world through it's use of CGI.  I also liked the Kage Bunshin holograms ;)


Memorize - Short Film from Jimmy Eriksson on Vimeo.

Here is a link to a lower quality youtube version if you have trouble with the one above.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Firewall

An intriguing interactive art installation put forth by the collaborative efforts of Aaron Sherwood and Mike Allison.


Firewall from Aaron Sherwood on Vimeo.

You can read more about the project here.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

IQ test not so smart?

An interesting article on Kurzweilai regarding a large research study conducted by a Canadian Western University research team which concluded that the concept of a general intelligence or 'IQ' is highly misleading.

The online study, which was open to the general public, asked respondents to complete 12 cognitive test on memory, reasoning, attention and planning abilities, as well as a survey about their background and lifestyle habits.  The results showed that variations in performance on the tests could only be explained with at least three distinct components: short-term memory, reasoning and verbal ability.

According to senior investigator Adrian M. Owen "Regular brain training didn't help people's cognitive performance at all yet aging had a profound negative effect on both memory and reasoning abilities."

Researcher Adam Hampshire stated "Intriguingly, people who regularly played computer games did perform significantly better in terms of both reasoning and short-term memory".

I find it very interesting that "brain training" doesn't seem to help cognitive performance yet those who regularly play video games performed better.  Of course correlation doesn't necessarily mean causation.  Perhaps individuals that possess higher cognitive abilities find video games more appealing than those with average and (or) below average abilities.  On the other hand, if there is something about playing video games which enables one to enhance their cognitive functions then this would indicate that regular "brain training" could actually be beneficial but that it is currently done wrong.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Two years of blogging

Where does the time go?  I can't believe it has been two years since I started this blog!  This was actually my second attempt at blogging.  The first, which I started a number of years ago, did not last more than a few months.  For some reason this time around I have been a lot more committed to keeping this thing alive.

My original intention with starting this blog was to have a place that I could take note of things that I found interesting, clarify my thinking and to flesh out ideas.  This kind of personal blogging is a strange thing.  It is like you are having this conversation with yourself that you are also openly sharing with whoever may want to be a part of it.  This curious combination does come at a price.  On one hand you are writing for completely personal reasons, but as time goes on and more people start to read your blog, you begin to think about things more from the readers perspective.  This, to some degree, can affects what you post since you are thinking about how you will be perceived by others.  I don't believe it has had a large impact on what I have written but it does cause one to pause and reflect before clicking the publish button.  On second thought maybe it isn't a negative at all since it can force you to give more consideration to things instead of just going with a preconceived bias.

Anyway, while I can't say that the blog has been a runaway success, it has been a lot of fun seeing it develop from a monthly average of 140 views the first year to 1080 average views the second year.  It's kind of funny how sometimes the posts you put the most into will get next to no views while the ones you put almost no thought into are most popular.  For instance, when I first started this blog I wrote two papers on the federal debt.  The first paper was an introduction to the problem while the second one delved more into the details.  Both were well cited works which took a fair amount of time to write.  To date, the first one has had thirty views and the second one has had ten views.  On the other side, I wrote a short post on the bare bones basics of flowcharts which has a simple example I nabbed from somewhere.  That post, for whatever reason, consistently gets hits every month and to date has had just over a thousand views.

Then there are the shooting star posts which shine brightly for a short period before burning out.  The one experience I have had with this was my post on a short sci-fi cgi film called Ruin.  I must have stumbled upon it at just the right moment.  Over the course of 3 days I received about two thousand views and then after that, next to nothing.

Anyway, I think overall the whole blogging thing has been a worthwhile endeavor.  I would like to thank those of you who have taken time out of your busy lives to share in some of my interests and thoughts.  I would also like to encourage you to try blogging out for yourselves.  I read a number of blogs myself but am especially interested in what friends and family members are thinking about.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Economic Freedom

This past September, the Fraser Institute released it's 2012 Economic Freedom of the World report.  The annual report is an index of nations ranked from most free to least which is constructed by using over 40 variables in five broad areas: (1) size of government: expenditures, taxes, and enterprises; (2) legal structure and security of property rights; (3) access to sound money; (4) freedom to trade internationally; and (5) regulation of credit, labor and business.  The 2012 report uses data from 2010 and includes 144 nations.

Though the United States has long been considered a model of economic freedom, it has experienced a considerable decline in recent years.  "From 1980 to 2000, the United States was generally rated the third freest economy in the world, ranking behind only Hong Kong and Singapore. After increasing steadily during the period from 1980 to 2000, the chain linked EFW rating of the United States fell from 8.65 in 2000 to 8.21 in 2005 and 7.70 in 2010. The chain-linked ranking of the United States has fallen precipitously from second in 2000 to eighth in 2005 and 19th in 2010 (unadjusted ranking of 18th)".1

Here is a table I created showing the ranking of the United States from 2000 to 2010.

Given that there is strong evidence to support a causal relationship between higher levels of economic freedom and economic prosperity, there is cause for concern over our decline in the rankings.  Year after year, nations ranked in the top quartile of economic freedom have consistently had higher average per-capita GDP, higher average income for the poorest 10%, higher life expectancy and higher political and civil liberties than the bottom quartile.1  Exhibits 1.7, 1.8, 1.9, 1.10, 1.11 and 1.12 are taken from the 2012 report and show the results in these four areas for 2010.1

Unfortunately I don't believe our near future outlook is good.  As both government debt and regulation continues to grow I don't foresee any improvement on next years report.





































1. Fraser Institute: Economic Freedom of the World 2012

*Originally posted on 12/06/12.  Updated on 12/16/12.





Monday, December 10, 2012

Brain Teaser 14: Four Card Problem

A nice little logic problem I found here at curiouser.co.uk.

You are presented with the four cards represented in the illustration below.  Each card has a number on one side and a letter on the other.

You are told that every card that has a vowel on one side has an even number on its opposite side.
Which card or cards must you turn over in order to determine whether or not that statement is true?


Answer

Monday, December 3, 2012

Evil Plotting Boxes


 Great pareidolia picture of two 'evil plotting boxes' making it's way through the blogosphere.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Where light meets architecture: Lighter on London

Shot in 2010 by Dentsu as a commercial for Green Tomato Cars; an eco friendly taxi service.  The laser murals where created using technology developed by a company called Sensaa 


Lighter On London :: Laser Murals from greentomatocars on Vimeo.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Where light meets architecture: night lights

A 2010 joint effort by YesYesNo, The Church, Inside Out Productions and Electric Canvas to turn the Auckland Ferry Building in New Zealand into a interactive light show.


night lights from zach lieberman on Vimeo.

Read more at YesYesNo

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Where light meets architecture: Perspective Lyrique

I have been fascinated by the new and imaginative ways many artist are embracing and using technology.  This is especially true in the creative marriage of light and architecture.  So in appreciation of these marvelous installations I will post one of my top picks each day for the next week or so.



PERSPECTIVE LYRIQUE from 1024 on Vimeo.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Monday, November 26, 2012

Hatin' on Walmart

I saw this posted a few times recently on facebook:


Spend enough time on facebook and you will find that this is a common attack against the giant retail chain.  One thing which I have always found curious though is that these sort of criticisms are regularly made against Walmart, but you never see them made against Target.

So why is it that Walmart is seen as the evil empire to be rejected by communities while Target is warmly embraced?  Well it isn't due to the difference in what they pay their employees.  According to this AOL article based on payscale.com data, the two companies pay their hourly employees the same amount.  There is some difference between the two when it comes to salaried (management) employees but this also is greatly equalized when you take into consideration annual bonuses.

So if it isn't due to a difference in employee pay then what is it?  I suspect it is largely due to the difference between their clientele.  According to this 2005 Scarborough market research study, those shoppers that would shop at Target but not Walmart (Target exclusive) are more likely to come from upscale households that also shop at stores such as Nordstrom, Macy's, Costco, Mervin's, ect.  On the other hand, Walmart exclusive shoppers tend to have less income and shop at other stores such as Dollar General, Family Dollar, Big Lots, Kmart, etc.  So this is the question; do the people who criticize Walmart but not Target do so because they see Target as fitting into what is acceptable within their social/economic class and thus hypocritically give it a free pass?

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Gustav Hoegen's Animatronics

The unbelievable animatronics of Gustav Hoegen.  The music is pretty annoying so you might want to watch it with the volume off.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Inattentional Blindness/Selective Attention

I remember seeing this 'count the passes' video a number of years ago and being completely blown away by it.  If you have never seen it, check it out before reading any further.



The video is a famous demonstration of what is known in the psychology world as inattentional blindness or what some researchers call selective attention.  Inattentional Blindness is the failure to notice some object which is fully visible but unexpected because attention was focused on some other object or task.

There are four criteria which must be met for a failure of awareness to be considered an example of inattentional blindness. 1) The observers fails to notice a visual object or event.  2) The object or event is fully-visible and observers readily see it if they are looking for it.  3) The failure to notice results from engagement of attention on other aspects of the display and not from aspects of the visual stimulus itself.  4) The object or event is unexpected. 1

Four factors which may affect inattentional blindness include:
Conspicuity - An objects tendency to capture our attention.
Mental Workload - How much of our attention is divided unto other things.
Expectation - How expecting certain things can have a tendency to block out other possibilities.
Capacity - An individuals capacity to focus attention which is also related to how much attention is needed for a particular task.  2

Inattentional blindness is often a major topic in public safety research which seeks to limit the use of cell phones while driving. 3

Here are a couple of entertaining videos on inattentional blindness.  As explained above, for this phenomenon to work the viewer must not be expecting and thus looking for something peculiar.  With this in mind you may not be fooled by the following but then again, maybe one will get passed you.






1. http://www.scholarpedia.org/article/Inattentional_blindness

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Plurality: Sci-Fi Short Film

For a movie that was created with what director Dennis Liu calls a "micro budget", Plurality delivers a big production look.  The story takes place in a future New York city where a new technology known as the grid matches all of a persons information to their DNA.  This information is then accessed and monitored through innumerable sensors throughout the city which allow individuals to electronically open doors, start cars or make purchases through touch.  Hints of a darker consequence start to unfold as the story progresses leaving you wanting more than the 13 minutes can provide.  

Monday, November 12, 2012

Lewis Lavoie's Mural Mosaics

The astounding mural mosaic paintings of Canadian artist Lewis Lavoie. Mural Mosaic is a process that takes individual paintings and places them in a specific order to create a large painting.  It is staggering the amount of creativity that goes into each piece.  It should be noted that some of these projects are completed entirely by Lewis Lavoie while other are done in collaboration with numerous artist in a community effort.


Adam by Lewis Lavoie







Buffalo Twins by Lewis Lavoie & 270 other artist






Cultivate Life by Lewis Lavoie & 145 other artist


Close up of Cultivate Life


Le Cadeau Du Cheval "The Horse Gift" Lewis Lavoie & 173 other artist


Close up of Le Cadeau Du Cheval


Click here to check out Lavoie's website where you can see a completed project from a distance and then zoom in to to view the individual paintings.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Mask of Love Illusion

What do you see when you look at this Venetian mask?


Can't see anything special?  Here is a video to help.

Monday, November 5, 2012

C.S. Lewis quote on tyranny

"Of all tyrannies a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber barons cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience." - Clive Staples "CS" Lewis

Friday, November 2, 2012

Are psychopaths better at making themselves attractive?

A new study by Holtzman and Strube of Washington University shows that people with dark personality traits are effective at making themselves attractive.  Specifically, the team looked at what is referred to as adorned attractiveness which is the ability to enhance physical attractiveness through such things as wearing stylish clothing, jewelry, use of makeup, hairstyle, etc.  The researchers found that those who possessed one or more  personality traits of the Dark Triad (Machiavellianism, narcissism, and psychopathy) were more effective at adorning themselves than those with personality traits from The Big Five (extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, emotional stability, and intellect).

According to the authors "This study provides the first experimental evidence that dark personalities construct appearances that act as social lures—possibly facilitating their cunning social strategies."


http://spp.sagepub.com/content/early/2012/10/02/1948550612461284.abstract?papetoc

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/head-games/201210/why-are-mean-people-so-good-looking

http://www.bostonglobe.com/ideas/2012/10/20/villainous-people-are-hotter/Hmuk5Uj7ZVkDXAQM5FygBL/story.html


Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Philips hue Lighting System

The Philips hue is a lighting system which provides control of the brightness and color of your lighting through an iPad or iPhone.  With hue you can create various mood lighting themes, control & monitor lights remotely through your smart phone or tablet, set timers to help with routines (for example, lights turn red when you are about to be late for work), or have the lights gradually brighten as you wake up in the morning.

For $200 you get three bulbs and a controller. Additional bulbs will cost about $60.

 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The As If Principle

A short video from Richard Wiseman to promote his new book Rip It Up on the 'As If' principle or what is more commonly known through the phrase "Fake it till you make it"


Monday, October 29, 2012

High tech warfare: Boeing tests CHAMP missile

Militaries, like the rest of the world, have become ever more reliant upon computerized systems to carryout their goals.  It is no wonder then that there has been increased research into methods which could disrupt or destroy such systems.  Recently, Boeing and the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) successfully tested such a weapon named CHAMP (Counter-electronics High-powered Advanced Missile Project).

CHAMP is essentially a missile which, when fired over a target, can shoot bursts of microwaves which incapacitate or damage electronic systems.  It has a narrow targeting system which allows it to effect electronics within one building while leaving systems in nearby buildings unaffected.

Here is a video discussing the technology and demonstrating it's use.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The go anywhere vehicle:Scamander ATV



I'm not much of a car guy but this video of the amphibious Scamander ATV is impressive. The Scamander was the brainchild of Peter Wheeler, former owner of TVR automotive. Wheeler started the project in 2003 but sadly died in 2009 before it was finished. Fortunately his wife and a team of engineers were able to complete the project resulting in this amazing vehicle which is seemingly able to traverse difficult terrain as well as smoothly navigate across the water.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Tax Loopholes

It seems to me that there has been an overuse of the word loophole lately.  In terms of taxation, a loophole is an unintentional ambiguity or omission in the law that allows people to reduce their taxes.  The key word here is unintentional.  If the government creates a tax deduction, it is intentionally expressing that it's citizens are allowed to take the deduction.  The same is true for the different tax rates that the government established for ordinary income, capital gains, section 1231 property, etc.

So basically what I'm getting at is that deductions for charitable donations, mortgage interest, state/local taxes paid, employee contributions to retirement accounts, accelerated depreciation, and the domestic production deduction are not tax loopholes.  The exclusion from taxable income of employer contributions to retirement accounts and exclusion of employer provided health insurance are not loopholes.  The lower rate on capital gains are not loopholes. These are all things I have seen in various articles referred to as loopholes.  By definition they are not.

Now I'm not saying that all of these things are sacred cows.  I'm only suggesting that we have an honest discussion about such things without all the psychological trickery.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Sonja Hinrichsen's Snow Circles

Snow art created by San Francisco based artist Sonja Hinrichsen (and a number of volunteers) while visiting Rabbit Ear Pass, Colorado earlier this year.



Monday, October 22, 2012

Brain Sensing Headband

Remember how the mouse dramatically changed the way we interacted with our computers?  Now the hip new interface is the touchscreen which can be found on our tablets, phones, music players, etc.  Makes you wonder what the next big innovation might be.

Well a company called InteraXon would like it to be a headband which would allow us to use our thoughts to control our computers.  Currently the company is trying to raise $150,000 on indiegogo for a sci-fi looking product called Muse.  There is not much information on exactly what you will be able to do with Muse, but it seems at this point they are promoting more the idea of using it as a self help tool (say to improve concentration, lower stress, etc.) as opposed to controlling gadgets.  I'm sure this is due to current limitations of such technology but I think it is probably only a matter of time before such devices will be fully developed and in widespread use.


Friday, October 19, 2012

Lies, Damned Lies and Politicians: Joe Biden

I think I'm going to start a new line of posts about politicians who blatantly lie to promote their agendas, careers, etc.

I just read this ABC article regarding a statement Joe Biden made during the VP debate.  While discussing Medicare reform he referred to his role in the 1983 Social Security negotiations stating “Look, I was there when we did that with Social Security in 1983. I was one of eight people sitting in the room that included Tip O’Neill negotiating with President Reagan. We all got together and everybody said, as long as everybody’s in the deal, everybody’s in the deal, and everybody is making some sacrifice, we can find a way.”

This wasn't the first time he made the implication that he was a key player in the negotiations.  On Meet the Press in April of 2007 he said he was “one of five people — I was the junior guy — in the meeting with Bob Dole and George Mitchell when we put Social Security on the right path for 60 years.”

But according to the ABC article, Biden was not a key player in the Social Security reform.  "Those close to the Social Security reform process say that the chief negotiations were made between then-Sens. Bob Dole, R-Kansas, and Daniel Patrick Moynihan, D-N.Y., through the National Commission on Social Security Reform, which worked throughout 1982 on recommendations to help guarantee the solvency of the program, and conducted final negotiations in January 1983. The commission kept President Ronald Reagan and House Speaker Tip O’Neill, D-Mass., in the loop throughout the process.  President Reagan signed their work into law in April 1983. There were 15 members of the commission, including Dole, Moynihan, and two other senators; Biden was not one of them. Nor was he at the signing ceremony."1

This really shouldn't be of any surprise considering Joe's vast history with stretching the truth.  For instance, during his 1988 presidential campaign, while responding to a question asked about his grades in law school he responded that he had "went to law school on a full academic scholarship - the only one in my class to have a full academic scholarship" that he "ended up in the top half of my class" and "graduated with three degrees from undergraduate school".  In actuality he had received a half scholarship to law school based on financial need with some assistance based upon academics, had graduated in the bottom 10% of his class and had not three but one undergrad degree with a double major in history and political science.2



1. Jake Tapper. "In VP Debate, Biden Seemed to Overstate His Role in Social Security Reform" abc News 16 October 2012 http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2012/10/in-vp-debate-biden-seemed-to-overstate-his-role-in-social-security-reform/

2. Joe Biden. Wikipedia. accessed 10/19/2012 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joe_Biden

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Distribution of Wealth

A friend of mine posted this picture on his Facebook showing the distribution of wealth in the United States.


The part of the graph I want to focus on is the actual distribution of wealth.  I have seen many such graphs in the past mostly from progressive authors promoting the idea that government needs to do something to equalize wealth.  The framing of such articles seem to often imply that wealth distribution in the United States is completely out of step with the rest of the world and that we need to be more like Europe which would serve to equalize things.  With this in mind, I started wondering just how wealth was distributed in other parts of the world.  Finding this information was more difficult than I thought it would be.  I did finally come across this 2008 paper which provides the wealth distribution for a number of different (mostly European) countries.  Here is the most useful table from the report.

Note: This information pertains to wealth distribution, not income distribution.  Second, I really hate the word distribution when discussing such things since it can leave the a reader who is unfamiliar with economics with the idea that wealth is 'distributed'.  Keep in mind that the word distribution here is being used as it would be when discussing statistics.  


I don't much care for how the information is presented so here are some pie charts for various countries listed in the above table (I'm better at working with pie charts than bar graphs so this is what you get).












Here is the wealth distribution from the first bar graph presented as a pie chart for comparison purposes.


Obviously the data is somewhat dated but as I said above, it was the best information I could find.  If anyone knows of another source please leave a comment with a link.

Based on the above information, it doesn't look as if the United States is all that different than other parts of the world.  Obviously the U.S. is at the higher end of the spectrum with the top 20% having 84% of the wealth but in other parts of the world the rich command a somewhat similar share of wealth.  This is not all that surprising to me as it seems to follow the Pareto Principle (also known as the 80-20 rule).

What is somewhat surprising is Denmark.  For some reason there bottom 40% seem to have negative wealth (especially the bottom 20% with -17.3%).  This is very interesting since I have always been under that impression that Denmark has a massive welfare system.  It is certainly worth further investigation.


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Starry Night made from Dominos

I'm amazed at the level of commitment and focus some people can direct toward ephemeral projects.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Batman Uses Apple Maps

Apple has been taking a beating over replacing Google Maps with it's own patch work version called Apple Maps.  It seems even the Dark Knight has been thrown off his game by his reliance on the program.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Giant Spiders Overtake Seattle Center Armory


Something to get you into the Halloween spirit.  Artist Marlin Peterson received a grant to paint a giant mural somewhere in the city of Seattle.  He chose to paint two giant daddy long legs, which when viewed from above at the nearby space needle, look very realistic.  What a great illusion!




Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Monday, October 1, 2012

Brain Teaser 13: Two Coins

Imagine that I toss two coins and I tell you at least one of them comes up heads. What is the probability that the other one is also a head?

Answer


Friday, September 28, 2012

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The 47%


I have seen a lot discussions/rants lately on Facebook regarding the poor, welfare, ect.  People on both sides of the spectrum are fervently expressing their feelings about these issues, so I thought I would write a short response addressing the majority of these posts.

I know I've said this before but in my opinion most people suffer from the use of black and white thinking when it comes to the welfare issue.  The far right believes it's a lack of work ethic and bad decisions which cause people to be on welfare.  The far left believes it's a matter of circumstance and not the fault of the individual.  We mentally lump people into convenient categories and then utilize over generalized ideologies and principles to come up with our solutions.

In truth, it is really difficult if not impossible to know how responsible "the poor" are for their economic situation.  Why?  Because this group is composed of millions of individuals, each with a past, present and future.  Unless we have a close relationship with a particular person, it is impossible to know the circumstances they are immersed in, how they have lived their lives, the decisions they have made, their present mindset, or how they are planning for their future.  Without this knowledge, it seems wholly unfair to lump all poor people together and judge them on the simple assumptions of either ideological viewpoint.  It is this information limitation which should cause people on both sides of the extreme to re-examine their way of thinking about the issue.

This is not to suggest that such things cannot be discussed or that categorizing people is not useful.  I am only saying that we should try to move beyond the typical way we discuss difficult issues.  We need to move beyond the us vs them mentality which has been fostered by too much exposure to Fox News or MSNBC.  Seeking real solutions means genuinely looking at all sides of an issue by actively trying to limit our confirmation bias. The point here is that we first have to recognize our own cognitive limitations before we can ever attempt to tackle difficult social/economic issues.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Remote Controlled Body

Now your bosses can catch you goofing off no matter where in the world they are.

 

Developed by Suitable Technologies, Beam is the latest roving telepresence system to hit the market.  Pricing starts at $16,000 a unit.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Quadcopter Light Show

Unique light show of 49 quadcopters flying in various formations at the voestalpine Klangwolke art and technology festival in Austria. The small copters are computer controlled to move in unison and create various shapes while timed color changes create a mesmerizing twinkling effect.





Here is a video of the team practicing the formations during the day before the event.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Sight

A very clever sci-fi short film which envisions a future world dependent on augmented reality, social networking and the integration of gaming into everyday life.  Sight was created by Eran May-raz and Daniel Lazo as their graduation project from the Bezalel Academy of Arts.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Justice with Michael Sandel Episode 4


Episode 4
Part I - This Land Is My Land

Today, we turn to John Locke.

On the face of it, Locke is a powerful ally of the libertarian. First, he believes, as libertarians today maintain, that there are certain fundamental individual rights that are so important that no government, even a representative government, even a democratically elected government, can override them. Not only that, he believes that those fundamental rights include a natural right to life, liberty, and property, and furthermore he argues that the right to property is not just the creation of government or of law.The right to property is a natural right in the sense that it is pre-political. It is a right that attaches to individuals as human beings, even before government comes on the scene, even before parliaments and legislatures enact laws to define rights and to enforce them.

Locke and Natural Rights
Locke says in order to think about what it means to have a natural right, we have to imagine the way things are before government, before law, and that's what Locke means by the state of nature. He says the state of nature is a state of liberty. Human beings are free and equal beings. There is no natural hierarchy. It's not the case that some people are born to be kings and others are born to be serfs. We are free and equal in the state of nature and yet, he makes the point that there is a difference between a state of liberty and a state of license. And the reason is that even in the state of nature, there is a kind of law. It's not the kind of law that legislatures enact. It's a law of nature. And this law of nature constrains what we can do even though we are free, even though we are in the state of nature.

Well what are the constraints? The only constraint given by the law of nature is that the rights we have, the natural rights we have we can't give up nor can we take them from somebody else. Under the law of nature, I'm not free to take somebody else's life or liberty or property, nor am I free to take my own life or liberty or property. Even though I am free, I'm not free to violate the law of nature. I'm not free to take my own life or to sell my self into slavery or to give to somebody else arbitrary absolute power over me.

So where does this constraint, you may think it's a fairly minimal constraint, but where does it come from? Well, Locke tells us where it comes from and he gives two answers. Here is the first answer."For men, being all the workmanship of one omnipotent, and infinitely wise maker," namely God, "they are his property, whose workmanship they are, made to last during his, not one another's pleasure." So one answer to the question is why can't I give up my natural rights to life, liberty, and property is well, they're not, strictly speaking, yours. After all, you are the creature of God. God has a bigger property right in us, a prior property right.

Now, you might say that's an unsatisfying, unconvincing answer, at least for those who don't believe in God. What did Locke have to say to them? Well, here is where Locke appeals to the idea of reason and this is the idea, that if we properly reflect on what it means to be free, we will be led to the conclusion that freedom can't just be a matter of doing whatever we want. I think this is what Locke means when he says, "The state of nature has a law of nature to govern it which obliges everyone: and reason, which is that law, teaches mankind who will but consult it that all being equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions."

This leads to a puzzling paradoxical feature of Locke's account of rights. Familiar in one sense but strange in another. It's the idea that our natural rights are unalienable. What does "unalienable" mean? It's not for us to alienate them or to give them up, to give them away, to trade them away, to sell them. Consider an airline ticket. Airline tickets are nontransferable. Or tickets to the Patriots or to the Red Sox. Nontransferable tickets are unalienable. I own them in the limited sense that I can use them for myself, but I can't trade them away. So in one sense, an unalienable right, a nontransferable right makes something I own less fully mine.

But in another sense of unalienable rights, especially where we're thinking about life, liberty, and property, or a right to be unalienable makes it more deeply, more profoundly mine, and that's Locke's sense of unalienable.

We see it in the American Declaration of Independence. Thomas Jefferson drew on this idea of Locke.
Unalienable rights to life, liberty, and as Jefferson amended Locke, to the pursuit of happiness.  Unalienable rights. Rights that are so essentially mine that even I can't trade them away or give them up. So these are the rights we have in the state of nature before there is any government. In the case of life and liberty, I can't take my own life. I can't sell myself into slavery any more than I can take somebody else's life or take someone else as a slave by force.

The Right to Property
But how does that work in the case of property? Because it's essential to Locke's case that private property can arise even before there is any government. How can there be a right to private property even before there is any government? Locke's famous answer comes in Section 27."Every man has a property in his own person. This nobody has any right to but himself." "The labor of his body and the work of his hands, we may say, are properly his." So he moves, as the libertarians later would move, from the idea that we own ourselves, that we have property in our persons to the closely connected idea that we own our own labor. And from that to the further claim that whatever we mix our labor with that is un-owned becomes our property. "Whatever he removes out of the state that nature has provided, and left it in, he has mixed his labor with, and joined it to something that is his own, and thereby makes it his property." Why? Because the labor is the unquestionable property of the laborer and therefore, no one but the laborer can have a right to what is joined to or mixed with his labor.

And then he adds this important provision, "at least where there is enough, and as good left in common for others." But we not only acquire our property in the fruits of the earth, in the deer that we hunt, in the fish that we catch but also if we till and plow and enclose the land and grow potatoes, we own not only the potatoes but the land, the earth. "As much land as a man tills, plants, improves, cultivates and can use the product of, so much is his property.

Locke & The Libertarians
So the idea that rights are unalienable seems to distance Locke from the libertarian. Libertarian wants to say we have an absolute property right in ourselves and therefore, we can do with ourselves whatever we want. Locke is not a sturdy ally for that view...but when it comes to Locke's account of private property, he begins to look again like a pretty good ally because his argument for private property begins with the idea that we are the proprietors of our own person and therefore, of our labor, and therefore, of the fruits of our labor, including not only the things we gather and hunt in the state of nature but also we acquire our property right in the land that we enclose and cultivate and improve.

Property Rights: Respecting Patents
There are some examples that can bring out the moral intuition that our labor can take something that is unowned and make it ours, though sometimes, there are disputes about this.

There is a debate among rich countries and developing countries about trade-related intellectual property rights. It came to a head recently over drug patent laws. Western countries, and especially the United States say, "We have a big pharmaceutical industry that develops new drugs. We want all countries in the world to agree to respect the patents."


Then, there came along the AIDS crisis in South Africa, and the American AIDS drugs were hugely expensive, far more than could be afforded by most Africans. So the South African government said, "We are going to begin to buy a generic version of the AIDS antiretroviral drug at a tiny fraction of the cost because we can find an Indian manufacturing company that figures out how the thing is made and produces it, and for a tiny fraction of the cost, we can save lives if we don't respect that patent." And then the American government said, "No, here is a company that invested research and created this drug. You can't just start mass producing these drugs without paying a licensing fee."

And so there was a dispute and the pharmaceutical company sued the South African government to try to prevent their buying the cheap generic, as they saw it, pirated version of an AIDS drug. And eventually, the pharmaceutical industry gave in and said, "All right, you can do that." But this dispute about what the rules of property should be, of intellectual property of drug patenting, in a way, is the last frontier of the state of nature because among nations where there is no uniform law of patent rights and property rights, it's up for grabs until, by some act of consent, some international agreement, people enter into some settled rules.


Student Debate/Discussion
What about Locke's account of private property and how it can arise before government and before law comes on the scene? Is it successful? How many think it's pretty persuasive?... All right, let's hear from some critics. What is wrong with Locke's account of how private property can arise without consent?

Rochelle: Yes, I think it justifies European cultural norms as far as when you look at how Native Americans may not have cultivated American land, but by their arrival in the Americas, that contributed to the development of America, which wouldn't have otherwise necessarily happened then or by that specific group.

Dr. Sandel: So you think that this is a defense, this defense of private property in land...

Rochelle: Yes, because it complicates original acquisition if you only cite the arrival of foreigners that cultivated the land.

Dr. Sandel: I see. And what's your name?- Rochelle. Rochelle says this account of how property arises would fit what was going on in North America during the time of the European settlement. Do you think, Rochelle, that it's a way of defending the appropriation of the land?

Rochelle: Indeed, because I mean, he is also justifying the glorious revolutions. I don't think it's inconceivable that he is also justifying colonization as well.

Dr. Sandel: Well, that's an interesting historical suggestion and I think there is a lot to be said for it. What do you think of the validity of his argument though? Because if you are right that this would justify the taking of land in North America from Native Americans who didn't enclose it, if it's a good argument, then Locke's given us a justification for that. If it's a bad argument, then Locke's given us a mere rationalization that isn't morally defensible.

Rochelle: I'm leaning to the second one.

Dr. Sandel: All right, well, then, let's hear if there is a defender of Locke's account of private property, and it would be interesting if they could address Rochelle's worry that this is just a way of defending the appropriation of land by the American colonists from the Native Americans who didn't enclose it. Is there someone who will defend Locke on that point? Are you going to defend Locke?

Dan: Like, you're accusing him of justifying the European basically massacre of the Native Americans. But who says he is defending it? Maybe the European colonization isn't right. You know, maybe it's the state of war that he talked about in his Second Treatise, you know.

Dr. Sandel: So the wars between the Native Americans and the colonists, the settlers, that might have been a state of war that we can only emerge from by an agreement or an act of consent and that's what would have been required fairly to resolve...

Dan: Yes, and both sides would have had to agree to it and carry it out and everything.

Dr. Sandel: But what about when...But Dan, what about, Rochelle says this argument in Section 27 and then in 32 about appropriating land, that argument, if it's valid, would justify the settlers' appropriating that land and excluding others from it, you think that argument is a good argument?

Dan: Well, doesn't it kind of imply that the Native Americans hadn't already done that?

Dr. Sandel: Well, the Native Americans, as hunter-gatherers, didn't actually enclose land. So I think Rochelle is onto something there. What I want to -- go ahead, Dan.

Dan: At the same time, he is saying that just by picking an acorn or taking an apple or maybe killing a buffalo on a certain amount of land, that makes it yours because it's your labor and your labor would enclose that land. So by that definition, maybe they didn't have fences around little plots of land but didn't...

Dr. Sandel: They were using it...So maybe by Locke's definition, the Native Americans could have claimed a property right in the land itself...All right, good. Okay, that's good.

Dr. Sandel: One more defender of Locke. Go ahead.

Feng: Well, I mean, just to defend Locke, he does say that there are some times in which you can't take another person's land. For example, you can't acquire a land that is common property so people, in terms of the American Indians, I feel like they already have civilizations themselves and they were using land in common. So it's kind of like what an analogy to what he was talking about with like the common English property. You can't take land that everybody is sharing in common.

Dr. Sandel: Oh, that's interesting. That's interesting.

Feng: And also, you can't take land unless you make sure that there is as much land as possible left for other people to take as well. So if you're taking common, so you have to make sure that whenever you take land that there is enough left for other people to use...that's just as good as the land that you took, so...

Dr. Sandel: That's true. Locke says there has to be this right to private property in the earth is subject to the provision that there be as much and as good left for others. What's your name?

Fang: Right. I'm Feng.

Closing Statements
So Feng, in a way, agrees with Dan that maybe there is a claim within Locke's framework that could be developed on behalf of the Native Americans. Here is the further question. If the right to private property is natural, not conventional, if it's something that we acquire even before we agree to government, how does that right constrain what a legitimate government can do? In order, finally, to see whether Locke is an ally or potentially a critic of the libertarian idea of the state, we have to ask what becomes of our natural rights once we enter into society. We know that the way we enter into society is by consent, by agreement to leave the state of nature and to be governed by the majority and by a system of laws, human laws. But those human laws are only legitimate if they respect our natural rights, if they respect our unalienable rights to life, liberty, and property. No parliament, no legislature, however democratic its credentials, can legitimately violate our natural rights. This idea that no law can violate our right to life, liberty, and property would seem to support the idea of a government so limited that it would gladden the heart of the libertarian after all. But those hearts should not be so quickly gladdened because even though for Locke, the law of nature persists once government arrives, even though Locke insists on limited government, government limited by the end for which it was created, namely the preservation of property, even so, there is an important sense in which what counts as my property, what counts as respecting my life and liberty are for the government to define. That there be property, that there be respect for life and liberty is what limits government. But what counts as respecting my life and respecting my property, that is for governments to decide and to define. How can that be? Is Locke contradicting himself or is there an important distinction here? In order to answer that question, which will decide Locke's fit with the libertarian view, we need to look closely at what legitimate government looks like for Locke, and we turn to that next time.




Part II - Consenting Adults
Last time, we began to discuss Locke's state of nature, his account of private property, his theory of legitimate government, which is government based on consent and also limited government.

Natural Rights
Locke believes in certain fundamental rights that constrain what government can do, and he believes that those rights are natural rights, not rights that flow from law or from government. And so Locke's great philosophical experiment is to see if he can give an account of how there could be a right to private property without consent before government and legislators arrive on the scene to define property. That's his question. That's his claim. There is a way Locke argues to create property, not just in the things we gather and hunt, but in the land itself, provided there is enough and as good left for others.

Today, I want to turn to the question of consent, which is Locke's second big idea. Private property is one; consent is the other.

What is the work of consent? People here have been invoking the idea of consent since we began since the first week. Do you remember when we were talking about pushing the fat man off the bridge, someone said, "But he didn't agree to sacrifice himself. It would be different if he consented." Or when we were talking about the cabin boy, killing and eating the cabin boy. Some people said, "Well, if they had consented to a lottery, it would be different. Then it would be all right." So consent has come up a lot and here in John Locke, we have one of the great philosophers of consent.

Consent is an obvious familiar idea in moral and political philosophy. Locke says that legitimate government is government founded on consent and who, nowadays, would disagree with him? Sometimes, when the ideas of political philosophers are as familiar as Locke's ideas about consent, it's hard to make sense of them or at least to find them very interesting. But there are some puzzles, some strange features of Locke's account of consent as the basis of legitimate government and that's what I'd like to take up today.

The State of Nature
One way of testing the plausibility of Locke's idea of consent and also of probing some of its perplexities is to ask just what a legitimate government founded on consent can do, what are its powers according to Locke. Well, in order to answer that question, it helps to remember what the state of nature is like.

Remember, the state of nature is the condition that we decide to leave, and that's what gives rise to consent. Why not stay there? Why bother with government at all? Well, what is Locke's answer to that question? He says there are some inconveniences in the state of nature but what are those inconveniences? The main inconvenience is that everyone can enforce the law of nature. Everyone is an enforcer, or what Locke calls "the executor" of the state of nature, and he means executor literally. If someone violates the law of nature, he is an aggressor. He is beyond reason and you can punish him. And you don't have to be too careful or fine about gradations of punishment in the state of nature. You can kill him. You can certainly kill someone who comes after you, who tries to murder you. That's self defense. But the enforcement power, the right to punish, everyone can do the punishing in the state of nature. And not only can you punish with death people who come after you seeking to take your life, you can also punish a thief who tries to steal your goods because that also counts as aggression against the law of nature. If someone has stolen from a third party, you can go after him. Why is this? Well, violations of the law of nature are an act of aggression. There is no police force. There are no judges, no juries, so everyone is the judge in his or her own case. And Locke observes that when people are the judges of their own cases, they tend to get carried away, and this gives rise to the inconvenience in the state of nature. People overshoot the mark. There is aggression. There is punishment and before you know it, everybody is insecure in the enjoyment of his or her unalienable rights to life, liberty, and property.

Now, he describes in pretty harsh and even grim terms what you can do to people who violate the law of nature."One may destroy a man who makes war upon him ...for the same reason that he may kill a wolf or a lion. Such men have no other rule, but that of force and violence," listen to this, "and so may be treated as beasts of prey, those dangerous and noxious creatures, that will be sure to destroy to you if you fall into their power", so kill them first.

Consenting to Leave the State of Nature
So, what starts out as a seemingly benign state of nature where everyone is free and yet where there is a law and the law respects people's rights, and those rights are so powerful that they're unalienable. What starts out looking very benign, once you look closer, is pretty fierce and filled with violence, and that's why people want to leave.

How do they leave? Well, here is where consent comes in. The only way to escape from the state of nature is to undertake an act of consent where you agree to give up the enforcement power and to create a government or a community where there will be a legislature to make law and where everyone agrees in advance, everyone who enters, agrees in advance to abide by whatever the majority decides. But then the question, and this is our question and here is where I want to get your views, then the question is what powers, what can the majority decide?

The Question of Limited Government
Now, here, it gets tricky for Locke because you remember, alongside the whole story about consent and majority rule, there are these natural rights, the law of nature, these unalienable rights, and you remember, they don't disappear when people join together to create a civil society. So even once the majority is in charge, the majority can't violate your inalienable rights, can't violate your fundamental right to life, liberty, and property.

So here is the puzzle. How much power does the majority have? How limited is the government created by consent? It's limited by the obligation on the part of the majority to respect and to enforce the fundamental natural rights of the citizens. They don't give those up. We don't give those up when we enter government. That's this powerful idea taken over from Locke by Jefferson in the Declaration. Unalienable rights.

Student Discussion
So, let's go to our two cases. Remember Michael Jordan, Bill Gates, the libertarian objection to taxation for redistribution? Well, what about Locke's limited government? Is there anyone who thinks that Locke does give grounds for opposing taxation for redistribution? Anybody? Go ahead.

Ben: If the majority rules that there should be taxation, even if the minority should still not have to be taxed because that's taking away property, which is one of the rights of nature.

Dr. Sandel: All right so, and what's your name?- Ben. So if the majority taxes the minority without the consent of the minority to that particular tax law, it does amount to a taking of their property without their consent and it would seem that Locke should object to that. You want some textual support for your view, for your reading of Locke, Ben?

Ben: Sure.

Dr Sandel: All right. I brought some along just in case you raised it. If you have your texts, look at 138, passage 138."The supreme power," by which Locke means the legislature, "cannot take from any man any part of his property without his own consent, for the preservation of property being the end of government and that for which men enter into society, it necessarily supposes and requires that people should have property." That was the whole reason for entering society in the first place, to protect the right to property. And when Locke speaks about the right to property, he often uses that as a kind of global term for the whole category, the right to life, liberty, and property.

So that part of Locke, that beginning of 138, seems to support Ben's reading. But what about the part of 138, if you keep reading, "Men, therefore, in society having property, they have such a right to the goods, which by the law of the community are theirs." Look at this."And that no one can take from them without their consent." And then at the end of this passage, he says, "So it's a mistake to think that the legislative power can do what it will and dispose of the estates of the subject arbitrarily or take any part of them at pleasure." Here's what's elusive. On the one hand, he says the government can't take your property without your consent. He is clear about that. But then he goes on to say, and that's the natural right to property. But then, it seems that property, what counts as property is not natural but conventional defined by the government."The goods of which by the law of the community are theirs." And the plot thickens if you look ahead to Section 140. In 140, he says, "Governments can't be supported without great charge. Government is expensive and it's fit that everyone who enjoys his share of the protection should pay out of his estate." And then here is the crucial line. "But still, it must be with his own consent, i.e. the consent of the majority, giving it either by themselves, or through their representatives."

So what is Locke actually saying? Property is natural in one sense but conventional in another. It's natural in the sense that we have a fundamental unalienable right that there be property, that the institution of property exist and be respected by the government. So an arbitrary taking of property would be a violation of the law of nature and would be illegitimate. But it's a further question, here is the conventional aspect of property, it's a further question what counts as property, how it's defined and what counts as taking property, and that's up to the government. So the consent, here, we're coming back to our question, what is the work of consent? What it takes for taxation to be legitimate is that it be by consent, not the consent of Bill Gates himself if he is the one who has to pay the tax, but by the consent that he and we, all of us within the society, gave when we emerged from the state of nature and created the government in the first place. It's the collective consent. And by that reading, it looks like consent is doing a whole lot and the limited government consent creates isn't all that limited.

Does anyone want to respond to that or have a question about that? Go ahead. Stand up.

Nicola: Well, I'm just wondering what Locke's view is on once you have a government that's already in place, whether it is possible for people who are born into that government to then leave and return to the state of nature? I mean, I don't think that Locke mentioned that at all in the...

Dr Sandel: What do you think?

Nicola: Well, I think, as the convention, it would be very difficult to leave the government because you are no longer, because nobody else is just living in the state of nature. Everybody else is now governed by this legislature.

Dr Sandel: What would it mean today, you're asking. And what's your name?- Nicola. Nicola, to leave the state. Supposed you wanted to leave civil society today. You want to withdraw your consent and return to the state of nature.

Nicola: Well, because you didn't actually consent to it. You were just born into it. It was your ancestors who joined.

Dr Sandel: Right. You didn't sign the social contract. I didn't sign it. All right, so what does Locke say there? Yes?

Unknown Student: I don't think Locke says you have to sign anything. I think that he says that it's kind of implied consent. Taking government's services, you are implying that you are consenting to the government taking things from you.

Dr Sandel: All right, so implied consent. That's a partial answer to this challenge. Now, you may not think that implied consent is as good as the real thing. Is that what you're shaking your head about, Nicola? Speak up. Stand up and speak up.

Nicola: I don't think that necessarily just by utilizing the government's various resources that we are necessarily implying that we agree with the way that this government was formed or that we have consented to actually join into the social contract.

Dr Sandel: So you don't think the idea of implied consent is strong enough to generate any obligation at all to obey the government?

Nicola: Not necessarily, no.

Dr Sandel: Nicola, if you didn't think you'd get caught, would you pay your taxes?

Nicola: I don't think so. I would rather have a system, personally, that I could give money to exactly those sections of the government that I support and not just blanket support of it.

Dr Sandel: You'd rather be in the state of nature, at least on April 15th. But what I'm trying to get at is do you consider that you are under no obligation, since you haven't actually entered into any act of consent, but for prudential reasons, you do what you're supposed to do according to the law?

Nicola: Exactly.

Unknown Student: If you look at it that way, then you're violating another one of Locke's treatises, which is that you can't take anything from anyone else. Like, you can't take the government's services and then not give them anything in return. If you want to go live in the state of nature, that's fine, but you can't take anything from the government because by the government's terms, which are the only terms under which you can enter the agreement, say that you have to pay taxes to take those things.

Dr Sandel: So you are saying that Nicola can go back into the state of nature if she wants to but she can't drive on Mass. Ave.? I want to raise the stakes beyond using Mass. Ave.and even beyond taxation. What about life? What about military conscription? Yes, what do you say? Stand up.

Eric: First of all, we have to remember that sending people to war is not necessarily implying that they'll die. I mean, obviously, you're not raising their chances here but it's not a death penalty. So if you're going to discuss whether or not military conscription is equivalent to suppressing people's right to life, you shouldn't approach it that way. Secondly, the real problem here is Locke has this view about consent and natural rights. But you're not allowed to give up your natural rights either. So the real question is how does he himself figure it out between "I agree to give up my life, give up my property" when he talks about taxes or military conscription for the fact. But I guess Locke would be against suicide, and that's still my own consent. I agree by taking my life.

Dr Sandel: All right, good. All right, what's your name?- Eric. So Eric brings us back to the puzzle we've been wrestling with since we started reading Locke. On the one hand, we have these unalienable rights to life, liberty, and property, which means that even we don't have the power to give them up, and that's what creates the limits on legitimate government. It's not what we consent to that limits government. It's what we lack the power to give away when we consent that limits government. That's the point at the heart of Locke's whole account of legitimate government. But now, you say, "well, if we can't give up our own life, if we can't commit suicide, if we can't give up our right to property, how can we then agree to be bound by a majority that will force us to sacrifice our lives or give up our property"? Does Locke have a way out of this or is he basically sanctioning an all-powerful government, despite everything he says about unalienable rights? Does he have a way out of it? Who would speak here in defense of Locke or make sense, find a way out of this predicament? Yes.- All right, go ahead.

Gogol: I feel like there is a general distinction we made between the right to life that individuals possess and the fact that the government cannot take away a single individual's right to life. I think if you look at conscription as the government picking out certain individuals to go fight in war, then that would be a violation of their natural right to life. On the other hand, if you have conscription, let's say a lottery for example, then in that case I would view that as the population picking their representatives to defend them in the case of war, the idea being that since the whole population cannot go out there to defend its own right to property, it picks its own representatives through a process that's essentially random and then these sort of elected representatives go out and fight for the rights of the people. It works very similar, it works just like an elected government, in my opinion.

Dr Sandel: All right, so an elected government can conscript citizens to go out and defend the way of life, the community that makes the enjoyment of rights possible?

Gogol: I think it can because to me, it seems that it's very similar to the process of electing representatives for legislature.

Dr Sandel: Although here, it's as if the government is electing by conscription certain citizens to go die for the sake of the whole. Is that consistent with respect for a natural right to liberty?

Gogol: Well, what I would say there is there is a distinction between picking out individuals and having a random choice of individuals. Like ...

Closing Statements
Dr Sandel: Between picking out...let me make sure, between picking out individuals, let me... what's your name?- Gogol - Gogol says there's a difference between picking out individuals to lay down their lives and having a general law. I think this is the answer Locke would give, actually, Gogol. Locke is against arbitrary government. He is against the arbitrary taking, the singling out of Bill Gates to finance the war in Iraq. He is against singling out a particular citizen or group of people to go off and fight. But if there is a general law such that the government's choice, the majority's action is non-arbitrary, it doesn't really amount to a violation of people's basic rights. What does count as a violation is an arbitrary taking because that would essentially say, not only to Bill Gates, but to everyone, there is no rule of law. There is no institution of property. Because at the whim of the king, or for that matter, of the parliament, we can name you or you to give up your property or to give up your life. But so long as there is a non-arbitrary rule of law, then it's permissible.

Now, you may say this doesn't amount to a very limited government, and the libertarian may complain that Locke is not such a terrific ally after all. The libertarian has two grounds for disappointment in Locke. First, that the rights are unalienable and therefore, I don't really own myself after all. I can't dispose of my life or my liberty or my property in a way that violates my rights. That's disappointment number one. Disappointment number two, once there is a legitimate government based on consent, the only limits for Locke are limits on arbitrary takings of life or of liberty or of property. But if the majority decides, if the majority promulgates a generally applicable law and if it votes duly according to fair procedures, then there is no violation, whether it's a system of taxation or a system of conscription.

So it's clear that Locke is worried about the absolute arbitrary power of kings, but it's also true, and here is the darker side of Locke, that this great theorist of consent came up with a theory of private property that didn't require consent that may, and this goes back to the point Rochelle made last time, may have had something to do with Locke's second concern, which was America.

You remember, when he talks about the state of nature, he is not talking about an imaginary place."In the beginning," he says, "All the world was America." And what was going on in America? The settlers were enclosing land and engaged in wars with the Native Americans. Locke, who was an administrator of one of the colonies, may have been as interested in providing a justification for private property through enclosure without consent through enclosure and cultivation, as he was with developing a theory of government based on consent that would rein in kings and arbitrary rulers.

The question we're left with, the fundamental question we still haven't answered is what then becomes of consent? What work can it do? What is its moral force? What are the limits of consent? Consent matters not only for governments, but also for markets. And beginning next time, we're going to take up questions of the limits of consent in the buying and selling of goods.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Piano House

This unique piano house located in Huainan City, An Hui Province, China.  The building was constructed as an attraction for the recently developed area and serves as a performance and practice place for music students from the nearby college.









Monday, September 10, 2012

Friday, September 7, 2012

Wat Rong Khun

Located just outside of Chiang Rai in Northern Thailand, Wat Rong Khun is certainly one of the most beautiful and unusual Buddhist temples in the world. The White Temple, as it is also commonly known as, is the creation of acclaimed artist Chalermchai Khositpipat. With the aim to create one of the world's greatest works of art, Chalermchai began the project in 1997, investing large amounts of his own money and procuring the help of many other artist.  Still considered a work in progress, Chalermchai has made plans to continue with the project even after his death.

Flickr zhaffsky



Wikipedia Commons Ddalbiez



Wikipedia Commons Ddalbiez



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Inside of Wat Rong Khun is where you will find some of the more unusual aspects of the temple.  Mixed in with the more traditional Buddhist works of art one can find various pop culture icons such as Neo from the Matrix, Superman, Spiderman and so on.



I try to only use Creative Commons (public permission) pictures but there aren't many good royalty free pics of the white temple out there.  As a work around, here is a link to a gallery I created in Flickr.