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The nonsense of ‘social justice’

Social justice does not belong to the category of error but to that of nonsense. … [T]he prevailing belief in ‘social justice’ is at present probably the gravest threat to most … values of a free civilization.

 F.A.Hayek
 
Given that most educated people chant the mantra of social justice, it must have taken quite a bit of courage to argue – as Hayek did, years ago – that the idea of ‘social justice’ is nonsense. The ‘derivatives’ of social justice: things like ‘justice across generations’, ‘economic justice’ (economic redistribution), even affirmative action; must equally be placed in the category of nonsense.
 
It is impossible for anyone to provide a coherent definition of ‘social justice’ since it is impossible to arrive at a general rule or principle that clarifies what it stands for in every possible case. It should also be obvious, upon reflection, that the concept of justice and accountability is an attribute of individual human conduct. Entire groups can never be accountable for anything. Thus children, always born innocent, can never be implicated in the misdeeds of their forefathers. We must deliver justice to individual adults, not to entire societies. Only guilty individuals must be punished, not innocent parties.
 
There does exist, however, a general principle to reduce relative disadvantage across society, a principle that can be applied unequivocally in every case: the principle of reasonable equality of opportunity (not perfect equality of opportunity). This is ensured by providing (not by directly managing the delivery of) school education to the children of the poor. After that is done, individual initiative and luck should determine the achieved outcomes. 
 
– My editorial in Towards a Great India, 15 November 2009. 

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48 thoughts on “The nonsense of ‘social justice’
  1. Armchair Guy

    “This is ensured by providing (not by directly managing the delivery of) school education to the children of the poor. After that is done, individual initiative and luck should determine the achieved outcomes.”
    Agreed.  But various factors give certain individuals extreme advantages compared to other individuals even after high school.  It seems very hard to change these factors.  That is one of the justifications for reservations.

    If the quality school education was improved to a great extent, reservations would be unnecessary.  According to the ASER 2010 report, rates of school enrollment are rising quite steadily (they still need to be improved quite a bit).  But such large improvements in education quality are hard to make.
    So in the current setting the arguments for reservation are compelling in a short-term  worldview.

     
  2. Armchair Guy

    “This is ensured by providing (not by directly managing the delivery of) school education to the children of the poor. After that is done, individual initiative and luck should determine the achieved outcomes.”
    Agreed.  But various factors give certain individuals extreme advantages compared to other individuals even after high school.  It seems very hard to change these factors.  That is one of the justifications for reservations.

    If the quality school education was improved to a great extent, reservations would be unnecessary.  According to the ASER 2010 report, rates of school enrollment are rising quite steadily (they still need to be improved quite a bit).  But such large improvements in education quality are hard to make.
    So in the current setting the arguments for reservation are compelling in a short-term  worldview.

     
  3. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    Dear AG

    The argument you make is weak beyond description. What are you trying to say: that it is acceptable to harm innocents in order to fix the ‘wrongs’ allegedly committed by their ancestors? Does justice or liberty mean nothing to you?

    I can’t individually unbrainwash anyone. But clearly you have lost your bearings. Try reading BFN and DOF. If it doesn’t make sense, so be it.

    Regards
    Sanjeev

     
  4. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    Dear AG

    The argument you make is weak beyond description. What are you trying to say: that it is acceptable to harm innocents in order to fix the ‘wrongs’ allegedly committed by their ancestors? Does justice or liberty mean nothing to you?

    I can’t individually unbrainwash anyone. But clearly you have lost your bearings. Try reading BFN and DOF. If it doesn’t make sense, so be it.

    Regards
    Sanjeev

     
  5. Armchair Guy

    Sanjeev,

    My comment was intended to bring up the existing arguments in favour of reservations; these are not necessarily arguments I'd make.  I've got a detailed post on this topic here, written way back in 2006: http://inthearmchair.wordpress.com/2006/12/15/reservations-the-right-way-2/.  You'll notice that I don't use ancestry in my suggestion.
     
    But let's get back to the arguments in my previous post for a moment.  Part of your position is that reservations constitute a punishment on people for what their ancestors did.  It sounds compelling, but I think it is incomplete even within your framework.  Let's do a thought experiment. 
     
    Suppose we tweak things so that: (1) every Indian forgets all history and their caste completely, and (2) we give all children exactly the same education opportunities up to high school.  Then we see what happens.  After this hypothetical intervention, individual performance would still substantially depend on caste (even though caste history is now unknown to the entire population).  This is because even if people forget their caste, a Brahmin is much more likely to have friends or family friends in high positions than a Dalit.  It is far from simple to unravel the social old boy networks that have formed.
     
    Thus it could be argued that reservations based on caste are correcting not ancient or ancestral injustices, but current injustices that have become encoded in social networks.
     
    Now your argument is that a Brahmin individual who may have done nothing to take advantage of such social networks is still being penalized by reservations.  This is a valid criticism.  But on the other hand, in the hypothetical situation an individual Dalit who has done nothing wrong is also being penalized if there are no reservations.
     
    In other words, we have a sort of zero sum game (I use the term loosely; don't call me out on it).  Either Brahmin individuals will suffer, or Dalit individuals will suffer.  If we can successfully give everybody equal education (a very tough thing to do), my guess is it will still be about 2 generations or 30-40 years before we have actual parity.
     
    Now I don't support caste-based reservations either.  But my reasons are different from yours.  My main reason is once the precedent is set, I believe it will become impossible to undo the reservations in the future even after social parity is achieved.  (Another reason: I believe reservations will become another way for unscrupulous people to profit from the downtrodden.)  It has nothing to do with leftists and brainwashing.

     
  6. Armchair Guy

    Sanjeev,

    My comment was intended to bring up the existing arguments in favour of reservations; these are not necessarily arguments I'd make.  I've got a detailed post on this topic here, written way back in 2006: http://inthearmchair.wordpress.com/2006/12/15/reservations-the-right-way-2/.  You'll notice that I don't use ancestry in my suggestion.
     
    But let's get back to the arguments in my previous post for a moment.  Part of your position is that reservations constitute a punishment on people for what their ancestors did.  It sounds compelling, but I think it is incomplete even within your framework.  Let's do a thought experiment. 
     
    Suppose we tweak things so that: (1) every Indian forgets all history and their caste completely, and (2) we give all children exactly the same education opportunities up to high school.  Then we see what happens.  After this hypothetical intervention, individual performance would still substantially depend on caste (even though caste history is now unknown to the entire population).  This is because even if people forget their caste, a Brahmin is much more likely to have friends or family friends in high positions than a Dalit.  It is far from simple to unravel the social old boy networks that have formed.
     
    Thus it could be argued that reservations based on caste are correcting not ancient or ancestral injustices, but current injustices that have become encoded in social networks.
     
    Now your argument is that a Brahmin individual who may have done nothing to take advantage of such social networks is still being penalized by reservations.  This is a valid criticism.  But on the other hand, in the hypothetical situation an individual Dalit who has done nothing wrong is also being penalized if there are no reservations.
     
    In other words, we have a sort of zero sum game (I use the term loosely; don't call me out on it).  Either Brahmin individuals will suffer, or Dalit individuals will suffer.  If we can successfully give everybody equal education (a very tough thing to do), my guess is it will still be about 2 generations or 30-40 years before we have actual parity.
     
    Now I don't support caste-based reservations either.  But my reasons are different from yours.  My main reason is once the precedent is set, I believe it will become impossible to undo the reservations in the future even after social parity is achieved.  (Another reason: I believe reservations will become another way for unscrupulous people to profit from the downtrodden.)  It has nothing to do with leftists and brainwashing.

     
  7. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    Sorry, AG

    I was flat out with work, and also suffering eye strain (which I'm finally coming close to understanding the cause of), so I've not been able to respond till now. I did have a quick look through your 2006 blog post and that confirmed that you are still driven by some leftist inclinations, which you are unable to identify and hence acknowledge. 

    Indeed, in 1999 if you had asked me, I would have made a confused argument somewhat like what you make in your 2006 blog post and your comment. It has taken a fair bit of thinking to eliminate such confusion from my mind, so let me rebut your arguments (essentially my old ones!) below:

    Your example in this comment makes a false assumption: "it could be argued that reservations based on caste are correcting not ancient or ancestral injustices, but current injustices that have become encoded in social networks". 

    This totally confounds the concept of justice

    It is natural that birds of the same feather flock together. This is therefore not about injustice but about individual perception, about individual choices. In matters of marriage, employment and friendship, these choices matter a lot. These are a necessary part of our freedom. We must be free to make these choices, else we are not free.

    These choices don't deliberatly HARM someone; they do end up discriminating against someone, not by consciously or physically harming someone (say, A), but by selecting someone else (say, B).

    It would be absurd to suggest that our choices in matters that are close to us must be made on the basis of 'non-discrimination', i.e. randomly. People naturally gravitate to certain kinds of marriage partners, or prefer certain types of workers that they want to work with. By marrying someone I effectively reject everyone else. Does this mean the government should reserve marriage partners, or more generally, force people to marry by drawing lots? No!

    The concept of accountability (justice) kicks in ONLY when someone DELIBERATELY HARM someone else. There must be intent to harm. One can't be held to account for the MYRIADS of choices one has to make in life. By selecting X I'm not liable to be punished for not having selected Y, Z, etc. 

    If, in the example you have provided, if someone prefers to hire someone he/she knows or whose parents he/she knows, then that someone is making a choice. That someone is NOT directly harming someone else. Hence there is no question of any injustice created.

    Indeed, I clearly argue that the private sector is FULLY entitled to make its own choices on the basis of ANY criteria it likes, and suffer the consequences. After all, that is the most fundamental meaning of freedom, else let's abandon the idea of freedom completely.

    Thus if a business chooses its managers based on family contacts, it will tend to suffer in the competitive free market where only merit matters. That is why family businesses in India have learnt their lesson and stopped picking executives from amongst their family members and contacts. They will wither way completely unless they pick the MOST TALENTED candidate. The FREE market is a perfect place for people to learn their lessons – at their own cost!

    Note that there is no such check (market system) on the government sector, in which case the bureaucrat who hires a relative won't bankrupt the entire government, which has a monopoly over the services it provides. That is why in such a case I suggest an Equal Opportunity Act which requires full disclosure of the reasons for recruitment in the government. That way, we can minimise the misuse of government power, and ensure equal freedom (and equal chances to equally talented people).

    Note that this solution still does NOT require reservations. Because by reservations we DIRECTLY harm someone. That is injustice. In fact, reservations are sheer evil.

    Do you now see why your argument is deeply flawed – because you are taking the CONFUSED 'social justice' approach to the fundamental concept of justice. Please define justice in your mind clearly and the error of your way will become self-evident.

    I trust you will thereafter abandon your confused leftism now and join me in arguing for JUSTICE – not 'social' justice. Note that it is not a crime to be confused. I too was confused on many things. I perhaps remain confused on many others. But on the concept of justice I'm NOT confused!

    Regards

    Sanjeev

     
  8. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    Sorry, AG

    I was flat out with work, and also suffering eye strain (which I'm finally coming close to understanding the cause of), so I've not been able to respond till now. I did have a quick look through your 2006 blog post and that confirmed that you are still driven by some leftist inclinations, which you are unable to identify and hence acknowledge. 

    Indeed, in 1999 if you had asked me, I would have made a confused argument somewhat like what you make in your 2006 blog post and your comment. It has taken a fair bit of thinking to eliminate such confusion from my mind, so let me rebut your arguments (essentially my old ones!) below:

    Your example in this comment makes a false assumption: "it could be argued that reservations based on caste are correcting not ancient or ancestral injustices, but current injustices that have become encoded in social networks". 

    This totally confounds the concept of justice

    It is natural that birds of the same feather flock together. This is therefore not about injustice but about individual perception, about individual choices. In matters of marriage, employment and friendship, these choices matter a lot. These are a necessary part of our freedom. We must be free to make these choices, else we are not free.

    These choices don't deliberatly HARM someone; they do end up discriminating against someone, not by consciously or physically harming someone (say, A), but by selecting someone else (say, B).

    It would be absurd to suggest that our choices in matters that are close to us must be made on the basis of 'non-discrimination', i.e. randomly. People naturally gravitate to certain kinds of marriage partners, or prefer certain types of workers that they want to work with. By marrying someone I effectively reject everyone else. Does this mean the government should reserve marriage partners, or more generally, force people to marry by drawing lots? No!

    The concept of accountability (justice) kicks in ONLY when someone DELIBERATELY HARM someone else. There must be intent to harm. One can't be held to account for the MYRIADS of choices one has to make in life. By selecting X I'm not liable to be punished for not having selected Y, Z, etc. 

    If, in the example you have provided, if someone prefers to hire someone he/she knows or whose parents he/she knows, then that someone is making a choice. That someone is NOT directly harming someone else. Hence there is no question of any injustice created.

    Indeed, I clearly argue that the private sector is FULLY entitled to make its own choices on the basis of ANY criteria it likes, and suffer the consequences. After all, that is the most fundamental meaning of freedom, else let's abandon the idea of freedom completely.

    Thus if a business chooses its managers based on family contacts, it will tend to suffer in the competitive free market where only merit matters. That is why family businesses in India have learnt their lesson and stopped picking executives from amongst their family members and contacts. They will wither way completely unless they pick the MOST TALENTED candidate. The FREE market is a perfect place for people to learn their lessons – at their own cost!

    Note that there is no such check (market system) on the government sector, in which case the bureaucrat who hires a relative won't bankrupt the entire government, which has a monopoly over the services it provides. That is why in such a case I suggest an Equal Opportunity Act which requires full disclosure of the reasons for recruitment in the government. That way, we can minimise the misuse of government power, and ensure equal freedom (and equal chances to equally talented people).

    Note that this solution still does NOT require reservations. Because by reservations we DIRECTLY harm someone. That is injustice. In fact, reservations are sheer evil.

    Do you now see why your argument is deeply flawed – because you are taking the CONFUSED 'social justice' approach to the fundamental concept of justice. Please define justice in your mind clearly and the error of your way will become self-evident.

    I trust you will thereafter abandon your confused leftism now and join me in arguing for JUSTICE – not 'social' justice. Note that it is not a crime to be confused. I too was confused on many things. I perhaps remain confused on many others. But on the concept of justice I'm NOT confused!

    Regards

    Sanjeev

     
  9. Armchair Guy

    Sanjeev:
     
    I am not sure what exactly you mean by 'leftist' — it seems to be a catch-all to refer to anything that doesn't conform to some very narrow definitions of justice, liberty and freedom that you are using.
     
    Let me ask you this: should a thief's son be allowed to enjoy the fruits of his father's thievery?  Suppose the son is a perfectly honest guy unaware of the thievery and the father is dead.  The son never deliberately harmed anyone.  Should the son be allowed to live in luxury using his father's ill-gotten wealth?  If the theft is discovered some 15 years after the thief's death, is it unjust to take away the money from the son and return it to the rightful owners?  Is that punishing the son for what his father has done?
     
    Your interpretation of justice based on a strong form of individual responsibility has the peculiar consequence that all of a man's black money gets laundered clean as soon as he dies, no matter who is in possession of it.  I don't want to open a can of worms, but wealth earned doesn't suffer from these problems.  Inherited wealth does suffer from a lot of problems that cannot be swept under the rug.  In a sense, if the wealth is illegally obtained the inheriting of it is invalid.  This refers to all forms of wealth, including social power.
     
    I think the fundamental disconnect between us is that your viewpoint serves justice/freedom as defined by a theoretical, axiomatic ideology which is viewed as paramount, while my viewpoint serves justice/freedom as defined by hazy notions of human intuition.  I believe the axiomatic viewpoint you use is a form of reductionism and is not applicable in many practical situations.
     
    The axiomatic solution is easier and cleaner to understand and implement.  But does it satisfy what we intuitively mean by justice?
     
    I would say that in law, axioms are there to serve human interests, not the other way around.  If I can come up with several examples where the axioms lead to manifestly unjust (according to human intuition) outcomes, the axioms should be revisited.
     
    You argue that people and corporations should be given limitless freedom in deciding what social and professional networks they want to form and there is no justification for laws against discrimination.  You are essentially saying that discrimination is fine. 
     
    The idea that marketplace competition will ensure no discrimination takes place is true only if the discrimination is not nearly universal.  Even if the marketplace does eliminate discrimination in the long run, what of the millions who suffer discrimination in the interim 20-40 years until this happens? What if new forms of discrimination pop up and disappear before the marketplace corrects them – what of those who are discriminated against?  Marketplace evolution is good for some things — maybe it's not a good method for ending discrimination!
     
    The idea of injustice encoded in social networks is just one way to look at things.  If you prefer, we can take a different viewpoint.  The State failed the Dalits for 2000 years.  Thus the Dalits can sue the state and demand compensation.  That is what is going on with reservations in a sense.  Perhaps you disagree.  You may say that a collective has no rights to sue, or that the state wronged their ancestors, not them — again, I think there's an issue of earned vs. inherited wealth here.
     
    I've already said I don't support reservations the way they are currently implemented. I do support mild affirmative action.  I just want to point out that the issues are MUCH more complicated than just "punishing people for what their ancestors have done".

     
  10. Armchair Guy

    Sanjeev:
     
    I am not sure what exactly you mean by 'leftist' — it seems to be a catch-all to refer to anything that doesn't conform to some very narrow definitions of justice, liberty and freedom that you are using.
     
    Let me ask you this: should a thief's son be allowed to enjoy the fruits of his father's thievery?  Suppose the son is a perfectly honest guy unaware of the thievery and the father is dead.  The son never deliberately harmed anyone.  Should the son be allowed to live in luxury using his father's ill-gotten wealth?  If the theft is discovered some 15 years after the thief's death, is it unjust to take away the money from the son and return it to the rightful owners?  Is that punishing the son for what his father has done?
     
    Your interpretation of justice based on a strong form of individual responsibility has the peculiar consequence that all of a man's black money gets laundered clean as soon as he dies, no matter who is in possession of it.  I don't want to open a can of worms, but wealth earned doesn't suffer from these problems.  Inherited wealth does suffer from a lot of problems that cannot be swept under the rug.  In a sense, if the wealth is illegally obtained the inheriting of it is invalid.  This refers to all forms of wealth, including social power.
     
    I think the fundamental disconnect between us is that your viewpoint serves justice/freedom as defined by a theoretical, axiomatic ideology which is viewed as paramount, while my viewpoint serves justice/freedom as defined by hazy notions of human intuition.  I believe the axiomatic viewpoint you use is a form of reductionism and is not applicable in many practical situations.
     
    The axiomatic solution is easier and cleaner to understand and implement.  But does it satisfy what we intuitively mean by justice?
     
    I would say that in law, axioms are there to serve human interests, not the other way around.  If I can come up with several examples where the axioms lead to manifestly unjust (according to human intuition) outcomes, the axioms should be revisited.
     
    You argue that people and corporations should be given limitless freedom in deciding what social and professional networks they want to form and there is no justification for laws against discrimination.  You are essentially saying that discrimination is fine. 
     
    The idea that marketplace competition will ensure no discrimination takes place is true only if the discrimination is not nearly universal.  Even if the marketplace does eliminate discrimination in the long run, what of the millions who suffer discrimination in the interim 20-40 years until this happens? What if new forms of discrimination pop up and disappear before the marketplace corrects them – what of those who are discriminated against?  Marketplace evolution is good for some things — maybe it's not a good method for ending discrimination!
     
    The idea of injustice encoded in social networks is just one way to look at things.  If you prefer, we can take a different viewpoint.  The State failed the Dalits for 2000 years.  Thus the Dalits can sue the state and demand compensation.  That is what is going on with reservations in a sense.  Perhaps you disagree.  You may say that a collective has no rights to sue, or that the state wronged their ancestors, not them — again, I think there's an issue of earned vs. inherited wealth here.
     
    I've already said I don't support reservations the way they are currently implemented. I do support mild affirmative action.  I just want to point out that the issues are MUCH more complicated than just "punishing people for what their ancestors have done".

     
  11. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    Dear AG

    Let me go straight into your assumptions, which are causing the problem.

    "Suppose the son is a perfectly honest guy unaware of the thievery and the father is dead.  The son never deliberately harmed anyone.  Should the son be allowed to live in luxury using his father's ill-gotten wealth?  If the theft is discovered some 15 years after the thief's death, is it unjust to take away the money from the son and return it to the rightful owners?  Is that punishing the son for what his father has done?"

    The answer is that after X years (I'm not a lawyer and I don't have the details readily with me) the statute of limitation kicks in for almost all crimes excepting heinous ones like murder. If (and here I may be wrong! – please check with a lawyer – I have little time to pursue the precise law on this subject) a case has not been lodged or the police have not detected the perpetrator of a particular crime for these X years (not just the death of the father), then the stolen property does pass on WITHOUT FURTHER CLAIM from anyone, to the son. The son MAY, at his discretion, return the money the moment he finds he has lived off stolen wealth. That is for him to decide, whether he wants to protect his reputation or not. The society has no claim in that wealth. Death of the father also closes the matter (subject to, in the case of crimes, to the X years applicable). These are legal details you'd need to check with a lawyer. 

    (Indeed, ALL major second generation politicians in India are living off stolen property, and they are doing just fine. Princes all over the world have lived off stolen property and do fine. – but these issues are irrelevant to the discussion of the principles of justice.)

    The question before us is: Why such a statute? And that is because there is no person alive tody at least one of whose ancestors (great/great/ grandfather, e.g.) going back 1000 generations, did not acquire at least some wealth in an 'unsavoury' manner. We can't recover and return all stolen property going back 1000 generations. It is also nonsensical for a person who is alive today to be responsible for the actions of his ancestors even though he may be benefiting accidentally from those actions.

    The crimes of our ancestors impose NO obligation on us. We are an INDEPENDENT entity and responsible ONLY for ourselves. Therefore the statute of limitations.

    What you are doing is to bring in confused conceptions of equality into the discussion on justice. That is why this is a leftist approach. You want to make someone responsible for something he/she is patently not, so that things are brought to some imagined ideal state of perfect equality. 

    That utopia did exist. We were all born of one single African mother (a homo sapiens sapiens mutant) 80,000 years ago. But then we dispersed, and we lived many generations after that. We are only now beginning to get civilised. We can't go back 80,000 years and seek perfect equality under our African mother. That day won't come back.

    What we must do is to ensure that LAWS are made and followed and enforced. Justice must exist if we are to be free. Responsibility must be PROPERLY attributed. You can't make people responsible IN ANY WAY for the actions of their fathers/ancestors. Then there is no end to confusion and the world will collapse.

    India is a classical case of the confusion of the leftists, of the sort you are displaying. 

    We are fortunate that our laws were made by British classical liberals like Macaulay and not by confused socialists. That is what keeps India going despite it confused 'educated' people. Else India would have folded up long ago, with IDIOTS like BJP gonig back 500 years to set things right by breaking mosques, and by socialists like you going back 2000 years to set things right for the Dalits. 

    While the foolish "intellectuals" of India thus keep going back into history to address their confused sense of 'justice', everyone with the slightest mental calibre (and without the intention of joining in the mass-scale loot underway by Indian government functionaries) will continue to leave India and won't return to this madhouse where even the most basic conceptions of justice are not understood.

    Confusion of this sort has destroyed India over the past 60 years. And will continue to destroy it. You are definitely Nehru's godchild. Please read BFN carefully should you wish to clarify your mind further on this issue.

    Regards

    Sanjeev

     
  12. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    Dear AG

    Let me go straight into your assumptions, which are causing the problem.

    "Suppose the son is a perfectly honest guy unaware of the thievery and the father is dead.  The son never deliberately harmed anyone.  Should the son be allowed to live in luxury using his father's ill-gotten wealth?  If the theft is discovered some 15 years after the thief's death, is it unjust to take away the money from the son and return it to the rightful owners?  Is that punishing the son for what his father has done?"

    The answer is that after X years (I'm not a lawyer and I don't have the details readily with me) the statute of limitation kicks in for almost all crimes excepting heinous ones like murder. If (and here I may be wrong! – please check with a lawyer – I have little time to pursue the precise law on this subject) a case has not been lodged or the police have not detected the perpetrator of a particular crime for these X years (not just the death of the father), then the stolen property does pass on WITHOUT FURTHER CLAIM from anyone, to the son. The son MAY, at his discretion, return the money the moment he finds he has lived off stolen wealth. That is for him to decide, whether he wants to protect his reputation or not. The society has no claim in that wealth. Death of the father also closes the matter (subject to, in the case of crimes, to the X years applicable). These are legal details you'd need to check with a lawyer. 

    (Indeed, ALL major second generation politicians in India are living off stolen property, and they are doing just fine. Princes all over the world have lived off stolen property and do fine. – but these issues are irrelevant to the discussion of the principles of justice.)

    The question before us is: Why such a statute? And that is because there is no person alive tody at least one of whose ancestors (great/great/ grandfather, e.g.) going back 1000 generations, did not acquire at least some wealth in an 'unsavoury' manner. We can't recover and return all stolen property going back 1000 generations. It is also nonsensical for a person who is alive today to be responsible for the actions of his ancestors even though he may be benefiting accidentally from those actions.

    The crimes of our ancestors impose NO obligation on us. We are an INDEPENDENT entity and responsible ONLY for ourselves. Therefore the statute of limitations.

    What you are doing is to bring in confused conceptions of equality into the discussion on justice. That is why this is a leftist approach. You want to make someone responsible for something he/she is patently not, so that things are brought to some imagined ideal state of perfect equality. 

    That utopia did exist. We were all born of one single African mother (a homo sapiens sapiens mutant) 80,000 years ago. But then we dispersed, and we lived many generations after that. We are only now beginning to get civilised. We can't go back 80,000 years and seek perfect equality under our African mother. That day won't come back.

    What we must do is to ensure that LAWS are made and followed and enforced. Justice must exist if we are to be free. Responsibility must be PROPERLY attributed. You can't make people responsible IN ANY WAY for the actions of their fathers/ancestors. Then there is no end to confusion and the world will collapse.

    India is a classical case of the confusion of the leftists, of the sort you are displaying. 

    We are fortunate that our laws were made by British classical liberals like Macaulay and not by confused socialists. That is what keeps India going despite it confused 'educated' people. Else India would have folded up long ago, with IDIOTS like BJP gonig back 500 years to set things right by breaking mosques, and by socialists like you going back 2000 years to set things right for the Dalits. 

    While the foolish "intellectuals" of India thus keep going back into history to address their confused sense of 'justice', everyone with the slightest mental calibre (and without the intention of joining in the mass-scale loot underway by Indian government functionaries) will continue to leave India and won't return to this madhouse where even the most basic conceptions of justice are not understood.

    Confusion of this sort has destroyed India over the past 60 years. And will continue to destroy it. You are definitely Nehru's godchild. Please read BFN carefully should you wish to clarify your mind further on this issue.

    Regards

    Sanjeev

     
  13. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    Sorry, I just realised that the CrPC would have the details you need: Indeed, Section 468 states:

    [Source: http://www.vakilno1.com/bareacts/CrPc/s468.htm%5D

    468. Bar to taking cognizance after lapse of the period of limitation.

    (1) Except as otherwise provided elsewhere in this Code, no court, shall take cognizance of an offence of the category specified in sub-section (2), after the expiry of the period of limitation.

    (2) The period of limitation shall be-

    (a) Six months, if the offence is punishable with fine only;

    (b) One year, if the offence is punishable with imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year;

    (c) Three years, if the offence is punishable with imprisonment for a term exceeding one year but not exceeding three years.

    1[(3) For the purposes of this section, the period of limitation, in relation to offences which may be tried together, shall be determined with reference to the offence which is punishable with the more severe punishment or, as the case may be, the most severe punishment.]

    1. Ins. by Act 45 of 1978, Sec. 33 (w.e.f. 18-12-1978).

    COMMENT

    The next question – I'll leave to you to find out – is what is the maximum punishment for theft (e.g. X years). That will determine the limitation on the police taking cognisance.

    Note that once they have taken cognisance, the matter is not so clear. It could take years to investigate and prosecute. That is not part of the statute of limitations. 

    Either way, the son is NOT responsible for his father's actions. Whether the property is returnable is subject to detailed legal analysis on which I have no expertise nor any interest. I'm interested only in general principles of law and justice (and therefore freedom).

     
  14. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    Sorry, I just realised that the CrPC would have the details you need: Indeed, Section 468 states:

    [Source: http://www.vakilno1.com/bareacts/CrPc/s468.htm%5D

    468. Bar to taking cognizance after lapse of the period of limitation.

    (1) Except as otherwise provided elsewhere in this Code, no court, shall take cognizance of an offence of the category specified in sub-section (2), after the expiry of the period of limitation.

    (2) The period of limitation shall be-

    (a) Six months, if the offence is punishable with fine only;

    (b) One year, if the offence is punishable with imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year;

    (c) Three years, if the offence is punishable with imprisonment for a term exceeding one year but not exceeding three years.

    1[(3) For the purposes of this section, the period of limitation, in relation to offences which may be tried together, shall be determined with reference to the offence which is punishable with the more severe punishment or, as the case may be, the most severe punishment.]

    1. Ins. by Act 45 of 1978, Sec. 33 (w.e.f. 18-12-1978).

    COMMENT

    The next question – I'll leave to you to find out – is what is the maximum punishment for theft (e.g. X years). That will determine the limitation on the police taking cognisance.

    Note that once they have taken cognisance, the matter is not so clear. It could take years to investigate and prosecute. That is not part of the statute of limitations. 

    Either way, the son is NOT responsible for his father's actions. Whether the property is returnable is subject to detailed legal analysis on which I have no expertise nor any interest. I'm interested only in general principles of law and justice (and therefore freedom).

     
  15. Armchair Guy

    I think this discussion is getting too diverse in scope.  First, I think you understood my argument only partially, since you argue against what I said but also against a whole lot of things I didn't say or imply.
     
    First, I am not in any way implying that the son is responsible for the misdeeds of the father, a point you seem to be very focused on for some reason.  This is clear to both you and me — there is no need to defend it.  Nothing I say in any way implies individual hereditary responsibility.
     
    Second, your application of the statute of limitations is clearly incorrect for two reasons.  Reason 1: According to wikipedia:
    "Note, however, that limitations periods may begin when the cause of action is deemed to have arisen, or when a plaintiff had reason to know of the harm, rather than at the time of the original event. This distinction is significant in cases in which an earlier event causes a later harm"

    In other words, the statute time can begin when the crime is discovered, not just when the crime is committed.
     
    Reason 2: the statute of limitations applies to prosecution of the crime and not the money.  I am no legal expert but I don't think the statute has anything to do with the question we are discussing, since I never implied the son committed any crime.  If a criminal stashes away stolen money and serves out his sentence, he is NOT entitled to go to his stash after a couple decades and live luxuriously off it after coming out of jail, on the strength of the statute of limitations!
     
    Third, according to wikipedia, statutes of limitation are made for evidentiary reasons — because evidence gets diluted over time.  It has absolutely nothing — zero — to do with ancestral equality or hereditary responsibility.
     
    Fourth, I believe it is you, not me, who is bringing in confused notions of equality into this discussion, claiming that I am bringing them in, and arguing against them.  I challenge you to point out one place where I imply that equality is desirable.  I merely imply that fair play is desirable.
     
    I agree that the evidence in a crime is diluted over time.  I think the money taken away from the son should depend on both the time since the crime and the amount.  If I steal Rs. 1 lakh and pass it on to my son, perhaps no action needs to be taken.  If I steal Rs. 100 crore and pass it on to my son, it is very silly to say it doesn't need to be restored to its rightful owners.
     
    I believe we should give this discussion a rest, partly because I don't understand how groups are held responsible in jurisprudence.  If you have a reader who is an expert on law, perhaps s/he can weigh in.  Also, we are straying too far from the original topic.

     
  16. Armchair Guy

    I think this discussion is getting too diverse in scope.  First, I think you understood my argument only partially, since you argue against what I said but also against a whole lot of things I didn't say or imply.
     
    First, I am not in any way implying that the son is responsible for the misdeeds of the father, a point you seem to be very focused on for some reason.  This is clear to both you and me — there is no need to defend it.  Nothing I say in any way implies individual hereditary responsibility.
     
    Second, your application of the statute of limitations is clearly incorrect for two reasons.  Reason 1: According to wikipedia:
    "Note, however, that limitations periods may begin when the cause of action is deemed to have arisen, or when a plaintiff had reason to know of the harm, rather than at the time of the original event. This distinction is significant in cases in which an earlier event causes a later harm"

    In other words, the statute time can begin when the crime is discovered, not just when the crime is committed.
     
    Reason 2: the statute of limitations applies to prosecution of the crime and not the money.  I am no legal expert but I don't think the statute has anything to do with the question we are discussing, since I never implied the son committed any crime.  If a criminal stashes away stolen money and serves out his sentence, he is NOT entitled to go to his stash after a couple decades and live luxuriously off it after coming out of jail, on the strength of the statute of limitations!
     
    Third, according to wikipedia, statutes of limitation are made for evidentiary reasons — because evidence gets diluted over time.  It has absolutely nothing — zero — to do with ancestral equality or hereditary responsibility.
     
    Fourth, I believe it is you, not me, who is bringing in confused notions of equality into this discussion, claiming that I am bringing them in, and arguing against them.  I challenge you to point out one place where I imply that equality is desirable.  I merely imply that fair play is desirable.
     
    I agree that the evidence in a crime is diluted over time.  I think the money taken away from the son should depend on both the time since the crime and the amount.  If I steal Rs. 1 lakh and pass it on to my son, perhaps no action needs to be taken.  If I steal Rs. 100 crore and pass it on to my son, it is very silly to say it doesn't need to be restored to its rightful owners.
     
    I believe we should give this discussion a rest, partly because I don't understand how groups are held responsible in jurisprudence.  If you have a reader who is an expert on law, perhaps s/he can weigh in.  Also, we are straying too far from the original topic.

     
  17. Armchair Guy

    PS:
    As for BFN, I have read parts of both your books and some of it makes sense, but I can’t quite understand them.  There are a great many claims and assertions made on almost every page covering a very diverse range of topics from theoretical physics to economics.  MANY of the claims are surprising to me, and I don’t have the background to evaluate all of those claims.  I often get the gist of what you’re saying, but I can’t clearly see whether this has enough empirical support or simply follows some ideology.  I understand you can’t put all the justifications in because you cover a very wide range of topics, and it would add a few thousand pages.  Perhaps when I’ve read more widely about liberal claims, I’ll understand better.
     
    I have similar problems with some other authors you suggest.  I read parts of Julian Simon’s book on natural resources.  His claims in that book are nothing short of incredible, and he offers almost no support for them other than short-term historical trends and an optimism about human ingenuity.  Frankly, this optimism about human ingenuity is nothing but a religion.  There’s no logical or rational basis for it.  I am about a third of the way through Kealey’s “Sex, Science and Profits” and feel the same about that book (though it’s better than Simon’s book).  When I read Jared Diamond’s “Guns, Germs and Steel” (which by the say Kealey borrows LIBERALLY from), I got the feeling that Diamond went to the trouble to think about potential doubts people might have about his arguments, and addressed them.  (I think you’d find Diamond is a liberal.)  The same is true in Daniel Dennett’s “Darwin’s Dangerous Idea”, and a host of other books.  But Kealey and Simon (and several others) are much more slippery — I can’t form an opinion whether their claims are accurate or not, or whether they are simply part of the “liberal religion”.  I rapidly run out of patience reading unsubstantiated claim after unsubstantiated claim.
     
    As for your godchild of Nehru quote — this is very George Bush-y — everything is black and white, and either people agree with your religion (by which I mean your specific ideas on liberalism), or they must be leftists!  I’m much more flexible.  I can pick and choose ideas from liberals as well as leftists, based on what I think reflects reality.  I’m not tied to any ideology, leftist or liberal or capitalist or Marxist or what have you, and I don’t care where an idea comes from.

     
  18. Armchair Guy

    PS:
    As for BFN, I have read parts of both your books and some of it makes sense, but I can’t quite understand them.  There are a great many claims and assertions made on almost every page covering a very diverse range of topics from theoretical physics to economics.  MANY of the claims are surprising to me, and I don’t have the background to evaluate all of those claims.  I often get the gist of what you’re saying, but I can’t clearly see whether this has enough empirical support or simply follows some ideology.  I understand you can’t put all the justifications in because you cover a very wide range of topics, and it would add a few thousand pages.  Perhaps when I’ve read more widely about liberal claims, I’ll understand better.
     
    I have similar problems with some other authors you suggest.  I read parts of Julian Simon’s book on natural resources.  His claims in that book are nothing short of incredible, and he offers almost no support for them other than short-term historical trends and an optimism about human ingenuity.  Frankly, this optimism about human ingenuity is nothing but a religion.  There’s no logical or rational basis for it.  I am about a third of the way through Kealey’s “Sex, Science and Profits” and feel the same about that book (though it’s better than Simon’s book).  When I read Jared Diamond’s “Guns, Germs and Steel” (which by the say Kealey borrows LIBERALLY from), I got the feeling that Diamond went to the trouble to think about potential doubts people might have about his arguments, and addressed them.  (I think you’d find Diamond is a liberal.)  The same is true in Daniel Dennett’s “Darwin’s Dangerous Idea”, and a host of other books.  But Kealey and Simon (and several others) are much more slippery — I can’t form an opinion whether their claims are accurate or not, or whether they are simply part of the “liberal religion”.  I rapidly run out of patience reading unsubstantiated claim after unsubstantiated claim.
     
    As for your godchild of Nehru quote — this is very George Bush-y — everything is black and white, and either people agree with your religion (by which I mean your specific ideas on liberalism), or they must be leftists!  I’m much more flexible.  I can pick and choose ideas from liberals as well as leftists, based on what I think reflects reality.  I’m not tied to any ideology, leftist or liberal or capitalist or Marxist or what have you, and I don’t care where an idea comes from.

     
  19. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    Dear AG

    I am getting a clearer picture of the confusion prevailing in your mind and will need to produce a blog post on this topic.

    In brief, the same confusion often that prevails in people's minds when they want attribute responsibility to, say, externalities arising from pollution. The fundamental error here is of ATTRIBUTION, and therefore it needs to be clearly understood.

    Your example of a criminal using the proceeds of his theft personally does not apply since (assuming the theft was reported and taken cognisance of), it is HE who committed the theft.

    By all means punish the criminal. That is a fundamental precept of justice.

    The problem is when you want to punish the criminal’s progeny for the crime committed by the criminal. That applies equally to BJP who want to break a mosque today (and thus commit a serious crime) on the ground that 500 years ago someone broke SOME temple (not BJP's!). BJP are CRIMINALS (apart from being idiots) in this case. That is the first thing to note. Those who had broken the temple in the past are dead and gone. BJP could well have bought the site if it wished, but instead, it trespassed it and BROKE it. It acted criminally.

    Similarly, reservations are criminal in intent. They aim to DIRECTLY HARM person A for something his forefathers did 2000 years ago. When the state blocks A from entering a medical college on merit, because his caste is not 'convenient', it amounts to a CRIME against A. 

    – for A DID NOT commit the ancient crime for which he is being punished.

    In the case you suggest, the question is: Is society entitled to trespass into the "son's" house (in the above case), thus encroaching upon his private property, and FORCIBLY acquire what he is using (e.g. something that was purchased from his father's money) on the ground that 15 years ago his father had stolen the money that he used to purchase this something. Assume that the father is dead and gone, and during the life of the father the legal system did not work and this was not detected. The son is TOTALLY INNOCENT.

    What you are now saying is that the state has a right to HARM this son who has done NOTHING criminal. By taking away his property today you are committing a CRIME against an innocent. Therefore the arguments you suggest are flawed, and will inevitably lead to crime. 

    Note that the most important thing a child receives from his parents is a) genetic makeup and b) environment. Bill Gates was endowed with two things which made him stinking rich. Are you now going to claim that his wealth should be taken back because he was given an unfair advantage by his parents? 

    The greatest asset a child possesses is his genes. That is the cause of the greatest inequality. Are you now saying that we must kill off all the smart people in India because they are going to transmit an "unearned" advantage to the child?

    There is no difference between the case you suggest and the one I've just mentioned. 

    These are typical socialist arguments (e.g. see John Rawls if you don't think I'm explaining correctly). James Meade, the hero of John Rawls, railed against inheritance on pretty much the grounds you are taking. 

    Both were simply unable to understand the fundamental meaning of justice. (Amazingly, Rawls's book is called "A Theory of Justice"!!!!).

    I'll write a blog post on this when time permits.

    Regards

    Sanjeev

     
  20. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    Dear AG

    I am getting a clearer picture of the confusion prevailing in your mind and will need to produce a blog post on this topic.

    In brief, the same confusion often that prevails in people's minds when they want attribute responsibility to, say, externalities arising from pollution. The fundamental error here is of ATTRIBUTION, and therefore it needs to be clearly understood.

    Your example of a criminal using the proceeds of his theft personally does not apply since (assuming the theft was reported and taken cognisance of), it is HE who committed the theft.

    By all means punish the criminal. That is a fundamental precept of justice.

    The problem is when you want to punish the criminal’s progeny for the crime committed by the criminal. That applies equally to BJP who want to break a mosque today (and thus commit a serious crime) on the ground that 500 years ago someone broke SOME temple (not BJP's!). BJP are CRIMINALS (apart from being idiots) in this case. That is the first thing to note. Those who had broken the temple in the past are dead and gone. BJP could well have bought the site if it wished, but instead, it trespassed it and BROKE it. It acted criminally.

    Similarly, reservations are criminal in intent. They aim to DIRECTLY HARM person A for something his forefathers did 2000 years ago. When the state blocks A from entering a medical college on merit, because his caste is not 'convenient', it amounts to a CRIME against A. 

    – for A DID NOT commit the ancient crime for which he is being punished.

    In the case you suggest, the question is: Is society entitled to trespass into the "son's" house (in the above case), thus encroaching upon his private property, and FORCIBLY acquire what he is using (e.g. something that was purchased from his father's money) on the ground that 15 years ago his father had stolen the money that he used to purchase this something. Assume that the father is dead and gone, and during the life of the father the legal system did not work and this was not detected. The son is TOTALLY INNOCENT.

    What you are now saying is that the state has a right to HARM this son who has done NOTHING criminal. By taking away his property today you are committing a CRIME against an innocent. Therefore the arguments you suggest are flawed, and will inevitably lead to crime. 

    Note that the most important thing a child receives from his parents is a) genetic makeup and b) environment. Bill Gates was endowed with two things which made him stinking rich. Are you now going to claim that his wealth should be taken back because he was given an unfair advantage by his parents? 

    The greatest asset a child possesses is his genes. That is the cause of the greatest inequality. Are you now saying that we must kill off all the smart people in India because they are going to transmit an "unearned" advantage to the child?

    There is no difference between the case you suggest and the one I've just mentioned. 

    These are typical socialist arguments (e.g. see John Rawls if you don't think I'm explaining correctly). James Meade, the hero of John Rawls, railed against inheritance on pretty much the grounds you are taking. 

    Both were simply unable to understand the fundamental meaning of justice. (Amazingly, Rawls's book is called "A Theory of Justice"!!!!).

    I'll write a blog post on this when time permits.

    Regards

    Sanjeev

     
  21. Armchair Guy

    Sanjeev:
     
    By all means write a blog post — I do learn quite a bit from these posts and discussions, even though I may not agree with everything you say.
     
    Your last comment also has several misunderstandings of my position — in fact, in the two main points you made in that post, you misunderstood what I was saying. 
     
    The first thing: it's obvious that the innocence of the son and the father are two different things.  The idea behind the example of the convict enjoying the fruits of his stealing was to demonstrate that the statute of limitations doesn't apply the way you were thinking.  Obviously it's different than the son's case.  I was wary of this misunderstanding even when I wrote my comment, perhaps should have clarified this distinction.
     
    You say: "What you are now saying is that the state has a right to HARM this son who has done NOTHING criminal. By taking away his property today you are committing a CRIME against an innocent."
     
    The part of my argument you fail to understand is that the property in question does not belong to the son at all!  The son mistakenly believed that it belonged to him and was using it, but it NEVER belonged to him.  He may be disappointed to discover that he isn't really a millionaire, but the fact is that those millions NEVER belonged to him.  You keep repeating that the son is innocent.  Yes, a thousand times yes.  This is the same as what I said in every single one of my comments!  There's no need to argue with me on this!!  BUT the property never belonged to the son, so if the state comes and takes it away it is not taking his property.  There is no crime against the son.
     
    Ok, now let me make a partial about face and say I don't COMPLETELY believe what I said in the previous paragraph.  I wrote it because I seem unable to accurately convey my argument to you.  In actuality I don't believe that ALL of the millions should be taken away from the son, but only because the state allowed the son to believe that he was a millionaire and didn't need to work for a living.  So the son didn't become a career man and kept living off his dad's millions. (Making up the story as I go along.)  Thus the state led the son to have mistaken expectations.  Otherwise the son would have made his own money.  So taking it ALL away is not appropriate either.
     
    Unfortunately, this is an example of a situation where either the son or the original owners of the millions will be injured.  There is no fair solution.  It is a zero-sum game.  I believe a judge or a jury should arbitrate what proportion of the wealth can be returned to its rightful owners.  I DON'T believe it's ok to focus on justice for the son and total injustice for the original owners — their stolen money is right there in front of their eyes, but they can't touch it and the son can flaunt it!!!  How can this be called justice?
     
    Your example of genes and Bill Gates is a totally confused non sequitur.  There is no wrongful transfer of genes, wealth or education involved there.  I think you are still thinking about equality, which is irrelevant to this discussion.  Like I pointed out in my previous comment, this equality baggage was brought in not by me but by you.  I have no problem with some people being born smart and others being born dumb, rich vs poor and so on — and it has no effect on my arguments.

     
  22. Armchair Guy

    Sanjeev:
     
    By all means write a blog post — I do learn quite a bit from these posts and discussions, even though I may not agree with everything you say.
     
    Your last comment also has several misunderstandings of my position — in fact, in the two main points you made in that post, you misunderstood what I was saying. 
     
    The first thing: it's obvious that the innocence of the son and the father are two different things.  The idea behind the example of the convict enjoying the fruits of his stealing was to demonstrate that the statute of limitations doesn't apply the way you were thinking.  Obviously it's different than the son's case.  I was wary of this misunderstanding even when I wrote my comment, perhaps should have clarified this distinction.
     
    You say: "What you are now saying is that the state has a right to HARM this son who has done NOTHING criminal. By taking away his property today you are committing a CRIME against an innocent."
     
    The part of my argument you fail to understand is that the property in question does not belong to the son at all!  The son mistakenly believed that it belonged to him and was using it, but it NEVER belonged to him.  He may be disappointed to discover that he isn't really a millionaire, but the fact is that those millions NEVER belonged to him.  You keep repeating that the son is innocent.  Yes, a thousand times yes.  This is the same as what I said in every single one of my comments!  There's no need to argue with me on this!!  BUT the property never belonged to the son, so if the state comes and takes it away it is not taking his property.  There is no crime against the son.
     
    Ok, now let me make a partial about face and say I don't COMPLETELY believe what I said in the previous paragraph.  I wrote it because I seem unable to accurately convey my argument to you.  In actuality I don't believe that ALL of the millions should be taken away from the son, but only because the state allowed the son to believe that he was a millionaire and didn't need to work for a living.  So the son didn't become a career man and kept living off his dad's millions. (Making up the story as I go along.)  Thus the state led the son to have mistaken expectations.  Otherwise the son would have made his own money.  So taking it ALL away is not appropriate either.
     
    Unfortunately, this is an example of a situation where either the son or the original owners of the millions will be injured.  There is no fair solution.  It is a zero-sum game.  I believe a judge or a jury should arbitrate what proportion of the wealth can be returned to its rightful owners.  I DON'T believe it's ok to focus on justice for the son and total injustice for the original owners — their stolen money is right there in front of their eyes, but they can't touch it and the son can flaunt it!!!  How can this be called justice?
     
    Your example of genes and Bill Gates is a totally confused non sequitur.  There is no wrongful transfer of genes, wealth or education involved there.  I think you are still thinking about equality, which is irrelevant to this discussion.  Like I pointed out in my previous comment, this equality baggage was brought in not by me but by you.  I have no problem with some people being born smart and others being born dumb, rich vs poor and so on — and it has no effect on my arguments.

     
  23. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    Dear AG

    Your point is broadly well taken, but this is entering a specific case on which common law would have much light to throw. So long as the key principle is accepted that (a) the crimes of the father can’t be transmitted to the son – i.e. justice does not travel across generations; and (b) innocent use of stolen wealth – particularly when the matter was not resolved during the lifetime of a person – does not create any crime and hence no case for coercive recovery of these stolen goods, then the detail is up to the courts to decide based on case law.

    Just because I happen to (say) be born a Prince who has access to wealth from my King father – wealth that was ENTIRELY stolen (say), does not give anyone a right to take my wealth away. After a period of time, those whose wealth was stolen have to write it off. The solution is not to start punishing the children, but to ensure that the law and order machinery is strong enough to recover stolen goods immediately and quickly in the first place.

    Regards
    Sanjeev

     
  24. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    Dear AG

    Your point is broadly well taken, but this is entering a specific case on which common law would have much light to throw. So long as the key principle is accepted that (a) the crimes of the father can’t be transmitted to the son – i.e. justice does not travel across generations; and (b) innocent use of stolen wealth – particularly when the matter was not resolved during the lifetime of a person – does not create any crime and hence no case for coercive recovery of these stolen goods, then the detail is up to the courts to decide based on case law.

    Just because I happen to (say) be born a Prince who has access to wealth from my King father – wealth that was ENTIRELY stolen (say), does not give anyone a right to take my wealth away. After a period of time, those whose wealth was stolen have to write it off. The solution is not to start punishing the children, but to ensure that the law and order machinery is strong enough to recover stolen goods immediately and quickly in the first place.

    Regards
    Sanjeev

     
  25. Armchair Guy

    Sanjeev:
     
    You say: "After a period of time, those whose wealth was stolen have to write it off."
     
    It seems we are getting closer to an understanding.  We are using slightly different formulae.
     
    Your position can be summarized by the formula "before a certain cutoff time, 100% of the stolen amount can be repatriated to the original owners, and after the cutoff time, 0% can be repatriated — and the cutoff time can vary for different types of theft".
     
    I would press for the modification "the percentage of stolen money that can be repatriated to the original owners diminishes gradually as a function of time, and increases as a function of magnitude of theft — and the shape of the decrease curve can vary for different types of theft".

     
  26. Armchair Guy

    Sanjeev:
     
    You say: "After a period of time, those whose wealth was stolen have to write it off."
     
    It seems we are getting closer to an understanding.  We are using slightly different formulae.
     
    Your position can be summarized by the formula "before a certain cutoff time, 100% of the stolen amount can be repatriated to the original owners, and after the cutoff time, 0% can be repatriated — and the cutoff time can vary for different types of theft".
     
    I would press for the modification "the percentage of stolen money that can be repatriated to the original owners diminishes gradually as a function of time, and increases as a function of magnitude of theft — and the shape of the decrease curve can vary for different types of theft".

     
  27. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    There is much wisdom in common law, which has evolved over the centuries. Such details are part of precedent and therefore inform the evolution of law. The key to note is that there is NO natural claim to trespass an INNOCENT person’s property.

    In the example you gave where there was a particular amount of wealth stolen, the matter could be clarified through case law, but this example does not apply at all to the matter of reservations.

    In the case of reservations, there has been no demonstrated theft by the father of a person. The act of private discrimination can hurt, but it does NOT amount to theft. Therefore there can NEVER be any justification for affirmative action by the state. Privately, you are most welcome to do so, but not through the state.

    I’m posting the fundamental conception of justice on this blog to make sure you realise that there are great differences between different things. Identifying the precise action (in this case NOT theft) and attributing is precisely will give you a precise account of the action and therefore show yo where accountabilities lie, if any.

    In the case of caste-based reservation, NO accountability lies on the child for the discrimination carried out by his parents/forefathers. Therefore to penalise the child is a CRIME.

    Regards
    Sanjeev

     
  28. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    There is much wisdom in common law, which has evolved over the centuries. Such details are part of precedent and therefore inform the evolution of law. The key to note is that there is NO natural claim to trespass an INNOCENT person’s property.

    In the example you gave where there was a particular amount of wealth stolen, the matter could be clarified through case law, but this example does not apply at all to the matter of reservations.

    In the case of reservations, there has been no demonstrated theft by the father of a person. The act of private discrimination can hurt, but it does NOT amount to theft. Therefore there can NEVER be any justification for affirmative action by the state. Privately, you are most welcome to do so, but not through the state.

    I’m posting the fundamental conception of justice on this blog to make sure you realise that there are great differences between different things. Identifying the precise action (in this case NOT theft) and attributing is precisely will give you a precise account of the action and therefore show yo where accountabilities lie, if any.

    In the case of caste-based reservation, NO accountability lies on the child for the discrimination carried out by his parents/forefathers. Therefore to penalise the child is a CRIME.

    Regards
    Sanjeev

     
  29. Armchair Guy

    Sanjeev:
     
    I am not sure whether I have managed to convince you that it is not theft if the state takes away something that never belonged someone in the first place.  Theft involves taking something that is owned by a person — if the person doesn't own it, it is not theft.  Either way, we seem to finally be talking about the same things, at least.
     
    Now let's come to your point in the last comment.  Your argument rests on the assertion that discrimination is not an illegal act, and thus the social power was not acquired illegally or improperly.  This is inaccurate at multiple levels. 
     
    At the simplest level, it simply factually inaccurate.  Dalits were physically prevented from entering public spaces that their labour helped build (ie they were taxed but not allowed the benefits that flowed from the taxation).  They were threatened with physical harm if they learned to read Sanskrit.  This is just the tip of the iceberg.  Defamation, theft, slander, rape and violent physical assault were all used to take away social power.  How anyone can say there was nothing illegal or improper in the forms of discrimination that were practiced against them is beyond me.  Note that this is true even if you hold that discrimination by itself is not illegal or invalid.
     
    At a more philosophical level, the clear line you are trying to draw between individual discrimination and institutionalized group/corporate discrimination is untenable.  If a corporation or even the entire nation discriminates against a group, you seem to think this is acceptable on the grounds that millions of individuals should be free to do what they want.  I think this just pedantic and is intuitively unacceptable, and laws should not be formulated on this basis.
     
    Common law has something to say about this.  Common law often punishes hate crimes more severely than non-hate crimes.  This is because there is something wrong with discrimination.
     
    Thus, the analogy does have a bearing on the reservations question.  Patently illegal acts were used to deny social power.  The kind of discrimination they faced is a good example why there should be legal guards against treating institutionalized discrimination as an expression of individual freedom.

     
  30. Armchair Guy

    Sanjeev:
     
    I am not sure whether I have managed to convince you that it is not theft if the state takes away something that never belonged someone in the first place.  Theft involves taking something that is owned by a person — if the person doesn't own it, it is not theft.  Either way, we seem to finally be talking about the same things, at least.
     
    Now let's come to your point in the last comment.  Your argument rests on the assertion that discrimination is not an illegal act, and thus the social power was not acquired illegally or improperly.  This is inaccurate at multiple levels. 
     
    At the simplest level, it simply factually inaccurate.  Dalits were physically prevented from entering public spaces that their labour helped build (ie they were taxed but not allowed the benefits that flowed from the taxation).  They were threatened with physical harm if they learned to read Sanskrit.  This is just the tip of the iceberg.  Defamation, theft, slander, rape and violent physical assault were all used to take away social power.  How anyone can say there was nothing illegal or improper in the forms of discrimination that were practiced against them is beyond me.  Note that this is true even if you hold that discrimination by itself is not illegal or invalid.
     
    At a more philosophical level, the clear line you are trying to draw between individual discrimination and institutionalized group/corporate discrimination is untenable.  If a corporation or even the entire nation discriminates against a group, you seem to think this is acceptable on the grounds that millions of individuals should be free to do what they want.  I think this just pedantic and is intuitively unacceptable, and laws should not be formulated on this basis.
     
    Common law has something to say about this.  Common law often punishes hate crimes more severely than non-hate crimes.  This is because there is something wrong with discrimination.
     
    Thus, the analogy does have a bearing on the reservations question.  Patently illegal acts were used to deny social power.  The kind of discrimination they faced is a good example why there should be legal guards against treating institutionalized discrimination as an expression of individual freedom.

     
  31. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    Dear AG

    No rights accrue to go back 10000s of years even to recover stolen property. The mere possession of something without objection by someone else (say, land) for 12 years creates certain rights in common law. You are assuming that the claims of justice are INFINITE and continue through our children. They do not. They end with our lives. These are independent lives. That is the same attribution error I keep harping about. When the father died, claims against him died. The details of how much of the stolen wealth is recoverable (if any) are a matter of specific detail, but definitely no NATURAL right accrues to the state to recover these.

    But the point about discrimination is totally absurd.

    If you read BFN and whatever else I’ve written on the subject, you’ll note that I’m not denying caste discrimination. I’m saying that IF a crime was caused by X in the past against Y, you can’t punish X’s child X1 and benefit Y’s child Y2. By all means punish X under the law – noting that the failure of law enforcement, or non existence of laws closes the chapter as soon as X is dead.

    If you can’t understand the basic concept of attribution then I’m afraid you’ll continue to confuse fundamentals of justice. You are now talking about the meaningless concept of ‘social’ justice where X1 is punished and Y1 is rewarded BECAUSE X harmed Y. That is nonsense of the extreme order.

    Regards
    Sanjeev

     
  32. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    Dear AG

    No rights accrue to go back 10000s of years even to recover stolen property. The mere possession of something without objection by someone else (say, land) for 12 years creates certain rights in common law. You are assuming that the claims of justice are INFINITE and continue through our children. They do not. They end with our lives. These are independent lives. That is the same attribution error I keep harping about. When the father died, claims against him died. The details of how much of the stolen wealth is recoverable (if any) are a matter of specific detail, but definitely no NATURAL right accrues to the state to recover these.

    But the point about discrimination is totally absurd.

    If you read BFN and whatever else I’ve written on the subject, you’ll note that I’m not denying caste discrimination. I’m saying that IF a crime was caused by X in the past against Y, you can’t punish X’s child X1 and benefit Y’s child Y2. By all means punish X under the law – noting that the failure of law enforcement, or non existence of laws closes the chapter as soon as X is dead.

    If you can’t understand the basic concept of attribution then I’m afraid you’ll continue to confuse fundamentals of justice. You are now talking about the meaningless concept of ‘social’ justice where X1 is punished and Y1 is rewarded BECAUSE X harmed Y. That is nonsense of the extreme order.

    Regards
    Sanjeev

     
  33. Armchair Guy

    Sanjeev:
     
    Your argument in your comment on January 23, 2011 at 9:20 am was that there was no illegal act in obtaining the social power and that people simply exercised their right to discriminate, which according to you is legitimate.  I’m just pointing out that the transfer of social power did not follow legal paths by any standards.
     
    You don’t need to go back 10,000 years.  I think a large proportion of the harm was done within the last 100 years.  In fact, it is still going on, though at a lesser level because people are now scared of Mayawati or other politicians and because Dalits have realized how much political power they have.
     
    Attribution doesn’t seem to be a very complicated concept.  What I don’t understand is why you think I don’t understand it.
     
    We have a law enforcement system that is too callous, understaffed and subverted to ensure the basic rights of Dalits.  Without providing their with adequate protection, we want to invoke certain theoretical ideas to deny them more of a role.  We need to write rules that provide everyone with a minimum level of opportunity and not create a system in which certain sections have no chance at all.  (This might sound like arguing for equality but look more carefully — it’s not.)

     
  34. Armchair Guy

    Sanjeev:
     
    Your argument in your comment on January 23, 2011 at 9:20 am was that there was no illegal act in obtaining the social power and that people simply exercised their right to discriminate, which according to you is legitimate.  I’m just pointing out that the transfer of social power did not follow legal paths by any standards.
     
    You don’t need to go back 10,000 years.  I think a large proportion of the harm was done within the last 100 years.  In fact, it is still going on, though at a lesser level because people are now scared of Mayawati or other politicians and because Dalits have realized how much political power they have.
     
    Attribution doesn’t seem to be a very complicated concept.  What I don’t understand is why you think I don’t understand it.
     
    We have a law enforcement system that is too callous, understaffed and subverted to ensure the basic rights of Dalits.  Without providing their with adequate protection, we want to invoke certain theoretical ideas to deny them more of a role.  We need to write rules that provide everyone with a minimum level of opportunity and not create a system in which certain sections have no chance at all.  (This might sound like arguing for equality but look more carefully — it’s not.)

     
  35. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    Dear AG

    I won’t go into your interpretation of my cited comment. I NEVER talk about ‘social power’ so I don’t know what you are referring to.

    On your other comment: “the transfer of social power did not follow legal paths by any standards”. Again, I don’t know what is SOCIAL power, and don’t care about such fuzzy concepts.

    All I care for is whether X committed a crime or not. If you are saying that X committed a crime, please lodge an FIR (if you have the locus standi) and let the law take its course. If you are saying that X committed a crime so let’s punish X’s son/daughter, then you are completely off-track on the fundamental understanding of justice.

    You claim that you understand attribution, but your fuzzy thinking still doesn’t show any understanding. Can you start being precise henceforth? WHO committed a crime? WHO is to be punished?

    Re: “We have a law enforcement system that is too callous, understaffed and subverted” – if you note my entire argument in BFN was precisely this, that our law and order system (being SOCIALIST – i.e. managed in a socialist way, to ensure that corruption and incompetence is REWARDED) is the key to the problem.

    My precise para from BFN below (in relation to SOCIALIST land ceiling laws – which are based on the same nonsense of “social justice”: “A strong police and judicial system would have ensured that if a zamindar had personally stolen someone’s lands, he would have been punished and the stolen lands returned. If some zamindar committed a murder or rape, that zamindar would have been immediately tried and given capital punishment – or at least jailed for life. Unfortunately, Nehru’s shoddy system of law and order allowed brutal, bully zamindars and anyone else with money to run amuck as never before.”

    The reality is that people like you who don’t focus on fundamentals (i.e. JUSTICE) create the need for “SOCIAL” justice which is absurd and impossible to understand in any form or shape. If you join me in focusing on the delivery of justice (a fundamental classical liberal requirement) then all other fuzzy concepts will disappear into the thin air (from which they have come).

    I want a law and order machine in India that ensures that JUSTICE is provided to each person without fail. After that what happens socially is none of the state’s business. Today, people like you (let me say again, more generally, Nehru’s confused godchildren) continue to harp on the wrong thing, instead of ensuring individual justice – which is the only meaningful conception of justice.

    Regards
    Sanjeev

     
  36. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    Dear AG

    I won’t go into your interpretation of my cited comment. I NEVER talk about ‘social power’ so I don’t know what you are referring to.

    On your other comment: “the transfer of social power did not follow legal paths by any standards”. Again, I don’t know what is SOCIAL power, and don’t care about such fuzzy concepts.

    All I care for is whether X committed a crime or not. If you are saying that X committed a crime, please lodge an FIR (if you have the locus standi) and let the law take its course. If you are saying that X committed a crime so let’s punish X’s son/daughter, then you are completely off-track on the fundamental understanding of justice.

    You claim that you understand attribution, but your fuzzy thinking still doesn’t show any understanding. Can you start being precise henceforth? WHO committed a crime? WHO is to be punished?

    Re: “We have a law enforcement system that is too callous, understaffed and subverted” – if you note my entire argument in BFN was precisely this, that our law and order system (being SOCIALIST – i.e. managed in a socialist way, to ensure that corruption and incompetence is REWARDED) is the key to the problem.

    My precise para from BFN below (in relation to SOCIALIST land ceiling laws – which are based on the same nonsense of “social justice”: “A strong police and judicial system would have ensured that if a zamindar had personally stolen someone’s lands, he would have been punished and the stolen lands returned. If some zamindar committed a murder or rape, that zamindar would have been immediately tried and given capital punishment – or at least jailed for life. Unfortunately, Nehru’s shoddy system of law and order allowed brutal, bully zamindars and anyone else with money to run amuck as never before.”

    The reality is that people like you who don’t focus on fundamentals (i.e. JUSTICE) create the need for “SOCIAL” justice which is absurd and impossible to understand in any form or shape. If you join me in focusing on the delivery of justice (a fundamental classical liberal requirement) then all other fuzzy concepts will disappear into the thin air (from which they have come).

    I want a law and order machine in India that ensures that JUSTICE is provided to each person without fail. After that what happens socially is none of the state’s business. Today, people like you (let me say again, more generally, Nehru’s confused godchildren) continue to harp on the wrong thing, instead of ensuring individual justice – which is the only meaningful conception of justice.

    Regards
    Sanjeev

     
  37. Armchair Guy

    Sanjeev:
     
    It's hard to discuss these issues because it seems interpretations keep changing throughout the argument!  You said: "In the case of reservations, there has been no demonstrated theft by the father of a person. The act of private discrimination can hurt, but it does NOT amount to theft."  But the entire argument for several comments was in terms of "theft" of social power.
     
    Regarding your questions on attribution, I think I have (repeatedly) clarified my position that (1) some ancestors were guilty of illegal acts, (2) many in the current generation are not guilty, (3) the entire current generation should not be punished, (4) because of (1) there is no legitimate basis for lopsidedness of social power and opportunity that arose through caste discrimination, (5) it is not punishment if something that doesn't legitimately belong to someone is taken away. 
     
    We are just going in circles.  I've repeated this maybe 5 or 6 times and it clearly answers your question.  Let me say again: there is no problem of attribution.  No one claims the current generation is responsible for the sins of their ancestors.  No one wants to 'punish' innocents.  The disagreement we have been having is whether possession is ownership if the property possessed was stolen, even if it was stolen by someone other than the possessor!  I can't make it any clearer.
     
    Since you're using black-and-white no-shades-of-grey arguments, let me ask you this: why do you want to punish the Dalits by setting up a social system where they remain disadvantaged for the next 50 years?  What crime did they commit?
     
    You say: "The reality is that people like you who don’t focus on fundamentals (i.e. JUSTICE) create the need for “SOCIAL” justice"
     
    I'd focus on fundamentals if they were the right fundamentals!  You are simply taking the fundamentals of your classical liberal religion and trying to apply them everywhere, whether it leads to good outcomes for the public or not.  (Rather, you seem to define "good" as the outcomes of these principles!) The problem is that they sometimes lead to anomalous distortions of what we intuitively perceive as justice.
     
    You say: "I want a law and order machine in India that ensures that JUSTICE is provided to each person without fail."  Sure, most people want this.  Two problems: (1) the meaning of the word JUSTICE differs from group to group, and (2) it's hard and time-taking to create such a high-quality law and order machine.  (The Americans have been trying for hundreds of years.)

     
  38. Armchair Guy

    Sanjeev:
     
    It's hard to discuss these issues because it seems interpretations keep changing throughout the argument!  You said: "In the case of reservations, there has been no demonstrated theft by the father of a person. The act of private discrimination can hurt, but it does NOT amount to theft."  But the entire argument for several comments was in terms of "theft" of social power.
     
    Regarding your questions on attribution, I think I have (repeatedly) clarified my position that (1) some ancestors were guilty of illegal acts, (2) many in the current generation are not guilty, (3) the entire current generation should not be punished, (4) because of (1) there is no legitimate basis for lopsidedness of social power and opportunity that arose through caste discrimination, (5) it is not punishment if something that doesn't legitimately belong to someone is taken away. 
     
    We are just going in circles.  I've repeated this maybe 5 or 6 times and it clearly answers your question.  Let me say again: there is no problem of attribution.  No one claims the current generation is responsible for the sins of their ancestors.  No one wants to 'punish' innocents.  The disagreement we have been having is whether possession is ownership if the property possessed was stolen, even if it was stolen by someone other than the possessor!  I can't make it any clearer.
     
    Since you're using black-and-white no-shades-of-grey arguments, let me ask you this: why do you want to punish the Dalits by setting up a social system where they remain disadvantaged for the next 50 years?  What crime did they commit?
     
    You say: "The reality is that people like you who don’t focus on fundamentals (i.e. JUSTICE) create the need for “SOCIAL” justice"
     
    I'd focus on fundamentals if they were the right fundamentals!  You are simply taking the fundamentals of your classical liberal religion and trying to apply them everywhere, whether it leads to good outcomes for the public or not.  (Rather, you seem to define "good" as the outcomes of these principles!) The problem is that they sometimes lead to anomalous distortions of what we intuitively perceive as justice.
     
    You say: "I want a law and order machine in India that ensures that JUSTICE is provided to each person without fail."  Sure, most people want this.  Two problems: (1) the meaning of the word JUSTICE differs from group to group, and (2) it's hard and time-taking to create such a high-quality law and order machine.  (The Americans have been trying for hundreds of years.)

     
  39. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    Dear AG

    Re: “why do you want to punish the Dalits by setting up a social system where they remain disadvantaged for the next 50 years? What crime did they commit?”

    I am perhaps the most vociferous opponent of caste system (which I treat as a form of racism – perhaps the most insidious of all) and have written repeatedly against it. I long ago also REJECTED Hinduism on many grounds, one of the key grounds being caste discrimination. I would ask the Dalits to LEAVE Hinduism if Hinduism doesn’t revert to its Vedic requirement of caste earned by merit. They are NOT OBLIGED to support this “social system where they remain disadvantaged for the next 50 years”.

    If they CHOOSE to continue to be Hindus, that is because of their greed for reserved seats. If their morals are weak, and they can’t dissociate from Hinduism then that’s their problem. I’m not asking them to choose any other religion, like Ambedkar did, but to declare themselves ABOVE religion. They can find God if that’s what they want, through their own conscious thought and action.

    I trust you’ve read my article against reservations published in FF. http://sabhlokcity.com/2010/10/reservations-are-incompatible-with-freedom-and-justice/. Please read it if you have not.

    The solution for the Dalits is TWOFOLD: (1) LEAVE Hinduism (2) get educated. On the latter, under the policies I’ve outlined in BFN, they would receive the BEST possible education under the system of education I’m talking about. After that they would be on their own. NO reservations at any stage for ANYTHING.

    I think you are confused beyond imagination. You are continuously alleging “theft” when there was none. You bring in matters of “social power” – a totally meaningless concept. You are trying to STEAL from the current generation and yet claim you are not punishing the innocent. I don’t understand your way of thinking. I’m not going to discuss this issue with you further. Please carry on your own confused way of thinking. Let’s move on.

    Regards
    Sanjeev

     
  40. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    Dear AG

    Re: “why do you want to punish the Dalits by setting up a social system where they remain disadvantaged for the next 50 years? What crime did they commit?”

    I am perhaps the most vociferous opponent of caste system (which I treat as a form of racism – perhaps the most insidious of all) and have written repeatedly against it. I long ago also REJECTED Hinduism on many grounds, one of the key grounds being caste discrimination. I would ask the Dalits to LEAVE Hinduism if Hinduism doesn’t revert to its Vedic requirement of caste earned by merit. They are NOT OBLIGED to support this “social system where they remain disadvantaged for the next 50 years”.

    If they CHOOSE to continue to be Hindus, that is because of their greed for reserved seats. If their morals are weak, and they can’t dissociate from Hinduism then that’s their problem. I’m not asking them to choose any other religion, like Ambedkar did, but to declare themselves ABOVE religion. They can find God if that’s what they want, through their own conscious thought and action.

    I trust you’ve read my article against reservations published in FF. http://sabhlokcity.com/2010/10/reservations-are-incompatible-with-freedom-and-justice/. Please read it if you have not.

    The solution for the Dalits is TWOFOLD: (1) LEAVE Hinduism (2) get educated. On the latter, under the policies I’ve outlined in BFN, they would receive the BEST possible education under the system of education I’m talking about. After that they would be on their own. NO reservations at any stage for ANYTHING.

    I think you are confused beyond imagination. You are continuously alleging “theft” when there was none. You bring in matters of “social power” – a totally meaningless concept. You are trying to STEAL from the current generation and yet claim you are not punishing the innocent. I don’t understand your way of thinking. I’m not going to discuss this issue with you further. Please carry on your own confused way of thinking. Let’s move on.

    Regards
    Sanjeev

     
  41. Armchair Guy

    Sanjeev:
     
    It is best we end this argument here; we were going in circles and getting nowhere in any case.  After arguing about theft of social power for about 20 comments, for you to say now that the concept is meaningless is simply disingenuous.   Describing everything you fail to understand as "fuzzy" or "confused" is your prerogative, but that doesn't make it accurate.  As for the Dalits, perhaps they are already doing what's in their best interests.

     
  42. Armchair Guy

    Sanjeev:
     
    It is best we end this argument here; we were going in circles and getting nowhere in any case.  After arguing about theft of social power for about 20 comments, for you to say now that the concept is meaningless is simply disingenuous.   Describing everything you fail to understand as "fuzzy" or "confused" is your prerogative, but that doesn't make it accurate.  As for the Dalits, perhaps they are already doing what's in their best interests.

     

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