Blog neighbor Jason Kuznicki at Positive Liberty wrote while I was vacationing on the Mr Vick/dog-fighting kerfuffle and animal “rights”:
Why the law needs to get involved, I really don’t understand. If the law were to act here in any fair or consistent way, it would also be forced to destroy a lot of other uses for animals that we mostly find unobjectionable. For every argument you make against foie gras or dogfighting — both practices of longstanding tradition — someone else can come along an make what’s probably an a fortiori case against industrial farming, which obviously involves more pain to more animals, which is of very recent institution, and which bothers relatively few.
In a followup post he continues in this vein:
The state exists to redress real injuries to persons and to the property of others, not to assuage hurt feelings or to enforce the preferences of a group, even if that group is in the majority, and even if the hurt feelings are profound — as they are in the case of religious dissent. If the state can’t use force to stop the cosmic, existential hurt feeling of thinking that your neighbor is going to Hell, then I can’t see the case for using state force against any lesser hurt feelings, either.
Now, this is all fairly standard political thinking … but incorrect nonetheless. The statement, the state exists to redress real injuries to persons and to the property of others, is a statement which is axiomatic in one particular family of theories of government. It is not axiomatic to all of them and Mr Kuznicki however is certainly very well aware of that. After all, “the state exists for X”, where X is the choice of the Libertarians isn’t the X as might be taken universally. I can understand writing essays with the notion that your opinion is fact, that is the style of the essayist. But Mr Kuznicki’s line of reasoning seems to imply that his imagination fails him in preventing him from even conceiving or remembering that there are actually other political systems. This seems unlikely. One wonders then to what why he makes such naivete as a dialectical technique. Bertrand de Jouvenel in the mid 20th century sliced and diced both Hobbes contractual notions of governance as well as re-iterating and perhaps strengthens Rousseau’s critique of Locke’s defensive ideas on rights. Certainly there are better assaults on rights and contract than naivete, if that be Mr Kuznicki’s goal.
If one seeks a reason why dogfighting might be illegal. One need only look look in some musty books. I’ve mused that “progressives” hold equality as the main purpose of the state, libertarians freedom , and for conservatives … virtue. Aristotle and many classical Greek thinkers held that the state exists to provide in order to nurture virtue in its citizens and that on that basis laws might be written. To defend legalization of dog-fighting and cruelty to animals one must, it would seem, in that arena arrive at a reason for linking dog-fighting and its practices with the cultivation of virtue. In the absence of same, there is no reason to protect it. If, as is more likely, dog-fighting has only ill effects on the virtue of any and all involved … it might very well be made illegal in that case. I’m still hunting for the classical arguments against the idea that government is for our virtue, for I’m sure they exists … somewhere.
Finally, I might remark that ultimately as a result of my reading of Jouvenel (and Solzhenitsyn) that what is most needed from a legal perspective in our state is that Federal laws should absent themselves from considerations of dog-fighting (as well as abortion, marriage, and a plethora of other affairs). In fact, our States also should steer clear. For our personal civic virtues are being atrophied by increasing federal centralization and the concommittant disenfranchisement of the common man. Strong exercise and a sensibilities for civic virtue is a requirement for the preservation of liberty and is being lost in our land. The local counties, parishes, wards, and precincts should decide such things. As such, they should be ruling on the righteousness of dog-fighting in their locale. And while, I happen to think, for other virtues, it should be illegal. It is more important that each of us be forced to consider these matters ourselves.