Justice

If Billy takes Bobby’s lunch money, and does this every day, and to try and change that would be to stir up trouble, that’s an order. But,¬† if you’re another kid in the class, you may feel like that’s a pretty messed up order. Why? It’s less just. What does that mean?

What do we know about justice?

Central example of a just thing: In the tribe of 20, they pick an order that includes “everyone it can”. They collapse all the timelines where someone dies or gets enslaved, because in the hypotheticals where someone kills someone, the others agree they are criminal and then punish them sufficiently to prevent them from having decided to do it.

Justice also means that the additional means of hurting people created by it are contained and won’t be used to unjustly hurt people.

The concept of justice is usually a force for fulfillment of justice. Because “are you choosing your order for justice” is a meta-order which holds out a lot of other far-Schelling reaching order-drawing processes based on explicit negotiation of who can be devoured by who, which are progressively harder to predict. Many of which have lots of enemies. So much injustice takes place ostensibly as justice.

There’s another common force deciding orders. A dominance hierarchy is an order shaped mostly by this force. If you want to remove this force, how do you prevent those with the power to implement/reshape the system from doing so in their favor?

Because justice is often about “what happened”, it requires quite a lot of Schelling reach. That’s part of courts’ job.

Perfect Schelling reach for perfect justice is impossible.

And “punish exactly enough so that the criminal would never have committed the crime, weight by consequentialist calculations with probability of miscarriage of justice, probability of failing to get caught, probability of escaping punishment after the judgement…, look for every possible fixed point, pick the best one”, is way, way, too illegible a computation to not be hijacked by whoever’s the formal judge of the process and used to extract favors or something. Therefore we get rules like “an eye for an eye” implementing “the punishment should fit the crime” which very legible, and remove a lever for someone to use to corrupt the order to serve them.

Intellectual property law is a place where humans have not the Schelling reach to implement a very deep dive into the process of creating a just order. And I bet never will without a singleton.

The point of justice is to be singular. But as you’ve just seen, justice is dependent on the local environment, and how much / what coordination is possible. For instance, it’s just to kill someone for committing murder, if that’s what the law says, and making the punishment weaker will result in too much more murder, making it more discriminating will result in corrupt judges using their power for blackmail too much¬† more. But it’s not just if the law could be made something better and have that work. If we had infinite Schelling reach, it’d be unjust to use any punishment more or less than the decision theoretically optimal given all information we had. All laws are unjust if Schelling reach surpasses them enough.

Separate two different worlds of people in different circumstances, and they will both implement different orders. Different questions that must be answered incorrectly like “how much to punish” will be answered different amounts incorrectly. There will be different more object-level power structures merged into that, different mixed justice-and-dominance orders around how much things can be done ostensibly (and by extension actually) to fix that. There will be different concepts of justice, even.

And yet, we have a concept of just or unjust international relations, including just or unjust international law. And it’s not just a matter of “different cultures, local justice”, “best contacted culture, universal justice”, either. If you think hard enough, you can probably find thought experiments for when a culture with less Schelling reach and more corruption in an internal law is just in enforcing it until people in a culture with better Schelling reach can coordinate to stop that, and then the law is unjust if making it unjust helps the better law win in a coordinatable way. And counterexamples for when they can’t when that coordination is not a good idea according to some coordinatable process.

The process of merging orders justly is propelled by the idea that justice is objective, even though, that’s a thing that’s always computed locally, is dependent on circumstances implemented by it, therefore contains loops, and therefore ties in the unjust past.

Who’s found a better order for its job than ownership? But who starts out owning what? Even in places where the killing has mostly died down, it’s controlled to large extent by ancient wars. It all carries forward forever the circumstances of who was able to kill who with a stick.

And who is “everyone”? I think there are two common answers to that question, and I will save it for another time.

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