Index ← 3531 CFJ 3532 3533 → text
==============================  CFJ 3532  ==============================

      Shinies are assets.

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Caller:                       omd 

Judge:                        Aris 
Judgement:                    TRUE

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History:

Called by omd:                28 Jun 2017     
Assigned to Aris:             29 Jun 2017
Judged TRUE by Aris:          08 Jul 2017                  
Motion to Reconsider filed:   10 Jul 2017
Judged TRUE by Aris:          23 Jul 2017

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Caller's Arguments:

The recently resurrected rule 2166 says:

      An asset is an entity defined as such by a rule (hereafter its
      backing document), and existing solely because its backing
      document defines its existence.

The latest version of Rule 2483 (Economics) purports to define shinies
as assets, but does it satisfy the second condition?  The meaning of
"because" here is somewhat ambiguous, but I suggest a useful test is
whether an entity would cease to exist if, hypothetically, its backing
document (rule) were repealed.  In this case, shinies are primarily
defined by Rule 2483, but are also explicitly mentioned in Rule 2491
(Estate Auctions) and Rule 2484 (Payday).  For example:

      At the start of each month, if Agora's Balance is not 0 or less,
      Agora SHALL pay each player 10 shinies.

(There are also references to "Balance" in Rules 2485 and 2487.)

If Rule 2483 were repealed, it seems likely that the mentions of
"shinies" (perhaps "Balance" as well) in those rules would still be
interpreted as referring to game-defined objects, given the lack of
any obvious alternative referent.  That would probably be sufficient
to establish shinies as a part of the gamestate, and (given the lack
of any intermediate period in which they're not defined) preserve the
existence of shinies existing prior to the repeal.  Thus shinies fail
the test: they wouldn't cease to exist if Rule 2483 were repealed.
Does that mean they don't exist "solely because" of Rule 2483, and
hence are not assets?

See also: CFJs 1922 and 2309, which addressed that clause but wrt
assets defined by contracts, not rules.

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Judge Aris's Arguments:

This call for judgment inquires whether the "existing solely" clause
(hereinafter The Clause) of Rule 2166, which defines assets, prevents assets
referenced by multiple rules from existing. I turn first to the relevant text
of the rule, which is as follows:

  An asset is an entity defined as such by a rule (hereafter its backing
  document), and existing solely because its backing document defines its
  existence.

Clearly The Clause prevents, say, the sun from being defined as an asset. This
is good, because if the sun could be an asset the rules might make it
destructible, and then we'd be forced to accept, for game purposes, that there
was no sun. It would be even more problematic if we accepted persons, and
therefore players, as assets. Obviously the rules are free to make such
definitions anyway (although we might argue over whether they would have any
effect, considering the interests of the game). However, in the past
we've allowed contracts to define assets, explaining the necessity of such
restrictions.

The Clause prevents another class of situations as well. It prevents
two different rules from defining the same asset. In older forms, it has done
the same for a rule and a contract (CFJs 1922-1923). The question raised here is
whether even referencing an asset would create such a situation. This raises
interesting questions about the way we interpret the rules. It has long been
understood that even if a term used in the rules is undefined, we are obliged to
try our best to figure out what it means. Thus, even without the rule defining
shinies, we would "interpret them into existence". Without shinies, pending
would be impossible, and we would be unable to pay out salaries, among other
problems. So, it is apparent that we might consider shinies existent even
without the intervention of their defining rule, arguably triggering The Clause.

The historical interpretation of The Clause, however, does not support this
argument. There are no precedents that clearly apply to this situation, although
in CFJ 3381 the Honorable Judge ais523 appears to assume in passing that such
things are possible. But our current situation is not unprecedented, there are
merely no applicable _judicial_ precedents. Rule 2166 is not a new rule. It was,
in fact, a rather aged rule at time it was repealed, and it only seems new to
us because of its recent reenactment. One example of a similar situation is the
point, which was the general unit of currency under this [1] ruleset. I can find
no record of anyone complaining that they didn't exist.

If we were to ignore history, would we find? Well, the idea that we interpret
terms in the rules in a way that gives them effect is largely a matter of
tradition. No rule says that, in the absence of a definition from either
conventional English or the rules, we have to try to interpret the rules the way
they are intended to be read. Another consideration is the interests of the
game; certainly it would seem to be in the game's best interest to have a
definition for shinies, and all of the clarifications of their behavior that
come with it.

I know all the Platonists (if that is the right term, perhaps Logicians would
be better) in the crowd out jeering at me for refusing to consider the matter
logically, a priori, from the wording on up. I will therefore close with two
arguments that I hope will placate them. First, the doctrine that the rules and
the terms in them must be given meaning in accordance with common sense exists
to make the game playable. If every typo or invented but undefined term stopped
the game, then the game would long since have ended. We have to keep playing,
and in order to keep playing, we often need to interpret the rules the way they
are intended to be read. The core thesis of the doctrine is that the rules need
to have their common sense meaning; using it to rob the rules of what they are
plainly intended to mean violates that principle. It would essentially be using
the doctrine to violate its own basis for existence.

Second, and perhaps most convincingly, the argument that the rules conflict
with each other is only valid under circumstances that are themselves internally
inconsistent. If we view the rules Platonically/logically, then only one rule
attempts to define assets. If we consider the rules Pragmatically/legally, then
their common sense intent shines through. It is only when we look at one rule
one way and another rule another way that a contradiction between rules arises.
As it is a longstanding principle of rule interpretation that, if reasonably
possible, we will attempt to construe the rules so that no contradiction occurs,
it is sensible to here use the only consistent interpretation, which also
happens to be the only one that doesn't violate the plain meaning of any of
the rules in question.

I conclude my judgment by noting that there may in fact be one judicial
precedent that has some real bearing on this situation. Once there was a
contract that defined an asset called a "prop". I don't really know the details
of the situation, but even after the contract stopped existing, people still
acted like props existed. They were informally handed around and reported on,
as if they still existed. Later that contract was brought back, and a CFJ was
called to inquire into whether The Clause prevented them from being assets.
I realize that this is completely different from our current situation, and
that principles of rule interpretation are stronger and more established
than most informal traditions. Still, both are matters of tradition and
the collective imagination, and the fact remains that the one line verdict
of CFJ 2344, which to the best of my knowledge has not been overturned, judged
that props were a valid asset.

I judge CFJ 3532 TRUE.

[1] https://mailman.agoranomic.org/cgi-bin/mailman/private/agora-official/2008-July/004749.html


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Judge Aris's Arguments:

(on Motion to Reconsider)

Addendum to my previous verdict, available here [1]

omd has moved that I reconsider my judgment, requesting that I show my chain
of logic and how my reading is consistent with the rule. There are several
ways the current rule is ambiguous. I thank ais523 for showing that the rule
text doesn't make a clear distinction between an asset and a type of asset,
which may lead to disturbing ambiguities. I also briefly considered arguing
that the definition of 'exist' is unclear (some dictionaries mention objectivity
as a criterion). However, after several weeks of reflection, I believe I have
found an interpretation that doesn't even require the rule to be ambiguous,
although if it is, Rule 217 favors this interpretation as I showed in my
original verdict.

Rule 2166 states that assets must be "existing solely because its backing
document defines its existence." In the caller's arguments, e suggested that "a
useful test [for determining whether an asset complies with The Clause]
is whether an entity would cease to exist if, hypothetically, its backing
document (rule) were repealed." The caller was right that this test is useful
in many cases, but it is misleading to apply it in this one. The problem is that
"existing" is the present participle of the verb "to exist". It is thus asking
a question about what is causing the asset to exist right now, not under
hypothetical circumstances. To illustrate the problem, imagine two power 1.0
rules, A and B, as follows:

  Rule A
  Marks are an asset.

  Rule B
  If no other rule defines marks, then they are an asset [alternately, an entity
  with X properties, it doesn't matter].

Are marks an asset? Yes, because currently only Rule A attempts to define them.
This is true despite the fact that if Rule A were repealed, Rule B would take
over and define them instead. I will refer to Rule B as being "dormant".

Obviously, the current case is not so clear, or we probably wouldn't be here
arguing about it. Rule 2483 says "shinies (sg. shiny) are an indestructible
liquid currency [a type of asset]..." Other rules refer to them, and may
imply things about their properties. However, we do not generally believe that
these rules are causing them to exist. The rule that defines shinies is Rule
2483. Other rules may regulate their behavior, or even expand on their
properties, but to interpret these rules to define them requires us to read in
something that is nowhere in their text. The situation would change
significantly if Rule 2483 were repealed. Then, in order to make the statements
within those rules true, we would have to interpret the statements as acting
like a definition, and we would be forced to suppose most of the properties
of shinies in accordance with Rule 217. This is not the case at present,
and the defining potential of these rules, the potential to cause shinies to
exist, is dormant.

I reinstate and affirm my previous judgement of TRUE.

[1] https://www.mail-archive.com/agora-business@agoranomic.org/msg28843.html


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