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Everything posted by DonAthos

  1. With others responding to legal/moral issues, I just want to clarify that, per my understanding of Objectivism, what you describe would not be the "initiation of the use of force" in the sense that Rand means when she employs those terms. Rather, force would already have been initiated by your aggressor in beating someone else; if you employ force to stop him, that would be viewed in the vein of retaliatory/self-defensive action, which is moral per Objectivism.
  2. Welcome to the board. I hope you benefit from your time here. As a lazy answer, I don't think it can be questioned that Rand's experiences in Russia/the USSR had enormous influence on her, just as I expect that any individual is enormously influenced by the circumstances of their upbringing. But to the extent that Objectivism is "atheistic" and "materialistic," I think it would be a mistake to try to find the reason(s) for that in the fact that Rand hailed from a particular country (if that is the proposed project); Rand typically gives incredibly thought-out and painstakingly argued reasons for her positions on sundry topics, and those reasons -- right or wrong -- stand without respect to the origin of author (or reader). That said, I'm certain that Rand's early experiences and education emphasized certain readings or access to specific intellectual strains of thought, or etc., and perhaps that's what you're after, to trace the intellectual history of her ideas. Rand herself chiefly acknowledged Aristotle, though I have heard that she was influenced by Nietzsche early on... But come to that, others here are Rand scholars who can offer much more insight into this question than I. I'm not certain what you mean by "Socialist Objectivism," but let me try to speak to "altruism." Yes, Objectivists use "altruism" in a rather narrow, specific way, which is the idea that actions are considered moral to the extent that they benefit others (in contrast to selfish actions, which benefit the self). Rand on "altruism": "Altruism declares that any action taken for the benefit of others is good, and any action taken for one’s own benefit is evil." Rand on "selfishness": "[T]he exact meaning and dictionary definition of the word 'selfishness' is: concern with one’s own interests. [...] The Objectivist ethics holds that the actor must always be the beneficiary of his action and that man must act for his own rational self-interest. [...] Since selfishness is 'concern with one’s own interests,' the Objectivist ethics uses that concept in its exact and purest sense." This is what Rand (and knowledgeable Objectivists) mean when using those terms. There are yet many actions (which we could roundly describe as "kind" or "benevolent" or even "charitable") which society would sometimes consider "altruistic" that are not contrary to Rand's selfishness -- but are, in fact, quite selfish. Rand writes, for instance, "Do not hide behind such superficialities as whether you should or should not give a dime to a beggar. That is not the issue. The issue is whether you do or do not have the right to exist without giving him that dime." And this is just so. (If you take away from this that an Objectivist could morally give a dime to a beggar, in a given context, I would say that you are correct.) Some people try to point out the supposed hypocrisy of Objectivists by noting, for instance, that the Ayn Rand Institute is "non-profit" (and donates books to schools!), or that one of the Atlas Shrugged movies used Kickstarter as a partial source of funding, or etc. Those people do not understand what Objectivists believe, though this does not appear to give them any pause in their invective. So, good on you for trying! Climate change is a matter for scientists, and while philosophy sets the ground rules for scientific thought, Objectivism qua philosophy does not have a position on whether the climate is changing, or what the cause is, or etc. Accordingly, you will find diverse opinions among Objectivists on those sorts of questions. Personally, I'm not sufficiently educated about climate change to hold forth on it to any great extent, though I am impressed (and distressed) by the seeming scientific consensus. I know there are skeptical challenges to various models, and use of data, and etc., but again, I'm not sufficiently educated on these topics to be able to say much more. I take it for granted that catastrophic climate change is a real possibility for planet Earth, whether man-made or not, because obviously the climate has changed in the past (in ways I would regard as "catastrophic" for human life, if repeated), and I expect it could again. If technological innovation has the potential to help mankind combat such catastrophic outcomes, should they threaten -- and I would suppose that such innovation is our best hope, speaking generally -- then I would want man to be unfettered to think and work and pursue those innovations. This "unfettering" refers to political "liberty," which is what Objectivists mean when referring to "capitalism," which thus primarily refers to a political system and not economics, as such. This said, there are specific scenarios related to the environment which I believe would justify "interventions in the marketplace," by which I mean regulatory laws (or criminal laws, or civil lawsuits). If we were to determine that polluting the ocean (which is a common resource; or at least, I don't know of any proposal to privatize it yet) to whatever extent is bound to exterminate the world's algae, let's say, and thus choke off all of our oxygen, or what-have-you, then yes, we cannot be allowed to pollute the ocean like that (though such a discussion would be heavily nuanced and context-dependent). If this makes me a heretic in the eyes of other Objectivists, so be it, but my policy is to keep breathing. Edited to add: As to the question of whether climate change (real or imagined) could lead to totalitarianism, well yeah. But the power hungry have never wanted for reasons to impose their wills on others, and totalitarianism has seemed to exist in every age. If climate change could spark a resurgence in totalitarianism (and it certainly seems to me to have that potential), the path will have been paved by centuries of philosophical thought which have argued for self-sacrifice (in the interests of the state, or God, or the race, or etc.) and against the rights and happiness of individual human beings. There is no Objectivist dictum like "free markets lead to free societies," so far as I am aware, and I would redirect you to what I've said above, which is that Objectivism is primarily concerned with a moral political system (which we find in protecting individual rights, which we call "liberty"/capitalism) and not economic outcomes, as such. (Though many Objectivists may appeal to various economists who have argued that such liberty does generally result in prosperity, and etc.) That said, a "free market" is not simply an absence of state authority... and in fact, a "free market" is not possible without some state authority to protect people in the use of their individual rights, whether in producing goods, trading them, or consuming them. The market is not "free" (and not truly a "market"), for instance, if you can steal from me with impunity. That's not an example of a free society, either, and such lawlessness is not what Objectivists regard as either moral or desirable. I never would have described myself as Marxist-Communist, or an anarchist, but I was certainly a liberal in my youth. The experiences that led me to shift are probably too numerous to mention, but as a quick reduction I'll say that I read a number of influential books (including Rand, but not exclusively written by her), and I've spent many years applying ideas, testing them out in my own life, reviewing the results, studying history and my own past, and etc. It is a complex process. Throughout my intellectual development (which began when I was a liberal, and many years before discovering Objectivism), and despite the pride of place I now give to "happiness" and "self-esteem," I was led onward in the main by a passion for discovering the truth of things. I watched Wall Street when I was young, and I cannot tell you what impression it made on me (because I do not remember). I imagine that the stereotypical "businessman world-beater" aesthetic did not do much for me at the time, as, quite frankly, it does not do much for me now.
  3. Your stating things in terms like these makes me want to reply in kind. I am not "pro-cop" at all (though I believe I've encountered many "pro-cop" folks on this board), no more than I am "pro-criminal," "pro-worker" or "pro-businessman." I am pro-individual and pro-individual rights. I believe that no individual has the right to initiate the use of force against any other -- and I extend that to police officers, who I do believe are yet "individuals." Am I pro-law enforcement in principle? No, not as such. There was law enforcement in Soviet Russia and Nazi Germany -- plenty of it -- but I don't consider myself a fan. I am pro-moral law, pro-objective law, and where there is moral and objective law, then I am in favor of enforcement (in an objective, structured, procedural manner). Where the law is immoral and in-objective, I'd rather that law remain unenforced. The system as it exists, within the culture as it exists, makes me wary of all prominent actors. Objectivists remain on the fringe for a reason: our devotion(s) to reason, reality, egoism, and liberty are not widely shared.
  4. I don't think the idea "both people made a mistake" is appropriate here at all. That can describe how certain romantic relationships end, perhaps, or similar, but in this sort of situation there is a gross difference between the role of a police officer and a citizen. The police officer has a responsibility to remain disciplined and act in a procedural fashion in a way that may ideally be true of a given citizen, but cannot rightly be expected. It falls upon the police officer's shoulders to remain calm in trying situations and act appropriately, even when the citizens they deal with do not (and I am not convinced that Castile fell short of reasonable expectations in this case, even if the African American community has otherwise taken to extreme measures of compliance in order to prevent zealous police officers from murdering them). That's what the training is for.
  5. Nicky, we still have that feature. In your browser it might look like a small 'x' in the upper right corner of your window.
  6. For once I have to say it: you're right on all counts, Nicky. Wait... You are talking about the police officer, right?
  7. I certainly agree with this. But even while we're waiting for what you suggest to be possible (or actively fighting for it, as the case may be), I think there are changes we can make -- and must make -- now, given present society and all of its ills. It's like... I know there have been so many of these sorts of incidents, and who can keep track anymore, but one that really stood out to me at the time was John Crawford, who got shot in a Walmart because he was carrying a BB gun (that he had picked up in that Walmart, being, you know, for sale). Maybe others will see the details of that incident differently, but to me it appears as though police were under the (mistaken) assumption that they were dealing with an "active shooter" situation -- or at least one that had the potential to become one -- so they considered themselves justified in opening fire almost immediately upon confronting Crawford. Per Wikipedia (linked above), "Special Prosecutor Mark Piepmeier presented the fact that the police officer shot Crawford on sight, as was consistent with their recent training." Well, okay, I get it. But perhaps there's a problem with the paradigm here, then, because the grand result of this was that an innocent man who picked up a toy gun in a Walmart was gunned down with (what seems to me, at least) no real opportunity to prevent his own death -- AND the police argued that this was consistent with their training, AND a grand jury agreed. Wiki further notes that Ohio (the state where this took place) was/is "open carry," which should mean that a guy like Crawford ought to have been able to have carried a real gun anyways (pursuant to Walmart policy) without being executed for it. This is a problem.
  8. We've seen so many of these kinds of episodes over the last several years. And I know that, in every particular case, there are bound to be details worthy of discussion or debate -- but I think that the totality is also worth considering. Is there a cultural problem within modern American policing that needs to be addressed? Or a training problem? Or both? It seems to me that we have occasional terrorist incidents by Muslims, and taking them together, we can rightly conclude that there is a cultural problem with Islam (at the least). Yet with all of the cases of either police brutality, or error, which result in people being unjustly killed, we don't seem to want to connect those dots. Personally, I think it's easy to understand why there might be a cultural problem. The police have been put in an impossible situation, especially via the drug war, in having to enforce laws which oughtn't even exist. They are thus set against people who are essentially innocent of any true crime (though often these people are led into genuine criminality, too, which is another horrid byproduct of the present system). The police are set against entire communities. This would not be the case if the police were charged with what they ought actually do: stop murderers, robbers and the like. Then the police and communities could work hand-in-hand to preserve the actual peace. But presently, the police are the enemies of true peace, because they work to uphold immoral law, which (as a reminder to my fellow Objectivists) entails the initiation of the use of force. This has led to an increase in militarization on both sides, and a concomitant increase in fear, anger, mistrust, etc., etc. (All of this is not only a problem culturally, but as I say, even with the best of intentions it is bound to put training to the test. Are we equipping the police properly for the reality of what we're asking them to do?) Psychologically, a police officer must be willing to initiate force against innocents, not just once in a while, but as a routine practice. I've argued this point several times elsewhere on this board -- I don't know whether I've convinced anyone else of anything, but I am, myself, convinced, that this must wreak devastation on a person's psyche or soul. It is something that I could never personally do -- be willing to initiate force in that way, doing evil daily as a means of earning my paycheck. And those officers who are initially sincere in wanting to do good -- because stopping murderers and the like certainly is good -- what is more pitiable than such a goodhearted person being "forced" to become the agent of wrongdoing, and the tool of state coercion? I'd imagine that police officers of truly noble soul either quit early on or suffer extreme psychological damage over time, if such concepts as "mind" and "identity" and etc. have any real meaning. Finally, I think it right to consider that all of this does take place within a historical context, and racism is historically a significant factor in American society. Though I'm sick to death of discussing racism in 2017, American society has struggled with it -- that's a fact. Perhaps all of that ended in the 1960s or something, but I doubt it. I've been privy to conversations among even my own extended family in middle America which have established to me that racism is alive and well in certain communities, and I've heard sufficient anecdotes from elsewhere in the country that lead me to believe that racism continues to exist elsewhere, too. Are the police free and clear from these sorts of problems? It would seem naive to think so, and yet this would be one area where we, as a society, would need to strive to ensure an absolute lack of bias (to the greatest extent possible), given the unique role the police play in enforcing law, and their power to arrest, their power to kill, especially in dynamic and uncertain situations. Taking all of this together, it would surprise me if the police did not have cultural issues that need to be addressed. (It is just like how I am not surprised when there are issues, say, among the Catholic priesthood. Yes, if you ask a number of people to take on that role -- a role no one should play -- you are bound to have problems.) The ultimate solution will entail fundamental changes in society, and culture, and nothing that can happen quickly or easily, but in the interim I believe that there are bound to be shorter-term fixes, including revising tactics and training to avoid or ameliorate these sorts of situations. I believe that there has to be a way for an officer to stop someone like Castile without such tragic results, and that the needful solution is not for all 300+ million Americans to prepare themselves to walk the tightrope of not triggering officers' too-large panic buttons, but for officers to be trained such that they do not panic or react so poorly.
  9. Not even "admits" -- he volunteered the information. I suppose that's one lesson to take from this: if you're carrying a gun, even lawfully, don't tell the police. Who knows what will set them off?
  10. So the response here is, "What was the cop supposed to do? Not shoot him!?" Yes, the cop was not supposed to shoot the law-abiding citizen reaching for his driver's license (as instructed). If there's a problem with that -- a problem brought on by the citizen having a permitted weapon (which is supposedly one of our fundamental, Constitutional rights) -- then the entire system needs review. It should not be on citizens, acting wholly within their rights and complying with law-enforcement officers' commands, to stop from accidentally tripping across officers' apparently over-developed zeal for shooting first and asking questions later.
  11. If one wishes to wear a suit and tie to some event, as a matter of convention or custom, then I would agree that -- generally speaking -- there's no further need to justify it. "When in Rome" covers a great deal of action, and saves much time and thought/energy. But this is a far cry from saying that one has some moral (or... aesthetic?) duty to act in conventional manners for the sake of "society's health." If one is sick, it makes great sense to refrain from shaking hands. If one's tie is choking, it makes sense to loosen or remove it. And if one has some qualms about the actions of the United States, or paying homage to the symbols which represent her, then one has no moral requirement to act against one's inclination for the sake of convention, or to preserve the fabric of society, or to spare other peoples' feelings. I will add that convention changes over time, and this is in part due to individual people acting in unconventional or indecorous manners because it suits them, individually, to do so, even against the pearl clutching of conservative minds.
  12. Are you saying that you, personally, feel "disrespected" or "insulted" when others choose not to stand for the anthem? Or are you speaking on behalf of others? I went to a baseball game last night. I stood for the anthem (or anthems in this case, as we were playing a Canadian team). I'm sure there were people in the stadium who weren't standing -- there always are -- but I can't imagine caring about their choice to do so, or taking any umbrage at it. So you're telling happiness to stand -- why? So as to not hurt other peoples' feelings? Why should other people care whether happiness stands or not when a song is sung? And why should happiness care if their feelings are hurt over this supposed slight?
  13. I mean libertarian as Wikipedia has it -- "a collection of political philosophies and movements that uphold liberty as a core principle" -- which is also what I believe most people to mean when employing the term. And if this also serves to describe the Objectivist Politics (and I believe that it does), then the Objectivist Politics is libertarian. But then people could equally "use libertarian in the narrow sense" of referring to Ayn Rand. Her disavowals notwithstanding, it's my understanding that many people do indeed consider her a libertarian -- and I believe with great justice, appealing once again to the common understanding of the term (which is reflected in the Wikipedia entry). Again: because some Catholics do not consider themselves Christian, it does not change the fact that Catholics are Christian. And because we observe that (in the narrow sense), some Christians are Catholics, some are Methodists, some are Baptists, we know that not all Christians share identical views. Equally, some libertarians might consider themselves to agree with Rothbard or Nozick (whatever their views are) or with Ayn Rand. It doesn't change what "libertarian" is. You sincerely believe that most people -- even informed political observers -- are prone to think in terms of "classical liberal," and not "libertarian" (which also happens to be the name of a prominent political party)? If so, agree to disagree. What? Why would you believe that the term libertarian "logically entails" the beliefs of Rothbard or Nozick, but not Ayn Rand? Why wish a person to turn away from libertarianism before "turning full-on ancap" rather than encouraging them to stick with libertarianism until "turning full-on Objectivist"? Are you concerned that Rand's arguments are less persuasive than those of Rothbard or Nozick or etc.?
  14. After the initial essay, there is a comment thread within which the essay's author writes: This captures both my sense of it and intended meaning. Salmieri then goes on to say: Yet the way "libertarian" is defined by Wikipedia, quoted earlier in this thread -- which I would argue reflects on how that term is used and understood today -- does seem to capture the essence of Objectivist political philosophy. Further, as I'd suggested earlier, an Objectivist who described his political views with no specific telltale reference to Rand, or etc., would be received as a "libertarian" (or I suspect so, at least), which again says to me that the way we currently use "libertarian" does indeed serve to describe the Objectivist Politics (broadly). Precisely. And I believe that among the vast majority, if I were to say that "I think that the sole proper function of government is to protect individual rights," the response I would receive in return is: "oh, so you're a libertarian." If the problem is that some (even prominent) people have used "libertarian" as a cover for anarchist views, then that's certainly a problem for intelligible use of the term -- and it may demand clarification. But I don't think it's necessarily a worse problem than embracing "selfish," when so very many abuse that term, or even "Objectivism" as a philosophy of reason when so many self-described Objectivists turn out to be unreasonable.
  15. I have very little to say about Cato, Nozick, and "ancap," because I know so little about any of them. But here's a brief anecdote about how I initially came to Objectivism: I was dating a woman who was a libertarian -- very much in the negative sense that usually (and I argue unfairly), for Objectivists, comprises the entire meaning: she only cared about political philosophy and thought, essentially, that none of the rest mattered. Through my association with her, I encountered Henry Hazlitt, the Austrian school, and finally Ayn Rand (who did not impress her much, but shook me to my core). As a new Objectivist, I did as most new Objectivists do (in my experience), whereby I instantly tried to divide the world into good and evil; my girlfriend did not survive the cut. She set out to work in libertarian areas, specifically in the fight to change marijuana laws, while I went to work for ARI. Was she/is she an "ally"? It's hard for me to address such a question, as such, especially since there is SO MUCH history and hard feelings within the Objectivist community over issues of "sanction" and libertarians and etc. (And then there is my own personal history with her.) Yet I will say this: all of these years later, marijuana law has generally improved. It is arguable that, in terms of politics alone, she has more to show for her efforts than I have for mine.
  16. Wikipedia writes, "Libertarianism (Latin: liber, "free") is a collection of political philosophies and movements that uphold liberty as a core principle." Objectivism is a complete philosophy with positions on metaphysics, aesthetics, and so forth. One can be a libertarian without being an Objectivist (meaning: agreeing with Objectivists politically to some apparently great extent, but disagreeing on other fundamental philosophical matters, such as the role of art in human life), but "libertarian" continues to describe the Objectivist Politics, and as such, with respect to its politics, Objectivism itself. To put it another way, if an Objectivist ran for office and described his political platform in a speech on television (with no specific mention of Rand, Objectivism, or other philosophical topics beyond politics), viewers would not be wrong to think of his platform as being "libertarian."
  17. I've no comment on Nozick, whom I have not read, but I'd like to challenge this initial notion -- because I think it is a common error among Objectivists. "Libertarianism," as such, is not a philosophy to be contrasted against Objectivism. It is an approach to politics specifically, and delimited to that sphere. Thus when you say that Objectivism bears the "obvious similarity" of aligning to laissez-faire capitalism, as libertarianism does, that is as much as saying that "Objectivism is libertarian." Which is correct. The mistake is trying to ascribe a full philosophy to "libertarianism" as such, then finding no agreement among "libertarian philosophers" (including Ayn Rand, even if she rejected the label) and decrying libertarianism for having contradictions. Or finding a self-described libertarian who offers no moral defense for capitalism and then saying that, therefore, libertarianism has no moral defense for capitalism. But it does. Ayn Rand provided it. Libertarianism is not a specific philosophy, but it is a category of political philosophy, and Objectivism fits within it. Though a particular man may be "libertarian" and irrational, subscribing to mystical notions or other errors in metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, and etc. -- and though we can recognize that this will ultimately prove fatal to his understanding/application of even those political concepts he professes to endorse (such as "liberty") -- this does not make Objectivism anything other than libertarian. It is rather like the person who says (and I've met more than one), "Oh, I'm not Christian... I'm Catholic." But Catholics are Christians and Objectivists are libertarians.
  18. Can I just say, to provide my own data point...? My experience is different. Those artworks I identified with strongly as a child or adolescent or young adult, I identify with still -- even though my conscious convictions have changed. And explicit agreement with my conscious convictions does not seem to be any crucial matter for me, with respect to my enjoyment of art; if there is implicit agreement, through technical or thematic matters that might be beyond my expertise to divine, then there is: but I do not need characters telling one another that "A is A," for instance, to enjoy them. I'm not trying to advance an argument here. I don't know what the sum of my experience means (if it means anything), only that it is my experience. It is possible that my sense of life was always suited to my present convictions -- and that, in fact, it was such in part that led me on the path I eventually found. But this sounds like a convenient and self-serving explanation to me, and I'm not yet convinced of it, and I don't know how I would suss it out any further.
  19. I agree that art, both in the creation and experiencing of it, stems from one's beliefs (and experiences). But when someone then tries to assess people morally or with respect to "sense of life" (including themselves) based upon their aesthetic preferences, or to assess the artist of an artwork, or to assess an artwork itself, along these lines, well, I have grown deeply skeptical of any individual's ability to do so. If I know that a person "enjoys Van Gogh" to use the thread's common example -- or any one of his works -- well, what do I know about that person (beyond the stipulated information) or how they relate to the art? Not a hell of a lot. If someone reads one of my stories and tries to infer my beliefs from it (and I have known people to try to do this), are they very successful? Not usually. Not more than those who try to infer my personality from the fact that I'm Gemini. Perhaps there is some technique or science here waiting to be discovered, but until such a thing is demonstrated, this all has the seeming of armchair psychology to me.
  20. Hi Will_to_Know and welcome to the forum! I see you've already received some response. Yet I hope you won't mind if I start fresh with your OP? I'll say broadly up front that, as an Objectivist, I'm not interested in "standing up for business," as such; rather, I'm interested in standing up for individual rights. It happens that individuals do business. As for tools that individuals can use to push back against immorality (in business or otherwise), well, they can generally do as seems reasonable, so long as they do not initiate the use of force. I know that's a very generalized answer, but perhaps we can find some specifics as we go... I think this comes closest to my position (though the specifics of governmental transition to a Capitalist system are far beyond me): I believe we ought to govern differently because the initiation of the use of force is immoral and destructive. Accordingly, I would like to see these changes made as fast as possible, because people are suffering in the interim. (It is a little like wondering -- "what will the plantation families do if slavery is outlawed overnight?" Honestly, I consider such a consideration to be in distant second place.) I do not expect any radical change in our current society, however, because most of the people of the United States (and world) do not support the system I endorse; there will be no immediate reduction of government. (If there were radical change in modern America, it would almost certainly be for the worse.) The changes we're talking about would require, first, something of a philosophical revolution (or evolution). I trust that, by the time anything close to an Objectivist system were implemented politically, that a good percentage of the citizenry would have already adopted the kinds of tools that they would need to be more successful absent modern governmental oversight and support. It's the only way for such a fundamental political shift to occur in the first place. This may be me being a bad Objectivist, but I'm not completely convinced that law/regulation is inappropriate for the handling (or documentation) of certain harmful materials, etc. I regard it as similar to arms control. If we would not permit a private individual to own his own nuclear missile (as I would not... or at least, not without regulation as to approximate a governmental entity), due to the capacity for incredible and irreparable damage that it represents, then we might be equally sensitive to activities that can, say, ruin a river serving one or several communities. Further, when you ask how a group of citizens can stand up to a wealthy offender, I would say that the challenges we're discussing are similar to the challenges we experience today. Wealth, of its nature, confers advantages. Bribery of governmental officials (or those acting in such a capacity) ought to be illegal, and yes, we will need good criminal investigators to uncover hidden tracks. Yet the citizens are not powerless. If they could, in theory, unite through tax and vote and governmental action, then I would expect that they could unite without those things, too -- in a voluntary, cooperative capacity. If people do not want their rivers polluted (and generally speaking, I'd say that we don't), then that suggests to me that there would be the ability to raise funds and take appropriate action. Isn't this, again, already a bug (or feature) of the current system? I'm no expert in it, but I'm certain that the present legal system could use reform to prevent such abusive lawsuits, as already exist. I don't see how there was anything untoward in that particular situation. If Thiel funded Hogan, or Hogan funded himself, what difference does it make? Well, what's needed to make boycotts effective, or more effective, is more education. (Isn't that what's always needed?) I'm not convinced that the notion that "because dumping happened in Alabama, not here, so what do I care?" is particularly "legitimate." It reminds me of the old "first they came for the Socialists" poem. We would defend against other intrusions against liberty (free speech, property, etc.) in Alabama, because we understand the implication for liberty everywhere; I expect such a sort of reasoning might provide the impetus for Californians to take events in Alabama personally. (And if you investigate, I believe you'll find that many already do.) I don't know how to rectify the death of hundreds, either in contemporary society or any utopia we might imagine. I will say that a company that poisons people, and the individuals responsible within that company, ought to be held accountable for their actions (with reasonable distinctions made between accident and intention, as in other applications of proper law, and etc). That doesn't sound much like justice to me. Knowing that these toxins may cause these problems (if indeed we do), we would need to be extra-vigilant against them. Whether through regulation (if we can agree that any are appropriate) or economic/internal pressures (such as boycott, and the kind of industry-created groups New Buddha mentioned), if people have an interest in protecting our children -- and we do -- we will find a way to ensure that our children are protected. It remains to do so morally and rationally. But Objectivism carries with it no call for us to stand back and allow our rivers and children to be poisoned. There is no Big Objectivist Book of Answers, unfortunately. Objectivism advocates for the use of reason and logic and evidence, which I think is a good way to approach questions such as these, and morally/politically it insists that we do not violate the rights of others through the initiation of the use of force. Some of the scenarios you're presenting, where companies poison rivers and give people cancer, are, I would argue, an example of the initiation of the use of force. That is to say, they are a violation of individual rights. Per Objectivism, and if I am correct, they ought to be stopped. How best to do this, how best for people to organize, how best to administer the court system, and etc., are all worthy and difficult questions that we struggle to answer today, just as I would struggle to answer them in any theoretical future.
  21. Apropos of this thread, I've been thinking about this sort of thing lately, and what I've found myself wondering is: suppose it turned out that Francisco Domingo Carlos Andres Sebastián d'Anconia were adopted? Would he (or ought he) feel less connected to his family? Less concerned with proving himself worthy of the family name? Would he be rational in seeking out his "real" family, instead, the better to understand himself? Or would it make more sense for him to now draw greater inspiration from Aristotle, The Founding Fathers, et al.? Or what about a family friend to the d'Anconias -- perhaps one without so "proud" a lineage. Could such a person rightly aspire to prove himself equally worthy of a family name he does not bear? Or would this somehow be dishonest? Must he rather accept what he's been born to? Speaking personally, I don't know why I shouldn't identify with or care about or "feel proud" about the accomplishments, actions, and virtues of "perfect strangers." If family -- rationally and ideally -- is aspirational in character, then why shouldn't I aspire to the best of the human race, irrespective of their relationship to me? Why be bound by race or ethnicity or family ties, or give such happenstance associations special weight? Regarding "pride," why should I take any pride in what I have not personally accomplished? As for Francisco Sábado Wolfgang Andromeda Marigold III, I don't know why he feels the way he does. It's at least possible that he's mistaken for it, though, or that Rand was mistaken for presenting him in such a way, or etc., so I think the idea of trying to show that genealogy is a rational pursuit because d'Anconia considered it to be (if we can even draw that conclusion) is specious at best.
  22. Is there any reason why I should ever take an interest in my paternal grandfather, whom my father never met? (This is apart from such practical considerations as genetic/medical information, which I agree might be of value.) I don't begrudge people who find their own lineage interesting. But then, people invest themselves into all sorts of things I do not care about, and cannot relate to. But this idea that there is something about my paternal grandfather that matters to who I am today, I find questionable at least. Ayn Rand, who as far as I know is no more a relation to me than Adam, matters far more to who I am (in terms of my character) than 90% of the cousins, aunts, uncles and etc. of whom I am aware. I'd do at least as well to study her biography as theirs, and I have nearly no interest in Rand's biography either.
  23. I've never taken an interest in my heritage; I've never understood what those distant people have to do with me. But I don't particularly begrudge the folks who do. (The people who take some kind of "pride" in their ancestry are another matter.) "Family" is a complicated subject. Everyone has a different context for understanding what family is, and what it means, so it's hard to comment on it sensibly in general terms. I'll say that I've always believed that one's truest family are the people one selects for himself, and yet, now having a child of my own, I must admit that the meaning of "family" has changed for me over the last several years...
  24. I agree that animals have no rights and no inherent moral status. Also that an animal's suffering is not of equal worth to a human's suffering. But that does not mean that, in the treatment of animals, "the only issue is economic viability." You yourself make the case here: It should change your answer. If you like animals in general and enjoy treating them well, then your enjoyment of treating them well is another issue to take into account when deciding on how you're going to treat them. Not simply how much money you'll make based on your treatment of them.
  25. I think we've reached a stopping point, then, for neither can I explain myself at present any better than I already have. But to this formulation, I will only say this: to whatever degree one's right to life is hindered, it is moral to act in order to remove or avoid said hindrance.