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agrippa1

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  1. That's not quite right. The two party system emerges from the plurality-takes-all elections. Even though the actual election has a majority requirement (by electors, or failing that by House members), the parties themselves have rigged the elector selection by adopting a plurality-takes-all system in their respective states. They have also rigged the issues to evenly divide the populace near 50-50, leaving no room for a third party to take advantage of a weakened party. So are we to accept the two-party hegemony because the two-parties have rigged it in their favor? And are we really to accept that these are two parties, and not two wings of a single party, each with the same goals? Those goals: to win and to rule. To win sometimes, but always to rule. For those of you willing to vote for one or the other as a lesser of two evils, consider the words of John Adams: "There is nothing which I dread so much as a division of the republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader, and concerting measures in opposition to each other. This, in my humble apprehension, is to be dreaded as the greatest political evil under our Constitution." Voting for the lesser of two evils results in a greater evil than either individual candidate presents: a continuation of the two-party hegemony. Vote your conscience. Let Obama (or Romney) win with a plurality. Let the "uncounted" third-party vote grow with each election until someone comes forward to claim them. Or -- let the nation continue its downward spiral, dragged down by the greater or lesser of two evils.
  2. Assuming an equilibrium in a stock price, all buy orders are at lower levels than all sell orders, and the current price reflects the last buy order that was fulfilled by the lowest sell order. When you place a new buy order, without a target price, you are sold the stock at the lowest sell order price, plus a brokerage spread. The result is the price rises from the previous exchange price to the new exchange price. Likewise, if you place a sell order without a target price, you will sell to the highest buy order on the books, minus the spread, and the price will drop to that new price. You won't affect the next exchange, except possibly to signal another person to sell or buy based on the price change, but you do immediately "set" the price of the stock for your transaction. When hundreds and thousands of people are making sell and buy orders, your transaction gets lost in the noise, but the price is driven up or down by the ratio of individual buy orders to individual sell orders.
  3. You're kidding, right?
  4. And you're justified in thinking so. But if someone were to perform the acts of a Galt or a D'Anconia, he would be viewed exactly as Greenspan and Roberts are, the only clue being the contradiction between their espoused beliefs and their actions. You can't deny that there is a profound contradiction between their ostensibly deeply held beliefs and their actions. Since there are no contradictions, they either do not hold those beliefs, or they are taking actions congruent with their enemies precepts in order to hasten the inevitable failure of those precepts. I don't think it's possible to crawl into their heads and know whether they are traitors to their cause or principled saboteurs. I suppose in either case the rational attitude is to take them at their actions, either to guard against their treachery or to protect from exposure their true motives. But this is all in fun - you have to have some escape from news of the continuing death spiral...
  5. There was at least the principle that gov't was constrained by the Constitution. This evades that constraint, by making the expropriation of property, in the form of taxes, exempt from any other Constitutional tests. The gov't could pass a law laying a tax on Walmart equal to the total value of all capital assets of that company, forcing them to convert their capital into cash and pay it as tax to the gov't. At least with a penalty, there is some law that needs to be broken (like not purchasing insurance) in order to trigger the penalty; taxes can be laid with absolutely no justification whatever and requiring no triggering actions (or inactions). Before this, there was an assumption that taxes had to be otherwise Constitutional. That principle has been explicitly obsoleted as long as this ruling stands. This ruling runs so counter to Constitutional principles that I ponder if Roberts was coopted and intentionally undermined the basis for his own ruling as a moral escape hatch, or if he planted a bomb in the Constitutional framework to hasten the collapse of a corrupt system. There is far more justification today for any tax they can dream up, than there was justification for the individual Mandate just one week ago. One could take your point well and say the Roberts has simply taken the implicit and made it explicit... Is Roberts Francisco???
  6. The hope that Justice [sic] Roberts ruling of the Mandate as a tax will allow a simple majority repeal, is a false one. He states explicitly that the "tax" definition is for purposes of Constitutionality only, and that for legal purposes, including application of the Anti-Injunction Act, and presumably for application of Congressional procedures, the Mandate is what Congress defined it to be in the legislation, i.e., a penalty. Roberts has ruled that A both is and is not A. There's no silver lining here. SCOTUS has affirmed the authority of the federal gov't to lay and collect taxes, regardless of the application towards the enumerated powers. Having specifically rejected the only justification, in terms of those powers, Roberts allows a violation of the 10th Amendment and leaves no interpretation open that limits the authority of the gov't to wield taxes as a weapon against Liberty. Congress could pass a tax on Buddhists, that SCOTUS might find unconstitutional on 1st amendment grounds, but upon wider consideration uphold it as within Congress' unlimited power to lay and collect taxes. There is no limit. This is total tyranny, proposed, decided and sanctioned by one man.
  7. Fooling people is good for the rational skills, the fooler must have an understanding of how the mind can be tricked into believing something that is not true, and the foolee finds himself defending against the naivete that allowed him to be fooled. People who get mad at April fools jokes are usually the least rational, and least able to play the game. All around a good win-win, and a celebration of reason!
  8. Here is the crux of the issue. A person tries to avoid using gov't currency by bartering, and is still held taxable by the gov't. Bartering, except under certain rare circumstances, is an extremely inefficient means of exchanging value. A minimum standard of taxed currency should be that the tax is less than the efficiency lost in not using gov't backed money for transactions. A currency incurring taxes on transactions could be moral, if the after-tax value of the currency exchange is greater than the value of a barter exchange or the risk-adjusted value of an exchange made with non-gov't-backed currency. The only reasonable way to enact a moral currency and a moral taxation system is for the gov't to allow transactions in other than gov't currency to go untaxed. This would provide an economic pressure for the gov't to behave itself, keep taxes low, balance its ledgers and provide adequate protection of gov't currency transactions and contracts. All the rest would then fall into place, and a well-regulated gov't currency would maintain its status as the standard money in an economy.
  9. He is saying that things with value are valid stores of value. Your question implies the question: "Valuable, to whom?" The gold standard has an inherent problem.
  10. Why the U.S. Treasury Began Auctioning Treasury Bills in 1929 Fascinating little piece of trivia from the Fed. In this article is documented the seeds of our current financial destruction. In 1917 the U.S. Gov't began issuing Liberty Bonds to fund our involvement in WWI. By the end of the war, we had issued an amount, $24 billion, of more than half our pre-war GDP. (our debt prior to these issues was less than $1B) After the war, the gov't did not pay off that debt, but rolled it all into Treasury Bills. Every term, they had to guarantee to sell enough T-bills to roll all the expiring debt, so they set a fixed interest rate higher than the market rate. To create a buffer of funds that could be drawn by the gov't the Fed allowed banks to borrow an amount equal to the purchase price of their T-Bills at a low interest rate. The banks would have to pay that loan back as the gov't required the cash, usually over the course of weeks or months. This set up an opportunity for banks to purchase huge sums of T-Bills with borrowed Fed funds, sell them to the public at a discount, and lend the proceeds at a rate higher than the loan rate from the Fed. Private citizens did not bid on the T-Bills, because they could buy them cheaper from the banks, the banks profited from a huge interest rate arbitrage, and the T-Bills entered the economy as tradeable commodities, in effect, money. The devaluation of the dollar as a direct consequence is well documented as a price shock in 1920 and continuing through the 20's as huge amounts of "money" (T-Bills) entered wide circulation. Inflation during this time totalled apx 75% of the pre-war dollar value. Assuming a reserve rate of 10% and given a monetary base of $5B at the time, M1 was no more than $50B, and the introduction of $25B in tradeable debt securities accounts for much of the inflationary bubble of the 1920's. In the late 1920's the gov't finally realized they were providing huge profits to the banks through the issuance of fixed rate T-Bills, and in early 1929, they passed an act shifting to an auction system. This shift eliminated the arbitrage opportunity to banks, and promised to staunch the flow of gov't funds into the banking system. The first auction was held in December 1929, not coincidently, the financial system had collapsed in October. The monetary crisis continued until 1934, when FDR ended gold convertibility and devalued the dollar by an amount virtually identical to the de facto devaluation created by the Liberty Bond issue. (a 75% inflation correlates to a 43% devaluation. FDR devalued the dollar from a gold exchange rate of $20.67 to $35 - a 41% devaluation)
  11. Good point, but it's true for a commodity standard as well, as we saw in the period from 1917 to 1929. The real answer is to let the Fed do whatever it wants, but allow us to use other, private, competing forms of currency. Coercive monopoly is the problem with our money.
  12. To get true equality, you would need to take children from their homes and put them into communal living spaces where all would be treated equally. Since some of society's roles are more favored by all, it would be unfair to allow those more talented to compete for - and inevitably win - the coveted jobs. Therefore the enlightened rulers would wisely choose roles for each young adult, based on the premise of equality of outcome - an intelligent, ambitious man might be given a job sweeping streets so that his outcome would be comparable to a dullard given a job as an engineer. To prevent the most ambitious from unfairly finding their own way to success, deviations from directed activity would have to be curtailed, with some sort of egalitarian punishment for those who strayed. In order to maintain control over the equality of life experiences, the enlightened ones would have to severely limit the range of technologies; even a small advantage of one man could be greatly, and unfairly amplified if he had access to technology that others didn't. In social situations, it would be unfair and socially dangerous for men and women to choose their mates - intelligence would seek intelligence, physically advanced would seek its own, etc., and unfair genetic advantages would propagate. The leaders would have to work diligently to regulate the genetic makeup of offspring to avoid inadvertent creation of unfairly advantaged children. Men and women would have mates chosen for them, and would likely have to be forced, in some cases, to mate, to make sure that all pairings were taken to fruition. Is that kind of what you had in mind?
  13. It's the act of getting rich, not feeling rich, that diverted assets from savings to investment. If you look at returns, you see the stock market underperforming savings rates up until about 1983. Before that point, investing was a crap shoot, and the average person made more on savings than in the stock market. After 1983, the market entered a twenty-year boom during which DJIA returns far outstripped savings rates. The crash in 2001 led to a modest uptick in savings rates, and the crash in 2008 got people to reevaluate the risk of stock market investing, dramatically reducing its risk-adjusted expected return, and shifting assets back to risk-free savings. Two other factors in recent upturn in savings rate is the increase in FDIC insurance from $100k to $250k (the first increase in almost 30 years), and the rapid increase in risk-averse, retiring baby-boomers. Retirees are more likely to shift assets into savings from investment as they liquidate and seek to reduce risks.
  14. Those bastardizations included churches, priests and the pope. How does someone call himself a Catholic if he don't believe in these?
  15. No, I meant "underived," that is, a concept that emerges spontaneously without a premise. A concept can't derive from faith that it is true. It must derive from a premise first, before it is believed (or rejected). I'm not saying that God "should" be understood that way, I'm pointing out that the Ten Commandments are consistent with objective morality. The person who wrote down the Ten Commandments did not get them from a burning bush, but he told the people that he did in the hopes that their fear and superstition would lead them to accept the morality by faith. That was a corruption of something purer, however far that corruption propagated through history. Before there were books or formal philosophies, there were smart people with good ideas who tried to guide others in what they believed was the right way to live. Without the wherewithal to communicate the logical basis of their ideas, with, for instance, a collection of essays or a fictional novel illustrating their ideas in context, they were left to "argue" their ideas far and wide and to future generations with very limited tools - simple carved tablets, fear, superstition, sometimes burning stakes. That the means of propagating these ideas is now recognized as irrational, does not necessarily mean that the ideas themselves were irrational, especially given the lack of means to communicate their logical basis.