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Jay P

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Jay P last won the day on February 14 2015

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  1. If somebody really doesn't care about man's nature and epistemology (that is, he doesn't care to understand how he can know what is true) then I don't think there's much you can do to reach him. He has tossed out his tool of survival - his mind, and will believe anything he feels like believing. Why would he be willing to consider any argument somebody made? If he has thrown out epistemology - no matter what you'd say to him, his response would just be some variant of "but I feel you're wrong." Others here have given a good summary of what's wrong with accepting Pascal's wager. That is: to live a life based on the fear that there might be some fairy-tale monster (God) ready to burn you for eternity if you don't believe in him, means you'd have to base your life on something that doesn't exist. You'd be giving up the use of your mind; your whole life would be lived in service to a lie. Living one's life in accordance with reality matters: it's how we gain values. Also, living in fear of eternal damnation if you don't do exactly what some God supposedly wants, means one would go through life thinking that the universe is a quite malevolent place. And all for no reason, because the universe isn't malevolent at all. Then there's the problem of which god to believe in. I honestly don't know how the various religionists answer this objection: how can they use Pascal's wager to advocate being a Christian versus a Moslem? (And more: look at all of the groups of Christians who consider the other variants to be not true Christianity. In the past these groups have quite literally created living hell for each other - such as burning people at the stake who don't subscribe to the right variant of superstition.) To whom would Pascal's wager appeal? A skeptic I suppose: one who goes through life thinking "well, you never know...." Somebody afraid to take a stand on anything.
  2. ARI is doing a great job spreading Objectivism and, most importantly, educating future Objectivist intellectuals. Today there are many books written by Objectivists who have been educated in ARI's academic programs; there are many high-school students reading Ayn Rand's books due to ARI's efforts; there are frequent Objectivist op-eds, TV and radio appearances; and then there are long-term projects like preserving all of Ayn Rand's papers. Best of all, they're doing all of this without watering down or compromising Objectivism; they're remaining absolutely true to the philosophy. For instance, they haven't chosen to de-emphasize controversial parts of Objectivism in order to attract, say, conservatives or libertarians. They do not hesitate to take a principled stand, even if other people will say it's unpopular - see for example their call for a vigorous prosecution of the war against the Islamic terrorists and their sponsors. In other words, they don't try to "get along with" their intellectual enemies. Contribute a minimal amount of money to ARI and you'll get their monthly newsletter; you can then read for yourself about all of the projects they're doing. All of this is quite exciting and I must say I'm a bit jealous of younger Objectivists today, because nothing like this existed thirty years ago when I was new to Objectivism. Back then, there was very little in print about Objectivism beyond what Ayn Rand herself had written; attending taped lecture courses was one of the few ways to learn systematically about the philosophy. Today, we have, for instance, good books on the Objectivist Ethics (by Tara Smith); a complete treatment of the philosophy (Peikoff's OPAR); books of essays examining Ayn Rands fiction works individually; AND an ambitious young person can get an excellent education in Objectivism, taught by the experts at ARI's Academic Center. A good, uncompromising defense of the necessary philosophical underpinnings of a free society is what ARI is providing. It's exactly what Western Civilization needs desperately now; nothing less will get the job done.
  3. But it sounds like these 1-3% taxes are levied against assets, as opposed to income - since it says they were levied against land, homes and slaves, for instance. This, then, would be more analogous to a property tax in today's culture, and not an income tax. And given that the value of an asset is much higher than the value of the income it produces typically, then a low percentage property tax is just as onerous as a higher percentage tax levied against income. And indeed, I think a 3% property tax would be regarded as quite high in the US today. Also, if a tax like this was levied against a productive asset, the owner would have to pay 3% of the asset's value. This could well be a very high portion of the income the asset produced. (If, say, the asset being taxed was producing income at a rate of 5%, then a tax of 3% of the asset's value would amount to the same as a 60% income tax - quite a lot more than we pay today.) One must be careful when comparing tax rates - the percentage of levy doesn't tell the whole story. To get an idea of the Roman tax burden, one could try to estimate the total GDP and see what taxes were as a fraction of that, and compare it to today.
  4. It will be interesting to see what, if anything, other Republican candidates, and prominent conservatives, have to say about Huckabee's desire to modify the constitution to make it compatible with Christianity. Will they criticize him, and speak out in favor of church-state separation? Or will these people just not say anything, perhaps out of fear of antagonizing potential voters? Also, how will these words affect Huckabee's popularity? Will he now gain, or lose supporters? That such a statement would be made today by one of the leading contenders for the Republican nomination is a big indicator of how far that party has slid into the abyss of advocating Christianity in government. Forty years ago, a candidate could not have gotten away with such a statement and remained a viable contender for president. Peikoff was right a few years ago to identify the threat of theocracy posed by the Republican Party.
  5. If this plan passes, then this is exactly what will happen: private health insurance will become unavailable in California. A similar thing happened in Washington. For a while, it was the law in that state that a private insurance company could not refuse anybody coverage because of, or for, "pre-existing conditions." So if somebody who was already sick applied for a new policy, the company had to issue it. Finally, the insurance companies shrugged. It was either that or go out of business, for no company can make money if it's forced to insure for events that have already happened. The result was that for about 18 months - late 1999 until early 2001 - individual private health insurance policies were simply unavailable in Washington. The insurance companies just stopped writing them - they did renew existing policies, but would not issue any new ones. So if you wanted to buy health insurance then (pre-existing condition or not) you simply could not buy it from any private company - you'd have needed to get it via your employer or some other "group", or else buy it directly from the state government. Eventually, the legislature changed the law so that companies could exclude pre-existing conditions. However, the legislature is still up to no good, and seems to be always passing laws that force insurance companies to pay for certain kinds of coverage that customers may or may not want (such as mental-health coverage, birth-control pills, as well as coverage for "alternative medicine") with the result that premiums have gone up sharply as insurance companies just pass on, to the policyholders, the extra cost of the claims they now have to pay out.
  6. Good - I hadn't thought it would necessarily be easily available after all these years. As I remember, I found out about the book because it was offered by an Objectivist book service many years ago, so I decided to buy it. Otherwise, I would never have heard of it. (That's yet another benefit of being an Objectivist - finding out about new values.)
  7. Oh yes! There is a book written about this anti-Nazi group: A Noble Treason - The Revolt of the Munich Students Against Hitler by Richard Hanser, 1979. I read it over 20 years ago and have never forgotten their story. I highly recommend it. I was quite moved that this group of students had the courage to do what so few people did in Germany: speak out against the Nazis. When asked why they had taken their actions to distribute these leaflets during their "trial" (by the Nazis), one of them (I think Sophie Scholl) replied "Somebody, after all, had to say something." (I might not have the words exactly right.)
  8. Where is "God" mentioned in the Constitution? I'm pretty sure it is not, which is a fact that undoubtedly bothered Christians when the Constitution was created. I agree that the religious connection to Xmas is non-essential. It has never been a religious holiday for me, and it is celebrated by many people I know who don't believe in a God, and by many others who do not in any way take religion seriously as a guide to their lives.
  9. Not only that, but many times, unions and their members initiate force (through violence) against their employers and against non-union replacement workers, and the government does nothing about it. For instance, striking workers often will block the entrances to a plant so that replacement workers can not come to work. I've also known of cases in which union workers on strike destroyed company property and shot at replacement workers and vandalized their cars, yet no action was taken against the striking thugs. In fact, I read once that a court had ruled that some kinds of union violence is even acceptable because it's part of a labor dispute. .... In addition to what's been pointed out already, if an employer tries to tell its side of the story - e.g. by explaining to its workers why joining a union would be bad, that employer risks being prosecuted for an "unfair labor practice." So an employer ends up not even having the right to free speech.
  10. It's indeed a good idea to be thinking about weather; marathons in hot weather are much more of a stress than when it's cool and cloudy. I remember that in the 2004 Athens Olympics, it was so hot in the women's marathon that a few of the top competitors ended up not finishing the race. (But the top American ran a good race and finished third.) And in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, the temperature was over 90 degrees. So some people can do well when it's that hot, but I think most runners would much prefer cooler weather. Anyway, best of luck.
  11. Thanks for posting that. Indeed, I remember Ron Paul's favorable comments on Without a Prayer, and also his disparaging of Objectivism because it is atheistic, but I didn't have the quotations handy. I'm very glad that Ron Paul has no chance of being President of the United States.
  12. Of course there's no need for a government central bank. In fact, the unit of money should be left completely to the free market; government has no business doing anything to manage or manipulate the supply of money. Recall also, that the United States had no central bank from about 1837 to 1913. That was a period of rapid economic growth; it was also a period during which money had a stable value.
  13. When applied to people, I associate the adjective "cool" with being second-handed. In my experience, people who are always worried about how "cool" they are, are very concerned with what other people will think of them - to the point that they'll dress and act in a particular way because they think it will be approved of by others. This is like Peter Keating always trying to be what other people wanted him to be.
  14. If these are proven reserves, then to the extent they are owned by private oil companies, they're likely to be very conservative. First, a private company (assuming it has publicly traded stock) reports its reserves in its periodic financial reports, which are audited statements, publicly available. There are standard, accepted ways to calculate these reserves. If a company lied in order to inflate its reserves, it would be open to charges of fraud. Second, if a company owns a producing oil field, then of course that field will contain proven reserves. Suppose they have proven reserves there that will last 10 years at current rates of that field's production. That's enough that they know they aren't going to run out soon; there's no reason to spend money trying to prove more reserves in this field, if they wouldn't be getting around to producing from these additional reserves until 10 years into the future. In other words, a proven reserve is oil you're pretty certain is there; it's oil you can pump today; you've spent the money to ascertain this. Nothing is gained by proving way more reserves than you're going to be needing any time is soon. If the oil is in the ground, you'll get it out in due time. Look at the reserve figures of oil companies in their annual reports sometime. Often they don't have more than 10 years' worth. But then the next year, even though they've pumped some of that oil, they'll still have 10 years' worth, because they've also done the work to prove some new reserves. (The same comments apply to mining companies and their ore reserves.) On the other hand, these comments wouldn't apply to oil reserves of state-owned enterprises. They're under no legal requirement to be truthful about their reserves. In fact, probably there isn't even a public document you can read that would provide audited figures of oil reserves of a country like Saudi Arabia.
  15. Good for you! Running for miles and miles when you feel like quitting is a real accomplishment, any day. A marathon is long enough that it depletes one's reserves pretty thoroughly. Any plans to run another one?
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