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Nigel

Public Education

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I would like this argument in support of education critiqued.

I argue that some form of education, supported by the public is just. Although Objectivist critics maintain that this is a form of compulsion on several levels, I do not wholly agree. I will absolutely agree that school choice is necessary, privately owned schools is must, and the curriculum as we know it is unacceptable. However, I argue that the public should support a minimal level of education at privately operated schools.

We live in a liberal society in which citizens must be able to rationally make decisions both politically and economically. This system depends on a rational population who can use their consciousness to reason. Therefore, in paying to support an education (paying less than we pay now), we are ensuring the preservation of our society and the liberties therein. Practically, I can see people jumping to argue against this, but I believe that this is theoretically sound. Everyone benefits from the preservation of liberty, and the preservation of liberty requires individuals that can think logically. Taxing for the purpose of education is acceptable in that taxpayers expect a return on this investment.

I can go into detail on the skills necessitated in educating to this end, but it will get lengthy and I think that most people have enough common sense to understand the argument. I am only curious about this as a reasonable argument to have schooling, not how the actual implementation is achieved. I am against compelling attendance and all the rest. Also, in stating that a minimal amount should be paid, I feel that it would be reasonable to have the taxpayers pay part of the cost, but parents should pay the rest. And I am not talking about ridiculousness like states that pay $20k per student per year to educate them. I have seen $7k per student go a long way (and parents would pay part of that bill).

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What I don't understand about this argument is why this must be done through a coercive financing method (i.e. taxation). This can easily be done through local voluntary co-operatives.In what way does the introduction of this coercive financing method improve the situation or the ability of the populace to meet the goal of a respectable standard of education? The only reasoning I can think of is because you would be concerned about the poorer section of the population, but unless I missed something you have not suggested that this is part of your reasoning.

Edited by CapitalistSwine

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What I don't understand about this argument is why this must be done through a coercive financing method (i.e. taxation). This can easily be done through local voluntary co-operatives.In what way does the introduction of this coercive financing method improve the situation or the ability of the populace to meet the goal of a respectable standard of education? The only reasoning I can think of is because you would be concerned about the poorer section of the population, but unless I missed something you have not suggested that this is part of your reasoning.

Sorry, yes, the concern was for mainly--if not entirely--the education of the poorer children. Voluntary cooperates would certainly be successful in middle class communities.

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Sorry, yes, the concern was for mainly--if not entirely--the education of the poorer children. Voluntary cooperates would certainly be successful in middle class communities.

There are significant amounts of real world examples where private schools were actually a better or at least an equal alternative for the poor. People have the misconception that good education is expensive, or that it is limited to the middle-class and above. People often forget that, while there are indeed private schools in America, much of the time they are forced to hold to various requirements and standards imposed by the government, and in some cases have requirements that public schools are not even held to. This, while also accounting for the large distortions caused by the private education sectors need to compete with the public education system which does not have the same constraints as private education, result in an educational system where many people end up falling through the cracks, or are priced out of a proper or thorough education. As an example, teacher unions are constantly fighting (and usually winning) against state governments implementing school voucher programs (as tax credits for education are too unpopular of a concept in comparison) This is what we are dealing with in the United States today.

I can provide you with numerous examples, but here is one from my blog:

http://paintyourbrain.squarespace.com/education/2010/7/11/private-education-is-good-for-the-poor-a-study-of-private-sc.html

Edited by CapitalistSwine

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I will attempt to play devil's advocate so here goes:

There are good public school teachers. My son has had some fine public school teachers, although he is now in a private school. There ARE totally incompetent parents out there, and it'd be a shame if their kids were just left to fend for themselves. Thus public education is necessary

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I will attempt to play devil's advocate so here goes:

There are good public school teachers. My son has had some fine public school teachers, although he is now in a private school. There ARE totally incompetent parents out there, and it'd be a shame if their kids were just left to fend for themselves. Thus public education is necessary

There are good teachers and bad parents so what? Public education is necessary for what and for whom?

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The thomas jefferson argument. Right.

1) Learning is ultimately done by the individual. Educators can only facilitate and aid this process in students. At worse they can impede this (which is what I expect is done by our current system). Given this it is up to a mixture of life circumstances and individual choice as to whether or he or she learns. One can not guarantee the the electorate will be "educated" for this reason.

2) Mises demonstrated the calculation problem, central planning doesn't work. So you can't guarantee the populace will be educated.

3)A state school has no incentive to teach kids about freedom, only to support the state (even if it is liberal at first).

4) There isn't any evidence that state ran educational institutions correlate in anyway to political or economic freedom. Plenty of dictatorships have public schools.

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Thank you all for your responses. However, with further research I have found the undeniable answer to my question. The IMF--an institution not only concerned with financial matters, but a pillar of morality in our international society--has advocated for public education. I surely trust them.

Article

Edited by Nigel

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Thank you all for your responses. However, with further research I have found the undeniable answer to my question. The IMF--an institution not only concerned with financial matters, but a pillar of morality in our international society--has advocated for public education. I surely trust them.

Article

It sounds like you had already made up your mind before posting if this is reason enough for you to be satisfied on this matter.

Just to make sure we are clear:

IMF (an international organization mostly filled with elites from numerous countries through high-level political and economic networking) advocates public education = Not only is public education good and effective, but it is ethically just.

Correct?

Edited by CapitalistSwine

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Thank you all for your responses. However, with further research I have found the undeniable answer to my question. The IMF--an institution not only concerned with financial matters, but a pillar of morality in our international society--has advocated for public education. I surely trust them.

Article

Sarcasm doesn't translate too well over the internet, but I'm guessing/hoping that's what this is :thumbsup:

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Public education in my state is atrocious. I went through the whole system, yet after reading the Fountainhead/Atlas Shrugged shortly after high school, only then did I realise just how bad it really was. Junior high school was your standard stuff, analyse this, interpret this, read this etc. Senior high school was pure left wing dogma. We had a unit on "Americanisation" and had to write two essays on how Australia (and the rest of the world) was being "Americanised." We were basically encouraged to write a scathing essay on how American culture is eroding our "identity" and then we had to analyse some poem about how young kids wear nike shoes and such. Looking back to those essays, I'm truly ashamed to have written them.

Another unit that I remember was us finding a piece of advertisement that objectifies women. Ok, I get it, they were trying to teach us that it's not "good" to look at people in such a way, but the whole thing wasn't even based around any reasoning, rather left wing garbage.

Drama was the icing on the cake in terms of teaching young minds a self destructive philosophy. Two semesters were spent on ‘Existentialism’ (along with some play about teenagers and drugs, who suicide in the end, and of course something by Shakespeare), primarily “Absurdist theatre”, where we read and re-read End Game by Samuel Beckett. At the time I thought “wow, this is so interesting…my drama teacher whom I know is a very intelligent woman in her early 50s surely knows what she’s on about…” and the drama teacher that we had was apparently the most ‘qualified’ in the English/Drama department, so I had a certain respect for her too. Everyone knew her as a "feminist" and the content that we were taught showed it. We spent a semester reading the play "Eng Game" by Samuel Beckett, which she praised and couldn't stop expressing her love for. Every lesson we'd have a discussion about it, how it represents people trying to find meaning in their life, not finding it, dying in the end, hence "end game." After finishing it, we had to write an essay that analysed it from a (get ready for it): Marxist approach and Feminist approach. We were all urged on by the near hysterical screams of our teacher (she would literally scream hysterically when someone didn't finish writing their draft) and at the time I read into Existentialism and soon enough I develop an interest in it and somehow I get onto Solipsism and the entire time I’m just soaking it all up. I’ll spare everyone the details, but by the time I finished high school, I became a ‘sceptic’ in every sense of the word.

Meanwhile she recommended that we also read "Waiting for Godot" (since we were going onto another play about how a teenager falls into a life of drugs and alcohol, then suicides), and that's just what I did. After we finished reading End Game, we sit down in our usual discussion circle, and she asks the class this: "Who here can confidently say that they are sure/certain of who they are?" Nobody raised their hand at the time but me. I did it because I was certain of myself back then. I had a moral code in progress (although I didn't realise it at the time), looking back I was a very rational person (compared to my year level) and ultimately I was a happy person, happy with myself, with my teenage life, with the summer job I had going. Yet the teacher ended up challenging me, she said something along the lines of "But how can you be so sure when you're so young? Don't be so sure of yourself because something might happen in your life that will make you reconsider" and bang, that's when I entered my self-doubt mode, that's when I was reading into all these different philosophies (shame I didn't run into Objectivism, that would have made all the difference), and that's when I started to take on the view "How do I know that this is reality? What's the point of this life? Am I just like those characters in End Game, waiting to die?"

This continued on for a few years, I became so apathetic, I lost my motivation as a teeanger, I stopped being happy, and my life wasn't going anywhere. I finished high school with no idea what to do. Thank god I ran into the Fountainhead last year, and soon enough Atlas Shrugged. Those two books turned my life around and sometimes I can't help but to think "Damn, I wish I could go back in time and smack my 16 year old self with these books." The best analogy to describe the way I felt when I started reading the Fountainhead (then Atlas Shrugged) is: you know the feeling you get on a very hot day, how you're literally dying for a cold glass of water after running around outside, and when you drink that water, it's just so blissful? That's how I felt with finding Ayn Rand's work. It was so refreshing, just wonderful. I don't want to imagine in what apathetic state I'd be now if it wasn't for Ayn Rand.

Sorry if it seems like I went into a rant but I just wanted to share that :)

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We live in a liberal society in which citizens must be able to rationally make decisions both politically and economically. This system depends on a rational population who can use their consciousness to reason.

You are saying that citizens must be able to make rational decisions, but forcing people to pay for something that they would not otherwise pay for out of their own accord directly contradicts the citizen's ability to make rational decisions. In essense, you're saying that people are unable to make rational decisions therefore the government must force them to make decisions that the government decides are rational, so that the recipients of this forced charity can one day make rational decisions. I think that is absurd.

This system depends on a rational population who can use their consciousness to reason.

You are denying them that right by making decisions for them.

Therefore, in paying to support an education (paying less than we pay now), we are ensuring the preservation of our society and the liberties therein. Practically, I can see people jumping to argue against this, but I believe that this is theoretically sound. Everyone benefits from the preservation of liberty, and the preservation of liberty requires individuals that can think logically. Taxing for the purpose of education is acceptable in that taxpayers expect a return on this investment.

This is a contradiction. You are suggesting that the preservation of liberty requires compulsion, which is the destroyer of liberty.

At the end of the day, yes it would be wonderful if everyone had a good education and were taught to think rationally. To some extent, I agree with your argument that a rational population is necessary for a free society to exist. But I don't think that everyone in a society has to be well educated in order to have liberty. What really matters is whether there is a proper constitution in place and that the constitution is not legally open to the type of contradiction we are seeing in the US today (although I would agree that a generally rational population is needed to acquire such a constitution in the first place). But at the end of the day, liberty is dependent on how much people value their freedom. If people realize that lack of education is what has led to the current lack of liberty, it would be in their best interest to privately fund the education of the poor, and you simply have to hope that they do so. However, forcing someone to pay for the education of another is an act of imposition of your values on someone else through force, which is not morally justifiable and not in accordance with the concept of liberty which you're trying to achieve through public education.

Edited by Reason_Being

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Expropriating property in the name of ensuring that property is protected doesn't make any sense, and therefore abandons the use of reason it was supposed to instill in the populace.

So your saying that collecting taxes to maintain a police force and a military is a logical fallacy?

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So your saying that collecting taxes to maintain a police force and a military is a logical fallacy?

It certainly is, if the reason given for maintaining a police force and a military is to protect your life and property. Don't you think?

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I would consider that the ONLY reason to have a military and police force.

The reason your given logical fallacy fails (if you will) for the police/military example is that you have a false equivalence:

"Expropriating property in the name of ensuring that property is protected"

The first "property" is different from the second "property". They aren't the same. What you give is different than what is protected.

For police I may give 100$ a month to protect against an accute theif coming and stealing my money, my car, my house, or god forbid my life, there is only an equivalence with the theft of money, and even there what I have purchased is a stability in the loss of money, which is a service.

For the military I may give 1000$ a month to ensure that my land itself is safe, or that the business I have spent years building isn't conquered and dismantled, something that the accute property theif could not take, but that a foreign military could.

It is simply a service with an economy of scale that is justified through a mutual self-interest. A lot of people (Rand included) made the mistake of thinking that public spending was inherently bad, but ignored the possibility of such a thing as truly mutual SELF interest. No altruism there. We're all just going to Sam's club together.

With schools its far less clear, of course. Does public education increase the overall level of education in the population? If so what threat does a lower level of education present to my property? It's a much more convuluted

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For police I may give 100$ a month to protect against an accute theif coming and stealing my money, my car, my house, or god forbid my life, there is only an equivalence with the theft of money, and even there what I have purchased is a stability in the loss of money, which is a service.

For the military I may give 1000$ a month to ensure that my land itself is safe, or that the business I have spent years building isn't conquered and dismantled, something that the accute property theif could not take, but that a foreign military could.

It is simply a service with an economy of scale that is justified through a mutual self-interest. A lot of people (Rand included) made the mistake of thinking that public spending was inherently bad, but ignored the possibility of such a thing as truly mutual SELF interest. No altruism there. We're all just going to Sam's club together.

Ah, I see. And when you decide that $100 is too high a price to pay for a stability in the loss of money, you can just stop paying and go your own way, like Sam's club, right?

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The first "property" is different from the second "property". They aren't the same. What you give is different than what is protected.

Simply stating that they are different does not make them different. Violating one's property rights in order to protect them is contradictory. For government funding to be moral, it must be done voluntarily.

A lot of people (Rand included) made the mistake of thinking that public spending was inherently bad

This is not Rand's view, nor the view of anyone I have encountered here, myself included.

but ignored the possibility of such a thing as truly mutual SELF interest

You lack the philosophical framework by which to properly analyze whether or not something is in one's rational self interest. Simply claiming that some specific situation is beneficial to some specific people for some period of time does not mean that it is in one's rational self-interest.

With schools its far less clear, of course. Does public education increase the overall level of education in the population?

So that is your true standard of morality - utility.

Edited by brian0918

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Simply stating that they are different does not make them different.

Ok, let's assume they are the same and extrapolate to other things and see if we hit a contradiction. I pay money to buy a house. By the definition of property used above, I am giving property to recieve property. In fact all commerce becomes a circular loop of giving A to recieve A, which doesn't make sense. The only way for it to make sense is that I give A to recieve B. Taking that back to before it is not the case that I am having A stolen to protect A. I am giving A to protect {A,B,C,D....Z} (where A= money, B= house, C = car, D = peace of mind, E = etc etc.)

For government funding to be moral, it must be done voluntarily.

Ideally yes. But lets think about this. Lets say I want a military in my country to protect my property. And not just me, most of my fellow countrymen do. But not everyone. Lets say some small group (5% or so) doesn't want a military. Some may have rational reasons (hey I live in Montanna what do I care), some may have irrational reasons (hey we have a local militia that is sufficient). Do they have to pay? If so then it is not voluntary.

If not then do you exempt them of the benefits? CAN you exempt them of those benefits? I would argue that you can't, not if you want to maintain any concept of a country (otherwise it would be "ok so we will allow this guys house to be conquered, but not this guys"). It's also highly innefficient. So you protect them as well and they recieve benefits that they have not paid for.

They, in fact, have assaulted my property because it lowers the amount of military protection I recieve for my investment because I am subsidizing their protection, desired or not.

The reality, as opposed to the metaphysical reality, is that government can never be voluntary for all participants all the time, because it is composed of individuals trying to come to a unified purpose. Which, dirty a word as it might be, requires compromise. The best hope would be that everyone gets what they want most of the time, and the costs of the compromises they make do not outweigh the benefits of unified spending: ie it is a net positive for them.

This is not Rand's view, nor the view of anyone I have encountered here, myself included.

I apologize, that was a pretty broad generalization/unfair representation.

You lack the philosophical framework by which to properly analyze whether or not something is in one's rational self interest. Simply claiming that some specific situation is beneficial to some specific people for some period of time does not mean that it is in one's rational self-interest.

I'm not really sure what you're saying here. What I'm hearing is "Just because it's good for you doesn't mean it's in your self interest" which I don't think is what you're actually saying.

So that is your true standard of morality - utility.

Dude you just selectively quoted me and removed the line that provided context (does the level of education in my vicinity protect/enhance/threaten my property.)

Anyways, my standard of morality is self-interest and intellectual honesty, And yeah, depending on how you define utility there are ties there. But my guess is that here you are talking about Utility with a capital U and trying to bring up the utilitarian vs objectivist argument, which is interesting when you talk about government spending.

All government spending involves using a "greater good" argument to justify the use of force to collect taxes to pay for said spending. This is effectively utilitarian in nature and against Objectivism IFF there are people who do not agree that the "greater good" serves their self interest, people who are being forced to work against themselves or towards something that has no value to them.

They question then again is "could there ever be a type of government spending that everyone can agree on, or those that don't agree with it can be exempted from the benefits at no additional cost."

In a country of 300 million people I don't believe this is remotely possible for any spending. I don't consider that conclusion utilitarian though, I consider it to be acknowledging reality.

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Right well, it's not a contradiction if what you really mean by "protect your life and property" is "Well we never said we would fully protect your life, or all your property! Just however much we think you should have after we've taken what we've decided we want to take." But if intellectual honesty is your goal, I don't think it would be too correct to call this type of agency a "property protector," certainly not in the sense of protecting the right to property.

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That subjective critique of the effectiveness of the institution isn't relevant to the argument of whether the institution is by definition a logical fallacy. It's a red herring. I mean, there's a conversation to be had there, but it's an entirely different one than what we were talking about.

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Ok, let's assume they are the same and extrapolate to other things and see if we hit a contradiction. I pay money to buy a house. By the definition of property used above, I am giving property to recieve property.

We are not talking about specific property, but property rights. It is the role of government to protect rights, not to violate them. As I already stated, violating rights to protect them is contradictory.

Lets say some small group (5% or so) doesn't want a military... Do they have to pay?

No. But they will likely pay for it one way or another, if they ever trade with other members of society. We already price in the sales tax with everything we buy, and under a voluntary system, companies would likely keep a sales tax on their products. Anyone who buys their products would necessarily be paying toward that tax.

If not then do you exempt them of the benefits?

No. If the government allows property rights to be violated, then it is not upholding its purpose.

So you protect them as well and they recieve benefits that they have not paid for.

And? If enough people do not voluntarily support the government, then society reaps what it sows. The people who understand that government must be funded will try to convince those who do not understand, and/or they will shun those who do refuse to pay, and setup private verification systems to confirm that they are only trading with individuals who pay their taxes.

They, in fact, have assaulted my property

"Assault" without force - stolen concept.

The reality, as opposed to the metaphysical reality

This is completely incoherent, and seems to simply be one of those pragmatic cop-outs, e.g. "the practical must trump the moral!", as if the two are naturally in conflict.

What I'm hearing is "Just because you say it's good for you doesn't mean it's in your self interest" which I don't think is what you're actually saying.

There, I fixed that for you.

All government spending involves using a "greater good" argument to justify the use of force to collect taxes to pay for said spending.

That is not correct. Objectivism advocates a government that does not use force to collect taxes. That government would necessarily spend money that it voluntarily receives.

Edited by brian0918

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We are not talking about specific property, but property rights. It is the role of government to protect rights, not to violate them. As I already stated, violating rights to protect them is contradictory.

At first I thought you were just being pedantic, but you have a point. I'll come back to this later.

No. But they will likely pay for it one way or another, if they ever trade with other members of society. We already price in the sales tax with everything we buy, and under a voluntary system, companies would likely keep a sales tax on their products. Anyone who buys their products would necessarily be paying toward that tax.

The form of the tax is irrelevant. If it's a tax I disagree with and am forced to pay then it is by the definitions given an assault on my property. The only difference with a sales tax is that its better hidden.

"if [they don't pay], do you exempt them of the benefits?"

No. If the government allows property rights to be violated, then it is not upholding its purpose.

But that dilutes the value of the property (military defence) that I have paid for.

If 100 people all chip in 100$ and get 10k$ of [military defence] you would think I was getting 100$ worth of defence back, but if that defence is expected to protect 200 people then I am only getting 50$ worth of defence in return. By not contributing they have devalued my property.

"Assault" without force - stolen concept.

Que?

""What I'm hearing is "Just because you say it's good for you doesn't mean it's in your self interest" which I don't think is what you're actually saying.""

There, I fixed that for you.

Well, I can make an argument for why a national military defence force and police force is in my self interest, it's not hard.

That is not correct. Objectivism advocates a government that does not use force to collect taxes. That government would necessarily spend money that it voluntarily receives

Please give me an example of a form of government spending that is not couched in the "greater good" argument.

------------

Anyways, back to the first thing. I think that the issue has to do with the rights of the irrational.

Lets say you are sitting in a room with a locked door that is slowly filling with water. There is another man in there and he has a key to leave the room. However, he irrationally does not want to open the door. He has the key, and the only way you can take it from him is by force. Because he is irrational, however, he no longer has the rights to the possession of the key, and you have the right to take it from him by force. This seems reasonable correct?

Now then, consider the military defence force thing. Lets assume there are 2 points of view. One is that it is rational to have a military defence force that we all support jointly to protect our property. The other is that it is rational to NOT have a jointly bought military defence force yada yada.

At this point there must be a contest to determine which is the rational point of view, the less rational view looses their rights in the instance in question.

How do you do that? Do you sit down and talk it over until there is an acceptable consensus on the decision? Do you call upon the great arbitrator REASONTRON 5000 and have him given you arbitrary truth?

These two options represent the two major types of government. Democracy vs Dictatorship. The purpose of the governments themselves is to determine the rational answer to a problem. They are both fundamentally flawed though:

Democracy: Argumentum ad Populum (it's rational because we all say it is.)

Dictatorship: Appeal to Authority (it's rational because that dude says it is)

Now, going back to self interest you can see how self interest lacking intellectual honesty can break both of these systems. People may choose irrational results for the sake of greed (the bad kind of greed).

Anyways...I guess my point is that determining rational self interest as a group is pretty hard.

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That subjective critique of the effectiveness of the institution isn't relevant to the argument of whether the institution is by definition a logical fallacy. It's a red herring. I mean, there's a conversation to be had there, but it's an entirely different one than what we were talking about.

There is inefficiency in terms of, let's say, one organization promises to protect you and fails at it to some extent or another. There is "inefficiency" of a completely different kind if we are talking about a firm that promises to protect you, and fails at protecting you against the violence that they themselves do to you. The inefficiency in this instance stems from something entirely within their control: they just need to stop robbing you. This isn't an inefficiency argument then, but rather they never intended to protect your rights in the first place, just to make their predation secure from competition and make it regular.

So if you then proceed to ask them why are they doing violence to you, and they say, "We only do violence to you in the name of protecting you from violence," then you can point out this contradictory explanation. Who is to protect me from your violence? If I provide you with this service, I can't be myself violating the entire point of the service when I explain it to you and claim the sanction of logic.

Lets say you are sitting in a room with a locked door that is slowly filling with water. There is another man in there and he has a key to leave the room. However, he irrationally does not want to open the door. He has the key, and the only way you can take it from him is by force. Because he is irrational, however, he no longer has the rights to the possession of the key, and you have the right to take it from him by force. This seems reasonable correct?

But I see the question is more about your differences about the relationship of rights, rationality, and self-interest. Check the premises of your argument here, because it seems garbled and confused. No this does not seem reasonable. Why couldn't it just be that the key-holder is violating my rights, i.e. drowing me, and my attack on him to liberate the key a completely legitimate act of self-defense? No one rights have to be sacrificed then.

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