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Swerve of Shore

Swerve of Shore's Introduction: self-described Progressive

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I am here seeking intelligent discussion. On the spectrum of individualism to collectivism, I lean toward collectivism. On the spectrum of objectivism to relativism, I lean toward relativism. I am a fervent atheist and anti-militarist. I read Atlas Shrugged (AS) in the summer of 2011 and was fascinated. Saddened by the state of public discourse, which has been debased ever since the polar opposites of Goldwater and Reagan taught self-styled conservatives that they can achieve their objectives better through misdirection and bombast than through reason and civility, I am thrilled to find a community like this one. Rather than talking to the converted at Daily Kos, here I can test my assumptions and see other perspectives. At least at first, I probably will not comment on others’ posts, but rather will start a series of threads laying out what seem to me to be the faults or inadequacies of objectivism. I look forward to reasoned responses.

By way of background, I was born in Southern California in 1963 to a Catholic mother and agnostic father. I was raised Catholic and participated in Boy Scouts, which largely shaped my father’s moral code. Before I was 10 years old, I began questioning Christianity and theism in general … first on logical grounds and later on moral grounds, disagreeing with teachings on sexuality and other issues. Later, as an adult, I tried evangelical Christianity and studied the Bible more closely. This cemented my atheism as I was appalled by the Bible’s sanction of genocide and other atrocities. My own moral code was nonetheless strongly influenced by the teachings of Jesus, including his skepticism of wealth, his rejection of violence and his emphasis on altruism. Driven by reason and justice rather than mysticism or fear, I was naturally drawn to communist ideals. I went to Berkeley in the early 1980’s, where I studied impractical humanities and protested Reagan’s illegal wars in Central America.

Over time, I came to realize that true communism is impossible outside of a small community setting. As Ayn Rand showed clearly with AS’s Twentieth Century Motor Company, it creates harmful incentives and is inherently prone to corruption. As a youth, although I appreciated the idealism in the maxim “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need”, I realized that it pessimistically assumed there would be no surplus created. My view at the time was that the surplus should, in theory, be distributed in proportion to the extent to which each person achieves his potential. Obviously, this could only be theory since it would require godlike insight to implement and therefore is certain to be applied incompetently or corruptly. I came to understand that capitalism was a powerful engine of prosperity that harnesses human nature (what I believe objectivists call egoism) and realistic incentives. However, I continue to believe that capitalism must be tempered by fairness and redistribution is necessary to reduce the major roles played by luck and happenstance. While there is no perfect and incorruptible system to do this, I believe multiparty democracy is better suited to the task in the long run than any alternative.

After a few years doing computer programming, in the early 1990’s, I first went to Columbia University where I got a law degree (JD) and then went to New York University for a masters in taxation (LLM). I practice international corporate tax law at a major accounting firm, having worked for the IRS for several years. Given my radical and progressive roots, my practice paradoxically includes helping companies move intellectual property offshore. I am able to do this with a clear conscience since I do not believe in the corporate tax, which is economically distortive and has an unknown incidence. From a tax policy perspective, I believe in a strongly progressive tax on individual income or consumption.

My name, Swerve of Shore, comes from the first line of Finnegan’s Wake by James Joyce. For professional reasons, I cannot share my real name at this time – perhaps, when I retire.

Edited by Swerve of Shore

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Welcome to the forum.

Given some of the views you express here, you should probably read some intro writings of Rand's, if you haven't already. If you still have questions/concerns, be sure to use the forum's search feature to see if some of your questions have been covered in one of the many existing threads.

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I am here seeking intelligent discussion. On the spectrum of individualism to collectivism, I lean toward collectivism. On the spectrum of objectivism to relativism, I lean toward relativism. I am a fervent atheist and anti-militarist. I read Atlas Shrugged (AS) in the summer of 2011 and was fascinated.
Welcome to OO.net.

I'd strongly recommend you read Rand's non-fiction essay compilation titled "The Virtue of Selfishness", or at least the first essay (about 40 pages) in that collection. The title is a put-off to some and others pre-judge it, but the first essay -- titled "Objectivist Ethics" -- would give you a glimpse underneath the political issues so you can see the type of ethical approach Rand took in arriving at her politics.

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I am almost done with The Virtue of Selfishness and will soon make my first substantive post. Until more than half through, I was prepared to tell you all that the book adds very little to the philosophy so well developed by Atlas Shrugged. Atlas Shrugged is really quite an amazing book. I know of no other book that is an entertaining novel at the same time as it develops a coherent philosophy. Plato's Republic has no story. The closest I can think of are the books of Daniel Quinn, such as Ishmael and especially The Story of B. Anyway, once I got to Chapter 14 of The Virtue of Selfishness, where Ms. Rand starts developing political philosophy more, and found new and useful content. It will definitely help my next post: I had thought Objectivism was primarily opposed to Relativism, essentially a question of whether there is absolute pre-existing truth; but Chapter 14 showed me that Objectivism is more properly opposed to Subjectivism, essentially the need for the rule of law over the rule of man, but the recognition that there may be good faith disputes and different viewpoint on the truth.

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I am not sure how important it is of what Objectivism is opposed to. Objectvism is opposed to a lot of things.

I would like to say that although I know I am not obligated in anyway to give to charity I naturally do want to help people when it is convenient for me to do so. I believe in the fundemental goodness of humanity, and in this. I point this out, because while I can only speak for myself, being and Objectivist does not make one a mysanthrope. That is, the fact that I live my life for me does not mean I see myself in conflict with other people, or that I don't think helping them wouldn't improve the world Ilive in. I find this very important to say because to many people assume that Egoism implies cyncism, mysanthropy and pettiness. I think when some people discover objectivism they are in fact these things, and when I read atlas shrugged when I was 15 ( I am now 20), I was all of those things, mad because I hadn't achieved certain values and took the message of Ayn Rand as an excuse for a lazy, blame the world, attitude. This is not the correct attitude that one should take, if one takes anything from atlas shrugged, it should be that all good things come from individual people acheving those things.

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Oh hey, somebody came here from an opposing view point and has actually gone on to read suggested material. That is a rare treat. :)

About what Hairnet said in the above post, it is kind of unfortunately common that people equate a "pro-me" stance directly with an "anti-you" one. People have on some occasions, especially when we are discussing economics, heard us mention something we do that helps us and they will then say something like, "But that would help [some other person,]" as if that invalidated the benefit to us. XD Heh, I've even had people try to tell me they don't believe that I can be an egoist basically because I'm nice and often helpful, and not in the sneaky, deceitful, manipulative way either. An underlying assumption that gets a lot of people to not even want to bother hearing any more about us beyond that we are egoists is that there is necessarily a conflict of interests between people, that benefit can only go to oneself OR others, maybe even that benefit to one necessarily comes at the price of detriment to another. People who are such strong pro-egoists thus seem like a threat to everybody else. Dispelling this notion tends to get people to calm down and makes them more willing to hear us out, but getting attention long enough to get over that hurtle is hard.

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Interesting points. I'm not sure what in my posts, if anything, raised the question of whether Objectivism is misanthropic. While I agree that it is not necessarily so, that happens to be a topic I plan to post on ... largely because it seems to me that Ms. Rand was herself a bit of a misanthrope. But, I get ahead of myself, that topic is a good ways down the list of ones I want to discuss. As for what Objectivism is "opposed" to, I meant it in what might be called a linguistic dialectical sense: i.e., what is the antithesis of Objectivism in the same way that Egoism is set up as the antithesis of Altruism.

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... once I got to Chapter 14 of The Virtue of Selfishness, where Ms. Rand starts developing political philosophy more, and found new and useful content.
I guess we recommended the wrong anthology. "Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal" is mostly about political systems. The main essay -- "Nature of Government" -- is reproduced in "Virtue of Selfishness".

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