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Greebo

The Morality of Fire Doors

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This has me a bit stuck.

In a nutshell the question is "Is it immoral under objectivism to insist that buildings be constructed with adequate fire doors?"

The argument has its misrepresentations, which I've corrected, but the core argument has some merit.

There should be no conflict of interests between rational men - but I cannot see how to resolve this conflict cleanly.

Presented unfiltered, more to follow:

It usually comes up in discussions of taxes, and government (though the wishes of the majority), "forcing" an individual to part with his money against his personal desires. It goes further than that, but the main point is that my understanding of the objectivist view is that no man (woman, man, whatever), absent a contract for same freely entered into, has the right to "force" any other man to party with money or goods, or to live/operate in any particular way. However, if force is brought, it may be met by return force. This can be moderated through an agreed third party, like a governmental justice system, or an arbitrator. But this third party can only step in once the violative force is brought -- once damage has occurred. There is no allowance for a preemptive force that might temper a later force that can bring greater damage.

My position is there are cases where a preemptive bringing of force is justifiable, if it is brought in order to prevent a more damaging example of force on the other side. The objectivist take, I believe, is that preemptive force is never viable. That any potential difficulty in a victim being made whole following an imposition of force is irrelevant to the discussion. That punishment/retribution after the fact is all that is available.

I posit that preemptive regulation is necessary, because retributive punishment after the fact often (1) fails to make the victim whole (which I believe is a goal of a society) or (2) cannot be imposed to any meaningful degree because of the shields afforded by bankruptcy and modern corporate structures. As an example, consider a government-imposed regulation that a certain number of fire escapes be provided in a manufacturing facility. I argue that the taking of liberty of the manufacturer (forcing him to purchase, install and maintain additional doors that he otherwise felt unnecessary) is justified given a] a demonstrated history of fires in facilities of this size being fatal absent an appropriate number of accessible fire escapes; ( b] the inability of a judicial system to make survivors "whole" following a fatality; and c] the modern reality that even if money were to equal "making whole", the manufacturer is often structured to make collectibility difficult and any actual retributive punishment (meaningful fines, jail time) difficult to impossible.

When this was brought up in an earlier thread, Greebo's response was something along the lines of "since when is holding people prisoner legal?" which totally chucked the whole thing right off the rails in a manner in which he would likely never tolerate of others, so I just let it go. Had I come back I would have noted that the staff aren't "prisoners". They have access to the same large sets of doors at the front of the plant that provide them access in and out every day, as well as access to the large bay doors at the very rear of the plant where the product comes out. The owner thinks those should suffice, and will allow him to better monitor comings and goings and smoke breaks. My position is that the liberty taken from the owner by requiring him to install the extra doors is justifiable given the improbability of there being any punishment/restitution that could compensate for a fatality so easily avoided ahead of time. The objectivist position, if I understand Greebo correctly, would be that even this small infringement on liberty is too much, and that freedom is paramount, and that the potential for restitution isn't to be considered. My position is that this is a huge flaw in the theory that makes it difficult for me to view it as anything other than an interesting discussion in the abstract; but not anything of any potential import to modern society.

Now on this point: "The objectivist take, I believe, is that preemptive force is never viable. That any potential difficulty in a victim being made whole following an imposition of force is irrelevant to the discussion. That punishment/retribution after the fact is all that is available. " - I clarified that the initiation of force is never MORAL. Pre-emptive is different and can be moral (you have no obligation to let your enemy actually attack you first) and of course, force CAN be viable - force is very effective - its simply never moral.

But as to the fire door example - I'm torn. I'm inclined to determine that the building owner has no right to deliberately create a dangerous environment and expose others to it unwittingly. Why? Fires are a real hazard. We know what happens when fire doors open the wrong way. We know what happens when there aren't enough exits. You have no right to drink and drive creating risk to others - can you have a right to put others at risk when you "hold forth" your building as safe?

On the other hand - does a person entering a building have a moral responsibility to judge the building's safety for themselves? I'm inclined to say no - that the primary burden is on the building owner.

Of course, there are other problems - WHO decides how many exits and of what nature are safe?

So - I'm stuck. I need a little help figuring this one out. Would anyone care to invest some time in this?

Edited by Greebo

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The problems seem to be that they don't like the only non forceful remedy they have, not to stay in a building that they deem unsafe. Who decides what is safe or even safe enough? I think It should really be up to the building owner, the insurer and you the potential customer to make that determination. In the United States there exist a couple examples of private safety standards organizations, namely the UL for electrical appliances and SNELL for motorcycle helmets. One of the ways Movie Theaters competed in the early days was to advertise that they had Air-conditioning. I could see an organization like SNELL or UL making fire safety standards and certifying that a building meets them. You want my business you better have the Fire Safety Corp plaque on your front door. No need for force.

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Its very obvious why fire doors are unacceptable. Because it starts with fire doors and ends with outlawing bake sales and governments defining what a true "Champagne " is. Every other damn regulation out there is evidence of this. It promotes corruption in the business class and sheepish dependency in the working class in the name of safety.

The business class uses regulation to push poorer competition down. The working class sits around looking for some politician to solve every little problem in his life. This is why unions are dead and worse than useless in this country. All they do is get themselves involved in politics instead of representing workers like they did in the 19th century.

All we really need is a health department and the CDC to be there to handle disease outbreaks.

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"In a nutshell the question is "Is it immoral under objectivism to insist that buildings be constructed with adequate fire doors?"

It would be immoral to buy such a building and to risk the lives of its dwellers. But it would be equally immoral to force the builders to install these doors by means of government regulations.

"Who decides what is safe or even safe enough? "-You are.

Edited by Leonid

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Its very obvious why fire doors are unacceptable. Because it starts with fire doors and ends with outlawing bake sales and governments defining what a true "Champagne " is. Every other damn regulation out there is evidence of this. It promotes corruption in the business class and sheepish dependency in the working class in the name of safety.

The business class uses regulation to push poorer competition down. The working class sits around looking for some politician to solve every little problem in his life. This is why unions are dead and worse than useless in this country. All they do is get themselves involved in politics instead of representing workers like they did in the 19th century.

All we really need is a health department and the CDC to be there to handle disease outbreaks.

While we agree on the eventual outcome here, the sliding slope argument is not really a good argument technique. It's speculative.

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The problems seem to be that they don't like the only non forceful remedy they have, not to stay in a building that they deem unsafe. Who decides what is safe or even safe enough? I think It should really be up to the building owner, the insurer and you the potential customer to make that determination. In the United States there exist a couple examples of private safety standards organizations, namely the UL for electrical appliances and SNELL for motorcycle helmets. One of the ways Movie Theaters competed in the early days was to advertise that they had Air-conditioning. I could see an organization like SNELL or UL making fire safety standards and certifying that a building meets them. You want my business you better have the Fire Safety Corp plaque on your front door. No need for force.

This is very helpful - thank you.

"In a nutshell the question is "Is it immoral under objectivism to insist that buildings be constructed with adequate fire doors?"

It would be immoral to buy such a building and to risk the lives of its dwellers. But it would be equally immoral to force the builders to install these doors by means of government regulations.

"Who decides what is safe or even safe enough? "-You are.

Likewise.

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Being in the construction industry myself and having to learn the building code here in Ontario, I've often had the same conflict in my thoughts and with others. For the most part, the building code here is what I think it would be if written by a private organization, in that construction professionals ranging from designers to builders to safety specialists (among others) are consulted to craft the Code.

Still, the fact that government is involved and assumes every builder will construct a tinder box that locks from the outside during a fire is pretty ludicrous. Owners, insurers, bonders, banks, lawyers, subcontractors and every other project participant would be involved in taking an unsafe builder to the cleaners at court. And in my company, health and safety comes above everything, which is one of the bigger reasons it's doing so well. People and other companies don't want to do business with unsafe builders, and news of any major accident resulting in serious harm or death gets around quick and can really damage a clean reputation. And actually, even one major safety incident, or a few minor ones on record, can mean the difference between getting a job or not, even if you have the better bid (same goes for pre-qualification on big projects).

I do think that government involvement in building codes (or any safety codes) is immoral, but it's kind of like the argument with roads: government shouldn't be involved, but as long as it is, it may as well set the safety standards to a reasonable level. If I get a chance I'd like to try to reverse that, but I'd be one drop of water going against the current.

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I don't think it is speculative on the simple basis that regulation has yielded more regulation.

All that proves is that regulation MAY lead to more regulation. Regulation can also lead to less regulation (its rare but it happens). It's arguing may be's and might have been's.

Upon reflection, it's also begging the question - it presumes that regulation is bad, more regulation is worse - and the question is "Why is the regulation bad?" - so presuming the answer isn't valid.

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Regulations lead to more regulations for the simple reason-they stiff the mind of the regulated who forfeits the power of his own judgement and therefore has to be leaded like a blind.

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Regulations lead to more regulations for the simple reason-they stiff the mind of the regulated who forfeits the power of his own judgement and therefore has to be leaded like a blind.

You seem to be assuming that the regulated chooses to forfeit the power of his own judgment. This is not a universal truth.

As a landlord, I never let my own judgment be overruled by whatever the regulations say. I will *comply* with them, but as often as not compliance is only the minimum I'll do. For example - there is no requirement for me to make my units completely lead free - I only have to abate the risk of exposure - but I choose to make them lead free anyway because *I* want my units to be that safe.

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But as to the fire door example - I'm torn. I'm inclined to determine that the building owner has no right to deliberately create a dangerous environment and expose others to it unwittingly. Why? Fires are a real hazard. We know what happens when fire doors open the wrong way. We know what happens when there aren't enough exits. You have no right to drink and drive creating risk to others - can you have a right to put others at risk when you "hold forth" your building as safe?

On the other hand - does a person entering a building have a moral responsibility to judge the building's safety for themselves? I'm inclined to say no - that the primary burden is on the building owner.

Of course, there are other problems - WHO decides how many exits and of what nature are safe?

So - I'm stuck. I need a little help figuring this one out. Would anyone care to invest some time in this?

There is a difference between driving on a government owned road drunk, and driving on a private road, with the owner's permission and all participants' knowledge, drunk. Your analogy applies only to the second scenario. In this second case, yes, that is a right everyone involved has, as long as everyone involved is adequately informed of the rules of the road/condition of the building.

The owner and the people using his property both have a responsibility in creating an environment in which people are reasonably informed. The owner has the responsibility to disseminate the information sufficiently for people using his facilities in a normal way to have the ability to learn about the conditions (in a building, this would involve putting up visible signs at the entrances), the users have the responsibility to inform themselves and act responsibly once they do.

As for the need for regulations, I don't see their merit. Regulations tend to be costly and give undue power to the agencies enforcing them. The Court system, through civil suits, should solve the issue adequately. Instead of a costly government bureaucracy, private watchdog groups should be able to file and win class action lawsuits against property owners who fail to do a reasonable job of informing people that they're walking into death traps.

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All that proves is that regulation MAY lead to more regulation. Regulation can also lead to less regulation (its rare but it happens). It's arguing may be's and might have been's.

Upon reflection, it's also begging the question - it presumes that regulation is bad, more regulation is worse - and the question is "Why is the regulation bad?" - so presuming the answer isn't valid.

There are lengthy explanations showing why regulation does lead to more regulation.

Its not begging the question, because I was arguing that well meaning regulation leads to absurd regulation in principle. Once you say that the government can predict and judge the actions of people's future actions you introduce absurdity into the law.

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It's important to understand that the building code (the IBC in the U.S.) is created by the architectural, engineering and construction industries and adopted by city, county, state and federal government, etc. It is not created by "the government". it is often times amended by local jurisdictions, but by and large, it is wealth of information on building safety that has been compiled over the years.

It's adoption by the courts gives the owner of a building (and those who design and build them) a reasonable assurance that, if built to code, a building can be deemed safe by an objective standard. A building built to the latest code meets the standard of care of the industry. Without this objective standard of care, no developer would invest his money in a new building. Without an objective standard of care recognized by the courts, the owner, architects, engineers and contractors could be subjected to endless lawsuits by anyone who "feels" that a building is unsafe.

The building code not only addresses egress (by type of occupancy) but also determines the size of the building, it's placement on the property (distance from other buildings), seismic standards, HVAC, electrical, etc.

The building code serves a very objective purpose. And even in a laissez-faire system, it would still exist.

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In my experience building codes have led to less safe buildings than they otherwise could be for the simple reason that minimum standards will mean almost everyone will build to the minimum. Even if building codes serve some purpose, that is only a pragmatic defense. Also by definition they cannot be a part of any laissez-faire system.

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In my experience building codes have led to less safe buildings than they otherwise could be for the simple reason that minimum standards will mean almost everyone will build to the minimum. Even if building codes serve some purpose, that is only a pragmatic defense. Also by definition they cannot be a part of any laissez-faire system.

Which part of the building code (the IBC), per your experience, is inadequate and leads to unsafe building?

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Which part of the building code (the IBC), per your experience, is inadequate and leads to unsafe building?

Ever watch "Holmes on Homes"?

It's not so much that code is "unsafe" - but rather that code is just the "bare minimum".

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There are lengthy explanations showing why regulation does lead to more regulation.

So provide them.

I don't agree that the *outcome* of all regulation is always bad. For instance - lead paint regulations *require* landlords by law to take steps to mitigate the risk of exposure to lead paint in buildings built prior to 1955, in particular to protect children from eating paint chips that flake free. These regulations are reasonable, rational, and result in good things - safer apartments and rental houses. They also dead end - if you remove all lead paint from a building completely, you're in the clear - and so are your tenants. There's nowhere for these regulations to go to make them bad.

Its not begging the question, because I was arguing that well meaning regulation leads to absurd regulation in principle. Once you say that the government can predict and judge the actions of people's future actions you introduce absurdity into the law.

Unless you can back up the claim that all regulation, good or bad, leads to bad regulation, you are begging the question.

Understand - *I* agree that regulation is immoral - that forcing people to act in their own best interest is not in anyone's best interest.

I simply won't accept making falacious arguments to support a valid one.

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Ever watch "Holmes on Homes"?

It's not so much that code is "unsafe" - but rather that code is just the "bare minimum".

No, it's not the "bare minimum". To even make such a statement say's that you do not know what is in the building code.

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No, it's not the "bare minimum". To even make such a statement say's that you do not know what is in the building code.

You are free to assume that if you wish.

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This is so strange. I just thought of this the other day myself.

Yes, I would say any regulation on businesses that isn't seeking to preserve individuality, liberty and/or private property is superfluous and oppressive.

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I don't think it is speculative on the simple basis that regulation has yielded more regulation.

Slippery slope is a logical fallacy, but just because something is a logical fallacy that doesn't mean that it *can't* produce true statements, and it IS true that since government regulations follow precedent and the logical extension of previous legislation/regulation, once you make the statement that it's legitimate for the government to require this or ban that in the name of protecting SOMEBODY, sooner or later this will metastasize into the government attempting to wholesale protect EVERYBODY via ever-increasing regulation.

What makes slippery slope a fallacy is considering a trend without reference to the underlying causes of that trend, so, if you use it you wind up with statements like "my puppy is twice as big this month as it was last month, at this rate in less than a century it will be larger than the known universe!", because you're totally ignoring what causes the puppy to increase in size and thus the causes that will also ultimately limit that growth. So, if you were to make a statement like "eventually the government will regulate every second of every day!" this would be false, because long before it reaches that stage the country would implode from sheer pressure of stupidity. But it's not wrong to say "if we open this door, we're going to get ever-more oppressive regulation until, boom, collapse".

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To be clear, the 2012 International Building Code (IBC) was created by the International Code Council (ICC). This is not a government organization. It is a non-profit organization created and supported by the architectural, engineering and construction industries. The IBC is no different than the standards published by Underwriter's Laboratories (UL), Factory Mutual (FM), ANSI, ASTM, etc.

These are private trade organizations that create and publish standards -- and they have been recognized, by precedent, in the courts as an industry standard. Following these standards demonstrate that a design or construction professional has met the standard of care for his profession. Having established, court tested, standards is absolutely necessary in a modern society. To not understand this is very naive. Financing, professional liability insurance, etc. all depend on this.

Any notion that "codes" are less than safe because they only require that minimal standards be met is just wrong. The building code is a very technical document that has tables, equations, empirically tested assemblies, etc. that shape a building. If someone wants to take this position, then they need to quote chapter and verse on exactly what should be changed. I'd like to know, since I work with it on a daily basis and have done so for over 22 years.

Many other industries have similar standards. Medical, computer, industrial engineering, etc. These professional, private organizations in no way contradictory a free market economy.

One might debate whether or not a city, county, state or the federal government should require, by adoption, that a code be followed – but to dismiss the role that the IBC fulfills in the economy is to not understand it.

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Many other industries have similar standards. Medical, computer, industrial engineering, etc. These professional, private organizations in no way contradictory a free market economy.

The part that contradicts the free market is the part where government steps in and mandates the use of the code in all circumstances. Having a code as a recommendation is fine. Insurance companies in a free market, for example, would likely do well to only insure buildings built according to such a code. Having a building tagged in county records as having been built according to code might even increase its value, but creation of government bureaucracies to enforce the code, I think, does more harm than good, in that it stunts innovation and even slows normal building procedures since the enforcement of that code, however well written, relies on humans with, often, little to no hands on experience in the field.

I spent close to 12 years installing mechanically seamed steel roofs, which, being uncommon and only a few decades old, led to some pretty bizarre encounters with fellows whose job it was to permit me me to work...Asking me, for example how they were supposed to be installed, or if I had an "installation book" so that they might check my work or even requiring changes based on their own poorly formed opinions that would ultimately lead to a worse(as in leaking) product. I can only imagine the trouble you'd run into trying to trying to make a dome or a half buried hippie house with straw bale insulation, or whatever.

As new materials and techniques become available, the code, necessarily will lag behind, leading to the uncomfortable situation where they need to be used in experienced to understand how best to use them and determine what the code ought to be, but they can't be used until their is a code defining their use.

Also, I would note that, as with all government intervention, corruption plays no small part. Vindictive and paid off enforcers aren't unknown, and even with regard to the contents of the code itself, I have some doubts about how those decisions are made. OSB, for example, is supposed to be as strong as plywood in its hold strength, but in every tear-off that I experienced, I could easily rip up a panel screwed down into OSB with one hand, whereas, a similar roof screwed into 3/4" plywood would require a crowbar. So, maybe no one involved in the code has noticed that OSB is only marginally better than cardboard in application(lab tests are another story) or maybe something else is going on that allows it. Whatever it is though, OSB is cheaper so even a framer that knows better, is pushed into using a sub par product to be competitive.

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So provide them.

I don't agree that the *outcome* of all regulation is always bad. For instance - lead paint regulations *require* landlords by law to take steps to mitigate the risk of exposure to lead paint in buildings built prior to 1955, in particular to protect children from eating paint chips that flake free. These regulations are reasonable, rational, and result in good things - safer apartments and rental houses. They also dead end - if you remove all lead paint from a building completely, you're in the clear - and so are your tenants. There's nowhere for these regulations to go to make them bad.

Unless you can back up the claim that all regulation, good or bad, leads to bad regulation, you are begging the question.

Understand - *I* agree that regulation is immoral - that forcing people to act in their own best interest is not in anyone's best interest.

I simply won't accept making falacious arguments to support a valid one.

No you are being obtuse and demand that I waist my time on questions that you already know the answers to or could easily find the answers too by searching the hundreds of threads on the issue here or by reading Mises.

I am on an Objectivist forum, and when a long time forum member brings something up I expect to not have to run you through the basics of economics for the benefit of some imagined court of thought that demands that all people on the internet be extremely obtuse for no reason.

Here is an article/wiki on mises that outlines the basic ideas behind why regulations yield more regulations and the causes for this in a mordern mixed economy.

http://wiki.mises.or...ki/Intervention

(Yes some of the things talked about in this article go beyond safety regulations, but its in there).

Edited by Hairnet

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