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Will_to_Know

Protection From the Abuses or Accidents of the Economically Powerful

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Objectivist intellectuals have been very good at standing up for business. What I have never seen, however, are Objectivist discussions of the tools that individuals can use to push back against immoral businesses. Because big businesses and individuals with immense wealth can have an enormous impact on individuals, it seems to me that there needs to be discussion about how individuals can protect themselves when such influence becomes damaging. (As an aside, I also haven't fully understood why Objectivists want an immediate reduction of government when they argue that Libertarianism is morally bereft. If an ideology isn't already present in society before government is removed, then the economically powerful (as well as ordinary individuals), will have a much greater chance of acting irrationally. Under such conditions, I would guess that unscrupulous business practices would be more commonplace, meaning that individuals would have an a very urgent need for protective tools.)

Examples for discussion:

  1. Toxic dumping that affects a community downstream
    1. Say members of the community bring the company to suit. How could a group of ordinary citizens have the financial ability to stand up to a wealthy offender who could hire an army of lawyers, bribe investigators, or expertly hide his tracks? 
    2. If the wealthy lacked any regulation requiring transparency or the need to keep records of certain activities (waste disposal in this case), how would individuals know that said company was the cause?
  2. Libel or other legal claims that can be used to sue. If a wealthy party decides he didn't like what a person said or did even if the party knows that the person didn't do anything legally or morally wrong, he me might be able to find an avenue to sue. The wealthy party may not care if he wins or loses; but rather, he would be mostly concerned with financially ruining the alleged offender through legal defense fees. 
  3. Third-party legal funding (probably similar to libel)
    1. The case of Hulk Hogan vs. Gawker is a good example as Peter Thiel's billions funded Hogan. Regardless of what you think of that particular case, how might an innocent, ordinary individual protect himself under such circumstances and should would such a thing even be legal?
  4. Organizing Boycotts
    1. I looked over another topic thread on this site about how to decide when to boycott a company/individual. The number of people that need to be included in a boycott has to be large to have any serious impact on the offending party. If people are irrational, or subscribe to a, perhaps, legitimate idea that "because toxic dumping happened in small-town Alabama and not in California where we live, there is no imperative for us boycott," what are affected individuals supposed to do there?
  5. Disproportionate Consequences
    1. Because wealthy companies have such immense resources and needs, a company that poisons people through faulty pharmaceuticals or toxic dumping has the capacity to harm or kill scores of people. Even if a suit brought against the offender ruled against him, how could retribution really be served? Let's say that hundreds of people die. Even if the offender were executed (which, I would argue, probably wouldn't happen, especially in the case of an accidental wrong), so what? How does that in any way square with the death of hundreds? 
    2. Or, what would be more likely I'd guess, is a company dumping toxins in the water that have no apparent affect until the children at the time start developing cancer at the age of 60. The person primarily responsible may be, by now, dead. So, after the lawsuit, the company goes under, even though the current CEO is an upstanding person who runs a highly safe and moral company. Is that justice? A company going under is nothing compared to premature deaths; and besides, the current incarnation of the business isn't even the offender anymore. 

Without answers to these questions, which would help satisfy the rational desire to protect one's life from those who are exponentially more powerful, I have a hard time thinking that Objectivism will go very far. Principles are necessary, but if we don't show people that they have recourse against abuses of power that far outweigh them, are people really going to want to live in a laissez-faire society? 

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Posted (edited)

Most of the points you raise center around regulations and standards with regards to how businesses operate.  Many people (if not most) don't understand that the majority of standards followed by businesses (and recognized by the courts) are established by the industries themselves.  This would still be true even under the most laissez-faire society that Objectivists could hope for.

As an architect, I follow many standards established by such non-governmental, industry-created organizations such as ASCE, ICBO, UL, ASTM, ANSI, AWI, etc.  These standards would still exist in a laissez-faire economy because the legal concepts of standard of care and implied warranty would also still exist.  Insurance companies who protect companies, and the banks who finance them, require some assurance that a company will not act with negligence and will perform the necessary level of due diligence required by law.  This would not disappear in a laissez-faire society.

Your understanding of what a laissez-faire economy would be like sounds like that of a Bernie Sanders supporter.

 

Edited by New Buddha

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3 hours ago, Will_to_Know said:

 I also haven't fully understood why Objectivists want an immediate reduction of government when they argue that Libertarianism is morally bereft. If an ideology isn't already present in society before government is removed, then the economically powerful (as well as ordinary individuals), will have a much greater chance of acting irrationally. Under such conditions, I would guess that unscrupulous business practices would be more commonplace, meaning that individuals would have an a very urgent need for protective tools.

I can't speak for all Objectivists, but I don't know of any who would "want an immediate reduction of government." A gradual and rational reduction would suit me just fine. Objectivism does not seek to remove government, but to reduce it to its proper and moral role. Gradual reform of current statutes would be the only rational means to ensure the upholding of safe standards.

The Libertarian party does not provide a comprehensive philosophical foundation, unlike Objectivism, and therefore lacks a fundamental basis of morality. The predominate ideology of our times prevents any possibility of either Objectivist philosophy or Libertarian ideology from rising to anything but another couple of curiosities.

But for a fact, the necessary ideology may very well be present in society, if only in a very small percentage of Objectivist and free-market advocates. Given that the present trajectory of American democracy seems to be one of expanding and promoting both the social and corporate welfare state models, you can expect more unscrupulous government created regulatory practices designed to assist and protect only businesses that can afford compliance to said regulations.

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Posted (edited)

22 hours ago, Will_to_Know said:

As an aside, I also haven't fully understood why Objectivists want an immediate reduction of government when they argue that Libertarianism is morally bereft.

Just to put this aside first, I think too much of Objectivist thought in the political arena has been overtaken by American libertarian ideology which stems from the likes of Rothbard and perversion of the word 'libertarian'. I don't agree with Chomsky on his political conclusions, but his discussion on the -meaning- of libertarian is correct

22 hours ago, Will_to_Know said:

Say members of the community bring the company to suit. How could a group of ordinary citizens have the financial ability to stand up to a wealthy offender who could hire an army of lawyers, bribe investigators, or expertly hide his tracks? 

First, to frame my answers, much of it has to do with reforming the legal system. Sometimes, there is now answer except to fix the legal system and you're screwed until then. One's financial standing ought not have any impact upon justice. I do not know enough about the law to say how this can be done, except to say that being able to hire lawyers shouldn't translate to receiving proper justice. My answers are what I'd say before the law is fixed. Parts I don't address mean that I don't think anything can be done besides political action.

Here, you'd have to, perhaps through the FBI and federal government, to bring the crimes to light. Additionally, protests of some sort help bring attention to the issue. The rest depends on the crime. 

22 hours ago, Will_to_Know said:

If the wealthy lacked any regulation requiring transparency or the need to keep records of certain activities (waste disposal in this case), how would individuals know that said company was the cause?

Regarding ideal law, it should be possible to make lack of transparency a sign of wrongdoing. That is, a -lack- of paperwork regarding waste dumping when an issue pops up is a sign that something is hidden.  Some paperwork might be legally required, perhaps with certain classes of toxic waste (e.g. lead, asbestos, nuclear debris) that are inherently life-threatening at relatively small doses.

Besides that, it would require some study to trace activities with the help of journalists and scientists. Public reporting would be wise.

22 hours ago, Will_to_Know said:

Let's say that hundreds of people die. Even if the offender were executed (which, I would argue, probably wouldn't happen, especially in the case of an accidental wrong), so what? How does that in any way square with the death of hundreds? 

I don't think there's a good single answer. All you can do is something like the Nuremberg trials, and dissolving the responsible institution(s).

22 hours ago, Will_to_Know said:

So, after the lawsuit, the company goes under, even though the current CEO is an upstanding person who runs a highly safe and moral company. Is that justice?

A company is more than its CEO. Corporations are (supposed) to be a way to determine legal responsibility through corporate personhood. Officers of a company are especially responsible in the sense they take it upon themselves to see to it that the company works in a certain way. Any wrongdoing is essentially their fault if they perpetuate the secrecy. But if the person is a whistleblower, that's different.

For bringing about political change, there's this thread:

 

Edited by Eiuol
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Posted (edited)

On 4/16/2017 at 2:14 AM, Will_to_Know said:

Because big businesses and individuals with immense wealth can have an enormous impact on individuals

I'm not convinced. Can you give a concrete example of how a big business or rich person "enormously" impacted your life?

Edited by Nicky

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Posted (edited)

On 4/15/2017 at 9:29 PM, New Buddha said:

Your understanding of what a laissez-faire economy would be like sounds like that of a Bernie Sanders supporter.

Your response was interesting up until this line. I'm not sure if this was supposed to be a slight, but I'm trying to understand something and am appealing to this community for that reason. Regardless of whether my current understanding of laissez-faire sounds like that of a Sanders supporter, I am still trying to make sense of something, which, if anything, should be commended. Please refrain from comments of this sort. They are not helpful.

Edited by Will_to_Know

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3 hours ago, Will_to_Know said:

Your response was interesting up until this line. I'm not sure if this was supposed to be a slight, but I'm trying to understand something and am appealing to this community for that reason. Regardless of whether my current understanding of laissez-faire sounds like that of a Sanders supporter, I am still trying to make sense of something, which, if anything, should be commended. Please refrain from comments of this sort. They are not helpful.

WTK

If you want to know what Objectivism is about you need to know the fundamentals.  Try to get at those first.  They are very abstract and difficult to connect to the specific answers to your questions without much consideration and integration.

To give you a flavor IMHO:

On ‎4‎/‎15‎/‎2017 at 7:14 PM, Will_to_Know said:

Objectivist intellectuals have been very good at standing up for business.

Objectivism does not stand up for "business", it stands for individual rights in the face of violation of rights (use of force) by anyone, including government.

 

On ‎4‎/‎15‎/‎2017 at 7:14 PM, Will_to_Know said:

Objectivist discussions of the tools that individuals can use to push back against immoral businesses.

You have not looked very hard at all.  "moral" has a specific definition according to Objectivism, and it is not anyone's business to make or keep others moral. Please be aware according to Objectivists everyone's rights must be respected and if ever violated by anyone or group the government should intervene to protect them.

That is a proper governments sole role and it would be the tool which protects individuals from any group of men or women violating their rights

On ‎4‎/‎15‎/‎2017 at 7:14 PM, Will_to_Know said:

influence becomes damaging

Influence is not force

 

On ‎4‎/‎15‎/‎2017 at 7:14 PM, Will_to_Know said:

Toxic dumping that affects a community downstream

  1. Say members of the community bring the company to suit. How could a group of ordinary citizens have the financial ability to stand up to a wealthy offender who could hire an army of lawyers, bribe investigators, or expertly hide his tracks? 
  2. If the wealthy lacked any regulation requiring transparency or the need to keep records of certain activities (waste disposal in this case), how would individuals know that said company was the cause?

 

In a proper society Laws would be objective clear and judges would know how to interpret and apply them.

Bribery of government officials whose duty it is to protect individual rights would be a horrendous crime.  The effects of attempted bribery is far worse in an arbitrary regulatory system than in an objective moral justice system.

Please... innocent until proven guilty.  I don't need to keep a 24 hr a day alibi for all the murders I will never commit and constantly report it to the government.  Such would not constitute justice, it would constitute sever oppression. 

If government was not so busy forcing everyone to make handouts to everyone else for all the most ridiculous things, it would easy to concentrate on keeping people safe from each other, protecting individual rights.

Toxic dumping which harms people, or damages property, whether farmland, water supplies owned by whomever, or both would constitute at least one of negligence or a crime and in a free society punishments for them when objective and proper will be more than enough to rectify the situation and to deter further violation of individual rights.

 

On ‎4‎/‎15‎/‎2017 at 7:14 PM, Will_to_Know said:

3. Libel or other legal claims that can be used to sue. If a wealthy party decides he didn't like what a person said or did even if the party knows that the person didn't do anything legally or morally wrong, he me might be able to find an avenue to sue. The wealthy party may not care if he wins or loses; but rather, he would be mostly concerned with financially ruining the alleged offender through legal defense fees. 

This is somewhat non central... This is about procedure and the particular efficiency of a justice system which are separable from the validity of the laws the system itself is put in place to uphold.  Be certain that a system based on moral and objective laws would be better at addressing these side issues than a system based on capricious and vicious laws that violate the rights of individuals.

Justice requires a man who is just to prevail over a man who is unjust.  The unjust man who slanders and has been found to have done so rightfully is punished and his victim recompensed.  The unjust man who brings any false claim should be accountable for the legal negligence of bringing the claim in terms of costs, and awards to the defendant

On ‎4‎/‎15‎/‎2017 at 7:14 PM, Will_to_Know said:

Third-party legal funding (probably similar to libel)

  1. The case of Hulk Hogan vs. Gawker is a good example as Peter Thiel's billions funded Hogan. Regardless of what you think of that particular case, how might an innocent, ordinary individual protect himself under such circumstances and should would such a thing even be legal?

 

This is tantamount to Envy, you know, the sniffy pouting little sister to Greed, who although smaller is much more insidious and malevolent as she is focused more on the people that have something, and not merely that she wants a something.  (sorry for waxing semi-poetic)

Choosing voluntarily to assist someone achieve justice or accepting such assistance IS never wrong.  It is a vicious dark cynicism that is at work to make anyone think that it ever would be.

How might an innocent protect oneself?  This is not a worry in an objective legal system whose laws are solely for the purpose of protecting individual rights.

On ‎4‎/‎15‎/‎2017 at 7:14 PM, Will_to_Know said:

Organizing Boycotts

  1. I looked over another topic thread on this site about how to decide when to boycott a company/individual. The number of people that need to be included in a boycott has to be large to have any serious impact on the offending party. If people are irrational, or subscribe to a, perhaps, legitimate idea that "because toxic dumping happened in small-town Alabama and not in California where we live, there is no imperative for us boycott," what are affected individuals supposed to do there?

 

A person goes to the government whose role is to protect his/her rights.  Boycotts by definition are a voluntary action, if you want to join or create a boycott you would be free to do so in a free society.

 

On ‎4‎/‎15‎/‎2017 at 7:14 PM, Will_to_Know said:

Disproportionate Consequences

  1. Because wealthy companies have such immense resources and needs, a company that poisons people through faulty pharmaceuticals or toxic dumping has the capacity to harm or kill scores of people. Even if a suit brought against the offender ruled against him, how could retribution really be served? Let's say that hundreds of people die. Even if the offender were executed (which, I would argue, probably wouldn't happen, especially in the case of an accidental wrong), so what? How does that in any way square with the death of hundreds? 
  2. Or, what would be more likely I'd guess, is a company dumping toxins in the water that have no apparent affect until the children at the time start developing cancer at the age of 60. The person primarily responsible may be, by now, dead. So, after the lawsuit, the company goes under, even though the current CEO is an upstanding person who runs a highly safe and moral company. Is that justice? A company going under is nothing compared to premature deaths; and besides, the current incarnation of the business isn't even the offender anymore. 

 

Laws protect individual's rights and hence their right to life.  Negligence or exposure of individuals to risk is actionable.

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Addition:  Life has risks, many of which no one is aware of at the time.  We cannot prevent every possible risk at the expense of life.  In a free society water purity would be a value to people, their demand would be answered by others willing to exchange for that value.  Water tests, water purification, water suppliers and services would have a strong free (free from force) market and would be driven by people's value of their health and safety.

A water reservoir kept physically separated from any rivers or waterways in which any type of effluent flowed would likely be one business model people would pay for.

 

Your iPhone is literally a scientific wonder.. developed primarily free from force and regulation, and funded voluntarily by people's desire to have it...you think no one can figure out how to deliver very pure water develop water purification or do you think people are so culturally corrupt in our stilted collectivist paternalistic State relationship that they don't actually value their own health and safety?

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3 hours ago, StrictlyLogical said:

If you want to know what Objectivism is about you need to know the fundamentals.  Try to get at those first.  They are very abstract and difficult to connect to the specific answers to your questions without much consideration and integration.

I know much about Objectivist fundamentals. The questions I have asked don't necessarily indicate otherwise, though you have taken it upon yourself to assume that you can see the motives that have inspired me to ask them. While I believe that inference is possible from what people say, as you said, my questions "are very abstract and difficult to connect to the specific answers to [my] questions without much consideration." Given that, I don't trust that you've given enough consideration to make those connections by simply writing me a few short paragraphs in a brief sitting. 

3 hours ago, StrictlyLogical said:

Objectivism does not stand up for "business", it stands for individual rights in the face of violation of rights (use of force) by anyone, including government.

Yes, I know. Just the same, I have seen much more of an emphasis on the individual rights of businessmen because regulations often, if not mostly, violate their rights more than those of others. Again, you've wrongly read into my question. There is nothing about it that indicates that I don't understand.

3 hours ago, StrictlyLogical said:

You have not looked very hard at all.  "moral" has a specific definition according to Objectivism, and it is not anyone's business to make or keep others moral. Please be aware according to Objectivists everyone's rights must be respected and if ever violated by anyone or group the government should intervene to protect them.

That is a proper governments sole role and it would be the tool which protects individuals from any group of men or women violating their rights

Influence is not force

I have not looked very hard at all, have I? "Moral" refers to necessary ethical consequences derived from a process of induction beginning with metaphysics of the universe, the ability to know it, and the ability to know the metaphysical nature of man. Once these are known, morals are necessary outgrowths that are inalienable. Why on Earth you decided that I was not aware that everyone's rights must be respected and that government is what ensures this is beyond me.

And, of course influence is not force. I didn't say nor implied that. My questions for discussion were purposefully about practical implications about what an Objectivist world might look like and what individuals could do to advocate for their rights when up against (certain) immoral giants; in a word, ethics. As much as I'd like to see laissez-faire, I'd also like to know what methods of recourse might be used to protect myself from undo harm. That it is simply the role of government is not reassuring if it might be circumvented when one side has an enormous financial advantage.

(Further, if you want to convince people in our present culture that an Objectivist society is worth having, you'll need to do better than speaking in broad, philosophical strokes. I would argue that people, rightly, are interested in self-preservation and distrust their ability to protect themselves against the financial imbalance that might be present in a conflict against an immoral, wealthy entity. I am included among those that have an interest in knowing about this, and there is nothing wrong about such concerns.)

3 hours ago, StrictlyLogical said:

In a proper society Laws would be objective clear and judges would know how to interpret and apply them.

Bribery of government officials whose duty it is to protect individual rights would be a horrendous crime.  The effects of attempted bribery is far worse in an arbitrary regulatory system than in an objective moral justice system.

Please... innocent until proven guilty.  I don't need to keep a 24 hr a day alibi for all the murders I will never commit and constantly report it to the government.  Such would not constitute justice, it would constitute sever oppression. 

If government was not so busy forcing everyone to make handouts to everyone else for all the most ridiculous things, it would easy to concentrate on keeping people safe from each other, protecting individual rights.

Toxic dumping which harms people, or damages property, whether farmland, water supplies owned by whomever, or both would constitute at least one of negligence or a crime and in a free society punishments for them when objective and proper will be more than enough to rectify the situation and to deter further violation of individual rights.

That laws would be clear in a proper society is all well and good. Without a sufficient number of rational individuals, you will not get "proper." And more importantly, that a society is proper is irrelevant to my questions. My questions for discussion are about tools that one might use assuming society is proper.

Yes, bribery would be a horrendous crime. I am not making comparisons to an arbitrary regulatory system. I am asking about practical concerns in a proper society. I am asking about what recourse individuals have against damaging practices. I am not implying that reporting to the government is necessary but what might be used without government involvement. Attempting to get some sort of idea about what structures could exist in a free society is not only possible but worthwhile speculation. Some of these structures already exist within the private sector, but I suspect we could do better, and that does not require government as you seem so hell bent on assuming I'd prefer or that I lack the knowledge to understand.   

Please, "please...innocent until proven guilty...." Again, you miss the point of my questions; I cannot stress that enough.

Sure, government is busy taking away our rights, which is distracting. That is not an excuse for not focusing on other topics.

They would not be "more than enough to rectify the situation," but if unbalanced punishment is all that is available in an objective legal system, then that is what we would have to live with. 

4 hours ago, StrictlyLogical said:

This is somewhat non central... This is about procedure and the particular efficiency of a justice system which are separable from the validity of the laws the system itself is put in place to uphold.  Be certain that a system based on moral and objective laws would be better at addressing these side issues than a system based on capricious and vicious laws that violate the rights of individuals.

Justice requires a man who is just to prevail over a man who is unjust.  The unjust man who slanders and has been found to have done so rightfully is punished and his victim recompensed.  The unjust man who brings any false claim should be accountable for the legal negligence of bringing the claim in terms of costs, and awards to the defendant.

This is, indeed, central. If you understood my purpose, you would know that. False libel is notoriously difficult for courts to identify, and in a proper society, I can see it remaining so. A financial imbalance might make this all the more true. (So you know, I am not referring to a desire for financial equality. I am referring to the fact that, in a proper society, this necessary financial inequality could still lead to problems for individuals attempting to defend themselves.)

Choosing voluntarily to assist someone achieve justice or accepting such assistance IS never wrong.  It is a vicious dark cynicism that is at work to make anyone think that it ever would be.

How might an innocent protect oneself?  This is not a worry in an objective legal system whose laws are solely for the purpose of protecting individual rights.

Envy and cynicism it is not, or at least not necessarily. It is a reasonable question. Choosing to assist someone for unjust vengeance, say, is wrong. There may be objective legal reasons to bar such financial support across the board to help ensure justice is done; one can do what one wants with what he earns, but there are, indeed, limits; this scenario may be one of them. Further, judicial review is subject to error as it still involves interpretation, proper society or not. That is what I wanted to discussion, these potentialities. If there is any potential that such discussion is frivolous in your opinion, then you need not participate in the discussion; if you did believe that, I don't know why you would, anyway. I can't tell for sure if you are passing veiled judgment on a "cynicism" or "envy" on my part just for asking these questions; but that would be, of course, your right. My right is to continue with the discussion. Anyone's judgment, in the end, doesn't mean anything beyond what it means for him and how it guides his actions, especially if I disagree with him.

I am not going to continue because my responses are all the same: you've misread my purpose and assume that I don't know enough about these topics to even question or probe for ways to apply ethics. At the worst, such commentary is insulting and condescending. If you want an example of what I would consider a respectful reply in the spirit of philosophic conversation that seeks to expand knowledge rather than instruct a supposed ignorant, see Eiuol's response above.

As I've initiated this topic, I respectfully request that you refrain from responding here.

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2 hours ago, Will_to_Know said:

There may be objective legal reasons to bar such financial support across the board to help ensure justice is done; one can do what one wants with what he earns, but there are, indeed, limits; this scenario may be one of them.

To add to this: while of course we can commend people for helping to fund an objective legal system, paying legal fees for a legion of good lawyers suggests that the system has issues. Would Hogan deserve less justice if he had no money to afford lawyers? The law is one area where the market isn't a good idea - there is no -market- for justice, as there is no -market- for violence. So setting caps may make sense - such a regulation is permissible when the point of law is that it underlies all of society.

2 hours ago, Will_to_Know said:

They would not be "more than enough to rectify the situation," but if unbalanced punishment is all that is available in an objective legal system, then that is what we would have to live with. 

If unbalanced punishment were the only option, this would not be justice. I find "it'll take care of itself" isn't reassuring either - there has to be a definite means provided beforehand. Markets don't need that, but legal systems do. A lot of non-liberal leftists (e.g. Communists) largely claims that ANY capitalistic society with markets cannot implement equal justice. But the important thing about Oism is importance of the law as the means to protect a person from rights violations. The markets in a society have no say in forming legal systems, as proper law is the -basis- of those markets anyway.

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6 hours ago, Will_to_Know said:

I know much about Objectivist fundamentals. The questions I have asked don't necessarily indicate otherwise, though you have taken it upon yourself to assume that you can see the motives that have inspired me to ask them. While I believe that inference is possible from what people say, as you said, my questions "are very abstract and difficult to connect to the specific answers to [my] questions without much consideration." Given that, I don't trust that you've given enough consideration to make those connections by simply writing me a few short paragraphs in a brief sitting. 

Yes, I know. Just the same, I have seen much more of an emphasis on the individual rights of businessmen because regulations often, if not mostly, violate their rights more than those of others. Again, you've wrongly read into my question. There is nothing about it that indicates that I don't understand.

I have not looked very hard at all, have I? "Moral" refers to necessary ethical consequences derived from a process of induction beginning with metaphysics of the universe, the ability to know it, and the ability to know the metaphysical nature of man. Once these are known, morals are necessary outgrowths that are inalienable. Why on Earth you decided that I was not aware that everyone's rights must be respected and that government is what ensures this is beyond me.

And, of course influence is not force. I didn't say nor implied that. My questions for discussion were purposefully about practical implications about what an Objectivist world might look like and what individuals could do to advocate for their rights when up against (certain) immoral giants; in a word, ethics. As much as I'd like to see laissez-faire, I'd also like to know what methods of recourse might be used to protect myself from undo harm. That it is simply the role of government is not reassuring if it might be circumvented when one side has an enormous financial advantage.

(Further, if you want to convince people in our present culture that an Objectivist society is worth having, you'll need to do better than speaking in broad, philosophical strokes. I would argue that people, rightly, are interested in self-preservation and distrust their ability to protect themselves against the financial imbalance that might be present in a conflict against an immoral, wealthy entity. I am included among those that have an interest in knowing about this, and there is nothing wrong about such concerns.)

That laws would be clear in a proper society is all well and good. Without a sufficient number of rational individuals, you will not get "proper." And more importantly, that a society is proper is irrelevant to my questions. My questions for discussion are about tools that one might use assuming society is proper.

Yes, bribery would be a horrendous crime. I am not making comparisons to an arbitrary regulatory system. I am asking about practical concerns in a proper society. I am asking about what recourse individuals have against damaging practices. I am not implying that reporting to the government is necessary but what might be used without government involvement. Attempting to get some sort of idea about what structures could exist in a free society is not only possible but worthwhile speculation. Some of these structures already exist within the private sector, but I suspect we could do better, and that does not require government as you seem so hell bent on assuming I'd prefer or that I lack the knowledge to understand.   

Please, "please...innocent until proven guilty...." Again, you miss the point of my questions; I cannot stress that enough.

Sure, government is busy taking away our rights, which is distracting. That is not an excuse for not focusing on other topics.

They would not be "more than enough to rectify the situation," but if unbalanced punishment is all that is available in an objective legal system, then that is what we would have to live with. 

This is, indeed, central. If you understood my purpose, you would know that. False libel is notoriously difficult for courts to identify, and in a proper society, I can see it remaining so. A financial imbalance might make this all the more true. (So you know, I am not referring to a desire for financial equality. I am referring to the fact that, in a proper society, this necessary financial inequality could still lead to problems for individuals attempting to defend themselves.)

Choosing voluntarily to assist someone achieve justice or accepting such assistance IS never wrong.  It is a vicious dark cynicism that is at work to make anyone think that it ever would be.

How might an innocent protect oneself?  This is not a worry in an objective legal system whose laws are solely for the purpose of protecting individual rights.

Envy and cynicism it is not, or at least not necessarily. It is a reasonable question. Choosing to assist someone for unjust vengeance, say, is wrong. There may be objective legal reasons to bar such financial support across the board to help ensure justice is done; one can do what one wants with what he earns, but there are, indeed, limits; this scenario may be one of them. Further, judicial review is subject to error as it still involves interpretation, proper society or not. That is what I wanted to discussion, these potentialities. If there is any potential that such discussion is frivolous in your opinion, then you need not participate in the discussion; if you did believe that, I don't know why you would, anyway. I can't tell for sure if you are passing veiled judgment on a "cynicism" or "envy" on my part just for asking these questions; but that would be, of course, your right. My right is to continue with the discussion. Anyone's judgment, in the end, doesn't mean anything beyond what it means for him and how it guides his actions, especially if I disagree with him.

I am not going to continue because my responses are all the same: you've misread my purpose and assume that I don't know enough about these topics to even question or probe for ways to apply ethics. At the worst, such commentary is insulting and condescending. If you want an example of what I would consider a respectful reply in the spirit of philosophic conversation that seeks to expand knowledge rather than instruct a supposed ignorant, see Eiuol's response above.

As I've initiated this topic, I respectfully request that you refrain from responding here.

Wow.  I certainly did not expect this.

Although, my intent was not to cause distress or offense it certainly and clearly has been the effect.  I leave it to others to explain to you the Objectivist position on these matters, and to the degree you are interested, I am sure it will be illuminating.

Best of luck.

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On 4/15/2017 at 4:14 PM, Will_to_Know said:

Objectivist intellectuals have been very good at standing up for business. What I have never seen, however, are Objectivist discussions of the tools that individuals can use to push back against immoral businesses.

Hi Will_to_Know and welcome to the forum!

I see you've already received some response. Yet I hope you won't mind if I start fresh with your OP?

I'll say broadly up front that, as an Objectivist, I'm not interested in "standing up for business," as such; rather, I'm interested in standing up for individual rights. It happens that individuals do business.

As for tools that individuals can use to push back against immorality (in business or otherwise), well, they can generally do as seems reasonable, so long as they do not initiate the use of force. I know that's a very generalized answer, but perhaps we can find some specifics as we go...

On 4/15/2017 at 4:14 PM, Will_to_Know said:

(As an aside, I also haven't fully understood why Objectivists want an immediate reduction of government when they argue that Libertarianism is morally bereft. If an ideology isn't already present in society before government is removed, then the economically powerful (as well as ordinary individuals), will have a much greater chance of acting irrationally. Under such conditions, I would guess that unscrupulous business practices would be more commonplace, meaning that individuals would have an a very urgent need for protective tools.)

I think this comes closest to my position (though the specifics of governmental transition to a Capitalist system are far beyond me): I believe we ought to govern differently because the initiation of the use of force is immoral and destructive. Accordingly, I would like to see these changes made as fast as possible, because people are suffering in the interim. (It is a little like wondering -- "what will the plantation families do if slavery is outlawed overnight?" Honestly, I consider such a consideration to be in distant second place.)

I do not expect any radical change in our current society, however, because most of the people of the United States (and world) do not support the system I endorse; there will be no immediate reduction of government. (If there were radical change in modern America, it would almost certainly be for the worse.)

The changes we're talking about would require, first, something of a philosophical revolution (or evolution). I trust that, by the time anything close to an Objectivist system were implemented politically, that a good percentage of the citizenry would have already adopted the kinds of tools that they would need to be more successful absent modern governmental oversight and support. It's the only way for such a fundamental political shift to occur in the first place.

On 4/15/2017 at 4:14 PM, Will_to_Know said:

Examples for discussion:

  1. Toxic dumping that affects a community downstream
    1. Say members of the community bring the company to suit. How could a group of ordinary citizens have the financial ability to stand up to a wealthy offender who could hire an army of lawyers, bribe investigators, or expertly hide his tracks? 
    2. If the wealthy lacked any regulation requiring transparency or the need to keep records of certain activities (waste disposal in this case), how would individuals know that said company was the cause?

This may be me being a bad Objectivist, but I'm not completely convinced that law/regulation is inappropriate for the handling (or documentation) of certain harmful materials, etc. I regard it as similar to arms control. If we would not permit a private individual to own his own nuclear missile (as I would not... or at least, not without regulation as to approximate a governmental entity), due to the capacity for incredible and irreparable damage that it represents, then we might be equally sensitive to activities that can, say, ruin a river serving one or several communities.

Further, when you ask how a group of citizens can stand up to a wealthy offender, I would say that the challenges we're discussing are similar to the challenges we experience today. Wealth, of its nature, confers advantages. Bribery of governmental officials (or those acting in such a capacity) ought to be illegal, and yes, we will need good criminal investigators to uncover hidden tracks.

Yet the citizens are not powerless. If they could, in theory, unite through tax and vote and governmental action, then I would expect that they could unite without those things, too -- in a voluntary, cooperative capacity. If people do not want their rivers polluted (and generally speaking, I'd say that we don't), then that suggests to me that there would be the ability to raise funds and take appropriate action.

On 4/15/2017 at 4:14 PM, Will_to_Know said:
  1. Libel or other legal claims that can be used to sue. If a wealthy party decides he didn't like what a person said or did even if the party knows that the person didn't do anything legally or morally wrong, he me might be able to find an avenue to sue. The wealthy party may not care if he wins or loses; but rather, he would be mostly concerned with financially ruining the alleged offender through legal defense fees.

Isn't this, again, already a bug (or feature) of the current system? I'm no expert in it, but I'm certain that the present legal system could use reform to prevent such abusive lawsuits, as already exist.

On 4/15/2017 at 4:14 PM, Will_to_Know said:
  1. Third-party legal funding (probably similar to libel)
    1. The case of Hulk Hogan vs. Gawker is a good example as Peter Thiel's billions funded Hogan. Regardless of what you think of that particular case, how might an innocent, ordinary individual protect himself under such circumstances and should would such a thing even be legal?

I don't see how there was anything untoward in that particular situation. If Thiel funded Hogan, or Hogan funded himself, what difference does it make?

On 4/15/2017 at 4:14 PM, Will_to_Know said:
  1. Organizing Boycotts
    1. I looked over another topic thread on this site about how to decide when to boycott a company/individual. The number of people that need to be included in a boycott has to be large to have any serious impact on the offending party. If people are irrational, or subscribe to a, perhaps, legitimate idea that "because toxic dumping happened in small-town Alabama and not in California where we live, there is no imperative for us boycott," what are affected individuals supposed to do there?

Well, what's needed to make boycotts effective, or more effective, is more education. (Isn't that what's always needed?)

I'm not convinced that the notion that "because dumping happened in Alabama, not here, so what do I care?" is particularly "legitimate." It reminds me of the old "first they came for the Socialists" poem. We would defend against other intrusions against liberty (free speech, property, etc.) in Alabama, because we understand the implication for liberty everywhere; I expect such a sort of reasoning might provide the impetus for Californians to take events in Alabama personally. (And if you investigate, I believe you'll find that many already do.)

On 4/15/2017 at 4:14 PM, Will_to_Know said:
  1. Disproportionate Consequences
    1. Because wealthy companies have such immense resources and needs, a company that poisons people through faulty pharmaceuticals or toxic dumping has the capacity to harm or kill scores of people. Even if a suit brought against the offender ruled against him, how could retribution really be served? Let's say that hundreds of people die. Even if the offender were executed (which, I would argue, probably wouldn't happen, especially in the case of an accidental wrong), so what? How does that in any way square with the death of hundreds?

I don't know how to rectify the death of hundreds, either in contemporary society or any utopia we might imagine.

I will say that a company that poisons people, and the individuals responsible within that company, ought to be held accountable for their actions (with reasonable distinctions made between accident and intention, as in other applications of proper law, and etc).

On 4/15/2017 at 4:14 PM, Will_to_Know said:
    1. Or, what would be more likely I'd guess, is a company dumping toxins in the water that have no apparent affect until the children at the time start developing cancer at the age of 60. The person primarily responsible may be, by now, dead. So, after the lawsuit, the company goes under, even though the current CEO is an upstanding person who runs a highly safe and moral company. Is that justice? A company going under is nothing compared to premature deaths; and besides, the current incarnation of the business isn't even the offender anymore.

That doesn't sound much like justice to me.

Knowing that these toxins may cause these problems (if indeed we do), we would need to be extra-vigilant against them. Whether through regulation (if we can agree that any are appropriate) or economic/internal pressures (such as boycott, and the kind of industry-created groups New Buddha mentioned), if people have an interest in protecting our children -- and we do -- we will find a way to ensure that our children are protected. It remains to do so morally and rationally. But Objectivism carries with it no call for us to stand back and allow our rivers and children to be poisoned.

On 4/15/2017 at 4:14 PM, Will_to_Know said:

Without answers to these questions, which would help satisfy the rational desire to protect one's life from those who are exponentially more powerful, I have a hard time thinking that Objectivism will go very far. Principles are necessary, but if we don't show people that they have recourse against abuses of power that far outweigh them, are people really going to want to live in a laissez-faire society? 

There is no Big Objectivist Book of Answers, unfortunately. Objectivism advocates for the use of reason and logic and evidence, which I think is a good way to approach questions such as these, and morally/politically it insists that we do not violate the rights of others through the initiation of the use of force.

Some of the scenarios you're presenting, where companies poison rivers and give people cancer, are, I would argue, an example of the initiation of the use of force. That is to say, they are a violation of individual rights. Per Objectivism, and if I am correct, they ought to be stopped. How best to do this, how best for people to organize, how best to administer the court system, and etc., are all worthy and difficult questions that we struggle to answer today, just as I would struggle to answer them in any theoretical future.

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Thanks to Eiul and DonAthos for some great replies. You've given me some good stuff to think about. I'll reply when my week quiets down some; I've been--as we all are--pretty busy.

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