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Gary Brenner

The Prudent Predator argument

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*** Mod's note: Merged with an existing thread. - sN ***

With the several pages of discussion(or argument) in this forum that has taken place on the topic of 'prudent predator', it is very hard and time-consuming for an outsider to sort through all the ideas presented. So instead of having to do this boring task, I would prefer to have a thread consisting only of quality arguments on the topic. No questions and no replies to anyone- use the other existing threads for that. Only yours or another poster's quality argument, either for or against it.

The first line of your post should read either: "For prudent predator" or "Against prudent predator." This will allow everyone to be able to sort through the arguments better.

Next, should follow the argument. This can be your original argument or another poster's. Don't violate intellectual property rights though; read the forum rules. I see no problem with just providing a link to their argument instead of copy and pasting. You can link to another site if you are aware of a good argument there.

Basically, this thread is for quality, thought out arguments on the topic of 'prudent predator' so people can decide for themselves without sorting through all the fluff.

Edited by softwareNerd
Merged

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I think it is worth noting that this thread is not in the debate section. As such, it is in the part of the forum that is dedicated to the elucidation and application of Objectivism, and so I would assume that what you're looking for is to see the good arguments which demolish Prudent Predator. As opposed to letting the Prudent Predators have another debate thread.

Is that correct?

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I interpret this slightly differently, since it includes the "For PP" option. I actually think it would be very valuable to collect any substantive arguments that one should prudently violate the rights of others, since to the best of my knowledge no such arguments have been created. However, I may simply be unaware of those arguments. On the face of it, since we all know a decent handful of arguments against being a PP, and there actually are no arguments in support of being a PP, then there is relatively little to discuss. However, if somebody knows of an argument -- even a demolishable one -- that one should be a PP, it would be a good thing to have it trotted out front and center, so that it can be dissected. Typically the argument proceeds from the undefended assumption that one should violate the rights of others unless there is a compelling reason not to.

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I think a great quote was made by someone here. Something along the lines of:

"It seems predation is prudent, so long as you're the only predator".

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Against prudent predator:

I think a great quote was made by someone here. Something along the lines of:

"It seems predation is prudent, so long as you're the only predator".

That is the best one-line argument I've heard. It has the virtue of forcing one to consider whether it would ever be possible to be the only predator.

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Against:

"Why act on principle?" By Leonard Peikoff available free to registered users of ARI

If you are struggling with this issue, then I strongly recommend giving this lecture a listen. It runs about an hour. Hopefully, you will be able to see Peikoff's truck hurtling toward you in time to step out of the way.

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I interpret this slightly differently, since it includes the "For PP" option. I actually think it would be very valuable to collect any substantive arguments that one should prudently violate the rights of others, since to the best of my knowledge no such arguments have been created.

Oh by all means, if someone wants to post something up for dissection then I wasn't discouraging it. I just mean that this is not a place for those who actually argue for PP to continue arguing, as it is not the debate forum.

As for what I consider to be a good highlight...

As far as I am concerned, I won the thread with this post. All the rest was just Gary not listening to it - both epistemologically and literally as with the bolded quotation that he never answered, despite being explicitly asked more than twice.

Edited by Inspector

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What is prudent predator?
The myth is based on the idea that a man might get away with a life of crime if he's careful enough. I think a further assumption is that a life of crime is effortless, compared to doing honest work.

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The myth is based on the idea that a man might get away with a life of crime if he's careful enough. I think a further assumption is that a life of crime is effortless, compared to doing honest work.

Don't those two sentences contradict each other?

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Don't those two sentences contradict each other?
No, but I suppose that the expression "effortless, compared to" isn't obvious. That is, it supposedly takes less effort to lead a life of crime. At least, I guess. Nobody has ever advanced the PP argument seriously; it's always a "but what about" pseudo-argument, similar to the "problem of universals", the "problem of induction" and the "free-rider problem".

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I meant that by being "careful" the criminal would have to exert more effort then just being up front and honest.

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I meant that by being "careful" the criminal would have to exert more effort then just being up front and honest.
That would certainly seem to be the most likely outcome. This is probably why there is no such thing as an argument for being a "prudent predator".

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Since I am the one who initiated the prudent predator thread (search for the title “Does looting really mean the destruction of the looter?”) and slugged it out over many pages, I would like to clear up a few misconceptions.

1. As to the claim that there are no arguments in support of being a PP: one need only look at the first few posts in the thread to see the argument. For example, Post #11:

“In short, why is it necessarily in one’s self-interest to honor the person and private property of another? There are many instances where one can get away with taking from others with no ill consequences to oneself. To state that the rights-violators are just not happy people requires some evidence of their state of mind. How would one gather such evidence?”

2. As to the adage, “It seems predation is prudent, so long as you're the only predator": I explained in the predator thread that the prudent predator’s strategy is not to convert the world to looting (just as an auto mechanic’s job is not to make everybody an auto mechanic) but to live off those who are not net-consumers but net-producers. I provided numerous examples of those who did this successfully.

3. On the question of the prudent predator not acting on principle: this is as baseless a claim as the altruist’s criticism of the Objectivist for not acting on principle. Like the Objectivist, the prudent predator holds his own life as his standard of value. That is a principle. He parts company with the Objectivist only on the point of honoring the person and property of another in all cases.

4. On the claim that the prudent predator commits fraud, conceals his crimes and thus conceals the facts of reality: not true. The prudent predator deceives others, not himself. He denies neither the reality that other men are creating wealth nor that he is taking that wealth away from them. Indeed the successful predator is extremely attentive to the facts of reality, for they provide him with the data necessary to undertake risks intelligently.

5. On the claim that the prudent predator is mythological and attempts to achieve the impossible: I offered instances in which the predator did in fact get away with the loot and was never punished. For example, in the past century of income tax collection in the U.S., how many IRS agents were punished for their legalized theft? Or are IRS agents, like the Gorgon, creatures of mythology?

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Since I am the one who initiated the prudent predator thread (search for the title “Does looting really mean the destruction of the looter?”) and slugged it out over many pages, I would like to clear up a few misconceptions.
That's all well and fine, but it seems a bit off-topic. The goal is to assemble the arguments for PP and against PP; and I don't see either kind of argument in your post. Instead, I see arguments "against against PP", but two againsts don't make a for. Do you have any arguments for? Your first argument, for example, isn't one.

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That's all well and fine, but it seems a bit off-topic. The goal is to assemble the arguments for PP and against PP; and I don't see either kind of argument in your post. Instead, I see arguments "against against PP", but two againsts don't make a for. Do you have any arguments for? Your first argument, for example, isn't one.

The thread is long, but the argument is there in Post #101:

a.) X’s life/survival is a good.

b.) Maintaining X’s life requires the expenditure of labor (among other things).

c.) Reducing X’s labor and increasing X’s leisure is another good.

d.) The involuntary transfer of wealth from Y to X would accomplish b.).

e.) X can accomplish the transfer with a low probability of repercussions.

f.) X’s looting of Y is good.

Note: I offer this not as a general ethical principle but only as an example of the process of reasoning behind one example of looting.

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The thread is long, but the argument is there in Post #101:

a.) X’s life/survival is a good.

b.) Maintaining X’s life requires the expenditure of labor (among other things).

c.) Reducing X’s labor and increasing X’s leisure is another good.

d.) The involuntary transfer of wealth from Y to X would accomplish b.).

e.) X can accomplish the transfer with a low probability of repercussions.

f.) X’s looting of Y is good.

Note: I offer this not as a general ethical principle but only as an example of the process of reasoning behind one example of looting.

Now you just have to prove d.) (which you worded wrong, it should say that it will accomplish c.) I stipulate that this can't be done. Why? Because there is no general truth you can point to that demonstrates that robbing someone is necessarily less effort and creates more leisure than earning something legitimately. On the contrary, it is only true in bizarrely exceptional situations. Depending on accidents is no way to live your life.

There really is no valid argument *for* prudent predator, which should be obvious if you observe the behavior of people who espouse it: they are not career criminals. The purpose of the prudent predator argument is not to present an alternative to principled behavior, but to attempt to destroy the concept of principled behavior. It is a nihilistic argument that offers nothing to anyone.

Historically, I think the prudent predator argument started with the famous Ring of Gyges question (at least, this is the question I encounter most often when people talk about prudent predator). Socrates' answer was no real answer at all, and neither was the "morality as a social construction" idea proposed by Glaucon.

Edited by JMeganSnow

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b.) Maintaining X’s life requires the expenditure of labor (among other things).

c.) Reducing X’s labor and increasing X’s leisure is another good.

d.) The involuntary transfer of wealth from Y to X would accomplish b.).

Given c, d would be nullified by the extra effort involved in the theft. So there has to be another step in the argument, but I don't know what it is. I mean, does anyone seriously think that theft is effortless and results in an increase in free time?

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Given c, d would be nullified by the extra effort involved in the theft. So there has to be another step in the argument, but I don't know what it is. I mean, does anyone seriously think that theft is effortless and results in an increase in free time?

Not only does no one think it, no one has argued it. The argument reads, "reducing X’s labor," not "eliminating X's labor." Thus theft is advantageous if the probability of ill consequences is sufficiently low and the profit (loot) is greater than X could have realized through his own production.

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Given c, d would be nullified by the extra effort involved in the theft. So there has to be another step in the argument, but I don't know what it is. I mean, does anyone seriously think that theft is effortless and results in an increase in free time?

Theft can result in an increase in free time if the payoff of that theft is greater than the payoff one might expect to get as the result of an equal amount of effort put toward honest work. Like here, for example:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/4133388.stm

$65 million can buy an awful lot of leasure time! The trouble is, I think they all got caught. Looks like they miscalculated on e.) Making that error nullifies f.) and defeats a.)

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Now you just have to prove d.) (which you worded wrong, it should say that it will accomplish c.) I stipulate that this can't be done. Why? Because there is no general truth you can point to that demonstrates that robbing someone is necessarily less effort and creates more leisure than earning something legitimately. On the contrary, it is only true in bizarrely exceptional situations. Depending on accidents is no way to live your life.

The infrequency of opportunities for easy theft would not disprove the prudent predator argument, any more than the small number of people working as full time novelists is an argument against trying to succeed in that profession.

In any case, it’s not true that opportunities for easy theft are scarce. I’ve met people who work for the IRS, they are paid reasonably well, and I’m far from convinced that they would have made more in another, less coercive line of work.

There really is no valid argument *for* prudent predator, which should be obvious if you observe the behavior of people who espouse it: they are not career criminals. The purpose of the prudent predator argument is not to present an alternative to principled behavior, but to attempt to destroy the concept of principled behavior. It is a nihilistic argument that offers nothing to anyone.

No, the purpose of the argument is to show the weakness in arguing for a consistent respect for individual rights on the basis of egoism. I do not say that there cannot be a sound argument for honoring the rights of others, but that no egoist, including Ayn Rand, has effectively made it.

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The argument reads, "reducing X’s labor," not "eliminating X's labor." Thus theft is advantageous if the probability of ill consequences is sufficiently low and the profit (loot) is greater than X could have realized through his own production.
And, as I said, without proving or even arguing that theft results in more savings of labor than working, this isn't an argument for PP at all.

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