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  1. In The Prince, Machiavelli speaks of how a ruler who needs to do something unpopular can simply get one of his subordinates to do it for him, and then, if worst comes to worst, he can not only deny responsibility, but make a public spectacle of punishing the subordinate. A government can not only use that to wield "unpopular" powers, but also powers that it is not supposed to have in the first place. In the United States, censorship is one of these powers -- and the subordinate in this case is the "privately owned" corporations, who "volunteer" to be subordinates because they have to, because the government wields various carrots and sticks. The government has figured out a way to get the practical effects of censorship while not doing it itself, thus having plausible deniability. This depends on allowing a few big corporations to have their hands in almost all speech -- and then the government "delegates" the power of censorship to them. I think it's actually is proper to call this "censorship," because, when it comes down to it, it is the ruling regime doing it -- indirectly. The corporations aren't really doing it of their own free will. If somebody puts a gun to your head and makes demands, then whether you agree with the demands or not doesn't really make any difference -- although the gunman might tell you that things will go better for you if it seems that you do agree. But it's a little different when the gunman is the government: people who really do agree might not mind the gun at their heads, because they figure, "the bullets in that gun are for other people, people who disagree... but I agree, I co-operate, so I don't have to worry about it." When the corporations become unpopular, the government can make a big spectacle of "trust-busting," and the showmanship on this has actually already begun -- but you'll find in the end that, even if the government theatrically breaks these companies up, it won't make any practical difference. A few new rules will be announced, nobody will go to jail, and if you end up with two or three Facebooks or whatever, they will all toe the same line. In a free market, companies would compete for people's business, and a company that started banning people for their political views would simply drive those people into the arms of the competition. A company in a free market wouldn't ban people for political reasons, because it's suicidal.** So why are companies doing it? Because they're confident that there is no competition for those people to go to. Why are they so confident? Because the government is guaranteeing it. We don't have a free market. Trump has failed to grasp the nature of this problem and thus is proposing incorrect solutions. However, once again we see some people claiming that there isn't really a problem at all, and that if people are being kicked out of the public sphere for their political views, it's just "the free market at work." That isn't true either. (Some Republicans are doing one other thing wrong -- when they see the power being wielded, they don't want to eliminate that power, they want to take it over for their own use. That's not right, either: some powers cannot be used for good, at least, if good is defined as "promoting human survival.") Over the decades, there have been a lot of people complaining, rightly, about smaller "public-private partnerships" than these, and how such partnerships somehow manage to wield government powers while simultaneously not being subject to any constitutional restrictions because "they aren't part of the government, they're privately owned." Well, now we're coming to the culmination of the trend: companies and government are, for all practical purposes, just aspects of the same thing. To save the free market we need to separate these things: the only ultimate solution to this censorship problem is a separation of state and economics, which would include the elimination of all of these powerful regulatory agencies, so that the regime has no way of compelling compliance with its censorship desires. ** This sentence isn't correct as worded. A magazine publisher, for example, is not "suicidal" if he only accepts certain kinds of articles for his magazine. A phone company, on the other hand, would be "suicidal" if it tapped in on people's calls and cancelled their service over their views.
    3 points
  2. Boydstun

    Facebook

    I joined Facebook originally in order to get access to particulars of certain Objectivist gigs that, some years back, were being announced outside of Facebook, but to get the particulars you had to be able to get into the link to Facebook, which in those days required FB membership. I had not intended to do any socializing there. I had used my real name, and after a few months of being on there, a long-time real-life friend found me and made Friend request to me, which I accepted. Next thing you know, I got Friendy with other real-life friends. Then a deluge, becoming Friend to people I've known only online. It is a distraction from other projects, but I've so enjoyed it these last seven years or so. I make the rounds to the Page of each of my Friends and see what they've been up to or have had to say. The variety of purposes to which people use their Page is interesting. Many have much interest in politics. Also cats or dogs. My Friends consist of family, philosophy/libertarian types, high school classmates, and gay friends known from when we lived in Chicago. Sometimes I get a Friend request that I accept, but then it becomes evident over a few months, that they were just gathering audience for doing their political spiels, never responding to what I post on my own page, and I unFriend them. Another neat thing about FB that enables one to have the sort of social experience one wants there, is that you can Block a person (whether Friend or not) such that you and they no longer see each others posts, even when you are both posting at the page of a mutual Friend. That's effective: if someone is saying nasty things to you, usually over political differences, just block them, and continue to participate in peace thereafter. We retired to Lynchburg, VA in 2009, and ever-better internet communications have made it possible to continue or begin anew being with friendly acquaintances of all sorts from across a lifetime. At my own Page, I don't write about politics, culture wars, etc.---plenty of opportunity to discuss those things at other people's Page. The most wonderful thing I use at my Page is the area they have provided under Photos called Albums. I have created several Albums, friends and family really appreciate them. Me too, and if later on in life, I can no longer remember on my own who I was or my loved ones or what had been my life, I hope there will be someone who will lead me to my Albums.
    2 points
  3. The Hill has published an editorial by Alan Dershowitz on Donald Trump's new lawsuit against several major social media companies. If I recall correctly, Dershowitz is widely regarded as an expert on freedom of speech. If my memory has served me well, God help us.Image by Jens Holm, via Unsplash, license.The Miami Herald precedent and those that followed it came long before a small number of social media behemoths assumed so much control over the marketplace of ideas. At least one justice -- Clarence Thomas -- has indicated a willingness to consider whether these media giants should be treated as common carriers that are subject to some governmental regulations. But media companies are different than buses. The product they sell is public speech and press, which are expressly protected from government regulation by the First Amendment. The conflict between free speech and the First Amendment arises when these private companies use the First Amendment as both a shield and a sword selectively to censor [sic] free speech. The conflict becomes most acute when a small number of private companies are powerful enough to essentially shut down the marketplace of ideas -- which the First Amendment was designed to keep open -- to certain views. [links omitted, emphasis mine, format edits]There are at least three things I can see wrong here, just off the top of my head. (1) The concept of censorship pertains only to government action. (See link above at sic.) (2) Forcing a private company to publish views its owners disagree with very much violates their right to freedom of speech. And (3) these companies are not selling speech, but providing a platform -- their platform -- for same in exchange for the ability to insert advertisements. So forcing these companies to provide a platform for some speech is not just a violation of the owners' right to free speech, it also violates their right to the use of their own property as they see fit. (Before I go on, let me make clear that my recognition that the left-wing apparatchiks who run these platforms have the right to cherry-pick which politicians they will host is not in any way an expression of moral support for what they are doing or for their anti-American, "progressive" causes.) Gus, you're a just some random -- albeit pretty sharp -- dude on the internet. Who cares what you say? Fine. Let's quote the widely respected philosopher, Tara Smith, who has been published in peer-reviewed law journals, on this matter:People sometimes treat the ability to do something interchangeably with the freedom to do that thing. This is reflected in the complaints that because a person can no longer use Facebook or broadcast his political views at work, his rights are violated. On just a bit of reflection, it is easy to see that there are plenty of things that a person is unable to do that he remains free to do. I cannot speak Polish, as it happens, and I do not know how to juggle, yet no one has interfered with my freedom to do either. Had I wanted to learn, I have been free to do so. My inability results from factors other than others' coercion. Admittedly, other people play a more influential role in a person's inability to broadcast his beliefs through certain media (T-shirts at work, on Facebook, etc.). Yet those uncooperative people are not coercing him. His freedom is intact, although his desires may be frustrated. For freedom does not mean: "I get what I want." (Again, such a notion of freedom could only be fulfilled by trampling on others' freedom. It is thus not an internally coherent conception.) The larger point is simply that an inability does not entail a lack of freedom. [emphasis added]This Smith specifically enumerates within an article titled The Free Speech Vernacular: Conceptual Confusions in the Way We Speak About Speech. I highly recommend anyone genuinely concerned with freedom of speech, our most important right, read it and recommend it widely: That right (not to mention property) is now under direct assault by a man once sworn to protect it, and under the cover of at least one person whose authority seems more dubious than that of the proverbial One-Eyed Man in the Land of the Blind. -- CAVLink to Original
    1 point
  4. On the scenario of the solitary thinker Frank raised, additional to what I responded earlier, were I that thinker: Thinking to myself discursively and being intellectually honest in my course of thought, I’d acknowledge, to myself, that my question “What if everything were literally in my head?” is in fact an extrapolation from an earlier perfectly sensible sort of question of mine: “What if this particular item of thought or perception, seeming to reside in the world independently of my thinking it or my perceiving it, were really only in my head?” And I’d acknowledge to myself that the latter sort of question makes sense only if there are some things I think of or perceive that are in the contrast condition of not being only in my head. Without carrying that condition right along in the extrapolation to all things possibly being only in my head, the extrapolated possibility cannot really make sense. Then the thought to myself that everything might be only in my head is false and is itself an occasion of something only in my head. Thanks for raising these issues, Frank, and thanks to 2046 for the link on the related topic.
    1 point
  5. But the problem is in fact governmental. The core problem is that these companies have liability protections that publishers don't have. Many of the recommendations in the article like using AI for this or that are already implemented with varied success. The bottom line is that a business should have the freedom to publish what it wants and be subject to proper libel and slander or child pornography laws. If it wants to be an arbiter of truth, it should be ready to face both the legal and business consequences. We have to keep in mind, these social media companies are providing something without getting anything for payment. There is no standard contract between the user and the provider which makes it even more complicated.
    1 point
  6. I've heard some people say, more than a few times, that the reason they don't believe in objectivity or that an external world exists is "because of quantum physics." But, as far as I can tell, this rests on some kind of confusion. This doesn't sound like anything I've seen about quantum physics. But I think you have to go back to when the quantum revolution first dropped. Everybody was committed to a kind of implicit or explicit materialism in which the word was composed of these microphysical particles in which everything is deterministic and it's all bottom-up causality and so forth. So the quantum revolution hit and people were like oh it's not really like that at all, these things are not deterministic, these little objects don't have determinate positions, like wow, I guess there's no reality there at all then. But you can see that that doesn't really follow, that is resulting from a sort of frustrated materialist ambition. A lot of the anti-realist stuff isn't even consistent or methodical anti-realist. Very few people think anything like that. But what it is is misplaced realistic goals with a sort of implicit anti-realist premises that results in people getting tripped up.
    1 point
  7. The key thing about realism is that it can't be demonstrated and the very attempt at trying it is what motivates the anti-realism.
    1 point
  8. You should check out Leonard Peikoff's book Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand. It answers these questions in the first chapter!
    1 point
  9. Technically, yes -- but context is everything. If Coca-Cola does this of its own free will in a free market, that's one thing. Because in a free market people would probably switch to alternatives, and, more importantly, they'd be able to. (Even if Coca-Cola had the same bias as 99% of the population, in a free economy, a niche market would arise for the remaining 1%... because there is good money to be made serving niche markets... unless, like, that were prevented somehow...) A semi-free or non-free market changes things considerably, though, because the idea that Coca-Cola is somehow just a private company making its own decision is merely a cover. This is not an independent, uncoerced decision, and you can tell because all companies are leaning the same way, and any time somebody wants to start a competitor that leans the other way, the effort is stymied by legal and regulatory issues. The thing is, this is not about Coca-Cola at all. That's what I think DeSantis and Trump are missing when they target Twitter or Facebook. Yeah, the people who run these companies are jerks. But the government is pulling the strings here, and only that kind of jerk would be allowed to succeed under this government. (Edit: When a guy has a gun to his head, the solution is not to put another gun on the other side of the guy's head, with an opposite set of demands -- but that seems to be what the Republicans are proposing...) Permits which you're required to apply for will mysteriously take longer to get -- any inspections or audits that have to be done will take longer and will find more little problems, and they'll dispute you whenever you claim to have corrected them -- you might get constantly harassed by law enforcement over crimes you can't control that are associated with your product or service -- whether you qualify for liability protections will be disputed -- your suppliers, employees, customers, investors, etc. will have similar problems. On the other hand, a company that cooperates will get permits promptly, will breeze through inspections or audits (if there are any), will find that law enforcement doesn't blame them for the actions of miscreants who happen to use their property, will find that of course it qualifies for liability protections, and its business associates will have similar benefits. This is how political machines in big cities have always worked -- e.g., try getting a permit in NYC or Chicago -- and now it has moved to the Federal level. It can be many times more expensive to operate a company if it is disfavored by all these bureaucrats with discretionary powers. If the operating expense is too high, the company can't stay in business. Even if the company does stay in business, it is at a disadvantage. And yet, if a court asks the bureaucrats why they decided something the way they did, they can always come up with an answer that sounds "reasonable," and hey, the metal was rusty, so we did have to close the company until they had it replaced (never mind that the other company has metal that's about equally rusty but we decided it wasn't an issue there). All this is only possible because the government is in a position to do this sort of thing. This is basic cause and effect, although in this case you see the effect and have to infer the cause, just like seeing the effect of X-rays and having to infer that there are X-rays (because you can't see them directly). There are also many historical examples of this sort of thing, including "machine politics" cities like Chicago and Detroit, where this has been going on for decades, although Ayn Rand also saw it in Russia, and it also existed in Wiemar and Nazi Germany and in other authoritarian states throughout history. What more evidence do you require? Ayn Rand herself recommended a separation of state and economics. Why do you think she recommended that? Was she wrong?
    1 point
  10. Between the insults and failure to identify common ground to precede from, and now stretching into 14 pages to be used as a shining example for whom, about what? I don't see the lions and tigers and bears frittering away their time bickering about their position on such matters. I would suggest that the animals chose otherwise, but I know better. Positions have been indicated. Are you (collectively) not men enough accept that an impasse has been reached, that minds may not be changed on the basis of what has been presented? This is not the first issue that the charge raised that Rand is deficient on. Rand would also declare that you not take her say so on matters, but to identify the relevant factors within the scope of your own capacity.
    1 point
  11. So by "survival instinct" you do not mean an instinct directly to survive, nor any awareness of the issue of survival on the part of the animal. Rather, you mean an instinct to perform certain particular actions, actions which in fact improve the animal's prospects of survival.
    1 point
  12. I have heard a conservative acknowledging that the fringe groups on both sides eventually converge at the bottom (when seeing the right and the Left departing in "a circle" instead of a flat line extending out to their extreme ends) and are one as bad as the other. That received my agreement, she was one who can be worked with.
    1 point
  13. Nothing massive, but some passages in her writing that characterize animal behavior as automatic as if they all drift like a jellyfish in terms of consciousness. I think she would need to expand on her notion of perception as more active than she had previously thought. This would not weaken any of her theories about grounding concepts in perception, if anything, it would strengthen the way she explains how concepts are abstract in nature yet practical.
    1 point
  14. Its importance to its consciousness/awareness and to its bodily movements. Consciousness is a biological adaptation that has many uses/functions. They include for humans awareness of the external world and inner and outer body states, perception, concept-formation, controlling actions, learning, remembering, language, setting priorities, problem solving, decision making, imagining, and planning. That's a very complicated list. To get a better understanding of consciousness, we can focus attention on a small part of the list and/or try to grasp the essential functions of the consciousness of creatures with a much simpler kind of consciousness. Think outside the box, especially the one that Ayn Rand made. I believe the authors of What is consciousness for? did that. I believe Pierson and Trout doing so led them to some great insights. - Consciousness and volition are integral: consciousness evolved as the platform for the volitional control of movement. - Volition is the sole causal efficacy of consciousness. - Volition directs attention which in turn directs movement. Attention to the movements of humans opens the door to a vast variety of bodily movements, especially those of the hands and fingers (using tools and machines, making things, writing, typing, etc.) and the mouth, tongue, and vocal chords (all involved in speaking). None of these things could happen without controlled bodily movements. In footnote 3 Pierson and Trout say: "By 'motor movements' we are referring to all movements of an organism, not just locomotion. Other examples would include eating, mating, speaking, freezing in place, and moving the tongue, eyes, ears, nostrils, mouth, arms, head, torso, etc. Obviously, volitional movements require extensive neurophysiology in addition to consciousness." Yes, they implicitly include hands and fingers for humans. Yet greater attention to hands and fingers should help highlight the huge significance of bodily movements to human life. If an image of a human body is distorted in size to represent the brain's dedication to various body parts, then the hands, fingers, and mouth would be far larger proportionally than the rest of the body. It would be something like this. Cortical homunculus. That's subjective, pessimistic, and a non sequitur. I was not aware that upholding animal volition in this tiny community could have such a destructive global effect on humanity. Having been involved in it for its short existence, I now hold a very contrary opinion. Consider the efficacy of animal volition versus that of human volition. Compare the efficacy of homo sapiens with its intelligence and hands to the efficacy of another species with its intelligence and hands or forepaws. Homo sapiens wins hands down. Compare what homo sapiens can do with its mouth speaking a language with what another species can do with its mouth making sounds. Homo sapiens wins again. The differences are huge and widen the gap.
    1 point
  15. Boydstun

    Existence, We

    The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies - Summer 2021
    1 point
  16. When Trump said very fine people he was referring to the people on both sides of the debate surrounding the public display and or removal of Civil War monuments. In that same speech he specifically condemned any and all who participated in violence.
    1 point
  17. Actually, before these organisms could do anything, an enzyme from another source had to be applied to break down the polymers into monomers. I don't know how workable it would be to wreak havoc with organisms producing that enzyme.
    1 point
  18. I do not doubt an enviro-terrorist will soon unleash such plastic attacking organisms into the biosphere with little thought to unintended consequences. Soon people will have throw out their disintegrating plastic hooks, hangers, pens, waterbottles, computer equipment, TVs, previously safe electrical appliances, recycling bins, and replace rotting composite patio planks, vinyl siding on their homes, car interiors, and replace crumbling and unsafe plastic-based safety equipment all crumbling slowly before their eyes. So much for my "permanent" CD collection... oh well, we'll just release another plague of organisms into the biosphere to take care of the first plague.
    1 point
  19. I heard something on the radio today about using bacteria to convert waste plastic to vanillin, which has various uses.
    1 point
  20. In the episode Who Mourns for Adonais, a gods strength was measured by the quantity of its followers. The Roman goddess Libertas, or her Greek predecessor Elutheria, do not need to shrug under such a premise. In J.R.R. Tolkien's book, Gollum's possession of the ring of power had generated whispers of a shadow growing in the area of the mountain he was harbored within. Note the focus on the gods, placing them at the center of interest, the object of veneration and love, provides the metaphorical increase in power and influence. When the 'god' is made to be the loss of liberty, its degradation, its erosion — to what would the conversed 'metaphorical increase' apply? Yes, what goes on in the world need be taken into consideration. There is also the the adage regarding one finding what one seeks, i.e.; if one is focused on finding negative, is it any surprise that negative is found?
    1 point
  21. DA. "Darker" - because of Trump - or despite him? Not to sing his praises too much, but weren't the shadows already gathering before his time, fully revealing themselves increasingly and disturbingly in only these last few months after his departure? That's what I was catching strong hints of from the US, pre-2016. And -possibly- perhaps his shock tactics were in a partial measure of calculated opposition to such forces, which even an unintellectual Trump could recognize were dangerous to the nation. (Stephen King would say that, being about as Lefty as they come). Oh and I have been to some shithole and basket case countries in Africa. It was about time they were (crudely) called out, maybe to take stock of themselves rather than this faking pretense by the delicate diplomatic community that all is fine and dandy on the continent. As long as they keep throwing guilt money at the problems there won't be change.
    1 point
  22. Not so long as we're able to argue for her long-overdue restoration. I cannot tell how far away that point is from the present (and I have been trying) but we're not there yet. When we get there I'll make sure to let you know where all the best spots are down by my river. Also, I don't think "dark lord of the Republican empire" is too much at all. Ayn Rand opposed Ronald Reagan (in her own words) because of his embrace of the religious right, which she thought would destroy anything which had been good about the Republicans before that. As a millennial it's not easy for me to picture what the Republicans were before Reagan but in my own lifetime the hardcore mysticism has been one of their main vices (and by far the thing I personally find most annoying about them). Trump seems to have actually countered that specific trend to some extent. He never pretended to be too religious, and in his wake that issue seems to be dying out among his sycophants. But I too am waiting for the other shoe to drop, in terms of what exactly replaces it. I agree with Yaron Brook that Trump may well have already destroyed any good there was in the right wing of this country. And I think your characterization is basically correct. My river is the Rum River, though. Its name currently doesn't align too well with reality, but maybe we can do something about that! Newcomers must bring their own supplies, of course.
    1 point
  23. It's all about the headlines that generate the ratings, that create and sustain a following that wins elections. The Republican Purge is real, and the midterms will determine its success as political strategy in American politics. An extended family member of mine recently noted, "Impeachment is just street cred for him," and that pretty much sums up my opinion of The Donald and his Dark Wing. The Donald's 1st term election was unimaginable, until it happened. Former republican opposition candidates undermining the election in Congress on his behalf was unimaginable, until it happened. January 6th was unimaginable, until it happened... and the Dumbercrats continue to campaign as though if only everyone understood what a bastard the Former President is, no one would vote for him, while those who vote for him don't care because, "He's our Bastard!" The Former President will be restored to office as the party default if the current political trend doesn't produce someone who can beat his political base. Do you see that coming? Last go round I gave him and his following 50/50 odds, and this time I think if the Republicans make gains over the Democrats in the midterms, it's their presidential election to lose, if narrowly. Lady Liberty was raped on January 6th. That's what I think.
    1 point
  24. What do I know of "QAnon" and right wing conspiracies? Little, thankfully. Only some words and rhetoric. What I do know from long familiarity is that that "Fascist right" has been the go-to cause celebre of the MSM and others, in order to by sleight of hand, through misdirection, cover the tracks of the resurgent Socialist Left. And so far, thankfully, the right aren't actively responding, to the disappointment of many, I believe. Anyone can predict the, er, "active" response if the political shoe were on the other foot, mind you.
    1 point
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