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Everything posted by JohnGalt

  1. Context dropping... At whose expense are these "social needs" to be met? Environmental protection has a cost. Rebuilding infrastructure has a cost. Rebuilding cities requires capital and manpower, in addition to cultural adjustments. Who is going to force these changes upon whom else? Despite people's best efforts, and sometimes their not-so-best efforts, companies go bankrupt. Upon whom is it incumbent to reimburse those that lose their retirement savings? What about the fact that those people were so careless as to bet their entire retirement savings on a single company? Why should we create an ever higher barrier to entry into the labor market, which is what the minimum wage is? And above all: what is the basis for the assertion that health insurance, of all things, is a basic human right? Who should be made to provide it for those who don't have it. Kurtz doesn't say how all this should be done. The implied answer then is, "Somehow." "Somehow" always means "someone." What he's talking about is precisely the opposite of a free market: a market where "the people," i.e. the government, are free to do as they please and take what they please whenever, wherever and from whomever should suit them. I actually like the term "Evangelical Capitalist," though not in the sense that Kurtz uses it. I think capitalism needs a few more evangelists. I'm envisioning angels with glowing dollar signs over their heads instead of halos.
  2. Greedy Capitalist: You make some good points, and one can probably read into this movie whatever interpretation one wants. If you're disposed to looking for socialist themes in Disney's movies, you'll find them. (For the record, I don't think Disney has any creative control over Pixar, they just distribute Pixar's movies.) Disney, of late, tends to be very "green", thematically. The last Disney (non-Pixar) movie I saw was Fantasia 2000, and it was no exception. Getting back to A Bug's Life, I didn't view the ants and the grasshoppers as the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. Rather, I viewed the ants as producers and the grasshoppers as looters (possibly a coercive government?) Making that switch changes the perspective on a number of things.
  3. There are a couple of problems in your reasoning that are leading to your diffculty with this question. Yes, our minds evolved out a series of random mutations. The process of evolution, however, is not a random process. Let me explain this a bit more clearly. The indivdual mutations that are part of the process of evolution arise randomly. The corrollary part of evolution that you're overlooking, and which is not random at all but is driven by causality, is the process of natural selection. Objective reality serves as judge, jury and executioner over which mutations are beneficial to the survival of a species. Those that are continue to propagate. Those that are not, do not. My opinion is that both "advance" and "reverse" mutations occur all the time. Most of these are so insignificant as never to be noticed, and over time they cancel each other out. What drives evolution is the environment, reality. When the environment remains constant, these mutations will remain in an equilibrium, never producing any noticable change. When the environment changes, however, it will drive those mutations toward a form more adapted to the new environment. This is evolution. (Changes in the environment too extreme and too rapid for this process to take place result in extinction.) Since man has aquired, as his last step in evolution, the ability to control his environment, to adapt his background to himself, there is no further need, nor any driving mechanism, for biological evolution regarding man. Rational thought is not a product of evolution. The capacity for it is, but we must exercise that capacity by choice. A child may learn the value or dis-value of rational thought from his or her parents, but the choice to use or not to use his reason always remains open. In an objective reality, those who dis-valued rational thought would find themselves unable to survive and pass that dis-value to their offspring. In a welfare state, those who dis-value reason are protected from the punishment of reality and are, in fact, enabled to pass on their irrational values to their children. The welfare state circumvents the pseudo-evolutionalry process, call it social (as opposed to biological) evolution, that encourages the value of rationality. In this sense we can "devolve" our minds by the widespread choice not to use our rational capacity, but clearly such a society is doomed to decay and eventual destruction. So long as we have free will, the choice to think rationally is always before us. Lastly, I have one question: if you can not think rationally, what led you to ask the question in the first place?
  4. So, anyway, I was watching A Bug's Life last night. (No, I don't have any kids. I just like the movie. What of it?) I noticed a number of objectivist themes in the story and in some specific events. For those unfamiliar with the movie, it's essentially Seven Samurai (or The Magnificent Seven) translated into an ant colony fighting off a gang of thieving grasshoppers, who demand a portion of the ants' harvest of food each year. The protagonist of the film, an ant named Flick, is an ant of ideas. In a society that seems to prize conformity, he is an individual. He's constantly coming up with new ideas for ways to make the ants' life easier. (At the beginning of the movie, he's invented a harvesting machine, to speed up the gathering of grain, leaving the ants more free time for other activities.) Flick is, however, somewhat accident prone and his inventions often seem to cause more problems than they solve. Throughout the film, there is the suggestion from the rest of the colony that Flick should just "fit in," that his individualism, and particularly his ideas, are dangerous. One particular event during the opening scenes of the film occurs between the queen ant (in semi-retirement) and her daughter, the princess/queen-in-training. In explaining her attitude toward the situation with the grasshoppers the queen says, "They come, the eat, they leave. That's our lot in life. It's not a lot, but it's our life." To me this suggested a sort of "malevolent universe" premise to the ants' ways of thinking. Combined with their conformity, this attitude would leave them helpless to ever change that "lot in life." One might think that in a movie about an ant colony, it would be easy for the thing to lean toward a collectivist theme. This film, however, is very strongly individualistic. There are a number of other aspects to the objectist themes in this movie. Last week, watching Finding Nemo I recall noticing other objectivist themes in that movie as well. I'm now curious to go back to the other Pixar movies to see if there are any other hints of similar themes there. I think there's someone writing at Pixar who definitely has an objectivist's sense of life. Maybe Disney should take a hint.
  5. With regard to Roark, I think he makes a fundamental mistake about Roark's motivation and method for building. He never built anything that was contrary to the desires of a client. He built precisely what they wanted. What he wouldn't do was sacrifice his own judgment to the irrational whims of potential clients. He wouldn't work for a client whose desires were irrational. With regard to Atlas Shrugged, he faults Rand for portraying businessmen (and women) as "true believers" when in fact they are simply interested in "money making by whatever means." This is the mentality of the parasite, not of the producer. While I certainly don't believe that all business people are Dagny Taggarts or Hank Reardens, neither do I believe, as Mr. Skousen seems to, that they're all Ken Lay. I'd also like to point out that this whole critique of Miss Rand's writing seems to fail to grasp one point: her novels were meant to portray things as they ought to be, not as they are. Is our culture so mired in naturalistic art forms that we can't recognize romanticism when we see it?
  6. I think you're confusing the rational with the ordered and the irrational with the chaotic. These concepts are not identical. Order does not require reason, in the sense of a single consciousness performing a rational thought process. There is such a thing as spontaneous order. The free market system is an excellent example of this, but there are others. I recall hearing of an experiment performed in a robotics laboratory: a number of simple robots were placed in an area in which were scattered a number of square blocks. The robots' programming followed this algorithm: move until you find a block, pick it up, move until you find another block, put the block you're carrying down, repeat. Over time, the robots began to form small piles of blocks, and eventually, one large pile. The suggestion was that ants may operate on a similar "program" when gethering food. Order without rationality. The natural world, by which I mean "the world excluding man," displays order. Certain animals live in social groups, with a definite structure, though they do not posess rationality. Plants have structured system to sustain their life, though this is not a product of reason, merely of evolution. Evolution, like other forms of spontaneous order, is a result of the law of identity. A is A and can not be anything else. A nuclear missle can be netiher a sperm whale, nor a small bowl of petunias. Every event has specific effects. The effects can not be contradictory to the cause. I can not eat my cake and still have it. As to the order of the universe as a whole: I used to believe as you do, Andrew, until the weakness in such a belief, pointed out by Capitalism Forever, occurred to me. If order must be a product of rationality, and rationality can not exist without order, which came first? I think someone was quoted in another thread, "The universe is just one of those things that happens from time to time." Reason, as a structured method of thought, requires order, but order does not depend on reason.
  7. You think slavery is a state appropriate to man? And as for my being a slave, all I can say is, it's not total. For all its faults, America still recognizes property rights to a greater extent than most any other country. Does the fact that it's incomplete make slavery okay? Of course not! A little bit of evil is still evil. How much better could I be doing if the government wasn't expropriating a chunk of what I produce, either to give it to someone who's done nothing to earn it except to be incapable of earning it, or to spend it on some pet project (which, incidentally, amounts to the same thing)? I notice that you don't suggest that the parasites are living qua man. There are no parasites without slaves to feed off of. The existence of one requires the existence of the other. By "parasite" I don't mean the object of voluntary benevolence or charity. A rational man values other people for the potential they hold as human beings, until and unless they demonstrate otherwise. A parasite is someone who feeds on the coercive expropriation of the produce of others. And of course all western ideas are bad because all us "Honest White Folk" are just a buch of assholes? Since there are lots of examples of people living in collective harmony, you'll have no trouble giving some concrete examples. And I'm not talking about strong communities, which coercively enforced collectivism destroys, I mean true collectivism. I'd like to restate my conclusion from the previous post that may (but probably won't) be more to your liking: property rights are the recognition that neither slavery nor parasitism is a state appropriate to man's nature. Finally, it occurs to me that maybe part of the problem here is that we don't agree on what a right is. I'll suggest the dictionary definition, as applicable here, which is: something to which one has a just claim; the power or privilege to which one is justly entitled. (Merriam-Webster Online) The concept of rights implies the concept of justice. The concept of justice implies a standard, something against which to evaluate what is just. A standard of justice implies a standard of value. Objectivism holds man's life, i.e. the life of each individual man, as his ultimate standard of value. This follows from the fact that life is a process of self-generated, self-sustaining action, and that each man must take the steps required to sustain his own life. (It can be demontrated that each man may hold his own life as his ultimate standard of value wihtout impairing the ability of others to do the same, but I won't go into that here.) Your standard of value, it seems, is that described as "the greatest good for the greatest number of people." This viewpoint has been held by some very intelligent people, who suggest, as you do, that rights may not exist in reality, but it would be just as well to behave as if they did. The problem with it is two-fold: first, that it ignores the facts set out above, and second, it is incredibly easy to slide from "the greatest good for the greatest number of people" to "the greater good of society" at which point it becomes acceptable to sacrifice any number of people to slavery, or worse, so long as it is intended "for the common good."
  8. Gabriel's assertion that free will is a product of a rational process is interesting, but I think backwards. If true, and if one managed entirely to eradicate thought from one's life, which for most people would require a great deal of chemical assistance, then free will would be impossible, since thought would be impossible. However, since rational thought is a volitional process, free will is a prerequisite of rational thought, not its product. As others have stated, one always, so long as one is alive and conscious, has the alternative of rational thought or irrationality.
  9. Newbie here. (I can't believe nobody had registered as JohnGalt yet.) It's my understanding that the purpose here is to convince 'One Shot Wonder' that property rights have some basis in reality, that they're not merely a human convention. (Ownership is the concretization of an abstract, of property rights. Or another way, ownership is the practice or exercise of property rights, requiring a specific owner and specific property. Since ownership depends on property rights, the task is to demonstrate the existence of property rights, or rather their grounding in reality.) Here's my attempt at explanation, as simply as possible: Man is a being of volitional consciousness. He posesses reason and the free will to use it or not. The proper choice, which is to say, proper to man's nature, is to use the fullest extent of his abilities, to live by his reason. The alternative is life as an animal, acting by perception and instinct on the range of the moment. Of course, reason alone is not sufficient for man's survival, as the mind has no direct effect on the external world. Man must act on his reason, and reason must guide his action. It is by his own effort, guided by his reason, that man must survive to do so in a manner appropriate to his nature. Property rights are a requirement of man's survival in a manner appropriate to his nature. They are not a convenience or a social convention; they are a requirement. In a society where property rights are not recognized, at least implicitly if not explicitly, man is either a parasite or a slave. The parasites live off the effort of others. The slaves have their efforts expropriated by the parasites. (This is not "social fiction"; it is, sadly, the record of much of human history.) This clearly is not survival qua man. It is survival as an animal. It is man's nature and his requirements for life appropriate to that nature from which property rights arise, quod erat demonstrandum. How one attains property is another question. This is where the concepts of value and claim come into the discussion. The O'ist position on what belongs to an individual (the product of his mind and effort) is hardly unique, or even original. It's been around since at least Adam Smith and John Locke.
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