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Posts posted by gags

  1. I have not taken the position that it is immoral to accept funds from the government under any circumstances.  My only point here is to question why receiving a government handout can be legitimate in one case but not in the other.  I have shown that the unemployment tax is ultimately a coercive wealth redistribution scheme, no different in principle than taxing the population to provide income for artists.

    Yes, the unemployment tax is ultimately a wealth redistribution scheme. However, it is also different from general taxation in that it is essentially an insurance premium (or a user fee) paid to participate in the unemployment insurance system. Is it taken at the point of a gun? Sure it is. However, one pays the premium to receive a specific benefit in the event of a specific occurrence (the loss of employment). If you don’t work and pay a dedicated tax that funds the unemployment insurance system, you can’t collect unemployment benefits. Also, if you’re self-employed, you still pay income tax but likely do not pay the unemployment tax. In that case you can’t receive unemployment benefits. We’re talking about a specific system set up for employed persons who pay a specific tax to support certain benefits, not a general tax being used for whatever the politicians choose.

    Nevertheless, I suppose that in some ways taking these benefits is only different from looting the general tax fund (through NEA grants and Stadium Subsidies) by a matter of degree and not principal. However, the issue of the degree of evil is important here. This gets back to a point I made earlier, which is that with the size and scope of our current government, one could hardly step outside and drive down the street without being the beneficiary of a government wealth distribution scheme. Are we all tainted by the current system of taxation and wealth redistribution? Hell yes, it’s impossible to not be tainted.

    On the other hand, there are some important distinctions to be made between unemployment insurance and auto insurance.  First of all, the auto policyholder makes a contract with a private sector agency.  Yes, states do force drivers to carry insurance, but no state forces anyone to go into the insurance business.  Auto insurance premiums are based on one’s driving record.  Unlike the worker who frequently loses his job but pays the same FUTA rate as everybody else, poor drivers pay rates many times those of good drivers -- and some are not able to find anyone to insure them at any rate. So it is far from clear that auto insurance constitutes a form of socialistic wealth transfer. 

    The distinctions may not be that great. Of course nobody is forced to go into the auto insurance business. However, we are forced to pay auto premiums if we drive, the same way we are forced to pay unemployment insurance premiums if we work. Also, the insurance business is heavily regulated in most states. In Michigan, there are all sorts of controls on the companies operating in our market. This isn’t an important point, but I believe that the ins. companies are forced to offer minimum policies at regulated premiums to every driver. So your point that the premium is based on your driving record is true only to a degree. Bad drivers who couldn’t get any policy in an unregulated market are able to get minimum policies in Michigan. Although the coverage on these minimum policies is bad, the effect is still the same. The good drivers are subsidizing the bad the same way people who lose their jobs often are subsidizing those of us who remain employed.

    But let us suppose, for the sake of argument, that auto insurance is just as coercive and unjust as unemployment insurance.  We still have not arrived at a reason why a victim of past government taxation should not avail himself of a government subsidy.  If the principle is that one should be able to take out what he has put in, then there is nothing that can be said against the subsidized artist or baseball team owner.

    Again I come back to the fact that we’re all tainted by the current system, so it really does become something of a matter of degree. In the case of unemployment, I’m taking money from a system that is admittedly redistributionist, however, I also paid directly for those benefits. By my calculations, the NEA receives approximately .005% of the total amount of the current $2.7 trillion federal budget. Therefore, an artist paying $50,000 per year (which would be a lot for an artist) in Federal Income Tax would have paid all of about $2.50 toward the NEA’s budget. If the artist pays taxes for the next 10,000 years, he’ll have contributed enough into the system to take out a $25,000 NEA grant.

    This clearly isn’t a principled argument that I’m making, but it is a practical one in a system where we’ve turned everyone into a thief.

  2. E. Mathis:

    I’ve cleared up my thinking on this a bit and it seems to me that the nature of the unemployment insurance programs that are funded by FUTA and SUTA is an important factor to consider when deciding whether taking money from them is moral. As with any form of insurance, you may never use it, or you may find it necessary to draw out benefits that exceed the premiums you've paid.

    In many ways unemployment insurance is analogous to auto insurance in my state. We have a no-fault insurance program and the State of Michigan requires everyone to purchase auto insurance. You risk going to jail if you are caught driving without insurance. The state government also skims part of the premium off the top and puts it into a fund specifically designed to pay for people who suffer catastrophic injuries in auto accidents. Given that the government forces me to pay the auto insurance premiums (the same way it forces me to pay for unemployment insurance), would it be morally wrong to accept money from the insurance company if I were in a car crash? If I received horrible injuries in the crash, would it be morally wrong to accept compensation from the state sponsored and controlled catastrophic accident fund? I think the answer to both of these questions is no.

  3. How do you know this?  There are a number of artists who work in the private sector for years, paying and paying taxes, before applying for a federal grant. What's wrong with their getting some of the money back by asking the feds to fund their artistic projects?

    Or to take another example, the owners of baseball teams make loads of money from ticket sales and broadcast rights -- and pay loads back in federal, state and local taxes. What would be wrong with a team owner asking for a handout for local government in the form of a city-subsidized stadium?  Isn't that only getting back what he paid in?  Shouldn't we applaud this subsidy as an act of justice?

    In fact, as long as a corporation does not take more out than it puts in, how can Objectivism raise any complaints about corporate welfare?

    On the one hand we're talking about paying into what is essentially an insurance system run by the government, presumably for the benefit of working people. It is set up specifically to provide income in the event that you become unemployed. Of course, you are paying for the insurance coverage whether you want it or not. Nevertheless, I can't see why it would be immoral to access the specific benefit for which you have paid directly. Perhaps you can explain it to me (if that's what you're arguing)?

    Your other examples involve the government confiscating wealth from everyone and giving it to a chosen few (the well-connected businessman, the politically correct artist, etc....). That is theft, plain and simple. Why should anyone be forced to support something like a baseball stadium unless they willingly choose to buy a ticket?

  4. I don't see how the fact that a tax has a specific purpose makes it more legitimate to accept benefits from that tax.  There is no denying that FUTA collects funds via the threat of force.  And there is no denying that it is a form of wealth redistribution.  Some people are less likely to be unemployed than others, so those who are better at holding on to jobs end up subsidizing those who are not.

    Given that we're all forced to pay taxes to subsidize the arts, why not take advantage of art subsidies by applying for one?

    I agree with you that the unemployment insurance system redistributes wealth and should be abolished. However, working people are forced to pay a dedicated tax (FUTA and/or SUTA) into the unemployment insurance fund. If one were to calculate the amount you have paid into the unemployment system, I can't see a moral problem with taking that specific amount (no more) out in the form of benefits.

    In the case of an NEA grant, the person receiving the grant would be taking far more in benefits than he or she had paid in taxes to support the NEA.

  5. So I take it that you see government subsidies in the form of baseball stadiums or NEA grants as legitimate ways of getting back stolen tax money?

    No I don't. Both should be abolished because neither is a legitimate function of government (among other reasons). My only point in mentioning sports stadiums and public universities is that government subsidies are everywhere. You could hardly walk out your door if you insisted on avoiding all things that have been susidized in any way by the government with stolen funds.

    Unemployment benefits are a little different in that people who work pay a specific tax (FUTA) that is deducted from their payroll in order to fund these benefits. Given that we're all forced to pay the tax, why not take advantage of unemployment benefits if you need them?

  6. I gather from this that you regard receiving welfare as a legitimate way of getting back money taken from you through taxation.  If so, would it also be legitimate for a businessman to get money back by receiving a government subsidy in the form of a tax-supported stadium?  How about a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts?

    In 21st century America, the welfare state and the far reach of government are so omnipresent that it's nearly impossible to not be touched by both on a daily basis. If I go see a ball game in a tax supported stadium, I'm benefiting from government theft. If I send my child to a public university, I'm also benefitting from government theft. The welfare state is particularly pernicious because it encourages and even forces people to access the "goodies" it offers so freely.

    I don't see a problem with Softwarenerd's view of unemployment compensation. I know that I have personally paid far more into the system than I could ever draw out. However, if the time came when I needed to access unemployment, I would do it without hesitation. After all, if the government confiscated less of our wealth, my savings would be far greater and I wouldn't have a need for unemployment in the event I lost my job.

  7. Appologies if my grammer was unclear, I mean what would be some good examples of services which typically the Goverment recieves payment for at gunpoint, instead being funded without the need to use force? Are there any privately owned roads in the United States for instance?

    Oh sorry, I misunderstood. Another example is a private security force. These private guards fill a need that arises when government is incapable of performing one of its core duties.

    One more example is a private adoption agency. Many adoptions are handled through state agencies, but some are arranged by private companies in exchange for a fee.

  8. What would be some good examples of services which typically the Goverment recieves payment for at gunpoint, being funded without the need to use force?

    There are so many examples it's difficult to list them all. Government is involved in virtually every asepct of our lives and almost everything outside of its core duties would be an example. A few are: the National Park System, the Food and Drug Administration, the Department of Education and education funding in general, etc....

  9. First, let me say that this is a great thread. Cheers to all who have offered their rational opinions.

    Let me ask a 'devil's advocate' question, because this is similar to an argument I'm having over private education:

    What mechanism would prevent these 'orphanages' run by private enterprise from providing poor quality service for the sake of maximizing profits and minimizing operating expenses? If the operator is unscrupulous and doesn't clean the bathrooms, feeds the kids 10-cent pack of Ramen noodles instead of a well-balanced meal, and otherwise neglects the children, how, in a free society would we deal with such a situation?

    If the orphanages were supported by charitable donations from individuals and/or organizations, I'd assume that the donors would care enough about where their money is going, and how it is being used, to check on the conditions in these homes. Running an unsafe or unclean facility would not be a way to attract future donations.

    If the orphanages were run for profit, then the owners would have the same incentive that a rancher has to care for his cattle or sheep. Not to compare orphans with cattle or sheep, but the principle is similar. If the intent of the orphanage is to eventually be paid a fee by parents willing to adopt the child in question, it wouldn't be good for business to allow the child to become sick or malnourished.

    Also, isn't the operator of the orphanage the temporary guardian of the children? That being the case, the operator would be initiating force against the child by not providing proper care. In that case, the state should step in and stop the abuse from occuring.

    Just as an aside, I have had a considerable amount of contact with the government foster care system that deals with orphaned, abandoned and abused children in Michigan. It is poorly run and often functions against the best interests of the children who are placed in its care. I could relate a few rather disturbing stories, but this doesn't seem like the time nor the place. It is also often the case that older children who are abused and/or abandoned have a difficult time being adopted. People want to adopt babies, they don't want to adopt 10 year old boys who have been sexually molested by their parents. It's very sad.

  10. Burgess, you were absolutely right with your original comments. I can't see any reason to continue discussing/arguing with Mr. Nihilist. This would be far more productive::dough:

    Just for laughs, I'll quote a few things he said in our last discussion.

    Mr. Nihilist made comments to the effect that "reality is subjective." "Everything is point of view." I asked him whether he thought reality exists independent of perception. His response:

    The question is not whether or not reality exists. I have no doubt that there is, in fact, a real. The question is how it is perceived. The answer that SHOULD be obvious is that it is subjective. What may be wrong to one person is right to another, as is proved by the fact that people take "wrong" action. It's that simple, man.

    On the subject of Morality: he believes it isn't "part of reality". I wonder what it's a part of then?

    I'm not going to go any further into reality/perception of the real because I was recently introduced to Lacan and my world is currently standing on its head. However, on the subject of morality, my original point, I do not believe that morality is a part of reality. There is NO WAY that there can be absolute morals short of a higher power/god. NONE.

    His view of Ethics:

    Ethics. Independent of human perception, nothing is right or wrong. Good or bad. However, this also includes human perception in that there is no experience that can be deemed as ABSOLUTELY good or ABSOLUTELY bad.

    I suggested he might read some Ayn Rand, and this is the response I received. I view it as Mr. Nihilist's crowning achievment:

    As for reading Rand. I will eventually. I have little interest in her right now but I'll certainly read her for the simple novelty of doing so. I know the basic framework of her arguments, however, and have no problem dismissing them as silly. "Rationality" is a word that I despise. Societal norms are enforced through "rationality" the deviancy dismissed as "irrational". There is no rationality beyond society. No objective rationality.

    He despises rationality. I appreciate his honesty.

  11. After reading the thread on Col. Univ. professor Ward Churchill, I was struck by the horrible double standards in American academia.

    If you're not aware, Larry Summers (President of Harvard U.) is being attacked for his comments regarding women during a conference that took place in January, 2005. His critics are now calling for his resignation. Here's the Boston Globe story.


    Apparently one should feel free to call the innocent victims of Islamic fascism "little Eichmans" and seek the detruction of this country (as Churchill did). However, if you attempt to answer the question as to why women are underrepresented in certain professions, the left will go after you with a vengeance. It's not that one should expect anything but hypocrisy from the left, I just find it disgusting.

    If you'd like to read the transcript of Summers' comments, it's here:


  12. I doubt the value of ever discussing anything with a nihilist, unless you are a philosophical pathologist collecting specimens. If that is what you are doing, then you might try asking Nihilist if he is saying there are no absolutes. If he answers, "Yes!" -- then he has just contradicted himself by stating an absolute.

    Then you will find out whether he is honest, that is, facing reality or evading it. If he isn't, surely you must have better things to do in life.

    Your line about "philosphical pathologist" still has me laughing and I read it over an hour ago.

    P. S. -- Did you ask him what he means by "subjective" -- and whether that meaning is itself subjective?

    P. S. 2 -- Is he saying there are no absolutes only in the realm of ethics, or everywhere? Again, you might ask him what he means by "absolute." In Objectivism it apparently has two meanings, depending on context. First, in an ontological (metaphysical) context, it means "necessitated by the nature of existence and, therefore, unchangeable by human agency." (Leonard Peikoff, Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand, p. 24)

    Second, "absolute" (as in "contextual absolute") means an idea that is "an immutable truth within the specified context." (Peikoff, OPAR, p. 174.

    The way I think of absolute -- for epistemological and other, higher contexts -- is that it means this: applicable, without exception, to a given context. So, if the question is -- Are there moral absolutes? -- the answer is: Absolutely! "Murder is wrong" is an example that applies fully in a normal, civilized context.

    There are many absolutes in morality. Philosophical values of reason, purpose, and self-esteem are absolutes. The virtues are absolutes. That is a lot of absolutes and they cover all human action.

    I'll ask him the questions you posed. They're excellent. Thank you again for assisting me with my thinking on the subject.

  13. What do you mean by "absolute"?

    That is the first step in understanding "moral absolutes" or any other kind of absolute.

    For Ayn Rand's examples of absolutes, you might start with "Absolutes," The Ayn Rand Lexicon.

    By absolute, I mean something that is always true or always the case. A moral truth.

    Thank you Burgess for referring me back to The Lexicon, I'll read that section.

    Your example is good enough. There is a general way to construct further examples if you want, though you seem to have the general idea. Take a true moral statement, and identify the essential contextual fact that makes the statement true: now drop that context. Context dropping is the essence of moral absolutism.

    Thank you, context is clearly important here.

    "Self defence is always justified"

    Although the previous posters are correct - it's generally absurd to claim that a certain action is always right or wrong regardless of context.

    Thank you too Hal. The self-defense example is an excellent one. I've been arguing with a self-described Nihilist who refuses to recognize any ethical absolutes. He's a true cynic who insists that moral rights and wrongs are entirely subjective. It's difficult to argue with such a constantly moving target.

    You've all helped me a great deal. I'd apreciate any further thoughts you might have.

  14. Can anyone provide me with some concrete examples of "moral absolutes"?

    To say that "killing is always bad" ignores the fact that killing in self defense might be justified. Sorry if I'm being a bit dim here, but I need some examples of moral absolutes.


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