Jump to content
Objectivism Online Forum


  • Posts

  • Joined

  • Last visited

  • Days Won


Everything posted by Maarten

  1. Exactly. And approaches matter, if you try to achieve an end in a sub-optimal way that never results in you achieving the right end, then that is not a good way to do it, especially when there is clear evidence that it may not work (which is what people here have been trying to present). If you're stuck in a burning house, morality would tell you to get out as soon as possible to preserve your life. However, that doesn't mean that only the fastest way to the exit is morally right, does it? It all depends on context... If you're on the third floor and have the choice of taking the stairs or jumping out the window, you could say that jumping out the window is best because it gets you out of the fire the fastest. But if you end up dying as a result of trying to achieve your end too quickly, you didn't actually act in a pro-life fashion, right?
  2. Do you believe that a man owns himself, by right, that his mind and his body is his? Doesn't that extend to the products he produces, as well? What value would someone's labor have if they had no claim to what they produced?
  3. I was just thinking about this the other day, and thought I'd start a topic on the subject as these concepts are often forgotten in their normal usage, and I thought it would be interesting to explore whether they apply to human interaction as well. I would argue that both types of costs do play a role in interpersonal relationships (of any kind), but are probably not thought of in this way and frequently overlooked. I'll start with sunk costs as those tend to be often forgotten in economics Just to make sure we're all on the same page, with sunk costs I mean costs which have already been incurred. I use "cost" very figuratively here, as any investment of time or energy. Economically speaking, the way sunk costs are relevant is that it is a reminder that what matters at the end of the day is what something is worth today, and not what you originally paid for it (i.e. the sunk cost that has already been paid). The money has already been spent and you can't get it back, so it is absolutely pointless to make decisions on the basis of what something was originally worth, rather than what it is worth now. In other words, it concerns the proper way to recognize losses. Now, although it's not entirely analogous to a relationship, I think there is enough overlap here that it can be helpful to also apply it to interpersonal relationships. Let's say we have a friend X. Basically, what sunk costs refers to is that it doesn't really matter how much you originally (or over time) invested in the friendship; what matters is how valuable it is today in terms of how much it furthers your Life. I think that is something worth stressing because I know from personal experience that it is very easy to get caught up in how much you used to value something or someone, and lose sight of the fact that today it's not worth the same as it used to be. The main way in which sunk costs are different for relationships is that shared experiences and invested time and energy is not worthless in the same way it is for some purely economic investment, and definitely can contribute towards the total value a relationship brings you, because you should be integrating the full extent of the relationship rather than the immediate present. However, I do think that the longer ago something happened, the less valuable it generally is (its value is discounted), as more recent events are more indicative of future ones, so I would argue that the more recent value is probably dominant and most of the old investment only matters at the margins (i.e. a shared past won't rescue a really bad relationship, but can definitely add value if things are otherwise good). Opportunity costs are probably a little less controversial, in that they merely refer to the recognition that we have alternatives, and that the true cost of any action should include whatever else we could have achieved with the same time/energy investment. I think that is a very important point to stress, though. Considering Life is of limited duration, it is essential to always be mindful of whether you are most optimally spending your scarce time and energy. I think that is probably the greatest argument to be made against, say, slacking off. It's not directly harmful to you, but you are still losing out on all the things you could have achieved if you had worked harder. In the context of relationships it mostly comes into play when people spend a lot of energy pursuing a lesser value (over a greater one) and then try to tell themselves that they didn't lose out on anything because they still got some value. Opportunity costs are the recognition of the fact that you do lose out in a very real way by doing this, because you lose the alternative you could have chosen.
  4. Okay, so if I write a book and have copyright on it (the work is mine), then doesn't it follow that if you copy the thing and change a few words, that you cannot also claim (what is essentially) the same work? If you claimed copyright on the slightly different version, wouldn't you be claiming ownership of MY work in large part? How is that not theft?
  5. I agree that eliminating taxation is morally good, and the destination we want to reach. But surely you agree that it matters whether we actually get there and end up in a place where taxes are actually eliminated? It does you little good if you say: well, I abolished the taxes, but then the next day people realized that they now had no money for welfare, so they rebelled and reinstated (possibly higher) taxes. Wouldn't you agree that that would be counterproductive? I'm not saying that immediately abolishing taxes would necessary lead to that, but can we at least agree that once we agree to abolish taxes, we then want to find the best way to actually succeed at this? I don't understand how you can say that it is irrelevant how we actually achieve our desired end?
  6. But the question of how to implement repeal of a law IS a political question. I don't understand how you can just ignore that whole calculus. Morality cannot tell you what precisely the best way is to get from A to B... It can tell you that you should go from A to B because it is good, but what path to take is exactly the discussion we are having right now. Morality cannot tell you that... We can argue morally speaking that it is good to be productive, but morality doesn't have extremely specific guidelines on what that means in the context of your day to day job, and whether you should walk to work or drive.
  7. Right. But exactly how you are planning to abolish something does have bearing on the likelihood of this actually succeeding. Think about a completely different scenario: let's say we conclude that country X is a significant threat that will harm our country if left unchecked. That doesn't mean that the ONLY proper way to deal with country X is by immediately invading them and putting an end to the threat? Maybe that is the best way to do it, but there could easily be other superior ways to achieve the same goal. My point is just that we can determine using philosophical principles that taxes (for example) are wrong and shouldn't exist, but that doesn't tell us what the best way is to actually abolish them. And for that, of course it matters HOW you propose to do it; that's where it becomes a strategic question. You would have a point if we were saying: well, we only want to slightly reduce taxes. That would be improper. But there's nothing wrong with phasing something out, and saying that every year taxes will go down by 5% until they reach 0. If that has a better chance of succeeding, then it IS the better choice if you actually care about achieving your ends.
  8. You're looking at it backwards, though. Whether or not someone else can claim copyright to something already copyrighted is a completely secondary issue, and doesn't really matter when we're trying to answer the question: why is copyright proper? Same with patents for that matter, whether or not patents stifle innovation or not is NOT the fundamental question that matters. Patents are right because they are a product of a man's mind and he should have ownership of those things he produces. Do you agree up to that point?
  9. You misunderstand my meaning. I was saying that this is a reason to gradually improve the situation, rather than abolish all bad laws overnight. The only way you can practically get away with doing it overnight is if you suddenly woke up and had a 51% majority of Objectivists, which is fairly unlikely. I think it is politically speaking a lot easier to do it in increments, which should matter to anyone who actually cares about reality
  10. Why should anything be someone's property? Think about that for a little bit. I assume you believe that property rights exist, am I correct? (If not, we should probably address that first). If you accept property rights as right in other cases, then why do you think writing a novel should not be covered under property? If you created something with your mind, it is yours just the same as if you create it from raw materials with your hands. Rights cover more than just the physical, you own your own mind just as much as you own your body. And in an extension to that, because human beings need to pursue and gain values in order to live, the products of your body (labor I mean here) are yours by right as well. I think possibly you're thinking of property too literally? What do you think is fundamentally different about intellectual property (like copyright) that makes it unownable? I think once you accept that you do own the products of your mind, this dilemma vanishes. It doesn't make sense for more than one person to own a piece of intellectual property (you can have joint ownership, but I mean in the sense of two competing claims), any more than multiple people can properly lay claims on a house.
  11. Additionally, there is the very real possibility of backlash to consider. Similarly as with quitting any harmful activity (like a heavy addiction), if you do it too suddenly and you end up not being able to stay off it, you're back to square one. This is much more of a strategical discussion, for that reason, similarly as to how there are different potential, fully rational strategies to stop drinking or smoking. Yes, it is bad for you and not doing it is good qua life, but if you improperly stop doing something then you can end up being worse off than you were before. Just because you have good intentions about stopping a harmful law doesn't mean that it's necessarily going to work out all right. At the end of the day we do live in a society with elected politicians, and if we were to suddenly stop any and all welfare programs overnight there's a pretty good chance that tomorrow we'd have significant political pressure to revert everything back to the way it was (or even worse because usually backlash takes you further back than you start with)... You do have to take into account that the (political) culture places certain limits on what is possible.
  12. But in your example above, you mentioned a story where you changed some details from the original and then published it as your own. In that case they couldn't morally claim ownership of the parts that they had left the same as in the original. As far as making more significant changes go, there is probably a point where a derivative work is different enough that you can claim it as original work (and therefore yours), and the exact place where that happens is probably hard to determine in the abstract. The fact of the matter is, though, that any parts that you literally copy from someone you shouldn't morally be able to claim as yours; that is certainly dishonest and an appropriation of their rightful property.
  13. I don't think SS is a good example. I think the Supreme Court has ruled already (a long time ago) that there is no actual obligation that you're getting back the money you paid in. SS is a wealth distribution scheme, where current tax income goes towards paying current benefits. Legally (and as far as I can tell constitutionally) speaking you have no claim whatsoever on the money you paid in. I know a lot of people refuse to believe that this is true, as it seems to be a very common misunderstanding that because someone paid in their whole life they have a claim to get benefits, but the fact of the matter is that all the money you paid in is long spent, and you are claiming a right to money payable by future workers. I don't know about you, but no matter how wrong SS taxation is, that doesn't make it suddenly okay to force future generations who never voted for the program to begin with to pay your benefits.
  14. Oh, yeah. Or at least, if they're going to be mad at other people for giving out terrible advice, they should probably be looking for the school career counselors, or their parents (or whomever else was encouraging them to study whatever they wanted). I do think a lot of so-called experts share a lot of blame in this; yes, it is also definitely the student's fault, but at the same time if you're 18 and everyone around you who is supposed to know what they are talking about guarantees you that it'll be an amazing idea, it's not so strange that a significant number of people would take them at their word. But the fact that they're just focusing on Big Banks is quite sad. I wish more people would go back to their school, though, and tell people there just how much b/s they're peddling, or write hundreds of op-eds about this to warn other people away from making the same mistake. But you rarely see anyone do that...
  15. A lot of the OWS slogans also seem to revolve around higher education bubble consequences. All those pictures people were putting up about being the 99% tended to revolve around being in crushing amounts of debt. That is certainly a problem, and it's terribly sad that we have let things get that bad (where people go tens of thousands of dollars in debt for basically value-neutral degrees), and I can imagine how that can put someone in a desperate situation. Of course, they don't really understand the cause of their predicament (at least I haven't seen many people who identified that it was partially the fault of their school, for example), or the fact that making it ever easier to get student loans that you can't discharge drives up prices. Universities have managed to capture quite a lot of projected future earnings from students in this manner, and when the economy is booming that isn't that big a deal because people can pay it back, but now that the bubble is becoming unsustainable that really sets someone back a long period of time. Of course, they could have thought about that before getting into debt, but especially 5-10 years ago there weren't very many people talking about student debt as a big problem. I do think in that respect there is some outside blame that really messed things up. That of course doesn't excuse their mistaken demands for action, but still, I can sort of see where the disappointment and anger comes in.
  16. Furthermore, no matter how wrong these laws are that violate our rights, they are the law right now so rational people do act in accordance with the fact that this is the way the law works. In many cases that creates massive distortions, and it requires time for people to adjust to the new status quo.
  17. If you take most of someone else's work as your own, then you did not "make it" in any real meaning of the word. You can claim ownership to the parts you created, of course, but that is basically what it means to be a book critic or reviewer. Acting like you own something that is someone else's is dishonest and theft; it's no different than planting a flag on someone's car and then saying that because the flag is yours, that means you now own the whole car.
  18. Yes, but since any health advantages of circumcision surely are most noticeable during the adult years, that should tell us something. If most uncircumcised males don't think it is worth doing at that point even with all the reduction in HIV/cancer risk and whatever else advantages it may have, that does call into question the pros of circumcising someone to a certain extent. Also, why aren't all those doctors who are concerned about circumcision advocating to their patients to do it later in life? People have all sorts of surgeries if it is medically necessary, including on their genitals... I think the fact that this rarely ever happens during adulthood should give anyone pause about its supposed desirability.
  19. It may actually make sense to associate a certain volume of air with, say, a property in order to avoid some of these issues. Leaving the specifics aside for the moment, then you could have a clear property-rights based argument that if someone is blowing toxic smoke through your property they are violating your property rights. I don't think it makes any difference that air molecules move around quite a bit; so do many other things and we don't claim that we own particular water molecules that at one time exist in your lake (you own the water that is currently present in the lake), nor do you own all deer that ever passed over your land (you could argue you own them when they're on your land, though). It would definitely make the situation a lot more straightforward if you owned the, say, 200 feet of airspace above your land. I don't think you'd want it too high to be a nuisance to air traffic or anything like that, but that should give a wide enough range that your property rights cover any air you conceivably come into contact with. That still doesn't mean it's easy to prove pollution, but that's a difficult problem in any case.
  20. You're right, of course, but that makes it all the more important that the choice is left up to the individual. If they're concerned about having too much sensitivity later in life, or convert to a religion that requires it, they can always decide to do it later. The fact that infants don't really notice it much and heal fast is certainly not limited to only circumcision, and we're not preventatively doing other procedures to infants just for that reason, as far as I know Unless there is a strong rationale as for why it's necessary for that particular infant, I think the default should be to leave the body intact. Let the burden of proof lie on who ever proposes to surgically alter their child.
  21. We need some double blind, randomized controlled trials to sort this out :-) Hah, can you imagine? But you do raise an important point. At least at the moment there is no objective evidence available that suggests that having a foreskin is more pleasurable (and therefore better). I've seen a few studies attempt this, and while they are promising, it is by no means a closed case. In my mind, considering the preventative advantages of circumcision aren't that great over alternative methods of dealing with these issues, it is not a good reason to circumcise most infants. But it is a grey enough area that I think reasonable people can disagree over whether it should be allowable. It may be different if someone can conclusively prove that the foreskin is incredibly important to a thriving life, but until that day comes it is hard to really solve the discussion. As far as traditional/religious reasons go, I don't think that is ever sufficient cause to do a medical procedure of this kind, any more than it would be appropriate to remove a child's earlobe (that doesn't really have a function either) because you like the sight of it better or because your religion wants you to.
  22. I don't think it's appropriate to try and divine anyone else's motivations from their posts like that... You're not making a rational argument and it does your cause no justice.
  23. In your second situation I don't see why anyone wouldn't move their finger as there is no cost whatsoever to them (it would be a simple act of benevolence), but I don't think there is a moral obligation to do so, either. To say there IS a moral obligation means you first have to accept that someone is required to help another human being no matter the circumstances. You can't use a scenario like this to establish the principle of moral obligation (or absence of it) in the first place. It's like softwareNerd asks about, above. Questions like this kind of sneak in a moral obligation through an emotional appeal (that is usually not explicitly mentioned). The better question is more simple: why would there be a moral obligation to help someone else in ANY situation? Where does that come from?
  24. That's one way to go, but it doesn't really address any of the other points I raised. Maybe it can easily addressed by simply saying that if we pass the fairtax today, it will take 10 years to take effect so people can slowly transition towards it (although having to repeal the 16th amendment makes that somewhat tricky, practically speaking). Separately, excluding categories of goods itself causes economic distortions that are not trivial.
  25. I don't think that, generally speaking, "some rights violations are acceptable to the extent preventing them would violate more important rights" is wrong, it just highly depends on the situation. After all, it does not make sense to violate someone's rights just to prevent another rights violation from taking place, although that may be a discussion for another topic. Having said that, I am certainly not opposed to changing my mind in this particular instance. I agree that circumcision unless medically necessary (which is fairly rare) is wrong, I just wasn't sure if it is a clear enough rights violation that legislation is necessarily the best remedy. If we do end up banning the practice, I do think it is a valid question to ask how this ban should be enforced. I think my earlier point had more to do with practical concerns as to what such a ban might entail for (what should be) private medical decisions, in retrospect. Maybe that is just paranoia on my part, but considering a lot of recent developments where various governments are taking more and more interests in what should be private decisions, I could easily see something like this (that could be a proper law) being so horribly bungled that it ends up creating a worse problem than we are solving. Leaving aside the topic of circumcision, I think you could make an argument that if a parent feeds their child objectively unhealthy foods to such an extent that it would cause all sorts of problems later in life (due to severe obesity, or disease) that this is a violation of the child's rights. However, solving that problem in practice could mean a significantly increased governmental presence in everyone's lives, and therefore on the balance be a bad idea. We can certainly argue that circumcision is so clearly a violation of rights that it in an entirely different category, and makes significant enforcement desirable. But although I think it's morally wrong to circumcise for non-medical-emergency reasons, I'm not so sure that it is that clearly wrong that we should all-out ban it.
  • Create New...