Jump to content
Objectivism Online Forum

Galileo Blogs

  • Posts

  • Joined

  • Last visited

Everything posted by Galileo Blogs

  1. Yes, I was pleased that he mentioned the Soviet gulags. I suspect it was from a leftist perspective because of some of the people and groups he mentioned, which are leftist. Also, his article appears in the Guardian, which I suspect is a leftist newspaper. Regardless of whether he has a leftist slant, I thought he raised valid points. In many ways, the U.S. has been developing the legal and institutional apparatus that could be used by a dictatorship down the road.
  2. Although he clearly comes from a leftist perspective, I think the author makes valid points. In particular, I agree with his diagnosis of the cause of these loss of freedoms: Objectivists have made this point countless times. Bush has failed to identify the proper enemy: the countries that sponsor (ideologically and financially) terrorism, chief of which is Iran. He has failed to name the enemy, declare war on the enemy, and defeat the enemy. When a clear enemy is named and defeated, wars have finite durations, clear beginning and ending points. In all three of the major wars the United States fought -- the Civil War, World War I and World War II -- freedoms were abridged, often much more than the exigencies of war called for. Yet in all of these instances, the bulk (but not all) of the restrictions were repealed shortly after the end of the war. In our current "war without end", our gradual loss of freedoms continues. Our government finds it much easier to put the clamps on Americans than to properly defeat our foreign enemy. As for "Homeland Security," I have always found that name creepy. Homeland is a word with such a nationalistic flavor, like "Fatherland". It evokes love of the (geographical) land rather than love of the idea of individual liberty which, of course, can exist anywhere and is not tied to any particular spot of land. It is not the land itself I love, but the liberty that happens to reside here. If America became totalitarian and a free society emerged elsewhere, this "homeland" would cease being my home as fast as I could pack my bags. Unfortunately, I cannot think of a more free and secure polity than America in the world today. The freedom of the world depends so much on America remaining free. If America loses its freedom, where does one go? The battle to preserve our freedom is here.
  3. I can see that this thread has been Brenner-ized. The tactic is to switch to an impossible standard when evaluating the Objectivist position. So, Objectivism only "works" if all people are rational, no one cheats or steals, etc. This is a ridiculous concept, similar to the Marxist idea that human nature will change under the benign influence of Marxism so that the state can just wither away. The state doesn't wither away in an Objectivist society. On the contrary, a strong and strictly delimited government is established to protect rights. Police are needed, because there will be criminals. Courts are needed to enforce laws. Corruption, fraud, theft and murder are all illegal in an Objectivist society. Would these things disappear if society were dominated by rational ideas? Of course, not. That is why a government is necessary, to protect us from people who choose to be irrational. Another aspect of "Brenner-ization" is to focus on a less consequential aspect of an argument, and blow it up as if that is the whole argument. You have done that with the idea of donating to government. Instead of try to defend the strawman that you have constructed, I will simply refer back to my original post. I think it was clear. Financing a small, laissez-faire government is entirely feasible.
  4. Yes, donations could present corruption problems. Those issues would have to be dealt with. Corruption would not go away in a laissez-faire world. It would, however, have far less serious consequences than it does in a society, like ours, where government is not constitutionally and legally limited to the protection of rights. The reach of a corrupt wealthy donor in a laissez-faire world would be limited in so many ways. He could not use his corrupt influence of government to hamstring competitors through regulations, for example. That is an everyday occurrence today. I suspect that corruption among some donors would be a small and manageable problem in a laissez-faire society. In any case, I do not think funding government would require donations since fees should be able to provide the bulk, if not all, of the money government needs to operate. Some examples: Fee for a court proceeding Fee paid for government to enforce your contract
  5. Without having checked, I would be surprised if the issue of taxation hasn't been extensively discussed in prior threads on this board. In any case, I will suggest a few points to consider. First, eliminating compulsory taxation would be among the last reforms to be accomplished, not among the first. The reason is simple. Government must stop spending in all the illegitimate areas first. Government's only responsibility is to protect our rights to life and property. It does so by serving as the delegated body that uses force in protection of our rights. The only services it should perform are military defense, the police, courts and prisons. Nothing else. What percentage of today's government spending goes for these purposes? I would venture a good guess that it is less than 20% (defense alone is just 4.4% of GDP). By far, the largest areas of government spending are also areas that forcibly involve violations of rights, and they would not exist in a free society. This includes public education, and all forms of welfare spending, including spending for public housing, medical care, old age "pensions" and many other programs. Now imagine your own tax bill at 1/5th its current size. That is what would be funded by voluntary means. As for those means, any voluntary method is acceptable. It can be a lottery. There is no reason to suspect the government would be unsuccessful with a lottery, especially when the population understood its purpose, that it would fund vital government programs. People could view it almost as a donation to government, but one that gives them the chance of winning a large amount of money. Lotteries are very successfully used by many state governments today across the country. Although a lottery could be an important source of funds for the much-shrunken laissez faire government, I suspect the principal source would simply be fees paid for government services. Examples would include payment of fees for court proceedings, payment of a fee for governmental enforcement of contracts, even payment of fees under certain contexts for police services. (Today some police services are paid for, such as when off-duty police officers are hired at concerts, etc.) The key is shrinking the size of government to its proper functions. If government were shrunk to its proper size, that means freeing a lot of productive energy, and the deployment of a lot of capital that used to go to government. The economy would grow much faster. All of us would have a higher standard of living and higher incomes, from which government is supported. Thus, in a laissez faire society, not only would government be smaller, but incomes would be much larger. The burden of supporting government is made that much lighter. I would also not rule out charitable donations to support government. Today that occurs on a very limited scale, with organizations such as the Policemen's Benevolent Association and various groups that support the armed forces. Government would be so small and Americans would be so wealthy that I could envision wealthy patrons actually supporting specific government activities with donations. For example, how about writing a big check to government and naming an aircraft carrier or battleship after yourself? How about corporate sponsorships of missiles and even army divisions? How about naming a jail or courthouse after yourself? It is in everyone's self-interest to have a well-functioning, well-funded government. Fees alone would be able to support it, but government could also be a cause supported by charity much like the public library or local art museum are supported by charity. Wealthy patrons appreciate the value of those institutions and support them; the same could apply to government. In any case, because voluntary "taxation" is a last-stage issue, it is not overly important to nail down how it would work now. It is only necessary to make a good prima facie case that it could be done. I am convinced that more than a prima facie case has been made already. Let's get government off our backs first by shrinking it so that it only performs its proper policing functions. When that is accomplished, creative minds, perhaps ours, will figure out good, viable ways for government to collect the funds it needs to operate, without violating anyone's rights.
  6. Is your humor meant as an argument? It is not. Why nuclear bombs in the hands of a dictator is funny to you is beyond me. Was the German army in the hands of Hitler funny? Was the Japanese fleet steaming toward Hawaii in 1941 funny? There is nothing funny about nuclear bombs in the hands of Kim Jong Il. Perhaps those who find it funny, who focus on something as inconsequential as his haircut instead of the serious threat he represents, is why the United States hasn't taken him seriously all these years. Meanwhile, he keeps steadily working on his Bomb. Hitler's mustache looked funny to a lot of Europeans before World War II. On September 1, 1939, it stopped being so funny.
  7. It really doesn't matter why Kim Jong Il does what he does. Regardless of his motivation, he represents an objective threat to the safety of the United States and the other countries in the region. He is a low-scale threat through his counterfeiting activities and support of terrorism. He is a persistent threat because of the presence of his army poised to attack South Korea. However, he is a major and direct threat to the United States because of his nuclear weapons development program. That is why he must be stopped. I see no point in hashing out from my armchair the particulars of how he is to be stopped. If political leaders would accept the principle that he should be, they can come up with the best strategy. The United States may have some time left to pursue means short of military attack, such as an embargo on all aid and trade to North Korea. However, that window of opportunity is running out if it hasn't already. That window of opportunity runs out when North Korea develops a viable and practical nuclear bomb. At that point, we will have no choice but to attack. Interesting how weakness brought us to the point where there may be no solution other than a military confrontation. Weakness causes war, not strength. Appeasement of the enemy causes war. It did so in World War II. It is doing so today. (Our weakness was our appeasement of the North Koreans by funding their weapons program and keeping their economy afloat by paying them booty and by allowing other countries to do so, etc., as I stated in earlier posts.)
  8. I can't think of "diddly-squat" to add to this discussion about "NoKo." I believe the points I have made already are clear, and do not desire to repeat them. I will emphasize some different points. As for North Korea being rational (Moebius's post) or having a right of self-defense, I will simply state that dictatorships have no right to exist, and therefore no right of self-defense. Any society that violates the rights of its citizens cannot claim sovereignty. This discussion reminds me of the "better red than dead" campaign in the 1980s over U.S. plans to augment its nuclear missiles in Europe. Plenty of frightened college students who seriously thought surrender to the Soviets was a better option than confronting them coined that phrase. Who would have known that the Soviets were to collapse only a few years later under a "hawkish" President, Ronald Reagan, who scared the be-Jesus out of the Soviets with an enormous military build-up? That is but an example. Certainly, one must know the principle that bullies, whether individuals or countries, only respond positively to strength. Weakness, whether it is deliberate military weakness or the payment of bribes (like giving your lunch money to the class bully) only encourages the bully further. North Korea is that bully but a pathetically weak one. Only through prolonged, steady inaction have we reached the point where they are on the verge of having a practical nuclear bomb (and may already have the ability to make limited nuclear bombs). This country is a small threat, made larger through our inaction. Now, what is our course of action to be? More inaction, and strengthening of this tiny country, or resolute action to eliminate the threat. By the way, I do not accept the false alternative that resolute action means an immediate first strike. It does mean stopping all booty we pay them, and then it means a blockade, all the while preparing aggressively for a military confrontation which may prove necessary. Interestingly, other small countries in the region depend heavily on U.S. strength for their sovereignty, such as Taiwan. South Korea has our troops and Taiwan has the U.S. Navy. Freedom comes from strength.
  9. I already provided the opposite example, of aid propping up a dying Communist regime, the Soviet Union. If we had not provided that aid, it is highly reasonable that country would have collapsed far sooner. Extrapolate the same principle to North Korea. As for your hyperbolic view of deaths from an attack, I think it is just that, hyperbole. In any case, even if it were true as you describe, it has no bearing whatsoever on the moral right of the United States to defend itself. It really doesn't need to be said, but I will say it anyway. When I say defend itself, I mean according to our rational self-interest. That means properly preparing our self-defense, and executing it properly, not just blindly lashing out against the enemy. The implication that self-defense requires some sort of unthoughtful lashing out at North Korea is a very flimsy strawman. If the right principle of self-defense is understood and accepted by our political leaders and military generals, I will trust them to devise the right policy. As an armchair, non-military expert, I laid out some elements of what I thought such a military plan would look like in my post above.
  10. Sorry, Moebius. The U.S. doesn't ask for permission to act in its own self-defense. If North Korea's gaining of a nuclear bomb is a threat, we should do what it takes to end it. Bad consequences for North Korea's neighbors are blood on the hands of North Korea, not us. The point of my post is that if the United States had a principled view of its right to self-defense at the beginning (i.e., as early as 1944), North Korea never would have come into existence in the first place. The solution now is not to consider continuing the immoral policy of appeasing the enemy which has brought us to the difficult situation we now face. Rather, it is to stop appeasing the enemy, and forthrightly take steps to protect ourselves, which means ending the North Korean threat. I am hopeful that if we begin to assert our self-interest in a principled manner, North Korea probably would wither on the vine, as Aequalsa asserts. Then again, that may not happen and we should be prepared to do what is necessary to end this militarily. As for whether North Korea is a threat, Aequalsa has cited information regarding Pyongyang's intentions. Actually, we just need to judge this regime by its actions. They are an outlaw nation that will sell anything to the highest bidder to gain the cash that Kim Jong Il needs to pay for his lifestyle. That would include selling nuclear bombs to interested Middle Eastern parties, would it not? No free country stays free for long when it risks nuclear annihilation of its cities in the cowardly hope that it will not have to confront an enemy. We have cowardly failed to confront North Korea for 50+ years now, and now they are on the verge of having viable nuclear weapons technology. That is enough. It is time to stand up.
  11. What is gained by feeding the enemy? One can argue that food aid we gave the Soviet Union when their economy was collapsing in the 1970s kept that totalitarian state propped up for another 15 years. If we feed our enemy, why don't we send them money to build weapons, too? Wait a second, we're already doing that in the case of North Korea.
  12. Korthor, Before you bewail the situation in Korea, you must first acknowledge how we got here. At every step of the way, we got to the present situation by appeasing evil, denying its nature and compromising with it. It started with the Yalta agreement in 1944 during World War II. In that agreement, Winston Churchill (British Prime Minister), Franklin Delano Roosevelt (American President) and Josef Stalin (Soviet dictator) agreed on the partition of the earth between the free world and the communist world. Churchill was against it, but FDR thought it necessary to induce Russia to fight the Japanese. It turned out that their virtually non-existent help was completely unnecessary; Japan was well on its way to defeat in 1944. Just a year later we ended the war without Soviet help by exploding two nuclear bombs. Nevertheless, in exchange for their pseudo-help, the Soviets were permitted to control the governments of Manchuria and North Korea. North Korea later became a full-fledged enemy communist state, and by using Manchuria as their base, the Soviets were able to spread communism to all of China. (A hell of a big price to pay, turning over more than 1/4 of the earth's population to communism in exchange for meaningless non-help to end a war we had already won!) Apart from completely mis-judging the military strength of our position in Asia in 1944, Roosevelt also mis-judged the nature of the Soviets. He evaded their evil nature and deluded himself that he could negotiate with them as if they were trustworthy partners. So, because of Yalta, Korea was partitioned into North and South. Then we come to the Korean War. In that war, we failed to fight for complete victory. General Douglas MacArthur, who argued for fighting to win, including bombing the Chinese who were attacking us, was fired. The North remained intact and Korea remained divided. Now we arrive to today. Today we pay the price for the failure to properly identify the nature of our enemy at Yalta, and for our timidity in fighting the enemy in the Korean War. Today, North Korea is on the verge of threatening us in a way that they could only dream about in the early 1950s, when America had a near-monopoly on the nuclear bomb. If appeasing, bribing and/or evading the nature of an enemy only emboldens and strengthens him, why should we continue doing that today? The United States should immediately cease providing any goods of any form to the North Koreans, either directly or through proxies such as the United Nations, South Korea, Japan or China. That is a starting point. Then we should blockade them thoroughly. No ships, no trains, nothing goes in or out of the country. At the same time, we beef up our military in South Korea and prepare for war. I would recommend, when the time is right (i.e., we are prepared) launching a first strike using nuclear bombs and obliterating their artillery batteries poised on South Korea, incinerating Pyongyang, and taking out all and sundry other targets that will render them a non-threat. You mention that our military is stretched. Indeed it is, fighting a suicidal non-war in Iraq. That is a war that is another topic for discussion but it should be obvious that our troops should not be deployed where they are not part of a well-thought out strategy for victory over true enemies. If they are deployed for any purpose that is suicidal and self-sacrificial, they should be withdrawn. If we need to strengthen our military further, we should immediately authorize training more soldiers and securing the weapons they need. If we need to beef up our bombing capability and our nuclear capability, we should do so. If we need more "bunker buster" nuclear and conventional bombs to penetrate their dug-in positions, we should build them. We should prepare for victory, and then we should achieve it. Anything less is to sanction and embolden a slowly strengthening modern-day band of Barbary Pirates, except that these Barbary Pirates are going nuclear. Let's get them before they really have a viable nuclear bomb to destroy our cities with. (As an aside, I don't buy your military description of North Korea's capabilities. If we did the type of first-strike I am talking about, they will not be able to "incinerate Seoul" or "destroy Tokyo". Many of their conscript soldiers are likely to surrender, just like Saddam Hussein's army did. In any case, they are no match for the South Korean and American armies. As for people in South Korea getting killed, indeed, a number, perhaps many, will die. That is all the more reason to attack and defeat North Korea now before their capabilities strengthen even further and they can kill even more people. If only we had nuked them in the 1950s, we wouldn't be having this conversation, and the economic "miracle" of South Korea would be that much stronger, with all of the population and land mass of Korea largely free instead of just half a country with the other half bristling in starving hostility. Another aside: It is likely North Korea would collapse at the blockade stage before a shot is fired. Russia fell without firing a shot because their economy imploded. North Korea's economy is far weaker than Russia's was in 1989. We should prepare to strike North Korea first, but by doing so, we have good odds of defeating them without firing a shot. That is the reward of military strength. Strong countries don't need to fight so many wars. It is weak countries that get attacked.)
  13. This is a policy fully endorsed and supported by the United States, at least as demonstrated by our country's actions. The U.S. provided over $1 billion in fuel and food aid to the Koreans over the period 1995-2003. It is documented here in this report from the Congressional Research Service. That booty was paid to bribe the North Koreans into not building a nuclear bomb. Well, they built it anyway, paid for in part by our tax money. Now Bush seeks to bribe the North Koreans again. At a minimum, this started with Bush recently allowing the North Koreans to keep $25 million in ill-gotten money* that we had frozen in a bank they use in Macau. Then we allowed the North Koreans to sell arms to Ethiopia. This is just the bare tip of the iceberg. Presumably, the South Korean food aid is part of the booty that we hope will bribe the North Koreans more successfully this time around. South Korea is part of the "six party" group that is negotiating with North Korea to stop building nuclear bombs. It stands to reason that this food booty was authorized by the U.S. as part of this negotiation. Funding the enemy. This time it will be different, and the North Koreans will give up their weapons and become peace-loving friends of man. Keep smoking or keep praying, George. ******* *A primary source of income for the North Koreans is mafia-like activities such as counterfeiting our currency, trans-shipping illegal drugs and selling counterfeit cigarettes. Their counterfeiting operations are the best in the world, unequaled by any private criminal organization. Why do you think the U.S. keeps changing the images and color of our currency? The U.S. is trying to stay one step ahead of the highly skilled North Korean counterfeiters. The monetary proceeds from activities like this is what G. Bush handed back to the North Koreans with the $25 million he un-froze at the Macau bank.
  14. Pastor Swig, you almost make religion respectable. Anything that can be the source of so much humor cannot be all bad, can it?
  15. Statistics has two good uses: (1) predicting events in the absence of complete knowledge, and (2) as a tool for finding causal relationships. On its own, statistics can only establish correlation, not causation. To establish causation requires further thinking about the cause-and-effect mechanism at work. Also, it requires understanding all relevant causes, and being able to explain the relevant examples. Yes, that is why statistics is a good tool for the researcher. But it takes further work than statistics to establish causality. Statistics on its own can only say that there exists some kind of relationship among several factors. Specifically, they are correlated. There may or may not be a causal relationship. Obviously, the stronger the correlation, the greater the likelihood that there is some kind of causal mechanism at work. The virtue of statistics is that it provides a precise measure of the degree of correlation. It gives precision (a measure of the degree of correlation) to something that remains unknown (the exact causal relationship among phenomonena). This is also what statistics does. It is a tool for prediction, and quite a useful one at that. It is a tool for prediction when all of the causal factors are not known or they would be too costly/difficult to measure if they were known. For example, a drug manufacturer may establish that a certain cancer drug successfully treats cancer in 80% of patients. Until further (costly) research is done on the causal mechanism, that is all he can say. Later, he learns through further research that the 20% of patients it did not work on actually have a slightly different form of cancer, or that these patients have a common genetic mutation that makes the drug ineffective, etc. Even without having complete knowledge of the causal mechanism, the drug manufacturer can confidently advise doctors to prescribe the drug now, knowing that approximately 80% of the patients they treat are likely to benefit. Of course, this number is bounded by a confidence interval, which is a statistical way of stating how certain one can be that the correlation is 80% and not 90% or 70%. Statistics provides a mathematical way of knowing how many experiments (individual samples) are necessary to establish a correlation with a particular degree of certainty. Full knowledge of how causation works, including all relevant causal factors, is necessary to make certain predictions. It is not necessary to do statistical tests over and over again. For example, if one understands the laws of motion, and the nature of billiard balls, it will only take a few shots at a pool table to understand the motion of billiard balls, and to be able to predict how billiard balls will move given a variety of shots. In another example, in economics one can state that the law of supply and demand is an ironclad principle. One doesn't establish this by doing a statistical study and observing that in 94% of instances, the quantity of goods purchased declined when the price rose. One only needs a sufficient number of examples (not an inordinate number) coupled with thinking about the nature of the price mechanism in a free market to establish the validity of the law of supply and demand. As for the 94% statistic, further work explains those 6% of instances where the law of supply and demand does not seem to work. For example, economists talk about an income effect. If a person's income simultaneously grows while the price of a good goes up, he may still buy more of that good, despite the price increase. Thus, those 6% are not instances of the failure of the law of supply and demand, but are examples where an additional factor was at work. Ifatart is correct. Using statistics alone, one can never be certain of one's conclusions. The problem with treating concepts such as the laws of motion or the law of supply and demand as knowledge to be validated by statistics is that such a standard invites skepticism. If we are only relying on statistical correlation, at what point can you say that you have certainty? No such point exists. In statistics, we can only say that with a large enough sample size that we are 99.9999% certain that a valid correlation exists. Such a method cannot prove anything. To establish proof, statistics can be a valuable tool (as explained above), but proof will only come through conceptual understanding of the cause and effect mechanism, validated by sufficient examples (which need only be enough to validate the concept -- e.g.: the billiard ball example). Proof does not necessarily require a "statistically significant" number of examples. Conversely, a statistically significant sample size does not constitute proof. When one gains certainty through a proper understanding of the cause and effect mechanism, one doesn't have to be scared off by seeming contradictions brought up by statistics. For example, using the supply and demand example, one doesn't need to be too worried about the 6% "failure" rate of supply and demand. One knows supply and demand is a valid principle through the conceptual understanding already established, so in the face of that 6% one suspects there must be another factor at work in those instances. Sure enough, you discover that there is, the "income effect". To use the billiard ball example, one can be certain that if a billiard ball is hit a certain way, the ball will move in a particular direction. If that doesn't happen, one can suspect that there is another factor at work, e.g.: a rigged ball, magnets, a tilted table, a pool cue with a spongy tip, etc. When you look around in the smoke-filled pool hall and see people pointing at you and laughing at your loss of the $1,000 pool bet, you should suspect it might not be an honest table. And don't rely on statistics (i.e., achieving a credible "statistically significant" sample) to reach that conclusion. If you do, you will become poor very fast!
  16. This type of rationing of medical care is inevitable when government becomes the principal payer. For the government, all expenditures on medical care are costs. Ideally, to minimize costs, the government would spend nothing on medical care. Since government officials cannot do that politically, they must figure out how to ration it. Rationing means deciding how much medical care to give Peter versus Paul. It also means deciding how much medical care to give Peter and Paul versus spending money for non-medical purposes. It also means deciding which innovations get "funded" and brought to market and which ones don't. There is no rational way to make these calculations. In contrast, in a world of property rights each person decides for himself using his own, personal standard how much of something (such as medical care) he wants to buy. Then, if he can afford the price, he buys as much of it as he wants. Entrepreneurs provide him with that care and innovate new services to compete for the customer's dollars. The medical customer's purchase constitutes no harm to anyone else since it is his money he is spending. On the other hand, in a socialist world, spending some money on Peter means having less money to spend on Paul. Or, spending money on one innovation means having less money to spend on another innovation. Thus, the directors of socialized medicine must engage in such tortured "reasoning" as Sophia describes to decide whether to fund a medical innovation. Ultimately, this bureacratic approach to innovation will mean less of it. We will all be sicker and have shorter lifespans as a result. On a side note, the type of analysis Sophia describes is very common in the economics literature. A major branch of modern economics, called "welfare economics," tries to figure out how to "scientifically" allocate resources via government edict. It is completely fallacious because it violates the concept of individual rights. This branch of economics is also used to justify antitrust laws, tariffs and other government interventions. The "economists" use welfare economics to say that "society" is better off if government intervenes in the economy in order to effect a "proper allocation" of goods. Needless to say, the only proper allocation of goods is that which occurs spontaneously when free people, with fully protected property rights, produce and trade with each other.
  17. On the contrary. It is the existence of such regulatory power that enables the politically-connected wealthy to influence legislation and regulations to suit their ends. If government has the power to tax and take property from one person to give to another, then people will step forward and attempt to influence government to transfer property to them. If the government has the power to regulate, people will step forward and attempt to influence government to enact regulations that will hurt their competitors and help their business interests. Corruption is fostered when government has the power to regulate. Remove the power to regulate, confine government's role solely to the protection of individual rights -- i.e., confine government to the delimited role in laissez faire capitalism -- and the opportunity for corruption is severely circumscribed. Regulation breeds corruption. Eliminate it and corruption is minimized. Think of concrete examples of this principle. For example, if there are no antitrust laws, some wealthy businessmen (e.g.: the CEOs of Oracle and Sun Microsystems) cannot use those laws to hammer their opponent (e.g.: Bill Gates of Microsoft). If the government cannot impose tariffs, a domestic steel company cannot use the government to impose tariffs against a foreign steelmaker it competes against. If the government cannot subsidize businesses, a wealthy football team owner cannot force everyone through taxes to pay for his new stadium, or a group of farmers cannot lobby government to force everyone to pay above-market prices for corn and grain. If the government cannot provide welfare payments, politicians cannot corruptly and cynically purchase votes from the masses by offering them bread and circuses. Etc. People may want to corruptly influence government to do these things, but if government lacks these powers, it cannot do them.
  18. Moebius, Whether men are "prudent predators" or rationally selfish or altruists depends on the philosophy they uphold. What do they think is moral? What is their ideal? There is no inherent quality of man that determines his morality. He has to learn a morality, correct or incorrect, in order to live or attempt to live. Ayn Rand has said that man is born tabula rasa. He has to discover the principles of living, as opposed to lower animals that have instincts to guide them. The dominant philosophy of an age will determine the ethical principles that most people live by. In the Middle Ages the dominant philosophy was Christianity, and people ran around in hair shirts chastising their flesh or they were conquerers demanding that others sacrifice to them. Sacrifice of the individual was the order of the day. Capitalism could not and did not emerge in such an era dominated by mass irrationality. Contrast that with a more rational subsequent era, the Enlightenment. In the Enlightenment, men learned that they could peaceably live with each other, with each person rationally pursuing his self-interest. The economist Adam Smith captured this idea when he said that it was not from the good will of the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker that we got our meat, bread and candles, but from their pursuit of their self-interest. Adam Smith and others showed that each person pursuing his self-interest would not lead to chaos. Rather, it would result in growing productivity and an abundance of wealth enjoyed by all. His ideas were proven correct by the subsequent experience of the 1800s when this did happen when capitalist principles swept across much of the world. A new laissez-faire capitalism will not emerge again in a vacuum. It will require acceptance of the precursor philosophical ideas to capitalism, such as the efficacy of reason, the objectivity of reality, the validity of the pursuit of rational selfishness, etc. (Ayn Rand eloquently makes this point. This contrasts Objectivism with Libertarianism, which does not identify the philosophical basis of capitalism.) When these ideas are more thoroughly understood in a new Enlightenment, we will see the statist elements of the world's economies gradually repealed, just as they were in the 1800s across America and Europe. Recall the drama of England's repeal of the Corn Laws in the 1840s, when that country unilaterally eliminated significant import duties, ushering in an era of global (largely) free trade and wealth creation. Similar repeals of bad laws will happen again and, in fact, are happening here and there in this country and others, especially in places like China, Eastern Europe, Ireland, etc. The reason I say all this is that I agree with you in part. Capitalism does not exist in a philosophical vacuum. A certain level of rationality is required among a significant portion of people (in particular the intellectuals) for it to come into existence and stay in existence. However, that is far different from what you said: "I don't [think that] a pure capitalist system would work simply because it would require zero predatory actions and/or an absolute enforcement rate." Predators, bad actors, evil people existed in all eras of human history, including the Enlightenment and the Christian Middle Ages. The mere existence of some evil people does not obviate the ability of capitalism to function. Why would that be so? Furthermore, given the existence of the "prudent predators" you refer to, what is the alternative to capitalism that is superior? Is it socialism, where prudent predators in government have the ability to use force to impose their economic ideas on everyone? Is it a regulatory state, where prudent predator regulators can use the policing power of the government to impose their arbitrary regulations on everyone? In a capitalist society, the damage that a prudent predator could do is severely limited, because the prudent predator does not have the power of the state backing him up. Therefore, his harm is limited to the people he can persuade to participate in his fraud, or the people he is able to steal from. That is far different from a regulator who can impose a regulation that can completely wipe out a scientist's life work (e.g.: an FDA regulator not approving a drug). Or a regulator who can destroy the lifework of a businessman by imposing an import duty or a price control that destroys his business (e.g.: New York city landlords under rent control). Or, say, steal the wealth of millions by increasing taxes in order to "redistribute" wealth (e.g.: the U.S. where taxes now consume some 40% of GDP). The examples of the damage done by prudent predator regulators are multifarious and dwarf the damage that individual prudent predators can do in a capitalist society, where he is constrained by the principle of individual rights and the policing powers of government that puts lawbreakers in jail. In a more dramatic non-economic sense, consider the number of people killed by Charles Manson versus the number of people killed by Pol Pot or Adolf Hitler. Can one have any doubt that a Charles Manson, if he controlled the levers of government, would have endorsed a murderous program such as Hitler's? However, in a society based on individual rights, such as ours, his damage was far more limited. What an individual evil person can get away with in a laissez faire capitalist society, based on individual rights, is very limited. Prudent predators have existed throughout history. I do not think it is an "essential" characteristic of man. Nevertheless, the only system that severely limits the harm they can do is capitalism. Variations of non-capitalism have been the norm throughout history until relatively recently, when capitalism first emerged. That long prior history of man is very bloody, indeed. The only way to get capitalism, to minimize both the number of "prudent predators" and the harm they can cause is if a significant number of people, in particular the intellectuals, accept a rational philosophy. Many people did accept reason in the 1700s and 1800s. The result was a near laissez-faire capitalism and an explosion of prosperity. The same thing will happen again. The battle is philosophical. By the way, I have another book recommendation for you, that treats the subject of capitalism from a broad theoretical, historical and economic perspective. It is The Capitalist Manifesto by Andrew Bernstein. It is a good companion volume to Ayn Rand's Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal. On the economics of capitalism alone, there are plenty of good books, such as A Treatise on Political Economy by Jean-Baptiste Say, the writings of Frederic Bastiat, and Economics in One Lesson by Henry Hazlitt.
  19. That is all that is required for humans to benefit from freedom. As you will discover when you read further, Ayn Rand never says that all men are rational. She only states that men are capable of rationality. Further, she identifies that man's means of survival is rationality. So, if men wish to survive and survive well (i.e., achieve happiness), they must choose reason. To the extent they don't, they suffer. Ayn Rand's acknowledgement that a portion of men do not behave rationally is why she holds that governments are necessary to enforce and protect rights. Governments exist to protect rational men from irrational men, whether they are criminals or foreign armies. Man requires freedom to produce the values he needs for his life. Everything he needs for his survival and well-being must be produced using reason -- clothing, shelter, food, etc. Capitalism is the system based on individual freedom. It is no coincidence that it is the most productive economic system ever instituted by man. Observe the explosion of wealth in England after the Industrial Revolution of the 1700s and in the United States after the Industrial Revolution of the 1800s. Observe the explosion of wealth in China and other parts of the world. Yes, China is a mixed economy with strong elements of state control. However, it is not the presence of the statist elements that has led to wealth creation, but rather their gradual removal and the introduction of elements of freedom. Compare Taiwan and Communist China side-by-side 20 years ago. Taiwan was far wealthier than Communist China. The same people, the same culture, even (in part) the same language, but a huge difference in the standard of living. What was the difference? The difference was the much greater economic freedom in Taiwan. None of those creations of wealth depended on some sort of utopian vision of the perfectly rational man. None of those creations of wealth required that every person be rational. They only required that enough people were rational and that the systems respected (to a meaningful degree) the right to life and property of the citizens. Protected property rights ensured they had the freedom to produce. As for alleged failures of capitalism, it is important to understand capitalism conceptually before looking at specific instances of how the world's economies work today. All of today's economies are mixed. They have elements of freedom and elements of controls. Whenever you see widespread economic disasters (e.g.: the Great Depression, the savings & loan crisis, hyper-inflation in Weimar Germany, the "stagflation" of the 1970s, etc.), you always have to ask yourself: What accounts for this phenomenon? Is it the free element of the economy, or is it a result of government intervention? In every instance I have examined, it is always the result of government intervention. It can be the result of government control and manipulation of the money supply (e.g.: the Great Depression, German hyper-inflation, the savings & loan crisis, the 1970s stagflation), regulations that distorted the incentives businesses face (e.g.: the savings & loan crisis), or price controls (the 1970s stagflation). Quite often, these economic dislocations have several causes, such as the 1970s stagflation, where I cite two causes: inflation of the money supply and price controls. As for individual examples of malfeasance, a prior poster (Aequelsa, I believe) raised the important question of asking why government officials should be any different from other people. In fact, because all people share the same natures, the incidence of unethical behavior should be similar between government officials and private actors. The difference is that government officials can do far more harm when they are immoral than a private individual can. They can cause far more harm because they can force people to bend to their will. The damage caused by a single corrupt businessman, no matter how corrupt or skillful his deceit, can only go so far. Consider some examples: Mao Tse Tung's economic mis-management that resulted in the deaths of many tens of millions of people versus the corruption of [insert name of businessman you believe to be corrupt] who cost investors tens of billions of dollars, which is a minuscule fraction of the total capital owned by investors. It should be easy to think of many more examples. As for regulation, the argument for it has a basic, flawed premise which is that the regulator knows more or is more ethical than the person being regulated. That premise is false. A capitalist society has laws against fraud, just like it has laws against murder, etc. It is an unreal and unfair standard to say that capitalism is flawed because there are unethical people. Unethical people exist in any society, but the damage they can do is much less in a capitalist society. Furthermore, only capitalism frees the producers to produce, thereby creating abundant prosperity and a good life for man. No alternative system does that. For a more personal look at regulation, I may suggest a short essay I wrote here. Read the whole book, Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, of which the essay "What Is Capitalism?" is a part. It will address many of the questions you are raising.
  20. Moebius, the reason all of these positions you espoused are inconsistent with capitalism is because they violate one's right to property. The base of capitalism is the right to life and the right to property (which is a corollary of the right to life). That means you have the right to do what you want with your property, without forceful interference from any other individual or government. That means you can accumulate as much property as you wish (through trade, not force), you can disclose whatever information you wish to the people you do business with, you can bequeath your money to whomever you wish, no one can proscribe how you can use your property (i.e., regulate you), etc. In terms of your dealings with other people, under capitalism you trade with other people. You exchange values that you produce voluntarily for values that other people produce. Force and fraud are outlawed as means of engaging with other people. That doesn't mean that some people won't steal or commit fraud, but it does mean that such actions are outlawed and will be prosecuted. That is an extremely short summary of the essence of capitalism. Ayn Rand says it better, and more completely, in her writings, which I refer you to. As for some of the examples you give, such as the savings & loan crisis, I will simply say that as a general principle, all major disturbances in the workings of the market are the result of government interventions. Government interventions which often are ostensibly made to solve problems, only create unforeseen problems. That was true with the S&L crisis, and was true of every other alleged crisis of capitalism, such as the Great Depression. However, before looking at such details, it is important to understand the basic question of "What Is Capitalism?" Thus, my recommendation of that article as a starting point.
  21. Moebius, claiming you are for capitalism and actually being for it are two different things. You are not for capitalism. I suggest reading Ayn Rand's article, "What Is Capitalism?" This is a website for discussion of Objectivism after all. If you have read it and still believe you are for capitalism, I would kindly suggest you consider that the following ideas you espouse are inconsistent with capitalism: * the idea that an inequality of wealth is unjust * the idea that regulation is necessary * the idea that large concentrations of wealth are somehow harmful * the idea that inheritances are wrong and should be outlawed * the idea that a free market requires some mandated minimal levels of information disclosure
  22. Yes, you are right, although there are limits to an irrational person's ability to prevent someone touching his body. For example, if you are wielding a knife in a menacing manner on a public street, you may not want a policeman to touch you in order to arrest you, but that would be irrelevant. He can touch you, and hopefully will. People can be irrational as long as they are only hurting themselves and not others. So, of course someone can refuse a doctor's touch even if that doctor will heal him, etc.
  23. Yes, but there is a context here that you are not stating. Bodily contact is always a contextual matter. If my thigh touches a seatmate next to me on a crowded subway car, I am not violating his or her rights. Why? Because that person has consented to being in an environment where such touching may occur by choosing to ride the subway during rush hour. Now, in an empty car if I sit right next down to someone and touch my thigh to that person, I am violating that person's rights. If a dentist puts his hand in my mouth, he is not violating my rights. If a stranger does, he is. Etc. I think my prior post covers this issue. One's rights are violated if there is rationally unwanted contact. Rational means contextual. I cannot be upset if someone (not excessively) touches my thigh with his thigh on a crowded train. I can in the other example I gave. Connecting this to the issue of manners, manners are simply the "rules of engagement" for social situations. Because these rules are not expressly stated in each encounter does not mean that these rules do not exist nor that they are not important as a way for everyone to respect everyone else's rights in a social setting. In fact, that is the purpose of manners. Manners exist as a set of rules that allow everyone's rights to be respected in social encounters. They are the de facto standard of civilized behavior. Of course, one can choose to ignore manners on one's own property, but he would have to give notice to people entering his property that the normal rules of manners are suspended. E.g., on his property you can kiss strangers, sneeze on people, talk one inch from someone's face, etc. To bring this back to the issue of public decency, I can better understand now Ayn Rand's use of the term "etiquette". People are offended by public displays of sexual behavior and other behavior that becomes disgusting when publicly displayed. Because of the nature of sex, which is private, I think it is understandable and rational for people not to want to see that in public. So, if you want to engage in public sex, you have to give notice. That is why people have nudist colonies and why nude beaches are in private locations. Public nudity is similar to manners because different, equally rational, social standards can exist. For example, in European newspapers, it is not a big deal to show women's naked breasts (at least in the U.K.), whereas it is here. Topless and nude beaches are common in Europe, and uncommon in the United States. Of course, once all beaches become private, it will be up to the owner of the beach to establish the clothing policy. Furthermore, if the social standard in his area is a little more prude, he may have to erect a fence or somehow make it less easy for random strangers to see the nude bathers. (As an aside, I personally do think American standards are a little too prude when it comes to nude bathing, etc. This probably does result from Puritanism. Nevertheless, I think there is an optional range on what is legally permissible ranges of public nudity or near-nudity. Oddly enough, these things often work themselves out just fine. For example, red light districts form precisely because they become known as areas where prostitutes and nudity could be seen in public. People are "on notice" through custom that if they enter the red light district, they may subject themselves to such sights.) Several topics, one post. Whew!
  24. I agree with Inspector and Ifatart on this issue. If it is unwanted bodily contact, it is a violation of my rights. That presupposes that my wants are based on reason. It goes without saying that I am saying, "If it is rationally unwanted bodily contact..." Also, it presupposes a rational view of consent. If someone grants permission for bodily contact, say to a surgeon for surgery, but then complains after the surgery that the operation was unwanted, his complaint is unfounded. Can you think of an example where unwanted bodily contact is not a violation of rights?
  25. If your point is that rights should be properly and objectively defined, I completely agree. Furthermore, the proper role of government in protecting those rights must be defined. That role is defined through laws that are passed and courtroom decisions that are made on the basis of those laws. Any form of unwanted bodily contact or behavior or entry on one's property is a violation of your rights. However, legally you only have recourse if such a violation is egregious enough. There are practical reasons for this. If the violation is so minor, the cost of adjudicating the violation would greatly exceed the harm from the violation, to the point where it is ludicrous. I would need help from a lawyer for naming the relevant legal principles, but the idea that comes to mind is that there must be a de minimus standard for a harm to merit redress in the courts. As a practical manner in a free society, this de minimus standard would probably manifest itself through fees paid for legal resolution of disputes. If there is a $100 fee to file a notice of a lawsuit, no person would file for damage claims that were worth less than $100. That would eliminate all kinds of silly and sundry lawsuits from people who have nothing better to do than sue their neighbors. Such a practical limit on minor lawsuits means that minor rights violations are handled in the manner I described in my prior post. Now, a series of deliberate "minor" violations is something different since it would be deliberate harassment. Anyone deliberately doing a series of "minor" things to annoy his neighbor really is committing a major offense against that person. The courts are there to address this harm. (The paparazzi who harass celebrities come to mind here as an example.)
  • Create New...