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Galileo Blogs

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Posts posted by Galileo Blogs

  1. I've seen the clip of that scene. As I recall, he says something like "Greed, for lack of a better word, is good." Doesn't that change the intended meaning as well?

    In literature the author can fail to pass along his intended meaning to the audience. Therefore you end up with a designated bad guy the audience likes. Almost always this is the author's fault. In movies it happens all the time. Remember how many people liked Hannibal Lecter in Silence of The Lambs?

    Both are good points. In fact, the exact quote above makes the meaning clear, that "greed" is being used in the good sense.

    On your second point, although Oliver Stone is no friend of capitalism, he manages to convey the legitimate excitement of Wall Street and much of its legitimate function. That is what the audience responded to in Wall Street. Whether Oliver Stone intended to do that or not, it is what he actually accomplished in the movie.

  2. I work in the stock market as a broker. Personally I'm kind of ambivalent about the entire business of stock trading. Yes, becoming a publically traded company is a good way to raise money for entrepreneurs. But a lot of stock trading revolve around wealthy people artificially inflating the price of stocks, then through deception, misinformation, insider information, or delay of information, cajole others into picking up the stock in order to essentially swindle their money. Time and time again I see major shareholders of companies doctor their books, release inaccurate predictions, or collude with brokerages, just to jack up the prices of their stocks.

    I mean, yes, it is up to the average investors to do their research and decide for themselves if a company is worth its price. But it's honestly just an inherently unfair system due to the extreme imbalance in information.

    As for that whole illusion of efficient distribution of capital -- it often times simply isn't true. A lot of times a company could be doing great, but be hostilely taken over and broke up into pieces and sold. A hedge fund manager often times simply isn't interested in running a healthy company. They rather just make their money right away and then do something else with it. As it stands there is already a huge division in opinion of whether huge financial conglomerates like private hedge funds are really actually beneficial to the economy, since often times they behave more like looters than investors.

    Moebius, in response to your grab bag of criticisms, I can only say one thing: you're wrong. It could be that you work in one of those boiler rooms as depicted in the movie "Boiler Room". I would certainly not recommend it as a vision of an ideal. Quite the opposite. Nor are such boiler rooms representative of the broad workings of Wall Street, just like a quack doctor does not represent the essence of the medical profession.

    As for capitalism and the stock market, I cannot and would not even try to defend it in a blog posting. There are plenty of sources on the topic, beginning with Atlas Shrugged and extending to the many good books of business history and economics that describes what capitalists have done in the distant past right up to the present.

    I would make one observation, though. Karl Marx sees capitalism and capitalists as the apotheosis of evil, the system that exploits the common man. Most college professors of history and journalism have either explicitly or implicitly absorbed such a view of capitalism. Using that lens they learned in college, wouldn't a journalist focus with laser-like intensity on every real and imagined instance of corporate malfeasance and stock market fraud? What about all the other examples of value-creating business activity and successful, value-creating stock offerings? Those stories don't make headlines, for good reason. Those are not stories to someone who is looking to ferret out and draw attention to the alleged evils of capitalism.

    I would recommend observing with your own eyes in an empirical fashion the nature of business deals and stock offerings that occur. All of them, not just those that make the papers. I would also recommend reading what economists say about the workings of today's mixed economy. To what extent is a certain behavior a feature of free markets, and to what extent is it a (typically unforeseen) consequence of regulation? Another piece of your analysis might be to look at other professions and count instances of malfeasance. Bad behavior occurs in all walks of life. Does Wall Street really display "more evil" than other professions, or is it merely that Marxism-influenced journalists harp on it? Finally, from an economic theoretical perspective, ask yourself why people would choose to participate in a market if its essence is thievery and dishonesty. Why would investors buy stocks? Why would companies raise money in the stock market? Why would they do this over and over again, as they have for more than 100 years (and producing an approximately 8%-9% compound annual return for investors over that period of time)?

    As Ayn Rand would say, check your premises, and check your facts. Have you properly generalized to form your conclusion? Finally, if you do all that and still think it is a corrupt profession, ask yourself why you keep working in that industry (unless you share Gary Brenner's argument in another thread that it is okay to be a looter).

  3. I haven't seen the movie, but Gekko's slogan "Greed is good" is clearly meant to be self-evidently evil. Anyone who had an unalloyed positive reaction to it strikes me as a bit clueless!

    See the movie.

    In the context of the movie, "Greed is good" is good. The statement comes at the end of a speech where Gordon Gekko defends his actions in taking over a company and throwing out its incompetent management.

    Speaking generally, greed, understood as an intense pursuit of one's values, is good. Greed, meaning hurting others in order to benefit oneself, is bad. Greed is a package deal concept that mixes together a good and bad meaning. That is why it is a great derogatory word that allows one to sneak in an attack on rational selfishness while pretending to just attack those who would hurt others in order to help themselves.

    Greed is just a somewhat more pejorative version of another word, selfishness. Ayn Rand worked hard to rescue that word from its package deal meaning that is quite similar to greed. Before she did that, there was no single word that simply conveyed: pursuit of one's rational self interest. We need a similar word to refer to the benign act of aggressively pursuing one's values. Greed is often used in that way: greedy for life, greedy for air, etc., but largely it is used in a derogatory manner.

  4. I agree with your assessment of the validity of stock trading. Furthermore, it takes a conceptual thinker to understand that point. Because stocks are not directly tangible, although the physical goods they represent are, some people cannot see the value that is created by Wall Street. As a result, some people say they value the activities of doctors or inventors more highly because they are directly helping people. Of course they are, but the fact that their work is more obviously tangible does not make it more valuable. In fact, if one wants to rank professions on the good they create, you would have to put inventors and high-order capitalists at a higher level than doctors or mechanics or lawyers, in terms of the number of people positively affected by their actions. Ayn Rand has made the point so well, that businessmen are the great benefactors of mankind. The capitalists direct capital to the most productive businessmen. Stock investing is part of that process.

    As for Gordon Gekko (correct spelling is "Gekko"), he is largely good, but the movie did show him colluding in a theft of company documents, and gaining through subterfuge. So, he is not an untainted ideal character. As I said in my post, I think the movie's writers did that deliberately because they could not countenance a good Wall Street financier. Despite the taint they put on him, they also gave him a great speech where he condemns those who extol incompetent company managements and they also gave him that great line, "Greed is good."

  5. It is clear to see why being shot with a bullet is an initiation of force. That definitely interferes with your ability to act on your judgement. The same holds true for a lesser extent with toxic fumes that make you sick. However, these are all situations that are outside the conceptual realm, which is why you treat them differently.

    Emphasis mine.

    I disagree. It takes a conceptual evaluation in every instance of the use of force to determine that it is harmful. A bullet shot at me by my neighbor for no reason is an unacceptable use of force because it violates my right to to life. The bullet is perceptual; my evaluation of it is conceptual. In contrast, a bullet fired by a homeowner at a robber who is approaching him with a weapon is a justifiable use of force. The bullet is perceptual; his evaluation of it is conceptual. Similar bullet, different evaluation.

    The same applies for smells, to use another example. The smell of burning wood in my fireplace does not signify harm to me. The smell of burning wood from a nearby arsonist who has set a house on fire does signify harm to me. Same perception (smell of fire), different conceptual evaluation.

    Now let's examine an "intangible" harm. I detect a burglar in my house in the middle of the night. I scream at him that I have a gun and I am going to blow him away unless he gets the hell out of my house. Now consider a maniac neighbor screaming at me that he is going to get his gun and blow me away unless I trim my shrubs. Same perception (threatening words spoken in anger), different conceptual evaluation. The former instance is a justifiable stated threat made in self-defense against a burglar. The latter threat from my neighbor is unjustifiable. Threats to use force, threatening behavior, etc., are all punishable under the law, as they should be. Threats to harm are part of the broader concept of force (as is fraud, etc.).

    One could go on with these examples. To bring this analogy back to the issue of indecent behavior, sex with one's partner in one's bedroom is one thing, or looking at videos of sex acts in the privacy of one's home is one thing. Being forced to watch the sexual acts of other people because of their ostentatious public sexual behavior is another thing. Similar perceptions, different conceptual evaluations.

    I cannot fully defend laws against public indecency (because I do not have a firm grasp of the philosophical issues involved), but I do believe that properly crafted laws against public indecency are justified. Speaking personally, I would not want to be subject to ostentatious and unwanted sexual displays from a neighbor. (As an aside, this actually did happen to me in New York. A rather unattractive couple across the courtyard from me deliberately had sex in front of their picture window almost every night with the lights on; they deliberately timed their sex acts as some sort of prime time deviant entertainment. I found it enormously distracting; it was hard not to look, kind of like a flashing billboard in your face. Their behavior stole my time from me. Eventually, enough people complained about it that they stopped doing it.)

    My point here is that the argument against public indecency laws is not that it is a "non-perceptual" harm or that there is no direct bodily contact with an instrument of force. What is an improper use of force is solely conceptually determined in all situations, upon evaluation of the perceptions. Those perceptions can involve any or all of the senses of sight, taste, hearing, touch, smell. They can be words (threats), sights (unwanted sexual displays), actions (physical harm), etc.

  6. This is more than just interference with views. By the word "treat" I ment more than "what one thinks of "... I also ment whatever that results in action. When one says "I think of sex as a very private matter" - it means one desires to restrict experiencing sexual atmosphere/stimulation/exposure only to people one chooses.

    Also, (referring to Maarten's comment) from a legal point of view, we are talking about ostentatious public sexual displays. That is a situation where the sexual couple obviously deliberately seeks to foist their sexual display on the other person. This is to be distinguished from situations where a curtain inadvertently opens revealing a couple having sex. The neighbor in that case merely has to avert his gaze, but a repetitive public display is another matter. In that situation, the neighbor cannot help but be confronted by the couple's sexual display.

    This is analogous to someone walking by your house and throwing a piece of litter. If it happens once, you will probably do nothing, and simply throw the litter into the trash. However, if someone dumps litter every day onto your yard, you have a legal right to force him to stop.

  7. Yeah, but the topic was about the legal foundations for public decency. If I understand the situation correctly, it is simply not possible to be nude in public view (for example), even if everyone around you doesn't have a problem with it. I mean, if the vast majority of people dislike seeing nudity in public, then that would probably also mean that the majority of areas in the country would be like they are today. But it should still be possible that if there is a big plot of privately owned land, that whoever owns it can determine that it's okay to be nude on that land. Then anyone who rents a property there would know in advance what they're getting in to, and it really shouldn't be a problem for any parties. But that is not possible if the government determines, based on majority opinion, that certain sights are disgusting and not allowed in public.

    That's why I think it makes more sense to merely enforce this whole thing through contract law. If it truly bothers you a great deal to see these things, then you should buy your house under the conditions that you won't have to see those things. I think that solution is much more in line with how these issues should be resolved in a capitalist society than the solution that has been advocated in this thread.

    I have two points in response.

    First, action to deter a particular act of public nudity or public sex need only be taken if it is offensive to someone. It is not an action that is intrinsically harmful, which need be banned in some kind of Puritan manner, even if no one is present to see it or no one is complaining about it. (Of course, if it is against the law and a policeman driving by sees it, he can take action against the public nudist/sex actor on the presumption that someone will complain about it.) If someone engages in public sex in his front yard and no one complains, there is no problem. Also, this presupposes that public nudity or public sex is a legitimate offense that someone can use police action to suppress. If it is not, then even if it offends that person, he can gain no legal redress for it. For example, if a person paints his house in a color that his neighbor doesn't like, he has no legal recourse. (Of course, he can always talk to his neighbor and offer to pay him to paint his house a different color, or he could offer to buy his house.)

    Second, contract law is an inadequate way of protecting property rights where there are general torts. Because there are objective standards of what is harmful, it is not necessary nor even feasible to specify the multiplicity of potential harms or permissible/non-permissible actions in a contract. For example, a storekeeper doesn't have to ask you to sign a contract every time you enter his premises that states you cannot steal from him and that he has the right to eject you at will, nor do you need a contract from him stating that you have the right to enter his store during the hours it is open, unless he chooses to bar you, etc.

    A contract is a specific agreement between two people that imposes a specific set of obligations on each party, the violation of which is cause for legal redress. That is entirely different from using the policing power of the government to gain redress against the sundry harms that someone can commit against you, none of which are specified in any contract, nor need they be.

    The real issue here remains what behavior constitutes a harm against another person for which there is legal redress and whether public nudity/public sex is one of those harms. In my opinion, it is a minor offense, which is why Ayn Rand used the word "etiquette" in the quoted passage.

  8. The most important part of the passage is this: "sights they regard as loathsome". I think anyone who understands Objectivism will be very concerned with this particular part, an would want to see how to reconcile this with the whole of Objectivist philosophy.

    Uh, I don't mean this as an argument from authority, but when you say "anyone" you should exclude Ayn Rand. After all, she said it!!

  9. From that passage, I don't understand the distinction Rand is making between censorship and the freedom "not to look or listen" as she applies it to etiquette. Etiquette, while important and valuable in a society, has nothing to do with individual rights and should not be legally enforced. By definition it is social norm and constantly changing, not an essential aspect of human life on which objective law is based.

    The logical extension is imagining social norm under a dictatorship, religious group, or based on any kind of irrational premises, and what that would mean written as law.

    I am not sure precisely what Ayn Rand meant when she used the word etiquette. However, from the full context not just of the quoted passage but of the full article, I think her meaning is clear. In the case of sex, because it is an exceptional, private activity, one is disgusted at experiencing an unchosen public display of it. To do so is a form of assault on the other person. Therefore, it is proper to legally forbid such a display, not just to protect the "unconsenting adults" from being confronted by such behavior but also for minors. She makes it clear in her article that such a restriction only applies to public displays, because such displays would involve other people against their will.

    As for her use of the word "etiquette," I think she is using that word to emphasize that these issues are relatively minor and center on standards of civilized behavior, in contrast to forceful criminal assaults on another person.

    Obviously, simple matters of etiquette are not a matter of legislation or even of awarding damages in a private legal action. This would include such things as simple table manners, behavior in public areas, etc. However, there are certain activities, such as public sex and, I would include, public animal torture, that cross the line in terms of the degree to which they assault the "unconsenting adult". For that reason, it is proper for government to restrict these activities.

    One could think of many others. Legally, whether all these behaviors should be enumerated or captured under a broad law or dealt with in some other manner, is another issue, one for the lawyers and legal theorists to work out.

  10. Someone cited a thread which cited a very short passage from The Ayn Rand Letter: "A corollary of the freedom to see and hear, is the freedom not to look or listen." Here is a longer except from the article containing that quote. The article is "Thought Control, Part III", The Ayn Rand Letter, Vol. III, No. 2 (October 22, 1973) [underline is in original; bold emphasis is mine]:

    This aspect of the issue is wider than religious influences: civilized men do not tolerate public displays of sub-animal sex. Many people regard a public representation of sexual intercourse to be disgusting - not because sex is evil, but precisely because it is a value, an exception-making value that requires privacy. Censorship, however, is not the solution: resorting to censorship is like cutting a man's head off in order to cure a cold.

    Only one aspect of sex is a legitimate field for legislation: the protection of minors and of unconsenting adults. Apart from criminal actions (such as rape), this aspect includes the need to protect people from being confronted with sights they regard as loathsome. (A corollary of the freedom to see and hear, is the freedom not to look or listen.) Legal restraints on certain types of public displays, such as posters or window displays, are proper - but this is an issue of procedure, of etiquette, not of morality.

    No one has the right to do whatever he pleases on a public street (nor would he have such a right on a privately owned street). // Similarly, the rights of those who seek pornography would not be infringed by rules protecting the rights of those who find pornography offensive - e.g., sexually explicit posters may properly be forbidden on public places; warning signs, such as "For Adults Only," may properly be required of private places which are open to the public. This protects the unconsenting, and has nothing to do with censorship, i.e., with prohibiting thought or speech.

    I would regard the senseless torturing of animals as one of those loathsome sights. I am an "unconsenting adult" who would not want to be subjected to such a sight. The principle behind the government's banning of such displays is the same as the principle banning public sex. Of course, the issue is contextual. Being subjected to the sights, sounds and smells of cows being slaughtered at a slaughterhouse is not the same as being subjected to an insane individual cruelly torturing his dog in his front yard.

    The full article by Ayn Rand is quite interesting. It touches on censorship, and the commonality of the attitudes of both hippies and conservatives toward it.

    As for the issue of animal rights, it is entirely inapplicable here. Animals do not have rights, but because humans do, this type of legal prohibition is permissible.

  11. Perhaps so, but it's not sufficient for something to be irrational or immoral for it to be illegal. An action must violate rights for the law to be justified in stepping in. And animals don't have rights. By inventing imaginary "animal rights" you only encourage violating your own rights. The SPCA is case in point.

    Point taken on the SPCA. I have met shelter volunteers myself, and there is no way that people like that should be deputized police to round up other people's animals.

    I also agree that animals (other than the human animal) have no rights. Nevertheless, someone who senselessly tortures animals is immoral on some level. I am in agreement with poster John McVey and support all forms of harvesting of animals for all the human values that we can get from them: food, fur, medical research, etc.

    As a neighbor, I know that I would feel assaulted if an insane neighbor senselessly and barbarically tortured a dog next door to me (admittedly, I am exaggerating the facts somewhat from those presented by Goldmonkee). Am I not harmed by the sounds and sights of that animal torture so that I could get legal redress against it? Is this somewhat akin to someone assaulting me in another manner, say by having public orgies on their front yard or by publicly engaging in S&M torture? Yes, the behaviors are completely different, but if public orgies on front yards are legally impermissible because they assault me, would dog torture fall in the same category?

    I have to admit, personally I would be far more upset to hear and see a dog being senselessly tortured than I would an orgy. Certainly if I had children I would be appalled to have them see either activity.

    Can anyone recommend what they think is the best Objectivist writing on the topic of animal cruelty?

  12. Although I have not explored the issue in depth, I believe there are rational standards in the care of an animal. Also, I believe most jurisdictions have laws against animal abuse. Call up the city animal shelter or a private organization such as the Humane Society or Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and find out how to get an "animal cop" to investigate your neighbor and remove his dog, if necessary. That is the approach I would take rather than kidnapping the dog. If you kidnap the dog, you could be arrested for theft of your neighbor's property, since the dog is his property. Repetitive kicking is intolerable treatment of an animal. Also, I suggest videotaping or taking pictures of his behavior. Proof of his abuse of the animal will be essential if you want to legally remove the dog from him.

  13. I liked the movie, but Gekko is no Roark. What he is is a rare, largely correct depiction of an ambitious Wall Street financier. He makes money by trading stocks, which also at times involves taking over poorly run companies and running them better. Some of today's private equity and hedge fund managers would play that role. One hundred years ago it would have been played by the likes of J.P. Morgan who formed some of the country's greatest companies, such as U.S. Steel, through stock investing.

    The movie works hard to put clay feet on Gekko, showing him encouraging and profiting from Bud Fox's theft of company documents. That overlay of evil seemed quite contrived to me. It struck me that a man as successful as Gekko would not have to resort to such stupid tactics. Even if he wasn't ethical, he would not be so stupid as to incriminate himself so easily.

    The fact that the movie's writers could not allow Gekko to simply be a good and competent financier is telling of the state of our culture. The fact that this movie was so popular, when its hero was so imperfect, also shows how desperate and receptive Americans still are for true business heroes. Americans got it, that success is good and that throwing out bad company managements which Gekko did is good. They got it when Gekko said, "Greed is good."

    It sounds like you might not have read The Fountainhead. I encourage you to read it and Atlas Shrugged. In those books you will see fictional depictions of truly great business heroes, the likes of which have never appeared in any movie (although they walk and walked the earth around us in America, both past and present).

    As for the other questions you ask, ask the first one again (Is capitalism moral?) after you have read Atlas Shrugged. For your other two questions, other threads on this forum may have dealt with them. On the antitrust issue, I recommend the book, Abolition of Antitrust, edited by Gary Hull, and any of the books by the economist Dominick Armentano, as well as an article on the topic in Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal. Ayn Rand has commented on antitrust fairly extensively.

  14. In essence, you have to ask yourself how you can do what you want to do without furthering a cause that you deem to be destructive of your interests.

    GB, I think the better analogy is that Sponge is not considering being a preacher, but (say) a church architect. In other words, he won't spread the ideology, but will profit from it.

    I think it boils down to: do you want to use your mind and your resourcefulness helping people in their process of belief? It is one thing if what you're doing is incidental: for instance if you make great suits that people happen to wear to church, or if you drive a taxi-cab and happen to drop some people to church. However, doing something that in its essence does nothing but support something you wish to destroy, is short term thinking. It raises the question as to whether one can use one's brain in a profitable way that does not also harm you.

    I think that the fundamental evaluation you have to make is to what extent you contribute your mind to that which you consider to be evil. For instance, I think there's a difference between a printer who prints copies of the Nazi anthem, and a musician who composes an inspiring score for that anthem.

    I agree with these distinctions. Judging these issues is highly contextual. As for the example given by the original poster, I think his actions would inevitably draw him into supporting the cause of the global warmers. I actually know people involved in the business of carbon sequestration. In order to promote their business, they have to attend conferences of environmentalists, and pass along articles to potential clients about anti-global warming legislation that can stimulate the market for these "carbon offsets". In this business you are not making the preacher's suits. You are writing his sermons.

  15. The argument would be, wouldn't you think it's his job to get you to some place safely regardless of a tip? Doesn't the initial fee cover safe transport or is the cab "allowed" to risk your life if you only pay the regular fee?

    If you don't tip a New York cabby, you take your life in your hands. I would tread very, very carefully in New York if you take cabs here. Even worse, many of the cabbies are Muslim and they just hate Americans, especially those "son of the Great Satan" non-tipping Americans!

    In seriousness, tipping a cabby is customary in New York (and in every other American city, in my experience). All of the same arguments for/against tipping apply equally to cabbies as they apply to waiters.

  16. Snake oil. I, however, am not creating the demand, they are. So is it then immoral to give them what they want, which is, to say, give them nothing at all but push their money around and profit from the circulation?

    Given your statement, would it be moral to become a television preacher?

  17. Re: DavidOdden post #23:

    Actually, a "mandatory tipping" or "no-tipping" club would really be the same thing. The no-tipping club would have to compensate the waiters more for the lack of tips, and the cost would either have to be included as a prepaid tip (your suggestion) or with proportionately higher menu prices.

    I think we're on the same page here. Please advise after you have completed your experiment.

  18. ... the recent trend in the U.S. is disconcerting.

    I agree wholeheartedly. On a personal level, I can only relate to the period from the 1980s (when I went to college) to the present. In my adult life, the biggest change I see is the level of political intensity of the Religious Right. The Religious Right has wormed its way into government in sundry ways. Examples:

    * influencing decisions by the FDA on whether to approve drugs such as the morning after pill or the recent vaccine against a venereal disease

    * getting money from various branches of government for religious ministries in prison and charities run by religious groups

    * influencing U.S. foreign aid policy [of course, there should be no foreign aid] to deny funds to groups advocating birth control and abortion

    * heavy lobbying for appointments of federal judges who are anti-abortion and amenable to violating the separation of church & state

    * becoming powerful enough to have near-veto power on who the Republican Party nominates for President. E.g.: John McCain changing his position on abortion to placate the Religious Right in his effort to get the nomination. I say near-veto, because Giuliani has not done that, yet, and still remains popular among Republicans.

    When I was in college at a public university in the South (on the edge of the Bible Belt), groups such as "Maranatha" and "Campus Crusade for Christ" were active. These groups are literal-Bible fundamentalists, I believe. Of course, other groups were also active such as the Moonies and Hare Krishnas. I am sure these Christian groups are still active on my old campus, if not the other cults. I do not know how this experience compares with, say, a Northeastern Ivy League school which would have to be more secular. Have these more secular schools become more influenced by religious groups over the years?

    In sum, religious attitudes as measured by the types of polls you cite may not have changed too much, but the success and willingness of religious groups to actively use the government to advance their agenda has changed. That is something new and it is very ominous.

    On a small level, I am encouraged by three things: (1) Bush's utter idiotic failure as President. Indirectly, it has to cast aspersion on the Religious Right since he is so closely identified with that group. (2) The rise and popularity of Rudolf Giuliani, a seemingly secular Republican who advocates abortion rights, for instance. (3) The rise of the Democrats who, despite religious lip-service (which in itself is disturbing), remain largely the same, old, tired secular Left.

    In all likelihood, though, the ineptitude of Bush dampens the Religious Right just a little bit. We shall see if that is the case or if the very small shift away from the Religious Right has some legs.

    As an aside, Ronald Reagan, despite being the first Republican endorsed by the Religious Right to gain the Presidency, seems like a downright atheist next to George Bush. He believed that religion was a private matter and I find it nearly impossible to believe that he would pretend for a second that the Bible was a literal document. He also had a lot more intellectual depth than to say something as inane as what George Bush said: "Jesus Christ is my favorite philosopher." [quoting from memory]

    Of course, Ronald Reagan's Presidency did begin the process by which the Religious Right gained their political influence.

  19. I think this issue has been hashed and re-hashed to the point of exhaustion (at least for me). I do have one original suggestion to offer. Along the lines of what I said about starting up a chain of no-tipping restaurants, a simpler and immediately practical idea is to form a "no tippers" or "extraordinary service-only tippers" eating club. Many people have eating clubs. For all you no or reluctant or guilty or angry tippers out there, get a group of like-minded people together, and collectively non-tip with your own eating club. You can even (as you should) discuss it with a restaurant manager first.

    If you do it, I would welcome your empirical observations of your dining experience. Since you notify the manager first and if he agrees to it, he would indeed have to make sure that an appropriate level of service is provided. You might even start a new trend.

    Happy eating! :)

    P.S. - The same could apply for tipping in any other endeavor. Form a no-tipping society for your barber, with a taxicab company, you name it. You could even do it with pizza delivery, to borrow from another tired thread. Have a no-tips-pizza night.

    As for myself, I happily and cheerfully decline membership in your club. :lol:

  20. A carbon offset is some action that sequesters or converts a given quantity of carbon dioxide. For example, a planted acre of new forest would convert through photosynthesis a certain tonnage of carbon dioxide per year into oxygen. A business that emits carbon dioxide, such as a utility that burns coal in its power plants, can pay the company that planted the forest for the tons of carbon dioxide that the forest eliminates from the atmosphere through photosynthesis. So, a utility has paid for "offsets" to its carbon dioxide production, thereby neutralizing part of its carbon dioxide emissions.

    There are also many ways of sequestering carbon dioxide, as I am sure bobsponge is aware of. For example, carbon dioxide can be pumped deep underground where it can even aid in the production of oil.

    Scientists and entrepreneurs are working on many more ways of sequestering or converting carbon dioxide in order to create carbon dioxide offsets.

    With that explanation, the question is, is it moral to set up a business selling carbon offsets? My answer is no, it is not moral. The reason is that you will find yourself put in the position of depending on and even advocating restrictions on carbon dioxide emissions (a la the Kyoto Protocol or the California carbon dioxide rules or new ones that the Democratic Congress wants to impose). The more stringent the controls are on carbon dioxide emissions, the more money you will make because carbon offsets will be worth more. You end up profiting by participating in a government-imposed system that actively destroys industry and reduces our standard of living by limiting carbon dioxide emissions. Carbon dioxide is an essential by-product of nearly all industrial processes (even life, with breathing) and transportation. These carbon dioxide producing activities provide us with a high and rising standard of living. Your business is predicated on a political process that seeks to thwart those activities in order to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

    An analogy would be working as a regulator at the FDA or as a tax collector at the IRS. You can't help but endorse and support an immoral use of force against your fellow-citizens in such role.

    There really are many other ways of making money. I would consider something different.

  21. Any further comments on this topic I am making them on this thread. As for the sub-topic of tipping for pizza delivery, as opposed to tipping at restaurants, I will not comment further. The real debate here is about tipping at restaurants. For example, in Inspector's post above, all but the 3rd and the last paragraph discuss restaurant tipping. Frankly, that is the only subject I am really interested in.

  22. I cannot state the case for tipping better than CapitalismForever did in his quoted passage in Post#10. I agree completely with those statements. I would add several other observations. Tipping is highly individualistic because the waiter service and tip are individual transactions for mutual benefit. The patron directly rewards the waiter for his service. How often is that possible when dealing with employees?

    Second, to stress a point I have made before, the reason tipping at restaurants exists is because of the highly personal nature of the service.

    There was another comment which I can't find which distinguishes why tipping exists in a personal service industry like restaurants versus the situation Moebius describes. The point was that the nature of the personal service provided by a waiter is such that the customer is in the best position to evaluate a significant part of the waiter's work. That is why the customer effectively pays part of the waiter's wages. This is not true in the situation Moebius describes where the service provided is clear-cut. When I buy a product from a store, the service is clear-cut and I pay a fixed price. When I get a haircut or a restaurant meal, the service provided is highly personal to me and there are clearly many subtle, almost intangible factors that I alone am in the best position to appreciate. It seems almost silly to mention some examples, because I think this point should be clear, but I will mention a few anyway. For example, the barber trims your sideburns just right, the waitress cheerfully brings that extra water you asked for quickly, or that pizza arrived piping hot despite the snowstorm outside.

    I would contend that from an economic point of view, it is the degree of personalization of service that answers why the custom of tipping emerged and why it applies to one endeavor and not others. There is nothing irrational in this. It is a custom that emerged for sound economic reasons. That does not mean that all tipping customs are rational. Those that aren't will die out or never truly take hold across the population. (Is pizza delivery one of those activities? Hell, I don't know. I will let a pizza economist write a doctoral dissertation on that one! :lol: I just know I don't have a problem with this custom.)

    To further validate my economic hypothesis as to the origin of tipping, consider what it would be like if tipping did not happen. Let us assume that a restaurant manager declares that he is paying his waiters more to compensate for the lack of tips; tipping is forbidden at his restaurant. What would motivate the waiter to provide that extra measure of good service that you, alone, as the diner are in the best position to evaluate? In this situation, the waiter only has to show the boss he is providing good service. The boss does not observe all of the waiter-customer interactions going on. He simply sees his waiters efficiently bringing food back and forth from the kitchen to the tables. He doesn't hear the customer ask for water that is not being provided quickly. He doesn't hear the waiter listlessly recite the day's specials. He doesn't experience the joyless waiter who is a downer to the diners who are trying to enjoy their meal. Who is in the best position to evaluate these subtle aspects of waiter service? You, the diner! That is why you tip.

    Alessa36, a waitress, directly confirmed my last point above when she says:

    I wouldn't work at a restaurant that automatically includes a percentage on checks for waiters since it would reduce the advantage I have being a highly skilled worker. The challenge is to "earn" your tip.

    Thats what makes it fun for me, to put my skills to the test.

    How great to be served by waitresses who are motivated in this manner!

    I simply do not understand some of the objections I have heard to tipping. Here is a quote from the "Pizza Delivery" thread:

    I also do not like the idea that expectations are unknown and everyone is guessing. I do not like an incoherent system. How would you like it if instead of prices on the menu, the restaurant wrote: "whatever you feel like paying." And then if you didn't overpay just to be sure you were paying enough to please your new masters, then they would serve the food undercooked and make snide comments at you. I want a price I can see on the menu for a standard meal and service so I know what I am getting and I know what I am paying for. I want a contract that I can bind and hold them to.

    This description is so far removed from what I expect and almost always enjoy when I go to restaurants that I really have to wonder why Inspector would ever eat out at all. Am I alone in finding most of my restaurant experiences enjoyable? (Otherwise, why would I eat out?) Am I alone in having a positive, looking-for-enjoyment attitude when I go to restaurants and interact with waiters? Do I worry about pleasing my "new masters" when I eat out, or suffering snide comments or experiencing undercooked food? This description is one of a hostile, confrontational experience. It is beyond my understanding.

    I go to restaurants to relax and enjoy myself and eat a good meal. When I tip, it is an acknowledgement of that enjoyment, as much as it is a rational motivator and compensation that I provide for good service, as has been explained, repeatedly, on this and the "Pizza Delivery" thread.

    In all seriousness, I would highly recommend that everyone who has a problem with the custom of tipping should seek out and eat at places that don't allow it. Certainly, you are likely to experience a lot less stress at your meals. If you can't find enough of such places, start a club or a venture capital firm and finance a chain of restaurants where tipping is forbidden.

  23. SoftwareNerd, thank you for pointing out Peikoff's web-site. I hadn't viewed it in a while, and the additional information he provides is quite interesting. Much of it is right on topic for this thread. In particular, I found the following statement of his quite interesting:

    There are several reasons why people believe in arrant mysticism. One is that mankind is still in its early stages, so that most people have not outgrown the primitive mentality that ruled the early periods in the development of the human race. Another is that people want a crutch to avoid the need of independence, and an escape to avoid the need of making their life in this world successful. Still a third is that some religious people are genuinely idealistic and, looking at modern depravity, simply can't believe that there isn't something better somewhere.

    Source: www.leonardpeikoff.com

    The first reason he states is something I hadn't thought of before. Considering that there has been no time yet in human history when rationality has completely dominated a society, it is true that mankind has never completely "outgrown the primitive mentality that ruled the early periods in the development of the human race." Religion has always been with man, to varying degrees. When man reaches a point where religion is thoroughly uprooted, he will have progressed beyond this early period of development.

  24. Galileo,

    I see you are determined to not answer my questions as posed, especially the ones about pizza. It would be great if you would answer them, but I give up on asking.

    Sorry to ask you back into this, but I had a final question: Would you say that there is a minimum requirement of service, in the case of pizza that being a hot pizza delivered in good condition and on time, that is required by the job, regardless of tips? And that there is some equivalent at restaurants as well?

    If yes to both, then conceivably a server might fail in this contractually-required minimum if he was too busy providing extra service to tippers, right? Would you say that it would be in his self-interest to do so, i.e. to violate his word and his contracts in order to attempt to earn more tips from the tippers?

    Furthermore, do you morally condemn muggers who mug people who are naive enough to go out alone and unarmed into the park at night? Are the muggers to be blamed for the violation of rights, or is the naive man just getting what he "asked for?" If the muggers are to be blamed, then why can't I get you to blame a pizza saboteur?!?

    Inspector,

    I do not think you addressed many aspects of my argument, to wit:

    * tipping gives control to the tipper; therefore, the custom of tipping is to the tipper's benefit

    * tipping for standard service is an effective motivator because of the threat of not tipping for poor service

    * it is rational and appropriate for a server to serve the non-tipper after taking care of the tipper

    * tipping is the customary way to pay for standard good service, so if you don't tip, you should not expect good service

    * not tipping and expecting good service is asking to get something without paying for it

    I have focused on the essence of the argument, whether the custom of tipping is rational or not, instead of answering every one of your questions.

    Although I do not think your questions address the heart of this argument, and bearing in mind that I do not believe you have responded to my arguments, I will directly answer your questions anyway (all of these are from Inspector's post #334, quoted above):

    Would you say that there is a minimum requirement of service, in the case of pizza that being a hot pizza delivered in good condition and on time, that is required by the job, regardless of tips?

    Yes, in particular if the pizzeria says "Free delivery" on their menus.

    And that there is some equivalent at restaurants as well?

    Yes and no. Restaurants really do expect their patrons to tip as a matter of course, unless service is horrible. So, if you don't tip, I think the restaurant need only provide you with minimal service. If they determine that you are a serial non-tipper, I think it is their prerogative to bar you from eating there. Of course, if they accept your presence in the restaurant, they should provide a minimal level of service. Their waiters should serve you according to their self-interest, which will be last, after all the tippers have been served.

    If yes to both, then conceivably a server might fail in this contractually-required minimum if he was too busy providing extra service to tippers, right?
    I challenge the wording of your question. The waiter would be busy providing his standard service to tippers. Since tipping is customary and is expected of every patron (if standard service is provided), he should provide standard service to his standard tippers and outstanding service to his outstanding tippers. As for the non-tippers, he should serve them last, but yes, he should get around to serving them eventually.

    Would you say that it would be in his self-interest to do so, i.e. to violate his word and his contracts in order to attempt to earn more tips from the tippers?
    This question is akin to asking, "Have you stopped beating your wife yet?" The first "duty" of the server is to himself. He should provide a variable level of service to his customers proportionate to the degree they tip him. Yes, if the restaurant proprietor does allow serial non-tippers into his restaurant, he should provide the minimal level of service to them, as I explained above.

    Furthermore, do you morally condemn muggers who mug people who are naive enough to go out alone and unarmed into the park at night?
    Yes, I do.

    Are the muggers to be blamed for the violation of rights, or is the naive man just getting what he "asked for?"
    I also reject the phrasing of this question. Yes, the muggers should be blamed, and arrested, for the violation of rights. The naive man did not "ask for" what he got in one sense, in the sense that it was fair or moral or right for him to get mugged. But yes, he did "ask for" it in a different sense, in the sense that through his naivete he made a mistake (walking in the park at night) that a less naive person would not have made. Everyone is responsible for their own lives, and naive people do make mistakes that they will not repeat when they become less naive.

    If the muggers are to be blamed, then why can't I get you to blame a pizza saboteur?!?
    Blame the muggers and blame the pizza saboteur, whoever he is. I am 100% against all forms of sabotage.

    But, not tipping and getting poor service on account of it is not sabotage. The simple fact of poor service does not make it sabotage. It is the just response of the server towards the non-tipper. Of course, if the server deliberately destroys your food order, that would be sabotage and is to be vociferously condemned as the heinous immoral action it is. :dough:

    Really, tip and you very rarely have to worry about your food order being sabotaged. :(

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