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John McVey

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  1. Pascal's Wager wouldn't work even if there were the supernatural. A real god would know who's just throwing the dice rather than actually practicing faith, and consign the bugger to hell even if he rolled a 7. That is, like any casino owner a half decent god would be on the look-out for card counters and the like. He'd then have the boys go pick up the patron nice and discrete like, take him to a back room, rough him up, and chuck him in the dumpster out back. No cleric with any brains would seriously consider that Pascal's Wager is a satisfactory reason for 'belief.' I think the point about Pascal's Wager isn't about the individual so making it, but that the individual who is inclined to reason would thereby give sanction to the idea to an observer rather than be seen to be using reason to question the existence of gods. It's about the cleric saying "Look, even that reasoning man there says 'believe in god' ". With that the not-so-questioning man ceases asking the questioning man about this or that so much, and so crawls deeper into the hole dug for him by the cleric. JJM
  2. There's a big difference between what the higher-ups in the Republican Party advocate and what the rank and file Christian Fundamentalists think. That the former are ignoring what the latter want is rankling the latter, while the former can take the latter's vote for granted - what else are they going to do, vote Democratic? JJM
  3. It was a political failure BECAUSE it was a cultural failure, though you're right to note that it isn't correct to pin it so neatly on Christianity and Socialism. John Lewis identifies the root in the cultural mind-set of the Roman citizen. The problem, he notes, was a warrior culture and the mind-set of selecting political leaders because of their military acumen. The downfall of the Roman Republic and conversion into an Empire was an inevitability so long as that culture was unchallenged. The much-vaunted civility of Roman civilisation is actually largely Greek in origin, which was co-opted by conquering Romans who thought it fashionable - prior to Roman expansion the southern half of the Italian peninsula was a collection of Greek colonies. To the extent the Romans used Greek ideas they tended to be civil, while to the extent they acted on what was specifically their own Roman ideas they tended to be brutes. This was the thesis of his lecture at OCON08. He ties it back in particular to the Punic Wars (and by implication, all the way back through the Republican era and back even further into the kingdom era prior to the deposing of Tarquinius). Those principles in action then leads him to explain Marius, Sulla, and on to Julius Caesar and the formation of the Empire under Augustus. The details you cite are just an example of the concretes being principles in action, and can be clearly seen as a continuation of the same chain of causes and effects that Dr Lewis identifies. They never could have adopted anything like the US Constitution because of the culture they had. In stark contrast to the ideas of worldly reason and the liberty of men as held by the 18th century American intellectuals, Dr Lewis notes that two key ideas in Roman culture - philosophical idealism and the ethics of duty - made that impossible. Thus it is not that Christianity and Socialism lead of themselves to the downfall of Rome, but that what made the Romans vulnerable to Christianity and Socialism shares a common root with the concrete particulars you cite as traceable back to their warrior culture - the lack of understanding of reason and worldly applications of it to the principles of proper human action. JJM
  4. My history is a little shaky, but my understanding is that when the Puritans first landed they tried their hand at a version of communism, just as the first christians had in the first century surrounding Jesus' alleged ministry. The attempt failed so miserably that it killed a fair proportion of them. Exactly how and why I don't know, but they then turned around whole-hog and went private enterprise - my guess is that a single individual there packaged "thou shalt not steal" with property rights and the adage "God helps those who help themselves", and then sold it to a community desparate for salvation. That formed the nub, but it is not a quaint linear progression from there. In the 19th century there were a lot of immigrants from Scotland and England who brought various forms of Calvinism with them. A key part of Calvinist doctrine (I'm basically repeating what my lay-preacher father told me here) is that salvation is a matter solely between an individual and his God - another party cannot give a man that salvation and it is wrong to make the attempt. In application to economics it took the form of the explicit rejection of systematic welfare. It was all very well to give a man a dash of hospitality in a time of need, but it was unseemly for an individual to dependent on another for his earthly salvation. Instead, the goal here is to help a man to find his salvation on his own feet. A clear example of this is once when a bum asked Andrew Carnegie for a handout. Carnegie refused, by saying "no, here's something better - I'll give you a JOB". That, writ large, is a program for the rejection of the idea of the state as the guarantor of a man's earthly well-being. I'm surmising, then, that the two compatible strains of strongly anti-Catholic and Puritan thought that were also (thanks to the Geneva bible) very wary of earthly royalty, plus the anti-royalist and pro-property teachings of John Locke as avidly read by American thinkers, fused to form the economic and political program one finds among fundamentalist Christians in the US today. They've been dogmatically clinging to that interpretation of the bible ever since, in defiance of the socialist elements of Christianity that so energised the Pilgrim Fathers before they learned of the impracticality of socialism the hard way. I could be wrong, but after talking with my father (who is also a history teacher as well as a Presbyterian elder), that seems to be about the main story. JJM
  5. I'm not quite sure how I am supposed to interpret this. Anyhew, the answer is evidently yes. For the record, "Aryan" properly refers to a group of people originating in the region around north-west India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran. It's where the Iranians got the current (and original) name for their country from after they ditched "Persia" in 1935. Hitlers' toadies took a few bogus theories about languages & human origins and then twisted the actual story to suit their own ends. The use of the swastika follows the same pattern and has a similar cultural-geographic origin. JJM
  6. An Austrian-School libertarian already wrote a whole book on that, and apparently actually advocates it. I don't either. No set of political institutions can stop people from eventually getting the kind of government they deserve. The only thing that can be done insofar as the design of institutions is concerned is to put up some guides & signposts, and for the three powers to be set up as checks and balances against each other. That, and only that, is the purpose of a Constitution, and part of that must be to make each of the three powers answerable to those from whom they obtain their authority. People themselves are answerable to morality. Thomas is right - the only way to protect liberty is through objective morality, and in turn the only way to protect that is through objectivity. This is the point that the libertarians and other primacy-of-politics types refuse to understand. JJM
  7. G'day Greg, welcome to the Forum! JJM
  8. Well said. I recall reading about a hypothetical in which a man could cure disease simply by touching someone. The question was then posed as to what this man should do. It pointed out that most 'decent' people would treat the man as a slave of society, and that knowing this plus the sheer number of people on the planet the man would think he'd be in chains for life and so would keep it to himself if he could. In such a 'moral' world the man would end up just taking that boon with him to the grave. The article went on to point out that if people kept their heads and did their sums, and if the man's liberty kept unabridged, he could become fabulously wealthy AND everyone would get his services. First, the calculations were that at a rate of yay many people per second (imagine the guy on a golf cart and lightly slapping people on the face as he drove past a tightly packed line) and on a reasonable work schedule, everyone on the planet would be attended to within a reasonable number of years. Naturally the order of who goes where in the line would be organised in order of urgency, but in the end we'd ALL get the touch. Second, the article noted that in a free world he'd be at liberty to practice price discrimination. He could easily charge the dirt poor one cent for his trouble, the super-rich as much as he liked, and everyone else on a well-thought-out sliding scale. By the end of his few years working only about as hard as a regular truck-driver he'd end up one of the richest people on Earth. Thirdly, after the bulk of us were taken care of, that would leave the issue of him dealing with the occasional newborn in need of his attention. Then he'd be down to one light forehead tap every few seconds. By that time he'd be able to live in sumptuous style and continue to gain revenue by dead-easy work as a professional celebrity. In a free world operating on self-interest everyone would benefit. Viva self-interest and freedom! In a non-free world, operating on altruism, nobody gets a damn thing. Altruism screws people. The article concluded by noting that its point was, not that this supernaturalism proved anything about our real world, but that people's irrationality and questionable moral ideas prevented them from thinking straight and blinded them to other possibilities. Most people would take the initial premise and just run with it like headless chickens, operating on emotions programmed by moral upbringing, not bothering to question that or to do their sums, and not bothering to pay attention to the man's own desires or well-being. When that sort of psychoepistemology is allowed to determine our actions then THAT is the way in which unreason and altruism screw people for real. The article wasn't written by an Objectivist, but nevertheless it was very enlightening. JJM
  9. Re music for instance, actually, try this thread? And yes, now that you mention it, I am getting a bit concerned about the increasing proportion of effort being dedicated to discussing political issues, even if they are horrendously topical, at the expense of the arts and sciences and the celebration of life. That's okay, my fault. Dunno about the Wallabies, I don't follow the rugby - all I know is that your team are the Springboks! JJM
  10. Mate I'm not shooting you down, I am trying to avoid giving you spoilers! The questions you ask are directly dealt with in those books and are part of the plots. If someone were to do justice to your questions without recognising that fact then they'd be giving key plot points away. I apologise for appearing dismissive. JJM
  11. What I find fascinating about this particular thread – not its content but its existence – is that ... one Australian who is an immigrant from Scotland, is chatting with another Australian who either is an immigrant or is desecended from some from stuff knows where, on a forum centred on the ideas of a woman who emigrated to the United States from Russia and in whose name there is an organisation now headed by a man who emigrated to the United States from Israel, owned by man who emigrated to the United States from Europe, frequented by people from all over the planet, all of whom communicate on that forum in a language ultimately derived from proto-Aryan or Dravidian or something or other like that in India, on computers built out of components made in a wide variety of locations in eastern Asia or Latin America, whose sources of ideas and technologies are developments of the discoveries of some men in the Mediterranean and the Middle-East thousands of years ago! Bugger the borders, hail reason!! JJM
  12. That's a specification of the problem of most people who want immigration controls - the idea that people's natures are innate, that people are divisible into those with a good nature and those without. That then translates to advocacy of the idea that the goal of immigration policy should be to admit the former and bar the latter: "I'm not a racist but..." and all that crap. In reality, people are volitional creatures. Cultures and ideas can be good or evil - but human beings are not slaves to the cultures they were brought up in. I am not at all irreconcilably concerned with immigration of people generally associated with evil cultures because I know that people can and do change. When a country truly is free, when people are at liberty to question, to challenge, to publish radical ideas and debate them in public without fear of retribution even if others are grievously offended by people's blasphemy or lack of faith or blah blah blah, decency and reason win out in the end. The immigrant parents with bad cultures are, in a society like that, powerless to prevent their children from questioning them and from rejecting their parents' teachings if they judge those teachings to be in error. That was shown in the US in the 19th century, in the days of the great melting pot. Nobody deliberately aimed at that result, it came about from the simple fact of men being set free to reason and act according to their own best judgement. Faced with the variety of viewpoints to consider and consequences to observe, the children of the immigrants strongly tended to adopt better outlooks on life, keeping only those elements of their parents' teachings as they fould reasonable. The result was a single culture that simply had a patchwork of different concrete-level practices and values that were harmless and even fascinating - and the fact that men were free to retain those differences is part of what made the USA great. The problem today is not immigration. It never was in the past when borders were far more porous than now, and it isn't the problem today. The problem is one of attacks on freedom and its foundation in reason. We are being constantly told that logic is but a mere Western prejudice, and laws are being made with that claim in mind. It is becoming increasingly illegal to question. It is becoming increasingly illegal to offend someone's religious sensibilities. It is becoming increasingly illegal to point out that one culture's take on some issue is morally superior or inferior to another culture's take on it. The more this happens, the less that the children of immigrants are becoming exposed to and are able to ponder the differences. The more this happens, the more that the immigrant parents are able to seal their own intra-urban borders, not against the immigration of people but against the immigration of foreign languages and ideas. By means the damnable edict from multiculturalism, "THOU SHALT NOT QUESTION", ghettoes are being formed from which the children of immigrants are finding it harder and harder to escape. For now the ghettoes' barriers are largely psychological, but the way things are going they may well become physical. There already are increasing calls for the setting up of culture-based judicial systems in defiance of existing codes of justice, and there are already no-go zones in cities of WESTERN countries where police fear to tread. Make no mistake, things are going to get MUCH worse than the occasional Parisian carbeque - but "unchecked and indiscriminate immigration" is not to blame. The solution to the problem of immigrants with evil cultures is NOT to close borders by means military force, but to bust them WIDE OPEN by means of encouraging dialogue and dissent. The solution must come from re-establishing men's right to question and challenge. The solution must come from re-establishing men's right to make and act upon their own judgement. The solution must come, not from side issues such as the availability of welfare, but from the ascendency of REASON and RIGHTS. Establish those in a country and one may open the national doors as wide as they can go without fear of being overtaken by "them", for in time most - and particularly their children - will become valued members of "US." JJM
  13. Mate, read The Fountainhead! Read The Fountainhead AND Atlas Shrugged! JJM
  14. In relation to concretes, the metaphysically-given is that which is part of the nature of existence itself, such as the nature of atoms of calcium, aluminium, silicon and oxygen. The man-made is that which is the result of man creating new combinations of the metaphysically given to give him things that suit him, such as bricks and mortar and the buildings that men make from them. In relation to abstractions, the metaphysically-given is principles that intrinsically govern the motion of objects, such as the laws of electromagnetism describing how those atoms bind together when they are in bricks and mortar. The man-made is that which is the result of man creating moral precepts, such as making legal laws and enforcing them from within buildings that are supposed to be places where men dispense justice. Because the former cannot be morally judged, whereas the latter must be. The difference then conditions what one should think and what one should do in the circumstance. If something is part of the metaphysically-given then that something's roots in the Laws of Identity and Causality just have to be accepted for what they are. All a man can do is make sure he has figured them out right and then choose their application in any given instance. What things can be made with atoms or subatomic particles etc, given their implacable natures? Can I improve the characteristics of the mortar I am using by changing what materials I am using? The application of morality is comparatively straight forward here because oneself is the only man in consideration: figure things out scientifically using the appropriate sciences in the appropriate ways and then use the findings to improve one's life. If something is part of the man-made then no part of it is to be accepted in that manner. The man-made is the result of what men have chosen to do, and so can and should be morally judged. The science to use from right from start all the way to finish is morality. Then, if the result of judgement is that something is bad, that requires condemnation of some kind. If on the other hand the result is that something is good then that requires celebration of some kind. And then after that, what one should do in response can be complex to figure out because of one's actions involving interaction with other men besides oneself. For instance, Eminent Domain is abhorrent, the outcome of the Kelo case was a travesty, and something needs to be done - but justice here will not consist of ignoring the court's decision and must instead consist of other ways to make restitution to Kelo and also agitate for the abolition of Eminent Doman via lawful means. As part of that, what means are moral and lawful itself has to be well-judged. JJM
  15. Excel has a track-changes option in it - at least from 2003 onwards. I haven't used it, though, so I don't know if it would suit your needs (I have used it in Word and found it helpful). JJM
  16. I never experienced it myself, but apparently in the 90's there was a bad batch of Intel CPU's that had dodgy floating-point subunits. It must have sent people needing to calculate with big mantissas bonkers. A certain chant was later reworded and pressed into service: "We are Pentium of Borg. Precision is futile. You will be approximated." JJM
  17. See this, then this. Free speech (along with privacy) is a derivative of property rights. Like in relation to all aspects of rights, the government has no business taking any action unless people are using their property to violate others' rights. Free speech arises because have the right to use our property in any way we so wish except as an instrument in a specific act of initiation of force. Publishing ideas does not count. Only a direct command for others to act to use force counts as a violation, in which case the property owner is actively an accessory to a specific crime. Hat-tip: Billy Beck. JJM
  18. Adding two and two to get five is an old trick with spreadsheets and calculators. It works by the precision of the number in calculaton being higher than the precision of the number as displayed. 2.4 + 2.4 = 4.8, but when the figures are rounded to whole figures for display purposes it looks like 2+2=5. *prick*TSSSSSsssss....* "awwwww...." JJM
  19. The point is that it is not property owners' reponsibility to solve that problem, and nor is it their obligation to acquiesce in their right to choose what happens on their property being abrogated by others with that problem. There is no such thing as an inherent right to engage in trade with someone against their will. If they don't want to trade with you, even if we can objectively say that their reasons are utterly atrocious, then that's too bad. The proper way to deal with the problem is to address oneself to property owners' minds and their self-interests. The moral principle is no different to what the proper solution to racism or sexism were - and sadly, the actual responses so far have been the same immoralities: government diktat. The advocacy of use of force totally eliminates the moral credibility of the activists, even if (again) we might agree with their underlying case. JJM
  20. John McVey


    You're lucky she didn't give you a good smack on the botty for that! JJM
  21. G'day Hobkin. I'm a former QC lab tech, myself, constantly doing various biochem tests on input lake water and intermediate product. Man, I'm getting sore eyes just thinking about cell-counting with that stereomicroscope and hemocytometer! There are at least two biologists here I know of, too, so you're not alone. Yours is a novel route to Objectivism, though from this point forward I suspect wont be unique! I haven't played Bioshock myself, so I can't comment on the content. Most people are introduced via Ayn Rand's novels: We The Living, Anthem, The Fountainhead, and Atlas Shrugged. There is also a considerable amount of non-fiction by Miss Rand and other Objectivists. To get started, the Ayn Rand Institute has a suggested reading list. From there, go where your interests and needs take you! If you have difficulty getting materials locally, there is always the Ayn Rand Bookstore, which includes a lot of material not generally available elsewhere. JJM
  22. I don't know about household or other urban situations, but it doesn't look like it in relation to industrial sites. My last employer leased land from a steelworks with spare land. That steelworks used an outside contractor (formerly Serco, now Tungsten) for its internal emergency services, including firefighting needs. Part of our lease contract was that Serco/Tungsten also served us and another lessee. I ran across this - Serco is the main private contractor for firefighting and training of local staff in it for many airports. And I am aware that there are private firms who specialise in fighting oilwell fires, such as the famous Boots & Coots - I guess I am showing my age, but I also remember Red Adair. Hellfighters, anyone? They already exist. These firms would also be of various types, such as specialist private investigators (of course) but others that many people might not have heard of such as loss adjusters, who as well as helping claimants make their claims would no doubt be on the look-out for insurance fraud. I'm sure there are other types of investigators and specialists, too. JJM
  23. For new sources of fresh gold, sure, but mines wont be mints' only customers. People will also choose to have old jewellery minted into coins, for instance. That's wrong in a number of ways. The whole money supply of what's up top will be (and today still is) considerably larger than new mining. The last figures I saw were that gold currently being dug up per year is around 2% of what is sitting in various Central Bank's vaults. If gold were properly money that topside gold would be in our pockets and the vaults of our own banks instead, with the total being pretty much the same. That means the gold mining sector as a whole wont have anywhere near as much influence over the value of gold as you think. You're also confusing the gold-mining sector as a whole with the individual miners. In reality they are competing with each other, and will have minimal ability to alter the price of gold. Profits will go to those who keep costs down below revenues, same as for any business. As a proportion of total revenues, the vast bulk will go to payroll and accounts payable, with a bit also going to creditors as interest. The bit left over, the profits, is then either spent as capital expenditure for new equipment etc or forwarded to stockholders as dividends, again same as normal for other businesses. Taking that as stated, it is wrong. I am assuming you really mean to say that the wealth of the world is expressed in terms of quantitative units of gold. You're confusing two separate phenomenon - economic growth on the one hand and new money being introduced on the other. There is no problem re gold in either alone or in combination. JJM
  24. If I recall correctly, modern fire departments started out exactly like that. Building owners would buy insurance from businesses that would also provide fire-fighting services. The owners would then place a plaque on the front of their building to identify to the firefighters that they were contracted to serve a given building. If memory further serves me, I think there are old buildings in UK cities that still bear those plaques, though naturally today they're just curiosities. More likely the impetus for this or that system will come from insurers, as already happens now. If you buy building or contents insurance today your premiums will vary depending on the security and fire-danger levels of that building and contents, and the contracts will also specify that you must keep various systems (eg alarms, sprinklers etc) fully functional. In business the contracts often get tailored specifically to each site, complete with requirements for this or that system along with regular inspections and tests whose records must be presented to claims assessors upon demand. Unless the insurers themselves run firefighting operations, I strongly suspect that the most common arrangement (though by no means the only one permissible) will be that the fire-fighters will be independent contractors whose primary clients will be insurance companies rather than building owners themselves. What I also suspect is likely is a privatisation of written Standards. Instead of there being a single body with the monopoly on the formulation of standards or accreditation of formulators, there may be a number of them. The standards writers would then be in competition with each other, just as say Kosher certification bodies are now. JJM
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