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Everything posted by khaight

  1. There is one other vital thing to remember when thinking about moral questions: the role of principles in human life. Rational self-interest is proper, but figuring out what actually is and is not in your interest requires principles. When you ask yourself whether you should take some action, you should always be asking yourself what principle or principles apply. Reason validates the principles, and the principles allow you to evaluate the long-term consequences of actions.
  2. There's a distinction between a career and a job. Roark's career was always architect -- it's just that sometimes his job wasn't. He never stopped working towards being a successful architect. When he was in the quarry, he was saving money to let him reopen his architecture office at some future date. That said, Roark's career was never blocked by the threat of force in the way that many careers are today. (I would think very carefully about entering medicine as a career today, for example.) You have to think long-term about what will make you happy, within the realm of the possible.
  3. In light of this, I offer up Mark Waid's comic Irredeemable for study. It examines what happens when the world's greatest superhero (a thinly-disguised version of Superman) finally snaps under the burden of conventional 'hero' morality. The lashing-out that results transforms him into the world's greatest villain. Waid is also writing a parallel series called Incorruptible, in which one of the world's greatest villains witnesses the events of Irredeemable and decides that since somebody needs to step up and save the world for the sake of simple self-preservation it might as well be him. I also have to mention The Savage Dragon, which features one of the more rational responses to a character discovering that he has super-powers and a desire to fight crime: he joins the Chicago police department.
  4. Not yet. I'm a little ways into chapter 2. It may take me a while as I don't have a whole lot of free time. (I still haven't read Winning the Unwinnable War, and I'm a full year behind on TOS.)
  5. They're a bit YA, but check out the "Great Brain" books by John D. Fitzgerald.
  6. Yep. Peikoff's endorsement of the Democrats in 2004/2008 was certainly controversial within the Objectivist movement. Peikoff is generally pretty hostile to the Republicans because he views the rise of religion as the greatest long-term threat to freedom in the United States. (We're talking about a time-frame of decades here.) He made his most detailed case for this in his OCON 2010 lectures earlier this month, and it's certainly a sobering argument for a frightening future, and should not be dismissed lightly. That said, I believe he has endorsed voting Republican in the upcoming mid-term elections "just this once". I agree with this, because I think it's important in the short term to maintain a close balance of power between the two parties. We need gridlock to buy time for cultural and intellectual activism. The important point to grasp is that neither the Democrats nor the Republicans are friends of freedom.
  7. I've listened to it. Some parts are better than others. The lecture on dual definitions was good, as was the one on whether morality is easy or hard to practice. I was less impressed with the one exploring how everything is interconnected. At this point I'd say that the most "bang for the buck" work on induction in the Objectivist corpus isn't a lecture at all: it's David Harriman's new book The Logical Leap: Induction in Physics. It's based on Peikoff's lecture course on the same topic, but you can pick up the book for eleven bucks at Amazon. Have you listened to Greg Salmieri's course Objectivist Epistemology in Outline? If not, I highly recommend it.
  8. They had a limited number of copies on sale here at OCON 2010 -- I picked mine up bright and early on the morning of July 3rd. It is now sitting on the desk in my hotel room with Harriman's signature on the front page, waiting for me to have time to really dig into it.
  9. This treats politeness as an intrinsic value regardless of context. It isn't. There's an old saying that a gentleman is someone who never gives offense unintentionally -- acknowledging implicitly that sometimes treating someone rudely is the correct thing to do. Putting the point bluntly, I do not respect Obama. I don't think he respects me either. So why should I pretend otherwise?
  10. I'd snub him. I have no desire to treat him (or other politicians of his ilk) as though they are civilized men, when they clearly are not. That said, I'd be polite about it -- not because I think I have an obligation to him, but because I have an obligation to myself.
  11. Back when I was a child, it always seemed to me that no matter what topic came up my mother had a book on it. I'm feeling very much like her right now. The Rand-influenced philosopher Carolyn Ray wrote her dissertation on identity theory: "Identity And Universals: A Conceptualist Approach to Logical, Metaphysical, and Epistemological Problems of Contemporary Identity Theory". If you're interested in the topic you might want to check it out. There's a copy available on the web here.
  12. I think the question is whether the 'lie' in question rises to the level of a libel or slander. In general we don't want the government to prosecute simple lies because that places the government in the position of backing up its view of the truth with force. Would you want the Obama administration to be able to prosecute a broadcaster who spread what it considered to be lies about, say, the effects of the health care reform law?
  13. The definition you cite strikes me as a bit vague in its use of the phrase "expectation of any kind of profit". If I buy a government bond, for example, there is a sense in which I am expecting 'profit' -- I expect to get my money back plus some more in the form of interest. But if I'm expecting the government to consume the money I give them, and then pay me back my principal and interest via future taxation, there is another sense in which I am not expecting profit -- I am not expecting any kind of increase in the overall supply of wealth in the economy for which I can trade my money. So a great deal turns on what is really meant by 'profit'. If we understand profit in terms of real wealth, then I think that other definition is quite similar to Rand's -- investment as the use of capital (unconsumed wealth) with the intention of making a profit (producing additional wealth in excess of the capital consumed). On the other hand, if we understand profit in purely monetary terms we can confuse receiving money with receiving real wealth when the two are not in fact the same thing -- particularly under a fiat currency regime. The addition of intention is a good refinement. It's obviously possible to make a bad investment -- to deploy your savings in a way that you think will produce wealth but which in fact does not. Webvan stock, anyone?
  14. I'm still mulling over whether investment and speculation are always mutually exclusive. You own the share of stock, and you have total control over it. You can keep it, sell it, use it as security for a loan, bury it in the yard, whatever. One of the things that ownership of a share of stock allows you to do is vote in shareholder elections, and you have full control over your vote. The assets of the corporation are deployed in accordance with the results of the aggregated votes of all the shareholders. In principle this is no different from any other kind of joint ownership. My wife and I hold title to our house in joint form -- to sell or mortgage it requires each of us to consent. So neither of us has the ability to control the use and disposal of the house on our own -- but clearly each of us owns something. We stand in a different relationship to the house than, say, you do.
  15. I think you need to start, as Rand implicitly does, with the closely related concept of "savings". Savings is wealth produced and not yet consumed. Investment is savings used to produce further wealth. There are other things you can do with savings -- you can just keep them, for example, and consume them at a later date. Note that 'used to produce further wealth' may include non-obvious behaviors. Consider speculation -- the process of acquiring a good in the present because you believe it will be more valuable in the future. Depending on the reason for the projected increase in value this may well constitute investment -- speculators shift the consumption of goods through time in exactly the same way that shippers shift the consumption of goods through space, and the process of moving goods to places and times where they are more valuable is productive. In general, this view suggests that things like owner-occupied real estate and government bonds are not strictly speaking investments, even if they do typically increase in value or return an income stream. 'Increasing in value' is not a defining characteristic of an investment. In a division of labor economy the trade value of a good is a function of what others are willing to give you in exchange, and that can change even if you just stuffed the good under your mattress for 20 years.
  16. Turn it around. You have a website which is very important to you, and you are willing to pay a premium price to your internet service provider to get a prioritized connection which makes your site load more quickly. Should you be able to purchase such priority service from an ISP? Net neutrality says no. Would there be anything ethically questionable about an ISP selling different levels of connectivity at different price points? I don't think so. There's an implicit egalitarian premise lurking behind net neutrality which is really indefensible once it is dragged into the light.
  17. I really should be more on top of this issue than I am -- I work for Cisco. Creating a smart internet is my job.
  18. You should check out the Ayn Rand Institute's website. They've got a wide range of information there, from brief textual overviews of the philosophy through to multi-hour video lectures. There are a lot of interviews and speeches on www.arc-tv.com as well. Three good, short, introductory-level books you might want to check out are Objectivism in One Lesson, Capitalism Unbound: The Incontestable Moral Case for Individual Rights, and Loving Life. The first two are by Andrew Bernstein, the third by Craig Biddle. OOL is an integrated overview of the entire philosophy in about 125 pages; it's easier for a novice to grasp than Peikoff's OPAR. CU focuses on the history of capitalism and the Objectivist case for political freedom. LL focuses on the ethics. You might also want to check out the website for the Objective Standard. It's a quarterly journal that applies Objectivist principles to current cultural and political affairs; many of the articles are free for non-subscribers and PDFs of individual articles can be purchased for less than five dollars each. If you're going to be picking through Rand's essays directly, the following ones hit many of the central points: "Philosophy: Who Needs It" and "Faith and Force: The Destroyers of the Modern World" from Philosophy: Who Needs It; "The Objectivist Ethics" from The Virtue of Selfishness; "What is Capitalism?", "Man's Rights" and "The Nature of Government" from Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal. How much time do you have for your presentation?
  19. The basic idea as I understand it would be to prohibit internet carriers from providing differential levels of service to different customers. Ray Niles wrote an article for the Objective Standard on this issue: "Net Neutrality: Towards a Stupid Internet" which is available for free; you might want to start there.
  20. I disagree. If some Plan X is in reality the best way to achieve some life-sustaining end (such as getting rid of Social Security), then Plan X is moral. What you're saying implies a split between the moral and the practical -- justice says we must do X, but practicality requires Y instead.
  21. I'm not sure I buy this. The government has records of how much money each of us has paid in FICA tax over the years -- it's a key component of the benefit payout calculation. It also has records of the benefit payments it has made to various people. So even on your premises it seems like the information exists to track how much money was taken from each individual and how much was given; from that, it would be possible to reclaim the ill-given benefits wherever possible and distribute the reclaimed funds proportionately to the people they were taxed from. The principle would be that (1) in any case where we could demonstrate that a person received wealth to which they were not entitled, they would be required to relinquish it to whatever extent possible; and (2) the recovered wealth would be returned to taxpayers on a proportionate basis. The result would be that nobody would benefit from past theft, and the victims would be compensated to the extent possible. Much wealth would be lost, and that's just a fact that has to be accepted. (Note that I'm not necessarily agreeing with or advocating this course, merely noting that it seems workable based on your premises.) Here's a question. Suppose, for sake of argument, that there were sufficient public support now to start a 30-year phase-out of Social Security, but not enough to halt it cold-turkey. Suppose further that building the public support for a full halt would take more than 30 years. In such a situation, a phasing out of Social Security would actually lead to the full cessation of the program sooner than holding out for immediate and total abolition. Were that the case, would a phasing out be justified? Phasing out Social Security when an immediate abolition is possible is to prolong theft. But what about when immediate abolition is not possible? Surely beginning a phase out is better than keeping the status quo. It reduces theft. The goal is to get rid of Social Security as soon as possible -- but it may be the case, given the beliefs of the American public, that a gradual approach would be a more rapid means to that end.
  22. Do you necessarily know that? What about the man who opposed Social Security for his entire life, but was not able to get it repealed until after reaching an age at which he can no longer work to sustain himself? His ability to save for his own retirement was stripped from him by force against his will. (Saying "he should have saved for retirement without expecting any income from Social Security" is non-responsive. Not everybody is productive enough to be able to do that in the face of the myriad burdens imposed on us by the government.) He did not want to rely on Social Security -- he was forced into it. This man is a victim, not a criminal. What, in justice, does he deserve?
  23. I think it depends on context. What are the alternatives? If there's a different career that you would love and that paid enough to live on, but you decide to do something you don't enjoy because it pays better, that's bad. But you may not have a better alternative. My parents had a friend who as far as I know didn't have a strong career passion. He wound up building a career specializing in helping airlines deal with regulatory paperwork or somesuch -- he didn't enjoy it, he didn't hate it, and it paid close to seven figures a year. He got his enjoyment outside of his profession, and that worked for him.
  24. These days many people use 'fascism' as a synonym for "anything in politics that I don't like". Their concepts are so confused that they literally don't know what they're talking about.
  25. I'm a bit baffled by this. To me, going for "the largest gains we can at any point in time" is gradualism, in that it acknowledges that we aren't going to move from our current situation to laissez-faire in a single massive step. It will be a journey over time, making gradual but constant progress. Perhaps you mean something different by the term? I would agree that we should never settle for less than we can get. There is even some evidence to suggest that asking for more can work better than asking for less -- the eastern European experiments with privatization tended to be more successful when they were sudden and large-scale rather than limited and extended over time, for example.
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