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Everything posted by khaight

  1. Yes, as long as you oppose its existence. Rand addressed the basic moral issue in her essay "The Question of Scholarships". Capsule summary: The government takes so much wealth from the productive that it is moral to take advantage of any legal opportunity to get some of it back.
  2. I was the "someone" in question, and all I have to say is "nice!" Ideas are cheap; the willingness to bring them into reality is rarer.
  3. This is the essence of it, yes. When one chooses to bring a child into existence, one does so knowing that children require extensive support before they mature enough to be capable of acting as independent adults. Your choice brings with it the responsibility of bridging that gap. Your counter-argument seems to turn on the idea that it isn't possible to objectively determine the difference between a child and an adult. Is that your position? I don't see the analogy. The assumption there is that the government (or 'society') owns the country and is therefore entitled to specify the conditions one must follow to remain within it. But that assumption is false -- the country is not some kind of collective property. In the childhood case you have taken a readily determinable action to bring a dependent entity into existence, and you are morally responsible for the foreseeable consequences of your actions.
  4. I think the Tea Party movement is based largely on a sense-of-life rejection of the country's direction in recent years. People know they don't like where things are heading, but they lack a firm set of ideas laying out a positive alternative program. Because ideas ultimately drive history, a lack of them will ultimately lead the movement to collapse. That's the bad news. The good news is that the Tea Parties provide an audience of people looking for alternatives to the status quo. It's up to those who have the ideas (viz. us) to present them, to try to give the movement the intellectual grounding it so badly needs. It's a tremendous opportunity for intellectual activism. I was at a Tea Party rally in San Jose on April 15th; I and some other local Objectivists handed out about a hundred copies of Peikoff's "Health Care Is Not A Right" and a bunch of pins for the newly-formed "Black Ribbon Project". The essence of the activity is captured in an exchange my wife had when she offered a pamphlet to an attendee. She offered him a copy of "Health Care Is Not A Right". He said "I already know that." She said "Yes, but this will explain why." He took the pamphlet. There's a lot of energy in the Tea Party movement, but it needs direction. There are a lot of conservatives trying to harness that energy and direct it in accordance with their ideas. If they aren't opposed they'll succeed by default. I know what I'm doing to try to prevent that. What are you doing?
  5. Ramkissoon is a victim of the bizarre ideas she chose to accept. She victimized herself. Her son, on the other hand, was a victim of Ramkissoon. What about his justice?
  6. The ultimate goal is to reduce government spending to that required for its proper function, and to reduce taxation to zero while migrating to a voluntary financing system. As such, I am generally supportive of policy changes that take us in that direction. A flat tax is probably such a step, insofar as it makes it more difficult for the government to engage in illegitimate social engineering via the tax code. I don't think this is the best area to focus current tax-related activism at this time, unfortunately. The Democrats seem to be planning to introduce a VAT in the near future, on top of all the other existing taxes, and that move must be stopped. We also need to get spending back under control, or the spiraling debt will simply crush us. So a simple fiscal policy activism focus would be: Cut Spending, No New Taxes.
  7. The basic idea behind the Laffer Curve is that if you have tax something at a rate of 0%, you will get no revenue, and if you tax something at a rate of 100% nobody will perform the taxed action and you will still get no revenue. This implies that as you vary the rate from 0% to 100%, the amount of revenue you get will start at 0, rise to some level and then decline to 0 again. And that implies that, under some circumstances, it is possible for a government to obtain more revenue by lowering the tax rate. The lowered tax rate enables more production, and your tax provides you with a smaller proportionate slice of a larger economic pie. Conservatives relied heavily on this argument to defend Reagan's tax cutting program in the 1980's. While valid within its own context, it is not an argument Objectivists should adopt. The implicit premise is that the goal of tax policy should be to maximize government revenue, and this is just not true. The fundamental argument for tax cuts is moral: the wealth belongs to those who created it, and it is wrong to take it from them by force.
  8. They had a longer list of twenty-two or twenty-three planks. People were allowed to pick 10 of them. So you can't necessarily conclude that just because only 56% voted for plank X, the other 44% would oppose it. It just means they ranked it lower than the 10 planks they did vote for. The good thing about the Contract is that it eschews the religionist agenda, focusing primarily on issues of economic liberty and fiscal responsibility. The bad thing about the Contract is its lack of integrating vision. It's a grab bag of concrete policy positions, some better than others -- has a 'Blue Ribbon Commision' ever accomplished anything? -- and the attempt in the preamble to tie it together is vague and unconvincing. How difficult would it be to have a simple statement along the lines of "The proper function of government is the protection of the individual rights of the citizens. Our government has lost sight of this purpose. As the first steps towards restoring government to it proper limits, we support the following proposals: ..." followed by the planks. That would provide the main thing sorely lacking from the document as written -- an integrating context that would point the way towards the next contract, and the one after that, and the one after that. That said, it's probably better than nothing, and I did vote on it myself.
  9. That's a somewhat misleading presentation of the data. Blumenthal is the Democratic nominee. The 3 candidates for the Republican nomination are Simmons, McMahon and Schiff. The poll tests matchups of each of the GOP candidates against the Democrat. In those matchups Blumenthal beats Simmons 52-38, he beats McMahon 55-35, and he beats Schiff by 58-32. There are really two hurdles Schiff would have to pass to make it into the Senate. He would need to win the GOP primary, and he would need to win the general election. The old polling I've seen shows him getting stomped by Simmons and McMahon in the primary, and this poll shows him getting stomped by Blumenthal in the general. Honestly I don't see how he wins this one. (Does anybody have a poll that shows Schiff even breaking out of single digits in the primary?) Realistically this seat became a Democratic hold the moment Dodd decided not to run for reelection.
  10. I'm not sure what you're asking here. What do you think 'culturalism' consists of, and why does it need a concept of its own? Enjoying specific concretes that originate in a foreign culture -- whether food, music, dance, architecture, whatever -- is just another kind of optional value. Multiculturalism carries an egalitarian assertion that all cultures are equally valuable, which is simply not true. As William A. Henry observed in In Defense of Elitism, "Putting a bone in one's nose is scarcely on the level of putting a man on the moon." But if you, as an individual, decide that you really like Swedish meatballs, and they improve your life, go for it.
  11. It really depends on your areas of interest. If you're not interested in economics, you probably shouldn't tackle Reisman's Capitalism even though it was written by an Objectivist. Some of the books you list, like Gotthelf's Ayn Rand and Hull's The Ayn Rand Reader are introductions or samplers, in which you won't find anything new if you're read substantively in the main corpus. Rather than try to present a comprehensive list of books by Objectivist and/or Objectivish intellectuals, it would be better if you gave us some indication of what your purpose is. Are you interested in philosophy? History? Economics? Psychology? Art? The internal history of the Objectivist movement?
  12. I'm not sure what you're trying to find out here. A list of adjectives that can be legitimately applied to propositions? What purpose would that serve? Why do you want one?
  13. 'Fact' is metaphysical -- a fact is an aspect of reality. 'Truth' is epistemological -- a grasp, identification or recognition of a fact by a consciousness. To say that a fact 'is true' commits a category error. To say that an identification of a fact is true is to say that the means or method by which the consciousness grasped the fact is valid; to say that an identification of a fact is false is to say that the means or method by which the consciousness attempted to grasp the fact is not valid. (To say that an alleged identification of a fact is arbitrary is to say that the consciousness is asserting its truth apart from any means or method.) Technically, an identification performed by a means which could not have operated any way other than it did is neither true nor false, because such methods of awareness are technically neither valid nor invalid. They just are. This is why percepts are neither true nor false, while perceptual judgments are. Perceptual judgments are conceptual identifications of facts given in perception; conceptualization is volitional and therefore can be done incorrectly.
  14. There's no need to wonder; it is. Unless, of course, those of us who understand why manage to stop it.
  15. What do you mean by "Objectivist businesses"? Here are five off the top of my head that are either run by Objectivists or on the basis of Objectivist ideas: BB&T Hutchinson Technology Crafted Fun Nurturing Wisdom Tutoring Van Damme Academy I don't see anything particularly unique about the names.
  16. I take it as a reference to what Rand called "sense of life".
  17. Marx talked about "dialectical materialism". That's a theory in epistemology. Remember how Marxists dismiss criticism as mere "bourgeois logic"? That commitment to class-based polylogism is a theory in epistemology. Marx's view that a person's ideas are caused by the system of economic production in which he lives is a theory in epistemology. Marx was an economic determinist; determinism is a theory in epistemology. Etc. Marx criticized selfishness as evil and upheld the goodness of sacrifice for the public good. Those are ethical positions. Marx held "from each according to his ability, to each according to his need." That's an ethical position. Etc.
  18. Also, in light of my above remarks, I can't resist pointing out that fascism is a form of socialism. Never forget that "Nazi" is short for "National Socialist Worker's Party". So in a way the answer to the question "Is Obama a fascist or a socialist" is "Why can't he be both?" It's also worth noting that the fascists were themselves influenced by Marx, so there's no contradiction between identifying Obama as a fascist and acknowledging the Marxist elements in his thought and background. In the end, though, Obama is a thorough statist and collectivist, utterly hostile to the principle of individual rights. That's the fundamental. Whether he's a fascist or a socialist or a Marxist is derivative. That only identifies the particular form of totalitarianism he is working towards, and from the point of view of the victims -- us -- does that really matter?
  19. I think the right term to describe his domestic policies is "fascist". His signature policy initiatives do not call for overt nationalization of industries or the abolition of private property. Rather, they call for total government control inside a nominally private framework. Don't nationalize the auto companies -- give controlling ownership interests to your political allies. Don't nationalize the banks -- give them bailout money and use that as leverage to dictate their lending and compensation policies. Don't nationalize the medical industry -- dictate the kinds of policies they can sell, and force people to buy them with their own money. Etc.
  20. This is a tough one. There are really two issues here: principles and selfishness. Start by decoupling them and focus on one at a time. I'd suggest the need of principles as a better starting place, because one's self-interest can really only be grasped through principles. Without principles, selfishness collapses into whim-worship. Try pointing out that one can only determine what is practical by making use of principles. An action is practical if it 'works', i.e. leads to the correct results. But how can you know what the future consequences of an action will be? Only by reference to cause and effect, which is to say by reference to principles that capture our knowledge of what kinds of effects flow from what kinds of causes. Without principles, one is left with no way to decide whether an action will 'work' except how one feels, and emotions aren't a valid means of cognition. Everybody has had the experience of wanting or feeling something to be true, only to have the facts say otherwise. Emotions don't validate knowledge, and that's a big part of why we need principles. Principles enable practical action. Without them you're just flailing around in the dark.
  21. You'll note that in my view a revolution need not be violent. It's simply a sudden and fundamental change in the relationship between the government and the governed. There's an old saying that "if something can't go on forever, it won't." The current political-economic structure of the United States government can't go on forever. The revenue/outlay model is just out of proportion, and something has to give. When it does there will be a major change of some kind, which by my standards constitutes a revolution. Right now the government is borrowing money to paper over the gap in its budget. Watch for signs that the gap is widening and the government's ability to borrow money is decreasing. In that light, I offer this and this as data points for consideration on how dire the situation is.
  22. I think the key is that the currency is no longer usable as a medium of exchange, i.e. if you have some of it you can't trade it to anybody else for anything of value. This can happen for a variety of reasons, as you indicate.
  23. That's a bit less clear. In the extreme case, a currency 'collapses' when it loses its value as a medium of exchange. A historical example would be the collapse of the Papiermark in Weimar Germany; a contemporary example would be the collapse of the Zimbabwe dollar. When you have a hundred trillion dollar bill in your hand and its most valuable use is as toilet paper, it's a fair bet that something has collapsed. The collapse of a currency is generally followed by either a de jure or de facto issuance of a replacement currency. (Failing that, people are reduced to barter.) In Weimar Germany there was a de jure replacement, the Rentenmark. I'm not sure about the current state of affairs in Zimbabwe.
  24. This gets back to the unanswered question: what is a revolution, exactly? Violence isn't a necessary condition -- consider the Glorious Revolution of 1688, or the Orange Revolution in Georgia. Nor is it sufficient -- violence without a change in government is mere rioting. The essence of a revolution is a fundamental change in the nature of the government and its relationship to the governed. A strike is a tactic which can be deployed in pursuit of revolution.
  25. "John Galt went on strike and all I could produce on my own was this lousy T-shirt."
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