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Michael McGuire

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  1. You insist on evading reality by intentionally not understanding why thousands of Alaskan fishermen were not adequately compensated, people who received a fraction of their actual losses, and doing so by essentially saying "Well the Supreme Court ruled this way so it must be just." I can bet you have haven't even bothered to find out why so many fishermen were devastated. The court had every legal justification for ruling the way it did, but in the end is justice served? Ask the plaintiffs who died before they got money, or the plaintiffs who were stripped of their livelihood through no fault of their own. You have no answer for this, nor do you seem to even have any curiosity about it. You seem to be celebrating your own ignorance with respect to why it is very difficult to sue a large corporation. I'm at least somewhat encouraged that no one posted any agreement to your assertions here, which probably means you're an outlier here in your unreasonableness. My bad for not recognizing this sooner. Have a good one.
  2. The purpose of bringing up Exxon was to show the potential futility of taking claims to court against a mega corporation. In order to protect one's rights and property, relying on the court system after the fact would seemingly give such mega corporations more rights than individuals. Trying to sue a company like Exxon, which had clear liability beyond dispute, was an exhaustive ordeal. If you're lucky you might get a settlement offer, which almost assuredly will be far below the actual damages, but at least its money in hand. If anyone wants to read the link describing the litigation and how such lawsuits usually go down, be my guest. If you prefer to live in a dreamworld where courts magically bestow even-handed justice and that money plays no factor in an attempt to claim damages, you can do that too. If you read up on fascism you will find that in order to qualify as fascism, something has to have just about ALL the elements of that ideology. You can't just pick out the ones that seem to match with your thesis. What about extreme nationalism, totalitarianism, ethnic purity, suppression of dissent, cult of one supreme leader, etc? The original case was argued in the early 90's. All the subsequent appeals were about the punitive damages, not the actual damages, which were figured in the original case. The average income statewide for fishermen may be closer to $65,000 according to this site, but it may be different for the fishermen of Prince William Sound. It is a $11 billion industry up there. From this site: Regardless, they made pretty good money. The problem is the debt load of many of the fishermen was tremendous, to pay for permits and specialized boats. No compensation for that. I just find it curious that you are are so willing to side with Exxon versus the individual fishermen, many who's lives were clearly destroyed by Exxon's transgression. Why not take the blinders off and read for yourself what happened to those people? If you think anyone was even close to compensated for their actual damages you just aren't paying attention or are being obtuse. Don't you care about individual rights?
  3. And here is a link to an analysis of the Exxon litigation. A long but thorough explanation of how you can get screwed in the court system fighting for your rights. Interesting bit from the conclusion that goes to my point:
  4. Which is indicative of....what? What do cells subdividing have to do with anything? It is certainly not a similar situation to having an entire ecosystem affected by toxic oil and having it still impacting the environment (and thus people's income) 20 years later. I mean if we're going to have even a semi-serious conversation here, you've got to figure out why such false equivalencies are only distracting from any point you wish to make. I think you meant to say statists. Fascism is a term that really does not apply here. Unless you have your own definition you are working from that I am not aware of, please see here. Why are you obsessed with misusing the word fascist? Anyway, I am not deviating from the underlying principle of individual rights ruling supreme. My question is in relation to the competing rights of two parties, one to partake in his autonomous action, and the other to the protection of his property from the (potentially) threatening actions of that first party. Now when I say potentially, I mean an action that can be considered reasonably and significantly dangerous to another's property or person. In the case of BP and this spill, it can be argued, and has been by others on this very thread other than me, that government oversight may be warranted when certain actions, such as off shore oil drilling, create a level of potential destruction that threaten the individual rights of property owners. The threat to be mitigated can not be trivial or inconsequential, but must pose a significant hazard. Now let's take a look at the Exxon Valdez spill, and the actual efforts to be made whole through the court system. The actual damages paid in 1989 up front ($300 million) by Exxon to commercial fishermen only applied to the fishing season that year. Fishermen in Alaska made $100,000 per year on average, but only received about $10,000 each. At the time, it was thought the ecosystem would repair itself in a few years, and this affected the lawsuit, but that was not the case. As you can see, suing a company like Exxon won't yield a payout for up to 20 years, a period of time many died before being adequately compensated. If you're a company with the resources of Exxon, you can employ a myriad of delay tactics, and bury your opponents in legal filings and bogus scientific "studies", all of which has to be countered by your own attorneys working for free for 20 years in the hopes that maybe they'll get a payout down the line that will make it all worth it. Most firms couldn't afford to even take your case, and the big firms would only take it if they could get a big payday through a punitive damages claim. So there is no chance Exxon will be sued for actual damages beyond that first year because 1)the studies showing definitively that the oil caused the decline in the fishing were only completed years later, and 2) those potential plaintiffs would have to wait a similar time to see another lawsuit through, and 3) what law firm would take the case? So one alternative to the Exxon scenario is to have some regulatory oversight in place to mitigate the possibility of future occurrences. This is a perfectly reasonable line of inquiry.
  5. This essentially dovetails with my original question. More importantly, the assumption made by Russk and Seeker is that money can return the damaged party to the original state before the initiation of force. As we talked about the Exxon Valdez spill, it is clear from all the studies in that case the Prince William Sound has not returned to its previous state, despite the cleanup efforts. So in cases where the damages are not reversible, or at least for not many years, does the government have an interest in mitigating risky behavior that have the potential for catastrophic consequences?
  6. I couldn't find anything to verify Exxon paid out $500 million to victims right away. My understanding is that amount was the actual damages they were sued for, and wasn't arrived at until a jury made a determination in 1994. That's five years, not "almost immediately." And you figure the lawyers take a third of that. The payments averaged out to about $15,000 per plaintiff. I don't know about you but that hardly sounds like adequate compensation for the loss of even a year's pay, much less the loss of one's livelihood through no fault of your own. One in six plaintiffs died before they got any money. You are wrong in that it is not about simply throwing money at people and making it all go away. The fishing industry was devastated and still hasn't fully recovered. The tourism industry took a hit and the continues to because the pristine area people came to visit, especially wildlife, hasn't fully recovered. There are still 26,000 gallons of oil on the beaches that was never cleaned up. The impact goes on and on into the future. Driving a cab may be more risky to one's person, but that is beside the point. I can't wreck my cab and cause billions of dollars in damages to others. Even if I could, try and collect it from my meager assets. Again, aren't there some limits as to the risks one should be allowed to take in society, risks that could endanger others or cause damage to others' property, e.g should I be able to erect a shoddily built apartment building at the top of a hill that may possibly crumble and destroy all the buildings below it? Does government have a compelling interest to moderate excessive risk by employing some oversight over certain activities, in order to protect the community from harm or property damage?
  7. It's clear everyone agrees that if BP is liable for the accident they should pay the damages. What might be problematic is that it could take 10 years or maybe 20 to be awarded any damages, and huge up-front payouts to attorneys. That's a good portion of one's lifetime down the tubes waiting. I don't think disasters like this are covered by insurance. So in the case of a fishing company, it's pretty much game over. From Wikipedia: According to several studies funded by the state of Alaska, the spill had both short- and long-term economic effects. These included the loss of recreational sports, fisheries, reduced tourism, and an estimate of what economists call "existence value," which is the value to the public of a pristine Prince William Sound. The larger concern here is the consequences of risks undertaken by individuals resulting in damages to unrelated third parties. This oil spill is not an isolated event, only the biggest incident of such an event. Off shore oil drilling is inherently risky in a way that oil drilling on land isn't, for precisely this reason. Doesn't the community have an interest in limiting individuals/companies from undertaking risk that can potentially cause such massive and lasting damage to others, or at least in overseeing operators undertaking such risk to help prevent such consequences in the future?
  8. I haven't seen any commentary on this site concerning the massive oil spill in the gulf that is currently hitting the Louisiana coast. Considering the massive amount of property damage that is about to occur, not to mention the catastrophic effects on the ecology of the region, how should we be thinking about this disaster in terms of off shore drilling and any possible regulatory oversight? Is it fair to say that some risky actions such as off shore drilling have the potential for widespread and long term damage to other parties and should be curtailed? I for one am perplexed by the implications of it, because even if claims for damage are processed, which will certainly take decades to be paid in full (using Exxon Valdez event as a benchmark) the people effected by this, such as the fishing industry, can't really be made whole again.
  9. It's only voluntary in that the alternative can mean that by quitting you end up 1) losing your house and becoming homeless, 2) not being able to feed your family, 3) starting over at another company at a lower wage with less security, 4) losing your pension, 5) not being able to afford the insurance and you have a medical condition, or your family member does, etc. etc. etc. I'm not saying you should never quit, but just really sometimes that it can come at a real price. This is why coming together as a bargaining unit with your fellow workers makes real economic sense. Not really the same thing I don't think. How does a worker use this to leverage a better wage or working condition? I just don't understand why Objectivism has to be about perfect market efficiency. I mean, capitalism can be brutal, and I for one have made my peace with that. But there are so many Objectivists who, perhaps to assuage their guilt at the realities of capitalism, make the case that a Utopian society will emerge if government involvement in the economy ends. Pullman was a company town. Virtually the whole town was owned or controlled by the company. There was nowhere else to go without everyone leaving town en masse. When two business negotiate a business agreement, the business with the most leverage usually gets the better end of the deal. What is wrong with unskilled workers banding together to establish the leverage needed for negotiations with the employer? That's just capitalism in action.
  10. I'm not talking about feelings really. There are rational reasons why people stay near family and friends, people who they know and can count on. Leaving all that for a job that doesn't pay substantially better may be counterproductive. Not to mention a mortgage on a house and the consideration of the lives of one's other family members. Don't employers know the difficulty and oft times impossibility of just picking up and leaving a job, and isn't this a factor that works in their favor in wage negotiations? I would check your assumption there. Wouldn't you agree that human beings are not perfect machines and a society consisting of imperfect people in itself can produce inefficiencies, such as unemployment? A recession gripped the nation's economy beginning in 1893. Orders for Pullman cars fell off and management began a program of lay-offs and wage cuts. The cuts, applied not to managerial employees but only to the hourly workers, averaged 25 percent. Since Pullman wages were already close to the subsistence level, it was a recipe for disaster for the workers. So isn't it their right to organize to achieve some bargaining leverage against their employer in order to earn a wage commensurate with the value of their work?
  11. I would think there would be many reasons why people would feel compelled to take a job where they were underpaid. What if there is a surplus of job seekers and too few jobs? What if a person's family/friends/interests were within a certain geographic area and it would not be easy to relocate (losing support system)? There are reasons other than monetary compensation that are important. I think of the Gilded Age and the rise of labor unions when I think of this subject. At this time industrialists had come up with many production methods where the use of unskilled labor was relied on more and more. Unskilled labor has less bargaining power than skilled labor, so you saw many workers who essentially had no choice but to accept any employment they could get. Why didn't workers simply walk away instead of instigating the Great Railroad Strike of 1877 or the Pullman Strike of 1894?
  12. For the sake of argument, isn't it possible that workers could be broadly exploited by businesses working in collusion to keep wages low? Marxists believe that profits by a business entity are derived by undervaluing the worker contribution. In reality, don't workers have very little leverage in salary negotiations for most low to mid wage jobs? And without leverage, how can workers negotiate for the true value of their labor, and thus avoid exploitation?
  13. I wouldn't have thought money=power concept would be controversial either. If CEO Johnson of corporation X worth $100 billion is vying with small business owner Miller over (fill in the blank), who do you think has the money to buy allies and influence people in order to get his way? There are billions of examples of money equating with power that have nothing to do with politics. That's just the reality that has to be accepted, losers get stomped. Survival of the fittest. Maybe you have some evidence to show that the conventional wisdom is wrong and that the Bush Administration was actually more regulatory-minded than the Clinton Administration.
  14. He did spend more, but the oversight of the economy and society at large by regulatory bodies was loosened for sure. I don't think this is controversial. Maybe not a rational argument, but there is a practical argument. That is, one can argue that the continuity of a stable and prosperous society that is predominantly free is preferable to a completely free society riven by internal strife. Earlier MichaelH made the point that money equals power in society. If this is true, and economic inequality results from Capitalism, then one can make a good case that society may start to fragment once it gets to a certain point. I think there is a lot more going on in these societies you mentioned to determine whether they flourished or not. Many societies flourished for a long time under oppressive regimes, only to be usurped or crushed by other civilizations that often were even more oppressive. Mostly civilizations succeeded or failed based on the competence of their rulers, military might, access to trading partners, and plentiful resources within their borders. Modern China has brought millions of people out of poverty using the tools of capitalism but still is essentially a communist country. Individual rights is not driving their economic growth, nor is their any sign that their communist form of government is in danger of overthrow.
  15. I think it is reasonable to ask whether or not the system that is proposed to replace the current one is self-sustaining or not. If it collapses in on itself (high unemployment, economic gridlock, low consumer confidence, etc) then most people would say it hasn't "worked". So you have to make the case to people that their lives will be better under Capitalism rather than a mixed economy. Perhaps it would be better to explain why, when arguing for pro-Capitalist principles, the median income in the USA has gone slightly down during the last 8 years, a time with relatively less government oversight of the economy than the previous 8 years with higher taxes and more government oversight. Because people look at this and say, You know, this is why I should support government involvement in regulating the economy.
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