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DavidOdden

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DavidOdden last won the day on August 4

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  1. I meant what I said. In the examples that I gave, his orders clearly violated well-established law, though perhaps you are not happy about with the law on these points. Your response is mostly part directed at a different question, namely whether it is reasonable to ignore the law. Given that the purpose of a president in our republican form of government is to implement the law, Trump is dysfunctional. This is a basic divide within the population of those calling themselves Objectivists: some consider law to be optional, others consider it to be fundamental to living in a civilized society. There’s a really simple explanation for lots of Trump’s behavior: he sees himself as being above the law; the law impedes him getting what he things we need.
  2. I am not assuming that Trump has any principled foundation whatsoever. He's not a capitalist or a socialist, he's a random behavior generator. He's an unprincipled statistical machine that tries something, sees if it works, then tries something else. I don't assume that he will veto the left's press for socialism on principled grounds. I do assume that the alternative candidate tends to support socialist legislation. So the difference could come down to a slightly higher chance of veto with Trump as POTUS. The primary threat, IMO, comes not from what Biden will do, but what his successor will do when the Presidential Succession Act is triggered and ?Kamala Harris is the next president.
  3. Executive Order 13769, the Muslim travel ban, violated the McCarran–Walter Act, and the provision favoring immigration of members of minority religions in listed countries violated the First Amendment. Executive Order 13768, where the federal government illegally commanded local governments regarding enforcement of federal immigration policy, was in clear violation of 8 USC 1373 and well-established law regarding the 10th amendment. The matter of banning Acosta from press briefings, clearly contravened established First and Fifth amendment law. Termination of the DACA program violated the Administrative Procedure Act and the Due Process Clause of the 5th amendment.
  4. Before the 2016 election (at OCON, as a pertinent unscheduled remark before class in response to someone’s objection that Clinton would raise taxes), Binswanger commented “What else is new?”, correctly directing attention to the central question: which candidate would introduce the best or worst new ideas into the political area? On those grounds, I was inclined to vote for Clinton. Since the Democrat always gets the electoral votes in Washington (if the electors vote as instructed, which they did not all do), this is a purely theoretical issue for me. With the benefit of hindsight, I conclude that Trump’s policies have on balance been better than anything we could have reasonably expected under a Democratic president, and his political implementation has been vastly worse than anything we have experienced in my lifetime. I’m not talking about his popularity, I’m talking about his unprecedented expansion of executive power, his penchant for arbitrarily rewriting the law, and his generally random and unprincipled behavior. On the third hand, he did appoint two relatively decent SCOTUS justices, whereas we would be in a whole long-term world of political hurt had Clinton won. On the fourth hand, Trump has simply exploited latent broad powers that were bone-headedly granted to POTUS by Congress, by giving an unreasonable reinterpretation to statutory language. The lesson to be learned here is that Congress needs to actually read the legislation which they enact, and understand that some day (like, already), some president is going to exploit the powers inadvertently granted to him. The fifth hand is that while I originally assumed that Trump had a team of competent behind-the-scenes managers who would guide him and therefore us away from the brink of destruction if the occasion arises, that has proven to be over-optimistic. My penultimate conclusion is that it doesn’t matter all that much which one of these jokers gets elected. What does matter most is the party-line balance in the House and especially the Senate. Given the non-trivial probability of a Democrat majority in the Senate, my final conclusion is that a non-Democrat exercising veto power against the left could be important.
  5. The problem arises when your claim to naturally occuring things necessary to sustaining life, like rocks, water, and wild plants and animals, interferes with my right to naturally occuring or man-made things necessary to sustaining life. In its natural, primitive state, people living along the unmodified Nile could trot down to the river to get a drink, but this doesn’t sustain the 30 million people living in the 6.6 K square miles making up Cairo. Part of life is recognizing that very many people – like, all people – have a reasonable interest in those natually-occurring resources. Thus, the Egyptians have a right to impede the flow of the Nile for their purposes, the Sudanese do to, likewise the Ethiopians, South Sudanese and Ugandans. Also Kenya and Tanzania, because both nation border on Lake Victoria, which feeds the White Nile. I agree that when there are such shared natural resources, agreements based on facts, reason and the rights of everyone involved are necessary. We should presume that the parties involved differ in their opinions about their “rights”, and what the facts are, so this is not a matter that will in fact be solved by reason. Still, if we cannot figure out some rational principle that adjudicates there matter, we really can’t expect them to do a better job. It seems to me, based on your statement about the right to life being paramount and impeding established travel route being less important, that you have some kind of immediacy-based theory of the right to life. Travel, agriculture, drinking water, industry are all necessary for man’s survival qua man. Drinking water is immediately necessary, on the order of 3 days, compared to 3 weeks for food. That would suggest that if a man has a right to drink that water, and another man has the right to use that water to grow crops, the farmer must sacrifice his right in favor of the man with a superior right to immediate drinking water. But only according to the objective needs of slaking his thirst. If that is not what you mean, then what is the point of implying that navigation is a lesser right than drinking? Based on the nature of water usage, hydroelectric is arguably a “superior” usage by right, because it does not contradict another man’s right to use the water for drinking. Drinking up the water or using it to grow food takes it out of the river and makes it not available for hydroelectric (or anything else). From this, we should conclude that Ethiopia has a superior right to use the water that flows through it, because that water can then be used by Egypt to drink, farm, manufacture, and transport. Now, also bear in mind that drinking water is a minor use of the river by Egypt. What is the proper hierarchy of usage rights for water – drinking, irrigation, flood control, transportation, manufacturing, hydroelectric? Which necessities of life are most dispensible, which then determine what right others living along a river may do? Just because Egyptians drink some of the river, does that mean they may rightfully veto Ethiopian use of the water? The question of who built the dam is a red herring: they (the Aswan dam and theGrand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam) are both the product of government confiscation, just like Grand Coulee and Hoover dams in the US are.
  6. Many natural resources are necessary for sustaining life, so of course you should have the right to access many natural resources. In this particular case, the issue is not whether the Ethiopia dam deprives Egyptians (and Sudanese) of their right to mother nature’s bounty, it is whether Ethiopia can take an action which impinges somewhat on the right of Egyptians, viewed collectively, to access water in a fashion that the Egyptian government sees fit. Egypt itself dams the Nile river for five primary purposes: drinking water, agricultural water, water to bathe with, flood control and hydroelectric. If the government of Egypt has the right to impound a river for hydroelectric purposes, the government of Ethiopia likewise has a right to impound a tributary of that river for hydroelectric purposes. Perhaps your position is that “necessity for sustaining life” is limited to drinking and agriculture. The governments have been quasi-negotiating over the filling of the dam for a decade, however Egypt demands that construction cease before negotiations can proceed. There are competing claims as to whether construction of the dam will effect water reaching the Aswan dam positively or negatively. (It now appear that Sudan, the third party in the matter, supports the Ethiopia dam). The problem with analogies to private water company regulations is (1) that the regulations differ according to jurisdiction and (2) there is no government that runs the world (or, Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt). While water companies extract a small fraction of the water from a source which they do not entirely own, these dams impound (but do not extract) all of the water. Whether or not people who receive water piped directly to their houses are charged a fee for that service is really up to the owner of those water rights. It is quite true that the governing body that dispenses your right to your property can and does impose legal requirements on you, w.r.t. your property. Different governments allows e.g. that you can camp on a person’s property, a suitable distance from the house; you have the right to walk a traditional path; you may or may not restrict walking access to the beach in front of your house. We have “wetlands regulations” which require you to “compensate the environment” if you drain a swamp. There is clearly no limit to what limits governments can impose on your property rights. Within the context of actions in a single legal jurisdiction, the matter is resolved trivially: follow the law. There are competing theories of these “public goods” such as air, water, sunlight and wildlife. A general first-cut rule of riparian rights is that the public’s right to travel is paramount, so you cannot block a navigable river (on which count, the Aswan dam is an infringement of rights). But the state has the power to override such rights, in support of some other public good. It’s then a matter of politics to determine whose interest is superior: is my interest in a productive fish-filled river running through my property superior to your interest in impeding the river for water, electricity or irrigation? What purposes constitute “sustaining life?”. Remember, life is an active process, it is not just morgue-avoidance. A hydroelectric dam supports life, just as a drinking-water dam supports life. While we may abstractly agree that all of the people living along the Nile and its tributaries have the right to enjoy the benefits of these rivers, we still don’t have a unified framework for allocating this finite resource. Some solution can be devised which equally protects the rights of all of these people, but it requires codification and enforcement by… the United Nations, as the existing One World Government, I suppose. But then, we are clearly outside the realm of “rational, rights-respecting governments”.
  7. I only have troubles with short-term plans and goals, like getting my research projects re-started (which may have to wait for the cure), or a trip to Sardinia, again awaiting a cure (and permission to enter the zone). The three long-term issues are death, collapse of civilization, and Great Depression style collapse of the economy. I always do everything I can to avoid death, I doubt that we’re headed for a stone-age retreat, and that just leaves economic collapse. I have thought of some doomsday prepping like buying gold, rifles, and a backhoe (to hollow out the hill to stash my mountain of canned goods), but things are not dire enough for that course of action by a long shot. For the record, I was wrong about toilet paper, so there were a couple of panicky months there. Since I am retired, I don’t think about the elephant in the room for many people, namely what to do for a living in case your job is or has recently been illegal. Because I expect the hammer to come down on business again, I don’t have any sage advice for those working in what are deemed non-essential businesses. The little-discussed matter underlying your question is the assumption that this is a special case. It is clearly a special case, in the political sense – it is an extraordinary “emergency” like WWII or The Black Death. But how special is it from an objective scientific perspective? This past season, we had an estimated up to 56,000,000 cases of the flu, compared to just over 3,000,000 covid cases. Although covid is in the aggregate (i.e. summing up as of today) “more fatal”, please note that covid deaths plummeted starting around the beginning of May – we’ve learned better how to treat it. There is no discussion of current mortality rates. I don’t discount the problem of non-death long-term hospitalization problems, but these are not the kind of scientific facts that are addressed by those pushing the “extraordinary emergency” agenda. I take covid seriously, I dispute the claim that this is the end of the world as we know it.
  8. For context, Ethiopia is building a hydroelectric dam in Ethiopia on the Blue Nile, one of the main tributaries of the Nile river. Egypt wants to control the entire Nile (I have no idea how Sudan feels about this), and recently they decided to up the political ante via an appeal for UN intervention. From the Objectivist perspective, the question of who owns the Nile River is misguided in many ways. It is similar to questions about riparian rights under US law (and other legal systems). The problem is the complete lack of rational and rights-respecting theory of property rights. Who own the John Hancock tower in Chicago? Originally it was John Hancock Life Insurance – they built it, they owned it, and some years later sold it. The Nile river, or the Blue Nile rive, or Lake Tana, are naturally occurring things, not man-made creations. If you were to apply US homesteading law, any number of people could discover the value of land along one of these bodies of water, and could own a chunk of land. As part of the legal framework of homesteading, you might gain certain rights to the water as a consequence of owning the land. This rational individual-based notion of property and rights is nowhere to be seen in this particular debate. The pretense is at best that the governments of Egypt and Ethiopia are representatives of the individuals who have an interest in the water. But the individuals in Ethiopia are not building the dam, it’s a massive government project. The individuals in Egypt don’t receive the downstream benefit of water, the government does. And then the governments distribute the wealth of The Collective to individuals. The question that should be asked is, what is the proper theory of riparian rights in an Objectivist society? Privatization doesn’t really solve the problem in the way that privatizing rail or electric does. With rail and electric, there is well-understood property and a legal system of recognizing rights. That is completely lacking in the case of big rivers like the Nile.
  9. It may be that the political rhetoric in Austria is more overtly based on the appeal “we must sacrifice ourselves for that group”, but that is not the rhetoric used in the US. Appeal to “the greatest common good” underlies the government’s response, but “sacrifice” in US political rhetoric refers to “something necessary for an end, but not an immediately desirable end itself”. When soldiers, police and firemen die in the line of duty, or doctors work long hours at personal risk to save lives, it is termed a “sacrifice”, because the immediate outcome is certainly not desirable (taking a risk, working long hours), but the end towards which these people are working is certainly a value. Instead, the covid-related government actions have been justified as being necessary: although “justified” is really a strong term, since the myriad executive declarations simply assert “it is necessary, and I have the power”. It is crucial for the covid-facists that issues of scientific fact be kept out of the discussion. Ignorance has been politically weaponized to a stunning level, instead we must trust our elected executive official (unless he’s a Republican), who we assume has sound scientific and economic reasons to believe that these actions are necessary and sufficient for reaching that end. The public perception of “what is necessary” with the further provision that it should be sufficient is totally divorced from science. The science of the problem is, very simply, we don’t know, there are a lot of plausible stories that can be told. It is also vital that we not delve deeply into the question of what that end is – it changes frequently. For a while it was “flattening the curve”. Now it is “masks stop covid”. If you closely watch the media, you can detect the next wave of restrictions, which will result in greater rigidity about the kind of masks and how they are worn. (This is a concern for me because I can’t breathe, and businesses are now prohibited from serving unmasked customers). My response to covid-facists is to criticize them for hypocrisy. They demand that I must sacrifice myself for their personal benefit – they are being selfish (we know that is not so, but we’re dealing with rhetorical contradictions). They have no right to restrict my life so that they can continue to enjoy theirs. This is an easy argument to make, because when you ask “Why do you support such-and-such governmental restriction”, 99 times out of 100 it reduces to the emotional assertion “I don’t want X” – I don’t care what you want, what about what I want? Or when the assertion is collectivist “We don’t want X”, I point out that there has been no determination of what “we” want.
  10. IMO your principle that you may not “intrude into a person’s life” is wrong, and has significant consequences. First, praising or criticising a person for their actions constitutes an intrusion into the person’s life. Second, speaking to or seeing a person is an intrusion into their life. Indeed, based on your naked scientist example, she apparently can go for a walk in the nude down the street, safe in the knowledge that all must avert their eyes lest they intrude into her life. Third, a wrong-doer can evade detection whereby a detective finds him and repossesses the property (e.g. a car being legally repossessed), or using that information in legal procedings. Fourth, I may intrude into another person’s life, when that person beats their spouse and I rescue the spouse. In other words, the scope of your justification is too broad. I reject your claim that it is stalking because what you described is not stalking as prohibited by numerous laws. I can clearly stop someone from moving around, morally and legally. Remember, I was not asking “what was the outcome: legal or not legal?”, I was asking for the logic behind the conclusion. Restating the conclusion with the word “clearly” is not a logical argument. I own a road: I can stop a person from “moving around” on it. Also, in my experience, you can’t stop a car by standing in the driveway. There are virtually no voluntary agreements governing noise or nudity: “what about X” is also not a valid argument. There is no principle behind “what about X”. I can disrupt a person’s life by building a house on my vacant lot (affecting the neighbor’s view). I can also disrupt a person’s life by hiring their spouse to take a job across the country. Again, “disrupting a person’s life” is too broad. Public nudity may disrupt another person’s life, shouldn’t it be illegal? My interest is simply in finding a valid principle that governs these cases. Laws against murder and theft are also direct threats of force, but they are proper threats. There is something that distinguishes murder and theft from general “intruding”, but the lack of objective philosophical foundation has led society to enact many improper laws. I urge you to re-think the horrifying consequences of a law against “intruding on another person’s life”.
  11. It seems you posted your follow-up after I started my response, so I missed your elaboration which brings the issues into sharper focus. I also commend Peter Schwartz’s Free minds and free markets and his discussion of force and rights. Since you grant that items 6-8 are clearly not within the scope of proper governmental restriction, I’d like to see arguments that 3-5 are examples of proper governmental restriction. I mean real logical arguments, not arbitrary assertions like “in doing X you agree to Y” when in fact you did not agree to any such thing (you will see this argument mooted in a mistaken attempt to reduce difficult questions about government restrictions to contract law). What is the political principle that says that a man may not mow his lawn (using a gas-powered mower, not silently) at certain hours? I don’t want to know a rationalization of an ordinance against lawn-mowing, I’m looking for a predictive political principle that distinguishes the allowed actions from the forbidden actions, which places lawn mowing and other such action on one side of the line and driving to work at 6:00 am on the other side (I presume). Same with #3, on recommendations. The underlying premise there seems to be that you bear legal responsibility for the consequences of actions that people take based on things you say. Since people are not generally held liable for bad advice or lying, and they are not entitled to a share of the profits for good advice, I find this application quite surprising. What principles leads to your conclusion #3? And while I think #2 is the clearest case, I would still like to see how this conclusion is the product of valid legal principles.
  12. I’m unsatisfied with this answer: it’s either too little or too much (I would say too little, so urge a fuller analysis of the question). There is no “right to privacy” any more than there is a “right to a job” or a “right to be not offended”. One could write an entire dissertation on the “right to privacy” (if one is Amy Peikoff, one has done so). Is there really any controversy over the nature of rights and privacy? The problem that I have with the OP is that it is too wide-ranging, and each one of the 8 sub-questions is a thread in its own right (probably already answered here). At the highest level of analysis, I see the problem as being confusion over “rights” versus “right” (it is not a rare confusion), and that is how I would filter the original question. If the question is about what is right, we cannot answer question 6 without a lot more context. What value is that neighbor to you; what value is there to kissing a person of the same sex while in full view of that neighbor? We can trivially answer the rights-violation question and the associated question of whether a proper government may have a law prohibiting publicly visible homosexual or heterosexual displays of affection. Instead, I would urge a more focused engagement of the underlying issue. What is the Objectivist theory of the so-called “right to privacy”? How is it even possible for an Objectivist to support GDPR and other such privacy laws? On what basis are contracts properly interpreted and enforceable by courts: and how should Objectivists evaluate contract law in a non-utopian society?
  13. The obvious alternative is HBL, and yet it is not obvious to me that that is a sufficiently satisfactory alternative (I’ll just say that it was not the panacea that I was hoping it would be). My conclusion about HBL is that it is “too big”, but I also understand the perspective that OO is “too small”. Even smaller, to the point of current non-existence, are alt.philosophy.objectivism and humanities.philosophy.objectivism. I find it to be a fundamental error to think that an online forum will provide a guaranteed open-ended ever-improving platform for intellectual discovery, and it is wrong to think that intro-level recruitment and advanced discussion are the same thing. The less-obvious alternative is personal engagement, which might be a local meeting (there used to be such things in the pre-disease era though annoyingly, not in any place that I lived, for more than a few months). Or, possibly email conversations with a knowledgeable and interested party. Rather than looking for alternative social media, I suggest being clearer (to yourself, not to imply that you haven’t gone through this process) about what you want and in what way your current actions are not getting you what you want. You may find, for example, that what you really want is clearer lines of reasoning that relate particular conclusions about politics and society to Ayn Rand’s actual philosophy, as set forth in her writing. If you find that OO is not satisfactory in that respect, then you should as “Now what do I do?”. You may realize that a given forum is no longer a value to you in reaching your goals; or you may conclude that there is some action that you could take that would improve the situation. I will tell you that my departure arose from a realization that the recruitment function and the intellectual-advancement function were at odds. My earlier departure from HPO to OO was because the signal-to-noise ratio was too low – any posting that was actually about Objectivism was buried in a mountain of irrelevant cruft which, even with the power of the killfile, made it impossible to have a decent public discussion. IMO, size doesn’t matter, quality does. Let me essentialize the issue as I see it: what more do you want to know? The answer isn’t something like “I want to know everything”, you should articulate one or two most important questions about what you don’t know, and prove that you don’t know the answer. And then, why do you think someone else can help you find the answer?
  14. I prefer not to associate with people who don’t agree with me. I am willing to do so when those people have some superior value for me. I prefer to not deal with any form of irrational behavior, but I don’t live by myself in an isolated cabin in the woods. What value system tells you how much time you have for friends (as opposed to anything else), and what specific value do you apply in sorting your acquaintances into a friend / non-friend grouping. E.g. is it “any form of irrationality”, “violent communism”, “communism”, “violent”? And why would it be rational to shun a person who you know has irrational beliefs. Is it something completely different, namely the “in-your-face” nature of SJW’s.
  15. Given your description of the milieu, we are probably neighbors. There was one guy who I agreed with on numerous political topics so we were friends, but he felt that he had to bolt and left the state (politics and real-estate cash-in). 99% of the time, I avoid political talk with friends, unless I can steer the conversation to an area that can be rationally discussed, which is a matter that is as much about their level of ideological commitment to emotion as a tool of cognition as it is about the topic of conversation. Maybe I have a better quality of friends (they probably think so), but I don’t know any irrational ideological extremists (there are plenty of them in the area, I just don’t interact with them). I am on occasion faced with a provocative statement from a friend, which presents me with one of three main choices. One is to engage the friend with a counter-question or statement aimed at identifying an underlying premise that I know is wrong. An example might be anything of the form “We don’t want X”, which frames moral and political questions as the codification of personal emotion. The response might be, “I disagree, I do want X”. A semi-rational person would then pause and examine the reasons for this feeling, and might only respond “But it’s not right”, which leads to the obvious follow-up “Why isn’t it right?”, or maybe “The opposite of X is what’s right, don’t you agree?”. Obviously, you have to decide at what point you’re threatening the relationship. In a few cases, I have essentially had to post no-trespassing signs by saying that I don’t see sufficient common ground for civil discussion of the topic. My solution is that friendships are not entirely based on shared political values, and you should not get enraged at disagreement over politics any more than you should get enraged about religion or music.
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