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Everything posted by DavidOdden

  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.
  16. Returning to the initial question, I’m going to say “No, it would not be helpful”. It would be helpful to clearly articulate a real problem which in principle could be solved, but that has nothing to do with BLM. The problem is not that Richard Spencer has his ideas, and the propagation of his ideas cause some other problem. The problem that BLM is addressing is the “rampant and deliberate violence inflicted on us by the state” (their words). As they say, “Our intention from the very beginning was to connect Black people from all over the world who have a shared desire for justice to act together in their communities”. Given these fundamentals as a raison d’être, there is no reasonable connection between their purpose, and intellectual engagement over wingnut ideas about race. You do not need to inform Blacks that Spencer is intellectually wrong: that is experientially self-evident. BLM is at its core an anti-intellectual “progressive” ideological movement, which has become the quasi-official spokesperson controlling discussion of a broader issue. Their success as a movement is, very simply, that they connected emotional reactions to poorly-understood problems in race relations in the US with an ideology that most people don’t bother to analyze, using a slogan as the glue.
  17. @LER, I think you are missing the contextual nature of moral evaluation. If I have a choice between buying 5x toilet paper and having no toilet paper at all (returning to the sponge on a stick days), I will spend 5x on toilet paper. The proper question is not whether the law of supply and demand is overridden by some theory of non-governmental price controls, the question is why my supply (of money) is and what my demand (for TP) is, and how that relates to supply and demand of other people (stores and online sellers). Where the supply is very low and the demand is high, you expect the price to go up. If you actually have TP in your store, that changes the supply equation for you, so of course you would not spend 5x on online TP, you would only spend 1.5x to buy it at the store. The reality is that the shelves are still bare (ymmv). Your analysis of the situation is wrong, when you imply that the online seller is the creator of the shortage. This implies that there is some constant natural force which provides our needs without any effort on our parts, which the “speculator” has unnaturally interfered with. If you want to assign blame, you can blame the store for not getting more TP, or the manufacturers for not making more TP, or your neighbor for buying TP (whether it is in ordinary amounts or in horder amounts). It is morally inconceivable that blame should be assigned to a person simply because they recognized an opportunity to make a buck. This goes for TP as well as eclipse glasses. Temporary shortages exist all the time, and in a free market are generally solved when the producers increase production. That TP on the shelf is the property of the store owner. It becomes the property of the bulk-buyer when he puts it in his cart and pays for it. That TP is not your, until you actually buy it. It’s a risky business, reselling. There is no such a thing as a moral economy that predates modern capitalism: “moral economy” is the same as and came into existence as modern capitalism.
  18. Moral principles guide your actions when part of an integrated view of existence. While a moral principle is focused on a very narrow question, such principles can’t be trivially applied by dropping knowledge context. There is no principle of Objectivism that says “I should charge as much as I can”, but arguable there is a principe that says “I should charge as much as I can consistent with reality and my long-term goals”. Market-backlash is an example of a quasi-rational consideration, that is, it is irrational to pretend that people do not behave irrationally. Any non-coerced transaction adds value (i.e. not gunpoint sales), but they also have a cost – the question is whether the transaction adds net value to the seller. The buyer, likewise, has to consider whether the transaction adds value for him. Neither party should care about the rationality of the other party’s decision to engage in the transaction. But, both parties should consider whether a disadvantageous transaction for the other party will in fact turn out to be disadvantageous for themselves. This is why I patronize a local hardware store that charges a bit more for stuff, but also provides invaluable technical assistance that is not available at cheaper outlets. The value-computations that have to be performed are very complicated, and ultimately depend on fragmentary knowledge (is it even possible to buy toilet paper for less money at another store). A business has to operate with awareness of the quirky views of customers, and cannot rely on the thinking “we’re the only game in town”, which may be true today but in a free market is an invitation to competition. Customer irrationality is part of what it means to “do business”. The problem in the OP is a consequence of poor planning and bad assumptions by an erstwhile businessman. You have to read the lease carefully; or, in the case of E-commerce, the terms of service. When you sign up for a service that retains the option of evicting you and putting you out of business, you either accept that risk, or get a different landlord who doesn’t retain arbitrary social-justice rights to your life.
  19. Nuh-uh. If physical force is to be barred from social relationships, men need an institution charged with the task of protecting their rights under an objective code of rules. This is the task of a government—of a proper government—its basic task, its only moral justification and the reason why men do need a government. A government is the means of placing the retaliatory use of physical force under objective control—i.e., under objectively defined laws. The only proper purpose of a government is to protect man’s rights, which means: to protect him from physical violence. (non-consecutive quotes) I understand how tempting it is to generalize from “rights” and “initiation of force” to “protect”, “threat”, “foreign” and “invasion”, but flies don’t “initiate force”, and novel facts are not foreign invasions, so it is not the job of government to protect citizens from the threat of an invasion of flies. It is not the job of government to fight “things from the outside”, or “things that endanger people”.
  20. At the very beginning of the outbreak in the US, the death rate in Washington was very high, I believe around 20%. It is now substantially lower. The explanation is that the disease spread first through a specific elder care facility. There was a very strong correlation between “might be tested” and “was a patient at that facility”. This is a reminder that there are lots of unreported variables – facts about being tested, testing positive, and dying are not randomly distributed in the population. If you believe the statistics (my message is, don’t!), Italians recover better than Americans – US recovery rate is 2.5% and Italy’s is 12%. I suspect that it’s not that around 90,000 Americans still have the disease, instead there is a difference in reporting. The highest rates of infection are in Andorra, San Marino, Iceland and Luxembourg: basically, cities elevated to the status of country. The really low incidence of the disease in Africa is explained by the fact that people don’t move around much there. The one case where I think we can reasonably attribute something political to the number of cases is Iran, compared with Afghanistan and Turkey. I think they see this as an opportunity to get sanctions lifted.
  21. We have two questions here: whether we believe people will ever behave like Objectivists on a mass scale, and whether it will ever be more than a philosophy of the few. The second question is easier to either answer or dismiss, since it’s unclear what you mean by this. There are a few people, such as Harry Binswanger and Leonard Peikoff, who have a profound understanding of the philosophy. I do not believe that it will ever come to pass that the majority of the adult population in some society will have that level of understanding and acceptance of Objectivism. Or even 10%: I do not believe that more than 10% of the population will ever have a deep intellectual understanding of any philosophy. I allow that it could be true in a strange circumstance, where a ship full of Objectivists travel to uninhabited planet (asteroid) Galt’s World. Since there’s no mechanism for voting to determine “what Objectivists believe” especially w.r.t. such a specific and non-essential question, all I can do is apply Objectivist principles to the question and conclude that you should not believe that under normal circumstances, all humans will become advanced philosophers (of any kind). Even after they have invented robots to do all the plowing, laundry, and programming. It’s much more plausible that people will act like Objectivists on a mass scale, where “mass” is counted as at least 20% of the adult population. The problem is knowing whether that has happened. It’s easy to detect the signs that a person isn’t acting like an Objectivist, e.g. when they lie, cheat, steal, and vote for expanding the welfare state. Self-sacrificial ethics may in some cases be obvious, but I think it is actually difficult in most cases to tell whether a person is acting in a certain way because they feel it is their duty to subordinate their lives to others, versus whether they are acting benevolently and in a rationally self-interested way. But still, the question is whether it is reasonable to think that we will ever achieve that level of rationality in some society. I don’t expect that to happen in my lifetime, or my grandchild’s lifetime. Or in a millennium. However, Objectivism is not a political philosophy, it is an integrated philosophical system. Before asking your question, I suggest looking deeper into the question of what aspects of the philosophy relate to political predictions and actions. The hardest thing for people to “get” is that one should chose one’s actions based on a moral code that puts your living as your central purpose. I would then divide that into the more intellectual art of understanding the nature of reason, and the more emotional / psychological art of acting as you know you should. Objectivism does not say that either of these things can be accomplished trivially. Objectivism does not say how you cause yourself to understand what “reason” is, it just says what reason is. If Objectivism were wrong about what reason is, then indeed Objectivism would have “failed”: but it’s not wrong, and it hasn’t failed on that front. Objectivism doesn’t exactly have a philosophical principle that explains why people follow emotion rather than reason, though it does tell you that it has something to do with treating emotion as a source of knowledge. My own analysis, not a doctrine of Objectivism, is that people make a fundamental choice very early in life, regarding how they relate to society. Basically, you learn what you should do by analogy to what others do. If everybody says that recycling is good and you should recycle, then you don’t need to think about it, you just recycle. If everybody argues by saying “You wouldn’t want X” (pollution, death, slavery, unregulated economic exchange…), you can go with the crowd and impute to others your emotional reactions to facts, and tell people to trust my emotions.
  22. The proposed amendment saying that Congress shall make no law abridging freedom of trade and production is similar to existing amendments that prohibit Congress from restricting speech or freedom of the press. Laws against fraud and threats exist, even with the First Amendment: that is because the rights recognized in the Constitution exist in a hierarchy. The purpose of government – protection of individual rights – is presumed (mentioned in the preamble), and what follows is a specification of how the government may do that. Most of the Constitution says what the structure of the government is and how laws come into being, but part of it describes the powers and limitations on those powers. Laws against fraud and threatening are minimal limitations on an unfettered right to say anything you want, and to use legal parlance, they pass “strict scrutiny”, meaning that those laws are passed to achieve a compelling government interest (protection of individual rights), it is narrowly tailored to meet that need, and it uses the least restrictive means to achieve that end. The “no trade restriction” amendment is, effectively, the repeal of the Commerce Clause. I disagree with the stance that all weapons should be regulated by the government, but do not hold that the government has no business putting impediments in the way of backyard nukes. The apt question is, what is the most narrowly tailored, least-restrictive means of protecting individual rights? This is a tough question to answer, because it deals in an overly-broad concept “weapon”. One approach (the bad approach IMO) is to define weapon in terms of potential use – anything that can be used to violate the rights of another person. A moment’s thought reveals that you are, at this very moment, surrounded by an arsenal of “potential weapons”. The other approach (better, IMO) is to say specifically what things are prohibited. Shotguns can be made, sold, and used. You cannot shoot a person with one – that’s a separate law. Let us say that an H-bomb has no legitimate use by civilians, though it can be used by a government to protect rights. Then Congress can rightly pass a law that prohibits individual ownership of H-bombs, sale of H-bombs other than to rights-respecting governments (let’s leave asign for a moment who decides that), and manufacture of H-bombs, except for sale to rights-respecting governments. This precludes sales to terrorist organizations. A seeming flaw in the above scheme is that it assumes that we are in a rights-respecting society where use of force is subject to objective law. Obviously, individual rights in the US are frequently violated by the government, but still, the fundamental principle of government protection of individual rights is alive in the US. Even more obviously, individual rights in North Korea, Iran and Syria are massively violated, and it is vastly harder to maintain that the notion of “individual rights” has anything to do with the conduct of those regimes. The Second Amendment was not passed to allow men to have hunting weapons or to shoot home-invaders, it was passed because the previous rights-trampling regime did lawfully seize gunpowder and arms (without a warrant) and prohibited importation of arms into America; these weapons were demonstrably necessary for the colonists to resist infringement on their rights by the British government. Times have temporarily changed (maybe that sounds pessimistic, but I do not believe that the Golden Age will last forever), so surely we do not need to have a supply of weapons in order to throw off the yoke of government oppression. But: backyard nukes would not solve the problem of a North Korean style regime qua US government. Even as a means of protecting against government abuse, they are not a reasonable exercise of one’s right to self-defense.
  23. The FDA depends on scientific research to make legal determinations, but the FDA is incapable of conducting the necessary research. This is generally the situation with government and science – Congress empowers some agency to regulate interstate commerce and articulates some incredibly vague standard of interest, then leaves it up to the agency to write rules. The system places the burden of proof on the individual wishing to market a regulated product. Academic researchers are often willing to subcontract with producers to address the science, or basically anybody who has a wad of cash to support their work. There has always been a basic tension between the anti-progress Luddites and more rational men, where the Luddites use the courts or the administrative review process to object to progress. Rational men must then anticipate the argument likely to be addressed by the Luddites, and nip it in the bud. Unfortunately, that is not always possible (and is irrelevant when the attack is through the courts). In addition, Luddite ideologues have infested academe and administration, meaning that factual determinations are not always based solely on facts. I think the degree of cooperation that exists doesn’t constitute “support”, it constitutes “recognition of fact”. E.g. it’s recognition of fact when you pay your taxes.
  24. Facts alone do not settle the issue of what a “fact” is. Facts plus a method of reasoning (supplied by a philosophy) does. In saying “It is understandable why this may seem plausible”, I conclude (based on a a long life of detecting subtle implications and how they are rhetorically encoded) that you disagree something in the preceding quote: I am struggling to figure out what that is. The thing that seems most likely is that there is some question about agreement that you find relevant. I don’t see any claims being made there that have to do with agreement, although at some point I hope that the professor engages normative questions (agreement is evidence of truth only when reason is the only tool used for reaching conclusions). So I am quite puzzled: how can you possibly disagree with the quote?
  25. At the risk of harping on a point, there is a difference between saying that the government owns the land, and saying that the government owns some land. From a moral and legal perspective, there is no such thing as “the land”. Each land-owner has the exclusive right to control his own property. The only difference between individual action and government action w.r.t. control of property is that with the individual, everything is allowed except that which constitutes initiation of force, and with the government, nothing is allowed except that which is necessary to prevent initiation of force. Perhaps this is no longer self-evident – I’d like to see an explicit denial of these premises, if anyone doesn’t accept them. Given this, there are only two questions that need to be answered. The first question is whether it constitutes initiation of force if I exercise my property rights to allow a non-citizen to be present within the geographical confines of the United States (allowing them to exist on my property). If it does, the government must (not may) prevent me from using my property in this manner. The answer to this question better not reduce to saying “there is the potential for harm, therefore prior government approval is necessary”. The second question of the necessity of excluding specific individuals from government property is much more complex – e.g. it is proper that the government exclude persons without security clearances from nuclear missile silos. It is not proper for the government to exclude persons without security clearances from courthouses (but it is proper to exclude persons bearing arms from courthouses). Nor is it proper for the government to exclude from courthouses people with crazy ideas. Invoking invalid notions like “the land” and “public land”, with no specific owing entity and no specific owned land, evades what should be an obvious point, that I exclusively own a specific plot of land, and I may rightfully allow any individual onto my land. I may rightfully operate an airport on my land, which is a right that a proper government cannot abridge. The only property-based argument that can justify denying me that right would be establishing that there actually is no private ownership of land, that all land in the US is government land, held in trust by the federal government.
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