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Everything posted by DavidOdden

  1. Let’s set aside the question of whether “panic” is the correct term, instead, let’s just summarize what “The Media” did, with an eye to what they should do (and why). The classical view of journalism is that the journalist objectively and dispassionately reports the facts. The contemporary activist view is that the journalist should promulgates a progressivist viewpoint (or on rare occasion, an anti-progressivist viewpoint). Any journal has the right to select their stance, however offensive it may be. The classical, objective-reporting view is decidedly on the decline: I have no suggestions as to how the tide might be turned. Coverage of covid was decidedly not balanced and objective. True, you can argue that reporting the ghastly effects of covid is “information”, but information becomes disinformation when it consistently omits equally valid information. The massive destruction of value mandated by the various governments in an attempt to thwart The Apocalypse was significantly under-reported, and the magnitude of the death and destruction was vastly over-stated. Particularly conspicuous was the failure of the media to engage the public in basic education about the underlying science – what do those chart really show, and what is our standard of comparison? Insofar as there was always a respectable scientific view that covid was not the end of the world, why were the nay-sayers disregarded in the daily cycle of covid sensationalism? A simple answer is that covid sensationalism fit nicely into the syllogism of modern progressivist propaganda. The problem is that The People are suffering, and only proper guidance by The People (via the dictatorship of the proletariat) can alleviate that suffering. Of course their cause was also advanced significantly by the fact that the only visible opposition to the progressivist trend was the moron in the White House. I don’t know if van Horn is overstating the retro-panic nature of the unsourced article which I have not seen, my point is simply that the dominant trend in the media was to encourage fear, and to promote the progressivist agenda. The goal was not to objectively present information, the goal was to shape viewpoints. Which is their right.
  2. A simple example is lying in order to keep the goodwill of another person. It is immoral, and I presume it’s unnecessary (at least right now) to argue for that conclusion. It should not be a crime to lie – except in specific limited circumstances (e.g. perjury, fraud). Rudeness like willfully leaving dog poo in front of a neighbor’s house is likewise immoral (ignore some convoluted “payback” scenario), but is not properly addressed by the law. Focusing on the question of personal moral responsibility, taking responsibility means recognizing that you caused some fact, and it would be immoral – evasion of reality – to deny that relation and the corollary action that constitutes justice in regard to your actions towards others. I don’t deny that most people think of morality from a consequentialist perspective, but that doesn’t make that view correct. Murder if you can get away with it is still contrary to a rational moral code. My claim is, very simply, that there are no contradictions. You cannot claim to be rational while disclaiming the very meaning of “being rational”.
  3. I’ll start from an intermediate position in the chain of reasoning, not going all the way back to “A is A”. The purpose of government is to protect the rights of individuals. When you chose to put a person in immediate jeopardy, you violate their rights and you have an obligation to mitigate that harm. The job of proper government is to promulgate objective laws saying what actions constitute putting a person in immediate jeopardy thereby violating their rights, and what the required mitigation is. You may burn down your house if you want, but you may not do so in a way that causes your neighbor’s house to catch fire – you can be required to limit your house-burning so as to not put your neighbor in jeopardy. If you decide to burn down your house, you can be required to notify your sleeping guests so that they can arrange an orderly evacuation. You can even be required to assist your crippled mother in her attempt to escape the conflagration that you caused.
  4. Now we should aim to find the fodder for a proper law, since the spectre of legal enforcement of rights has been lurking at the edges. When you directly cause a financial loss to a person which they did not invite, you should accept that cause-effect relation and you should compensate them for their loss. If necessary, the government should require you to compensate for such a demonstrated loss. We don’t say that the loss only occurs when the customer starts to eat, perhaps it occurs when the meal is delivered, or plated, or when it is cooked – but these specifics are not part of the law, which is only about the general principle of loss, and compensation. The government integrates facts with specialized moral principles, a.k.a. laws, to reach a conclusion (“pay up”). The loss suffered by the business might be incurred at the point of requesting a table (making a reservation, for example). Turning to repudiation of guardianship, your prior actions show that you have accepted the responsibility to be the custodian of the individual’s rights, which obliges you to do certain things. If you want to shirk that responsibility, you can if you do so in an orderly manner as specified by law. The proper concern of the government is whether there is a successor who accepts the responsibility. This need not directly involve the government, it means that if the question arises, you have to prove that there is a successor who accepted that responsibility in your stead. The gravity of being a custodian of rights is significant enough that I believe that an actual legal process should be required, just as real estate sales require legal formalities.
  5. I disagree with the premise that this is the base. It is true that discovery of the nature of rights and morality in a social context is what led Rand to create Objectivism, but the resulting logical framework does not put rights at the base of morality. Existence qua man is the base. Questions of ownership, killing and “can” i.e. deontic principles follow from, and do not lead to, the proper moral foundation. Hence I have obstinately focused on that moral foundation, before moving on to the more legalistic question such as what role the government should have in protecting the rights of an individual. Much closer to the base, IMO, is the concept of responsibility, and the related matter of repudiating responsibility. Of course, we do want to speed ahead to the interesting legal question of the role of proper government in evaluating permissible and impermissible means of repudiating responsibility, and also its role in determining the custodian of the rights of a person who is not fully competent. But before we identify a principle regarding governments, responsibility and rights-custodianship, we should identify a broader principle regarding government and responsibility (because any principle regarding rights-custodianship is controlled by a general principle about responsibility). Therefore, setting aside child education, we also want to know what are the principles governing tort law in a rational society? In the “dine and dash” continuum, when does the “customer” incur an enforceable obligation? What principle says when his responsibility is enforceable, and when is it ignoreable? I argue that it starts when he claims a table, but that’s a concrete example, and not a moral principle.
  6. As I said in various places above, parental responsibility can be repudiated. It would be highly irrational to do so in response to the discover that infants defecate and need to be taught to use a toilet, but it’s not irrational to cut ties with an evil child Questions of permission, contract and ownership are completely secondary to the fundamental moral question of whether a parent should repudiate their responsibility for some reason. Contract reflect only one tiny part of the concept of responsibility, and we’re not talking about the law right now, we’re talking about personal moral responsibility. But you still interject legal questions about rights and nabbing children who are being beaten. To repeat, moral responsibility and objective law are not the same thing. There do have a relation, but they are not the same thing.
  7. At the level of college education, your moral responsibilities have very little to do with children. There is nothing resembling a principle “you should pay for your child’s college education”. Perhaps the child needs a life lesson in finding their own means of survival; perhaps a college education would not be beneficial to the particular child; perhaps shouldering the cost would be self-sacrificial; perhaps the child will foreseeably become the next John Galt or Hank Reardon given an advanced education. Parents have to engage in a long-term cost-benefit analysis to determine what role they should play in their child’s higher education. As for the dangers of woke Marxist propaganda, it is short-sighted to declare that you will never send a child of yours to such an institution. The alternative of sending them to Bible school is even worse, and there are slim pickin’s when it comes to Objectivist universities. If you feel that you have done a bad job of teaching your child to disregard irrational propaganda, that makes your balancing analysis harder. The analysis can be made easier if the child is dead set on a degree in social justice and community activism, and a career in destroying civilization.
  8. The argument is primarily that your actions have predictable consequences, and that “responsibility” is a recognition of that cause-effect relationship. If I’m responsible for the success of an enterprise I get credit, and if I’m responsible for the demise of an enterprise I get the blame, but either way my actions create a responsibility. Accepting the consequences of your actions is simple honesty. Responsibility is a broad concept not limited to “creating a dependent being”: it is nothing more than respecting causality. If you cause an effect, you are responsible for the effect. “Responsible” simply paraphrases the word “causes”. Before we try to move into the question of legal enforcement of rights, I think it’s necessary to focus on a much simpler question, about the nature of responsibility. This is a simple binary question: do you accept that a responsibility derives from the choice to create a child?
  9. There are some bits and pieces missing in your position statement. So, “one has a responsibility to nurture their child because they want to, they would love it, that it has meaning and fulfillment to them”. No, you have this responsibility because you acted in that fashion in the past. You willingly took on that responsibility. But, as I say, you can repudiate that responsibility in an orderly fashion. I think the position that a child is property is untenable from the Objectivist POV. A child is a person (it seems that’s where we disagree), and people cannot be property (man has rights, rights do not conflict). However, it is useful to explicitly lay out these positions. We need to identify a moral proposition regarding rights. We generally hold that it is man that has rights: then what constitutes “being man”? Are you proposing that it is an instance of homo sapiens who has convincingly demonstrated the present ability to survive by reason? Or are you disagreeing with the statement that it is man that has rights?
  10. Contracts are only relevant to business arrangements that are to be enforced by the government. I conclude that there is a legally-enforceable responsibility that isn’t contractual (a tort). Adding government enforcement complicates the question, and resolving the question of responsibility has to come first. The key idea is that when living in a social context, others are not sacrificial objects to be used and discarded on a whim. All men are of potentially enduring value to you, and your actions should be consistent with that fact. Therefore, when walking your dog, you should take responsibility for your dog’s excretions and for it’s random lungings at other animate beings like cats and other dogs. Short-term thinking might lead you to think that leaving a steaming heap on someone’s lawn or next to their car is optimal from the personal self-interest perspective (saves a microscopic amount of time that could otherwise be used for something of higher value to you), but this ignores the fundamental fact that dog feces are objectively a disvalue, and your action (or having and walking a dog) brought this disvalue into existence. “Responsibility” is about cause and effect. “Moral obligation” is a recognition of that causal relationship, that is, it is the code that relates what is (I caused that turd, or that child) to what ought (I should pick up the turd, I should feed and educate the child). Objectivists are particularly centered on the question of the proper role of government, and in this discussion, there is mostly an interest in the question of rights and government intervention. I am going to assume, at my peril, that everybody agrees that a person has a certain moral obligation when they chose to create another human. With that clearly established (right??), then we can turn to the question of proper government action. The first thing, which should be obvious, is that proper government action must be constrained by the rule of law – there has to be an objectively-stated principle saying when and how the government will intervene. The problem of children and the law is that the government should equally, non-contradictorily protect the interests of each individual, but one of the central parties (the child) is to some extent incapable of using their faculty of reason to make a rational choice. The role of the government is therefore to adjudicate the question, to compare competing claims as to the child’s interest (this includes post-hoc “would have decided” cases for restitution given that a third party did not necessarily advance an alternative to a parent’s notion of the child’s interest). The government should enforce the virtue of honesty to a certain extent: if you intend to renounce your interests in a child, you must do so openly, so that others can know that the child is now a disvalue to you, that you intend to abandonment it, and others can act according to their own values. Child neglect is not the result of a parent renouncing interest in a child, it comes from falsely claiming an interest while actually having renounced that interest. Questions of child rights and legally-enforceable obligations flow from honest versus dishonest dealings with the interests of the child. The law does already state the procedure for renouncing an interest in the child, though because of the disease of social safety net, it does so at taxpayer’s expense (governmental orphanages). A perfectly reasonable replacement for this instant-gratification method of child abandonment is to require the custodian to secure a replacement custodian, following some objectively-stated standard. In other words, this is an aspect of tort law. You have a limited duty of care to a child, whereby your abandonment of interest in the child is not instantaneous and whimsical, it is orderly.
  11. I think your question is too abstract and wide-ranging, and would benefit from narrowing its scope, and filling in some details. Let us take the first of your activities: driving a car. Rather than assume infallibility in all other domains, can you be infallible w.r.t. driving a car? Pick a different domain if you want, but don’t start with the premise that infallibility is metaphysically possible in some unspecified domain. Now, state precisely what it means to “fail” w.r.t. driving. I don’t mean “give an example of a failure in driving”, I mean give a description of all things that would be a failure. One possibility is framed in terms of emotional reaction – “actions which cause you to be unhappy”. You can then be infallible, as long as you can control your emotions and can completely detach reason from action. Under the hedonist theory of fallibility, it is not a failure if you drive off a cliff, as long as you are happy doing so. There are very many relevant contexts for an objective view of success or failure, for example, it might be considered a failure to drive for hours and end up where you started, but it might be a success if you have the goal of viewing spectacular autumnal foliage. It might also be considered a failure if a way of driving results in commission of a traffic infraction but saves you 2 hours of time on the road. If so, you will have learned that it is more important to you to not commit a traffic infraction that it is to carry out your plan in a shorter time period. Rather than presuming infallibility in all choices then injecting an abstract possibility of failure, I would start by trying to construct a plausible case for infallibility. Error can arise from failures of logic, and also from lack of relevant knowledge. To be “generally infallible”, you have to be “generally rational” and also “generally omniscient”. I posit that you cannot infallibly know whether an action in a specific context is a traffic infraction (or crime) since these are not objectively defined (in a fashion that any person would know what an infraction is).
  12. That’s a tough question. The government should only use force to protect an individual from violation of rights, i.e. the initiation of force. Failure to provide a decent upbringing is not the initiation of force, so there is no moral basis for government intervention under the pretext that the child’s rights are being violated. Children are also not the property of their parents, to be disposed of as the parent sees fit, so we can dispose of the pretext of “parental education rights”. As an outsider, I should not be forcefully prevented from giving an education to the child, as long as I do not physically force the child to endure that education. That solves the problem in case the parents can’t be bothered to educate their child, and don’t actively block my efforts. What if the parent refuses to allow the child to receive an education, would it be proper for the government to enforce the parent’s wishes? Example 1: the parents want to teach that there is no God but Allah (etc), and I want to teach that there is no God, period. The parents want to give the child a misintegrated education on this point, I want to give the child an integrated education. Example 2: the parents say nothing one way or the other about religion, I want to teach that there is no God – the parents want the child to remain ignorant of the issue. Example 3: the parents want to teach that there is no God, some third party (not me!) wants to teach that that there is no God but Allah. Can the parents then use government force to prevent that person from promulgating a religion at the child? Can I use government force to prevent a parent from promulgating a religion at a child? Were we dealing with an adult, the solution would be simple: the individual in question must decide how to survive as a rational being, he has to make his own choices. We cannot assume that a 6 year old child has adult rationality. The current governmental regime (not just the Biden administration, the whole western legal system over the past century) mostly presumes that the parents best know what is in the interest of the child, though that is a defeasible presumption. One way in which that presumption is overridden is when the government declares that parents cannot leave a child completely uneducated. But the actual implementation of the mandate to educate is about 150º off-course. If the government has the power to require parents to provide a proper education, then the government has the power to dictate what constitutes a proper education, and what thoughts / viewpoints / facts are acceptable. Since a government censor is the greatest threat to human existence, I have to conclude that government mandated education does not actually protect the rights of a child. A proper government also cannot enforce ignorance by preventing non-parental education of a child.
  13. By “obligation”, I presume you are referring to a moral obligation, one that rationally follows from your choice to create a human being. Some people end up creating a child by accident, or are tricked into it, and I’m not talking about those cases – I mean a conscious deliberate choice. Just to be explicit, I also assume when you say “our” children, I assume you mean your own children, not “society’s children”. What do I owe my child, what do you owe your child, what does he owe his child. Creating a person should not be done on a whim, one should have a clear understanding of why you are doing so, and not just buying a puppy. A puppy will never become a rational being, a child might. An infant will not actually develop into a rational being without some kind of guidance. It’s irrational to think that children are born with Galt’s Speech planted in their brains whereby they can magically discover how to become fully rational. This is what a parent has an obligation to do: to provide such guidance. It is probably a joint effort between the parents and the parent’s agents, so that mom and dad don’t have to actually devise lessons in reading and writing. Your question seems to be focused on specific technical content. The list of specific technical things that a child should learn is huge: reading, writing, rhetoric, literature, history, philosophy, physics, biology, economics, fishing, hunting, home economics (i.e. “how to wash your clothes; how to cook a meal”). Personally, I think one should try to explain the basic logic of numeric exponentiation, if you can. You don’t teach long lists of facts, you teach very small sets of facts in the course of teaching methods of reasoning. In other words, all you have to teach is the tools of reason, but you do have to go beyond just saying “A is A”.
  14. You are right that simply having a hierarchy of values does not tell you how you should act: that also requires knowedge of the relevant facts, which is where probability fits in. First, you have to know facts in order to build the correct hierarchy. Then, in any subsequent choice, you also have to take further knowledge to reach a conclusion, meaning that you have to know if it is probable or merely possible that some future outcome will be realized. In the 1980 knowledge context, the possibility that Reagan would bring about a national ban on abortion, or even an ad hoc overturning of Roe v. Wade, was very remote. Consequently, the abortion threat does not prefer Carter over Reagan
  15. I’m not gonna accuse you of ignoring anything, but I will point out that there are a number of true things that you didn’t say. I don’t have an opinion as to whether you should have also said those things, a decision that hinges on what you (and Gus’s) central point is. The “rights of corporations” is, in fact, exactly “a subset of the rights of individuals”. For example, you have the right to own property, and so does a corporation. You have the right to enter into a contract, and so does a corporation. You have a right to criticize or sue the government, and so does a corporation. The subset thing comes from fact that individuals have the right to vote and to refuse to incriminate themselves, but a corporation does not. The conceptual problem lies not with expressions like “Disney’s rights”, but with the associated thinking that a corporation is literally capable of entering into a contract, litigating, hiring and firing, and expressing an opinion. While it is valid to criticize Donald Trump or Warren Buffett for their bad acts, it is invalid to criticize Disney (not the deceased namesake), because Disney is incapable of acting and chosing. You can hire a lawyer, Disney cannot, because hiring can only be carried out by a volitional consciousness, so it makes no sense to talk of “Disney’s lawyers”. It seems to me that we have only two viable choices. One, the worst IMO, is to instead say things like “the lawyer hired by Fred Ferggleschnapps to protect his business interests”, and “Sally Slimansky allowed some individual to rent property in which she had a financial interest”. It is usually not even pssible to construct a meaningful, true sentence if you rigorously avoid the metaphor that corporations can “act”. The alternative, which is what we do all the time, is to embrace the metaphor, not just for corporations but for all “collective actions”, where the government announces, the Senate votes, the court rules, the community protests, the family decides. Another example of a creation of the state is “common law restrictions on how tenants and landlords deal with one another in accordance with principles”. Under the common law, there is no requirement that a person have a written contract with a signature (note that when the common law was created, most individuals could not read or write). “Individual rights” is an anomalous concept under the common law, which is in essence the dictates of the sovereign. The king owned all of the land, but under the principles of feudalism that existed under the common law, he could grant an individual a right to use the land, by making the person a vassal. Under common law and feudalism, the baron of Disney has unrestricted right to tax the serfs living on his land: your recourse is to go away and find a better baron, if you can, or to discover land not claimed by any sovereign. I have no idea what Gus is thinking, but I don’t have to imagine a city where everyone contracts out of their rights to property and freedoms simply because they live there, I experience it every day of my life, and so do you. You are required to comply with the laws dictated by your various local governments – city, county (parish, borough), school district, fire district, water district and so on. These are “municipal corporations”. As I imagine you know, they can all tax you. You don’t have to sign anything, because agreement with a government entity is irrelevant. Agreement only matters between individuals and corporations that are not municipal corporations (e.g. Amazon, Microsoft, Boeing). Municipal corporations are provided for by and are subordinate to the statutes and constitutions of the individual states. States are provided for by and are subordinate to the statutes and constitution of the United States. If state law enables a municipal corporation to levy taxes, then you can have a city or county tax; or a school district assessment; or a fire district assessment. There is a common feature of municipal corporations, that the individuals who make (usually, approve) the rules are elected by geographically-defined voters. When the majority of voters expressing an opinion at the polls approve of a voting majority of progressive tax-and-spend ideologues, your right will be sharply curtailed. Here then are some the pertinent question regarding Disney. First, what is the nature of the contract between Disney and the Florida sub-government that the Florida legislature just voided? Second, what was the nature of the municipal corporation that has legal power in this area – to what extent were there provisions for popular voting of that local government? Third, what will replace this governmental vacuum? Does the Florida legislature have the right to unilaterally abrogate contracts? I would say no, but it does have the power.
  16. Only indirectly, as a reaction to the horrors of AI “reasoning”. Of course I am using “can” in the standard Objectivist way, as “possible, based on evidence”, not “imaginable, where anything is possible” and one can “imagine” A and Not A being simultaneously true. I have wasted some time trying to understand the “epistemology” of ChatGPT, and conclude that its greatest weakness is that there is little if anything that passes for a relationship between evidence, and evaluation of evidence. I was puzzled about how something so fundamental could be missed, but then I realized that this is because the system doesn’t have anything like a conceptual system that constitutes its knowledge of the universe, it has a vast repository of sensory impressions – a gruel of “information”. But furthermore: it cannot actually observe the universe, it can only store raw experiences that a volitional consciousness of the genus homo hands it. If you ask about the basis for one of its statements (ordinary statements of observable fact, not high-level abstractions), it just gives templatic answers about “a wide variety of sources and experts”. It does react to a user rejecting one of its statements, apologizing for any confusion, embracing the contradiction, then saying that usually A and Not A are not both true. It is perfectly happy to just make up facts. Sometimes it says that there are many possible answers, it depends on context, then if you give it some context it will make up an answer. Human reasoning is centered around conceptual and propositional abstractions that subsume observations, where the notion of “prediction” is central to evaluation of knowledge. Competing theories are central to human knowledge, so when we encounter a fact that can be handled by one theory but not another, we have gained knowledge that affects our evaluation of the competing systems. These AIs do not seem to evaluate knowledge, or even data. Instead, they filter responses based on something – it seems to be centered around "the current conversation".
  17. Here is a puzzle about social media. The quoted Newsweek article says “If a stranger were to read this book to a fourth grader on the street, he might be arrested and prosecuted”, etc. If this is true, and if this is a consequence of the new law (noting that the following text starts “Under the Parental Rights in Education bill…”), then this is a horrifying consequence of the law (though it would be unconstitutional and would have already been struck down, had it been true). The Newsweek article does quote the related provision of the law, which is that it applies to school districts and not to the guy on the street. The puzzle is, why would the author invent such a bizarre statement in the first place? Is this supposed to be a quote from a purportedly rabid opponent of the law? The internet tells me that the Newsweek author made it up himself. I think the practice of telling lies about the lies is getting out of hand.
  18. Okay, I see what you’re thinking. There are probably no (known, rational) benefits to anyone coming from a spill of crude. I think “disaster” is not the right adjective, but it would be “bad” rather than “good”. Of course the fact that there is a possible bad outcome is not a valid argument for not exploiting that resource. There is a whacko argument that “Spill response and cleanup creates business and employment opportunities for affected communities, regions, and cleanup service providers”, an argument supposedly offered by Kinder Morgan, Inc. to the Canadian Government. But Bastiat addressed the Broken Window fallacy almost 200 years ago. A more credible argument was that oil spills result in fishery closures, also hunting closures, which is a benefit to fish and ducks, but still the net effect ends up being negative.
  19. Not being or ever having been an ecologist and with only a dim recollection of the “subtext” of ecologists’ rhetoric in the 70’s, all I can suggest is that she is referring to a hidden contradiction in the ecologists’ ideology, that one can have one’s cake and eat it too. “Quality of life”, for them, refers to an idyllic world free of the signs of man’s existence. Of course they would not admit that they want to see man deleted from the universe, but they clearly opposed many signs of man’s existence qua man. I would be okay for man to exist in small bands of stone-age hunter-gatherers, but agriculture starts to disturb the “natural order”, meaning “the way things would be if man did not exist”. Preserving “quality of life”, maintaining the man-free wild nature of the planet, becomes an absolute principle for the ecologist. I do personally enjoy a hike in the mountains and love to watch eagles harvesting crows, so I consider that idyllic wild state to be aesthetically positive – in appropriate doses, usually not more than a week, and with a comfy chair at the campsite. Living as a dirt farmer in Cambodia would be the most horrifying loss in actual quality of life, but that is what the ecologists are pushing for. “Quality of life” as an expression doesn’t actually mean quality of life, just as “justice” no longer means justice. I guess I’d have to see your reasoning behind the conclusion that an oil spill in Alaska is a disaster for all species involved.
  20. It needn’t be the most important, it simply needs to be “relatively important”. We have to identify an alternative. I can only conjecture as to an answer, but my first-pass guess relates to “living death” versus “Carter economics”, and, to quote a comment from Binswanger @ OCON 2016 about Hillary Clinton and the prospects for increased taxes – “What else is new?”. Reagan and Trump both appeared to offer something new and horrible, though the potential threat of a conservative abortion-opponent in 1980 did not materialize. There is a general principle to be derived here, that a candidate who threatens with a novel approach to rights-violation is more dangerous, and more in need of opposition, than a candidate who presents the same old program of rights-violation. Without an actual argument showing why one should not vote for Reagan, we’d just be swinging at air trying to invent a line of logic and then discern two moral principles that yield different conclusions, where the proper hierarchy has “don’t vote for Reagan” as the moral conclusion. Reagan at least seemed more opposed to abortion (though he did sign the California law legalizing abortion). Carter’s economics and foreign policies were definitely worse compared to Reagan’s. Rand must have concluded that “living death” is a substantially worse (and realistic) outcome. I don’t disagree with that conclusion, except perhaps the question of likelihood. A related extremely valid concern is the threat of the religious right seizing political power, that is to say, the institution of a rigid doctrine of force and faith over a society of reason.
  21. There is a really long list of things that should be different in the world, and it is easy to evaluate a fact and see if it contradicts some rational moral principle. The problem is that tossing all moral knowledge into a single stew pot only ends up give you a knowledge of what should not. While we can presumably agree that the government should not tax, the government should not prohibit the expression of a political viewpoint, and children should not watch pornography, these are not unranked judgments (unless you adhere an absolutist stewpot theory of knowledge). How should we rank these three conclusions, and of course, from what does that ranking flow? All three are bad from the perspective of “man’s existence qua man”, but can we divide these concrete judgments and say that two are more important and one is less important? Objectivism does actually speak of a hierarchy of values, the question that I ask is, what is the stance of Objectivism or of Objectivists on hierarchical knowledge in general, which would include ranking of moral principles. In the context of the Florida discussion, the various parties all have some moral flaw, doing something that they should not do. There should not be taxes, but there are!. Given that taxes are a fact, what then should we conclude about the use of those revenues for a “public purpose”? Of course, the immediate Objectivist answer is that that confiscated wealth should be immediately returned to their proper owners, but that ain’t gonna happen!. Since it is a fact that the government will redistribute wealth in some fashion, what is the morally least repugnant redistribution scheme? And, of course, what hierarchy of moral knowledge leads to that conclusion? In light of the unquestionably immoral character of taxation, also the immoral character of pornography, there can be such a thing as a “moral relative absolutist” – identify some point in a hierarchy of values, and deem that immorality greater than that point is not to be tolerated. That would sort the moral conclusions so that taxation and governmental viewpoint suppression are not to be tolerated, and pornography is bad but permissible. In fact, since moral knowledge is not some kind of mystical Platonic form that exists independent of human cognition, we can even apply inductive methods to elementary observations of existence, such as that taxation is really bad and speech-suppression is really bad, and that pornography is not good, to induce principles and to discover the hierarchy of values that causes these specific facts. So the question that I pose is, what is the hierarchy of values that leads to these conclusions? Given such a hierarchy of values, is there an identifiable point in the hierarchy where Objectivists should simply refuse to engage in discussion? Clear case, albeit not actually relevant to any contemporary political issue: a debate over which method of execution by torture should be used to suppress political opposition. Less clear case: which is worse, sales tax or income tax?
  22. There are 4 basic choices: murder, assisting suicide, eviction, and leaving. You don’t propose murder as a solution (good choice), but do entertain the possibility of assisting suicide. You say that there would be no deception about what the substance is, and it would be his choice to consume it, but you do also intend to deceive him, by leaving the drugs in such a way that he would assume that one of his drug buddies left it there – why not honestly give it to him and say “Here is some fentanyl, I hope you take it and die”? That would be actually honest. Another less honest approach would be to lace some food with the drug and encourage him to eat the food, omitting a relevant detail. In both scenarios, you cause death, but it was his choice to eat it. I expect that your first reaction to this alternative is “But that’s murder!”, which is true, but so is your alternative plan, at least in a number of states. Of course we know that laws are typically messed up and not objective so maybe this is a morally-permissible act that is wrongly prohibited. Since this is an investigation of morality, I don’t actually know whether you could consider poisoning to be a morally permissible means of solving a problem (as opposed to bludgeoning, which I assume is off the table). If you would also preclude poisoning, then why, morally speaking? The only thing that I could come up with is the taint of dishonesty, and it seems to me this concern should also rule out the plan to surreptitiously leave poison in the hopes that he will kill himself with it. Without endorsing that plan, I cannot see how any other poisoning plan isn’t morally defective from the perspective of the virtue of honesty. If you agree that your original plan is dishonest, therefore immoral, it seems to me that you either have to shift to one of the two eviction plans, or to excuse immorality based on some exception to morality that needs to be discussed in more detail.
  23. I’m not persuaded that any culture needs to reconsider the concept of corporations, but rational discussion is always a good thing. The standard left-wing “argument” against corporations is that it encourages people to operate businesses at a profit and not for the benefit of the workers (what laborers receive is not called “profit”). I find it to be pointless to discuss the merits of corporations with communists. The only argument of merit against corporations that I have ever heard is exactly based on the problem of shielding individuals from the legal consequences of their actions. Hence the second quote is essential to this question. One problem with the claim is that it isn’t exactly true, indeed there is a name for it when you go after evil corporate miscreants – piercing the corporate veil. But don’t go there yet, the first question should be ‘what should happen if a business markets a product “known” to cause harm?’ (I said business, not corporation). Under the current regime, the business gets sued, and if found liable damages may be awarded. I should point out that under an Objectivist regime, a company will not be held liable for marketing a product that can be argued to have some detectable relation to “harm”. A company that sells cyanide capsules as cyanide capsules should not be held liable, even though the company should know of the potential for harm. Caveat emptor! When they sell cyanide as ibuprofen, that’s where true liability arises. Cyanide as ibuprofen is exactly the kind of case where the corporate veil will be pierced, and where criminal prosecution will arise. The question is, which persons should be held personally liable? Some candidates are “the CEO”, “the board of directors”, “the manager in charge of product development”, “the employees of the company” and “everybody with a direct or indirect interest in the company” (such as a bank which makes loans to the business, or your grandmother whose retirement plan invested in the company). In the case of criminal prosecution, the law already has an answer, because you don’t prosecute people for bad outcomes, you prosecute them for evil actions – knowingly violating the rights of another. Whether or not the CEO, board of directors, or guy on the assembly line is held criminally responsible, and sent to jail, depends on that person’s knowledge state and the nature of their actions. One does not gain immunity from prosecution from the fact that you work for a corporation. Unlike criminal law, civil liability for damages is not centered around a person’s mental state, and to the extent that mental state enters into the equation, it is often very subjective – was the person negligent in their actions? There is a venerable but questionable legal doctrine, respondeat superior, which says that an employee is not to be held responsible for their actions in the course of the job, responsibility shifts to the boss. Why in the world should an employee be sheltered from responsibility for their actions? The two main reasons are philosophically repugnant: that with great power comes create responsibility, and that inferiors in a business context are mindless drones, lacking free will. Rather than determining liability based on analysis in terms of power relations, liability should be based on individual knowledge and actions – one’s choices. Corporate structure is pretty much orthogonal to these notions of responsibility, except when it comes to determining whose pockets to pick in awarding damages. The corporate veil means that a plaintiff can only go after the assets of the corporation, and not the assets of the individuals who make up the corporation. Therefore, if Dow Corporation negligently harms a half million people, claims against the corporation are limited to the corporation but not the managers, supervisors, line-employees or shareholders who directly or indirectly bought an interest in the company. If the corporate entity is not recognized as a separate legal entity, your grandmother qua part-owner of the company would be held personally responsible for those actions. I conclude that whatever problem exists, it’s not about corporations, it’s about “responsibility”. Who should be held responsible for what choices? Why should an employee be relieved of responsibility, and why should a CEO be assigned all of the liability?
  24. All 34 charges are counts of New York Penal Code §175.10, Falsifying business records in the first degree, which is defined as: A person is guilty of falsifying business records in the first degree when he commits the crime of falsifying business records in the second degree, and when his intent to defraud includes an intent to commit another crime or to aid or conceal the commission thereof The criminal complaint is here: it is a series of check numbers, ledger entries, invoices etc. The lesser included crime of second degree falsification is just making or causing a false entry in the business records of an enterprise, without the fraud of other crime aspect.
  25. IMO it is best to focus on an area that you understand reasonably well, but not well enough, that is, go for depth rather than breadth. But before pursuing that advice, you should also aim to say what fact of your existence Objectivism seems to solve, or whether your inerest is more ineffably “I like her writing style”. I came into Objectivism as an account of “rights” that is superior to religion- and tradition-based conservativism and stipulation-based libertarianism (the idea that initiation of force is an intrinsic bad, and that is leads to a contradiction without any clue what the contradiction is). I’m resisting the temptation to say “do everything right now!”. You cannot reasonably hope to grasp a foundational question by intensively studying an area that you know nothing about. When you focus no an area that you alread understand to some extent, you are bound to run into a foundational issue, which when better resolved will have a great impact on your life. I read what Rand had to say about “principles” a million times but it was still just words. Once I read ITOE (which didn’t exist when I got started), the theory of concepts changed everything for me. Galt’s speech suddenly made sense, all of that stuff about principles and “chosing” actions made sense. ITOE provided a fundamental tool that led to me having a better grasp not only of Objectivism, but the nature of the universe. But, as they say, YMMV.
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