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Fred Weiss

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  1. I agree with that quote from Ayn Rand. However she is not saying that therefore meek compliance with the law is necessarily always proper. And there are also certainly clear instances where laws are so outrageously intrusive and immoral, or ridiculous, and compliance with them so abhorrent or absurd, that you would be fully justified in ignoring and evading them. One however must be prepared to accept the consequences if you choose to disobey them. In the category of the dramatic, there was of course the civil rights movement, where people willfully and heroically violated the segregation laws. There were - and may still be - various state laws which proscribe certain sexual practices even between consenting adults. There was a law in Connecticut I believe which forbade the use of condoms! In the category of the absurd, I know for a fact that I was in technical violation of the zoning laws of my town in NJ by running my book business out of my home. But those laws were so ridiculous and out of date that I discussed them openly - though "off the record" - with the town zoning officer who agreed with me. I knew they would never be enforced because of their absurdity. Technically, even a computer programmer or financial consultant, even if clients didn't come to their home, would have been in violation. I just made sure that I didn't put up a sign and kept customers visits to a bare minimum so as not to upset the neighbors. Since I wanted to do most of my business via the Internet anyway, it really wasn't an issue. But nonetheless I was in violation of the law - a law I chose to ignore. (And in the process of which of course I violated no one else's rights). Fred Weiss
  2. You might as well say that a philosophy which isn't Objectivist isn't a philosophy or a law which is immoral isn't a law. Dave Odden's post should have been the final word on this subject. Fred Weiss
  3. This is another example of jumping "mid-stream" into a problem and not approaching it from the standpoint of fundamental principles- and then as a result trying to sort through multiple levels of injustice and trying to decide who should or shouldn't be penalized. If a country chooses to subsidize its manufacturers thereby making its products more price competitive, why shouldn't buyers in other countries take advantage of those lower prices? If you are concerned about the injustice to unsubsidized manufacturers who will lose business, what about the citizens of the country which is doing the subsidizing? They are also suffering an injustice and if you refuse to purchase the lower priced goods (which would clearly be a sacrifice on your part), then they would suffer. It's a tangle of injustice which you are not obliged to untangle. I would consider subsidized imported products a gift provided by a foolish country which doesn't grasp the principles of capitalism. The savings they are providing the importing countries can then be used to fund expenditures in other areas. Apart from that, subsidizing manufacturers doesn't work long term. It merely promotes inefficiency and in the long term it makes them less, not more, competitive. In the 19th Cent., England adopted an across the board free trade policy and they didn't concern themselves with whether other countries reciprocated. The result was an unparalled economic boom which made England the richest country on earth. In regard to this issue, I highly recommend an article by Harry Binswanger entitled "'Buy American' is Un-American" which appeared in The Objectivist Forum. Fred Weiss
  4. The problem in responding to your question is you are jumping "mid-stream" into an inherently unjust and immoral situation and expecting a clear answer to help you sort through the different degrees of injustice. You are focusing on just one element of this problem - the illegal alien - and excluding all the others. We are all victims of the system and it is virtually impossible to try and measure who is victimized more or less by it. What makes you think that if some part of the population - whether it is the illegal alien or any other - started paying what you regard as their "fair share" of taxation that it would reduce the tax burden on the rest of us? Is it your understanding that if the gov't collects more taxes that their typical reaction is to reduce them? That with increased revenues, gov't spending will be reduced? Apart from the illegal alien, a great many people operate to one extent or another in the "cash economy" to try and avoid taxation. That's why the gov't has introduced a whole range of other forms of taxation which aren't related to reportable income, such as sales taxes, gasoline taxes, property taxes, etc. I'd venture to guess that the income levels of most illegal aliens is too low anyway to produce much in the way of increased tax revenue based on their income. They do however pay other taxes, directly and indirectly. For example they have to live somewhere. If they are renting, they are indirectly paying property taxes. If they work for someone "off the books", then that person can't deduct those payments from his business expenses and to that extent it is contributing to the greater profitability of that business which eventually will yield increased tax revenues on the income of the company. But the focus of your concern isn't dealing with the fundamental issue - which is the injustice and immorality of the tax system and its basic source: gov't spending. What needs to be addressed is gov't spending and reducing it's involvment in the economy through privitization of many of the functions it has taken over, most especially schools and health care. Btw, gov't involvement in those areas greatly inflates their cost, so getting the gov't out of them not only will reduce taxation, but it will also lower their cost dramatically. Whether illegal aliens do or don't pay their "fair share" of taxation, whatever that is, is a trivial issue. I might add that we should be welcoming these people into this country - assuming they are willing and able to work - not trying to exclude them. They tend to pursue work which many Americans consider "beneath them" and they serve a very valuable function in the economy. With reduced taxation and a vast improvement in the regulatory environment on business, perhaps many companies wouldn't flee overseas for their manufacturing. At one time, with a much freer economy, this country was easily able to absorb millions of immigrants. It can do so again. In that eventuality, your "aliens" not only wouldn't be "illegal" they would be welcome and needed, just as they were 100 years ago. Fred Weiss
  5. There are two "states" of the first edition of this title (a not uncommon situation for book collectors to deal with - and, I might add, not uncommon among Ayn Rand first editions either). You might find this helpful. http://www.papertig.com/AR_PWNI.htm Fred Weiss
  6. Thank you for the welcome. And calling me "Fred" is fine. Fred Weiss
  7. The issue here is not that the gov't "wants to" have a monopoly on the use of retaliatory force. The gov't *must* have that monopoly in any rational, civilized society. That power is *a necessity* for the rational protection of individual rights. Without it you have anarchy. Since the gov't does provide the service and it needs to fund its activities, then it is justified to collecting fees to support it. What it cannot do is coerce you to pay those fees. However, if you don't wish to pay the fees, then you cannot expect the gov't to protect you. (It does not then follow however - as anarchists argue - that you are entitled to provide your own personal law enforcement and engage in retaliatory force on your own, outside of the law.) Keep in mind that law enforcement in a rational society, where the sole function of the gov't is to protect individual rights, would not be very expensive. It would be far, far less than it is today. A huge percentage of law enforcement today is devoted to enforcing the drug laws and since, in a free society, all drugs would be legalized, those costs (and all the crime which results from them) would not exist. Also, all the roads would be private, so you wouldn't have traffic cops, etc. Fred Weiss
  8. Yes, of course. But all you're saying is that your values will depend to a considerable extent on your context - and people's values rationally will differ considerably depending on a whole range of variables in regard to that context. If I had a pressing deadline of an important nature demanding my full attention, I wouldn't be posting on O-O. If I had just suffered from natural calamity such as life threatening illness, earthquake, tornado, etc. I would be making far different choices in my life right now and have very different priorities than I do now. And the same thing would be true if my country were at war and my freedom were threatened vs. if it were at peace. But none of this implies or suggests that values are relative or subjective. In fact it is in crises that a rational approach to values is most important, since your very life itself may be endangered. Fred Weiss
  9. But prices in most settings are in fact not unpredictable - not at least where there is a relatively stable money supply. Even in highly inflationary situations, prices are not completely unpredictable. You can predict that they will be higher! I grant you that auctions settings can produce unpredictable pricing, but that is because you are sometimes dealing with one-of-a-kind items and prices can be influenced by "emotionalistic" factors, e.g. bidders getting carried away or caught up in "auction fever". Separately, the "subjectivity" of the dollar - I assume by that you mean that it is not based on the gold standard or some other objective measure - really has nothing to do with the issue. Regardless what it is based on, it does provide a standard of measure and using that standard pricing can be objective. Simply look at your own experience. Under normal circumstances, if you are pricing a new car and you go to the showroom on Monday and the price of a car you are interested in is, say, $20,000, you don't expect it to be $10,000 or $40,000 when you come back a few days later. And that $20,000 price is not subjective or arbitrary. The car manufacturer/dealer has looked very hard at that price and based it on a lot of very careful consideration. Fred Weiss
  10. You are thinking implicitly in a "collectivist" way, while at the same time wanting to reject that very thinking. "We" - meaning those of us who oppose statism - have not chosen this path. It has been imposed on us. As such, you have no moral responsibility in regard to its consequences. Remember, morality presupposes choice and it is precisely your choice which statism rejects. You should now be able to answer that question yourself. What choice have you been given? You didn't expropriate anything. In fact you have been forced yourself to pay for it- and over the course of your life you will be forced to pay much, much more. I can assure you that in all liklihood you will end up paying far more than you ever objectively get back in return. The principle here is: don't accept unearned guilt. Fred Weiss
  11. But then that bears no relationship to price theory and really is irrelevant to a claim that "prices are subjective". The mere fact that someone can set any price he wishes, regardless of whether it makes any sense, is no more relevant to this issue than is the fact that since people can do all kinds of irrational things makes morality subjective. It just means people can be irrational. If you want to actually sell something then you need to be objective in your pricing and in a free market the "clearing price" of the vast majority of products will therefore be objective, not subjective. Incidentally, this isn't a small point because many advocates of capitalism, Von Mises among the most notable, regarded pricing as subjective. His intent was laudable - he was attempting to counter the notion of "fair pricing" or some "intrincist" view of pricing which is often the basis for socialist planners. But in this regard he was defending a false alternative. Fred Weiss
  12. This is a problem created by the immigration laws and the inevitable injustices of a "mixed economy". It is not the fault of the "illegal aliens". I can't prove this but I suspect, on balance, that illegal aliens (assuming they are productive) are beneficial to the economy even if they don't pay taxes and take advantage of various welfare programs. It's also almost impossible not to pay some taxes, e.g. sales taxes. Fred Weiss
  13. That's quite true but the reason why values may differ in cultures is precisely because those cultures aren't rational. If one lives in a dictatorship or primitive culture of course that will affect the values you choose. But the value problem in this instance is that those cultures are irrational. (It's a somewhat separate question how to evaluate cultures of the past where one must consider that certain things weren't known or fully known.) Fred Weiss
  14. A good, basic introductory logic is Lionel Ruby's, "Logic: An Introduction". Harry Binswanger reviewed both the Ruby and Joseph logics in the October 2000 issue of TIA which will give you a good overview of their respective merits. http://www.papertig.com/Publishing_TIA_Logic..htm Fred Weiss
  15. This really isn't true - not if you are referring to actual market prices, i.e. the prices at which products are actually sold in the market (what I believe economists call "clearing prices"). Of course a seller can set any price he wishes, but that doesn't mean he's going to get that price. The price at which a product actually sells is in fact objective - it reflects a complex interaction of cost, profit, competitive pricing, alternative products available, the amount of supply - and demand, etc. While it's true that the products people purchase reflects their personal values, even that is not per se "subjective", even if in a given instance a particular choice may or may not be fully rational. That people choose to purchase automobiles vs horses or bicycles as a basic means of transportation, is a fully rational choice and has a fully objective basis. That someone may choose to purchase a "flashy" automobile that costs much more than they can afford and which ends up getting them in debt is probably not a rational choice. But that doesn't make the price of that automobile "subjective". Many people can afford such cars and value what it offers, even if the price is high. The pleasure such a car can offer them is completely objective - or can be. In any event the price that car sells for is set by the same complex interaction of market forces - and is not subjective, or subject to sheer whim. Fred Weiss
  16. As it pertains to *fundamental* moral values, yes. But in regard to a whole range of specific values, e.g. from choice of career to a whole range of personal preferences, they could in fact hold very dramatically different values. The choice of values rests on more than just knowledge. It also rests on your own personal background, abilities, and what you are realistically capable of achieving in a given context. Fred Weiss
  17. Thanks. Actually, even "good Objectivists" sometimes fall into the "floating abstraction" realm in defending capitalism. It is not enough to say, "capitalism is the only moral system since it is based on individual rights and it doesn't matter even if under capitalism the rich got richer and the poor got poorer, and vast monopolies were formed able to charge whatever they wanted, and people could buy up all the land around you and charge you a toll to leave your house, and....etc,etc. <fill in whatever absurd fantasy nightmares people have about capitalism>. The reason is that if that were the case, then capitalism *wouldn't be* the most moral system. There would be something fundamentally wrong with it. Ayn Rand once said that she doesn't think she could have come up with her system of ethics except for the evidence provided by the Industrial Revolution, i.e. that an economic system could exist which benefited and potentially enriched *everyone*, i.e. that in fact there were no "conflicts of interest" among rational men and that one could pursue one's (rational) self-interest without sacrificing others -of which in the political/economic realm capitalism is the embodiment. Capitalism was the first economic system in history in which in order to get rich you have to *produce*, and specifically to produce values which people were willing and able to purchase. So that the rich get rich not by impoverishing (or looting) others but by increasing their standard of living, by producing a vast abundance of goods at ever lower prices. So you have the examples of Rockefeller who built an enormous fortune by dropping the price of oil by 90% and in that way and by that process came to dominant the market for oil - or Carnegie who cut the price of steel in half - or Ford who made the automobile affordable for average buyers. And so on...one could give 100's of examples on up to Bill Gates and Sam Walton today. In contrast in former eras, one got rich by conquest, looting, and enslavement. Fred Weiss
  18. True, the price of Atlas 1st editions in very good condition have been steadily rising in price. Many dealers are now selling them for over $1,000. However a $2,000 opening bid for a copy which has been repaired - even "expertly" - is a bit much in my view. I have sold similar copies for under $1,000. (I must add that I have not been following eBay lately, so I don't know if the seller in this case - who, btw, is a noted rare book dealer - might have felt it was in line with recent sales there.) By way of comparison, and in follow-up to Betsy's comment, a comparable copy of "We the Living" (or "Fountainhead", for that matter) - with dust jacket - could easily go for over $5,000. I emphasize "with dust jacket" because the dj is 70-80% of the value of a modern first edition. The reason for the much higher price, as Betsy notes, is that those first editions, and in that condition, are much rarer. And those books with dj's - and especially dj's in good condition - are even rarer. Fred Weiss
  19. This is not the case. Actually the exact opposite is true. Ironically, Marxists often decry the very mobility of workers which capitalism makes possible. They attack the alleged "instability" of capitalism and the manner in which people are constantly uprooting themselves to move on to other work or other geographic areas, creating what they decry as the "rootlessness" of modern life. As you know, 10's of millions of people came to this country, often with nothing more than the clothes on their backs. Others managed to traverse the continent in rickety wagons subjecting themselves to the most horrendous conditions and dangers to make new lives for themselves. All of this would have been impossible under feudalistic serfdom. Something like a million new businesses are started every year in this country, often by people of relatively modest financial backgrounds operating on "shoe strings". Many of them do fail, but it is hardly a picture of people unable to try and improve their lives through their own efforts. But even the average worker of relatively modest ability and limited ambition has enormous resources at his disposable. He inherits, if you will, an industrial civilization with highways, schools, automobiles, telephones, - and now the Internet - which opens up virtually the entire world to him to pursue his dreams, if he chooses to pursue them. How many people fail at this endeavor, not because the opportunity is not there, but simply because they lack the willingness to take the risks involved or to undertake the hard work required? Capitalism is simply not the caricature of it which Marxists have portrayed for over a 100 years. Maybe instead they should look instead at the *reality* of what they themselves advocate and the absolute disaster which it has caused when its ideas have been implimented. Fred Weiss
  20. That doesn't follow. It sounds like you are in a state of some understandable confusion and in the midst of challenging many of your basic political/economic assumptions, some of which you probably absorbed at an early age and took as almost "axiomatic". So you never really thought they even required argument. You assumed they were just "givens", i.e that workers are exploited under capitalism and/or that inherited wealth is frequently unearned so is therefore unjustified and/or that capitalists/industrialists contribute relatively little to the economic process and are therefore superfluous, etc. Now suddenly you are confronted with some serious challenges to those assumptions, requiring you to re-think them. If you are conscientious and honest about it, it may take you some time to fully accept the alternative view (assuming even that you do). When I was first introduced to Ayn Rand, I was a sophomore in college. Previous to that I was a committed *communist*! While I went for the philosophy immediately and read everything about it I could get my hands on, it actually took me a number of years before I fully grasped the argument for capitalism and was able satisfactorily to answer in my own mind most of the typical objections (some of which you are raising here). I'll just add that in addition to Ayn Rand - who most importantly will give you the proper *philosophical* presuppositions for the defense of capitalism - there are many valuable and important works by professional economists which you will find helpful, if not even indispensable, to really getting it. Works by men like Von Mises, Hazlitt, Bastiat, and others. To the Objectivists in the group, I'll mention that one of the most valuable resources I discovered was reading good biographies of the leading industrialists - and there is a growing number of such good biographies, of such men as Carnegie, JJ Hill, DuPont, and others. These biographies enabled me to really grasp the essential and necessary role of the entrepeneur in the industrial process. Grasping that role enables you to understand why when they are disposed of in socialist/communist regimes, those economies immediately sink into chaos and impoverishment (that in itself disproves the Marxist "exploitation theory" which would predict the exact opposite). It is also of course the fundamental thematic concept in "Atlas Shrugged". Fred Weiss
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