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Mixon's Achievements

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  1. I am pleasantly surprised that a fellow atheist was able to win public office in an area with so many religious conservatives.
  2. A nation is comprised of individuals, some of whom I am proud of, some of whom I am not, and the vast majority of whom I have never even met. It feels wrong to lump the heros in with rotters and strangers by passing collective judgement. I have never been given to outbursts of patriotism but I do admire the political principles on which my country is founded. Though I have never personally travelled outside the United States, many of my friends have. I've read a fair amount of books on the history and culture of other nations. To date, I have yet to hear or read about any nation in which I would rather have been born in than my own. The reason is that here in the US, more so than anywhere else in the world, I am largely the architect of my own life. I am largely free to choose my profession, my values, and my love.
  3. Again, I must confess my lack of knowledge regarding philosophy. Maybe there is an easier way. Answer this for me. If I execute an convicted criminal who is innocent, is it a sacrifice? or have I committed an immoral act by initiating the use of force?
  4. I appreciate the recommendation and should add that I have no background in philosophy. Let me clarify again though, I am not saying one can be certain of no past or future events. I am skeptical that one can be absolutely certain of all past and future events. In other words, there exist some past and future events of which we cannot be 100% certain. Past Event: I was born in 1981. I am absolutely certain of that. Can you be absolutely certain of that? Future Event: I am 99.9999999% certain the sun will rise tomorrow as well. Unless I were in certain parts of Alaska:) I'm certainly banking on it. It's definitely on the lowest of the low in order of probablity of non-occurence.
  5. All investments carry with them an inherent risk of loss in value. If the price of gold declined from its current levels, you would be worse off. I commend you for shying away from investments you don't understand, but don't be lulled into thinking that commodities are simple. The factors affecting commodity prices are every bit as sophisticated as those effecting a large business. Beware of getting caught up emotional investing driven by irrational exuburence or excessive pessimism. It often pays to be greedy when others are fearful, and fearful when others are greedy. Benjamin Graham's Mr. Market analogy did a great job of explaining this. 1) If you want to take a more passive approach to investing check out Vanguard's Index funds. Berkshire Hathaway (Warren Buffett's company) is also great to own. 2) If you want to get serious about research. The first step would be to learn how to read and interpret all four financial statements. Focus first on learning to read the Balance Sheet & Income Statement. All publically traded companies are required to file quarterly financial statements with the SEC. You can look them up here: http://www.sec.gov/edgar.shtml Pay close attention to fees you pay to own any investment. Include transaction fees, commissions, storage costs (for gold/silver). Make sure to include them when calculating return on investment.
  6. Let's approach this from the opposite angle and assert that it is possible to know everything with absolute certainty, even events that occured in the past. Yet we still do make errors of knowledge right? Now in the course of convicting criminals and sentencing them to death, over time it reasonable to assume errors of knowledge still occur, yes? Eyewitnesses can make mistakes, Lab technicians make errors, and occasionally overzealous law enforcement personnel plant evidence because they "feel" an individual is guilty. So in the course of executing convicted men, it's reasonable to assume you're going to kill a few innocents along with the guilty, right? Just like in the course of lending money, they're a few who end up not paying. You try to use credit models to minimize this but it still occurs because you can't know the course of future events. Is that a sacrifice? Wouldn't we be sacrificing innocent lives to execute the guilty? My argument is that we cannot be absolutely certain about past and future events in the same way we can be absolutely certain about the laws of nature or logic. This is due to the problem of errors of knowledge. Hence, no legal system can exist in which knowledge of guilt or innocence would be absolute. But these errors of knowledge are correctable to some degree, provided you don't use capital punishment.
  7. I have read about this proposal as well and find it equally alarming. Everyday I come across an overwhelming number of men and women my age or younger who regard corporations, profit, and human activity of any kind that doesn't involve sacrifice as morally wrong. It's truely terrifying to behold.
  8. Why is your only alternative cash? It's a good idea to keep 3-6 months of cash in a savings account to handle emergency expenses (car breaks down, illness, job loss, etc.) However, each dollar you keep in cash has an opportunity cost. You might find it difficult to exhange gold and silver at present, even coins, as cash. I understand all to well how frustrating it is to see your cash eroding in value everyday by an inflationary monetary policy. Consider the merits of owning equities instead of commodities like gold, silver, & oil. It is true that owning commodities can offer you a hedge against inflation. As each dollar becomes worth less it takes more of them to buy the same quantity of commodity but from a wealth standpoint you aren't any better off than when you started. It is true that these commodities can genuinely increase in value as they are production inputs for other products, but seperating those price changes from purely inflationary price changes is nearly impossible from a practical standpoint. On the other hand, if you own shares of a business making inflationary determinations is not necessary because, genreally speaking, businesses are able to raise prices in response to inflation. This is why stocks have outperformed all other asset classes on average over time.
  9. What is OPAR? I'm currently reading "For the New Intellectual" and von Mises "Human Action."
  10. The statement "One cannot be absolutely certain" is indeed a meaningless contradiction without putting in the context of "what." We can be absolutely certain of the nature of gravity or the boiling point of water under given conditions because they are repeatable. Reason allows us to observe natural phenomenon and repeat experiments. Reason does not allow me to look into the past and observe a crime with that same degree of absolute certainty. You can be reasonable certain of past events based on evidence, but is that a sufficent standard for executing a convicted criminal? I don't doubt that execution is a greater deterrent than imprisonment, but that does not alter the injustice of sacrificing even one innocent wrongly convicted man to get at the guilty.
  11. Before studying Objectivism, my argument against capital punishment went something like this. A man wrongfully imprisoned may be set free, a man wrongfully accused cannot be resurrected. I question how justice is better served by using capital punishment over life imprisonment. I see only an increased risk of committing irrepairable injustice if the man convicted and put to death is innocent. The push for capital punishment seems driven more by an emotional desire for vengence than reason. What if you are absolutely certain he is guilty? Can you be absolutely certain he is guilty? What is the standard of absolute certainty? Eyewitness accounts? Video footage? DNA evidence?
  12. To the OP: Be cautious in financial speculation, regardless of the commodity. Also, I would urge you to consider carefully the objective value of gold as money vs. the objective value of gold as an investment. Its value as the former: fungiblity, high store of value, scarcity are not necessarily the qualities one seeks in sound investment. I would highly recommend a book by Benjamin Graham called The Intelligent Investor. Warren Buffett has also written a bit on the value of gold as an investment. Keep in mind you can learn just as easily from a $500 mistake as you can from a $50,000 mistake.
  13. I don't doubt the economist's claim that a socialized health care system will lower the cost of healthcare for the average person. If the government taxes Bill Gates an extra $100 per month and uses those funds to pay for my insurance, it would be cheaper for me. However, the total cost of healthcare didn't change. The government just changed who did the paying by using coercion against those who had forced no one. The only way the goverment can make healthcare cheaper is by dictating how much health care providers can charge for services. Obviously, the government would set prices below current market rates otherwise it would have no effect. In the short run, the average person would feel much better about their healthcare coverage in much the same way a cancer patient feels better when ceasing chemotherapy permaturely. In the long run, less capital would be devoted to developing new drugs and treatments. Salaries for healthcare workers would invariably fall. Fewer bright young minds would choose to pursue a career in medicine. The combined departure of capital and talent would lead to stagnation in the industry. Patients would begin to complain about waiting lines and rationed care. At which point the next generation of politicians will begin looking for fresh victims to subsidize an industry now made legally incapable of solving its own problems and start talking about how additional regulations will be needed to solve problems caused by *blank out*
  14. Superstition, magic, religion, & theology are all forms of irrationality and reflect the notion that knowledge comes from faith. Rational philosophy, indeed all rational thought, is based on objective facts. The two are diametrically opposed. Rationality did not evolve from irrationality. Historically, it is true that the Dark Ages preceded the Age of Reason. However, you have taken this and falsely ascribed the latter as a consequence of the former. The fact that one event occurs after another does not necessarily mean it is a consequence of former. By the same token, the fact that one event precedes another does not necessarily mean it is a cause of the latter. To assert that humanity needed superstition as a pre-requisite for rational philosophy is as like saying that freedom evolved from slavery. Again, you have made the same error. Collectivism did not permit or set the stage for a specialized division of labor, capital accumulation and free trade did. Free market capitalism promotes both.
  15. First, welcome to the forum. From reading your post, I understand the source of your confusion. Think about how you are defining "right" and "wrong." Objectivism does not define right and wrong based on majority opinion. Reality is not determined by majority opinion. Gravity exists whether you acknowledge it or not. The earth is not flat, regardless of how many people know it or not. Reality is mind independent. The good is also not defined in terms of how much you sacrifice. In Altruism, it is. Different versions of that moral code have ruled over much of the earth during recorded history, with disasterous results. Let's examine your example of the CEO and the drug company. Everything we have is the product of a human's mind. Drugs are developed by individuals or corporations. No one can exist without the right to the product of his/her labor. Drugs cost resources to produce and are valued commodity. That is why they are produced in the first place. A life saving drug is more valuable to you than your iPod, that is why you would be willing to pay more for it than you would for an iPod. Price is an objective quantitative measure of how much a product is valued. However, value is subjective on an individual basis. You might be willing to pay more for a drug than I am, that is why you would get it before I would. A rational CEO will seek to maximize his firm's total profit, not necessarily his profit margin. Profit Margin = Profit / Revenue (simplified). Profit = Revenue - Cost (again simplified). Observe that a high profit margin does not neccessarly equal maximum profit. There exists an inverse relationship between price and quantity demanded which must also be taken into account. Also, consider how you characterized the CEO depending whether he was earning a low profit margin vs. a high profit margin. You use the phrase "saving lives" in the former vs. "allowed to die" in the latter. Regardless of how much a drug company, doctor, or nurse charges for life saving treatment, more lives are saved with treatment than without. If 20 out of 100 people are treated, 20 lives were saved. To say that the doctor, nurse, or drug company "allowed 80 people to die" implies that they were in responsible for the illness in the first place, which is not the case. Don't take this analysis as a personal attack
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