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Everything posted by Dante

  1. Consider the question of why Steven Mallory tries to kill Toohey, or why Rearden feels a desire to kill the past teachers of the Wet Nurse. You ask, well why don't they just feel the urge to speak out against these people, rather than kill them; wouldn't that be a more rational and appropriate reaction? The faulty assumption is that every action or thought by a Rand character 'should' represent a well-reasoned and philosophically consistent Objectivist statement. Without this assumption, these things aren't confusing; Toohey and the teachers were doing something bad, and Rand's characters wanted to punish them and stop them from doing it again. Or consider Roark's dynamiting of Cortlandt, or Galt's statements about his 'highest moral feeling' being to kill the man who would ask Galt to live for him, or Dominique's statements about hating the rest of the world. It's not hard to understand these as literary devices intended to convey particular points to the reader; it's only when you try to integrate every action and every word of each of these characters, taken literally, into a mature, consistent, reasoned philosophy that you get the troubles you've run into. The key to all these questions is: it's a novel. It's not a philosophical treatise. It has imagery, metaphor, character progression. Some of these characters are still undergoing character development. Some are facing contexts fundamentally different from contemporary American life. Some are acting on emotion alone. Some are making philosophical points through their actions that are more complex than "this exact thing would also be okay to do in real life."
  2. The obvious aping of Christian religious services in the structure, the musical sing-alongs, etc is ridiculous. The lack of a more specific viewpoint than "atheism" is a crippling defect; as several people point out in the article, some particular ideology will undoubtedly surface for this particular church. By far the most interesting part to me is the 'sermon' described in the article: "in his closing sermon, Jones speaks about how the death of his mother influenced his own spiritual journey and determination to get the most out of every second, aware that life is all too brief and nothing comes after it." This type of gather does provide one potentially very valuable activity: sharing personal experiences of grappling with death and with life's big questions with other people who don't look to religion. This is particularly helpful for people who don't really have any other nonreligious people among their close friends. Much more so than simply celebrating that we're all enlightened atheists, or feeding into an atheist persecution complex, this kind of personal, nonreligious confrontation of the human experience could be very rewarding, it seems to me. Why it has to be on Sunday morning in a church format is baffling.
  3. Are you going to make a thread about every single action or statement by Rand or one of her characters that you disagree with? This is the tenth such thread of yours that I count in the past month: http://forum.objectivismonline.com/index.php?showtopic=24592 http://forum.objectivismonline.com/index.php?showtopic=24603 http://forum.objectivismonline.com/index.php?showtopic=24604 http://forum.objectivismonline.com/index.php?showtopic=24646 http://forum.objectivismonline.com/index.php?showtopic=24687 http://forum.objectivismonline.com/index.php?showtopic=24721 http://forum.objectivismonline.com/index.php?showtopic=24743 http://forum.objectivismonline.com/index.php?showtopic=24744 http://forum.objectivismonline.com/index.php?showtopic=24820 Many of these threads consist of you taking some action or statement by a character in a specific situation, and pretending that Rand is advocating that as a general practice or would advocate such a thing in real life. What is the point of this exercise? Rand provided a detailed enough statement of her philosophy and its principles such that it's not hard to figure out that she wouldn't advocate killing teachers, or blowing up buildings, or letting the world burn when you could save it with a simple philosophical speech. She was a novelist. She wrote fictional accounts of fictional people doing and saying fictional things, in order to illustrate through her works the practical consequences of ideas. Why is that difficult to grasp?
  4. As I argued previously in this thread, it's not enough to quote the Bible on something without looking at actual Christians to see whether they view this passage as a valid Christian principle. How many Christians do you know that believe this? And how are those Christians (e.g. the Westboro Baptist Church) viewed by the greater Christian community?
  5. Some of these subsidies are actually direct price supports which hold up prices in a straightforward way, such as in the U.S. sugar industry. A direct subsidy, however, doesn't directly increase the price paid. A direct subsidy decreases the production cost that the producer faces; he responds by increasing production, and quantity rises and the market price falls. However, now the market price no longer reflects the actual cost to produce the good. Because production has increased, marginal cost has increased while price has decreased; the difference is the subsidy, being footed by the taxpayer. As a whole, we're paying more for the good than we'd be willing to on a free market. However, I was being imprecise in limiting this to simple subsidies; I also have in mind the kind of import controls that you reference. In actuality, many different forms of regulation are used to shift costs from farmers onto either customers or taxpayers (basically the same group). They can get away with it because the average consumer or taxpayer has very little to gain from repealing these laws, and therefore no one lobbies against them.
  6. Dante


    Most of us aren't here to brag about all the Objectivist stuff we've done.
  7. Dante


    This casual assumption of yours that others on this forum aren't interested in the practical implications of Objectivism, or aren't interested in actually applying it to their own lives, is arrogant, presumptuous, and one of the reasons you're getting such negative feedback from your posts here.
  8. The point is that many people who were "cashing in" on this issue politically are beginning to think that doing so is actually a losing strategy now, with the shifting demographics of the country. Also, consumers who might have to pay higher food prices are not a political group with any clout. It's a classic example of a large group where the costs are diffused, and thus no one individual has the incentive to get politically active over, say, an extra 50 cents on some food products. This is precisely the reason that agricultural subsidies (which have been keeping food prices artificially high for decades) are so entrenched; the people hurt by the policies are a massive group, with the costs diffused among them, while the people who benefit (the farm lobby) enjoy concentrated benefits. Thus, the lobbying over agricultural subsidies is a bit one-sided, and they easily persist. I fail to see why rising food prices would be a problem for immigration reformers when they clearly aren't for the farm lobby.
  9. I don't mean to just be contrarian, but the latest research and the newest trade models imply that the gains from international trade are actually quite small, at least for a country of sufficient size. Comparative advantage is still an incredibly solid principle accepted by 100% of economists, but that doesn't mean that international trade is always quantitatively significant for welfare. Also, this obviously doesn't mean that trade itself is of little value; without any trade I'd still be growing all my own food outside the hut that I built. Nonetheless, international trade seems to carry much less in terms of welfare gains than previously thought. With all those caveats, here's a paper. It's working paper version, it was published the following year in the AER: http://economics.mit.edu/files/6445 Edit: This is probably off-topic. It's just a technical point, but as an econ guy I find it all very interesting nonetheless.
  10. The U.S. government is a whole different animal. They have the technical ability to create unlimited amounts of new short-term assets (cash) to offset (theoretically) any level of liability. We need to be careful when thinking about what it even means for the U.S. government to be solvent or insolvent. For individuals and private businesses, however (and even state governments) this issue does not arise, and solvency as I've outlined it is an important and informative concept.
  11. One important principle to keep in mind when evaluating a religion like Christianity, or an ideology in general, is that "Christianity is as Christianity does." It's not enough to do even a close, informed reading of the foundational text of Christianity. That won't bring a sufficient understanding of the religion or the role that it plays in people's lives. We also have to look out into the world, at Christians attempting to live by their religion, and see what that means to them. While it's certainly circular to define the religion with, "Christianity is what Christians practice," we do need to understand what it is Christians practice in order to understand the religion. Religions can undergo fundamental transformations without their foundational texts changing one bit; we can look to the Protestant Reformation for an example of this. One of the things we see in Rand's above quote on the subject is precisely this; that she looks at what Christians in America are actually preaching, how they actually live their lives, and uses that to inform her evaluation of the religion. You can quote the Bible all you want, and insist that Christians who don't practice the Christianity that you see in the Bible are just hypocrites choosing "the destruction of their soul," but at some point it's worth asking whether your characterization of Christianity is really more objectively justified than theirs.
  12. So my question for you is this: what happens to the cost of servicing the 16 trillion dollar U.S. debt at that point? Currently, interest rates and yields are very low, which makes it easier to service the debt. In addition to this, the act of lowering interest rates involves the Federal Reserve buying up lots of government bonds, increasing demand, therefore increasing the price and lowering the yields (the cost of servicing these bonds). So what happens when one of the largest purchasers of U.S. bonds decides that it must not only stop buying government bonds, but turn around and start selling them itself? What happens when one of the Treasury's largest customers must become its competitor, to stave off high inflation? From where I'm standing, at that point, with the Fed's previous demand for bonds gone, and in fact a larger supply of bonds, bond prices fall, yields go way up, and the cost of servicing our debt suddenly doesn't seem so insignificant. We need a plan for long-term restructuring of entitlements now, such that we can cut the debt burden before we are forced to by the sheer expense of the debt.
  13. Well sure, the only reason that this is happening is that Republicans lost so heavily with Latinos this past cycle, and they want to win elections in the future. Still, many people who are spearheading the effort are sincerely and intensely passionate about it. For example, here is Republican Senator Marco Rubio talking about immigration in June of last year, and his personal connection to the issue: http://www.thedailys...12/marco-rubio I would characterize people like Rubio as having been in the right place at the right time politically. He is someone who has previously attempted (in vain) to get work done on immigration, and now all of a sudden (due to the recent election), his party is willing to listen. He has the credentials of having worked on the issue before it was popular with his party (credentials he deserves), and now he has the chance to get something done on it. I'm very optimistic about this immigration reform effort and the prospects for at least making our immigration system less dysfunctional and more immigration-friendly.
  14. And like their other powers, their power to police the border must be kept limited by the proper function of that power. In this case, stopping poor Mexican immigrants because they are coming and taking our jobs is an abuse of the government's control of the border, much like locking up nonviolent drug offenders is an abuse of the government's legitimate power to imprison criminals.
  15. Relevant quote from Ayn Rand on how the two interact politically in America, from her Q&A:
  16. Okay, well in that case, consider including this explanation in that same post: Post #6 basically makes no sense to anyone who doesn't know the context later explained in this paragraph, hence my assumption that your intention was to question Hsieh directly.
  17. This is an automatic cross-post of one of her blog posts. I doubt she'll see the replies here.
  18. The people who rent or sell to illegal immigrants do so voluntarily. It is the government which steps in to try to say that this transaction is illegitimate. This is a case of the majority banding together and using government force to prevent anyone from renting or selling to an immigrant.
  19. ... You really got all the way through Atlas Shrugged and you still think that what Galt wanted to do was "take over?"
  20. Others have already pointed out that you completely miss the distinction between the legitimate purpose of lending and the folly of a debt-driven economy, so I'll just add that you're misusing the concept of solvency, which you seem to think very highly of. It doesn't mean what you think it means. Solvency basically means having enough short-term assets to cover your short-term liabilities. It means that you could pay your immediate debts right now if you had to. It does not mean that you have no debt or liabilities at all, as you seem to be implying. In fact, businesses and principles that adhere to the principle of solvency borrow all the time for various purposes. There is no term for what you mean (that I know of) because there's no need for one; practically no one operates that way, nor should they.
  21. If the world were as rosy as you presume outside this one company, then Galt wouldn't have been able to persuade anyone to come with him. Every person he was able to convince is a testament to the widespread nature of moral bankruptcy in the world of the novel. You ask why he didn't fire off intellectual ammo at this thing, but he did. Every person he sat down with, he convinced them to go with him in exactly the manner you're looking for. At first, he focused his efforts where he though they would be most effective, at other entrepreneurs who have had to struggle against this moral atmosphere. After a certain point, he goes public with his arguments in his speech, because he judges that the real world consequences of moral bankruptcy are now clear enough for the average person to see. I really don't understand your issue with this.
  22. I think that was actually Branden, I've seen a clip of him talking about how she was interested in trying it once.
  23. Just another case of a politician using whichever justification gains the most traction with interest groups. I wouldn't think much of it.
  24. Well he views copyright as some utilitarian trading off of rights in order to incentivize authors, so he's operating from a false underlying view of copyrights in the first place. However, I don't think he's wrong that many journals are outrageously priced and that such prices survive through inertia from a now-dead business model. Part of the reason for such inertia is that most academics don't pay anything for access to these journals, as he says; it is paid for by their universities, and researchers face no marginal cost for access. This generally makes it more expensive for people outside the system to buy access on an individual basis. It's the same phenomenon that underlies part of the ballooning cost of health care; most people are paid for through the insurance system, and people who don't have insurance end up paying very high out-of-pocket costs. He's also right about the terrible negotiating position that new academics find themselves in when it comes to publishing their work. It would be nice if, when I publish an economics paper, it is accessible to the general public for free. However, my foremost concern is publishing the paper in a journal with a good reputation, especially since all of the people in my field will be able to read it for free through their institutions anyways. The reputation capital of these journals enables them to attract quality papers regardless of how much they charge outsiders. The solution, however, is not for some rogue academic to publish a bunch of papers illegally on his website. The solution is one that this author indicates and then dismisses as unlikely; namely, that older, more established researchers push journals to make their work accessible at a lower price. He dismisses this because he seems to think of academics in two classes; junior faculty working to get established and senior faculty who are already established and are simply coasting for the rest of their careers. This behavior on the part of a senior faculty member might be fine if they have tenure and are okay with coasting, but it's certainly not enough to stay relevant in their field over the course of a career. Indeed, most established faculty with a bit of reputation capital themselves still wish to publish quality work in good journals, and they have the ability to push for change in the industry. Ultimately, the reputation capital of a journal is not self-sustaining over the long term; it needs quality papers to stay relevant, and many of these will come from researchers with some name recognition and reputation themselves. If these researchers push for industry change (and they have some reason to), it will happen. Just don't expect it to happen quickly.
  25. I think here we may need to make a distinction about getting a license. Being required to get a license is not the same thing as being required to demonstrate a good reason why you might need a gun. In many areas, gun licenses do require this, but it's an additional add-on. Suppose we are all willing to stipulate that if someone commits a violent crime with a gun, he has forfeited the right to purchase a gun in the future. Or suppose we are willing to agree that people who have been proven mentally deficient and potentially dangerous should not be allowed to purchase guns. The practical implementation of either of these would mean the licensure of gun owners and gun sales, to ensure that the customers of such a sale meet the requirements. Here, we're not asking for a positive reason why the buyer needs the gun, only making sure he isn't someone forbidden to buy a gun. The question is fundamentally about the rights and status of the innocent individual. For someone where there's no concrete reason to think he or she might be a danger, can we still legitimately restrict gun sales in some fashion? Does he need to provide a good reason for buying the gun, or only prove that there's no specific reason to deny him a gun?
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