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Everything posted by TheAllotrope

  1. "Businesses would prefer to discuss the consequences of the increases — new regulations and higher costs, which they say are hampering economic growth — rather than suggest that the government has overstated the value of life." Gotta love how they ignore the fact that freedom and prosperity add to the value of life. And that their "value of life" is value to the government, not value to the person himself.
  2. I don't think anyone has here clearly defined the concept of efficiency as a technical economic term, though sNerd kind of got at it a bit. There's a bit of a difference between technical efficiency (how well you make spoons) and economic efficiency. Efficiency, as presented in economics, refers to how market transactions apply to people's costs of production and value-judgments. The point of an economy is to maximize value, which comes generally from maximizing wealth (if you want to maximize value, that also means getting that wealth into the hands of people who are willing and able to pay for it, ie trading). Everyone is out to maximize value: the producer wishes to get the most money for his goods, and the buyer the most goods for his money. The efficient case is where the last good traded was done so at a point where both parties are indifferent, meaning the marginal cost was equal to the marginal price (ie, the supply and demand curves intersect). This point is value-maximizing. It is simply not true that there is no profit in such a situation, just that the producer made no profit on the last good sold. Even this is misleading, because economic analysis of "profit" breaks into two categories, "normal" and "economic". A normal profit means it covers opportunity cost. If you're earning $1 million a year in salary, and your next best job is also $1 million, that salary is considered "normal" profit, despite being quite high relative to other economic actors. "Economic profit" refers to when people earn more than their opportunity cost. Your friend is somewhat correct in pointing out that a "perfectly competitive" market has no economic profit, but that doesn't mean no profit. The value-maximizing solution is also profit maximizing. But good luck finding a perfectly competitive market. Economists such as Milton Friedman are quick to point out that no market is "perfectly competitive", just that their decisions can often be modeled as if they were. Besides, expectations of economic profits lead to investments and therefore economic growth. An economy limited by opportunity cost is stagnant. Economists have a tendency to presume a world in which a non-gain is a loss. Conflating the two creates some problems. Obviously, the most fundamental alternative to something isn't "the idealized case", it's nothing. A producer may be generating more profit than an economist's model might say they "ought to", but the fact remains they are creating a lot of wealth, without coercion. Now try having an "efficient" outcome where people's rights (namely, property rights) are not respected, and tell me how far that system gets.
  3. Legitimacy of government spending aside, they may very well come back for it. I have relatives (long since dead) who were given Social Security checks, but were morally opposed to any kind of government payments to them or anyone else, so they just put it away in a secure account distinct from their other assets. A number of years later, the Feds sent them a letter indicating that their checks had been too much by some amount, and would they please give it back? So, they did. Of course, the matter being resolved, they also pocketed the interest... I think that's probably your best bet. Just tuck it away, give them a notice that you have the money and will return it to the proper agency. If they reply, great, give it back and they shouldn't bother you. If not, let it grow in something productive - better that it go into capital formation of some kind than down the drain called the Treasury's ledgers. "Sit on it" can often be a good policy until you get more or better information.
  4. I think his answer would likely be that it would only matter in his subjective opinion if he were to live or not. His deadness is objective and based in reality...but his caring isn't. I'd perhaps question him on what his "subjective" standard of value is in his "subjective" value judgments. If he has no standard, I doubt you'll get very far because his modus operandi is emotional reaction, not thoughtful response, to the world around him. If he can pick any standard at all (for himself as a "subjective" judgment), why that standard in particular, or even any standard at all? If he can find a standard of any kind, even an improper or false one, he's ultimately admitted the fact that man does need values and value judgments, and therefore morality.
  5. Not having read The Jungle I cannot speak for its accuracy. The question no one ever seems to ask is what were the alternatives to the "abuses" (I use quotes because we're interpreting abuse from a modern context without any reference to the real, general living conditions of the 19th century). Any politico-economic system that is a significant departure from its predecessors will be inheriting the problems of that predecessor for some time. It is rather telling how fast the economy and population increased during the 19th century, and provides good indication that they were doing at least something right. Citing things like the dust bowl to condemn profitability is silly, though - if people were truly looking out for themselves they'd be trying to use farming practices that didn't overwhelm the land; the dust bowl could have either been a result of widespread myopia (a definite possibility). Or some people could have been looking into better agricultural techniques, and were not successful immediately. To the extent it was the first, people learn from crises like that; to the extent it was the second, not much of an alternative existed when farmers are trying to feed people as their most immediate concern.
  6. 1. A book's text can be good or bad: good if the reader thinks critically, accepting good ideas and rejecting bad ones, or bad if the reader accepts false ideas. I think the appropriate thing to do is give the buyer the benefit of doubt and presume that person is rational. They might be studying it for a course or just to learn - I myself have been planning to read some theology (Aquinas) to see it according to its proponents. Selling the books is an appropriate course of action. 2. Giving the books away would be appropriate if you don't wish to spend the time or effort selling them, but since there's probably a willing buyer I'd just try to sell it. Leaves you with a few more bucks, and displaces a transaction with the publisher (as sNerd indicated). 3. The right to property means the right to your own property. A totalitarian government's censorship is claiming the right to destroy someone else's property. Respect for truth demands rejection of falsehood, and that means not acknowledging falsehoods as legitimate. The ideas in such books cannot justify your protection of them. If you really want that text out of the world, by all means burn it - it's your exclusive right, and in the cause of truth. 4. I wouldn't consider it a "slap in the face" to Objectivism. An observation: your questions are all framed in terms of "being worse than (some form of evil)". Life is about creation of values and achievement...the pursuit of good, not avoidance of evil. And certainly don't accept unearned guilt.
  7. How about the technical issue of how principles are refined or expanded? Let's not put ourselves in the problem of a 100% entrenched philosophy that leaves no room whatsoever for improvement. Even setting aside the issue of principles, we'd need a system of laws, as opposed to principles. No computer is going to decide that the appropriate punishment for Crime X is prison/fine/something-else Y. Laws have to come with the consent of the governed, and people are not (and ought not to be) convinced by "the computer said so".
  8. Huh, I had never thought of benevolence in terms of temporarily suspended judgment due to incomplete evidence... Here are some points worth considering though: Why on Earth not? Rationality is "one’s total commitment to a state of full, conscious awareness, to the maintenance of a full mental focus in all issues, in all choices, in all of one’s waking hours." (Lexicon) Having more limited knowledge or ability does not make you less rational. My understanding of O'ism is that moral perfection is considered normal and expected; since rationality is a virtue rather than a term describing someone's ability, it should be something fully achievable for everyone (and ought to be fully achieved, by everyone). Actions and premises can be considered evil only when they are volitionally chosen; if someone is so "confused", provided they have an active mind and are willing to listen to why those things are evil, there's still hope and such beliefs might be considered more minor. If two premises are contradictory, though, chances are they do not have an active mind, and are not committed to rationality nor pride. That's evil in my book, if they don't change course almost immediately when it's pointed out. And yes, one judges a man in proportion to vice. Condemning your socialist neighbor to the same extent as Pol Pot is either going too far or nowhere near far enough.
  9. I had to laugh at this one. I don't think anyone on this forum will ever object to anyone's sale of his own organs, when such a sale 1) does not harm him (humans can work with 1 kidney no problem) 2) he benefits from it and 3) there is a willing buyer for that value. Definitely one of the tragedies of the modern world that Iran allows the sale of organs (and has no waiting list) yet the US doesn't (and does have a waiting list).
  10. I think the distinction between "good" and "bad" "pride" is one of pride versus vanity. By my understanding of O'ism, pride is taken to mean striving for moral perfection. It can be characterized as identifying the good and then working for it ("I'm good because I do good things"). Vanity, on the other hand, is the identification of the self as good, without a justification in reality ("What I do is good because I do it"). There's no such thing as "bad pride", if pride is to be taken as O'ists normally do.
  11. I do not disagree with what you've said, except for your claims on what my argument is. I think we're getting stuck on how we're defining our terms, specifically ethics. Let us agree on your description of ethics as the science identifying principles for man's life qua man. What term do we use to identify the altruist (or other ethical systems') codes for how man should live? Do we simply announce that their use of the words "ethics" and "virtue" are fundamentally irrational and therefore cannot be used to identify their concepts defining "how man should live" and "what is good"? If so, what words can they use? I'm just trying to get us on the same page here, so we don't waste time and emotional energy talking past each other. What's important is the concept, not the word. The word is only good insofar as it allows us to communicate the concepts to each other. I agree very much that irrational "ethics" (I use the quotes to refer to what people call ethical systems, as distinguished from a real, valid system of ethics) use an improper standard of value, and that as a science ethics must properly apply logic to reality. It is properly a science defining how man should live qua man. But the word "ethics" existed long before Ayn Rand. There's a reason why we use the terms "altruist ethics" as opposed to "Objectivist ethics". The descriptors altruist and Objectivist specify the kind of ethics we're talking about. Are you saying that we should dispense with that, call Objectivist ethics "ethics", and call everything else "(something) else"? "Virtue" is an implicit concept within the concept "ethics". That's not to say virtue is ethics, but merely that one cannot have "ethics" without "virtue" - even if the concepts "virtue" "value" and "good" have been stolen or otherwise corrupted. I'd say there's more to both than their relationship to each other. But again, I'd like to be very clear on how we are defining our concepts for virtue, value, and good, and how we are defining the concept altruists are talking about when they say virtue, value, and good.
  12. Well, getting a vaccine doesn't even really help anyone except the person getting the one vaccinated. If enough people get it, sure it can help block an outbreak, but for the most part it only benefits the vaccinated person. If getting a vaccine prevents you from contracting a disease, for a vaccination to be a moral obligation (to not spread the disease), someone else must not have fulfilled their own moral obligation (if everyone is vaccinated, the point is moot because you can't spread the disease to anyone anyway).
  13. But at the same time that section on fair use referenced above said that some purposes (such as commentary, education, etc) are not copyright infringements, even if copies are made without explicit permission. Home use, without friends involved in lending/sharing music, seems to me to be one of the acceptable cases insofar as you take a CD, add the music to your hard drive (ie, copy it without explicit permission), and listen to it from there, retaining the original CD on a shelf or something like that. There is no monetary gain or transfer of the music, it's simply being put in a more convenient form. Despite the haziness of the RIAA's official statement and the law in question, I'd give the benefit of doubt to the consumer, who has every expectation that he can listen to the same music in a more convenient form (ie, mp3 as opposed to audio CD). If something like that is instead a major property rights violation, why has the RIAA not sued Microsoft and Apple for writing software that can rip music from CDs and even burn new CDs? Why do the license agreements of those programs (which I do read, by the way) not mention that ripping music is a prohibited activity? I can accept that one should not infer permission, because it has not been explicitly granted. But the question in my mind then becomes, "What is the extent to which permission is a factor in copyright laws?" I submit that obtaining permission for copying is not an absolute, but that it depends on the intent (and actual actions) of the person doing the copying. How it depends, we identify from a reading of the (vague) law, which offers a positive indication that some uses are acceptable justifications for copying (with an incomplete selection of activities enumerated), and others are not (with very few examples enumerated).
  14. The validity of the ethical system isn't what I was getting at. Any system of ethics, valid or not, must have a definition of "the good" (valid or not). Virtue is the means to "the good". Even altruist ethics has a statement of what is good, and what a "good person" (ie, a virtuous person) is. Even if the formulation of good and virtue are flawed or incomplete, the ethical system still necessary concerns itself with virtue. It's redundant in the same way "electric lightbulb" is redundant: it's technically true, but the descriptor is 100% unnecessary because there is no lightbulb which is not electric. If ethics is broadly a science identifying principles for how man should live life, that concept subsumes both rational and irrational systems of ethics. One could (improperly) say that man should live qua animal, pillaging, plundering, consuming without regard to future, to rights, to anything. Sure he won't survive long, and that school of the science of ethics is wrong, but I think it can still be fairly placed within the broader concept, ethics. Otherwise, we'd have to come up with 2 additional concepts - one which subsumes both correct and incorrect formulations of how man should live, and one for the incorrect formulations themselves.
  15. I think this guy is not totally inconsistent with what you're saying. If you know you're carrying a terrible disease, you do have an obligation not to threaten other people's lives. Unfortunately, this guy is saying you're deliberately performing the act...of not acting to get a vaccine. Grammatical failings aside, there is such a thing as a sin of omission, and if by going about your daily business as if nothing was wrong when you are infected you get someone sick, I'd say you're at fault. But what he doesn't appreciate is that in such a case the primary beneficiary of a vaccine is the person getting it, not "society". There's an externality involved, since if enough people got the vaccine it'd stop the disease among the general public, but the primary benefit is still individual, and no one has a right to force the vaccine on someone who doesn't want it. That would be saying "you have a moral obligation to pay, for my benefit". Now, on a technical level, the virus in question (to my knowledge) is not exceptionally more harmful or prevalent than other viruses of its class (influenza), and the attention it has been getting borders on paranoia, like just about everything else nowadays. Remember SARS? Yeah, no one hears about that one too much anymore, but it was a real threat in the week that the news was parading it around as the next manifestation of doom and destruction. I'd probably have responded to the statement that "morality is commonly defined as altruism" that the commonality of the definition says nothing about its validity.
  16. It's the act of not filing that is a (potentially) criminal offense. The filing does not produce evidence against you, the absence of filing does. Taxes are theft to the extent that they are not voluntary. If you did not want government to finance transfer payments, business regulations, anti-trust lawsuits, services (education, roads, hospitals), any use of your money for those purposes was without your consent, ie forcibly taken from you, ie theft. Now if all government is doing is protecting you from force and fraud, we have to ask if it's using force or fraud to protect you from others. If it is, we would live in a nearly fully free state, where the only compulsion is to pay the taxes necessary to block peoples' compulsion of others. If not, we live in a totally free state, and all taxes are voluntary. Either is quite preferable to our current system. Ideally government would function on a state level far more than a national one. Concentrated power is always a potential threat, and it's worth considering that freedom is a rather revolutionary idea in human history, so there will likely always be some pressure for more government controls and decentralization can help protect people from that. But if we start with the (fantastic) assumption that government is doing what it's supposed to, and no more, it doesn't really matter what the geographical or demographic jurisdiction is.
  17. How is it possible for a pharmaceutical company to abuse government? Who ultimately holds the power in that situation? The abuse might be toward consumers, facilitated by government and using taxpayer money, but that's a very different argument.
  18. By the time you've asked if not filing a return would violate your 5th Amendment rights, you have already acknowledged implicitly that not paying your income taxes would be illegal. Awareness of a crime before its willful commission itself provides the evidence necessary to prosecute. This guy's 6 wins against the IRS in 30 years seems extremely fishy to me. He's either not effective (too few wins in a long time frame) or the wins represent cases not connected with this scheme. That's fraud either way you cut it.
  19. This probably is not what the OP is asking, but if a verbal statement gives cause to imagine an impending physical threat (ie mugger comes up and says "let me hold your wallet") then I'd say sure physical retaliation is justified. Just insults, not so much. Besides, in a civil society, people tend to notice the person throwing out the insults at least as much as the victim. Damaged reputation and refusal to trade can be powerful consequences by themselves.
  20. FYI TLD, I only raised this issue as a hypothetical point I was curious on to see if my own thoughts on the matter were consistent. I'm certainly not, have not, and don't plan to copy music then resell it. But the thing I'm trying to answer is mostly just the one raised in part 2 of the OP: What is the extent of research on a seller's character necessary before a purchase can be made? Is it an evasion to do no research and simply say that any wrong they've committed is their own and your buying the CD does not affect it? Should one research until one has verified the virtue of the seller, within reason?
  21. I think the reason the classification is "bogus" is because virtue is implicit in ethics. What exactly people choose to consider virtue may vary considerably, as will their standard of value (not all make proper rational decisions on these counts). But ultimately virtue is a concept identifying how to achieve value, and value is the purpose of ethics. In the Objectivist ethics (and in reality), the ultimate value is life, therefore virtues define how to achieve that ultimate value. But no matter what the value is, you need a concept of virtue to tell you how to get there. The word "virtue" preceding ethics creates a redundancy. Improper use of language aside, Wikipedia expresses the difference succinctly as I suppose on this basis Objectivism could properly be called "all of the above" to some extent. I haven't read enough about each classification, or enough works within each, to offer a definitive answer, though. Gotta love how Wiki gives credit to Rothbard for the non-initiation-of-force principle though.
  22. Yeah, I find it pretty disturbing how universities and now even pre-college schools are requiring community service. I always did my best to avoid it, not because I'm against benevolence, but because I wanted the work I did to be meaningful. In terms of actual usefulness, designing electric cars and studying economics had far more value than hours upon hours cleaning litter off beaches. The idea that people should be forced to spend their precious time on Earth doing low-value menial labor never quite clicked with me. It's really a shame when government/school mandates substitute resented chores for meaningful voluntary benevolence. If that doesn't devalue goodwill toward man, I don't know what does.
  23. I kind of see what he's saying. If you have a system based on altruism, it is to every individual's benefit to cheat the system (so it only works when everyone is "unselfish"). The system fails if there is the slightest bit of self-interest. Of course, if there's no self-interest, there's no self-preservation. So much for individualism, free will, material prosperity, etc. The flaw is in presuming that we're starting with a system based on altruism. The fact that it is to everyone's advantage to cheat the system is one of the many things that makes altruism not viable. What he is saying then is that altruism can only be defended practically at its furthest extreme, and everyone would have to be willing to live under that extreme, without the thought that they'd be better off without it. Even if that could be defended as a moral ideal, it simply will never happen, it relies on everyone believing to their core that they are fundamentally less worthy of life than everyone else, and people cannot function without self-esteem. If we start in a system where people are rational and selfish, they can continue to be rational and selfish without anything breaking down, except the altruist. Tragedy, that.
  24. The essay is referring to economics as a technical science. From the essay, "Normative economics and the art of economics, on the other hand, cannot be independent of positive economics. Any policy conclusion necessarily rests on a prediction about the consequences of doing one thing rather than another, a prediction that must be based - implicitly or explicitly - on positive economics." Criticism of this is akin to criticizing a physicist for saying that special relativity has characteristics including the twin paradox but not assessing whether that trait is good or bad. Positive economics is restricted to the question, "if this, then what?" The good or bad of the "what" is a question for normative economics, ethics, or politics. Friedman tends to be very careful about mixing his technical research with pronouncements about what should be (he addresses this issue in the video form of Free to Choose), but he is by no means silent on his normative economics. His political writings, including Capitalism and Freedom and Free to Choose, are explicitly value oriented. From C&F (pg 50): "Any system which gives so much power and so much discretion to a few men that mistakes -excusable or not -can have such far reaching effects is a bad system. It is a bad system to believers in freedom just because it gives a few men such power without any effective check by the body politic...But it is a bad system even to those who set security higher than freedom. Mistakes, excusable or not, cannot be avoided in a system which disperses responsibility yet gives a few men great power, and which thereby makes important policy actions highly dependent on accidents of personality." Friedman comes out very explicitly against non-objective law in this (and many other) passage, which I pulled from a random page to show how prolific his value judgments are. His political theory is very similar to Rand's - capitalism is the ideal social/economic system because it protects individual rights, rewards virtue, and maximizes freedom. Friedman is not quite as consistent as Rand, especially in his earlier works, but if you trace his policy recommendations over time they do become more consistent with the political philosophy he describes in his earlier works. If you've ever taken statistics, the commentary on "failing to reject" a hypothesis should be familiar. The implication of a failure to reject a hypothesis is to establish it as "the best hypothesis currently formulated", or at the very least one that neatly describes the scenario in question. This is analogous to Rand's view of definitions - they are left open-ended in case a more complete hypothesis/definition is called for. As far as I remember (it's been a while), Rand's ItOE does not make many value judgments, it addresses the scientific side of human concept formation. Same thing goes for Friedman's technical work, as contrasted with his political advocacy.
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