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Everything posted by TheAllotrope

  1. TheAllotrope


    One of the issues at hand is "what do they mean by selfish/selfless?" Most people use selfishness in a different sense than Objectivism does. For TBP, they probably mean simply that you should not be myopic and "greedy" and consider what impacts your actions have on your surroundings. It also means you should be doing more than just work professionally. Some of my co-workers did things like judge science fairs and help high schoolers get started with science research. That would be considered "selfless" by most, although Rand herself commented on the desirability of giving deserving young folks a leg up when one could afford it. You can bet if Rand thought it was okay, it wasn't selfless! And yes, Tau Beta Pi does have a purpose, which is at least partially to identify and recognize top talent at Universities. I was eligible last year but did not appreciate the benefits, so I didn't apply. I think that was a mistake on my part. But TBP adds to a resume more than a GPA does, if only because it shows that you have been identified as someone who will "go places". Scholarships and awards breed scholarships and awards (one of the reasons why academics consider citing yourself plagiarism nowadays...people use it to fluff up their resume by printing the same stuff over and over).
  2. The case ought not to be framed in terms of defending property rights - if that were the case, the government could just go door to door and confiscate every computer, CD, hard drive, etc, and that would be legitimate. I think the proper way to frame this is in terms of rule of law and the right of people to be secure in their persons and property. As far as rule of law, there is no coherent standard that indicates when an mp3 player should be confiscated. There is only an officer with a suspicion (or a chip on his shoulder). How on Earth can the officer even scan the contents and determine if there is indeed stolen material? How would he know that an mp3 was obtained by ripping a CD (legal use) or torrented (illegal use)? The mp3 player only sees it as a series of ones and zeroes. Nor can people know how to avoid being singled out, because again, there is no standard. If people cannot know what is criminal before they do it, then it simply cannot be legitimately called criminal. Plus, people generally ought to have their space respected unless there's a very good reason why not. There might be some basis for a greater degree of searching than is normal for airports, depending on the real security risks involved. That's a wholly different issue.
  3. I would tend to agree with your interpretation Ifat, but I think you missed part of what JMeganSnow wrote: The point here is not someone's doing an excellent job or being undercompensated, it's merely that someone is putting in the time. Chances are this is not an undervalued worker. And it's also considering that there is no one else who wishes to purchase the labor. If an individual undervalues the person's labor, then yes, it would be an injustice and the worker should start passing around his resume. But if "the market" does not value a person's labor, that means it is not a value, to anyone, and he ought to look for a new line of work rather than imagine that he's being mistreated by others. Though frankly, I think JMeganSnow's criticism of the word "deserved" doesn't make sense. Rather than say the word doesn't convey meaning appropriately, I would say the word has been co-opted by those who change its meaning and thereby destroy a valuable concept.
  4. Have you ever asked yourself why people have the right to property? It's not a primary - it's derived from the right to life. The right to property means the full ownership of your effort - of any value you produce. Morally there is no difference between intellectual values and physical values, because in each case one person did the work, and therefore one person should benefit (excluding the trickle effects from improved thinking/processing/etc). Take the motor example: your being able to copy my motor design may not have "cost" me anything, since all you did was borrow the blueprints and use your own materials, etc. But my work was far more than the motor I made for myself - it's the design work. You copying it means you are claiming a value I produced - the design - as your own. That means you are taking the unearned. Apart from just being a violation of someone's rights, it makes a mockery of the concept of justice. Also, since the US economy is shifting more and more towards services, especially intellectual services like software and engineering design, treating IP as somehow beneath more tangible property would condemn a significant portion of the population to a minimal standard of living, at best. I for one like the benefits that come with recognizing other people's rights.
  5. I think the OP is trying to suggest that the economic system, capitalism, is untenable where political power is in the hands of those who wish to dismantle rights rather than protect them. Of course, the question is somewhat moot because the capitalists would need to wrest political control from those same people before they can establish capitalism. Now, if it were the case that the majority of the population supported capitalism and individual rights, they would be able to establish a system that would defend those rights against the would-be anarchists, theocrats, communists, etc.
  6. Amen. Employees are not dependent on one employer - they always have alternatives. Often the best alternative is in the same field, sometimes it's not. But in no case is production wholly dependent on a relationship between two particular people. Also, people have been mentioning "power" in the context of a capitalist society, which I consider a contradiction. Power implies the ability to force someone to do something, and refusing to buy someone's product or labor has nothing to do with force.
  7. Alter the body's chemistry - in what way? The applications you describe may be legitimate, but the rest of us were under the impression that you were talking about a non-medical context. There is a HUGE difference between selling cocaine to random people on the streets and applying a trace amount as an anesthetic. One destroys life, the other supports it. That difference defines the line between the moral and the immoral.
  8. The standard of moral judgment is man's life qua man - life as a complete, productive, rational being. Insofar as drugs destroy our minds or bodies, they are immoral. Of course, a moral government is one that respects each man's right to judge for himself what his values are, provided he respects the rights of others. That means (in the context of drugs) a moral government is one that allows its citizens to be immoral.
  9. So Santa's only reason for existing is to provide the rest of us with goodies? Also, if we're really going to be talking about ordnance or heavy machine guns, would someone kindly propose a reason for having such things privately? I could be wrong, but my understanding of Objectivism is that every action must have a reason that goes beyond "I felt like it". I for one cannot imagine a reason why a private individual would want artillery or a nuke, especially when his neighbors are willing and able to finance such things jointly, putting them under the control of the military or militia. Those who oppose possession of such things have detailed their positions - namely, that their presence in residential areas constitutes a likely threat to their lives. If it is acceptable for a private citizen to own such weapons on the grounds that it's merely ownership, not a positive action, then I would think someone could equally well walk around with a grenade in one hand, so long as the fuse was never pulled.
  10. I think a more appropriate title would have been "the United Republics of America". Constitutionally, every State is required to be a republic. One of the great tragedies of modern American political thought is that the US is one country, when we are (if we pay the Constitution due respect) 50 countries under a military and economic alliance.
  11. Self-rule and autonomy are critical components of political freedom. How is it even possible to imagine a system by which people are "free", but not free to choose the policies that will influence them? So long as they generally affirm the principle of individual rights, no other nation can invade by right. The entire developed world embraces socialism to greater or lesser extents, which is an infringement of people's rights. But at the same time, the majority of their citizens support their governments and accept (even advocate!) the governments' actions. If men choose to disregard their own rights, one could properly call them wrong or immoral, but that doesn't grant the right to force them to acknowledge their rights.
  12. I take this to mean more than luck as a random chance influencing someone's life - sure, life has that element, but I think she's talking about "fortune" in the sense of random beneficent actions by others. If I take Rand correctly, this should be done in two cases: when assisting someone comes at little or no cost to you (giving strangers direction, or helping someone with ethical problems, or [as a psychologist my family knows said] helping them "interpret reality", meaning make sense of the world), or when it is a conscious investment in someone's life (ie, seeing someone's development and growth as a personal value). I personally find it remarkable how some college students I know come to the University (UC Berkeley) feeling totally isolated (especially given the local culture!), and then they discover that there's a student Objectivist Club which gives them an instant bond and support network. The observation made me think a bit on "loneliness":
  13. Unions have existed in some form for hundreds of years, initially as guilds which restricted labor with apprenticeship rules, licensing, a semi-caste system, and so on. "Modern" unionization I think came out of the Industrial Revolution (reference the strikes of the late 19th century). Also, "progressives" took off under Teddy Roosevelt more than Wilson I think. Let's keep in mind Wilson was against tariffs, making him at least somewhat in favor of free trade. In terms of sheer wrongdoing, I'd have to single out FDR.
  14. It is technically possible to offer a new, fresh constitution as an Amendment. The likelihood of that happening is admittedly extremely small, but there's no technical limitation requiring that people go with "band-aids". I do think we're now straying from the OP, though, so let's be courteous and keep it pertinent to the topic.
  15. Rand did address unions briefly in both The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. In The Fountainhead, Austin Heller writes in support of a strike, saying that if everything is voluntary, workers may strike (provided they don't violate the businessman's rights), and the businessman may hire scabs. In Atlas Shrugged, Rearden's union had a good relationship with Rearden, because they got only the most qualified workers and simply desired wages that were representative of their high skills, as opposed to the skills of the average person. I think the important thing to take away from them is that unionization is not categorically wrong. Employers can sometimes leverage individual workers, particularly when they have limited or specialized skills, or little other opportunity (mining towns, for example). It is appropriate for workers to refuse to work under wages they consider too low, or in poor conditions. Even if most workers feel this way, without unionization, the number that refuse to work will tend to be very small, and the business can go on as usual. The coal mining union knowingly pushed for higher wages, despite its awareness of the unemployment it would bring, because they felt it was more appropriate to send machinery into the mines than people. Individuals in a coal-mining company town would not have been able to make this change without organizing. Presumably, any person who wanted to go into the mines without those union-initiated protections would have been able to do so. That said, unions are not categorically right - they do lots of destructive things, from prohibitions on firing disruptive and unproductive workers to forcing others into unemployment by setting minimum wages, absurdly high wages, and nonsense work rules, to destroying property on strike, to abandoning their contractual obligations, etc. The UAW, ILWU, and NEA come to mind immediately. Any judgment on unions ought not to "package deal" them. I think the role of unions is minimal, all in all, but not zero.
  16. I don't imagine violent overthrow would instate an Objectivist government. Given that the US is not a dictatorship, violent overthrow would contradict the non-initiation-of-force principle. At this point, the battle is cultural and intellectual, not physical. Duke it out as a lobbyist (there are lobbyists who seek a roll-back of the State), write editorials, get a presence in media, publish books, speak out, talk to your friends and neighbors, but let's not even bring up insurrection if it doesn't apply.
  17. Thanks for the Rand quote Dave, that cleared a lot up for me. I was trying to ask whether Rand, Peikoff, or another Objectivist intellectual had formally distinguished self defense from retaliation, since the extent of my readings covers only retaliation.
  18. I said CDC might be appropriate - the existence of the private sector is a strike against the government, but I imagine there would at least be some debate over whether spreading a disease is an infringement of rights - I remember reading a posting a few days ago where exactly that issue was raised, and I didn't want to preempt those who are more familiar with political philosophy than I am. Also, the Constitution does provide for government ownership of roads. As long as that's in there, the Congress does have the power to finance roads. Of course, nothing precludes us from amending the document, but we can't ignore that without amendment, the government will control some roads. If the confusion was on my use of government collecting excise taxes on fuel or tolls, I should make clear that government would not be financed by this method. Roads would be kept in a distinct account, to be paid for by those taxes only (and the taxes would go only to the roads, not general functions). Regarding taxation, Rand wrote about the issue in Virtue of Selfishness (I'm not trying to appeal to the authority here, just bringing up the article) where she specifically identified it as the last change in an otherwise fully free country. The simple, practical reason is that if government tried to do everything it does now (regulate, redistribute, etc) it would fall apart - no one would voluntarily fund such a leviathan to the extent necessary to keep it going. And most likely, in such a financial situation, it would divert cash away from its legitimate functions (courts, military, police) toward "services people want" (regulation, redistribution).
  19. I think government agencies such as the CIA or FBI are necessary so that we have a means to assess terrorist, military, or criminal threats. They fall broadly under military and police powers, respectively. Whether they are quite as expansive as they are now, is a matter of political discussion. Then there are obviously the courts, to arbitrate disputes among citizens and enforce contracts. Some form of health agency such as the CDC might be justifiable on the grounds of preventing or tracking infectious diseases. A health agency such as the British NHS would not be, because those are for personal health issues, and dealing with your own illness is fundamentally different from being protected from someone else's. As far as Cabinet positions: most of them can go, minus Treasury, State, War ("Defense"), Health (it would likely be whittled down a lot, to about the point mentioned above), Homeland Security (which would also be pared down from its current form and merged with War), the VA (also merged with War), and the Attorney General. In general, a capitalist society would have a government with very specific and limited powers, intended only to secure individual rights. This is often criticized as "do nothing" (a claim I consider somewhat amusing because protecting rights is the most important thing any agency could possibly do). In Atlas Shrugged's Colorado, for example, the government only operated courts and police. As for financing government, Objectivism prefers "voluntary taxation", which is not quite the same as writing a check for whatever you wish to give or not give. It involves schemes like fees for court use, voluntary insurance charges on contracts (ie, a contract is only enforced if the parties pay a small fee beforehand), tolls on roads (perhaps, if properly applied, a surcharge on motor fuels for road maintenance instead), and other forms of "user pays". Given the very small size of such a government, such voluntary taxation is not "pie-in-the-sky". But as Objectivist political philosophers note, this is the last step toward a fully free society.
  20. Sorry about my poor phrasing, tito & Patriot. I mentioned in point 2 of the OP that people have a right to self defense & the auxiliary right to a weapon. I do agree that it, like all rights, is based on man's nature rather than the Constitution, but I have not been able to find Objectivist commentary on self-defense as opposed to retaliation. Consequently, I was unsure as to whether Objectivism recognizes "the right to bear arms" or would prefer to see that delegated to government (police, military). That was really my whole point in posting. The bit about Constitutionalism was meant to ask, "If Objectivists oppose the principle of private gun ownership, would they still acknowledge the critical importance of rule of law (Constitutionalism, as worded in the OP) and let it lie as an issue, or actively campaign to repeal it?" Subsequent posts indicate to me that my interpretation of gun rights was appropriate. Dan: I think the issue of civilians fighting the military in a shooting war is trivial, for the simple reason that the military has a vested interest in not hurting the civilians who pay its upkeep. As for non-US military, that's a motivation to stock public arsenals, such as ammo/artillery depots, as was done in the Revolutionary period. Having things like grenades lying around private homes is a bit of a liability (theft, anyone?). Also, from a semantic perspective, guns are arms, whereas missiles, artillery, etc. are more properly described as ordnance, so the 2nd Amendment doesn't technically apply. Plus, as Dave and Jake note, ordnance can't be used for self defense. Imagine trying to use a grenade against a guy holding you at knife point! While nukes are totally unrelated to the OP, I will bite. For mining, they ought not to be legal for the simple reason that they throw radioactive waste into the environment. I don't know about you, but I like my air alpha-gamma-and-beta-particle free. And I would consider it a violation of my rights to have such a thing around. For spaceship propulsion, one would still need a means to refine the fuel - and since the government does have a strong interest in not letting random folks have weapons-grade fissile material around, I see it as being at least highly regulated.
  21. Question for those who know more about the Objectivist position on gun rights: To what extent are such rights protected? Is it legitimate for government to regulate gun ownership, and to what extent? Would a pure capitalist government acknowledge the 2nd Amendment's protections (for hunting, recreation, and self-defense) or oppose it generally (for crime fighting)? Does the qualification that government can use force only in retaliation cover a general gun ban? Initiation of force is criminal, retaliatory force is in the sphere of government, but what about force used in self-defense? Would Objectivist political theorists support gun rights only because the sitting government does not adequately protect people, or would they be supported as generally, or should they be banned altogether? Would Objectivists support them on the principle of Constitutionalism, or would they be ok with repealing the 2nd Amendment? My thinking is essentially that: 1) Guns are useful for far more than crime, and there are contexts where guns can be used without humans at the receiving end. My folks use them for hunting and recreation often. 2) People have the right to self defense, and the auxiliary right to an appropriate weapon. Government has retaliatory powers, but ultimately cannot be 100% responsible for the safety of every citizen at every moment. Essentially, there are thus 3 instances of force: initiation, defense, and retaliation, used by criminals, victims, and government respectively. 3)Many studies find gun ownership a significant factor in both lowering overall crime rates and improving outcomes for those people who are victims of crimes. 4) If nothing else, guns are useful in the context of militia service - a trained and armed citizenry means far less expense on standing armies, and provides good defense and emergency soldiers should the standing army be insufficient or destroyed 5) Gun owners generally have violated no one's rights. Government banning guns would be an initiation of force. Besides, morality depends on individual free will, not statistics. Banning guns generally is simply "package dealing" that lumps upstanding gun owners with criminals. The appropriate thing to do is go after the criminals, not the guns. Thoughts?
  22. I recently got into an argument with someone who asserted rather confidently that without heavy handed government regulation, we would have "another Gilded Age", complete with "robber barons" pillaging the Earth, feeding off a helpless underclass, etc. Of course, this person also asserted that rights are negotiable and dictated by the "consensus of society" rather than being objective conditions required for man's survival in social contexts (a point which I bring up only to show to his general disdain for the principle of rights and their political implementation, capitalism). So, I responded by bringing up the nature of rights, why we need them, why they must be inalienable, the rationales of which I won't waste space describing here. I went on to describe that 1) the Gilded Age was not truly capitalism (due to governments' infringements of property rights, refusal to protect rights, government issue of land to railroads, and so forth), and 2) the poverty (relative to today) and tough conditions of the time were more inherited from pre-industrial times than themselves a consequence of industrialization, and that industrialized areas, compared to non-industrial areas of the same time period, had greater freedom and prosperity. This guy brings up a statistic (which I was not able to verify at the time and haven't cared much to look into) that 77% of the wealth was controlled by some small (say, 1) percent of the population. This led him to introduce a hypothetical where one person, or a small group, controlled nearly all property, and banded together so that the poor could survive only by taking employment with these people at wages far lower than their economic value. He claimed that there is no difference between killing someone and willfully "withdrawing the rice bowl", and so the wealthy tyrants were initiating force, and therefore the poor could either kill them or use government to confiscate all/most of the property. I would tend to answer such a hypothetical by introducing a few points: 1) The wealthy would have to obtain their wealth by trade - value for value. It's fundamentally impossible to control all resources by legal means, for the simple reason that something had to be given for them. 2) The human mind is really the fundamental resource. People can always use their minds to extract physical resources not controlled (figuratively), or create/improve methods and theories, or produce art. People ALWAYS have an alternative. 3) Not providing is not the same as taking. 4) If you wanted an example of a case where 1 person controlled everything, look no further than monarchies, where every person exists only by the grace of the royalty. Isn't something like the Gilded Age, for all its faults, preferable? What is an appropriate way to address a hypothetical like this? Is it sufficient? How might I be more effective or convincing? Is there a better way to phrase, or otherwise argue it?
  23. Actually, it would be possible to purchase or rent the land surrounding someone's land and exclude them from using their land. If you have land that is surrounded by someone else's land, you need (in the title to your land) "easement rights" so that you may use the other person's land for specific purposes (such as walking through it to get street access).
  24. I think equivocation is the most appropriate of everything proposed. It means "to avoid committing oneself", "of uncertain disposition toward something", and (equivocal) "of doubtful advantage, genuineness, or moral rectitude".
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