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Posts posted by Maken

  1. Yes, ethically, it is most definitely wrong. You are threatening a disvalue in order to get someone to give you a value. This is a break from the trader principle, and this action negatively affects both your own life and the life of your victim. From your own perspective, this is an inferior method of gaining values when compared to producing values. Using it even just this once will have negative impacts on your character, making it harder for you to gain values in the future. Truly good methods of gaining value, like production, build up your character and make it easier to continue your value-gaining in the future. Threatening blackmail hinders the blackmailer's own life, in addition to (very obviously) being detrimental to the blackmailee; yet another illustration of the harmony of rational interests.

    Of course, if you are attempting to preserve a value (to keep from losing a value) rather than attempting to gain a value, blackmail may be an appropriate method. If you are trying to keep a corrupt government official from extorting payment, say, then blackmail would be ethically permissible to try to prevent this from happening.

    But what if the value you are trying to maintain is a corrupt value?

  2. Of course not. I'm just saying, just because you "threaten" someone with some unpleasant outcome does not mean you have violated their rights. It depends on what exactly you threaten to do, and whether you would have the right to do it.

    So, with blackmail, the question becomes: do you have a right to release information that negatively impacts the life of another? I'm not talking about trade secrets, or some piece of information that your victim has formal rights to. Just something that would make their life harder or more difficult. I don't see why you wouldn't have the right to.

    Yea I agree that the context of the blackmail is really important to decide its legality and ethical merit.

  3. But some threats are justified. It is okay to ask my employee to do his job and to threaten to fire him if he does not.

    But it is it ok to ask your employee to do his job and to threaten his family if he does not?

  4. This is a good point. However, would it be okay to ask an animal lover to lend my $50 under the threat that if they dont I'll slaughter a litter of stray kittens? Its about making choices rationally, and volitionally, not under threat, physical or otherwise.


    Well, I think that blackmail has several different faces.

    There is emotional based blackmail, fear (threats) based blackmail, and information based blackmail. I don't think its fair to put a giant umbrella of blackmail and to try to classify rights and legality based on one "idea" of blackmail.

  5. Initiation of force doesnt have to come at the barrel of a gun. Man survives by the use of his rational faculty, when you take away his ability to make choices based on reason and his own free will, I'd argue that force has been initiated.


    But at the same time, information does not have a direct ownership label attached to it. If I have information that is sensitive to you and I obtained said information in a legal manner, I have the ability and freedom to release this information to the general public.

    That being said, why is it immoral or illegal for me to have you pay me in order for me not to release the information. Like the OP said, that connotes a voluntary exchange.

  6. The law isn't there to promote "fairness," but to enforce individual rights. If blackmail is to be illegal, it must be tied to a violation of individual rights. Which I don't know if I can do, but I'm interested to see others weigh in.

    I think it depends on how the black mailer comes across the information he is using to blackmail the person with. Did he steal it? If so, the violation of rights is obvious.

    Now, on the other hand, say the information was discovered in a legal manner. Usually the information used in blackmail is incriminating or at least would tarnish the reputation or life style of an individual. Either way, it will harm the person being blackmailed if it were to be leaked to the general public, otherwise the blackmailing process would not be effective. Since that is the case, it would make sense that the person who is being blackmailed performed some act or did SOMETHING he would not want other people to find out about. Being that that is the case, it seems like he made the conscious act to do something that would get him into trouble, aka he took a risk. Just because his plan or act backfired on him does not mean that someone using that information to his or her advantage would lead to a rights violation.

    I am going to sit down and think about this more and see if I can find some abstract connection to a rights violation, but at first glance, it seems perfectly acceptable.

  7. BlackWolf brings up another valid point.

    What about government run colleges. I can see why we can excuse High School because we are required by law to attend and its often a matter of your parents deciding that you WILL attend a public school. So I can see that we can dismiss attending high school as being hypocritical. But what about community colleges?

  8. One can look at this two ways:

    1) as an Objectivist you believe these institutions shouldn't exist but when you are pressed you go ahead and use them.. this could indeed be seen as hypocritical

    2) as someone who has paid taxes for many years it could be said that by taking govt money you are simply retrieving some of what was stolen from you. For example, if you have had an average of 33% of your earnings stripped from you involuntarily for 15 years it could easily be said that had you been allowed to keep that money you would not be in the unfortunate position you are at the moment of "needing" assistance.

    Ah ok! I was focusing on point one when I wrote this out and never even thought about point two. Valid point.

  9. *** Mod's note: merged with an existing topic. - sN ***

    Ok, this is an example that I think is applicable to today's day and might actually be an issue for some people.

    Say you are an Objectivist and you have fallen on tough times and are struggling financially to the point you are near poverty. As an Objectivist, would it be hypocritical at this point to accept government support through, say, Medicare, food stamps, etc?

  10. You must be careful, when making this argument, to be very clear that you mean that sending corn over to Africa for free is bad for the African economy. If you don't make this distinction, your point becomes an incorrect argument for protectionism.

    There is nothing wrong with putting African corn workers out of work, per se. If Africa freely trades with the rest of the world and foreign corn happens to be cheaper than corn grown in Africa, the African corn industry will shrink and possibly disappear. There is nothing wrong with that, provided that we're not giving them the corn for free. If we're requiring them to buy the corn from us, then we are in essence requiring them to produce something else of value that they can use to trade with us, if they want our cheaper corn. This will encourage their economy to develop in other industries (specifically, if trade is free, it will encourage growth in those industries in which Africa is most efficient).

    If we give it to them for free, however, we are not encouraging economic development at all. We are instead encouraging economic dependence. This is why it is important to distinguish between international charity and international trade when bemoaning our putting Africans out of work.

    Very good distinction to make. I thought that financial aid or economic aid entailed that it was for free. But yes, my example applies to free aid.

  11. In what ways? I would argue that in almost every case, changes in laws which move the economy further towards a free market make the economy more just and more efficient. There are better and worse ways to mix markets with government control, of course, so particular policy discussions can become quite complicated. However, incremental shifts in policy towards free markets are, in general, positive policy moves.

    Now, I would certainly not claim, and you will find few Objectivists who do claim that any and all "deregulation" is always a good thing. For example, much of the banking deregulation which has occurred in the past few decades has decreased oversight of people who remain able to socialize their risk and their losses. When deregulation allows people more freedom to play with other people's money, it is not necessarily a good thing.

    Nevertheless, in general, decreasing government control and more fully recognizing property rights, even if done only incrimentally, makes the economy more functional.

    I guess the banking industry is what I was getting at more or less. If you give the banks more economic freedom, and they use that economic freedom in a bad way, they can rely on government bailouts instead of the "invisible hand" to deal with them. So really, too much capitalistic freedom in a mix economy can lead to bad economic spending and when these companies fail, they are revived by the government instead of failing. And that just starts the chain over.

  12. I thought of something else to add right after I hit submit.

    The World Cup in Africa is actually an economic boon for the people living there. Tourists WILL spend a bushel of money on African goods and will help fuel their economy that way. By us giving them economic aid, we are only "helping" the people in the short run. It will actually HURT them in the long run, as they will never learn to create their own economy, they will just be stuck relying on economic aid.

  13. I actually had a debate topic about the idea of financial aid to impoverished countries in Africa. Most people argued that we need to help the poor countries in Africa and then they can climb out of their poverty and become like America.

    My partner and I had several cards backing up the idea that economic aid to these foreign countries hardly, if ever, does good for people. Corrupt leaders pocket aid money a lot of times, and in the majority of situations, aid never reaches the people because these countries don't have stable infrastructures, so food often ends up rotting on docks or aid never trickles down to the poor citizens.

    In other cases, it actually hurts these countries economically to aid them. Look at it this way. These countries have, say, corn farmers who try to grow corn and profit off of it. When farmers profit, they spend money in THEIR economy and that money starts the infinite money chain. When people spend, economies grow. When we send barrels and barrels of corn to these countries to "aid" their economy, we are actually putting people out of work. The corn farmer in Africa cannot profit or compete with American financial aid. When he cannot profit, he cannot spend money. When he cannot spend money, there is no economic growth.

    I can elaborate more if you need me to, but I think my point is well understood.

  14. Not that it doesn't matter, but it's not the proper starting point for lasting change. Change cultural mindsets, and politics will follow. Get a few better politicians in office without changing the prevailing ideas in society, and they'll be voted back out soon enough.

    But can't capitalist ideals be dangerous unless its a full capitalist society? It seems like under current laws, a mixed economy leaning towards capitalism could be problematic.

  15. I agree and have a similar story, except that I was not introduced to Rand until college (but for one very brief foray with "Anthem"... too bad I was a Christian at the time). I'm working toward a career in education, and this is an issue I wrestle with almost every day: what can I do to help turn things around--to teach kids to use reason in a world that tells them to rely on faith--especially when the educational establishment is so geared against that goal? So far, I've decided that teaching "Fountainhead" is going to be necessary; and perhaps I'll teach logic in a writing course, disguised as "Writing and Thinking" (using that textbook, of course :) ).

    Incidentally, Lisa VanDamme has done a lot of work in this area, and her k-8 school in California is, hopefully, just the beginning.

    I wish I had a teacher that taught Rand. Most of my teachers scoff at her as a philosopher but every one of them seems to like Atlas Shrugged.

  16. Think of it this way:

    The cost of "donating" to the government for *only* the protection of your individual rights WILL BE the exact costs necessary for you to exist in this truly free society. If you (and everyone else) chose to evade this responsibility, the society will collapse and you can go live in a place where you'll be forced to pay that amount and more.

    Those who profit the most from the situation will have the most to lose, so yes, they'll donate.

    Also, funds don't have to come so directly. Will you do your hardware shopping at Home Depot (who promises to donate 10% of their revenue to national defense and local police)? -- Or, will you choose Lowes (who donates to the legal system)?

    I see what you did there.

  17. Maken, I think your point is well taken by most Objectivists today. This is one of the reasons that many Objectivists are skeptical about activities such as political activism; simply trying to change the people who are in office will not be an effective means to a stable, just government if people's prevailing attitudes towards morality and political rights shift. Thus, while bodies such as the Ayn Rand Institute have much to say about politics today, they are more fundamentally oriented towards cultural and social change. Most Objectivists believe that a proper moral foundation must be adopted by many more people before lasting political change can occur.

    From ARI's website:

    "ARI seeks to spearhead a cultural renaissance that will reverse the anti-reason, anti-individualism, anti-freedom, anti-capitalist trends in today’s culture. The major battleground in this fight for reason and capitalism is the educational institutions—high schools and, above all, the universities, where students learn the ideas that shape their lives.

    Ayn Rand’s philosophy—known as Objectivism—holds that historical trends are the inescapable product of philosophy. To reverse the current political and economic trends in America and throughout the world requires a reversal of our society’s fundamental philosophy. Victory in this war of ideas will ultimately mean the defeat of the widely held, pernicious ideologies that dominate contemporary culture and threaten our liberty—ideologies such as collectivism, moral relativism and multiculturalism."

    After all, the United States was founded with a government which was much closer to ideal than today's government. Of course, the structure of the government set up in the Constitution was imperfect, but by and large it has been cultural shifts towards various forms of collectivism which have caused the deterioration of our government, more so than flaws in the original design. No Constitution can stand for long against a collectivist or altruist populace.

    Ok, so basically it doesn't matter what happens in politics so long as the chief institutions (altruism, anti-individualism, socialism, etc) prevail in society.

    I completely agree that the key to curing ignorance lies within a proper high school education. The state/government has done a bloody awful job at teaching students the value of education. I am a Junior in high school and I feel that the biggest thing that has educated me in high school was Atlas Shrugged and other Rand essays/books. The ability to reason and think logically will trump any of the snooty, altruistic, socialist theories that we learn in school and if we want a shift in culture, it will have to happen in the schools.

  18. Here is some more food for thought that I realized.

    In an Objectivist society, the government would rely on volunteerism to maintain a budget to spend on its few necessary duties. As Objectivists/Capitalists on this forum, I am sure that a majority (if not all) of us would be willing to donate to a proper government as it would be in our rational self interest. But what about the people who would not donate. Would there really be enough people who would VOLUNTEER to donate? I ask this only because of the state of society, it seems that many people are either to ignorant or to stubborn to understand what a proper government is.

  19. So I was doing a lot of thinking about Objectivist morals and capitalism being predominant in society and how it would work.

    The question I came across was, simply put, would it even be possible to live in a pure free market and objective society without having a majority of people being educated about what a moral and free life is. With the statist and altruist mindset being overly predominant in today's society, how would it ever be possible to even implement or arrange for a pure capitalist society to rule. It seems that even if we formed an Objectivist government, there would still be so many people uneducated about what Objectivist morals entailed and what it means to live "selfishly".

    Let me know if I need to elaborate more, but I think you can understand what I am asking.

  20. I was certainly aware that John D Rockefeller was not the evil guy people made him out to be, and that he pushes oil refinery to heights that would've been less possible in "perfect competition", but still.. I keep hearing that he lobbied for government aid. Perhaps the monopolization process would have been slower if this had happened.

    Yeah, John D Rockefeller was certainly a successful guy, potential demand for corporate welfare aside

    I haven't heard about Rockefeller lobbying the government for aid or help. In fact, he was pretty much hated by them with his Standard Oil.

    As for J.P. Morgan, the government actually lobbied HIM for aid because of how successful his banking practices were. He once refused to loan the government money because they didn't have enough credit.

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