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FluxCapacitor

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  1. The principle that a system can be explained completely in terms of its constituent parts is not self-evident, as you seem to be suggesting. We have lots of inductive evidence that this is the case for physical systems, but there would be no contradiction if we observed some new sort of system (such as the mind) that displayed emergent properties not explainable in terms of its parts (other than that the given collection of parts, when arranged in the given fashion, produce an entity with such properties). Rand was not a determinist as the linked essay claims. The Objectivist law of causality is not the same as determinism. The difference is perhaps subtle, but very significant. The law of causality states that actions are not independent existents apart from the entities that act; actions are not just floating out in reality waiting to latch onto some object. An action does not exist until it is brought into existence by an entity. The action an entity performs at a given point in time is an aspect of its identity, and thus it is correct to state that an entity can perform only one action at a given time (for otherwise, the entity would have a contradictory aspect to its identity). In its normal physical manifestation, the consequence of this fact is essentially determinism: the action arising from the identity of a purely physical object is something simple such as "move left", or "rotate". However, there is nothing that a priori rules out the possibility of other, fundamentally different types of actions, such as "select between two or more alternatives" (i.e. the action of choice). Just as with all other entities, at any given time the identity of the human mind gives rise to (and necessitates) a certain type of action: to choose between alternatives (the most basic being focus or nonfocus). The obvious question now is: where does the content of the choice come from? It seemingly arises from nowhere, and isn't that a violation of causality? The answer is that the content does not arise from nowhere; it arises exactly from your conscious selection. The question equates volitional selection with randomness, but these concepts clearly designate two very different things. An entity that selects between alternatives randomly (as some believe occurs on the quantum level) is impossible, because its actions truly come from nowhere, and as stated above, actions do not exist until brought into existence by the identity of the entit(ies) involved. But in the case of human choice, introspection will tell you that you have control over your actions, and randomness is just as much opposed to volitional control as determinism. Your actions do not come from nowhere; they are caused by the content of your choice. The content of your choice does not come from nowhere; it comes from your act of choice (1). Your act of choice does not come from nowhere; it comes from the identity of your mind. So there is indeed an unbroken causal sequence. It can be a bit difficult to wrap one's head around statement (1), but its truth can be observed through introspection, and it does not violate the law of causality as formulated by Objectivism.
  2. When a government is reduced to being funded voluntarily, it is vulnerable to the same forces of competition that affect any other organization: it must have the lowest cost available for the services it provides or it will "go out of business." If, as in my previous example, the citizens of a country feel that their government is not providing them satisfactory services for a fair and "competitive" price, they can simply withold from giving it any money, while instead choosing to fund an alternative agency. If the government tries to stop these citizens from funding such a "criminal organization" (an action which I believe violates their rights if the organization is one which recognizes objective law), it may succeed in the short-term, but since its ability to jail these people is directly proportional to the amount of voluntary funding it receives, the more people who grow discontent with the high prices they are forced to pay, the less the government's ability will be to arrest them. Once the level of discontentment begins to approach 50%, the government will find its ability to maintain a monopoly severely threatened, and its choices if it wants to survive are to either lower its prices or institute coercive taxation. Tell me, would you voluntarily give money to a government when you know that your neighbors across the border are able to get the same services for a much lower fee? "Slippery Slope" is only a fallacy when it cannot be shown that the place you are "slipping" to follows logically from the place where you are at. I believe I have demonstrated that a lack of coercive taxation leaves a government susceptible to market forces of competition, leading to a de facto state of anarchy (here defined as a time when no one organization holds a secure monopoly on the use of force). I didn't claim that it would be easy to administer such an organization; it very well may be a "logistical nightmare." That, however, does not mean that a government has any sort of moral right to cover a certain territory, nor that such a government has a right to quash any rights-respecting organizations who do pop up wishing to compete with it. I'm not sure whether your question about Texas was rhetorical or not, but either way it is not relevant to my argument. If Texas decided to (somehow) provide protection to people outside its current borders, say if the Texan government flew helicopters around the country parachuting in police onto its customers' land, it would have just as much a right to do so as would the police of whatever State that land lies within the border of.
  3. If our current government is any indication, it is quite possible that a future Capitalist government could, for whatever reason, become highly inefficient. If another group comes along that can perform the same services for a smaller fee, many people would want to join up with this new organization. Good call. In most cases I think that would be sufficient. My point here was that when the element of taxation is removed and the government must rely on donations or user fees for its services, that government no longer has any special characteristics differentiating it from a private organization. If it cannot get enough voluntary support from its citizens, it will be powerless to put someone in jail who supports another defense/retaliatory organization. A person who gives money to a Nazist retaliatory organization is a criminal, I agree, but there simply may not be sufficient resources to actually hunt down and arrest that person. My first point, however, I believe is far more important, as I see national borders, and the fact of a government having a certain natural jurisdiction, as having no rational basis. Perhaps my point will be more clear with a brief illustration. There is a hypothetical nation called JohnGaltistan, which has a fully Capitalist government supported by voluntary donations and user fees. JohnGaltistan administers an objectively correct system of law, and defends the rights of its citizens to the best of its abliliy. One of the services that JohnGaltisan provides to its citizens is the enforcement of private contracts, provided that both parties pay a certain fee. This example is used by Ayn Rand in The Virtue of Selfishness: Let's say JohnGaltistan charges an insurance fee of 15% on the dollar-value of the transaction. Now, say there is a neighboring nation called Roarkistan, which, like JohnGaltistan, is financed voluntarily and has an Objectivist system of law. However, the courts and police in Roarkistan are so efficient that they can afford to charge their citizens a low 8% insurance fee to cover the costs of contract enforcement. Some of the citizens of JohnGaltistan are understandably rather upset that they have to pay such a high rate compared to their neighbors across the border; why should they, just because of where they live, be denied the more efficient and less expensive services of the Roarkistani government? The answer is there is no reason why they should be denied these services. The Roarkistani government fully recognizes individual rights, and therefore has just as much a right to enforce contracts as does JohnGaltistan. The same basic principle can be abstracted to apply to any other function of government. Note that there is a distinction between the type of anarchism I describe above and the type of 'anarcho-capitalism' advocated by people such as David Friedman. The former retains an objective system of law, but the organizations which enforce this law compete on the market. In the latter, not only the enforcement organizations, but the type of law is up on the market, a situation which is far from ideal. The second point that I was trying to make in my original post is that Objectivist minimal-statism, with enough time, will inevitably become the type of anarchism I described above, which in turn, with enough time, will inevitably turn into anarcho-capitalism.
  4. Hey everyone; I would like to ask two related questions off the topic of subpoenas and back onto the topic of anarchism in general. Note: I am below using the term "government" in the same way that some anarchists might use the term "defense agency." 1. It is clear that there are certain governments which have the right to exist and that there are certain governments which do not have the right to exist. For example, a government which (in general) protects individual rights, such as the United States, has the right to exist, while a government which oppresses its citizens, such as that which was formerly present in Iraq, does not. A government which protects rights is morally justified in toppling a government which does not. However, as a hypothetical example, say that in a future Capitalist America a group of U.S. Citizens gets together and decides to form a *new* "government" within the borders of what used to be in the jurisdiction of the United States. Also say that this new government has a system of objective law which protects rights in the same way as the old government does. By what right could the old government attempt to bring down the new to ensure that there still existed a monopoly on the use of retaliatory force? Both governments, it seems, would be of equal moral standing, and for either of them to attack the other would be an initiation of force. 2. Say instead that a new "government" was formed that did not have the right to exist, a government which, for example, was based on the ideology of Nazism. The old United States government would certainly have a right to bring down this new organization... but remember that this is a fully Capitalist USA, which therefore has no coercive system of taxation. What if there was simply not enough funding to bring down the new fascist government? The alternatives would be either to institute temporary taxation (which in my opinion may be morally justified, depending on the level of the threat) or to let the new government take over more and more of the USA's "market share." My point here is essentially that a purely Capitalist minimal-state, which relies on a voluntary method of funding, necessarily leads in practice to anarcho-capitalism, as there is nothing which would stop citizens from giving their money to some other defense organization, whether or not that organization actually had a right to exist. Note that I am not trying to promote anarchism as an "ideal" system (or lack thereof); I am simply trying to get some answers to questions which I feel have not been addressed sufficiently by the Objectivist community. Here is an interesting article by author George H. Smith which some of you may or may not have read before. It goes into further detail on the points I have presented above: http://heim.ifi.uio.no/~thomas/po/rational-anarchism.html Thanks for any insights in this matter!
  5. Hi, I recently began reading through Leonard Peikoff's book Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand, and I have encountered something which I do not quite understand. It is perhaps a minor point, but it is annoying me greatly, so I would appreciate any clarification anyone could provide on the matter. The issue I speak of is that of "higher-level" concepts, or "abstractions from abstractions." Dr. Peikoff discusses this on page 91 under the heading "Concepts of Consciousness as Involving Measurement-Omission." The only online source I have found dealing with this topic is in William Thomas's explanation of Rand's theory of concepts. In both cases, there are described certain "higher-level" concepts which, it is claimed, cannot be formed directly from perceptual data. Peikoff uses the example of the concept of "animal", which he says requires concepts such as "cat", "dog", and "horse" to already be in place. In other words, I if am understanding him correctly, one cannot, by looking at a specific cat, dog, and horse, form a concept encompassing all three of these objects. I think I must be missing something here, because it seems pretty obvious that we can do just that. A rudimentary definition of "animal" from looking at these objects might be, to follow the definition presented for a child's conception of man, "a furry entity with four legs which moves and makes sounds." Then, if we saw a fish, and wanted to classify with the rest of our animals to differentiate it from, say, a toaster, we might revise our definition to say "an entity which moves of its own accord." My question is, why can't we form concepts such as "animal" and "food" without first conceptualizing "cat" and "dog or "hot dog" and "hamburger"? I would greatly appreciate any clarification, or correction of anything I am not comprehending correctly. Thanks!
  6. Hi there; I have a question about the qualifications for a legitimate invasion of one's property rights. For example, if the police wish to search my home or confiscate something belonging to me for use as evidence in a trial, why is this action not considered an initiation of force (assuming that I have committed no crime)? What are the requisites for such an action to be considered morally defensible? And why is such an action considered more legitimate if it is authorized by a magistrate rather than simply taken by an individual police officer? Thanks for any input; I have been puzzling over this question for several days and have not been able to come up with a satisfactory solution.
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