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Assuming you are so wealthy that you owned planet Earth

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Moebius
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Regarding monopoly, the Objectivist stance seems to be that as long as free competition are not impeded by force, practices like predatory pricing will allow for competitors to overcome the monopolist through natural market forces.

But let's say that in the distant future someone (or a group of people, or a corporate entity) was so good at accumulating wealth that he ended up owning every single piece of real estate on Earth. Effectively he owns pretty much ALL of the Earth's natural resources. Furthermore, technology does not exist that humans can colonize space. What would refrain the monopolist from charging such huge amounts of rent that the world exists as a virtual slave state? That is, the rent is such that virtually all the productive labor you do goes towards rent and food and that is it, since the landlord can pretty much tax you whatever you want for being on his planet. Would it be ethical for the land owner to do so? Would it be ethical to utilize force to take the lands/resources from the owner?

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I would like to say that if the 50 billion people populating Earth at that time are all dumb enough to sell their land to one single entity, they deserve to be enslaved... but I think that's giving your hypothetical too much consideration, Moebius. What you're presenting is about as bad as saying, "What if you were born in a small black box, unable to do anything with yourself, and there was never any way to escape?" It's unrealistic, so it's not worth trying to apply a code of ethics that is based on how we live, or can expect to live, as us, in this reality.

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But let's say that in the distant future someone (or a group of people, or a corporate entity) was so good at accumulating wealth that he ended up owning every single piece of real estate on Earth.

That is not a sign of one person being good at accumulating wealth; it is a symptom of all the rest being total failures at creating wealth. But a single man, acting alone, can never achieve very much in an absolute sense; even if he is the greatest of geniuses with an exceptionally strong body, he will not come as far as an average person can come in a society where millions of more or less successful wealth creators co-operate through free trade. He will certainly not come anywhere near "owning the Earth."

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Well, okay but let's say that in the distant future someone else is so smart that they discover a way to transport people across the galaxy instantly, and it's solar powered. Then people could move to Alpha Centauri and vacation on Beta Eridani. Effectively the Earth becomes a slum and that guy of yours becomes the universe's biggest slumlord. Then a space ship smashes into his house. It could happen.

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Regarding monopoly, the Objectivist stance seems to be that as long as free competition are not impeded by force, practices like predatory pricing will allow for competitors to overcome the monopolist through natural market forces.

But let's say that in the distant future someone (or a group of people, or a corporate entity) was so good at accumulating wealth that he ended up owning every single piece of real estate on Earth. Effectively he owns pretty much ALL of the Earth's natural resources. Furthermore, technology does not exist that humans can colonize space. What would refrain the monopolist from charging such huge amounts of rent that the world exists as a virtual slave state? That is, the rent is such that virtually all the productive labor you do goes towards rent and food and that is it, since the landlord can pretty much tax you whatever you want for being on his planet. Would it be ethical for the land owner to do so? Would it be ethical to utilize force to take the lands/resources from the owner?

This is a senario that cannot exist. Witness the example of anyone who tries to corner the market on anything.

Asking "but what are the ethical implications if it did?" is pointless. We don't use fantastic hypotheticals to test ethics.

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Then people could move to Alpha Centauri and vacation on Beta Eridani.

Uh, I think there is more technology involved in vacationing on a star than just transportation. (I mean, we do have the technology to transport people onto the Sun today, but for some reason there aren't many takers for such a trip...)

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We don't use fantastic hypotheticals to test ethics.
I think we need some way to classify fantastic hypotheticals into two categories: illustrative simplification ("imagine that we had no friction") and "context-busting" ("imagine that a spirit could change the speed of this rolling weight at will").
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I think we need some way to classify fantastic hypotheticals into two categories: illustrative simplification ("imagine that we had no friction") and "context-busting" ("imagine that a spirit could change the speed of this rolling weight at will").

I think that's fair. I place the first in the category of well-classified "thought experiment". It would illustrate/contrast some aspect or concept of the topic at hand, which would then be ported back into reality for a clearer understanding.

The tip off for me here is that this one asks for the ethical evaluation, within the fantastic context.

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I think that's fair. I place the first in the category of well-classified "thought experiment". It would illustrate/contrast some aspect or concept of the topic at hand, which would then be ported back into reality for a clearer understanding.

The tip off for me here is that this one asks for the ethical evaluation, within the fantastic context.

That's a good point. Similar to Rand's "indestructible robot" example, which she brought back to reality to show a greater understanding of how needs relate to values and survival.

Those examples which seek for an ethical evaluation within themselves are usually given from a mistaken epistemological view: that you can obliterate contextually-absolute principles and systems using certain principles out-of-context in hypotheticals (sorry if this is unclear).

The example here, which started from an Objectivist standpoint on monopolies (i.e. certain Objectivist principles applied to monopolies), is a case-in-point. While Moebius isn't saying that this hypothetical's results seems unethical (he's only asking if it's ethical), upon reading it it practically screams to me: "Look at the ridiculous results this ethics could lead to!"

But let's try to concretize his hypothetical a little bit, and answer the question of whether it's "ethical." And let's assume we're discussing the Objectivist ethics.

The hypothetical posits that the rent would be so high that food and rent-payment is all that people could afford. What is the largest thing one can think of that is ruled out by these stipulations? I largest I can think of is: trade. Effectively, there would no longer be (or would virtually be no) products to sell, and to whatever extent there are, there would be no customers to buy them: all of their money is going towards the ridiculous rent being demanded, and to whatever food is needed to live. But who's producing this food? The assumption is that such "cooks" would have to have bought their tools, cooking items, and equipment to cook from somewhere, but that's impossible: again, all of their money is going towards rent and whatever food they need.

This example does not lead to a mere "virtual slave state": it represents the death of economic activity as such.

How is this man's interests being served? If the goal was to live a life of stagnation and ease with everyone else's money gained through rent, just what is he going to spend all of that money on? As I take it, there wouldn't be much of an economy left from which lavish items could be purchased.

Rather than living "the good life," this man would have to engage in an unfathomable level of micro-management simply to keep the whole charade going (that he could actually make you pay whatever he wanted and think everything would be okay). He would need droves of people to go around the world, pumping his money into all the businesses, just so they could stay in the business of not doing any. This is similar to the entire failure of central planning, and I very much doubt the ultimate consequences would be much different.

None of what was discussed here would be in a rational egoist's interests. Why would it be rational to dope everyone into giving you their property? How is one's interests served by reducing everyone else to poverty levels in terms of income they can use on things besides food and living areas? Who could be happy knowing that he consciously, deliberately chose to screw billions of people over, simply because he wanted a lot of money out of them? There's nothing ethical about destroying other people's means of achieving their interests, which will in part include their wealth. Such a man is irrational, and therefore unethical, in my understanding.

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Well, okay but let's say that in the distant future someone else is so smart that they discover a way to transport people across the galaxy instantly, and it's solar powered. Then people could move to Alpha Centauri and vacation on Beta Eridani. Effectively the Earth becomes a slum and that guy of yours becomes the universe's biggest slumlord. Then a space ship smashes into his house. It could happen.

That's too funny. ^_^

But, to be serious about the question, the only way for someone to be rich enough to own everything is if he has enough to offer to buy everything, but then he'd have to be producing a lot and trading his goods and services in order to get everything. So, therefore, he could not own everything, because otherwise he'd have traded nothing to get everything, impossible in a free market. Also, he'd have to be one whale of a wealth generator across all fields. What brain power he'd possess! And, really, if he were that good, then he'd be more of a god than a human and what would he need other people for?

I think the phrase "accumulating wealth" also sneaks in a premise that wealth can be mindless acquired. You can only gain wealth by giving value to get it. It's the only way in a free market, so to get every bit of wealth you acquire, you need to offer real value.

"What would refrain the monopolist from charging such huge amounts of rent that the world exists as a virtual slave state?"

In a free market a guy like that could never make it in the housing industry. A guy could only get to a virtual monopoly status by offering far and away the best value. If he undercuts that foundation, he will end up losing his wealth.

Btw, under a free system there is no right to hold slaves. There is not even a right to agree to be a slave, because such a contract can not be upheld by a government that upholds rights.

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The more land this entity owned, the more expensive every other piece of land would become. You can only buy land that someone is willing to sell. Even if this corporation had a trillion dollars, that doesn't mean it will be able to buy the land it wishes to. As such, those who did NOT want to live as "virtual slaves" would form their own corporations and set up colonies in the unbought pieces of land BEFORE this corporation is able to buy everything. Since these people would not be willing to sell the land for any amount of money (after all, if they did they would end up having to pay their earnings back in rent), the corporation would never be able to acquire their property. Until this corporation owns everything, it would be suicide for it to charge "slave" rents, since it would just make the unbought land that much more valuable and harder to get.

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