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Defining moral and immoral state action

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In another thread I read the below quote by Chops and wanted to ask some questions about it.

The problem with addressing socialized medicine in the way you currently are is that you are addressing it from a pragmatic perspective ("does it work?"). When this happens, it ultimately becomes a pissing contest where you present your evidence of it "not working" and your opponent will present his evidence of it supposedly "working" (which, of course, the definition of "working" is typically left undefined). And in the end, no one gets anywhere.

There are lots of articles online advocating socialized medicine and opposing socialized medicine, but very few of them will define "working" or "failed." Just google "failure of socialized medicine" and you'll get plenty of options for reading material. Some will say that it works because a few poor people were able to see a doctor at all. Others will say that it is a failure because someone died while waiting 3 months just to get an MRI just to diagnose the problem.

To address socialized medicine, you need to attack it morally: That by it's nature it requires sticking a gun in someone's face, thus is actually an impedance to life. This kind of argument though, with any kind of sophisticated opponent, will rather quickly be reduced to fundamentals: that of morality, the nature of rights, the nature of government, the immorality of force.

The fundamental question is this: Is it ever moral to stick a gun in someone's face to force them to pay for another individual's medical treatment (or welfare, or recreation, or food, or anything).

What matters is not what "works" but what's moral.

I'm confused about this idea of what "works" vs what is moral. What Chops seems to be saying here, in this case relating to socialized medicine, is that whether a program works or not is beside the point, that it is practically irrelevant when it comes to moral and immoral government action.

So if I take the worst case scenario of something "not working", for example a free market health care system, one in which many people are priced out of the market for affordable health care. Would this be an example of health care "not working", but yet morally acceptable?

I'm not looking to engage in argument, or to make the case for socialized medicine. I'm just asking about morality vs immorality, and I want to be clear about the true definition. Does this all mean that to act morally, as defined by Objectivism, does not require the consideration of negative overall outcomes due to a particular action, as long as the action does not violate property rights or involve initiation of force? What if the moral action/inaction results in negative consequences for the cohesion of the society and its long term sustainability?

More broadly, if the actions or inactions of a moral society result in that society's inability to sustain itself, whether through social collapse/revolt, inefficient/insufficient infrastructure, environmental problems, corrupt/inefficient justice system etc., can such a society be said to be acting in a moral fashion?

So I'm asking, doesn't it indeed matter if something "works", if the potential negative consequences of it not working lead to a society's demise, and thus the ability for individuals to maximize their own existence? I suppose if it was possible to know with certainty that the free market would never deliver destabilizing outcomes this would be an easy question to answer.

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Well flip to the other side of the coin. Stalin's collectivization and command economy turned Russia from an agrarian backwater into one of the worlds superpowers in less than 50 years. Because it worked does that mean it was moral?

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I'm confused about this idea of what "works" vs what is moral. What Chops seems to be saying here, in this case relating to socialized medicine, is that whether a program works or not is beside the point, that it is practically irrelevant when it comes to moral and immoral government action.
While morality is a primary when we consider a case-by-case intellectual justification, it should come hand in hand with practicality, or else we should be questioning our facts or our context. In terms of polemics too, practicality is extremely important.

The free-market types have been on the winning side of the practicality argument for a while now, but socialized medicine wins the popular morality contest. In that sense, morality is where the big convincing has to be done. Nevertheless, it is important to point to practicality. So the idea is: you can be moral, and you can have a good life, and they are not in conflict.

Well flip to the other side of the coin. Stalin's collectivization and command economy turned Russia from an agrarian backwater into one of the worlds superpowers in less than 50 years. Because it worked does that mean it was moral?
The guys waiting in bread lines didn't think "it worked" though!
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Has there really been a free market medical system in the last 50 years? As long as there is government run medicare of some sort, I'm skeptical that the companies providing the services are not padding their bottom line to make up for taxation or to bilk the government purse for all it is worth.

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Stalin's collectivization and command economy turned Russia from an agrarian backwater into one of the worlds superpowers in less than 50 years. Because it worked does that mean it was moral?

Actually, it didn't work, even in that sense. All of that technology and industry was stolen. The technologies were given by naive western nations or taken in war, and the factories were built by western nations and then nationalized or literally stolen brick by brick from eastern Europe. Looking at GDP as versus foreign aid and expropriation, the Soviet "economy" was almost entirely theft.

I mean unless you consider that a form of "working." Heh.

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I'm confused about this idea of what "works" vs what is moral. What Chops seems to be saying here, in this case relating to socialized medicine, is that whether a program works or not is beside the point, that it is practically irrelevant when it comes to moral and immoral government action.

This distinction between what works and what is moral is ONLY possible in the context of an unpracticable moral system. In reality, the moral IS the practical and vice versa. So, Chops statement was only applicable in the narrow context of when you're trying to argue with someone who accepts some version of the mind/body or moral/practical dichotomy. It is fruitless to argue strict practicality with someone of that stripe. You first have to make a convincing case that the moral and the practical are not necessarily disconnected and then make your case for why capitalism is both moral and practical.

So if I take the worst case scenario of something "not working", for example a free market health care system, one in which many people are priced out of the market for affordable health care. Would this be an example of health care "not working", but yet morally acceptable?

Not working for whom?

Does this all mean that to act morally, as defined by Objectivism, does not require the consideration of negative overall outcomes due to a particular action, as long as the action does not violate property rights or involve initiation of force? What if the moral action/inaction results in negative consequences for the cohesion of the society and its long term sustainability?

Sort of. Objectivism does not require the consideration of *theoretical* negative outcomes because those outcomes are usually out-of-context blithering that bears no relation to reality. It would be necessary to consider an overall negative outcome if you could demonstrate that there was a causal connection between capitalism and, say, genocide. There's a demonstrable causal connection between communism and genocide.

Objectivism does not hold that the cohesion of a society or its long term sustainability are fundamentally important. The lives and happiness of individuals are fundamentally important. Society is a derivative, being a group of individuals, and thus any effects of any plan on "society" are, at best, tertiary issues.

More broadly, if the actions or inactions of a moral society result in that society's inability to sustain itself, whether through social collapse/revolt, inefficient/insufficient infrastructure, environmental problems, corrupt/inefficient justice system etc., can such a society be said to be acting in a moral fashion?

So I'm asking, doesn't it indeed matter if something "works", if the potential negative consequences of it not working lead to a society's demise, and thus the ability for individuals to maximize their own existence? I suppose if it was possible to know with certainty that the free market would never deliver destabilizing outcomes this would be an easy question to answer.

Freedom and capitalism are moral because they are the only conditions through which the good can be achieved, NOT because they PREVENT evil. In practice, conditions which allow the achievement of the good serve to PROMOTE the achievement of the good, and thus the good pushes out and minimizes the evil. If your goal is preventing the possibility of evil, your only recourse will be to eliminate free will by, say, killing everyone. But, wait, that's evil. Potential evil can only be prevented by means of evil.

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I'm just asking about morality vs immorality, and I want to be clear about the true definition. Does this all mean that to act morally, as defined by Objectivism, does not require the consideration of negative overall outcomes due to a particular action, as long as the action does not violate property rights or involve initiation of force?
A discussion of morality has to make recognition of what morality is -- it is a set of principles, a moral code. Rather than looking at each and every action and trying to hash out whether that specific action is moral, the correct way to address the issue is to find general principles. Once you understand why man requires a moral code and when you understand the standard by which moral evaluation is made, then it is sensible to ask "Is that choice moral?". Your question conflates morality and the proper role of government, which is a mistake. Taking heroin is immoral, but it is not right for the government to use force to prevent the sale and use of heroin. It is definitively false that morality is defined in terms of initiation of force. The role of proper government is to use its monopoly on force to restrict only certain immoral acts, and it is not to "do that which works", and it is not to "guarantee the betterment of society".

I don't think that it's beside the point whether or not a program works in this case, rather, I think the question is meaningless until you justify your standard of "working". In what way is it "working" when you have to enslave the producers in order to provide free health care for everyone? What if the immoral action that you think will provide for the downtrodden of society itself results in negative consequences for the cohesion of the society and its long term sustainability? Hence the pissing contest about what works and what does not work. Buried in these "negative consequences for society" arguments is a major false assumption, that the producers cannot be harmed by sucking the life blood out of them.

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