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Wodger
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Someone made the following assertion,

"until its leagal to set the price of organs, until you are free to decide who these organs go to, it is immoral to contribute your organs"

Which means that the same contribution made when the law is changed, would all of a sudden be moral?

I think i disagree, if i decide to donate my organs, freely without coercion, under the terms the govt has stipulate, I dont think this would be and immoral act.

Is this correct?

The statement was made here

6:24 to 6:40

Edited by Wodger
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Yes, I've seen Paul take Objectivist principles out of context once before (on this forum, in a fractional reserve banking discussion). It's unfortunate that he would say that.

It isn't any more immoral to participate in this activity as it is to participate in every other activity the government's involved in, and shouldn't be (like the road Paul used to get to that studio). For one, withholding organs wouldn't help produce change: if he could convince enough people to join such a protest to produce change, they could just vote for a different government rather than let a bunch of people die to make a point.

Unfortunately, this is the system we are stuck with, and we should make the most of it, while trying to bring about real change. (through intellectual activism)

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I wouldn't say that organ donation is necessarily immoral, but I think that one could make the case that donating for reasons based upon the way organ donation programs are popularly promoted would be immoral. Most I know just circle a box while ordering their drivers license, never give much thought to it, and that decision sticks with them without any thought until time for renewal. I've had someone tell me that they thought it was the moral decision to be a donor because people are in need of organs, and it would help them; it would be my guess that most people who fall into the category of selecting to be organ donors without giving much thought to it, or donors in general, probably do it for similar altruistic reasons.

I recently just ordered a new license because I've moved to a new state, and that should allow me to bring up the conversation fairly easily and learn a few things about why some do or do not donate. Personally, I have an aversion to subscribing to be an organ donor, due to the lack of choice as to where my organs go, and because of a few horror stories that I've heard about and can imagine. I would rather have someone I trust make the decision based upon things that they've learned from health professionals about any future case I may be involved in, and not just have things removed automatically.

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I understand why some people don't donate, on principle; however, I don't think it's immoral to donate voluntarily. That's like saying because I pay taxes, I sanction the current US government. How preposterous!

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I've never heard a good reason no to donate one's organs and/or tissues after death. I mean, once you're dead what do you need them for? You're done using them. If they can benefit someone else, why not?

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I've never heard a good reason no to donate one's organs and/or tissues after death. I mean, once you're dead what do you need them for? You're done using them. If they can benefit someone else, why not?

Exactly. What's the point of letting useful tissues go to rot for no gain? In my personal opinion it's sheer malevolence to *refuse* to donate. It's like going to a restaurant and having them mix up your order and serve you something you can't eat, then spitefully insisting on throwing it in the trash instead of handing it off to someone who CAN eat it.

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Thanks Jake, k-mac, its nice to know my "gut" reaction has been trained well..... cuz I don't do so much book learnin

I just want to make sure that it's clear that I do agree with Paul McKeever that the current system, in which the government banned organ trading, and is instead deciding who should get the organs based on need is immoral and needs changing.

I just disagree with the method he suggests, and above all, with the fact that he declared the method he chose (a boycott of the system) the only moral option.

And I have no reason to assume that he is inflexible on his position either: he might just have spoken too hastily.

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I just want to make sure that it's clear that I do agree with Paul McKeever that the current system, in which the government banned organ trading, and is instead deciding who should get the organs based on need is immoral and needs changing.

I just disagree with the method he suggests, and above all, with the fact that he declared the method he chose (a boycott of the system) the only moral option.

And I have no reason to assume that he is inflexible on his position either: he might just have spoken too hastily.

Hi folks:

Let me see if I can shed some more light on the nature of my argument.

First, the context of the discussion: in Ontario, Canada, it is not illegal to decide to have your organs transplanted after your death. However, the law severely eliminates your freedom to dictate the terms pursuant to which the transplant will happen. You cannot require payment, you cannot specify who will be the recipient (or what sort of recipient he/she must be....for example, if the government wanted to do so, it could transplant your heart to a theocratic terrorist, your lungs to a smoker, etc.). The government's moral code in this is purely altruistic: it would rather let a potential recipient die than allow him to pay for an organ, or allow your family to sell it to him. Their implicit reason is: "We don't want a system in which a person can get an organ on the basis of ability to pay rather than on the basis of need: all health care should be on the basis of need, not on the basis of ability to pay". Need is held up as a value in the Ontario health care system (a system in which it is illegal to buy or sell private health insurance for services covered by the government monopoly health insurance system). Pursuant to that moral code - and to promote its acceptance - the government has launched a web site to encourage people aged 14 to 24 to "donate" (i.e., to sacrifice rather than to trade) their organs. Organs, on the site, are depicted as garbage: recyclables of no use to the dead person, and of no value to anyone except the recipient. By depicting organs as garbage instead of gold, the government attempts to have people overlook the fact that their organs are valuable to their HEIRS. One kidney would probably pay the tuition at Harvard for one year. All organs would probably pay for the better part of an entire education; or for the nursing needs of ones widow/widower in their declining years; or for the amount owing on ones widow's/widower's mortgage, etc..

Next: my argument.

Part ( a ) : Were the law not to prohibit a person from setting the terms for the posthumous transplantation of their organs, an Objectivist would do the moral thing: arrange, in advance, for the trade of the organs for something of higher value to himself. Examples include: having the organ transplanted into a surviving loved one for no charge (because the loved one is a value to the person giving up the organs); having the organs sold to the highest-bidding stranger, with the proceeds of the sale going to ones surviving spouse and/or children; etc.. However, it would be inconsistent with Objectivist ethics to arrange to have your organs posthumously transplanted into a person who is not a value to you, without receiving something of greater value in return (e.g., money).

Part ( b ) : The government is currently encouraging the sacrifice of the value of ones organs. It is prohibiting the receipt of a value in exchange for the value of ones organs. It is prohibiting virtuous organ transplantation. If you transplant your organs, you MUST do so unjustly: you must deprive those people who are values to you of the value of your organs. You must sacrifice that value to a stranger who is not a value to you. In fact, even that is imprecise: you actually must sacrifice your organs FIRST to the STATE. The state then sets the terms for their use. The one exception I can think of is this: if you have no loved ones; if a stranger in need is as much or more of a value to you than anyone else; if there is no value of greater value to you than the stranger; then there is nothing sacrificial about allowing your organs to be transplanted into the stranger. Objectivists do extend good will to strangers in crisis where doing so does not amount to self-sacrifice and an Objectivist would not withhold organs out of malevolence. But I think that is an exceptional case. In most circumstances, I think it would be malevolent to give ones organs to a stranger for free and to leave ones spouse or child without the food, shelter, health care, education, or other Objective value for which the proceeds from the sale of ones own organs would otherwise have paid.

Part ( c ) : To promote organ "donation" - not "trade", but sacrifice - is to sanction vice: the sacrifice of the value of ones organs, hence to sacrifice (in most cases) ones loved ones' (e.g., ones child's) happiness to some extent. Mr. Nameless gets your organs, but your son or daughter will now be asking "would you like fries with that?" instead of "pass the scalpel". But it gets worse when the government has a law that prohibits you from trading your organs. In *that* context, to promote organ donation is also implicitly to sanction the prohibition; to sanction collectivism; to sanction the lack of freedom. Depending upon the government's policies regarding who gets the organs, it might also amount to the sanction of other things contrary to Objectivist philosophy.

Part ( d ) : On the show, I gave subset of the argument above. I argued that if, by refusing to donate ones organs, the government will be persuaded to end the prohibition, then it would be immoral to donate ones organs (i.e., to sacrifice those values). I gave that particular answer because it is the one that is in direct opposition to the intended purpose of the government's current campaign: to encourage support for self-sacrifice and for the laws that require organ transfers to be self-sacrificial. As a matter of ethics, I advocated rational-egoism; as a matter of politics, I advocated consent (i.e., "choice").

Hope that helps.

Paul

Edited by Paul McKeever
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Yes, I've seen Paul take Objectivist principles out of context once before (on this forum, in a fractional reserve banking discussion). It's unfortunate that he would say that.

Oh, I strongly disagree with you about having taken Objectivist principles out of context with respect to fractional reserve banking. As I see it, it is the pro-fractional reserve folks who take Objectivism out of context. This isn't the thread in which to discuss it, of course, but their first mistake is to overlook what Ms Rand meant by the word "money" (see egalitarianism and inflation, which along with her other writing on inflation, makes it clear that she did not include fiduciary media as "money").

I should add that it would probably be possible to obtain payment for ones organs prior to ones death, such that one could use that payment during ones own life rather than leaving it to loved ones posthumously.

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Paul, I do agree that people should be free to buy and sell organs as they please. But given the current health care climate, where as you say all should be based on need, and given the statism streak we're on, and given the preponderant role of the government on Canada's system (it is single payer, right?), wouldn't you expect the government to make organ "donations" mandatory in response to a boycott by prospective organ donors?

BTW I don't see anything wrong with giving your organs away after you die, if that is your choice.

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Part ( c ) : To promote organ "donation" - not "trade", but sacrifice - is to sanction vice: the sacrifice of the value of ones organs, hence to sacrifice (in most cases) ones loved ones' (e.g., ones child's) happiness to some extent. Mr. Nameless gets your organs, but your son or daughter will now be asking "would you like fries with that?" instead of "pass the scalpel". But it gets worse when the government has a law that prohibits you from trading your organs. In *that* context, to promote organ donation is also implicitly to sanction the prohibition; to sanction collectivism; to sanction the lack of freedom. Depending upon the government's policies regarding who gets the organs, it might also amount to the sanction of other things contrary to Objectivist philosophy.

Why would you say "to promote organ donation"? You mean "to promote the system in which donations take place".

How would you like it if I told you that you are breathing (and paying taxes) in the context of a Canadian Socialist/Collectivist State, therefor unless you stop breathing, you're promoting that evil "context" through your breathing? After all, if you stopped breathing, they would have nothing to socialize anymore.

By donating my organs, I am promoting the life of those strangers who will receive my organs. That is the only thing I am promoting, sanctioning, agreeing with or whatever verb you wish to use. Just because I sign my donor card, or respect Anti Trust Laws, I still am vehemently opposed to the government regulating both. In the context of the full power of the government preventing me from breaking the Law, I am promoting my own moral values, including benevolence.

Morality pertains to choices. If selling my organs, to benefit my family, were an option, then choosing to give them away instead would be immoral. Since that's not an option, such a choice has to be made in the context of the world we live in, out of the options available. In this context, the choice is between letting your organs disintegrate in a grave, or giving them to a random stranger for free. Neither is a moral sanction of government force, any more than giving up your wallet at gunpoint is the moral sanction of the robbery.

Oh, I strongly disagree with you about having taken Objectivist principles out of context with respect to fractional reserve banking. As I see it, it is the pro-fractional reserve folks who take Objectivism out of context. This isn't the thread in which to discuss it, of course, but their first mistake is to overlook what Ms Rand meant by the word "money" (see egalitarianism and inflation, which along with her other writing on inflation, makes it clear that she did not include fiduciary media as "money").

It is not the job of a philosopher to define money. If Rand did define money (or even talked about what money ought to be), it isn't part of Objectivist philosophy.

By her description of individual rights, people ought to be free to trade in any way they wish, and call anything they wish money. Having the government mandate what can and cannot be used as money would not be proper, acoording to Objectivism.

Edited by Jake_Ellison
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I do not give blood in the United Kingdom. The government has legislated that it is not my blood. They have, in effect, claimed ownership of my blood and my organs. Just like they have claimed my wallet.

To them I have one message: come and get it.

They oblige when it comes to money, but not when it comes to blood.

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Part ( a ) : Were the law not to prohibit a person from setting the terms for the posthumous transplantation of their organs, an Objectivist would do the moral thing: arrange, in advance, for the trade of the organs for something of higher value to himself. Examples include: having the organ transplanted into a surviving loved one for no charge (because the loved one is a value to the person giving up the organs); having the organs sold to the highest-bidding stranger, with the proceeds of the sale going to ones surviving spouse and/or children; etc.. However, it would be inconsistent with Objectivist ethics to arrange to have your organs posthumously transplanted into a person who is not a value to you, without receiving something of greater value in return (e.g., money).

Part ( b ) : The government is currently encouraging the sacrifice of the value of ones organs. It is prohibiting the receipt of a value in exchange for the value of ones organs. It is prohibiting virtuous organ transplantation. If you transplant your organs, you MUST do so unjustly: you must deprive those people who are values to you of the value of your organs. You must sacrifice that value to a stranger who is not a value to you. In fact, even that is imprecise: you actually must sacrifice your organs FIRST to the STATE. The state then sets the terms for their use. The one exception I can think of is this: if you have no loved ones; if a stranger in need is as much or more of a value to you than anyone else; if there is no value of greater value to you than the stranger; then there is nothing sacrificial about allowing your organs to be transplanted into the stranger. Objectivists do extend good will to strangers in crisis where doing so does not amount to self-sacrifice and an Objectivist would not withhold organs out of malevolence. But I think that is an exceptional case. In most circumstances, I think it would be malevolent to give ones organs to a stranger for free and to leave ones spouse or child without the food, shelter, health care, education, or other Objective value for which the proceeds from the sale of ones own organs would otherwise have paid.

Part ( c ) : To promote organ "donation" - not "trade", but sacrifice - is to sanction vice: the sacrifice of the value of ones organs, hence to sacrifice (in most cases) ones loved ones' (e.g., ones child's) happiness to some extent. Mr. Nameless gets your organs, but your son or daughter will now be asking "would you like fries with that?" instead of "pass the scalpel". But it gets worse when the government has a law that prohibits you from trading your organs. In *that* context, to promote organ donation is also implicitly to sanction the prohibition; to sanction collectivism; to sanction the lack of freedom. Depending upon the government's policies regarding who gets the organs, it might also amount to the sanction of other things contrary to Objectivist philosophy.

Part ( d ) : On the show, I gave subset of the argument above. I argued that if, by refusing to donate ones organs, the government will be persuaded to end the prohibition, then it would be immoral to donate ones organs (i.e., to sacrifice those values). I gave that particular answer because it is the one that is in direct opposition to the intended purpose of the government's current campaign: to encourage support for self-sacrifice and for the laws that require organ transfers to be self-sacrificial. As a matter of ethics, I advocated rational-egoism; as a matter of politics, I advocated consent (i.e., "choice").

Paul, I happen to agree with what you wrote, but I don't agree with your conclusion. You're correct in stating that promoting the current system of donation, where sacrifice and need is the argument pushed on and promoted by the public, would be immoral. Most people who are organ donors probably do it for altruistic reasons, probably for some emotionalistic feel good reason, and they are making an immoral decision; however, for someone who disagrees with the current system but has no other choice in determining where their organs go, and circles 'yes' to being an organ donor, their decision is not to promote the current system, and therefore not immoral.

With that said, I think that you could make a very good argument to the people of Canada (and United States) by focusing on what you've already identified as immoral: the altruistic reasons behind the current system and the act of donating via the current system if an alternative one (choice in organ management) did exist. If the question was posed to a typical parent, of whether or not it would be immoral to donate their organs under the current system and ideas, rather than give the organ or its proceeds to their children (using a new system), that parent would probably recognize the immorality of the current system and any donation based upon its ideas. Pointing out the benefits of a freer system seems like a good way to challenge the current one.

Edited by RussK
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You're scaring me now. What legislation is that?

The Human Tissue Act of 2004 effectively rules organ-fascism. In the technical sense of the term (controlling private property).

I cannot sell any part of my body, and I cannot even donate it as I see fit. Furthermore, the government keeps saying it will soon produce new "presumption of donation" legislation - whereby donor cards would be obsolete: non-donor cards would be carried by those who don't wish the National Health Service to help themselves.

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Furthermore, the government keeps saying it will soon produce new "presumption of donation" legislation - whereby donor cards would be obsolete: non-donor cards would be carried by those who don't wish the National Health Service to help themselves.

That is absolutely insane. Now the burden would be placed on the individual to demonstrate the he/she doesn't want their organs to be taken upon death. In other words, the state owns your organs unless you happen to have a non-donor card on you when you stop breathing. Wow, talk about out of control government.

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Paul, I do agree that people should be free to buy and sell organs as they please. But given the current health care climate, where as you say all should be based on need, and given the statism streak we're on, and given the preponderant role of the government on Canada's system (it is single payer, right?), wouldn't you expect the government to make organ "donations" mandatory in response to a boycott by prospective organ donors?

BTW I don't see anything wrong with giving your organs away after you die, if that is your choice.

It's difficult to predict what they would do other than to say this: it will be whichever response will cause them the least grief at the polling booth.

However, as an advocate for freedom, it is important to draw the ethical line where there is an opportunity to do so over an issue that everyone feels strongly about: doing so results in everyone following their passions to one side or the other of that line. Having assumed the altruist side, the ensuing debate will involve hours of explanation of all of the political horrors that necessarily result from holding self-sacrifice up as a virtue. Let those who initially think themselves to be altruists consider that the logical implication of their position is that the government should sacrifice the old, the mentally incompetent, the poor etc. to take their organs and save the younger, the mentally competent, the productive etc...all for the greater good of the collective. Hold up murder as the ultimate political implemention of altruistic organ distribution, and watch as people begin to question altruism and consider rational egoism.

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The Human Tissue Act of 2004 effectively rules organ-fascism. In the technical sense of the term (controlling private property).

I cannot sell any part of my body, and I cannot even donate it as I see fit. Furthermore, the government keeps saying it will soon produce new "presumption of donation" legislation - whereby donor cards would be obsolete: non-donor cards would be carried by those who don't wish the National Health Service to help themselves.

My understanding is that, this past December, the Ontario government passed legislation (or changed its internal policies) such that one can no longer register that one does NOT want their organs harvested. The only choices are: register a consent to organ harvesting, or do not register. The effect: there is no record of a refusal by you, and the decision goes to the deceased person's family...from whom, no doubt, the government thinks it has a better chance of getting consent. We recently had a case in Ontario where the parents took their child off of life support in the hope that she would stop breathing: her organs could then be transplanted so as to save another child (unrelated) and so that the parents of the first child could feel that their little girl did not die in vain.

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How would you like it if I told you that you are breathing (and paying taxes) in the context of a Canadian Socialist/Collectivist State, therefor unless you stop breathing, you're promoting that evil "context" through your breathing? After all, if you stopped breathing, they would have nothing to socialize anymore.

Consider this. Imagine that you are running a transcontinental railroad in the context of a Canadian Socialist/Collectivist State. How would you like it if some guy approached you and told you that, unless you stop running the railroad, you are promoting that evil "context" through your continuuing to try to keep the railroad running. After all, if you stopped running the railroad, they would have nothing to socialize anymore.

It is not the job of a philosopher to define money. If Rand did define money (or even talked about what money ought to be), it isn't part of Objectivist philosophy.

You can't be serious. Is the money speech, then, not a part of Objectivism? Ms Rand defined money because it was necessary to do so in order to explain inflation. Federal Reserve notes were not, in her lexicon, "money": gold coin qualified as money because it was an existing good that reliably could be exchanged for other goods or for services. That which does not yet exist is not, in Rand's view, money. That which is not a good is not, in Rand's view, money. Federal reserve notes are not existing goods: they are promises to pay. They are a fiduciary (i.e., trust-based) medium of exchange. Fiduciary media of exchange are not existing goods: they are not money. Ms Rand's point was that only the government can create fiduciary media (i.e., federal reserve notes) and pass them off as money (note that they used to be claims on gold). Inflation, as she defined it, involved an increase in dollars that are not existing goods (e.g., gold coin) but are merely promises to pay goods that do not yet exist (i.e., fiduciary media).

Since the world was taken off of the gold standard, the only thing used to mediate trades is: fiduciary media. There is no essential difference, any more, between the nature of currency and credit: both are fiduciary media; both are not existing goods; neither are money as Ms Rand defined it.

The essence of Ms Rand's argument is that expanding the number of promises to pay is "inflation". Inflation is wrong because inflation effects a non-consensual transfer of wealth from those who earn it to those who create dollars in the form of fiduciary media: dollars that are not already-existing goods, but promises to produce goods some time in the future.

The fact that the banks set up a central bank for themselves (now called the federal reserve) changes nothing in respect of the wrongfulness of using fiduciary media as money so as to facilitate inflation (hence wealth redistribution). Fractional reserve banking started when the ratio of "dollars" to gold was increased by increasing the supply of "dollars". Private banks do the exact same thing by creating additional "dollars" (i.e., promises to pay goods that do not yet exist) and lending them out to people.

Edited by Paul McKeever
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I do not give blood in the United Kingdom. The government has legislated that it is not my blood. They have, in effect, claimed ownership of my blood and my organs. Just like they have claimed my wallet.

To them I have one message: come and get it.

They oblige when it comes to money, but not when it comes to blood.

My government doesn't want my blood, they think you Europeans have infected me :)

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To get back to my original question,

Paul, you now say "I argued that if, by refusing to donate ones organs, the government will be persuaded to end the prohibition, then it would be immoral to donate ones organs"

Well isnt this like saying "if my aunt had balls"?

I could say "if, by refusing to buy gas and drive on roads, the government will be persuaded to reduce taxes, then it would be immoral to drive on roads"

Clearly its not immoral to drive on roads. Here is my original question.

"if i decide to donate my organs, freely without coercion, under the terms the govt has stipulate, I dont think this would be and immoral act. "

Do objectivists agree or disagree?

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Let those who initially think themselves to be altruists consider that the logical implication of their position is that the government should sacrifice the old, the mentally incompetent, the poor etc. to take their organs and save the younger, the mentally competent, the productive etc...all for the greater good of the collective.

If only.

No, right now any mention of selling organs brings up visions of the poor, the old, the handicapped being sold as parts to satisfy the life-lust of the greedy few who could afford to buy their organs.

It's no surprise, it's how the altruistic intellectuals work. Are we not in the middle of a very bad financial crisis caused by government intervention in the economy? Do you hear much condemnation of the real cause of this crisis, or do you hear more about how it was the fault of under-regulated markets and banks acting with too much freedom, with little regard for the "greater good"?

That's how much I figure an "organ crisis" would help our cause.

What we need to do is attack the notion that our bodies are not our property.

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I could say "if, by refusing to buy gas and drive on roads, the government will be persuaded to reduce taxes, then it would be immoral to drive on roads"

Clearly its not immoral to drive on roads.

If I recall correctly, at the time of making the statement (on air), my thinking was that ( a ) freedom is a value to me, ( b ) the government is refusing to defend it and instead is undermining it, and ( c ) if it is the case that by refusing to donate my organs on their terms they will cease undermining my freedom to deal with my organs as I choose, it would be immoral for me to donate my organs. In other words: providing that it might be effective, not donating is the pursuit of a value that has been taken from me (even if that pursuit is not ultimately successful), and donating is the sacrifice of that value (freedom) which might have been restored to me by not donating (which donation would, itself, most usually be a sacrificial act).

That said, I did not have time - on the show - to give the more full explanation I give earlier in this thread.

With respect to your example: the driving on roads example does not work. Driving on roads may very well be a value to you (and, quite possibly, as much or more of a value than the taxes in question): it is virtuous to pursue such a value even if such pursuit means that, as a result, some bad buy won't stop doing vicious things to you. But that is different from ( a ) sacrificing value when not-sacrificing stands a chance of restoring your freedom, or ( b ) choosing a stranger's survival at the cost of the possibility of restoring your own freedom. Think of it this way: if you could either ( a ) try to run out of an evil POW camp just before the gate closes versus ( b ) intentionally take a bullet while the gate closes so as to save a fellow prisoner's life, what is the moral choice? I say: ( a ), even if I fail to make it through the gate on time.

"if i decide to donate my organs, freely without coercion, under the terms the govt has stipulate, I dont think this would be and immoral act. "

Do objectivists agree or disagree?

The presence or absence of coercion does not determine whether an act is immoral: morality is not dictated by the presence or absence of freedom. Such an assertion inverts the hierarchy of philosophical knowledge (see Peter Schwartz's excellent essay on "Libertarianism: the Perversion of Liberty").

Edited by Paul McKeever
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Do you hear much condemnation of the real cause of this crisis, or do you hear more about how it was the fault of under-regulated markets and banks acting with too much freedom, with little regard for the "greater good"?

That's how much I figure an "organ crisis" would help our cause.

What we need to do is attack the notion that our bodies are not our property.

Two things:

1. Sales of Atlas Shrugged have greatly increased - hence awareness of Objectivism as increased - because, in this crisis, many have done exactly what one person should do: take every opportunity to advocate the ethically correct response and to ethically condemn the cause of the mess.

2. Self-ownership is a false concept. Your body is not your property. Your body is you. A rock does not belong to itself: it is itself. The mind and the body are one: the mind does not own the body. These notions come out of - and are most at home in - religious thinking about disembodied souls. I've done a blog post and video on the subject, in case anyone is interested: http://blog.paulmckeever.ca/2008/09/16/rea...self-ownership/

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