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"Does he really deserve that salary?"

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Ifat Glassman
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http://ifats-thoughts.blogspot.com/2009/09...hat-salary.html

"Does he really deserve that salary?" - Faulty concept of "deserving"

"Do you really deserve to live?"

-- How is it my business to decide, right?

Anyone who would ponder about this question seriously, as if what they had to say on the subject was to justly be executed in reality would be considered a despicable freak in our society.

Yet we don't seem to have the same approach to money. "Do you really deserve the money that you have?" "Do you really deserve such a nice apartment?"

Now if I were Santa Claus considering how many gifts to bring you this year, this question might have made sense. But as a human being that has no involvement in your life - it does not.

So what is the error in these sort of questions? why do they seem plausible on one hand, yet non-sensible on the other?

The answer is a mis-generalization of the concept of "deserving".

Let's get down to the root of what it means to "deserve".

Let us observe the following: to "deserve" means an interaction between at least 2 people. If one man deserves something, he always deserves it from someone else. Mother nature cannot consider if someone "deserves" something, it does not decide to give you things. You cannot "deserve" an apple from an apple tree. So "deserve" only makes sense as an interaction between two or more people.

One cannot "deserve" something from no other man, but simply to "deserve" it. I cannot "deserve" a new computer, healthcare or a car from no entity, but just to "deserve" it. What would such thing even mean?

When you tell your boss you deserve a raise, it has the practical use of having more money in your bank account.

When you say that you "deserve" a car to thin air, it has no practical meaning or consequence.

One might say, as a joke, "Damn it, I deserve to have this machine working" after hours of time and effort trying to fix it - but all it is, is a joke. The machine, the air, cannot grant you anything. An apple tree is not just or generous by growing apples for you to eat - it is simply an apple tree doing what apple trees do.

Next observe that the two (or more) people must indeed interact for 'deserving' to make sense. I cannot possibly deserve the meal an Eskimo from Antarctica is cooking at the moment, half way across the world. I might deserve it if I were the one catching the fish he is cooking.

Sometimes a man deserves to serve time in prison - it appears to be a one man situation, but in fact it is not. What is hidden behind the scenes is the society in which this man lives. This man deserves the retribution he is given from other people in his society for whatever it is he has done. They may not be the ones to physically give it to him, but the ones they have delegated to do it do so in their name.

To summarize: "deserve" implies deserving from someone, and someone with which you interact over the product in question.

"Deserve" also implies that you did something to earn whatever you "deserve", and that whatever you did benefited someone else from whom you deserve something.

(Unless you deserve to be punished by them, in which case you still acted to earn a negative payback).

But in any case You either "do the crime and pay the time", or "pay the bill and get to chill".

When you hear someone saying that they deserve healthcare, or deserve a house, simply by being born, they are using a wrong concept of what it means to "deserve".

they want to deserve from no one in particular, deserve without being involved with anyone else, and deserve without "paying the bill".

What makes the difference between deserving healthcare from your insurance company, vs. "deserving" it from society (AKA "the government"):

In the insurance company, you do something to earn it from them, benefiting them by paying for your policy. You deserve medical treatment to the extent that you paid for what was agreed in your contract. "Deserving" is a trade.

"Deserving" medical treatment "from society", however, involves no trade. One is paying no price, there is no need to earn and no benefit in exchange for the service. It involves no agreement. In fact it involves only a single person, which was born into reality butt naked, "deserving" something from "the world" ("a god given right").

Notice in how many ways this concept of "deserve" is breaking the actual meaning of what it is to "deserve".

What about people who question whether some people deserve their high salaries?

Those people mis-use the concept "deserve" as well. How do they go about judging what salary those people deserve?

To the company owner, the standard is clear: The contribution the worker has for the success of the company (leaving aside other factors like the budget). But how can someone outside the company decide if an employee deserves his money?

One might, as a hypothetical, put oneself in the shoes of the company owner and consider the contribution of the worker vs. his salary - but realizing that this is only possible as an opinion on what should the worker deserve from the company owner (not from them, because it's not their money to give).

What they actually try to judge, however, is what the worker deserves from them, or from society, or from reality. "How much does a human being deserve to have?".

As you can see, they are using an empty concept. Its only appearance of a meaning is stolen from the legitimate concept of "deserving".

But they try to judge what a man deserves without specifying anyone in particular, without taking under account any interaction between that man and anyone else, without asking who is earning from his work.

They take the company owner out of the equation and then try to decide how his money should be spent.

THAT, is the fallacy in their thinking. That they think of "deserve" in fuzzy terms. It is a relationship between god and the worker when it comes to taking his salary away, but becomes a relationship between that man and society when they decide society deserves it better.

So next time you hear someone using a fuzzy concept of "deserve", make sure they stand corrected.

The future of our society leans on whether or not people are left free to live their life, and is destroyed by people who try to decide with their fuzzy concept who "deserves" to make money, own property, or live.

Edited by ifatart
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I think you are essentially correct, that the term "deserve" stems from justice and that you deserve something due to a rational evaluation of your worth to others. Under the trader principle, you deserve what others are willing and able to pay you for whatever product or service you trade with them. So, to say you deserve, say, health care or any other product or service from other on a non-voluntary basis is to say you have deserved something without earning it. That is the root cause of policies such as welfare or "free health care" provided by others without you earning it. Society per se doesn't owe you anything aside from leaving you alone to live your life by your won self-chosen standards. It doesn't owe you a car, money to pay the rent, or food or health care. You don't deserve these unless you have earned them.

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Consider the scenario where someone has had something stolen from them. In this instance, the victim deserves justice. This, I think, can be applied better to the present situation with healthcare than can the idea that "deserve" is being used incorrectly. I think you'll find that, of the people speaking up in favor of socialized medicine, far more think they deserve healthcare because 'we, the American people, have been screwed over time and time again by the evil, evil, evil, greedy, evil insurance corporations who do evil, greedy, evil things to us, and we deserve free healthcare from the government so that we can be protected from such evilness and greediness. And, oh yeah, Bush did 9/11."

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There's some rather . . . oddly twisted things I've noted related to this. The very people who will complain about somebody not deserving however much money are the same people who claim that human life and quality of life are worth more than money. There's a conflict in these two claims. How is it that if they make life and quality of life possible to you, something you think is worth more than money, that you think what they've provided you just cannot be worth the money they ask in return? More ridiculous still, the more they desire the product, the more value it provides them, the greater their resistance to even the idea of paying for it.

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I would think that theres a way in which deserve can involve only one person. Namely when I decide that because I've worked hard all week I deserve a good steak. Or if I decide that I deserve medical care than I mean I value my life enough to work to get it. I see it mainly as a self esteem thing. If a person says they deserve medical care to be earned and paid for by others I take that to mean that they don't think their life is valuable enough ( to them ) for them to work for it or maybe they don't have enough confidence in themselves to believe that they'll be able to earn it.

Forcing it from others is a way for them to avoid the knowledge that they didn't think they deserved it or could deserve it.

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I would think that theres a way in which deserve can involve only one person. Namely when I decide that because I've worked hard all week I deserve a good steak. Or if I decide that I deserve medical care than I mean I value my life enough to work to get it. I see it mainly as a self esteem thing. If a person says they deserve medical care to be earned and paid for by others I take that to mean that they don't think their life is valuable enough ( to them ) for them to work for it or maybe they don't have enough confidence in themselves to believe that they'll be able to earn it.

Forcing it from others is a way for them to avoid the knowledge that they didn't think they deserved it or could deserve it.

You deserve payment for your hard work, so that you may purchase a steak or health care if you want them. That is to say, for your hard work, you deserve the ability to seek these products. This is not the same as deserving the products themselves. You can only deserve anything if it is what was agreed upon as payment for your efforts*.

*Edited for clarity

Edited by Alexandros
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You can certainly reward yourself for accomplishing something according to your standards, but notice that in order for you to deserve a steak you have to be willing and able to pay for it -- unless you own the farm and can slaughter the cow yourself. There is nothing wrong with saying you deserve something, so long as you are willing to gain and / or keep it legitimately, meaning that you are willing to go through the effort necessary to acquire it either directly from nature or by paying someone for it. Out in the wilderness, you can come across some great berries and eat them, and you deserve that because you had the knowledge to know they were edible and good for you. But the way the term "deserve" is generally used by the looters and moochers is that they deserve something they must get from others -- even without paying for it -- which is what Ifat was referring to. In the wilderness, one wouldn't raise one's voice to the sky and say, "I deserve a steak, now provide it for me!" unless one was a savage who didn't know cause and effect, and that even in the wilderness one's values must be earned. No, they claim they deserve something for nothing, and they know they can only get this from more productive individuals who have earned it; if they even let the concept "earned" into their heads at all.

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I see the use of the word "deserve" as a form of intrinsicism, really, because it doesn't quite conflate with the term "earn". When people talk about earnings, yes, they're talking about you producing something and exchanging it. But when they're talking about what they "deserve", it's like they're talking about earning without the context in which you earn, as if, say, working 40 hours a week entitles you to a certain amount of compensation regardless of whether there's anyone who wishes to provide that compensation in exchange for the work. Having virtue is not the same thing as *earning* rewards.

I'd prefer to see less whining about who deserves what and more focus on whether they have earned what they have or not. If you've gotten someone to pay you more for less work, you've still EARNED that money regardless of whether someone getting paid less for more work thinks you "deserve" it.

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I would think that theres a way in which deserve can involve only one person. Namely when I decide that because I've worked hard all week I deserve a good steak.

I see what you are saying, but I think you are using "deserve" here symbolically - it is not the actual concept of "deserving".

For instance: I can get mad at somebody for not giving me a steak I deserve (we made a deal or whatever). I might feel grateful for them for giving me the steak that I deserve. I cannot be angry at myself for not giving myself the steak nor feel grateful to myself for giving me a steak - it is simply a matter of managing your life and what you choose to do.

See, you're presenting some kind of form of a "contract" with oneself: "If I complete this and that by 7pm, I'm going to get ice cream". But can you say at 7pm that you now "deserve" the ice cream? not really, all it is is acting by what you have planned for yourself. You can't tell yourself "how dare you not buy me ice cream? You agreed that I deserve it!"

See? It's something different than the actual concept. "Deserve" is about giving something in return for something. Do you "give" yourself respect by feeling respect for yourself? You can act with respect to other people, but you cannot be rude to yourself etc', but merely mistaken in your judgment (like having unearned guilt).

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I see the use of the word "deserve" as a form of intrinsicism, really, because it doesn't quite conflate with the term "earn". When people talk about earnings, yes, they're talking about you producing something and exchanging it. But when they're talking about what they "deserve", it's like they're talking about earning without the context in which you earn, as if, say, working 40 hours a week entitles you to a certain amount of compensation regardless of whether there's anyone who wishes to provide that compensation in exchange for the work.

I don't agree with you here. If an employee is doing a great , valuable job, yet he is not rewarded or recognized in his workplace he most definitely not getting what he deserves from his boss/ company. He will likely become indignant and leave for another job.

The salary, treatment and recognition an employee gets at a workplace reflect the evaluation of the company of his contribution in the context of their budget and goals. They choose to reward their employees by how much they think the employees contribute to the success of the company, taking their budget and conditions of the market under account. But the bottom line is - it is an evaluation of how important the employee is to the company.

Now you could say: if the contract says that you get X money, then that is what you deserve. Well, maybe in legal terms, but if a company fails to give employees what they actually deserve by their performance and contribution, they will fail and lose their best employees.

As for Marxists saying "the worker deserves more for his physical labor" - they are not using the standard of the success of the company (as the one paying the salaries should). Instead they try to evaluate it by the effort.

And if they think that their job installing screws in a machine is a major factor in the success of the company and thus they deserve more reward they are simply wrong. I can say they are wrong (and not merely that they are using an invalid standard) because I am using the right standard.

It is possible to leave a job because you can get paid better doing the same thing for another company, and not necessarily being treated unjustly by your company. It is harder for an employee to judge if he is getting what he deserves because he does not have the information of his managers accessible to him. Instead, he can judge his performance compared to others in the company and their reward or by other means.

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I would tend to agree with your interpretation Ifat, but I think you missed part of what JMeganSnow wrote:

...earning without the context in which you earn, as if, say, working 40 hours a week entitles you to a certain amount of compensation regardless of whether there's anyone who wishes to provide that compensation in exchange for the work.

The point here is not someone's doing an excellent job or being undercompensated, it's merely that someone is putting in the time. Chances are this is not an undervalued worker.

And it's also considering that there is no one else who wishes to purchase the labor. If an individual undervalues the person's labor, then yes, it would be an injustice and the worker should start passing around his resume. But if "the market" does not value a person's labor, that means it is not a value, to anyone, and he ought to look for a new line of work rather than imagine that he's being mistreated by others.

Though frankly, I think JMeganSnow's criticism of the word "deserved" doesn't make sense. Rather than say the word doesn't convey meaning appropriately, I would say the word has been co-opted by those who change its meaning and thereby destroy a valuable concept.

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I think the key problem here in the disagreement between me and Jennifer is an important distinction we need to make between "deserve" in the legal sense and "deserve" in the other sense (not sure how to call it). And we also need to make sure we are using the same standard to judge what someone deserves.

See, someone may deserve my respect, but still this is not a legal issue.

So you can be the most talented man on the company in a key position and still not be legally entitled to what you deserve in the other sense.

As for those people who say "I work my ass off in this job, I deserve more money" - they are not using a correct standard. They attempt to judge what they deserve based on their effort, not based on the goal of the one who is to give them what they do or do not "deserve" - their employer.

When they say "I deserve more money" they skip the fact that the judgement should be made from the point of view of the employer. You cannot "deserve" things from mother nature, and that is implied in thinking that an effort should be a standard for what one should receive in return.

So I agree with her that people who make that claim are wrong, but I think they are wrong b/c they are using a standard not based on reality, not because "deserve" is intrinsic as such.

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The terms "deserve" and "earned" have been disconnected quite a bit because of the welfare mentality and the idea that one deserves some minimal human standard of living even if one hasn't done anything to earn it, and as a consequence the idea of earning a huge salary is deemed not to have been earned no matter what someone does to achieve it. Deserve and earning ought to be understood in terms of the trader principle, and not some standard disconnected from what one person is willing to pay another due to the standard of payment. But because it is a trade, each party can decide if he has earned more or less according to the standards involve, so a worker can say he deserves more if he thinks he has earned it. Each side of the agreement ought to have rational standards, of course, but each side has to decide if the payment transaction is fitting to what is being paid out. And that transaction can only be decided by the two parties involved and not some outside observer, because those outside observers are not a party to the mutually agreed upon transaction. Does a food shelf stocker deserve $8 per hour? does Bill Gates deserve $2 billion per year? do you deserve your pay? So long as the money is paid out in a voluntary transaction, then yes, that money is deserved because it is earned. It is the welfare recipient who doesn't do anything except to exist and gets paid with funds taken by force that doesn't deserve it because he hasn't earned it. So I think this issue has to be thought through in terms of the trader principle; not only for money payments, but for anything else that can be given to another as some sort of payment (i.e. respect). If it is earned then it is deserved; and if it is not earned then it is not deserved.

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Thomas: I actually had a long reply to your post, but then I run into a question I need to think more about. So I may reply sometime in the future when I get this cleared up for myself.

I don't want to confuse anyone with my own undigested thoughts on this, so I'll just post it later when I am clear on the issue.

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Thomas: I actually had a long reply to your post, but then I run into a question I need to think more about.

OK. But if it has to do with a worker working for someone, both sides have to agree that the arrangement is beneficial to themselves, or it won't happen. I'm looking for a job right now and there is a certain minimum I have to make to fulfill my obligations for things like rent, utilities, bills and those sorts of things. Also, I know what I'm worth on the market. Granted we are in a recession, so I might not get exactly what I want, but working for, say, $8.00 won't cut it, unless it is only temporary, and I'd have to find something better quickly. It's not intrinsicism or subjectivism, but rather objective based on what I have earned in the immediate past, and I know what kind of work I have to do to earn that. If a work knows his market, then he can negotiate, because he can leave for something better at any time. So, my point to you is unlike your suggestion that only the boss decides what you are worth, you, as the worker, can also decide, based upon market conditions at the time.

As an example, when I worked for DuPont many years ago in south Mississippi, they would train maintenance workers only to lose them once they got trained and they didn't understand what was going on. Well, the maintenance techs understood that once they got training, all they had to do was cross from Mississippi to Louisiana or Alabama and make twice as much money, so they did that. Likewise, if I know I can pull in a certain amount based upon my skills, and I get offered less, I might have to take it temporarily, but as soon as a new opening becomes available at another location, I can quit and go work for them. Most employers understand this as well, which is why wages tend to become evened out over a geographical area.

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OK. But if it has to do with a worker working for someone, both sides have to agree that the arrangement is beneficial to themselves, or it won't happen. I'm looking for a job right now and there is a certain minimum I have to make to fulfill my obligations for things like rent, utilities, bills and those sorts of things. Also, I know what I'm worth on the market. Granted we are in a recession, so I might not get exactly what I want, but working for, say, $8.00 won't cut it, unless it is only temporary, and I'd have to find something better quickly. It's not intrinsicism or subjectivism, but rather objective based on what I have earned in the immediate past, and I know what kind of work I have to do to earn that. If a work knows his market, then he can negotiate, because he can leave for something better at any time. So, my point to you is unlike your suggestion that only the boss decides what you are worth, you, as the worker, can also decide, based upon market conditions at the time.

I didn't get the point of your long personal story.

By the way, I never said that "only the boss decides what you are worth, you, as the worker, can also decide, based upon market conditions at the time". You missed the whole point, which was: to decide what one "deserves" in a certain context the only rational standard to use is the value provided to the other side in the trade.

In other words: Look at it from their angle.

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You missed the whole point, which was: to decide what one "deserves" in a certain context the only rational standard to use is the value provided to the other side in the trade.

In other words: Look at it from their angle.

On the contrary! Rational egoism requires that you understand the situation according to your standards and your needs and your worth to the market. Looking at it from their angle is a form of altruism, not egoism. I don't know why you didn't get my point from what I wrote about my own situation, but let me present the argument a different way. When you draw something and you want money for it, you ought to look at it from your own benefit point of view, not the buyer's point of view. You don't know the buyer's context, you really only know your own -- what work you put into your drawings and what you need to trade it for in order to be worthwhile for you to trade it at that price. So set a price that is worthwhile to you, and let the buyer decide if that is worth it. Likewise, when I go looking for a job, I know what I am worth with my general skills level

and it wouldn't make sense for me to accept less than I am worth. Egoism is the proper standard, not looking at it from the buyer's perspective.

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The thread is a bit confusing for me but I'll try to respond intelligibly. Thomas I think we're in agreement, as far as I can tell you just put my post into other terms and pointed out the really important points ( which was helpful).

Ifat, well sometimes I do form "contracts" with myself. It does sound a bit silly when you write it out that way though I don't really talk to myself too much I do get upset with myself at times for not doing something I said I would. I suppose there are other concepts than deserve I could use to describe it. But it still comes out as well I worked hard so I should get something. I just replaced "should get" with deserve. I agree that this does presuppose the existence of other people with stuff to sell. But I would think I would have to make my own determination from my point of view and they would have to make theirs from their point of view and then on that basis we would trade. Though we might have to haggle a bit first.

Tara Smith has a section on deserts under the virtue of justice in her book Ayn Rands Normative Ethics. She seems to agree with you saying " Desert can only be intelligibly asserted by specifying what one particular individual deserves from another particular individual. Desert is, in this sense, one on one." (p 146). I found that kind of surprising though here she's clearly dealing with desert as a very abstract moral concept.

I could of sworn I read in Atlas that Dagny said at some point " she hoped she could deserve it" referring to getting her first paycheck and how she felt about it. I couldn't find the quote so I may be remembering it wrong, though I took it to mean that she had her own standards and she was hoping she would meet them.

I took a look at the trader principle in the ARL and I'm pretty sure I get the gist of it but now I'm not sure about the specific concept deserve. Consider "A trader is a man who earns what he gets and does not give or take the undeserved" (p 504) I took this to mean that a trader has personal standards about what he deserves. Though these standards do tie into his beliefs about other men, namely he expects to find other rational men with which to trade. I didn't think there was a tie to any one specific man.

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  • 2 weeks later...
On the contrary! Rational egoism requires that you understand the situation according to your standards and your needs and your worth to the market. Looking at it from their angle is a form of altruism, not egoism. I don't know why you didn't get my point from what I wrote about my own situation, but let me present the argument a different way. When you draw something and you want money for it, you ought to look at it from your own benefit point of view, not the buyer's point of view. You don't know the buyer's context, you really only know your own -- what work you put into your drawings and what you need to trade it for in order to be worthwhile for you to trade it at that price. So set a price that is worthwhile to you, and let the buyer decide if that is worth it

This has nothing to do with deserving anything. Even if I set the price rationally and according to my hierarchy of values, it still doesn't mean that this is the price I deserve to get for the painting.

Suppose I priced a painting high because it has great sentimental value to me... It has nothing to do with what I deserve. This is a bad example.

Likewise, when I go looking for a job, I know what I am worth with my general skills level

and it wouldn't make sense for me to accept less than I am worth.

This is about maximizing your profit, going after the best salary you can get. This is not about deserving or not deserving anything.

Egoism is the proper standard, not looking at it from the buyer's perspective.

In what way did I suggest any course of action which is not selfish?

Anyway, I'll try to explain again what I meant.

When you say "I deserve X" there is always someone from which you deserve it. If not, it is not a valid statement.

Whether or not I deserve "X" depends on the person and his/her relationship with me in regard to X.

I may deserve respect from Joe, but not from Danna. I am the same person but Joe and Danna got different treatments from me. So you cannot look at it from your angle "I know I am good, therefore I deserve respect" you have to look at it from the angle of whoever you're judging.

This doesn't mean you accept their judgement, it means judge for yourself what a rational man should do given the context of Joe or Danna.

Edited by ifatart
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This doesn't mean you accept their judgement, it means judge for yourself what a rational man should do given the context of Joe or Danna.

I think that is too other oriented. Yes, if you know their context, you can judge whether or not you will get their respect; but whether or not you deserve their respect depends on your evaluation of yourself. For example, I know that Obama is not going to respect me for my egoistic stance because he is a committed altruist; however, by a rational standard I am deserving of respect from other rational men and I know that. I agree with you that deserving something is a form of trade, nonetheless I know my own value to rational men and I expect other rational men to see that (if I offer that evidence).

Maximizing one's profit is a form of earning respect, the respect of those who understand the value you are offering to them. But one cannot be subjective nor intrinsic about that earned respect, one needs to be Objective. Because my current employer was praising my resume totally before hiring me, I took the chance of asking for more than the standard introductory wage -- and I got it. She respected my background considerably, so I upped the ante. I also know that in the long run I will make more sales than average, once I know more of what I am doing, so it is a deserved wage according to my standards and according to hers. It is a trade, and both have to agree or the trade will not occur. All trades are based upon what you deserve according to your own rational standards. If she turned me down, I would have moved on to the next potential employer.

You have to know what you deserve given a particular market, that's what makes it objective; and once you know that, you can "demand" it. When it comes to respect, you can certainly judge your own skills rationally. For example, given the work done by Ayn Rand and Dr. Peikoff, their respect from others is rationally earned, and if someone doesn't see that, they are committing an injustice. If someone prefers smears of paint on a canvas and refuses to respect you for your skills of romantic realism, they are committing an injustice. You ought to look at it egoistically, not from their perspective. Take pride in your rational accomplishments, since those are what you have earned, whether anyone sees that or not is irrelevant to the issue of deserving respect.

In short, a rational man evaluating his accomplishments can say, "I deserve better than that!"

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I think that is too other oriented. Yes, if you know their context, you can judge whether or not you will get their respect; but whether or not you deserve their respect depends on your evaluation of yourself. For example, I know that Obama is not going to respect me for my egoistic stance because he is a committed altruist; however, by a rational standard I am deserving of respect from other rational men and I know that. I agree with you that deserving something is a form of trade, nonetheless I know my own value to rational men and I expect other rational men to see that (if I offer that evidence).

Let's just leave it at: "I don't agree with you". I already explained why.

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This is my conclusion of Ifatart's and Thomas's arguments, I agree, both present a very unanimous discussion and if I am wrong to say so, I will justify my claim to why such an argument is obtrusive. Ifatart's opinion on 'deserve' states quite simply that when one says they deserves, they're doesn't acknowledge that to 'deserve' is to have an equal value from what nature provides. Thomas contest his opinion in retrospect from his experience that 'deserve' is only equal to that which one has esteemed as their value. This is a problem, both arguments testify that to 'deserve' one must know what they deserve, but the conflict is that what someone deserves is subjective. If I gave you both a hammer and one nail, who deserves the nail?

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Ifatart's opinion on 'deserve' states quite simply that when one says they deserves, they're doesn't acknowledge that to 'deserve' is to have an equal value from what nature provides.

My main point was that to "deserve" only has meaning from someone. One cannot deserve something from... just deserve it! Such a thing has no meaning.

One can only deserve something from another human being (or, if some want to argue, from oneself), but not from "nature". So it's not that people don't deserve equal wealth from nature, is that they don't deserve unequal wealth from nature; it's that "deserving from nature" is an empty phrase.

Thomas contest his opinion in retrospect from his experience that 'deserve' is only equal to that which one has esteemed as their value.

It seems that you have the same assumption here again - that "deserve" could exist without a second person, or a relationship.

It doesn't matter if I esteem the value of my work highly - I can only deserve or not deserve payment for it in the context of a relationship with a specific, concrete human being.

I am unsure, but I think Thomas agreed with me on that point.

This is a problem, both arguments testify that to 'deserve' one must know what they deserve, but the conflict is that what someone deserves is subjective. If I gave you both a hammer and one nail, who deserves the nail?

That is such a weird question: "who deserves the nail?" - where did the nail come from? Who is the owner? What is the relationship of the owner to either one of us? It is those down to earth details that determine if any one of us deserves a "hammer" from someone else.

Neither me nor Thomas think that what one "deserves" is a subjective matter.

Did this help clarify anything for you? If not, you can try to restate the problem, and I'll try to answer that.

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I definitely agree with Ifat that deserving something only makes sense in a relationship between two or more people, that one does not deserve something from nature. One might be able to extend this to other conscious beings, on some level, but certainly not to trees or rocks. If a coconut falls on your head while you are on an island, one cannot say that one didn't deserve it, because the tree isn't acting intentionally towards you -- it's not even aware of you and cannot evaluate you consciously. Where she and I differ is that I think one can assess one's value to others objectively, and if they don't give you something you deserve, then they are committing an injustice. But I certainly do not think one's evaluation of oneself with respect to others is subjective. If one works for an employer, for example, and follows the objectively correct procedures and does a good job, then one is deserving of respect from that employer, and if one doesn't get it, then it may be time to move on to a better job. In the case of someone working independently who is self-employed, one can still evaluate what the market can bear, and reject offers beneath one's objective value. I think there is an objective relationship between what one can earn and the respect one gets from others -- that is, I don't think they are separate issues at all. It all comes down to what you have earned, by an objective standard, and both parties involved have to know that, or the transaction won't take place (assuming capitalism and and a free market).

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