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"I agree and I wish that Objectivists would more often point out that while Objectivism objects to force, it does not prohibit compassion."

You are correct, but compassionate actions are a choice. You cannot force compassion. It isn't evidence of compassion to have one's money taken and redistributed, even if its given to a cause the victim would have identified with and supported otherwise. Objectivism doesn't prohibit compassion, it presents a system where it can be fully developed as a voluntary choice, not used as a buzz word.

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I propose, though, that cleft palate repair is not the highest priority for charitable donations. At least not for me, so I'd like to see the argument that cleft palate trumps education.

Boom! The above statement alone should answer the entire thread.

Who decides (for me) exactly which people the results of my labor should go to helping? And, exactly what percentage of the results of my labor shall go there?

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"Society" is not sacrificed, individuals are.

To solve such a problem, you can't simply pick the least harmful tax.

A truly free market always has a solution. You don't need to assume that a child will have to suffer if individuals, insurance companies, hospitals and doctors are free to negotiate to fill the need to take care of him/her.

If the need and willingness to pay for services is not great enough, then we turn to charitable organizations for support. No sacrifice is required.

Even in our current state, it has been stated in this forum that insurance is available to most to solve this problem.

You are thus taking the worst case scenario and extrapolating. You are assuming a child is "allowed" to suffer; allowed by whom? My selfishness is not weighed against such suffering. Those closest to such a child have the greatest responsibility (e.g. parents), need and desire to help the child in some manner. If they don't, do they have a right to turn to us and demand assistance?

Govt.'s role is to defend individual rights. Unless you define health care as a right, then it is wrong to redistribute the wealth to cover everyone's health care. Turning to Govt. for solutions is the easy way of avoiding responsibility for one's self and family.

I understand and agree with you except that I am talking about third-world countries. Since I can't at this time identify the exact circumstances that cause some children in these countries to go years without getting the operation I don't know what more I can say. I'm not trying to argue for health-care as a right. My question was specifically ONLY about birth-defects, and only about children from impoverished countries who are not going to get the help they need. If those parents are not able to provide that care to their children through no fault of their own, I think those kids still deserve to get that care. These people live in countries that DO NOT exist to protect the rights of the people. Is that just too bad for them? We all know that Objectivism does not address every single aspect of our lives. I understand the idea of forced sacrifice. But I don't think it applies to this instance. But until and if I can formulate that with reasonable, rational argument using Objectivist principles I don't know what else to say. I appreciate the robust discussion, you've all certainly given me more to ponder. THX

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"Insurance" is supposed to be a lottery ticket you do not want to win. It is not an installment payment plan for medical treatment.

If you read Toqueville's Democracy in America you learn that the free people of early America were incessantly organizing themselves into all kinds of voluntary associations. It will not be difficult for a competent, reputable children's hospital or charity to raise funds for the treatment of cleft palates and other birth defects. See Shiner's Hospitals for Children. It isn't hard even now, increasing freedom can't make it more difficult.

Been meaning to read Toqueville, I'd better get on it.

But I think you are onto something very significant. With even the tiniest bit of a nanny-state available people will look to that nanny state. But if the free-market really existed in this country, these needs would be filled. And they would be filled more efficiently, effectively and quickly than the biggest government program could ever hope to.

Bob

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I propose, though, that cleft palate repair is not the highest priority for charitable donations. At least not for me, so I'd like to see the argument that cleft palate trumps education.

Wow, I assumed this was understood, but I see how it is a fair question.

What I'm suggesting is that birth-defects are a negative, physical consequence of being born a human being. Nothing else that might fall under the slippery slope of socialism meets that definition - not future health care, not education, protection of rights by a just government, freedom from war, civil rights, etc. ad naseum. Nothing.

I'm pretty sure I'm going to have to improve that definition, but go ahead and let me have it. ;-) That will help.

Bob

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Society sacrificing? Society doesn't do anything, individual people do. ;) There are plenty of people, especially here, who DO mind the taxes for stuff like roads that you mention, who object to taxation as such in principle even though they know they'd choose to pay for road use and support of police in a system without taxes. Rather than try to argue for what you think is the best allotment of essentially stolen goods, especially when you know anyway that free markets would fix the problems you want to see fixed much better, just keep arguing for the respect of people's individual rights. Long term the plan is a much better bet. "How do you balance your right to selfishness with unnecessary suffering?" You don't balance it. There is nothing requiring you to do anything at all if you can't find a way it would support your well being. That said though, there's already been explanations on how under various circumstances plenty of people may find it in their interest to choose to help out a kid from parents in a jam.

Others have said the same so I'll just respond here.

I stand corrected. In retrospect it's quite insidious how easily the "sacrifice of society" idea crept into my train of thought. Makes me have a little sympathy for liberals.....nah, not really. ;-)

I would like to hear/read more descriptions of how these types of "needs" would be cared for under a truly free-market system. (Links? Books?)

Bob

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Wow, I assumed this was understood, but I see how it is a fair question.

What I'm suggesting is that birth-defects are a negative, physical consequence of being born a human being. Nothing else that might fall under the slippery slope of socialism meets that definition - not future health care, not education, protection of rights by a just government, freedom from war, civil rights, etc. ad naseum. Nothing.

I'm pretty sure I'm going to have to improve that definition, but go ahead and let me have it. ;-) That will help.

Bob

Studies have shown that attractive people have easier times getting hired for jobs and, on average, earn more money (1). Same for taller people (2).

How do we balance societal finances for short ugly people (under your definition)? ;)

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What I'm suggesting is that birth-defects are a negative, physical consequence of being born a human being.
Actually, birth defects are a possibility that follows from being born. Being born completely ignorant -- tabula rasa -- is not just a possibility, it is guaranteed. So the fact of being born ignorant and the fact of being born with a cleft palate are both unchosen, and these are both facts that can be overcome by choice (but not sheer will-power). That alone puts education and birth defects on equal footing. Here's what makes education more important, as far as I can see. First, sheer body count -- the overwhelming majority of people are born without a cleft palate, but everybody is born completely ignorant. Second, the fact of ignorance is more fundamental of a problem to man's existence that cleft palate or other birth defects. A man with a cleft palate and the ability to read, write and repair the computer he built himself is in vastly better shape than a hunter-gatherer living in a tree, who has had his cleft palate repaired.
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PatriotResistance

I understand and agree with you except that I am talking about third-world countries. Since I can't at this time identify the exact circumstances that cause some children in these countries to go years without getting the operation I don't know what more I can say. I'm not trying to argue for health-care as a right. My question was specifically ONLY about birth-defects, and only about children from impoverished countries who are not going to get the help they need. If those parents are not able to provide that care to their children through no fault of their own, I think those kids still deserve to get that care. These people live in countries that DO NOT exist to protect the rights of the people. Is that just too bad for them? We all know that Objectivism does not address every single aspect of our lives. I understand the idea of forced sacrifice. But I don't think it applies to this instance. But until and if I can formulate that with reasonable, rational argument using Objectivist principles I don't know what else to say.

I did not see your 3rd-world context.

Where Govt.s do not respect individual rights, the individuals are victims with nothing to do but fight against the Govt.

But regardless of where a child lives, he does not have a right to health care. You are dealing with a subjective issue and can't look to philosophy for the answer.

As has been discussed, charity is the best answer in such cases; and the U.S. has certainly been a charitable country to much of the world. (No, our Govt. does not have a right to use our tax dollars to meet such needs in foreign countries.)

Those who are concerned as you can certainly join in the giving. Of course, in such countries, one cannot even guarantee that $$ reach the intended persons. Those who have services of value to those persons can certainly spend time in those countries....

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Studies have shown that attractive people have easier times getting hired for jobs and, on average, earn more money (1). Same for taller people (2).

How do we balance societal finances for short ugly people (under your definition)? ;)

Height, intelligence, and ugliness are all subjective qualities. A cleft palate is a deformity, likewise being born with a bad heart valve, conjoined twins, etc. If you can't see the difference........

Bob

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Actually, birth defects are a possibility that follows from being born. Being born completely ignorant -- tabula rasa -- is not just a possibility, it is guaranteed.

And it is that possibility, which is a negative and abnormal birth, that differentiates it from being born ignorant which is a normal human birth.

So the fact of being born ignorant and the fact of being born with a cleft palate are both unchosen, and these are both facts that can be overcome by choice (but not sheer will-power). That alone puts education and birth defects on equal footing.

Hardly, as I responded above being born ignorant is normal, while being born with a cleft palate is not. Also, being "unchosen" is irrelevant. If parents could choose to enhance their fetus' intelligence before birth they might, while some would chose not to and just have a "normal" birth. No parent would choose to give their child a cleft palate, and any parent would choose to repair that deformity before birth were such a thing possible.

Here's what makes education more important, as far as I can see. First, sheer body count -- the overwhelming majority of people are born without a cleft palate, but everybody is born completely ignorant.

By what justification? Your statement seems to me to prove quite the opposite. Being born ignorant is completely normal for human beings - that is our nature, as is the process of learning which is begun by the parents and by all rights should continue throughout life. Children with cleft palates, on the other hand, suffer all kinds of physical difficulties as well as social problems that make education difficult. How is a child going to learn if they can barely even breath or speak? And even regardless all of that, why is it even necessary to rank education and repairing birth-defects. They are both important. But they cannot be ranked because they are apples and oranges. A child suffering with a birth defect isn't even on equal footing with the majority of normal kids to even have a chance at education. To say nothing of the lack of social development these kids usually suffer.

Second, the fact of ignorance is more fundamental of a problem to man's existence that cleft palate or other birth defects. A man with a cleft palate and the ability to read, write and repair the computer he built himself is in vastly better shape than a hunter-gatherer living in a tree, who has had his cleft palate repaired.

The kid with a heart defect won't live long enough to learn how to repair a computer, maybe not even to read. And whether they might be "better off" or not is besides the point and a subjective judgment. I might choose to be the hunter-gather in your example. At least I'd have a chance at a normal human life and a family than to suffer health, speech and breathing problems along with the social rejection. No, the issue here is the morality of leaving children to suffer versus respecting Ayn Rand's definition of sacrifice.

I think Ayn's definition needs some adjustment.

I appreciate the comments. If I want to attempt a reasoned, rational argument I realize I still have much work to do.

Bob

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Height, intelligence, and ugliness are all subjective qualities. A cleft palate is a deformity, likewise being born with a bad heart valve, conjoined twins, etc. If you can't see the difference........

Argumentum ad hominem. If you use it that's because you're........

Plus, height, intelligence and even ugliness are not subjective at all.

No, the issue here is the morality of leaving children to suffer versus respecting Ayn Rand's definition of sacrifice.

The fallacy of false alternative. If you can't recognize it,.......

.....then maybe you should read up on these things instead of leaving .... as implied insults on message boards.

Edited by Jake_Ellison
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PatriotResistance

No, the issue here is the morality of leaving children to suffer versus respecting Ayn Rand's definition of sacrifice.

False alternative, indeed.

The only person responsible for the child is the parent. A Parent should either terminate a fetus knowing inevitable suffering or minimize the suffering post-birth with the aid of the medical profession.

In either case, the parent should not have sacrificed.

Anyone else without interest in that child can help the latter out of charity or do nothing.

In either case, there is no sacrifice.

Where is the moral issue here?

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And it is that possibility, which is a negative and abnormal birth, that differentiates it from being born ignorant which is a normal human birth.
Alright, so your argument is based on normal condition versus exceptional conditions. But why should that matter? Why should I be more concerned about a negative condition that is unusual that I should be about a negative condition that is commonplace. For example, it is in fact commonplace that individual rights are violated, and if our proper concern were only with making things the same for everybody, then we should be more concerned with estate taxes than with sales or income taxes. I don't understand why "being normal" should lessen the concern.
Children with cleft palates, on the other hand, suffer all kinds of physical difficulties as well as social problems that make education difficult. How is a child going to learn if they can barely even breath or speak?
First, let's check our medical premises: what's the evidence that such children can barely breath, or barely speak. I know that CP results in velopharyngeal insufficiency so their speech is disordered, but that does not constitute "barely able to speak".

Now let's apply some basic non-altruistic value-seeking to the problem. I might give a dollar to a charity because I believe that it might benefit me in the long run. For example, it might save the life of a future trader, whom I will do business with some years later. If I give that dollar to education, it may develop a mind which I can interact with positively, later in life. Or it might develop a mind which my son might interact with in such a manner, which would be a good thing by my value system. On those grounds, the probability of my donation resulting in my gaining a later value is higher, if I aim it to education. The cleft palate kid still faces the education problem, which he has to overcome.

And even regardless all of that, why is it even necessary to rank education and repairing birth-defects.
Well, education, repairing cleft palates, bringing about clean non-toxic water, sewage disposal, combating obesity, paving roads, combating malaria, Alzheimer's, treating jaundice, yellow fever, alcoholism, cholera, spina bifida, treating leishmaniasis, guinea worm, dengue fever, HIV, polio, feeding the starving masses, getting shelter and clothing, saving the victims of earthquakes, fires, floods, typhoons and tsunamis, establishing shelters for lost dogs, and nurturing the victims of Islamofascism are all important. Values are hierarchical, because you cannot have your cake and eat it too. You must decide what is important.

At the top of your hierarchy must be your own life. That requires money: it would be suicidal to send all of your money to charity, because it would mean that you must die for the sake of the recipients of your charity. Please acknowledge this basic fact -- hopefully you recognize the obscenity that self-sacrifice is. Now suppose that you have $10,000 that you could actually give to charity. You could give $10,000 to one charity, or $10 to a thousand charities. I maintain that $10,000 well-directed especially to education would benefit me more than $10 given indiscriminately to all charities. Are you arguing that it's impossible to distinguish between apparently worthy causes?

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Height, intelligence, and ugliness are all subjective qualities.

Even if these were subjective attributes (which I do not grant), one still has no choice whether or not they're born with these attributes. And that "no fault" premise is the argument you just made about the hapless child born with a cleft palate.

Nonetheless, can you please educate me as to how the measure of one's height is subjective? And after that, please let me know the societal obligations to victims of dwarfism.

In the end you're avoiding the final questions. Who should have right to REDISTRIBUTE the money earned by a single individual? Who decides whether or not that individual is in a position where they can spare their money? When do you think it is OK to force sacrifice?

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  • 2 weeks later...

I've been gone dealing with a death in the family. I had time to think about this issue quite a bit while driving and have come up with the following reasoning to explain why I was wrong.

Ayn Rand (and many others I'm sure) said that when one is having trouble to always check your premises. My original premise was that since we are such an advanced civilization with the medical ability to heal many birth defects that we have an obligation to do so. My idea that we are an advanced civilization I now believe is the source of my problem.

We may have the means (medical ability) but we do not possess the method (universal political/social/cultural facilities and will), and so we are not as "advanced" as I presumed. A similar example is hunger. While there is enough food produced to feed everyone on the planet some still go hungry. The problem is not the availability of food or the desire to help. It's governments and bandits who prevent it's distribution. My original premise assumed some type of perfect world in which our "advanced" society operates, but that does not exist yet. Within the free-er and more technologically advanced areas of the planet children's cleft palates ARE routinely repaired during infancy, for example.

The standard response that many provided, 'if you care so much then donate', also felt lacking to me. But once again, in a "perfect world" where capitalism and the virtue of selfishness is universally practiced it's easy to imagine that those who choose to donate their time and money would easily be able to handle any such need. And again, within a smaller venue such as the United States we see that is already the case, even though the U.S. is not yet close to that ideal.

I had argued that birth defects are somehow different from other needs, and so those forced donations are justified. I still believe birth defects are quite unique compared to other "needs" such as clean water, housing, education, etc. but that cannot justify force. Rather, for me, birth defects then are one of the most important reasons for promoting real solutions. So the lesson for me is that even though I realize my meager donations cannot fix this problem today I cannot let my despair lead to an error in judgment about premises, causes and effects. The problem is not insufficient donations. And more importantly the problem can never be fixed by forcing "donations" from everyone. There isn't a single problem or solution to universally repairing all birth defects or any other problem or need for that matter. And there may never be a "perfect" world. But in a world where rights are protected, free trade is practiced and personal responsibility is the norm, it may feel like it.

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See my latest reply to my original post. I've somewhat satisfactorily resolved this issue for me. Your points are well taken. I would still argue for birth defects being more important than the long list of "needs" that you assembled (nice job by the way). But since I've abandoned my attempt at justifying birth defects as a responsibility of society it becomes a personal value decision and not one that I care to argue further.

But I do want to risk pointing out that I feel you are not being fully objective and honest in your assessment. What I'm referring to is that you've ignored my response to one of your points where I pointed out that someone with a heart defect may not survive long enough to become educated, unless you conceded that point? Also, you tried to impress with some knowledge about speaking difficulties of children with cleft-palates, but you neglected to mentioned the dramatically higher risk of those children simply choking to death. Just food for thought, no response expected.

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Now let's apply some basic non-altruistic value-seeking to the problem. I might give a dollar to a charity because I believe that it might benefit me in the long run. For example, it might save the life of a future trader, whom I will do business with some years later. If I give that dollar to education, it may develop a mind which I can interact with positively, later in life. Or it might develop a mind which my son might interact with in such a manner, which would be a good thing by my value system. On those grounds, the probability of my donation resulting in my gaining a later value is higher, if I aim it to education.

But does every donation made by an Objectivist have to be made with an expectation for future gain? I certainly hope you don't think so. We've already agreed there is nothing wrong with compassion (so long as it isn't "forced"). I think the very definition of a donation includes no expectation of gain. Ayn Rand said not to confuse altruism with simple kindness. I have certainly made donations with no expectation whatsoever, they were made from nothing more than an expression of compassion. Does that mean I can't join the club? ;-)

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But does every donation made by an Objectivist have to be made with an expectation for future gain?

Ideally, yes, very definitely Yes. Giving one's possessions away without getting anything in return is the heart of altruism and Objectivism is an egoistic philosophy. That doesn't mean that if one gives away a dollar one ought to expect to get back a buck fifty, but it does mean that charity ought to be confined to what you think will benefit you and your charitable actions. I donate to The Ayn Rand Institute because I think they have good programs for getting Objectivism out there and me getting a benefit in the long run as more and more people understand Objectivism. But I wouldn't donate to an institution that I think will be harming me in the long run. For lesser charity or non-profit motivations, I might help out a friend in need but by doing that I am helping to secure my values. When it comes to the type of charity you are talking about -- giving to third-world countries without expecting anything in return (maybe even not gratitude), then you are fostering altruism, which is not what we are about.

Your ideal society has a mixture of healthy options and unhealthy charity, and we reject that. If you personally want to give away your excess dollars and get nothing in return, that's your business, but we don't consider it to be a moral action on your part. Objectivism does not consider self-sacrifice to be a virtue; it is rather a sin, and a bad one, and the altruistic base of your charitable concerns are part of what is wrong with our current society. It is not a moral ideal to give until it hurts or to live like Mother Teresa, the moral ideal is to live your life to the fullest and help those (if you desire) who will benefit you in the long run. Just throwing away money is not virtuous at all.

So, check your moral premises. If I live my life to the fullest pursuing rational goals and profiting by my actions, I am virtuous, even if I never give a dime to anyone. Charity is not the measure of virtue, rationality is.

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But does every donation made by an Objectivist have to be made with an expectation for future gain?
An equal swap is also acceptable.
I think the very definition of a donation includes no expectation of gain.
Perhaps the problem has to do with your use or interpretation of "expect" or "gain". The gain need not be pecuniary, and the expectation need not be a claim on the life of another human. It would be an expectation that cause and effect relations have been properly identified, thus a certain effect will have been caused. You necessarily expect the recipient of your beneficence to seek you out and wash your feet, but you might reasonable expect them to come back later and sell you a pair of shoes.

At any rate, there should be some profit from all donations.

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An equal swap is also acceptable.Perhaps the problem has to do with your use or interpretation of "expect" or "gain". The gain need not be pecuniary, and the expectation need not be a claim on the life of another human. It would be an expectation that cause and effect relations have been properly identified, thus a certain effect will have been caused. You necessarily expect the recipient of your beneficence to seek you out and wash your feet, but you might reasonable expect them to come back later and sell you a pair of shoes.

At any rate, there should be some profit from all donations.

Well, this is very interesting and unexpected and maybe deserves a separate thread. This reply is for David and Thomas both.

Neither of you mentioned my point that Ayn Rand pointed out a difference between altruism and kindness. If I choose by my own volition, with no coercion from society or the "needy", to give of my property to help someone less fortunate I do not see a problem with that. I do not feel that such an action constitutes a sacrifice on my part. Perhaps the fact that such an act makes me feel good is the only value I require and that would then make it a non-sacrifice in your eyes? I also feel that a world with one less child suffering from a cleft palate is a better place - a wholly personal choice - but a value for me. Is that not enough?

This is a personal choice that I would never insist upon for anyone else, however I do not believe that Objectivism would object to any individual making such a choice. I think it's important to recognize that the choice would not be rational if the donation caused me some difficulty. But if giving someone a dollar, or a group $20 per month, has no impact whatsoever on my lifestyle or goals how could there be something wrong with that decision? The issue is not whether I should or should not do so, but whether the tenets of Objectivsm would prohibit it. My understanding of what I've read of Ayn Rand tells me it wouldn't, perhap you will convince me otherwise.

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If you think you and others like you would be happy to give to a cause like this, then why involve the government in the transaction? How is that helping make the charity better?

I know I would donate to certain types of charities (like this and a few other categories) if the government was not so involved in wealth distribution.

That's a good point.

If people value something, they will come and help. If they don't, they won't. Why should we FORCE people to value what we value?

Suppose my wife has a health problem that requires a special kind of surgery under gravity zero conditions in a Space Shuttle, performed by the only surgeon that knows how to perform the procedure and with the help of some robots and special microscopes, all amounting to the cost of 5 million dollars. No insurace can cover this, neither my pocket, nor the pocket of our friends and relatives.

The wife of an extremely wealthy man happens to have the same condition. She gets the surgery. My wife does not. His wife gets better. Mine dies.

Is there something unfair here? No. Not at all.

Wealth is almost always an advantage over povety in pursuing our values and in sustaining our lives. That's why we all strive to be wealthy, not poor.

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Suppose my wife has a health problem that requires a special kind of surgery under gravity zero conditions in a Space Shuttle, performed by the only surgeon that knows how to perform the procedure and with the help of some robots and special microscopes, all amounting to the cost of 5 million dollars.

Man, if that all only cost $5 million, I'd say you've already been thrown a *huge* charity bone anyway. XD

As of 2009, orbital space tourism opportunities are limited and expensive, with only the Russian Space Agency providing transport. The price for a flight brokered by Space Adventures to the International Space Station aboard a Soyuz spacecraft is US$20–35 million.

Really though, look at it as incentive to be as productive as possible - you could be earning the life of somebody you love. If somebody else has been that productive, they've earned it and if you haven't been that productive, you haven't. There's nothing unfair there indeed; that other person probably did something of tremendous value while you maybe have done something useful, but not nearly so much so, like moping floors or painting houses while that other person invented a machine that can mop floors or pain houses with record speed and efficiency for cheap.

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