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Making competing governments compatible with Objectivism

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Hotu Matua
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Israel only exists because the US is propping it up with tax dollars. In your EU scenario, we know from history what would happen - the Brits and Germans would fight, the French would immediately surrender. Remember the old boxing axiom that a good little man will always get beaten by a good big man. Individual small states, no matter how technologically advanced, will not have the resources to fight a large, well equipped and trained opponent, short of the nuclear option - and would still be outgunned in that respect as well.

The city-states of Greece came close to annihilation from the Persians, if not for the action of brave men at Thermopyle. In modern warfare, there may not be time for such a stop-gap measure while the Polis arms.

Ayn Rand love the US and what it stands for and I do not believe would have entertained the thought that it should be broken up into Balkanized communities, rationally based or not.

I am new to Objectivism, but I think you have misunderstood Israel and Ayn Rand views on Israel.

Rand was in favour, in principle, of the US supporting Israel. Why? Not because Israel was weak and dependant. But because it is strong, technologically advanced and independent.

It is not in the self-interest of anyone to have weak friends that suck your energies out. That is self-sacrifice and silly.

You support friends that are strong and independent; they are the ones that win your simpathy, and the ones that can, in turn, help you back.

Ayn Rand love the US and what it stands for and I do not believe would have entertained the thought that it should be broken up into Balkanized communities, rationally based or not.

I think th USA will cease to exist as we know it, either if it is Objectivism or collectivism/mysticism which wins the hearts of the Americans. Look:

  1. If Objectivism wins (not meaning that everyone becomes Objectivist, but that Objectivist ideas and principles become the dominant influence) the USA will become a formidable power. A peaceful nation, yet bold enough to eliminate totatlitarian regimens (e.g. Islamic fundamentalist regimens). The USA will become so immensely rich and successful, that it will influence other countries, many of them, most of them, to follow suit. You can't compete against a sucessful philosophy. If the USA citizens become far wealthier than French ones, I don't see why the French, sooner or later, would not want to take the appropriate steps that their American counterparts took. All countries would eventually become free, capitalist and prosperous. Then, with free trade flourishing, and people moving in and out across the borders, in few decades there will be no important distinction between being in the USA or being in a foreign country. Depending on your particular business, you may find attractive to move to Thailand or Brazil or South Africa.And Thais, Brazilians and South Africans may feel attracted to move to USA. The ethnic composition and cultural composition of the USA will change in such a way that an "American lifestyle" (baseball, pizzas, Thanksgiving) would not be recognizable anymore. It would be a victory for human civilization, but the USA as such would fade away. Its historical mission, to say so, would have been fulfilled. The world would end up having a single government, as Megan has said.
  2. If Objectivism loses and Collectivism/mysticism wins, free rational Americans will either secede into a free City State (Seattle? New York?) or province (Texas?) or flee to another country (Netherlands? Dubai? Canada?) where they would set the foundations of a new rational free country which could coexist with big totalitarian states (i.e. by not posing a direct military threat to collectivist states). Americans would end up saluting another new flag, playing new sports, speaking with a different accent or adopting a new language from their new homeland.

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Proper governments have nothing to compete with.

Government A: Come live here, we do not initiate force against our citizens!

Government B: No, come live here, we do not initiate force against our citizens even harder!

Enough said.

Government A: Come live here, we solve crimes 80% of the time, and we charge you USD $2 a day IF you want to receive our protection (if not, you can still live here and protect yourself). Our services do not include ambulance to the nearest hospital.

Government B: Come live here, we solve crimes 95% of the time, and we charge you USD $3 a day IF you want to receive our protection (if not, you can still live here and protect yourself). Our services do include ambulance to the nearest hospital.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Protection_racket

If Quebecois people want to secede, isn't that their right?

If Texan people want to secede, isn't that their right?

Wasn't the right of the 13 colonies to secede from the British Empire?

There are no collective rights. There is no such "right to secede" just because you want your ethnic tribe to be seperate from some other ethnic tribe. There are only rights not to have force initiated against you. If people want to secede, it solely depends on the context. What kind of government are they seceding from? What kind of government are they seceding into? Why are they seceding?

This would be a wonderful symbol of freedom: to be free to choose your citizenship, your government, your nationality.

We have that already in most civilized countries.

migration, though, were the easiest things to do, then people would move from country to country several times during their lifespan, have four or eight or twenty different citizenships during their lifespan

Why would I want to have to migrate twenty times in my life because my individual rights are subject to the whims of competing gangs? How about I just not have my rights violated?

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There are no collective rights. There is no such "right to secede" just because you want your ethnic tribe to be seperate from some other ethnic tribe. There are only rights not to have force initiated against you. If people want to secede, it solely depends on the context. What kind of government are they seceding from? What kind of government are they seceding into? Why are they seceding?

You are right. There are no collective rights.

But free individuals have the right to cooperate, associate, to lay the foundations of a society they want to live in. In short, to pursuit happiness, and happiness cannot be pursuit in solitude.

So, talking about the context of a secession, as I said, having imperfect, partially collectivist and immoral governments everywhere, it is easy to think in a myriad reasons to secede.

Take my example.

I am Mexican and live in Mexico.

I happen to be in Nuevo Leon, the only region in Mexico that has a culture that historically has valued individualism and capitalism over collectivism and mysticism. Consequently, we are the wealthiest state in the country. Our wealth, though, is being systematically looted by the central government to subsidize poorer regions. Currently, 91% of taxes all across the country go directly to the central government, while the remaining 9% goes to the states and counties. The central government, plagued by statism and socialism (and now, Catholicism), is going down the drain. It is more corrupt than ever. The current president (who is supposed to be right wing) fights the entrepenurial men and raises taxes. It has started a war against drug traffickers that, of course, will never be won. This war has brought suffering to my people in Monterrey (Nuevo Leon's capital), a city that was considered the safest one in Latin America only second to San Juan (Puerto Rico).

Nuevo Leon would be better off as an independent country than drawn to chaos by the rest of the country, infested by Christian and Communist ideology.

Other similar situations are present in Latin America. Zulia province wants to separate from Chavez's socialist tyranny in Venezuela. Santa Cruz wants to secede from socialist Evo Morales Bolivia. And Southern Brazil wants to secede from collectivist federal government in Brazil.

Aren't free enterpenurial men entitled to fight against collectivism/mysticism and defend their freedom and property?

If the USA really gets socialist, wouldn't Texan free men have the right to associate and fight for their freedom (and bby fighting I don't mean necessarily war, but diplomacy) , even if that entails seceding from the USA?

Edited by Hotu Matua
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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Protection_racket

Why would I want to have to migrate twenty times in my life because my individual rights are subject to the whims of competing gangs? How about I just not have my rights violated?

You have not understood my point.

Please read my messages and examples carefully.

I am talking about real sovereign governments providing real services to citizens. Not extortion or "proetction rackets". No competing gangs.

And yes, you would want to migrate as many times as necessary to get the best advantages for your personal development, meaning the best government services for the cheapest price.

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You have not understood my point.

Please read my messages and examples carefully.

I am talking about real sovereign governments providing real services to citizens. Not extortion or "proetction rackets". No competing gangs.

And yes, you would want to migrate as many times as necessary to get the best advantages for your personal development, meaning the best government services for the cheapest price.

No, you haven't understood the point from the beginning. Governments don't provide "services." The nature of all that government does is coercive action. All government action is force. A government that forces you to pay money in exchange for "services" is running a protection racket and is no different than the mob or a gang. Your individual rights aren't up for barter. It either ALL of the rights of ALL of the people within its border, on principle, which means the government looks like this; or it doesn't, in which case you have competing gangs using force at the whim of whoever can get away with whatever, which looks like any statist sewer. No matter what legal fiction you can come up with about how the government is good because it "does things" for you, or that it's definitely not extortion because "it's sovereign," or that its okay because "services" it makes you pay for are cheaper, or its "solutions" to various "problems" are better, is of no consequence.

So, talking about the context of a secession, as I said, having imperfect, partially collectivist and immoral governments everywhere, it is easy to think in a myriad reasons to secede.

That was a rhetorical question, by the way. I can think of a myriad of reasons not to secede. There is no "right to secede" as such, there are only individual rights.

Why didn't you list the Confederate States of America? Was it right for that slave-state to secede?

Succession depends entirely on the context. A "right to secede" depends on dropping all of that context. So you can stop asking "is it right for X to secede from Y" because the answer is "it depends."

Edited by 2046
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No, you haven't understood the point from the beginning. Governments don't provide "services." The nature of all that government does is coercive action. All government action is force. A government that forces you to pay money in exchange for "services" is running a protection racket and is no different than the mob or a gang. Your individual rights aren't up for barter. It either ALL of the rights of ALL of the people within its border, on principle, which means the government looks like this; or it doesn't, in which case you have competing gangs using force at the whim of whoever can get away with whatever, which looks like any statist sewer. No matter what legal fiction you can come up with about how the government is good because it "does things" for you, or that it's definitely not extortion because "it's sovereign," or that its okay because "services" it makes you pay for are cheaper, or its "solutions" to various "problems" are better, is of no consequence.

Bear with me, please.

I don't get it yet.

I don't understand in which respect government legitimate use of force is not a "service" for which it is being paid. The use of force entails physical resources, supplies, salaries.

Has a policeman the obligation to use force to protect my rights even if he is not paid a salary, or if he is not given the tools or weapons to perform his job?

Why would a policeman do it?

And if the policeman is paid by a citizen to perform a specific job for that citizen (namely, use of retailatory force in an efficient and effective manner), aren't we talking here about a "contract" to lend a "service"?

FROM THE CITIZEN END: I pay you a salary, so you must protect my rights using retailatory force.If you fail to do your job properly, I won't pay you anymore (and maybe look for another place to live where I can be sure an effective police exists).

FROM THE POLICEMAN END: You pay me a salary, so I must protect your rights using retailatory force. If you don't pay me a salary, I am sorry to say this, but I won't be able to protect your rights. I have a family to feed. I have guns to buy. I have to put gas on my patrol's tank. If you fail to pay me, I will move somewhere else where more sensible residents exist.

Edited by Hotu Matua
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Bear with me, please.

I don't get it yet.

I don't understand in which respect government legitimate use of force is not a "service" for which it is being paid. The use of force entails physical resources, supplies, salaries.

Try to grasp the basic nature of government and why it exists.

When you say "service" you are thinking about it in terms of a product offered on a market. That is not the kind of action that a government performs. The government is not an economic agent of trade, it's an institution that is charged with forcible restraint of men who initiate force.

"Remember that forcible restraint of men is the only service a government has to offer. Ask yourself what a competition in forcible restraint would have to mean."

That is why Randroid's comment is so succinct. There is no competition a proper government has to offer. It just protects rights, all rights of everyone within its borders. It doesn't give you percentages, or send you a bill, or give you a menu, or offer you ambulances, or education, or healthcare, or ham sandwiches, or cracker jacks and lollipops. How could you think any of that is compatible with laissez-faire capitalism?

Has a policeman the obligation to use force to protect my rights even if he is not paid a salary, or if he is not given the tools or weapons to perform his job?

Why would a policeman do it?

It depends on what you mean by "obligation." They have an obligation in the sense that a proper government would require them to by the terms of their contracts, and by the statutes and legal framework that they operate in. Just as a theoretical matter, in principle there is no obligation on anyone to provide you with the unearned, but as a practical matter, a government has to regard all uses of force not specifically sanctioned by its objective law as a threat and must act against it. (Leonard Peikoff answered that question here http://forum.ObjectivismOnline.com/index.p...mp;#entry224829 ) Harry Binswanger also pontificated on his essay about anarchism: "Private force is force not authorized by the government, not validated by its procedural safeguards, and not subject to its supervision. The government has to regard such private force as a threat—i.e., as a potential violation of individual rights. In barring such private force, the government is retaliating against that threat."

FROM THE POLICEMAN END: You pay me a salary, so I must protect your rights using retailatory force. If you don't pay me a salary, I am sorry to say this, but I won't be able to protect your rights. I have a family to feed. I have guns to buy. I have to put gas on my patrol's tank. If you fail to pay me, I will move somewhere else where more sensible residents exist

Again, this is a protection racket.

CITIZEN: Hello police? My husband's been murdered.

"POLICEMAN:" What's that? You didn't pay us your dues? Well isn't that a shame. I guess you'd better give the boss his money, or else something bad might happen to you, eh? Wouldn't want that to happen would we? And don't think of trying to move away, cause we don't take too kindly to traitors.

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In a very limited sense, the US and Canada are competing governments.

No, they are not, and if they truly were "competing" to get the best citizens (with the implication that the government has a vested interest in acquisition of talent the way a company does), the result would eventually be war. A proper government has NO vested interest in the nature/quality/number of the citizens it governs and NOTHING to do with other countries (whether competition or cooperation) aside from keeping them from invading.

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It doesn't give you percentages, or send you a bill, or give you a menu, or offer you ambulances, or education, or healthcare, or ham sandwiches, or cracker jacks and lollipops.

What about an e-mail with a report on their performance over the last year, comparing themselves with the police in other counties/states/countries?

I could summarize my view like this:

  1. Governments are not private agencies and do not offer services. That's clear.
  2. Whatever the noble principles governments claim to endorse (say, freedom, reason and capitalism) governments are organizations made up by human beings that can perform better or worse than other similar organizations holding the same principles.
  3. By moving freely and easily from place to place, citizens could test different skills and levels of commitment and make a choice of the government under whose monopoly they want to live.
  4. Since governments are made by men and women who receive salaries and get indirect benefits from living around talented people, they are generally interested in keeping citizens within their borders: at least the best ones. I don't see how policemen, officers, judges and attorneys would find life interesting seeing how their best dentists, the best schoolteachers of their children and their best entertainers cross the borders and leave. It has nothing to do with profitability, but with self-interest as parents, colleagues, customers and owners of properties (the value of their houses would drop)
  5. If people working in governments are interested in keeping talented neighbours within its borders, then a competition is in place, notwithstanding the non-private, non-profitable and monopolistic nature of the State. What makes competition existent is the possibility of citizens to choose their place of residence, and the interest of governments to keep its citizens from moving away.

Let's remember we have competition in many realms of life, even those not related to profit.

For example, competition between religions (even if we put fraud and profit aside), amateur sport teams, rock groups and philosophies.

If two different groups of people are interested in keeping you as a fan or follower and you can choose between them, then we have a competition going on.

Edited by Hotu Matua
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A proper government has NO vested interest in the nature/quality/number of the citizens it governs

Could you elaborate on this, Megan?

I can't imagine any group of people without a vested interest in keeping its fans, followers, customers, clients, disciples or members and losing them to other group.

Let alone a government, which needs citizens to pay their checks (and provide them with weapons, uniforms, cutting-edge aircraft, marble courthouses and the like).

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Since governments are made by men and women who receive salaries and get indirect benefits from living around talented people, they are generally interested in keeping citizens within their borders: at least the best ones. I don't see how policemen, officers, judges and attorneys would find life interesting seeing how their best dentists, the best schoolteachers of their children and their best entertainers cross the borders and leave. It has nothing to do with profitability, but with self-interest as parents, colleagues, customers and owners of properties (the value of their houses would drop)

That is an interest that everyone has, not just people who work for the government. Therefore, it is not rational to pack up and move somewhere else if the police in your country sucks. You would just replace them with more competent officers.

Let's remember we have competition in many realms of life, even those not related to profit.

For example, competition between religions (even if we put fraud and profit aside), amateur sport teams, rock groups and philosophies.

If two different groups of people are interested in keeping you as a fan or follower and you can choose between them, then we have a competition going on.

The difference is that neither religions nor sport teams have any legitimate claim on a monopoly in their area. They don't want you to follow rival religions or sport teams, but there is nothing they could do about it. They can only decide that they don't want to be your friend any more.

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JMeganSnow pretty much said it. The government of a free nation has NO say in the free movement of people in or out of the country, aside from keeping rights-violators under control. It has no interest, no opinion, no strategy, no declarations, and can take no action regarding where people freely decide to live, and it doesn't spread propaganda advertisements telling people how good it is to live there.

What's with the concern for what other people do with their lives? If people rather want to live under the various brands of statism out there then that begs the question of how you formed this government in the first place, since that kind of presupposes you had a rational society already who has already adopted the ideas capitalism is based on. But really, if no one wants to live there, then you have no country anyway. If a few people want to live there, then you have a free country of a few people for as long as others leave them alone. If a lot of people decide to live there, then you'll have a lot of people living there. I don't see how this is a problem or why this suddenly requires variations of anarchism or nationalized ambulance services?

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I can't imagine any group of people without a vested interest in keeping its fans, followers, customers, clients, disciples or members and losing them to other group.

Because the government is not an entity that should act in it's own interest beyond the extent to which that interest serves the people it governs. The purpose of the government is to govern the people who choose for it to exist, not to pick and choose the people it wants to govern. That is putting the cart before the horse so to speak.

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Just to clarify your original premise, are you saying that you think Objectivism would be compatible with "competing" governments within the SAME jurisdiction, or governments of separate jurisdictions?

Edited by RationalBiker
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Just to clarify your original premise, are you saying that you think Objectivism would be compatible with "competing" governments within the SAME jurisdiction, or governments of separate jurisdictions?

We know that Objectivism is not compatible with competing governments within the same jurisdiction. That would be a contradiction of terms, governments would not be governments but gangs. Ayn Rand was clear in that respect.

I am talking about governments in separate jurisdictions, and how the fact of people moving from one jurisdiction to another, and the fact of governments being interested in people to stay (an aspect we are still debating ), create a natural competition between governments.

This competition nowadays is relatively scarce, although real.

But with jurisdictions becoming small enough, and with people increasingly able to move anywhere and work from home, this natural competition would be more and more evident.

And, in my opinion, it would be healthy, and compatible with Objectivism.

Edited by Hotu Matua
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That is an interest that everyone has, not just people who work for the government. Therefore, it is not rational to pack up and move somewhere else if the police in your country sucks. You would just replace them with more competent officers.

It may not look smart or rational to pack up now, when it implies migrating to a new country which takes a lot of money, risks, time, paperwork, language and cultural barriers, etc.

But what about moving from Chicago to Milwaukee?

What if citizens from Chicago find it is easier to move to Milwaukee than to try to replace their lousy or corrupt policemen with more competent or less corrupt ones?

The difference is that neither religions nor sport teams have any legitimate claim on a monopoly in their area. They don't want you to follow rival religions or sport teams, but there is nothing they could do about it. They can only decide that they don't want to be your friend any more.

Mmmm... not exactly, and this is why I started the thread with the example of the shopping mall.

I could now use the example of a church. WITHIN the physical space of that church, you cannot preach opposite doctrines, replace the priest in his healing acts or whatever, or bow towards Mecca in an Islamic fashion. You must comply with their rules within its jurisdiction. They have the monopoly within their physical jurisdiction. If you don't like it, you move and go to the Mormon chapel, a mosque or whatever. And there you would have to comply with other rules, within their jurisdiction.

Same with a hotel. Within Hotel Pets Inn, guests can take their dogs to their rooms. If you are bothered by hearing barking over the night, you have two options: try to persuade the hotel owners to change their policies, or leave. They have the monopoly of the rules about pets within their jurisdiction. Your smartest move, of course, will be to leave and look for another hotel with another rules that fit you better.

Edited by Hotu Matua
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It may not look smart or rational to pack up now, when it implies migrating to a new country which takes a lot of money, risks, time, paperwork, language and cultural barriers, etc.

But what about moving from Chicago to Milwaukee?

What if citizens from Chicago find it is easier to move to Milwaukee than to try to replace their lousy or corrupt policemen with more competent or less corrupt ones?

I find moving from one city to the next quite bothersome and expensive, even without having to look for new employment. If thousands, probably even tens of thousands of people (on a city scale) are that discontent with their government, a changing of the guards should be much easier, as it can be done at the polls.

Same with a hotel. Within Hotel Pets Inn, guests can take their dogs to their rooms. If you are bothered by hearing barking over the night, you have two options: try to persuade the hotel owners to change their policies, or leave. They have the monopoly of the rules about pets within their jurisdiction. Your smartest move, of course, will be to leave and look for another hotel with another rules that fit you better.

Churches and hotels own their buildings and the land they stand on, that's why they can ask you to leave. It's private property. The government does not own its territory, only the buildings and equipment that it needs to operate. You are comparing apples and oranges. If we were to apply that argument to government, the law would only have effect inside a police station.

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No, they are not, and if they truly were "competing" to get the best citizens (with the implication that the government has a vested interest in acquisition of talent the way a company does), the result would eventually be war. A proper government has NO vested interest in the nature/quality/number of the citizens it governs and NOTHING to do with other countries (whether competition or cooperation) aside from keeping them from invading.

I simply don't understand how that is true. A proper government *does* need a certain "quality" of citizen, i.e. a rational citizen. How does one attract a rational citizen? Rational policies. So wouldn't it make sense that two countries would only compete to be the "most rational"? To me it's no different than saying "competition leads to force because the highest profit comes through force". But of course competition doesn't mean that; it wouldn't change for a government.

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A proper government *does* need a certain "quality" of citizen, i.e. a rational citizen.

A proper government does not exist for its own sake. It does not need "a certain 'quality' of citizen", or even citizens at all. It is the citizens who need a government, as an objective and impartial protector of individual rights. Without citizens, there would be no (proper) government, because there is no need for one.

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A proper government does not exist for its own sake.

I know/agree. But it still needs money to function. So it needs to convince people to spend money. I may be using imprecise words but what I'm trying to get at is that there is never any incentive to use force if there are any long-term considerations. I'm not suggesting there would have to be a "battle" to see who "does" government better. Just that an inefficient one *will* run out of money. It might not run out of money because it initiated force, but because it did not spend money in the wisest way. Or because it had a horrible ideas for fundraising.

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It might not run out of money because it initiated force, but because it did not spend money in the wisest way. Or because it had a horrible ideas for fundraising.

An inefficient government will not run out of money. It will be replaced by a better one. The people who work for the government do not hold their positions by birthright. They are either elected directly or hired by elected officials. By the time the government would theoretically suffer from lack of money, the situation would have long been remedied at the polls.

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An inefficient government will not run out of money. It will be replaced by a better one.

Mexican government is inefficient and has ran out of money more than once. It has not been replaced by a better one.

Result? Mexicans moving...

I am also thinking in moving... :P

Edited by Hotu Matua
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Mexican government is inefficient and has ran out of money more than once. It has not been replaced by a better one.

Result? Mexicans moving...

I am also thinking in moving... :)

The Mexican government is hardly a proper one, though. What I described is what would happen in a laissez-faire capitalist society.

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