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I disagree, it is a philosophy that perpetuates these programs. If everyone went on food stamps today, the program would end immediately.

I disagree. If everyone went on food stamps today, most especially with our current government, it would be seen as an excuse for the government to sieze control of all food supplies- whether directly or indirectly. Some sort of rationing to follow either directly by issuing some form of ration cards to individuals or indirectly by rationing to retailers.

There is already an attempt to put food supplies under the authority of Dept of Homeland Security. A currently circulating bill allows, through clever wording, for the government to even control people growing food in gardens on their own property.

Edited to add what I am referencing:

Senate Bill S510 "Food Safety and Modernization Act"

Edited by SapereAude
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In order to truly understand the Objectivist principle of non-initiation of force, which you have been basing your argument upon, you have to understand how and why Rand formed that principle, and the

I disagree. If everyone went on food stamps today, most especially with our current government, it would be seen as an excuse for the government to sieze control of all food supplies- whether directly or indirectly. Some sort of rationing to follow either directly by issuing some form of ration cards to individuals or indirectly by rationing to retailers.

I think we all know what would happen if even a few (relatively speaking) very productive people went on strike and collected food stamps instead.

In order for everyone to go on food stamps essentially everyone would have to be unemployed. All government programs would have to end because nobody would be funding them. Of course conditions would be worse than they are today, but government, at least the government we have today, would end.

The point is that these government programs weren't moral or needed when they were introduced when nobody was on them -- it was a philosophy that forced them on us. And it isn't the number of people in them that keeps them going, it is the number of people that pay into them that keep them going, it is only the sanction of the victim that keeps them going.

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You don't have to be unemployed- or in many cases even very poor to get them.

I don't think they're very rich either. Let us agree that for the most part people on food stamps are not very (how shall I say) financially productive. (Which is to say nothing bad about the OP)

Once we agree on that, then you agree with the rest of my post, right?

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Would you go to a charity operated by volunteerism and true altruism for food rather than a government run program funded on the confiscation of peoples' income?

Yes, I would go to a charity rather than a government run program. However, I disagree with your premise. Charity is not always indicative of altruism. In fact, I would venture to argue that charity is rarely indicative of altruism. I give to charity because it makes me feel good, and I know the charities I give to provide goods and services that genuinely help people become productive. It is in my rational self-interests to live in a society where people are productive. I give to charity because it's good for me.

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Perhaps a hypothetical will help...

Questions:

Does her money still exist in the program?

Given there is no money left in the program, what will have to occur in order for Ms. C to recoup her stolen property?

If you agree the answer to the previous question is, "It must be taken from Ms. D," then is it moral for Ms. C to sanction the theft of Ms. D's property in order to make herself whole?

In order to truly understand the Objectivist principle of non-initiation of force, which you have been basing your argument upon, you have to understand how and why Rand formed that principle, and the context under which it is valid. Such an understanding will also reconcile the quotes you have given from Rand with her stated position on accepting public scholarships. To start, Rand's principle of non-initiation of force does not play the same role in her ethics as, say, the non-aggression axiom plays in the ethics of Rothbard, for example. It is not a contextless absolute that applies in all circumstances, which seems to be the way you want to apply it. Your methodology seems to be the following: Find out if the action in question involved initiating force against others. If yes, immoral; if no, moral (or at least not immoral on these grounds). But applying it to a real life situation is often more complicated, and to do that, first we need to understand the context from which it was formed.

For Rand, this principle is derived from the fact that man's characteristic method of gaining value is through production. Because a life of production is possible to man (in principle), there are no inherent conflicts of interest among people who wish to live in this fashion (her principle of the harmony of rational interests). This is the most practical and therefore the moral way to live; any initiation of force represents a deviation from this ideal form of human society and interaction.

This was her basis for arguing that the welfare state is an immoral institution. The welfare state, or institutionalized redistribution, is a systematic deviation from a society founded on individual rights and non-initiation of force. Under the framework of a welfare state, it is quite common to encounter a clash of interests. Under a system of institutionalized redistribution, like the system we have now, it is literally impossible for me to get every value I require through production. The roads I drive on, for example, are built, maintained, and available for me to use regardless of how much I contribute to their maintenance. It is not possible, without a structural change in the government, for me to live solely through production in that sphere of my life. I am faced with two choices: use the roads as much as I need to (sacrificing others to myself) or refuse to use the roads, and heavily inconvenience myself (sacrifice myself to others). This example is meant to illustrate one simple point: forced redistribution pits men against each other. It imposes an artificial, but very real, conflict of interests among men.

This should suffice to illustrate the point that the principle you are invoking cannot be straightforwardly applied in the case of forced redistribution. The principle of non-imitation of force assumes a context where living by production is possible (a context where the harmony of rational interests is achievable). However, as we have seen, the welfare state imposes a different context. It does not leave open the option of living solely by production. In this context, one is forced to choose between giving or receiving sacrifices, and your attempts to apply the non-initiation of force principle to this situation amounts to context-dropping.

To finally answer your questions:

Given there is no money left in the program, what will have to occur in order for Ms. C to recoup her stolen property?

It must be taken from Ms. D.

If you agree the answer to the previous question is, "It must be taken from Ms. D," then is it moral for Ms. C to sanction the theft of Ms. D's property in order to make herself whole?

That is a difficult question, because Ms. C does not have an avenue where she can avoid sacrificing herself and at the same time avoid sacrificing Ms. D. Certainly, it is inappropriate to conclude that either choice by Ms. C is immoral simply by citing the principle of non-initiation of force. Simply citing that principle regardless of context is a tactic which is more at home in Deontological Libertarianism than Objectivism.

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To start, Rand's principle of non-initiation of force does not play the same role in her ethics as, say, the non-aggression axiom plays in the ethics of Rothbard, for example. It is not a contextless absolute that applies in all circumstances, which seems to be the way you want to apply it. Your methodology seems to be the following: Find out if the action in question involved initiating force against others. If yes, immoral; if no, moral (or at least not immoral on these grounds). But applying it to a real life situation is often more complicated, and to do that, first we need to understand the context from which it was formed.

Whatever may be open to disagreement, there is one act of evil that may not, the act that no man may commit against others and no man may sanction or forgive. So long as men desire to live together, no man may initiate—do you hear me? no man may start—the use of physical force against others. (Ayn Rand Lexicon)

That sounds pretty absolute to me. She seems very emphatic about it. Can you provide a scenario where it would be moral for someone to initiate force against someone else?

Under the framework of a welfare state, it is quite common to encounter a clash of interests. Under a system of institutionalized redistribution, like the system we have now, it is literally impossible for me to get every value I require through production. The roads I drive on, for example, are built, maintained, and available for me to use regardless of how much I contribute to their maintenance. It is not possible, without a structural change in the government, for me to live solely through production in that sphere of my life. I am faced with two choices: use the roads as much as I need to (sacrificing others to myself) or refuse to use the roads, and heavily inconvenience myself (sacrifice myself to others). This example is meant to illustrate one simple point: forced redistribution pits men against each other. It imposes an artificial, but very real, conflict of interests among men.

It seems like you're arguing it's impossible (or nearly so) to live a moral life (unless the "ideal form of human society and interaction" you mention above exists). Is that what you're arguing?

That is a difficult question, because Ms. C does not have an avenue where she can avoid sacrificing herself and at the same time avoid sacrificing Ms. D. Certainly, it is inappropriate to conclude that either choice by Ms. C is immoral simply by citing the principle of non-initiation of force. Simply citing that principle regardless of context is a tactic which is more at home in Deontological Libertarianism than Objectivism.

Ms. C does not sacrifice herself by refusing welfare; you do not sacrifice yourself by refusing to drive on roads - both of you have simply been victimized. You can either choose to perpetuate the victimization by visiting force upon the next guy in line, a force initiation Ponzi scheme, or you can choose to live a moral life by accepting the fact that you got robbed, and making yourself whole at the expense of some unrelated third party is not justified.

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That sounds pretty absolute to me. She seems very emphatic about it.

Apparently you have missed my major point, which is that in trying to understand Rand's positions and principles, it is not enough to read a quote and conclude that it "sounds pretty absolute." For example, Rand and Immanuel Kant made very similar-sounding statements about interpersonal moral principles:

Man—every man—is an end in himself, not the means to the ends of others. -Rand

...here is the practical imperative: Act in such a way as to treat humanity, whether in your own person or in that of anyone else, always as an end and never merely as a means. -Kant

However, one would be unjustified in concluding, from these two quotes, that Rand and Kant held similar moral positions about the proper way to treat others. The difference is in the way they arrive at these principles; Rand, by appealing to self-interest and human nature, and Kant by appealing to one's duty to conform to a properly formed categorical imperative. A better appreciation of Rand's meaning must be attained by looking at her derivation of principles. In doing so, one can come to properly understand under what context they apply, and under what context they don't.

Can you provide a scenario where it would be moral for someone to initiate force against someone else?

Certainly. I will take possibly the most extreme case concievable where a conflict of interests between two people is artificially imposed upon them. A lunatic kidnaps me and some random stranger, and gives me a choice: I can kill the other person and walk away alive, or I can refuse and he will kill me. In this case, I do not have the option of refusing to sacrifice both myself and other people. In a case like this, either choice can be considered moral. Of course, the existence of a welfare state does not impose this choice nearly so dramatically or universally, but wherever it interferes, in that specific area I am denied the opportunity to live non-sacrificially. I will expand upon this in response to your next question:

It seems like you're arguing it's impossible (or nearly so) to live a moral life (unless the "ideal form of human society and interaction" you mention above exists). Is that what you're arguing?

No, that is not what I am arguing. What I am saying is that, the further away from ideal is the society under which you live, the more often you will be faced with scenarios like I have been describing. Under communism, there is a very radical and widespread imposition of this conflict of interests in society. This point was dramatized brilliantly by Rand in her description of the Starnes' Twentieth Century Motor Company, after the Starnes imposed their "from each according to ability, to each according to need" principle. In this context, almost every single pursuit of value by someone in the company necessitated a sacrifice on the part of someone else. Under these conditions, it truly is impossible to live a moral life.

Under a welfare state system, these conflicts of interest are much less widespread. They only crop up where the state interferes with the free market. For instance, in America it is still mostly possible to live by your own effort, and thus this is the moral course. However, let's take (for example) New York City's medallion system for licensing taxi drivers, and see what effects that has. In NYC, it is against the law to operate a taxi unless you have a medallion, initially distributed by the city. There are currently 13,237 medallions floating around the city. Here it is literally the case that, if you want to work as a taxicab driver, you are depriving another person of the chance to do the same. Even if it would be profitable for a taxicab company to hire both you and another prospective, if they only have one license available, your gain is that other man's loss, by virtue of NYC's artificially imposed limit on the number of drivers.

The salient point is that, to the extent that the state interferes with the market, artificial conflicts of interest are often imposed. In a country which is mostly free, like the U.S., you are mostly able to navigate society without having to sacrifice others, but the more expansive the state is, the more often you will be faced with win-lose relationships with others. Whenever you find yourself faced with a situation like this, you can no longer guide your actions by a principle which is premised on the possibility of achieving value-for-value (win-win) relationships.

Ms. C does not sacrifice herself by refusing welfare; you do not sacrifice yourself by refusing to drive on roads - both of you have simply been victimized. You can either choose to perpetuate the victimization by visiting force upon the next guy in line, a force initiation Ponzi scheme, or you can choose to live a moral life by accepting the fact that you got robbed, and making yourself whole at the expense of some unrelated third party is not justified.

Both Ms. C forgoing receiving money from the system when she has, in the past, paid into it and myself refusing to drive on public roads would constitute giving sanction to the state's right to sacrifice its citizens. The whole point is that in this situation, it is impossible to avoid sanctioning either the state's victimization of me, or the state's victimization of someone else on my behalf. Those are literally the only two options, by virtue of the government's interference in the value-for-value market setting.

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The argument that "the government has already spent my money and therefore has to steal from people now to pay me now" doesn't hold up. The government confiscates money from me; if they hadn't, then it is possible I could still have the money now (in the form of savings). If I do not deserve to have returned to me now what was taken from me before because government spending already accounts for it, then I do not even deserve to have any of what I have now (even the untaxed portion) because the government's debt already takes that amount into account as well. While it is true that the debt will be paid by taxes taken in the future, the liability exists now, and so too does a portion of the amount needed to pay that liability, in the wallets and bank accounts of every American who works for a living. If I can not take back now what I would already have in a laissez-faire system, then how can I justify keeping what I do already have when its equivalent is already taken into account by debts to be repaid in the future?

Edited by Alexandros
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Apparently you have missed my major point, which is that in trying to understand Rand's positions and principles, it is not enough to read a quote and conclude that it "sounds pretty absolute."

That puts a big sign on everything Rand has ever written that says, "Maybe." I understand your point, Dante, and that everything is contextual. However, when someone writes "... do you hear me? no man may start..." it seems to me they're really trying to make it clear that the initiation of force is anathema. She didn't write, "No man may intiate, unless conditions preclude him from not initiating, or certain contextual situations force him to initiate...."

Rand concluded no person should initiate force upon another from her conclusions that reason is Man's only means of survival and that reason is impossible in the face of force, which she arrived at from the objective facts of the kind of organism Man is and the natures of force and reason. A context which denies the conclusion on force initiation would either need to destroy the relationship between force and reason, deny the nature of Man, or both.

Certainly. I will take possibly the most extreme case concievable where a conflict of interests between two people is artificially imposed upon them. A lunatic kidnaps me and some random stranger, and gives me a choice: I can kill the other person and walk away alive, or I can refuse and he will kill me. In this case, I do not have the option of refusing to sacrifice both myself and other people. In a case like this, either choice can be considered moral.

You've constructed an emergency situation. As such, it is no longer a situation in which ethics apply; it is no longer a question to be answered with an appeal to morality. What you "should" do cannot be answered. As pointed out above, you've taken away the relationship between force and reason and supplied an example where reason is not possible.

In regard to the non-initiation of force principle, Objectivism doesn't apply in this situation; no ethical system does. Therefore, this is not a context where it is moral for someone to initiate force against someone else.

In regards to the present question, is the situation the same? Have Ms. C, or the OP, been forced to abandon reason? Can no answer of what they "should" do be given?

No, that is not what I am arguing.

In this context [Communism], almost every single pursuit of value by someone in the company necessitated a sacrifice on the part of someone else. Under these conditions, it truly is impossible to live a moral life.

So, impossible to live a moral life.

In a country which is mostly free, like the U.S., you are mostly able to navigate society without having to sacrifice others, but the more expansive the state is, the more often you will be faced with win-lose relationships with others. Whenever you find yourself faced with a situation like this, you can no longer guide your actions by a principle which is premised on the possibility of achieving value-for-value (win-win) relationships.

Or nearly so impossible.

Dante, you're arguing that it is impossible (in a Communist state), or nearly impossible (depending upon how far away the state is from the ideal) to live a moral life. You're proposing we live in a world where emergency scenarios are considerably more common-place than natural laws would require. I don't think we do.

Yes, government interference does create conflict among rational men. But the rational response is not to perpetuate the conflict, or pass it on down. The proper response is to return to normal life as quickly as possible. Perpetuating the victimization is not the path toward solving the emergency.

Both Ms. C forgoing receiving money from the system when she has, in the past, paid into it and myself refusing to drive on public roads would constitute giving sanction to the state's right to sacrifice its citizens.

It is just as valid for me to argue that Ms. C receiving money, and your continued usage of the roads is sanctioning sacrifice if indeed these are emergency scenarios since the question is not a question morality can answer.

However, I don't agree that either are emergencies. Neither of you are being forced to abandon reason in your decisions. You were forced to abandon reason when the government put a gun to your heads and took your money. In Ms. C's case, that emergency has passed. She has no more money to take and the government applies no force in her decision to accept welfare or refuse it.

In the case of roads, if the state took your money, then built a road, there's no reason why you should not use that road. If the state continues to take your money to repair and improve the road, then allowing the state to keep robbing you is sanctioning sacrifice - not because you continue to use the road, but because you continue to accept the emergency situation of a state continually holding you up at gun point. If someday you run out of money, and need a new road to find a new job, should you use any new road built from the government's theft of others' money? If so, how is this different from the argument that the government should tax the rich in order to provide services to those who can't afford it? Would it matter if those others who can't afford services now had paid something into the system in the past?

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Take the food stamps; then vote out the people who support the program, and make sure that people around you are aware of your position, and why you have chosen to take the stamps, i.e., be political on this issue to the extent it doesn't hurt you.

If you want to get technical (not sure if it worth the effort in this case, but a useful exercise if you want to understand the morality of the situation), decide how much you have paid into the system (this may not be precisely determinable, but ought to be approximately so), and when; then assume a reasonable interest rate path, maybe the risk-free historical Treasury rates, and apply those rates to make the various contributions commensurable today; then only take that much value in food stamps. If you know how to use Excel, and can estimate the payments you have made, then this should be cakey. Taking any more is stealing, isn't it?

- ico

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That puts a big sign on everything Rand has ever written that says, "Maybe." I understand your point, Dante, and that everything is contextual. However, when someone writes "... do you hear me? no man may start..." it seems to me they're really trying to make it clear that the initiation of force is anathema. She didn't write, "No man may intiate, unless conditions preclude him from not initiating, or certain contextual situations force him to initiate...."

Rand concluded no person should initiate force upon another [...]

JeffS:

You have already conceded to me earlier in this thread that it is the government that is initiating force in this situation, are you changing your mind now?

We are not the ones initiating force and retaliatory force is morally obligatory if you want to live.

In the case of roads, if the state took your money, then built a road, there's no reason why you should not use that road. If the state continues to take your money to repair and improve the road, then allowing the state to keep robbing you is sanctioning sacrifice [...]

This makes no sense. How are two situations different?

And when someone has a gun at your head you are not "allowing" them to rob you.

I'm going to say this again though the simple logic of it hasn't hit you yet:

You have not used the word "sacrifice" but it is exactly what you are asking us to do. A welfare state exists, we are forced to support it with the money that is stolen from us, the socialists delight in and collect from it but we who despise it and would be happy to see it go -- you want us not to collect from it. So the only people that would gain from the system would be the ones who support it. You are promoting the idea that we should enslave ourselves to the socialists. We pay into the system but we get nothing out of it, if that isn't slavery I don't know what is. You are saying that on principle we should willingly enslave ourselves, that is a despicable principle.

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You have already conceded to me earlier in this thread that it is the government that is initiating force in this situation, are you changing your mind now?

We are not the ones initiating force and retaliatory force is morally obligatory if you want to live.

I have never argued otherwise. My argument all along has been that accepting welfare is to legitimize theft. You're not committing the crime yourself, but you're using the government as your agent to do it. Is a welfare recipient any less culpable for the government's use of force to provide their benefits? Is that culpability eliminated, or even mitigated if the recipient says, with outstretched hands, "Oh, but I completely and unequivocably disagree with the way in which you obtained the funds to provide me these benefits. You are evil, evil, evil. Gimme' my money."

This makes no sense. How are two situations different?

In the first case, the crime is committed and over; the emergency situation has come and passed. You have the opportunity then to reason a way to avoid it happening in the future. Your reasoning mind is released from the stultifying effects of force, and you can return to normalcy. In the latter case, the crime continues; the emergency situation becomes the normal. If you remain in that situation, without attempting to escape it, then you're just accepting the morality of the looter. You're sanctioning the acts and morality of the thief and denying your rational mind.

And when someone has a gun at your head you are not "allowing" them to rob you.

Then what are you doing?

I'm going to say this again though the simple logic of it hasn't hit you yet:

Is that sort of veiled ad hominem really necessary?

Marc, you became reticent when presented with a logical argument, complicated or no, which ended in questions you could not answer. Care to answer them now?

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Marc, you became reticent when presented with a logical argument, complicated or no, which ended in questions you could not answer. Care to answer them now?

I did not answer because I saw no logical argument: Your analogy is completely inapt.

Here's one that is a little closer to reality:

You have citizens A, B, C, D and you also have Rob the robber. Rob robs from everyone at the point of a gun but in order to keep the citizens working he offers them money back for various reasons. A and B don't work very hard and so Rob gives them food stamps. A and B like the system and advocate for it, in fact they suggest to Rob that he should take more money from C and D since they work harder, earn more, and can afford it.

Of course C and D don't like the system and advocate for its repeal, they think that each person should support themselves by keeping the fruit of their labor. Rob allows them to protest because it is cute and entertaining and after all, he has the gun. Unfortunately C falls on hard times and of course Rob offers him food stamps. C says to himself: well this is a terrible system, if I was on my own I would have purchased unemployment insurance with the money Rob stole from me but since the system exists and since I have no choice in the matter, then I am going to accept back the money that was stolen from me from the person that stole it.

Still, C and D continue to work because they retain some freedoms and some level of happiness is possible, but they advocate to get Rob out of their lives and maybe if another citizen comes along they can convince him to join their side. Along comes JeffS. He says he agrees with C and D and is on their side but soon they discover different. Their first clue is when he says to them that they shouldn't allow Rob to rob them. C and D say "allow, we don't allow him to rob us, he has a gun pointed at us, what would you have us do?" "Retaliate" says Jeff. "How" they ask. No answer.

Then Jeff says "you shouldn't accept any money back from Rob as you would be initiating force against A and B". C and D are confused, "but we didn't initiate force against anybody, Rob was the initiator of force." "Still, you would be sanctioning Rob's evil" says Jeff. "No, not at all. Rob, A and B all know that we do not sanction Rob's evil system, they have seen us protest against it. Actually it is A and B who approve of Rob's evil and who benefit the most from it." "It doesn't matter" says Jeff, "you must follow your principles." "Let us get this straight" say C and D. "In the situation where we have no choice about being robbed and it is a matter of fact and we disagree with a system of theft, nonetheless, when the robber offers us our money back, we shouldn't accept it? You are asking us to sacrifice ourselves to the thieves on some sort of principle. We don't believe in the principle of sacrifice."

"I didn't say sacrifice" says Jeff, "I said follow your principles no matter how hard, no matter how much they pain you, no matter how much you must give up. In fact, we must follow this principle to its extreme: you should not make use of anything which Rob has donated to or regulates using your stolen money. So you should not: use the roads or sidewalks, buy gasoline, drink or shower or wash your clothes using municipal water, eat beef or corn or soybeans or sugar or anything you haven't grown yourself, use electricity, go to public schools, get a mortgage, accept social security or medicare, visit a doctor or hospital, get your hair cut, go to college, start a business, use money, buy stock, take prescription drugs, use the court system, watch TV, visit parks", ... (the list went on for days)

"Whose side are you on Jeff?" said C and D. We don't believe that following one's principles should entail pain and giving things up and supporting our own destroyers, that's the altruists. We don't believe in a dichotomy between the moral and the practical. The moral is the practical." Then they got as far away from Jeff as possible as he seemed dangerous and irrational. Trying to reason with someone who thought they should support their enemies on principle seemed like a fruitless prospect. End.

Now, of course, no analogy is perfect. The problem with my analogy is that 5 or 6 people is not the same as 300 million. In my analogy if C and D could get themselves together they would be justified in subduing, and if it came to it, killing Rob. And if A and B stood up with Rob, then they would have to go too. But a society of 300 million, which has changed slowly over time in which the government has become more and more intrusive and the population has gone along with it and there is a huge govt. bureaucracy but which retains many freedoms is harder to change. Who could you legitimately kill in such a society? Do we all become Timothy McVeigh? No thank you. I think ARI has the right idea.

The advantage of my analogy over yours though is that at least mine describes the essentials of the situation whereas yours doesn't even correctly describe the facts of the situation.

My argument all along has been that accepting welfare is to legitimize theft. You're not committing the crime yourself, but you're using the government as your agent to do it. Is a welfare recipient any less culpable for the government's use of force to provide their benefits? Is that culpability eliminated, or even mitigated if the recipient says, with outstretched hands, "Oh, but I completely and unequivocably disagree with the way in which you obtained the funds to provide me these benefits. You are evil, evil, evil. Gimme' my money."

So a robber robs me and many other people. The police catch him and find some of the stolen goods but unfortunately the robber has already converted and spent much of the stolen property. Many of the people will not get back their property but the police do recover my bike. You are saying that I am culpable for the criminal's actions if I accept back my bike? Absurd. I would say the exact quote you provide -- I suppose you wouldn't but at least you acknowledge whose money it is: "my". You are saying that actually the robbers friend who helped him but who also got robbed by him should get the money instead instead of me.

I suppose you will object to the bike. So let's say all of the property was converted to cash and the police recover some of it. The police are going to divide that cash amongst the victims. You are saying that I am culpable for the criminal's actions if I accept back my cut? Again, absurd. Only those who approve of the criminal's actions should get their money back (and some of mine) according to you.

You want me to sacrifice myself to those who approve of stealing.

In the first case, the crime is committed and over; the emergency situation has come and passed. You have the opportunity then to reason a way to avoid it happening in the future.

First of all, you have no idea what constitutes an emergency. But let us concentrate on the second sentence, this is what I've been waiting to hear from you, a solution: how do you think we should "avoid it happening in the future"?

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I did not answer because I saw no logical argument: Your analogy is completely inapt.

Hmmm, yet here you are. I find arguments devoid of logic are the easiest to dispense with. Don't you?

And yet the only difference (aside from attributing positions to me that I did not make, which I will address) between what you consider "closer to reality" and my analogy is the thief's name is now Rob instead of "government." Really, quite laughable.

Along comes JeffS. He says he agrees with C and D and is on their side but soon they discover different. Their first clue is when he says to them that they shouldn't allow Rob to rob them. C and D say "allow, we don't allow him to rob us, he has a gun pointed at us, what would you have us do?" "Retaliate" says Jeff. "How" they ask. No answer.

When did you ask me how one would retaliate? I, however, can pinpoint where I asked you what you would call it when one passively goes along with a robbery. It was in post #65.

Then Jeff says "you shouldn't accept any money back from Rob as you would be initiating force against A and B". C and D are confused,

As am I. Please, also provide the post where I argued Ms. C would be initiating force against A and/or B.

... when the robber offers us our money back,...

How could the robber actually give Ms. C's money back? Where would that money come from? This is the question you keep avoiding, Marc, because you realize it's the Achilles Heel of your argument. You don't want to admit that Rob (aka "government") would have to take that money from Mr. D. I'll even let you use your "closer to reality" scenario: where would the money that Ms. C receives have to come from? Do you believe it will come from A, B, or D? Or, perhaps it is just the magic of high-level accounting which will provide Ms. C with funds?

We don't believe that following one's principles should entail pain and giving things up and supporting our own destroyers, that's the altruists. We don't believe in a dichotomy between the moral and the practical. The moral is the practical.

Really? "The moral is the practical?" I would love to see the Rand quote on that. My searching of the Lexicon didn't bring anything up. Do you have something else that's not in the lexicon?

The advantage of my analogy over yours though is that at least mine describes the essentials of the situation whereas yours doesn't even correctly describe the facts of the situation.

Which facts do I have wrong? Is it not true that the government currently runs a fiscal deficit? Is it not true that the government is in debt?

So a robber robs me and many other people. The police catch him and find some of the stolen goods but unfortunately the robber has already converted and spent much of the stolen property. Many of the people will not get back their property but the police do recover my bike. You are saying that I am culpable for the criminal's actions if I accept back my bike?

That is not what I'm arguing, and I suppose the simple logic of my argument hasn't hit you. Perhaps using your own analogy will help you understand. If the robber had converted and spent all of the stolen property, should the robber go out and find new victims in order to buy you a new bike?

First of all, you have no idea what constitutes an emergency.

And what evidence do you have that I do not? Let me see if I can make an unfounded accusation of my own: you have no idea what the current state of government financing is.

how do you think we should "avoid it happening in the future"?

Ahh, here's where you ask me how I would retaliate - after you accuse me of not answering a question that, by your own admission, had not been put to me yet. Perhaps the simple logic of which should come first hasn't hit you yet?

By firing the thieves. If that doesn't work, pick up a gun and protect your property (and your principles). I realize there's some danger in that, and that you "retain some freedoms and some level of happiness is possible." I guess that's enough to justify ignoring your principles. After all - morality is all about practicality. Whatever works is the good, eh?

Just an interesting aside for me, are you getting insulting because you know your argument is flawed, or are you simply always this insulting?

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Really? "The moral is the practical?" I would love to see the Rand quote on that. My searching of the Lexicon didn't bring anything up. Do you have something else that's not in the lexicon?

... This point is absolutely central to her ethics. Her whole moral system is built upon the practical needs of a life of man qua man. Here's your citation, it's in the lexicon after all.

http://aynrandlexicon.com/lexicon/moral-practical_dichotomy.html

By firing the thieves. If that doesn't work, pick up a gun and protect your property (and your principles). I realize there's some danger in that, and that you "retain some freedoms and some level of happiness is possible." I guess that's enough to justify ignoring your principles. After all - morality is all about practicality. Whatever works is the good, eh?

In a word, yes. Do not confuse Rand's rejection of pragmatism with a rejection of a practical system of ethics. She defined pragmatism as the rejection of the idea of principles altogether. "Whatever works, all things considered, to further your own life" is absolutely the standard of the good. Principles are part of what works, which is why pragmatism is wrong. (On this point, see also Principles)

If you truly do accept that the principles you've been advocating for here are not good for your own life (but you think people should stick to them anyways), then on Objectivist terms you've already lost the argument.

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And yet the only difference (aside from attributing positions to me that I did not make, which I will address) between what you consider "closer to reality" and my analogy is the thief's name is now Rob instead of "government."

No, there is a crucial difference. In your analogy you said:

"Neither Ms. C nor Ms. D believe this, but they go along with it because Mr. A and Mr. B have guns and threaten to put the ladies in jail if they don't."

You make A and B the initiators of force. You attribute to them the functions of the government: they have the guns and the power to jail C and D. This is not reality. In reality the other citizens do not have the power of the gun nor can they imprison you. This has been your argument all along as I demonstrate below.

When did you ask me how one would retaliate?

How would you like us to retaliate?

JeffS said:

"I, however, can pinpoint where I asked you what you would call it when one passively goes along with a robbery. It was in post #65."

Not much of a pinpoint there but OK, so you think when a robber robs me, I am "allowing" it to happen. "Allow" implies "voluntary" but I guess, according to you, when I later have the robber arrested, then he can legitimately claim that I gave him my wallet of my own free choice and the police should accept that explanation and let him go. Absurd.

----------------------

Please, also provide the post where I argued Ms. C would be initiating force against A and/or B.

You must be kidding, your entire argument is based on this false premise. Here is a partial listing:

What principle is this based upon? It seems to me the principle is: It's moral to take others' property if your property is taken and you can't get it back.

I've merely asked that you not steal from a third party in order to make yourselves whole.

[...]

The overarching question here is whether or not it's moral to steal from a third party in order to make yourself whole.

You quote Ayn Rand on the initiation of force and then you say:

That sounds pretty absolute to me. She seems very emphatic about it. Can you provide a scenario where it would be moral for someone to initiate force against someone else?

So you are implying that we [C and D] are initiating force against the socialists [A and B].

Ms. C does not sacrifice herself by refusing welfare; you do not sacrifice yourself by refusing to drive on roads - both of you have simply been victimized. You can either choose to perpetuate the victimization by visiting force upon the next guy in line, [...] [emphasis added]

----------------------

Dante has already addressed the moral/practical dichotomy, so, yes, the moral is the practical. Apparently you think the moral is the impractical, just like the altruists.

Is it not true that the government currently runs a fiscal deficit? Is it not true that the government is in debt?

You should drop the debt issue because it gets you nowhere and only confuses the issue. Until the entire country defaults and the government collapses the debt changes nothing: the debt is still serviced by taxes it just taxes people yet to be born. Besides what is your argument here, that as long as the country isn't in debt then it is OK for us to collect food stamps? Weren't the food stamps still provided by taxation?

So a robber robs me and many other people. The police catch him and find some of the stolen goods but unfortunately the robber has already converted and spent much of the stolen property. Many of the people will not get back their property but the police do recover my bike. You are saying that I am culpable for the criminal's actions if I accept back my bike?

You said that we are "culpable for the government's use of force". I guess you'll have to look up what the word "culpable" means.

And what evidence do you have that I do not?

Issues of taxation and government financing are not emergency situations. If they were, then Ayn Rand wouldn't have said that they would be the last issues to deal with on the way to laissez faire. I'll let you discover for yourself what actually constitutes an emergency, I'll bet it's even covered in the Lexicon. If not, there is a whole essay on it in VOS.

By firing the thieves. If that doesn't work, pick up a gun and protect your property (and your principles). I realize there's some danger in that, and that you "retain some freedoms and some level of happiness is possible."

Ahh, so you do want us all to become Timothy McVeigh. And is this how you conduct your life? When is the last time you shot someone from the IRS? What a hypocrite.

Just an interesting aside for me, are you getting insulting because you know your argument is flawed, or are you simply always this insulting?

I always start out by giving someone the benefit of the doubt but the longer they refuse to concede after their argument has been defeated the more insulting I get.

The issue here is sacrifice: you are calling for it, it has been pointed out to you many times but you have not acknowledged it. Let us see how, what are your solutions:

- fire the thieves. This is legitimate, I advocate for it, but unfortunately the fired thieves keep getting replaced by more thieves.

- pick up a gun and shoot the tax man. This would result in me going to jail and I am not willing to sacrifice my life that way. And it isn't necessary right now: (you have to recognize that there is a not only a difference in degree between the US-2010 and Nazi Germany but a difference in kind.)

- allow the socialists to benefit at my expense. This is clearly a sacrifice. If you recognize a difference between us and Nazi Germany and if a happy life is possible here, then while we are firing the thieves and moving toward laissez faire and if shooting a govt agent isn't the answer, then we have to work within the system.

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So you are implying that we [C and D] are initiating force against the socialists [A and B].

I don't agree with JeffS, but I do want to point out that this is not what he is arguing. He is not implying that C is initiating force against A and B in recovering her property, he is saying that C is initiating force against D in recovering her property even though D didn't do anything or take any money from C at all. That is the argument here. He is offering no defense of A or B's mooching. He's saying that to go on benefits from the government is initiating force against victimized producers, not the leeches. All are agreed that their actions are wrong.

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... This point is absolutely central to her ethics. Her whole moral system is built upon the practical needs of a life of man qua man. Here's your citation, it's in the lexicon after all.

http://aynrandlexicon.com/lexicon/moral-practical_dichotomy.html

I suggest you re-read the passage. Rand is not arguing that the moral is the practical. She's arguing that the practical and the moral need not contradict.

However, let's assume you and Marc are correct, and morality is simply what is practical; the good is what "works." Nearly three generations of Americans have lived their lives based on what "works." They've gone from cradle to grave sucking off the government teat - that has "worked" for them. It was practical for them to live like that. These people lived moral lives?

To make this more germane to our discussion, since it's practical to use the roads to get to work, it's moral to use the roads. No reference to principles, no reference to Man's only means of survival. It works, it's the best we can do in the situation, so it's moral.

I think you're both doing a dis-service to Rand and Objectivism. I'm by no means an expert on Objectivism, and I probably know significantly less than either of you. But I find it very hard to believe she would agree with your sweeping generalization.

In a word, yes. Do not confuse Rand's rejection of pragmatism with a rejection of a practical system of ethics. She defined pragmatism as the rejection of the idea of principles altogether. "Whatever works, all things considered, to further your own life" is absolutely the standard of the good. Principles are part of what works, which is why pragmatism is wrong. (On this point, see also Principles)

Thanks. I particularly like this passage from the page on principles:

To make it more grotesque, that haggling is accompanied by an aura of hysterical self-righteousness, in the form of belligerent assertions that one must compromise with anybody on anything (except on the tenet that one must compromise) and by panicky appeals to “practicality.”

Or, if we search in "Pragmatism," we find:

[The Pragmatists] declared that philosophy must be practical...

By itself, as a distinctive theory, the pragmatist ethics is contentless. It urges men to pursue “practicality,” but refrains from specifying any “rigid” set of values that could serve to define the concept.

Now, I would agree that with the caveat "all things considered" in place "Whatever works to further your own life" is a true statement. However, that was not the claim made. The claim made was that "the moral is the practical."

If you truly do accept that the principles you've been advocating for here are not good for your own life (but you think people should stick to them anyways), then on Objectivist terms you've already lost the argument.

What are you talking about?

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No, there is a crucial difference. In your analogy you said:

"Neither Ms. C nor Ms. D believe this, but they go along with it because Mr. A and Mr. B have guns and threaten to put the ladies in jail if they don't."

You make A and B the initiators of force. You attribute to them the functions of the government: they have the guns and the power to jail C and D. This is not reality. In reality the other citizens do not have the power of the gun nor can they imprison you. This has been your argument all along as I demonstrate below.

Very well, I was trying to make a simple analogy. I suppose we need to make it more complicated. Let's use your analogy then. What principle makes it moral for Ms. C to demand that Rob the Robber take money from Ms. D in order to pay Ms. C?

On the question of when you asked me how you should retaliate, I was wrong. You did ask me. A month ago. I apologize for not catching that. As I pointed out in the post immediately after your question, it was getting to the point where I had to reply to many different posters who were contesting the same things. It was at that point that I tried to simplify everything.

I think it's a bit disingenuous of you to imply that I intentionally neglected your question, especially since you had ample opportunity to ask again in the several posts after mine. But, you're right; you did ask, I did not answer. I apologize.

Not much of a pinpoint there but OK, so you think when a robber robs me, I am "allowing" it to happen. "Allow" implies "voluntary" but I guess, according to you, when I later have the robber arrested, then he can legitimately claim that I gave him my wallet of my own free choice and the police should accept that explanation and let him go. Absurd.

For the third time, then what would you call it?

You must be kidding, your entire argument is based on this false premise. Here is a partial listing:

None of the quotes you provided explicity state, or imply that Ms. C would be initiating force against A and/or B. Read themadkat's post if this is still unclear.

Dante has already addressed the moral/practical dichotomy, so, yes, the moral is the practical. Apparently you think the moral is the impractical, just like the altruists.

This is a false dichotomy. You're arguing that if don't accept your sweeping generalization that "the moral is the practical," then I must think the moral is the impractical. There is another option - the option Ms. Rand wrote about: the moral does not need to contradict the practical, as long as both are supported by solid principles.

You should drop the debt issue because it gets you nowhere and only confuses the issue. Until the entire country defaults and the government collapses the debt changes nothing: the debt is still serviced by taxes it just taxes people yet to be born.

No, we can't drop the debt issue regardless of how confusing it is. The reality of the situation is that this country is in debt. If we're going to ignore it, then what other parts of reality do we get to ignore?

Besides what is your argument here, that as long as the country isn't in debt then it is OK for us to collect food stamps?

Absolutely, and I've already stated as much. If the country were running a surplus then it certainly could return your property to you without finding more victims (or taking more from its existing victims). Yes, the food stamps were still provided by taxation, but that was a crime which has already occured. If the government doesn't need to commit another crime in order to return your property to you, then it is moral to get your property back.

When the government runs a deficit, in order to return your property to you it has no course of action but to find more victims, or take more property from its existing victims because it doesn't have any property to return to you. That is a crime which would not have occurred (all things being equal) had you not demanded your property back (in the form of food stamps).

You said that we are "culpable for the government's use of force". I guess you'll have to look up what the word "culpable" means.

Once again, you are being disingenuous. I don't mind if you parse my posts, I certainly do enough of it. However, when I do it I try to make sure I'm getting the central point the other poster is trying to make. Had you even read a little further into the quote you cut up, you would have realized that "That is not what I'm arguing" referred to your erroneous supposition that I'm arguing you could get your bike back. You can't. Your bike no longer exists. It has been converted to cash and the cash has been spent on something already consumed.

I even used your analogy to make it clear. So, either you didn't read the rest of the post, or you simply want to be dishonest. I'll give you the benefit of the doubt.

I understand why you want to keep avoiding the question posed in the rest of that quote, but it really doesn't help your argument to do so.

culpable - deserving blame

If you demand Rob the Robber returns your property, knowing full well he will have to go out and rob someone else in order to do so, then you are culpable - you are deserving of blame.

Issues of taxation and government financing are not emergency situations. If they were, then Ayn Rand wouldn't have said that they would be the last issues to deal with on the way to laissez faire. I'll let you discover for yourself what actually constitutes an emergency, I'll bet it's even covered in the Lexicon. If not, there is a whole essay on it in VOS.

Well, my bad. Since Ayn Rand didn't say taxation was an emergency situation, it must not be. Let's ignore the principles upon which the concept of emergencies are based and just go with what she said.

Ayn Rand said taxation and government financing were the last issues to deal with because people need to understand the principles of a proper government long before they demand a different way. In fact, they need to understand a great deal more of her objective philosophy long before they can even understand the principles of a proper government. She was arguing that one can't simply force a conclusion on people without them having an understanding of the objective evidence the conclusion is based on. In fact, I bet she would argue that once people understood the premises, the immorality of forced taxation would be a foregone conclusion.

Every year, on a particular day, of a particular month, a man accosts you in the street. He puts a gun to your head and says, "Give me your money, or I will confine you in my basement until you do." Would you consider that an emergency scenario?

Ahh, so you do want us all to become Timothy McVeigh. And is this how you conduct your life? When is the last time you shot someone from the IRS? What a hypocrite.

What? How am I a hypocrite?

I always start out by giving someone the benefit of the doubt but the longer they refuse to concede after their argument has been defeated the more insulting I get.

You keep ignoring my questions, and misinterpreting my argument, so it's hard for me to imagine how my argument has been defeated. I think you do it because you're experiencing cognitive dissonance. You know your argument is flawed, I've punctured a big hole in what you believed to be true without really analyzing it, so now you're lashing out. You've been insulting from the beginning.

The issue here is sacrifice: you are calling for it, it has been pointed out to you many times but you have not acknowledged it. Let us see how, what are your solutions:

- fire the thieves. This is legitimate, I advocate for it, but unfortunately the fired thieves keep getting replaced by more thieves.

So, now what? Alter your principles? Tacitly compromise on them?

- pick up a gun and shoot the tax man. This would result in me going to jail and I am not willing to sacrifice my life that way. And it isn't necessary right now: (you have to recognize that there is a not only a difference in degree between the US-2010 and Nazi Germany but a difference in kind.)

Ahhh, so it's to be compromise.

- allow the socialists to benefit at my expense. This is clearly a sacrifice. If you recognize a difference between us and Nazi Germany and if a happy life is possible here, then while we are firing the thieves and moving toward laissez faire and if shooting a govt agent isn't the answer, then we have to work within the system.

The socialists are benefitting at your expense, and have been increasingly benefitting at your expense your entire life (assuming you're under 80 years old). So, who is it that's calling for sacrifice?

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I don't agree with JeffS, but I do want to point out that this is not what he is arguing. He is not implying that C is initiating force against A and B in recovering her property, he is saying that C is initiating force against D in recovering her property even though D didn't do anything or take any money from C at all. That is the argument here. He is offering no defense of A or B's mooching. He's saying that to go on benefits from the government is initiating force against victimized producers, not the leeches. All are agreed that their actions are wrong.

Etiquette first: please, it is absolutely essential that you attribute your quotes.

I don't think your assessment is accurate. In his one analogy, (which, as I show above, is a false analogy completely unrelated to reality so it cannot be used to argue anything) he uses his made-up premise to show a certain conflict, he may be doing as you say, but that doesn't negate everything else he said.

As I show above he puts the power of the gun and the power to jail in the hands of his citizens and he says throughout the thread that anybody who takes food stamps is initiating force against other citizens; he is factually wrong. The government is the one initiating force . . . against everyone. My position is the same as Ayn Rand's: In today's society, accepting your money back from the government, as long as you advocate against their criminal activity, is legitimate. To do otherwise is to sacrifice yourself to the socialists.

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It's so disappointing to see such massive intellectual dishonesty from a self-professed Objectivist.

I offered to use your "closer to reality" analogy, Marc, and you still evade the question.

If rational people can't step away from dogma long enough to actually evaluate arguments, then what hope is there? If self-professed Objectivists must rely upon obfuscation, misinterpretation, and dishonesty in order to convince themselves they've won an argument, then the odds of a rational philosophy gaining wide acceptance are greatly reduced.

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Very well, I was trying to make a simple analogy. I suppose we need to make it more complicated. Let's use your analogy then. What principle makes it moral for Ms. C to demand that Rob the Robber take money from Ms. D in order to pay Ms. C?

If by "simple" you mean "unrelated to reality" and "false" then mission accomplished. Once you switch to my analogy, your whole argument falls apart because C can't "demand" anything from Rob, he's the one with the gun remember.

Who is initiating force is a crucial issue and you've been trying to skirt it and pretend that it doesn't matter since I entered. It is not only disingenuous of you to pretend there is no difference between your analogy and mine, it is dishonest. It is dishonest because I pointed this issue out to you and you conceded the point before you constructed your failed analogy.

For the third time, then what would you call it?

Here is another issue about your use of the word "allow" that might seem simplistic but it actually sums-up not only your misplacement of the initiation of force but also it highlights what you consider to be rational action and points to your advocacy of sacrifice. Here is what I said in my last post:

JeffS said:

"I, however, can pinpoint where I asked you what you would call it when one passively goes along with a robbery. It was in post #65."

[...] so you think when a robber robs me, I am "allowing" it to happen. "Allow" implies "voluntary" but I guess, according to you, when I later have the robber arrested, then he can legitimately claim that I gave him my wallet of my own free choice and the police should accept that explanation and let him go. Absurd.

Now, the fact that your reply to this is "then what would you call it?" is like saying "yeah, so?" which means that you essentially agree with what I said, you don't see a problem, you don't see the issue that I am raising. Apparently my little scenario sounds reasonable to you; well, you are wrong, there is nothing reasonable about it. When a robber points a gun at me and says "your wallet or your life" and then I give him my wallet I haven't "allowed" him to have it. He has taken it, by force. He has robbed me. He has stolen it. I have been swindled, burgled, plundered, looted. There is nothing voluntary about it.

However, when I "allow" something, then it is voluntary. I might allow my sister to borrow my car. I might allow an elderly lady to have my seat on the bus. I might allow a pretty girl to have my phone number.

When there is no choice, it is not voluntary. Ayn Rand had another saying: "morality ends at the point of a gun". So no, the police should not let a robber go when he says "well, he allowed me to have his wallet when my gun was pointed at him." Every officer would dismiss the claim without a second thought.

Apparently you think the rational thing to do when confronted with a gun is to fight the man, then and there, since otherwise you would be "allowing" him to rob you. Unless I have a gun of my own or a reasonable chance of success, then I think it is irrational to do so. I guess according to you I have abandoned my principles and this is where you call for sacrifice. Sacrifice is the surrender of a greater value for a lesser value and apparently you want me to trade my life for my wallet. This is illustrated even more clearly below.

Absolutely, and I've already stated as much. If the country were running a surplus then it certainly could return your property to you without finding more victims (or taking more from its existing victims). Yes, the food stamps were still provided by taxation, but that was a crime which has already occured. If the government doesn't need to commit another crime in order to return your property to you, then it is moral to get your property back.

This issue carries no truck with me as it is absurd on its face. It would have been legitimate to collect food stamps in 1999 but illegitimate in 2001? It would be legitimate for the govt. to tax us more so that people could legitimately collect food stamps?

Well, my bad. Since Ayn Rand didn't say taxation was an emergency situation, it must not be.

Yes, I get it, you are very dismissive of Ayn Rand, which is your odious prerogative, but I don't think it should surprise you when people on a Objectivist forum understand and express certain situations that she logically defined.

Every year, on a particular day, of a particular month, a man accosts you in the street. He puts a gun to your head and says, "Give me your money, or I will confine you in my basement until you do." Would you consider that an emergency scenario?

That would be an emergency, (at least the first few years it would be, hopefully you'd figure out the pattern after the first two or three years) unfortunately this scenario bears as much resemblance to reality as your analogy, which is none.

Ahh, so you do want us all to become Timothy McVeigh. And is this how you conduct your life? When is the last time you shot someone from the IRS? What a hypocrite.

Well, you said "If that doesn't work, pick up a gun and protect your property" and if you're not a hypocrite, then you must have picked up a gun at some point and I don't think you're in . . . ahhh, I see, . . . are you typing this from jail? Well, if you're a murderer, then you've proven me wrong.

You keep ignoring my questions, and misinterpreting my argument, so it's hard for me to imagine how my argument has been defeated. I think you do it because you're experiencing cognitive dissonance. You know your argument is flawed, I've punctured a big hole in what you believed to be true without really analyzing it, so now you're lashing out. You've been insulting from the beginning.

Let's remember who actually ignored whose questions, then you can look in a mirror and try your amateur psychologizing on yourself since it has no effect on someone who actually understands what they arguing.

So, now what? Alter your principles? Tacitly compromise on them?

Ahhh, so it's to be compromise.

The socialists are benefitting at your expense, and have been increasingly benefitting at your expense your entire life (assuming you're under 80 years old). So, who is it that's calling for sacrifice?

My principles say don't sacrifice. I've implied it several times but now I'd like to ask specifically: Are you an altruist? What are your politics?

And since I explicitly advocate and support rational self-interest and capitalism it is impossible for me to tacitly support the opposite.

And if you think that not committing murder is a compromise, then we'll have to end this discussion now as a rational outcome is clearly impossible for you.

And apparently you want me to keep sacrificing to the socialists.

As for compromising on one's principles, tell me, have you: attended public school? driven on roads? accepted a tax refund from the govt? accepted any check from the govt? used the DMV? eaten food produced on a farm? drank tap water? used paper money? visited a hospital? used electricity?

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