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Is Objectivism Totalitarian?

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Ryan1985
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The right to free expression does not allow one to plan bank-robberies or bloody revolutions. On the other hand, if someone reads John Rawls, and advocates that the role of government should be expanded to include wealth redistribution, that does not disqualify this person from owning a hand-gun.

In Objectivism tax equals theft. Therefore anyone who plans to tax is planning to thieve. Therefore you are saying that free expression does not allow one to plan bank-robberies, this also means that one cannot plan to tax. Beyond reading Rawls and nodding in agreement, a socialist cannot plan taxation, therefore organised socialism is banned in an Objectivist society. If you disagree then why is organised theft allowed in an Objectivist society?

Is OP's implication that any government philosophy other than, say socialism, is contradictory?

No, I think socialism is contradictory, but I want to defend their right to be socialists.

Eiuol said that a person may not acquire weapons to start a revolution. From that, it does not follow that the same person may not own a handgun.

Assuming the guy is a revolutionary socialist, you're saying he may not acquire weapons to start a revolution but he may acquire a handgun. I'd say that a handgun is a weapon that can be used in a revolution. If you disagree, how many handguns would you allow him to own? Surely you cannot argue that 20 hanguns are no threat if he's a revolutionary socialist.

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Assuming the guy is a revolutionary socialist, you're saying he may not acquire weapons to start a revolution but he may acquire a handgun. I'd say that a handgun is a weapon that can be used in a revolution. If you disagree, how many handguns would you allow him to own? Surely you cannot argue that 20 hanguns are no threat if he's a revolutionary socialist.

This is where it becomes useful to have specific laws in order to make it perfectly clear what constitutes a threat. Does someone merely owning a gun indicate an intent to initiate force? Not necessarily. There should be at least a reasonable suspicion that the person in question is going to use the gun to initiate force. If a person announced "I'm going to buy a gun and shoot the next door neighbor", and they go to a gun store right after that, there would be reason for suspicion and possibly arrest. Similarly, buying 20 guns would indicate something suspicious, especially if he is a self-declared socialist radical. Then again, he might honestly be a gun collector. An investigation might be needed to decide whether or not the person really is a threat. It would probably take a person with a strong understanding of the history of law in order to state exactly what laws should be in place for making objective legal decisions. But, for someone like me, the best I can do is to provide a starting point to use to come up with an exact answer.

Edited by Eiuol
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Assuming the guy is a revolutionary socialist, you're saying he may not acquire weapons to start a revolution but he may acquire a handgun. I'd say that a handgun is a weapon that can be used in a revolution. If you disagree, how many handguns would you allow him to own? Surely you cannot argue that 20 hanguns are no threat if he's a revolutionary socialist.

I can argue that a million handguns are not a threat. The threat comes from people, the large gun collection is just one sign out of many (a sign that does not constitute conclusive evidence of a crime). I think you're the one arguing that it is impossible to differentiate between objective threats and someone who owns a gun for self defense. You're wrong.

Owning legal handguns would not be illegal based on anyone's ideology, just as it isn't illegal now. If a Muslim cleric who lives in the US applied for a handgun permit, he would not be discriminated against based on his religion. And if he bought twenty AKs legally, he would still not be touched. Obviously, authorities would pay special attention to him, to make sure he's just a harmless gun collector, but his rights would be preserved. And, if he was planning a terrorist attack with those weapons, that would be the crime, not the ownership of the weapons, and he would be arrested for it.

In general, preventing non-criminals from owning handguns is a violation of rights (and an initiation of force), and it would not be done in a free society. Besides, it's a terrible crime fighting technique: the only people it would work on are innocents unwilling to just buy their guns in secret, off the black market. Just ask the residents of Chicago how their gun ban is working out.

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Strictly speaking, you can't even restrict a revolutionary socialist from owning weapons UNLESS you can credibly prove that he *intends* to use those weapons in a criminal manner.

Proving intent is notoriously difficult.

You ( you being law enforcement) can place him under non-invasive surveillance, until you find the reason for his guns. If the reason is criminal, you can arrest him, if there is some more inconclusive evidence of a crime you can obtain a warrant to search his house and listen in on his communications for a set period of time, if neither, you can move on. None of that would violate anyone's rights, as long as the warrant is justified by the extra evidence beyond just the ideology and the guns.

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You ( you being law enforcement) can place him under non-invasive surveillance, until you find the reason for his guns. If the reason is criminal, you can arrest him, if there is some more inconclusive evidence of a crime you can obtain a warrant to search his house and listen in on his communications for a set period of time, if neither, you can move on. None of that would violate anyone's rights, as long as the warrant is justified by the extra evidence beyond just the ideology and the guns.

Agreed.

Although it does raise the question of "fishing expeditions".

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Your use of Galt's Gulch places the context in a specific place. It is private property. Thus, sure, there is an authority: the owner.

This was correctly pointed out a few times. But it highlights the fact that the only credible Objectivist society that Rand, the originator of Objectivism, described was totalitarian by nature.

Before I go on, I am not advocating the restriction of free speech, only arguing that those restrictions are implicit in Rand's description of an Objectivist "Utopia." (the Gulch)

It's an interesting discussion, and I'm not trying to show that Objectivism has an inherent contradiction, but maybe that the concept of an Objectivist state has either a contradiction or the accommodation of evil, that is, political speech towards the imposition of an immoral political system. As someone pointed out, the planning of a bank robbery can be properly deemed beyond the limits of free speech. Can the planning of a political system, including the methods and tactics to trade future favors for the votes of a majority of the populace, be considered outside of those limits? I'm not talking espousing political systems, I'm talking the planning of a democratic takeover of the political system for the purposes of initiating force against the populace.

In concrete terms, the success of Leftist ideology in the U.S. depends on the Leftist leadership credibly promising to rob a wealthy minority to pay for the support of a large, less-wealthy majority. If a large enough number of people evaluate that promise as being in their best interest, they may very well vote for Socialism, with the result that the political will of Leftist leadership is forced upon all citizens.

Perhaps this points to a limitation of Objectivism that prevents it from occupying a stature as a fully formed political system.

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It's an interesting discussion, and I'm not trying to show that Objectivism has an inherent contradiction, but maybe that the concept of an Objectivist state has either a contradiction or the accommodation of evil, that is, political speech towards the imposition of an immoral political system.

Not sending someone to jail is not the equivalent of "accommodating" them. So no, an Objectivist state would not accommodate evil.

As someone pointed out, the planning of a bank robbery can be properly deemed beyond the limits of free speech.

Robbing banks is illegal and evil, right? And yet, watch this:

I think bank robbery should be legal. Allowed. In fact it should be subsidized, and first born sons should be sacrificed to the gods for good luck in our efforts to rob banks.

That's a pretty outrageous, terrible thing to say, huh? And yet, no one was hurt. Every bank and child on the planet is fine, all their rights are intact. Why? Because speech, no matter how evil, does not harm anyone!!! There is no conflict between free speech and rights.

Can the planning of a political system, including the methods and tactics to trade future favors for the votes of a majority of the populace, be considered outside of those limits? I'm not talking espousing political systems, I'm talking the planning of a democratic takeover of the political system for the purposes of initiating force against the populace.

In concrete terms, the success of Leftist ideology in the U.S. depends on the Leftist leadership credibly promising to rob a wealthy minority to pay for the support of a large, less-wealthy majority. If a large enough number of people evaluate that promise as being in their best interest, they may very well vote for Socialism, with the result that the political will of Leftist leadership is forced upon all citizens.

Perhaps this points to a limitation of Objectivism that prevents it from occupying a stature as a fully formed political system.

Like it's been pointed out many times before, no, an Objectivist state would not allow the imposition of socialism just because a majority somehow got convinced to vote for it. Objectivism does not support democracy, it supports a constitutionally limited government. So no, the scenario you describe could not happen in an Objectivist state. Not because the people advocating it would be hauled off to jail, but because they couldn't rise to power by convincing the majority to vote for them. That would be illegal, and anyone who tried it would be disqualified as a candidate for political office.

Don't confuse the right to speech with the right to be a tyrant or rob a bank. There is a clearly difference between the two: one involves the initiation of physical force, the other does not. Writing laws and judging specific instances to differentiate between the two is not only possible, it has been put in practice well in the USA, in First Amendment cases. American laws and courts have no problem differentiating between speech and action, it's only other rights (mostly the right to property) that they are confused about.

Free speech is actually one of the few areas that's handled well already in the US, and needs to be left alone, not changed.

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We actually have a real world example of what Ayn Rand actually thought on this subject. Here is a link to a transcript of her testimony as a "friendly witness" to the "House Un-American Activities Committee" - http://www.aynrand.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=6125

From wiki - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/McCarthyism#House_Committee_on_Un-American_Activities:

Among the first film industry witnesses subpoenaed by the Committee were ten who decided not to cooperate. These men, who became known as the "Hollywood Ten", cited the First Amendment's guarantee of free speech and free assembly, which they believed legally protected them from being required to answer the Committee's questions. This tactic failed, and the ten were sentenced to prison for contempt of Congress. Two of the ten were sentenced to six months, the rest to a year.

Rand's testimony was before the Hollywood Ten debacle sure, but we can see what she subsequently thought of the whole affair.

From http://www.noblesoul.com/orc/texts/huac.html, bold is mine:

Asked years later about the hearings, Rand said that they were a "dubious undertaking," "futile," and "nothing but disappointments." She did not think the government could not legitimately investigate the ideological penetration of Communism into the movies. It could only show that there were members of the Communist Party working in the industry. She did believe, however, that it was acceptable for the committee to ask people whether they had joined the Communist Party, because the Party supported the use of violence and other criminal activities to achieve its political goals, and investigating possible criminal activities was an appropriate role of government. "I certainly don't think it's any kind of interference with anybody's rights or freedom of speech," she said.3

In bold above, we see the exact topic we are now discussing.

From wiki again:

It is difficult to estimate the number of victims of McCarthyism. The number imprisoned is in the hundreds, and some ten or twelve thousand lost their jobs.[43] In many cases simply being subpoenaed by HUAC or one of the other committees was sufficient cause to be fired.[44] Many of those who were imprisoned, lost their jobs or were questioned by committees did in fact have a past or present connection of some kind with the Communist Party. But for the vast majority, both the potential for them to do harm to the nation and the nature of their communist affiliation were tenuous.[45] Suspected homosexuality was also a common cause for being targeted by McCarthyism. The hunt for "sexual perverts", who were presumed to be subversive by nature, resulted in thousands being harassed and denied employment.[46]

The fact that Rand didn't denounce this whole process as disgusting and rights-denying is damning for Objectivism's claim to be the ultimate defender of free speech.

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... maybe that the concept of an Objectivist state has either a contradiction or the accommodation of evil,...
This is like point to an oath of secrecy sworn by, say, a CIA agent and saying that this is evidence that there is no free-speech in the U.S. The story of Galt's Gulch is not merely about private property. It is a very specific fictional scenario where it made sense to restrict a secret only to those one could trust to strongly share one's goals.

So, it is false to say "the only credible Objectivist society that Rand... described ...". Fact is, she did not describe one in any fictional work.

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The fact that Rand didn't denounce this whole process as disgusting and rights-denying is damning for Objectivism's claim to be the ultimate defender of free speech.

Conspiring with a Soviet sponsored organization is not speech, it's treason. The Soviet Union was a physical enemy which used force to murder millions, and threatened the use of force against billions.

The First Amendment does not protect against joining them, it only protects the right to speech. Similarly, you would be arrested if you joined Al Qaeda tomorrow. You are welcome to say they are right all you want, but if you join them, then you are guilty of their crimes.

The fantasy leftists have that the American Communist Party was a harmless political organization couldn't be further from the truth. They were working with the Soviets, against the United States. That is why they were outlawed in the US.

This may not be quite as factual as an open forum anyone can post anything on (Wikipedia), but it does source official Soviet documents that became available in the 90s (The Soviet World of American Communism. By Harvey Klehr, John Earl Haynes, and Kyrill M. Anderson. Yale University Press. - reviewed by Paul Hollander ):

Crucial to the efforts to rehabilitate and idealize the American Communist Party was the contention that it was a grassroots organization of socially conscious Americans, fighting for social justice, concerned with mainly American conditions, and not subservient to the USSR. Only after the dissolution of the Soviet Union and subsequent access to the archives of the Soviet Communist Party did definitive proof become available that the CPUSA was almost totally subservient to Soviet policies and instructions .

The Secret World of American Communism (1995), a predecessor to this book, documented the clandestine links between the CPUSA and the Soviet authorities, including the Soviet intelligence agency, the NKVD. Spying on behalf of the Soviet Union became acceptable for American Communists convinced that any contribution to the power, influence, and welfare of the USSR was morally legitimate. (The Soviet documents confirmed, among other things, that the younger sister of American party leader Earl Browder was an agent of the NKVD.) The Soviet documents also revealed that "the CPUSA was . . . a conspiracy financed by a hostile foreign power that recruited members for clandestine work, developed an elaborate underground apparatus, and used that apparatus to collaborate with espionage services of that power."

The volume reviewed here is also based on documents found in the Soviet archives, and they provide further information about the specifics of the relationship between the CPUSA and the Soviet authorities. This is how the authors summarize that relationship:

"American Communists looked to the Comintern [the Communist International dominated by the Soviet Communist Party and headquartered in Moscow] for guidance at every stage of their history. Soviet Communists settled American leadership disputes; they funded American movements and programs; they directed American ideology. And they always placed the national interests of the Soviet Union above those of other countries. . . . The CPUSA has always been a satellite, first of the Comintern and later of the Soviet Communist party. The ties between the two organizations, those of subordinate to superior, existed on every level. The Soviets established the ideology, provided the money, chose or approved leaders, and monitored the tactics of the Americans. With only few exceptions, American Communists did not question the Comintern’s right to exercise that control."

You should read the book, then comment on whether what they were doing is speech or not. Don't go by the fantasies of revisionist leftists, who will tell you the Soviet Union was Heaven and Che Guevara and Castro are freedom fighters.

Edited by Jake_Ellison
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The fact that Rand didn't denounce this whole process as disgusting and rights-denying is damning for Objectivism's claim to be the ultimate defender of free speech.

If anything, McCarthy was all too kind to the communists.

If you're going to redefine "totalitarian" to mean a social system in which threats of violent actions are totally illegal, then yes, Objectivism advocates "totalitarianism" in that manner, and I'm perfectly okay with that. If that means some socialists might get arrested for threatening to take violent actions, I'm perfectly okay with that too, even delighted with it. To hell with them and their supposed "right" to implement democracy. And if this dismays you, go get a lesson in "context-dropping."

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The fact that Rand didn't denounce this whole process as disgusting and rights-denying is damning for Objectivism's claim to be the ultimate defender of free speech.

And this is an absolutely damning portrayal of both your serious lack of knowledge of the events occurring at that time as well as 1. a basic understanding of Objectivism and 2. Not understanding the differentiation between rights protection and other matters. Would it have been wrong to find out who was a Black Panthers member or, nowadays, a Muslim Brotherhood member if their organizations had a little bit more than a "habit" of using violent or otherwise actively subversive actions on the basic rights of other individuals? It is gaining information, not punishing those individuals automatically for potentially being part of that party, akin to the WW2 Japanese interment camps. Now that would clearly be wrong. Same principles apply in both scenarios.

The way you differentiate if justice is being upheld or not is asking yourself is this individual violating the individual rights of others in some way? The government's sole function is to protect people from these violations, and to retaliate appropriately when these violations have already occurred. Does the man saying he is going to rob a bank violate someones rights? No. Does the one who is planning on robbing a bank do so? I say good luck finding out the man is going to rob the bank in the first place, either way, the answer is obvious if the contextual information is sound. Did the man who robbed a bank violate rights? Yes, certainly. This is all covered in Ayn Rand's commentary on the nature of rights and the nature of government.

Though I know you do not find these convincing Ryan after making it clear the other day in chat that you are a Keynesian when it comes to economics.

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Don't go by the fantasies of revisionist leftists, who will tell you the Soviet Union was Heaven and Che Guevara and Castro are freedom fighters.

I agree, the Soviet Union was a disgrace. But so was America's McCarythism that Rand failed to condemn. I quoted in my post above the following from Wikipedia which I think is key:

Many of those who were imprisoned, lost their jobs or were questioned by committees did in fact have a past or present connection of some kind with the Communist Party. But for the vast majority, both the potential for them to do harm to the nation and the nature of their communist affiliation were tenuous.[45]

If anything, McCarthy was all too kind to the communists.

Not sure how to respond to that! The whole point is that most of the people harassed and oppressed had no link to communists. It was a classic Salem style witch hunt.

It is gaining information, not punishing those individuals automatically for potentially being part of that party, akin to the WW2 Japanese interment camps. Now that would clearly be wrong. Same principles apply in both scenarios.

Though I know you do not find these convincing Ryan after making it clear the other day in chat that you are a Keynesian when it comes to economics.

CS, I refer you to my quote above. The whole thing was a witch hunt. (Aside - I don't think there is one single economic model that is perfect. But was Keynes intelligent and did he have some worthy contributions to his field? Yes.)

Edited by Ryan1985
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I agree, the Soviet Union was a disgrace. But so was America's McCarythism that Rand failed to condemn. I quoted in my post above the following from Wikipedia which I think is key:

Great, Rand failed to condemn something imaginary that you read on Wikipedia, so Objectivism is flawed. In the mean time, I presented evidence that the American Communist Party was a Soviet proxy.

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Great, Rand failed to condemn something imaginary that you read on Wikipedia, so Objectivism is flawed. In the mean time, I presented evidence that the American Communist Party was a Soviet proxy.

And I agree with that evidence that you posted. However it was people outside the Communist Party who were mostly persecuted. It was a disgrace, and not only did Rand fail to condemn it she stated that no rights violations had been committed.

Here is more reading material on how gays and other communist "fellow travellers" were persecuted:

http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/2491763/homosexuality_in_america_during_the.html

Again, an absolute and utter disgrace and stain on America's history which Rand implicitly supported.

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But so was America's McCarythism that Rand failed to condemn.

You might consider digging a little deeper.

In the late 1940's, another newly coined term was shot into our cultural arteries: "McCarthyism." Again, it was a derogatory term, suggesting some insidious evil, and without any clear definition. Its alleged meaning was: "Unjust accusations, persecutions, and character assassinations of innocent victims." Its real meaning was: "Anti-communism.'

Senator McCarthy was never proved guilty of those allegations, but the effect of that term was to intimidate and silence public discussions. Any uncompromising denunciation of communism or communists was—and still is—smeared as "McCarthyism." As a consequence, opposition to and exposes of communist penetration have all but vanished from our intellectual scene. (I must mention that I am not an admirer of Senator McCarthy, but not for the reasons implied in that smear.)

What kind of 'witch-hunt' are you on?

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You might consider digging a little deeper.

What kind of 'witch-hunt' are you on?

And who is the totalitarian apologist? Apparently, here's a guy who is okay with the economic theories of a man who said the following in the Nazi-propaganda-ministry-approved German edition of his treatise:

The theory of aggregate production, which is the point of the following book, nevertheless can be much easier adapted to the conditions of a totalitarian state than the theory of production and distribution of a given production put forth under conditions of free competition and a large degree of laissez-faire. This is one of the reasons that justifies the fact that I call my theory a general theory. (JM Keynes, “Vorwort Zur Deutschen Ausgabe”, 1936.)

But oh those Objectivists, oh that Ayn Rand, they don't want to allow the socialists the “freedom” and the “right” to take their political views from the “advocacy” stage to the “let's exterminate the population” stage, therefore they must be the totalitarians! Talk about context-dropping.

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I think the misconception is when does speech cross the line and become a conspiracy. I agree with the approach Ms. Rand advocated, where a statement that advocates for rights violations has been made would be grounds for an investigation but that more substantial evidence of a conspiracy to take actual action has to be found. As example a person who indicates that they are a devout believer in Islam automatically meets the advocacy of rights violation due to the undeniable requirement for Muslims to spread their religion by any means including violence and threats of violence. Now being a Muslim alone would not constitute grounds for punitive action, but if a particular Muslim made financial contributions, participated in militant training, gave support to active organizations involved in violent activities this is where a person has crossed the line.

I think to describe this as totalitarian is an example of context dropping.

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You presented no evidence that Rand supported sending homosexuals and other innocents to jail. Saying she "implicitly supported" it is just a cheap way of avoiding the need to prove your claim.

Not condemning an action is just as bad as doing the action. Just as taking no position on an issue is itself a position.

You might consider digging a little deeper.

What kind of 'witch-hunt' are you on?

Well from your CUI quote the key part is:

Senator McCarthy was never proved guilty of those allegations

Contrast this with any history book which clearly showed that a portion of the hearings were expressly designed to evaluate the risk of homosexuals in government and you get a taste of the irrationality that Rand failed to condemn and in fact participated in. If you don't own any history books I will gladly get mine out and type it in if requested (the Objectivist created Wikipedia ironically does not have much support on this forum as a source).

And who is the totalitarian apologist? Apparently, here's a guy who is okay with the economic theories of a man who said the following in the Nazi-propaganda-ministry-approved German edition of his treatise:

The theory of aggregate production, which is the point of the following book, nevertheless can be much easier adapted to the conditions of a totalitarian state than the theory of production and distribution of a given production put forth under conditions of free competition and a large degree of laissez-faire. This is one of the reasons that justifies the fact that I call my theory a general theory. (JM Keynes, “Vorwort Zur Deutschen Ausgabe”, 1936.)

I find that Keynes quote to be disgusting, and I do not agree with it.

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Not condemning an action is just as bad as doing the action.

I haven't heard you condemn the murder of millions of Chinese peasants by Genghis Khan, lately. Mass murderer. If you ask me, you and your murdering buddy could've at least buried them properly, instead of building a giant pile out of their heads like savages. What kind of a person are you?

Or should I wait until you're dead before I call you an accomplice to every crime you didn't know about, to make sure you can't correct me?

Also, the movie Gigli. Did you publicly condemn that pile of crap? I didn't think so, you bad movie making murderer.

Just as taking no position on an issue is itself a position.

Ayn Rand's on record on both the sending of homosexuals and the falsely accused to jail. She made specific public statements against both.

Not to mention that her philosophy rejects such actions, and I informed you of her position on the initiation of force at least twice just in this thread: she was against it.

Edited by Jake_Ellison
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I think the misconception is when does speech cross the line and become a conspiracy.

I agree this is the issue, but it is not hard to resolve. From Wikipedia Conspiracy_(crime)

Conspiracy has been defined in the US as an agreement of two or more people to commit a crime, or to accomplish a legal end through illegal actions.[1][2] For example, planning to rob a bank (an illegal act) to raise money for charity (a legal end) remains a criminal conspiracy because the parties agreed to use illegal means to accomplish the end goal. A conspiracy does not need to have been planned in secret to meet the definition of the crime. One legal dictionary, law.com, provides this useful example on the application of conspiracy law to an everyday sales transaction tainted by corruption. It shows how the law can handle both the criminal and the civil need for justice.

[A] scheme by a group of salesmen to sell used automobiles as new, could be prosecuted as a crime of fraud and conspiracy, and also allow a purchaser of an auto to sue for damages [in civil court] for the fraud and conspiracy.

Conspiracy law usually does not require proof of specific intent by the defendants to injure any specific person to establish an illegal agreement. Instead, usually the law only requires the conspirators have agreed to engage in a certain illegal act. This is sometimes described as a "general intent" to violate the law.

The principle behind objective law and the defense of rights is that only initiations of force can violate rights. Laws are then written that define and proscribe the various ways force may not be used. Conspiracy is agreement to violate a specific law. Advocating to change the law can be fully within the law and so avoid being a conspiracy or otherwise producing the appearance of a totalitarian state. Speculating how to implement the change in the law and what the consequences would be is also fully legal and necessary in order to fully argue for or against it. Judges and juries would rule on the particular borderline cases involving lying where crimes were being plotted behind a legal fig leaf of speculation about changing the law.

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I haven't heard you condemn the murder of millions of Chinese peasants by Genghis Khan, lately. Mass murderer. If you ask me, you and your murdering buddy could've at least buried them properly, instead of building a giant pile out of their heads like savages. What kind of a person are you?

Or should I wait until you're dead before I call you an accomplice to every crime you didn't know about, to make sure you can't correct me?

What? We are not talking about things that I or Rand didn't know about. Obviously it would be ridiculous to condemn someone for a lack of a position on something they are not aware.

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The problem here is that it would appear you have not seriously studied Objectivism.

Apologies if that is not the case, but that is the appearance that many of your posts give.

First. Lets try this exercise, it may seem silly to you but let's try it.

Define these things:

1) Rights

2) Proper role of government

3) Totalitarianism

It would be helpful if you describe the definition of these terms as you understand them, not just cut and pasting links to Wikipedia. In fact, you will probably find that your heavy reliance of Wikipedia in your arguments is regarded as somewhat discrediting to your arguments.

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