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The mistake you are making is to posit a dichotomy between self-interest and a free market. What everyone is trying to tell you in various different ways is that it is in NO ONE's self-interest to support legislation that initiates force in the markets. This is the Objectivist position (since you asked). The interests of rational individuals do not conflict.

You are approaching this from the standpoint of a situation where there must be winners and losers in the marketplace (and life generally) and everybody better just hope they can get a big enough gang together to get the government to make them the winners. Objectivism rejects this point of view.

I understand that at this point you probably won't accept this point of view but I'd hope you at least understand it better now. You must contend with the argument that it is in no rational person's self-interest to initiate force against their employer or anyone else.

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Okay, but we need to add a bit more context to this question to have an intelligible answer. First of all, in a truly emergency situation, one can be justified in violating property rights. For inst

Well yeah. Absolute does not mean without limit, for nothing in reality is limitless. And it doesn't mean "property rights are intrinsically good," for that would mean "good apart from human life." Ab

It is indeed not a literal contradiction to sacrifice others while refusing to sacrifice yourself, and that is not the correct reasoning to support the notion that we should not sacrifice others. The

Grames:

That was tried and didn't work. Look at my mining example. Class action lawsuits didn't improve safety, legislation did.

It was NOT tried, because the enabling laws that created the modern class action suit did not exist until the mid-1960's. The history of mine safety covered by your linked paper starts in the 1930's.

It is of course trivially easy for government regulation to drive any industry's accident rate to zero. All it needs to do is ban the industry outright. The Obama administration's ban on Gulf of Mexico deep-water oil drilling serves as an example. The moratorium on drilling permits ("permitorium") ensures Obama won't be blamed for any further accidents, which is all he cares about. This is the kind of regulation (not even legislation) which violates rights.

The paper you linked cited a statistic of a thirty percent drop in productivity measured in tonnage-per-worker as the consequence of the 1969 mining legislation. Since the mine owners did not lobby for this, and the unions did not lobby for this, it is interesting to ask just who's interest was served by this intervention? It looks like just another example of legislators looking to "do something" prompted by a disaster (in this case the 1968 Farmington mine disaster).

I would be interested to know by what constitutional legal theory the Federal government asserts its authority over mines, displacing the general police power of the States. The legislative history of the 1969 Coal Act has many interesting objections in the minority views.

The early adopters of the class action lawsuit have been advocacy groups where there was no already established legal framework to protect the interests of the plaintiffs. In other words, the existence of the unions and prior labor laws and mining regulations in the mining industry made class action suits impossible to pursue. If laws and regulations set the standard for best safety practices then the only way to make safety improvements is to change the laws and regulations. The class action suit has been a successful instrument in consumer product safety, environmentalism, and the civil-rights movement. In the absence of unions and labor laws there is no reason why the class action suit could not also be used to settle labor disputes.

The Advisory Committee that drafted the new Rule 23 in the mid-1960s was influenced by two major developments. First was the suggestion of Harry Kalven, Jr. and Maurice Rosenfeld in 1941 that class action litigation by individual shareholders on behalf of all shareholders of a company could effectively supplement direct government regulation of securities markets and other similar markets.[21] The second development was the rise of the African-American civil rights movement, environmentalism, and consumerism.[22] As expected, the groups behind these movements, as well as many others in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s all turned to class actions as a means for achieving their goals. For example, a 1978 environmental law treatise reprinted the entire text of Rule 23 and mentioned "class actions" 14 times in its index.[23]
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It's pretty clear that you have a subjectivist view of self-interest. Any desire I have constitutes my self-interest because I feel like it. So we can see the subjectivist theory then sets up perpetual conflicts of interests, and therefore I should form a pressure group to advance my interests via legislation at the expense of everyone else (for results see status quo.) If we take "desire" as the standard of self-interest, then my desire to not be robbed, and your desire to rob me, or my desire to not be a slave, and your desire to enslave me, must have equal moral validity. Then it's kill or be killed. But desires, emotions are products of value-judgments, so this is circular and thus invalid.

By contrast, rationality (you might say "utilitarian standard," if by that we mean an objective standard of moral value, i.e. by the facts of reality, discoverable by man's reason) is inseparable from self-interest. Rational thoughts and long-range principles, not some irreducible and unquestionable "desires," direct men to their self-interests. And since peaceful cooperation is mutually beneficial, therefore a man's self-interest can only be served by non-sacrificial relationships. It is rational self-interest, that Objectivism holds high, which means the values required for the advancement of human life and well-being, not desires, emotions, whims, without regard to their reason or justification. Please go back to square one at the beginning of the thread, because we tried to explain this to you already, especially #4, 9, 11, 12. This is all also covered extensively by Rand in The Virtue of Selfishness, in the first chapter, in the chapter called "Counterfeit Individualism," or even in the introduction. So I mean, why not read it and challenge your view with the idea that reason can apprehend the proper ends for human flourishing by examination of our nature, and that my flourishing doesn't subtract from your flourishing, since flourishing isn't a zero-sum game.

Edited by 2046
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The mistake you are making is to posit a dichotomy between self-interest and a free market. What everyone is trying to tell you in various different ways is that it is in NO ONE's self-interest to support legislation that initiates force in the markets. This is the Objectivist position (since you asked). The interests of rational individuals do not conflict.

You are approaching this from the standpoint of a situation where there must be winners and losers in the marketplace (and life generally) and everybody better just hope they can get a big enough gang together to get the government to make them the winners. Objectivism rejects this point of view.

I get that. I want to understand the reasoning why it rejects this view though.

Grames:

It was NOT tried, because the enabling laws that created the modern class action suit did not exist until the mid-1960's. The history of mine safety covered by your linked paper starts in the 1930's.

Okay, you have a point there. But then what alternative did mine workers have? Class action just wasn't an option for them period. A lot of libertarians look down on class action lawsuits anyway and see them as a form of state intervention.

Since the mine owners did not lobby for this, and the unions did not lobby for this, it is interesting to ask just who's interest was served by this intervention?

They didn't lobby against it either, the politicians did it because to win votes from miners. Why should an individual miner (who already had a secure union job) lobby against this legislation? Wages need not correlate with productivity; if workers become more expensive, then you just hire less (from outside the union) and concentrate training and mechanization on the current workforce. So wages didn't necessarily fall after regulation (data doesn't seem to be readily available unfortunately). Rather they probably kept going up in union shops as was the trend. Sure the rest of the coal industry gets trashed but it's still in the self interest of miners to organize and extract economic rents.

http://wvgazette.com/News/201105261234

www.wvpolicy.org/news_releases/NR101608.pdf

"Bad for society" does not mean "bad for unions or individual workers".

2046:

It's pretty clear that you have a subjectivist view of self-interest.

If by "subjectivist" you mean "acting in self interest means acting in your own interest", then yeah. But this pretty much the dictionary definition.

Expecting someone to hold values other than their own desires and greed is not promoting self interest and is usually considered collectivism or altruism. The problem is when Rand goes around promoting "self interest" when by the dictionary definition she actually advocates collectivism where individual desires are subverted for the sake of other values.

Rational thoughts and long-range principles, not some irreducible and unquestionable "desires," direct men to their self-interests. And since peaceful cooperation is mutually beneficial, therefore a man's self-interest can only be served by non-sacrificial relationships.

We're jumping from rational thoughts to judgements of what is and is not beneficial to individuals. The proof of this connection is what I'm curious about here.

And since peaceful cooperation is mutually beneficial, therefore a man's self-interest can only be served by non-sacrificial relationships.

This is an empirical question, not a purely philosophical one. Unless you can prove though logic alone that always and in every case this is true, which I haven't seen yet. In fact the mining example hullabaloo we're talking about disproves that a man cannot advance their interest at others expense. Using the dictionary definition of self-interest, not yours.

Post #4 doesn't posit an argument other than directing to other material. #9 makes a concession and establishes that the non-predation rule shouldn't hold all the time. #11 makes more arguments requiring empirical verification. #12 states that Objectivist values are contextually absolute but doesn't provide a method for determining appropriate context. None of them equate dictionary definition self interest with the particular definition of rational self interest that Ayn Rand came up with.

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Grames:

Okay, you have a point there. But then what alternative did mine workers have? Class action just wasn't an option for them period. A lot of libertarians look down on class action lawsuits anyway and see them as a form of state intervention.

They did not have a choice, which is how we got to the present situation. The future can be better, however. Your comment on libertarians is correct, but Objectivism is against statism not the state.

They didn't lobby against it either, the politicians did it because to win votes from miners. Why should an individual miner (who already had a secure union job) lobby against this legislation?

From the wiki article on the Bituminous Coal Strike of 1974 "Employer contributions to UMWA's health and pension plans were dependent on the amount of coal mined."

... it's still in the self interest of miners to organize and extract economic rents.

http://wvgazette.com/News/201105261234

www.wvpolicy.org/news_releases/NR101608.pdf

"Bad for society" does not mean "bad for unions or individual workers".

Unions are not necessarily bad, the strike is necessarily bad. It can be in the interest of miners to organize in defense of their justifiable rights, but extracting rents by threat of force in a strike is not a defensible right even though it is currently permitted by law. Lying, cheating and stealing can all be advantageous in the short term but arguments against resorting to these tactics as a lifestyle are primarily moral arguments that rely on principled thinking and only secondarily practical arguments about the long term consequences.

A “right” is a moral principle defining and sanctioning a man’s freedom of action in a social context. There are other moral principles describing what are the better actions to take as an individual, and those are logically prior to the introduction of the social context.

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From the wiki article on the Bituminous Coal Strike of 1974 "Employer contributions to UMWA's health and pension plans were dependent on the amount of coal mined."

Okay, you may or may not have a point there. 1974 is well after the mine safety study in question. But I don't feel like looking up whatever mine worker salaries were in the 1950s after regulation. So I'll give you that one.

Now assuming that there is no example anywhere in history of a union strike serving the self interest of anyone ever, you still haven't articulated to me how liberal politicians act against their self interest by promoting statist policies to get themselves elected. Let's take Obama. What if he suddenly converted to Objectivism in 2008 and became a pariah to the electorate? That wouldn't serve his self interest at all.

It's interesting that you're okay with unions, because I don't think Rand had a very favorable view of them. Unions and strikes (or work slowdowns, injunctions and related tactics) generally go together. You can't really have one without the other because a union unable to strike or reduce labor output is toothless and of no use to its members. Sure, there are unions which help train workers but unionization is generally associated with labor activism.

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2046:

If by "subjectivist" you mean "acting in self interest means acting in your own interest", then yeah. But this pretty much the dictionary definition.

Expecting someone to hold values other than their own desires and greed is not promoting self interest and is usually considered collectivism or altruism. The problem is when Rand goes around promoting "self interest" when by the dictionary definition she actually advocates collectivism where individual desires are subverted for the sake of other values.

We're jumping from rational thoughts to judgements of what is and is not beneficial to individuals. The proof of this connection is what I'm curious about here.

That self-interest means acting in your own interest is tautological. Simply saying "we uphold self-interest" only refers to the ethical question of "the proper beneficiary of the agent's actions." It does not specify the content of self-interest. Whether it is subjectivist or not refers to the standard of value determining what exactly is in one's own interests (and further to how that standard of value is apprehended.) Don't you see the unexamined assumption about the standard of moral value that you have packed into that statement? "Acting in my self-interest means acting in my own interest. What is in my interest is whatever I feel like. Therefore my self-interest is whatever I feel like." Unless you address the issue of the objectivity of values (and how they are apprehended by man), what you are doing is just argument from repetition, playing with words.

But can one party gain more by the initiation of force?

Of course! No one denied that under any kind of economic interventionism there is always one specific individual or group that benefits at the expense of another individual or group. That is part and parcel of any mixed economy, affected in any act of government intervention, and part of the moral refutation of interventionism. The point here, is that "to prefer more over less" is an invalid definition of "self-interest" (no, the dictionary, nor whatever is "usually considered" is not the standard of truth) that rational egoism rejects. The question is whether or not looting and parasitism is actually in your self-interest. To attempt to validate predation and exploitation with the subjectivist response of "because the looter feels like it, therefore it's in his self-interest" would be an abandonment of reason. Emotions are not tools of cognition, and are not valid criterion for what is actually in your rational self-interest.

That's kind of the whole point here. So when you ask what is the connection between "rational thoughts" and "what is and is not beneficial to individuals" I can only throw my hands up in the air. The entire point of the Objectivist ethics is precisely that man's reason can apprehend what is and is not beneficial by examination of man's nature and the world. This is why we keep directing you to go read the material, because clarifying specific points (such as the need for long-range principles, the need for integrity, consistency, etc.) if you haven't understood the fundamental point (that moral values are objective), or even bothered to read the relevant material before debating on it (that's just rude), is futile. Don't you think it's kind of pointless to continue unless we address whether self-interest is determined by irreducible desires, or whether there can be a rationally derived objective ethics?

This is an empirical question, not a purely philosophical one. Unless you can prove though logic alone that always and in every case this is true, which I haven't seen yet. In fact the mining example hullabaloo we're talking about disproves that a man cannot advance their interest at others expense. Using the dictionary definition of self-interest, not yours.

Post #4 doesn't posit an argument other than directing to other material. #9 makes a concession and establishes that the non-predation rule shouldn't hold all the time. #11 makes more arguments requiring empirical verification. #12 states that Objectivist values are contextually absolute but doesn't provide a method for determining appropriate context. None of them equate dictionary definition self interest with the particular definition of rational self interest that Ayn Rand came up with.

Determining whether or not something is good or bad for you, what is best for you and how to achieve it, is largely a matter of "empirical verification." How do I know eating this piece of bread is good or bad for me? How do I know that eating some cyanide is good or bad for me? That requires some biological investigation to have been done. How do I know the psychological effects being honest or dishonest on my mental health? That requires some psychological knowledge. There is no a priori "pure reason" for telling you about the relationship of some aspect of reality to your survival and happiness. The logic involved is that since, for instance, the meaning of "cyanide" includes "something that will kill me," (and I choose to live) then it follows that cyanide is bad for me, and thus that I shouldn't ingest it.

Not having automatic knowledge of his proper ends, or of the means by which they can be achieved, we must learn them. And to learn them we must exercise our powers of observation, abstraction, thought, i.e. "empirical verification" you might call it, or just "reason."

Edited by 2046
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Now assuming that there is no example anywhere in history of a union strike serving the self interest of anyone ever, you still haven't articulated to me how liberal politicians act against their self interest by promoting statist policies to get themselves elected. Let's take Obama. What if he suddenly converted to Objectivism in 2008 and became a pariah to the electorate? That wouldn't serve his self interest at all.

Actually, I have articulated that. The reasoning is no different from the case of the miners themselves. I wrote "Lying, cheating and stealing can all be advantageous in the short term but arguments against resorting to these tactics as a lifestyle are primarily moral arguments that rely on principled thinking and only secondarily practical arguments about the long term consequences."

Oh wait, I guess you want the actual arguments? Those are best presented by Ayn Rand herself: Philosophy: Who Needs It?, The Objectivist Ethics, Man's Rights.

a union unable to strike or reduce labor output is toothless and of no use to its members.
True that has been the case. Recognition of a legal entity able to gain standing to sue on behalf of its members would solve that problem.
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Oh wait, I guess you want the actual arguments?

Few of Rand's key arguments are logical. That's why I'm wondering if this forum can provide stronger ones.

Actually, I have articulated that.

And I presented evidence against that; my sources in the last post with links show that unions raise wages and improve working conditions in the mines that have them.

Again please prove that liberal politicians are always acting against their self interest by promoting liberal policies.

2046:

Not having automatic knowledge of his proper ends, or of the means by which they can be achieved, we must learn them. And to learn them we must exercise our powers of observation, abstraction, thought, i.e. "empirical verification" you might call it, or just "reason."

See my last post with information on how unions raised wages. Again, you didn't address my point on liberal politicians.

Here are those links on union benefits:

http://wvgazette.com/News/201105261234

www.wvpolicy.org/news_releases/NR101608.pdf

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Again please prove that liberal politicians are always acting against their self interest by promoting liberal policies.

No thanks. Ayn Rand gave great principled arguments grounding what ought to be commonsense values. You are too focused on the short term shiny as the epitome of what 'self interest' refers to. Your understanding of self interest is simply wrong.

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The objectivist view of true self-interest follows this line:

I am a rational animal, master of my life-project.

A self-interested action is that which allows me to continue being what I am: a rational animal, owner of my life project.

The subjectivist view of self-interest follows this line:

I am a whimsical animal, mastered by obscure forces.

A self-interested action allows me to continue being what I am: a whimsical animal mastered by obscure forces.

However, since whims come and go unpredicted, and obscure forces are... well... obscure, I can never determine if any particular action is in my self interest or not.

So, I cannot determine the morality of any of my actions. Therefore, ethics is bullshit.

Edited by Hotu Matua
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2046:

See my last post with information on how unions raised wages. Again, you didn't address my point on liberal politicians.

Here are those links on union benefits:

http://wvgazette.com/News/201105261234

www.wvpolicy.org/news_releases/NR101608.pdf

I'm trying to address your point about anti-liberal politicians by addressing your idea of self-interest, because that is at the root of why you think what they do is rationally self-interested. If your idea of self-interest is wrong, it follows that your belief that self-interest entails any given pressure group's attempts at gaining unearned benefits at the expense of others (victims) is also wrong. Then, once you see the generalization of what self-interest is according to rational egoism, then you can deduce it out onto the specifics of the pro-union legislation or whatever. Follow me there?

So in rational self-interest, we aren't looking at two seconds ago like "Gee did I get more monies now than I had before? I did! Yay, I'm being self-interested!" We are looking at the long-run: examining our long-range goals, and adjusting our present action to be in alignment with the long-range effects of our actions. And so when we ask ourselves "How do we act in accordance with our rational self-interest?" we answer that this requires man to act in accordance with his nature, that that means we must acquire knowledge by means of reason, that to be selfish is to be rational, and that reason does not function merely by the range of the moment without integrating the wider context and the long-range effects of actions and character over a whole lifetime. That these broad abstractions can be summed up in generalizations called "principles" and applied to specific circumstances to ensure we are in alignment with long-range success. Among them, we see that we need to abide by the principles of rationality, honesty, integrity, productiveness, independence, justice, and we need a certain level of moral ambitiousness.

Follow me there? That rational self-interest requires long-range functioning as opposed to being bound by the range of the moment should hardly be disputed, I hope. Man's mind does not work by considering, in every decision, all aspects of the present situation from scratch. We induce generalizations, and deduce from them applications to specific situations. So you can see that it is not true that "whatever you happen to desire" is the standard of your rational self-interest.

So why should not some workers somewhere insist on lobbying the government to initiate force on their employer for more money?

Let us apply the above to this question. So we see that rationality is a prime virtue, as above, we are using it as the means to know what we should do. We are treating things as they deserve to be treated. Dogs are treated as dogs, cats are treated as cats, cars are treated as cars, jet airplanes are treated as jet airplanes, etc. Similarly, when we interact with other persons, we recognize that they are moral agents like us, that they can be a potential value or a potential threat, and that if we want the former, we must treat them with the same "moral space" that we ourselves require. And we recognize that if we don't, we have no logical grounds to demand the same from them. So the social morality of justice comes into play, which demands according to others what they earn, what is theirs by right, for the same reason that I demand to be accorded what I earn, what is mine by right.

We see that physical force is destruction, that violence and aggression from other people prevents us from choosing our values and acting accordingly, that we must be able to be free to choose them and act on our judgment as a precondition to being moral, and so we recognize that the initiation of physical force is anti-mind, anti-choice, anti-independent-action, and therefore is evil. We see that we need to be free to choose what is in our self-interest, and that if we have that freedom, rationality requires us to recognize that other persons have that same moral right to be free, on the same grounds. Thus we see that rationality, which is our prime virtue, requires us to identify other human beings' nature, identify that they are similar to you and therefore require the same freedom.

We see that to claim a contradiction in this is to become a hypocrite, to demanding to survive by irrationality, dishonesty, hypocrisy and inconsistency, unproductiveness, parasitism and dependency, injustice, and moral cowardice ("You have to produce, but I don't have to. You have to use reason to deal with reality, but I don't have to. You have to respect my space, but I don't have to respect yours." etc.) We are demanding to survive like the animals do, instead of recognizing our own means of survival, and thus we announce to all those other human beings around us "This is how I am. This is how I will treat you. I am an animal, and you are my prey." So we can see that if we abandon the virtues that enable our own successful life as a human, we are undermining ourselves and putting ourselves in danger; both from internal corruption and external retaliation.

So why does the rational employee not lobby the government to force his boss to pay him more than he could earn on the unhampered market? Because he recognizes that he does not own the property of others, that he does not own the life of others, that others do not owe him a living, and therefore he does not demand the unearned at gunpoint from other men. Because he recognizes the laws of economics, and that ultimately what his employer pays him is not arbitrary, to be increased only by sticking a gun to the employer's head and coercing him against his reason, but ultimately his wages are decided by his marginal productivity in accordance with the law of supply and demand.

He knows that the value of his production is judged by the consumers he is serving, and that they ultimately decided the height of his wage rates by buying or abstaining from buying his product. He knows that if he demands a higher wage rate than the unhampered market would have fixed, this can only be had by throwing other workers out of employment, and thus lowering overall productivity and standards of living by creating permanent, mass unemployment, and that much less to buy his own product with. He knows that what makes wages rise is the progressive accumulation of capital, not legally fixed wage floors, and that increasing costs for his employer hampers the accumulation of new capital.

Personally, he does not demand the illogical or the contradictory because knows that to corrupt his own internal functioning is to undermine his own means for achieving his rational self-interest. Further, he knows that he can't claim "rights" to anything, once he denies it to others. He knows that if he claims his desires as primary, justice as meaningless to him, and decides to loot his employer, he hardly has grounds to complain when his employer happens to have more political pull and loots him. He knows that the individual interventionist who grants power to the government to extort unearned benefits in favor or some group at the expense of other groups can never imagine that his (the individual interventionist's) plans might not be the only ones realized. Government power is great only because it is expected to do exclusively what the individual advocate of interventionism wants to be achieved. But he knows the interventionist is short-sighted in that he fails to imagine that there are other groups with more money, power, and influence than his labor union, and that the kinds of extortion which the government will enact might not be the ones he, the individual interventionist, wanted it to enact. He knows the interventionist can't complain when Koch Industries or some Republican governor thwart his plans, "gut the middle-class in favor of the wealthy" and do all the things that his Democrat leaders rant and rave about, and that he can't complain when the corporate state points the guns of aggression at him because he granted to government that very power.

And thus, we come to the conclusion that only rational and objective ethics, based on individual rights and discovered through reason, is the guarantor of freedom and the elimination of conflicts. The mixed-economy ethics, by contrast, are a barrage of clashing interests that demands you quickly loot or be looted, pander to win or be independent and loose, grab the cash or get grabbed, stick it to the other guy or get stuck, take the money and get out quick kind of world. What are the results of this kind of system (hint, they're all around you)? Which one is proper to the life of a rational being who must survive by being free to think, to value, to choose, to act on his own independent judgment, and which is destructive to these ends?

Edited by 2046
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No thanks. Ayn Rand gave great principled arguments grounding what ought to be commonsense values. You are too focused on the short term shiny as the epitome of what 'self interest' refers to. Your understanding of self interest is simply wrong.

"I'm right, you're wrong"? Gotcha.

2046: Thank you for the detailed and well thought out response.

I'm trying to address your point about anti-liberal politicians by addressing your idea of self-interest, because that is at the root of why you think what they do is rationally self-interested. If your idea of self-interest is wrong, it follows that your belief that self-interest entails any given pressure group's attempts at gaining unearned benefits at the expense of others (victims) is also wrong. Then, once you see the generalization of what self-interest is according to rational egoism, then you can deduce it out onto the specifics of the pro-union legislation or whatever. Follow me there?

Okay, let's see the proof.

So in rational self-interest, we aren't looking at two seconds ago like "Gee did I get more monies now than I had before? I did! Yay, I'm being self-interested!" We are looking at the long-run: examining our long-range goals, and adjusting our present action to be in alignment with the long-range effects of our actions. And so when we ask ourselves "How do we act in accordance with our rational self-interest?" we answer that this requires man to act in accordance with his nature, that that means we must acquire knowledge by means of reason, that to be selfish is to be rational, and that reason does not function merely by the range of the moment without integrating the wider context and the long-range effects of actions and character over a whole lifetime. That these broad abstractions can be summed up in generalizations called "principles" and applied to specific circumstances to ensure we are in alignment with long-range success. Among them, we see that we need to abide by the principles of rationality, honesty, integrity, productiveness, independence, justice, and we need a certain level of moral ambitiousness.

Follow me there? That rational self-interest requires long-range functioning as opposed to being bound by the range of the moment should hardly be disputed, I hope. Man's mind does not work by considering, in every decision, all aspects of the present situation from scratch. We induce generalizations, and deduce from them applications to specific situations. So you can see that it is not true that "whatever you happen to desire" is the standard of your rational self-interest.

I think you're assuming the original point here.

How do you go from:

>That these broad abstractions can be summed up in generalizations called "principles" and applied to specific circumstances to ensure we are in alignment with long-range success.

to:

>Among them, we see that we need to abide by the principles of rationality, honesty, integrity, productiveness, independence, justice, and we need a certain level of moral ambitiousness.

Why do "we see that we need to abide by" X, Y, and Z? I get reason; the rest not so much.

Generalizations are only helpful when there are no more precise ways of making judgements in a given situation. However to say that "unions are never in anyone's interest" or "you should never be a liberal to get elected" is an overgeneralization for the aforementioned reasons given in my evidence. You could say rationality is generally a helpful thing; but if you want to develop a philosophy for survival you require no values other than selfishness and rationality, not all the other jazz. It is still an unhelpful overgeneralization to say justice, honesty, etc., always serve your self interest all the time. What sort of benefit would a worker or liberal politician or whatever examples I've been presenting get out of sacrificing the benefits they get from organizing/electioneering/etc and being a good Objectivist instead. Name something, anything, that would make this worthwhile for them.

But you do partially address this next.

So why should not some workers somewhere insist on lobbying the government to initiate force on their employer for more money?

Let us apply the above to this question. So we see that rationality is a prime virtue, as above, we are using it as the means to know what we should do. We are treating things as they deserve to be treated. Dogs are treated as dogs, cats are treated as cats, cars are treated as cars, jet airplanes are treated as jet airplanes, etc. Similarly, when we interact with other persons, we recognize that they are moral agents like us, that they can be a potential value or a potential threat, and that if we want the former, we must treat them with the same "moral space" that we ourselves require. And we recognize that if we don't, we have no logical grounds to demand the same from them.

Manipulating others to serve your self interest is immoral, but does not necessarily reduce your chance of survival or happiness. Define what you mean by "having no logical grounds to demand the same from them".

So the social morality of justice comes into play, which demands according to others what they earn, what is theirs by right, for the same reason that I demand to be accorded what I earn, what is mine by right.

If that is how you define rights that will work. It doesn't prove that it is in your self interest to respect other's rights. But looks like you're getting to that.

We see that physical force is destruction, that violence and aggression from other people prevents us from choosing our values and acting accordingly,

Not to nitpick, but I assume you mean "first use of violence against others". Because I think you're allowed to use violence to defend yourself in Oism. Anyway the statement:

"that violence and aggression from other people prevents us from choosing our values and acting accordingly"

applies to Oism as well as subjectivism. By following objectivist values you are also restricted in choosing your values by what you define as "reason" as applied to the case of value formation, or according to the prescriptions of Oism.

that we must be able to be free to choose them and act on our judgment as a precondition to being moral,

Okay, that can work semantically.

and so we recognize that the initiation of physical force is anti-mind, anti-choice, anti-independent-action, and therefore is evil.

This point was not adequately established as far as I can tell. Restricting yourself from initiating physical force limits your own room for independent action and choice. I'm not quite up to speed on my formal Randian definitions, so unless "anti-mind" means something in particular I'll just leave it alone. Also, you didn't define "evil" yet so it looks like you're creating a new definition rather than proving a link between two established ones.

We see that we need to be free to choose what is in our self-interest, and that if we have that freedom, rationality requires us to recognize that other persons have that same moral right to be free, on the same grounds. Thus we see that rationality, which is our prime virtue, requires us to identify other human beings' nature, identify that they are similar to you and therefore require the same freedom.

This seems mostly a summary of previous points that remain unproven. Rationality does not "require us" to do anything.

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

>In philosophy, rationality is the exercise of reason. It is the manner in which people derive conclusions when considering things deliberately. It also refers to the conformity of one's beliefs with one's reasons for belief, or with one's actions with one's reasons for action.

You can base a philosophy entirely on egoistic sociopathy or selfless altruism and, although both could be made logically consistent, the fact that they are logically consistent does not "require" anyone to do anything.

We see that to claim a contradiction in this is to become a hypocrite, to demanding to survive by irrationality, dishonesty, hypocrisy and inconsistency, unproductiveness, parasitism and dependency, injustice, and moral cowardice ("You have to produce, but I don't have to. You have to use reason to deal with reality, but I don't have to. You have to respect my space, but I don't have to respect yours." etc.) We are demanding to survive like the animals do, instead of recognizing our own means of survival, and thus we announce to all those other human beings around us "This is how I am. This is how I will treat you. I am an animal, and you are my prey." So we can see that if we abandon the virtues that enable our own successful life as a human, we are undermining ourselves and putting ourselves in danger; both from internal corruption and external retaliation.

Actually, if you're successfully dishonest your intentions will never be announced. Alternatively, if you have sufficient power over the other person they won't be able to respond to your aggression and their perception of your character would be irrelevant. The statement you make here is an unsupported assertion or a hypothesis, not a theorem.

So why does the rational employee not lobby the government to force his boss to pay him more than he could earn on the unhampered market? Because he recognizes that he does not own the property of others, that he does not own the life of others, that others do not owe him a living, and therefore he does not demand the unearned at gunpoint from other men. Because he recognizes the laws of economics, and that ultimately what his employer pays him is not arbitrary, to be increased only by sticking a gun to the employer's head and coercing him against his reason, but ultimately his wages are decided by his marginal productivity in accordance with the law of supply and demand.

Not true. The whole point of my sources was to prove otherwise. Theoretical laws of economics are not the same thing as economic reality.

He knows that the value of his production is judged by the consumers he is serving, and that they ultimately decided the height of his wage rates by buying or abstaining from buying his product. He knows that if he demands a higher wage rate than the unhampered market would have fixed, this can only be had by throwing other workers out of employment, and thus lowering overall productivity and standards of living by creating permanent, mass unemployment, and that much less to buy his own product with. He knows that what makes wages rise is the progressive accumulation of capital, not legally fixed wage floors, and that increasing costs for his employer hampers the accumulation of new capital.

This isn't true even in theory. There are countless different factors that influence wages besides accumulation of capital, like relative market power, the unemployment rate, and shifts in consumer demand. Most importantly, as my sources show, unions may induce economic inefficiency while still raising their own wages, benefits and job security at little cost to themselves.

Personally, he does not demand the illogical or the contradictory because knows that to corrupt his own internal functioning is to undermine his own means for achieving his rational self-interest. Further, he knows that he can't claim "rights" to anything, once he denies it to others. He knows that if he claims his desires as primary, justice as meaningless to him, and decides to loot his employer, he hardly has grounds to complain when his employer happens to have more political pull and loots him. He knows that the individual interventionist who grants power to the government to extort unearned benefits in favor or some group at the expense of other groups can never imagine that his (the individual interventionist's) plans might not be the only ones realized. Government power is great only because it is expected to do exclusively what the individual advocate of interventionism wants to be achieved. But he knows the interventionist is short-sighted in that he fails to imagine that there are other groups with more money, power, and influence than his labor union, and that the kinds of extortion which the government will enact might not be the ones he, the individual interventionist, wanted it to enact. He knows the interventionist can't complain when Koch Industries or some Republican governor thwart his plans, "gut the middle-class in favor of the wealthy" and do all the things that his Democrat leaders rant and rave about, and that he can't complain when the corporate state points the guns of aggression at him because he granted to government that very power.

He can't complain. But that will almost certainly never, ever happen. Please cite concrete examples in history or web links to news articles rather than develop hypothetical scenarios.

And thus, we come to the conclusion that only rational and objective ethics, based on individual rights and discovered through reason, is the guarantor of freedom and the elimination of conflicts. The mixed-economy ethics, by contrast, are a barrage of clashing interests that demands you quickly loot or be looted, pander to win or be independent and loose, grab the cash or get grabbed, stick it to the other guy or get stuck, take the money and get out quick kind of world. What are the results of this kind of system (hint, they're all around you)? Which one is proper to the life of a rational being who must survive by being free to think, to value, to choose, to act on his own independent judgment, and which is destructive to these ends?

I've noted several concrete examples of alternate conflict resolution models (eg unions). Also, you did not prove that there are no conflicts of interest in a free market. Otherwise unions would be quite unsuccessful in raising wages for their members, when in reality they tend to raise the wages of their members a lot- and provide numerous other benefits to their members which the costs of having the union don't come close to matching. Even if this is only true in one case for one union ever I fear it would bring down your entire argument.

Which one is proper to the life of a rational being who must survive by being free to think, to value, to choose, to act on his own independent judgment, and which is destructive to these ends? The individual would properly be free to unionize when it serves his self interest and would have no self-imposed restriction on resisting state policies that serve his own interests.

If you feel like we're just going in circles I understand. But I would still like to keep debating. Thanks for your time.

Edited by mustang19
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I haven't been following the thread recently, but I saw two points that can easily be addressed.

Alternatively, if you have sufficient power over the other person they won't be able to respond to your aggression and their perception of your character would be irrelevant.

That's true of the short-term, but what about the long-term? What will you get that's more beneficial than letting the person make a choice on their own? Is there nothing to gain by not using force?

Most importantly, as my sources show, unions may induce economic inefficiency while still raising their own wages, benefits and job security at little cost to themselves.

How is that beneficial? Doesn't economic inefficiency hurt a lot more than some temporary benefits? Economic inefficiency won't allow for those benefits to last.

We're not merely speaking of benefit, we're speaking of the *most* benefit. You will get more out of people if they are free to act and choose as they wish. It's really the essence of why rights are properly egoistic. An egoist not only would want *some* benefit from a person, but as much as possible.

Edited by Eiuol
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No thanks. Ayn Rand gave great principled arguments grounding what ought to be commonsense values. You are too focused on the short term shiny as the epitome of what 'self interest' refers to. Your understanding of self interest is simply wrong.

"I'm right, you're wrong"? Gotcha.

A great principled argument from Ayn Rand: Selfishness (from the Lexicon)

The evil of a robber does not lie in the fact that he pursues his own interests, but in what he regards as to his own interest; not in the fact that he pursues his values, but in what he chose to value; not in the fact that he wants to live, but in the fact that he wants to live on a subhuman level

A robber IS pursuing his own interests but it is not his selfishness that is evil. It the sacrafice of other men's interests that is evil.

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A robber IS pursuing his own interests but it is not his selfishness that is evil. It the sacrafice of other men's interests that is evil.

So he is acting in his self interest, but that is evil? Does Objectivism advocate evil?

That's true of the short-term, but what about the long-term? What will you get that's more beneficial than letting the person make a choice on

their own?

Money.

Is there nothing to gain by not using force?

Maybe.

How is that beneficial? Doesn't economic inefficiency hurt a lot more than some temporary benefits? Economic inefficiency won't allow for those benefits to last.

No. This isn't an argument. This is an unsupported assertion. I've provided evidence that unions raise wages/safety in West Virginia. No one else has provided counter evidence. It's just been a whole lot of "A follows B, B follows C, therefore A follows pancakes".

We're not merely speaking of benefit, we're speaking of the *most* benefit. You will get more out of people if they are free to act and choose as they wish. It's really the essence of why rights are properly egoistic. An egoist not only would want *some* benefit from a person, but as much as possible.

I agree. Now argue that unions and state intervention will always hurt every individual in all possible situations. Because this is the kind of extreme position that Objectivism pushes.

Edited by mustang19
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A robber IS pursuing his own interests but it is not his selfishness that is evil. It the sacrafice of other men's interests that is evil.

So he is acting in his self interest, but that is evil? Does Objectivism advocate evil?

Does Objectivism advocate robbery? You know the answer. Selfishness is a morally neutral concept. It becomes a virtue when you pursue your own interests without human sacrafices. The best way to articulate the Objectivist position is: "The pursuit of your own interest requires NO human sacrafices." This is what Objectivists call RATIONAL self interest or RATIONAL selfishness.

I agree. Now argue that unions and state intervention will always hurt every individual in all possible situations. Because this is the kind of extreme position that Objectivism pushes.

I agree this would be an extreme position to take (I'm not certain this description of your opponents position is accurate but never mind). It isn't necessary. The sacrafice of person A to person B is always immoral regardless of the benefit person B realizes. If a union acts or the state intervenes and violates the rights of just one or some, that qualifies as unjust. The number of victims and beneficiaries is not relevent. Only the fact that there is even just a single victim.

Potentially, there is harm to be realized by the beneficiaries as a result of such a sacrafice but that is secondary to the direct harm to the rights violated.

Conclusion: It's moral to pusue your own interest. It is evil to sacrafice others to yourself. Pursue your values without violating rights.

Edited by Craig24
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My question is, if I have to steal bread to survive, should I instead starve to death to respect someone else's property? I don't care about the practical likelihood of this scenario. This is purely hypothetical and I'm looking for a yes or no answer.

Context is very important in Objectivism.

What does a man need to survive? Food is to keep the body alive. Property rights, virtue, morality are to keep the mind alive. Either choice is a sacrifice: body without mind/mind without body. Which sacrifice is greater would depend on the individual, and whether he could see any possible chance for a future where his body and mind could both survive. Retaliation is the logical outcome of theft, you put yourself in danger by stealing.

How are politicians acting against their self-interest by voting for statist policies in order to get re-elected?

The statist would be catering to parasites and looters, and treating man as though he is incapable of thinking for himself. Is it impossible for a politician to gain a sense of self respect or discerning power to weigh the consequences of his actions on all of the people he loves or values.

A major factor of Objectivism is hero worship. The bodies of Homosapiens have survived for 200,000 years, but Aristotle was the first “Rational Man”, “Rational” Self-interest is what Objectivism advocates. If one is to live as a “Rational Man” one must understand what conditions are necessary for a “Rational Man” to live.

The first question to ask is “Does man need a rational set of values to live by?” Your answer seems to be no.

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Context is very important in Objectivism.

What does a man need to survive? Food is to keep the body alive. Property rights, virtue, morality are to keep the mind alive. Either choice is a sacrifice: body without mind/mind without body. Which sacrifice is greater would depend on the individual, and whether he could see any possible chance for a future where his body and mind could both survive. Retaliation is the logical outcome of theft, you put yourself in danger by stealing.

No. Retaliation does not always happen. This is argument by assertion.

The statist would be catering to parasites and looters, and treating man as though he is incapable of thinking for himself. Is it impossible for a politician to gain a sense of self respect or discerning power to weigh the consequences of his actions on all of the people he loves or values.

Assertions. Please apply this to a tangible case. And prove that this case is generalizable. Obama doesn't seem to be doing that badly for himself by getting elected president. How would he be better off suddenly adopting an Objectivist political position? Most likely this would accomplish little for him and would go against his chosen values as a Democrat.

The first question to ask is “Does man need a rational set of values to live by?” Your answer seems to be no.

The understanding of self interest Objectivists put forth, though, isn't logically coherent (eg the West Virginia union examples I keep bringing up, with no one here being able to say concretely how the unions aren't in the worker's self interest).

Edited by mustang19
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It is hard to take seriously a person who pulls lies out of his ass.

Sorry. I edited that out. What specifically, though, did I lie about?

I know my understanding of Objectivism isn't very good, but as forward as I am sometimes, O'ism interests me for various reasons and I'd be curious to know if I am just totally off base as to what the philosophy essentially is.

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  • 2 weeks later...

No. Retaliation does not always happen. This is argument by assertion.

Yes retaliation does always happen, maybe not immediately or directly to the perpetrator, but a conscientious man will stop working for the possessions that are going to be stolen any way, he will move away from crime infested areas, he will loose the enthusiasm necessary to maintain the business that is strangled by irrational demands made by those who do not know how to create their own business. And the parasites will be left with nothing more to feed upon.

The greatest mind will seek a place where he will not be stepped on, he will receive a greater return on his investment with a man who is his equal.

An Objectivist neither sacrifices himself nor accepts the sacrifice of others. Does a dictator behave in an individual way when he oppresses others? No, he depends on others to be there for him to oppress. A collectivist thinks in terms of using others an individual does not.

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Yes retaliation does always happen, maybe not immediately or directly to the perpetrator, but a conscientious man will stop working for the possessions that are going to be stolen any way, he will move away from crime infested areas, he will loose the enthusiasm necessary to maintain the business that is strangled by irrational demands made by those who do not know how to create their own business. And the parasites will be left with nothing more to feed upon.

Okay. You've posited this already. You've presented an argument as to why it might in some particular cases but not necessarily all cases be true. Now apply it to the example I keep bringing up (unions in WV).

a conscientious man will stop working for the possessions that are going to be stolen any way, he will move away from crime infested areas, he will loose the enthusiasm necessary to maintain the business that is strangled by irrational demands made by those who do not know how to create their own business.

Assertion, slippery slope. The unions/government/whatever will rarely tax these productive people that much to the point where they refuse to work or significantly reduce work effort.

How do you prove that always in every case "the parasites will be left with nothing more to feed upon"? Plenty of people have received raises or benefits thanks to unions or welfare policies for a great part of their lives until death. How would fighting to scrap these programs or institutions be in their self interest? How is voting to repeal Social Security in the self-interest of my grandma when she has negligible taxable income? I understand she may have payed into it earlier in life, even if not as much as she'll be taking out, but at this point it makes no sense for her to want to end the sinister collectivist coercive institution of Social Security.

The greatest mind will seek a place where he will not be stepped on, he will receive a greater return on his investment with a man who is his equal.

Not necessarily. If Grandma can collect social security without paying anything she'll probably go for it and wouldn't see a reason to vote against it.

A collectivist thinks in terms of using others an individual does not.

Well, not according to the dictionary definition but I understand your use of prose. That's not what I'm asking about though.

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Okay. You've posited this already. You've presented an argument as to why it might in some particular cases but not necessarily all cases be true. Now apply it to the example I keep bringing up (unions in WV).

If businesses weren't being strangled there would be plenty of competing companies offering jobs for the worker to choose, the company would have to raise wages in order to provide incentive for workers to stay.

Assertion, slippery slope. The unions/government/whatever will rarely tax these productive people that much to the point where they refuse to work or significantly reduce work effort.

Unions/governments have taxed the life out of people all through history. The Declaration of Independence established the first government that limited how much of their hand they could put in the pie. (At least they used to) And it began the greatest influx of new wealth, ideas, and technology history had ever seen.

How do you prove that always in every case "the parasites will be left with nothing more to feed upon"? Plenty of people have received raises or benefits thanks to unions or welfare policies for a great part of their lives until death. How would fighting to scrap these programs or institutions be in their self interest?

I don't know how anything can be in the self interest of someone who is dead.

Being a parasite takes money out of the gross national product, working productively adds money to the gross national product. The value of money is based on the productivity of the country. Being a parasite makes each dollar worth less, being productive makes each dollar worth more.

Safety net programs don't necessarily need to be scrapped, they just need to be voluntary. How would it be in the self interest of someone who will never need social security to pay into it?

How is voting to repeal Social Security in the self-interest of my grandma when she has negligible taxable income? I understand she may have payed into it earlier in life, even if not as much as she'll be taking out, but at this point it makes no sense for her to want to end the sinister collectivist coercive institution of Social Security.

If Grandma would have been inspired to live a life of productive self sufficiency she would not need government pittance, which is usually inadequate.

Not necessarily. If Grandma can collect social security without paying anything she'll probably go for it and wouldn't see a reason to vote against it.

Not all Grandmas, some Grandmas have a clearly defined sense of self respect.

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If businesses weren't being strangled there would be plenty of competing companies offering jobs for the worker to choose, the company would have to raise wages in order to provide incentive for workers to stay.

Unsupported assertion. Additionally, you're thinking in terms of society rather than whether or not an individual worker should oppose unions. If unions are choking the economy to the point where they reduce worker's wages in WV (which no one here has provided proof of) that doesn't necessarily mean an individual worker should oppose a strike for higher wages for themselves.

Unions/governments have taxed the life out of people all through history. The Declaration of Independence established the first government that limited how much of their hand they could put in the pie. (At least they used to) And it began the greatest influx of new wealth, ideas, and technology history had ever seen.

Okay. Now prove that all unions and statist policies everywhere in history never serve anyone's interest.

To clarify, every time I say unions I mean "unions that strike and do things that O'ists don't like".

I don't know how anything can be in the self interest of someone who is dead.

Being a parasite takes money out of the gross national product, working productively adds money to the gross national product. The value of money is based on the productivity of the country. Being a parasite makes each dollar worth less, being productive makes each dollar worth more.

Safety net programs don't necessarily need to be scrapped, they just need to be voluntary. How would it be in the self interest of someone who will never need social security to pay into it?

It isn't. How is it in the interest of someone who receives more money than they lose from SS to oppose it?

If Grandma would have been inspired to live a life of productive self sufficiency she would not need government pittance, which is usually inadequate.

Not all Grandmas, some Grandmas have a clearly defined sense of self respect.

You didn't explain how opposing SS is in Grandma's self interest.

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