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Ayn Rand Brain Teaser #2

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To introduce this topic, I will begin by introducing how it came up.

I quoted Ayn Rand's selected definition of capitalism as follows.

Capitalism is a social system based on the recognition of individual rights, including property rights, in which all property is privately owned.

Based on this definition, I claimed that Ayn Rand would have to advocate that all property is private to be a capitalist: nuclear bombs, B-52s, and firearms. I questioned whether or not Rand is a capitalist by her own definition.

In repsonse, someone posted a link yo a Leonard Peikoff podcast that addresses this very question. Here is what the person posted.

In his podcast, Dr. Peikoff has discussed Miss Rand's definition of "capitalism" a couple of times. His comments might be of some help and interest:

Episode 24 - August 04, 2008 (unofficial index):

14:20: "'In Ayn Rand's definition of "capitalism," she says that all property is privately owned. Is that really true? For example, would the buildings and land that house the government, police force, and military be privately owned?'"

Listen directly here (on Dr. Peikoff's site).

The response held me over for a bit but raised new questions as I began thinking about it. If everything, including machine guns (not just some, but all), nuclear bombs, grenades (not just some, but all)... then how is that separation of economics and state? Ayn Rand explicitly stated in this video that she is for the separation of economics and state.

If all military equipment and nuclear bombs are privately owned, honestly, do you think that is separation of economics and state?

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Why do you think that the separation of economics and state prohibits the state in a context of a proper organization from ownership of anything? The separation of economics and state is in regards to the prohibition of legislation which interferes with the economy.

What precisely did she say at the end of that clip? "That is not faith, that is acclamation." Did she use "acclamation" there, or am I mishearing it?

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So, all of the resources the government uses are bought and owned by business owners/employees and individual buyers? And that is considered a separation of economics and state?

Also, can anyone freely compete with the buyers, sellers, and/or shareholders of the nuclear bombs if those individuals have not initiated physical force against anyone else? Morality is not the means to an end, right? Therefore, it be wrong to PREEMPTIVELY steal from someone developing a nuclear bomb before he or she actually violated someone else's rights, no?

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If all military equipment and nuclear bombs are privately owned

This should never occur. The only political group that I am aware of that actually takes this notion seriously within its demographic is the anarchists, and that fact alone, if the obvious and horrifying implications of such a situation weren't already... should be enough to dismiss it out of hand. The legitimate areas of the government are, as Ayn Rand stated:

1. The Police (Domestic Security/Enforcement of the laws to protect individual rights)

2. The Military (Security from External Threats/Protect the society from threats to the rights and safety of its citizens)

3. The Law Courts (Judicial, to expound upon the law and to deliver justice between conflicted parties)

Military weapons are the sole purview of the military. They are deemed miltary weapons because they are too dangerous, too destructive, or require a level of skill that can only be entrusted to a member of the United States military, which is an organization that has a high priority of keeping such items within skilled hand and well contained from those without them or without authorization to handle them.

Edited by CapitalistSwine
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CapitalistSwine, I know you are right that Ayn Rand listed those areas of government. I am wondering how all of these things can be consistent with her selected definition of capitalism. Here is her selected definition of capitalism.

Capitalism is a social system based on the recognition of individual rights, including property rights, in which all property is privately owned.

According to her definition, all property is privately owned in capitalism. So if nuclear bombs are not privately owned, then she was not a capitalist by her own definition; was she?

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The government can have and exercise property rights. Government property is not inherently public and publicly accessible to all just because it is government owned. This principle is part of American federal case law:

“[t]he State, no less than a private owner of property, has power to preserve the property under its control for the use to which it is lawfully dedicated.” Greer v. Spock, 424 U.S. 828, 836 (1976) quoting Adderley v. Fla., 385 U.S. 39, 47 (1966)).

There a thread where this came up, the quote is from a court opinion I posted about near the end of that thread.

I did not find Peikoff's answer terribly helpful. He makes it sound like he advocates a government entirely constituted by corporate property which begs the question of where did money come from to pay off the contract work and who owned that money? If the money came straight from the end-user citizens then there is no government and that is anarcho-capitalism. I think Dr. Peikoff is too bored and complacent with handling these routine questions to pursue the answers with the energy and thoroughness required to satisfy newcomers.

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CapitalistSwine, I know you are right that Ayn Rand listed those areas of government. I am wondering how all of these things can be consistent with her selected definition of capitalism. Here is her selected definition of capitalism.
You got your answer in the previous thread where you brought this up. So, you're arguing against a straw-man here.

In fact, you know you're arguing against a straw-man, because you yourself said that Rand was advocating things that were contradictory to your reading of her definition.

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Obviously Rand's definition is not quite right (provision for ownership of some property by government is necessary) and obviously Peikoff's answer is completely wrong (government might rent some property privately owned but most property used by government, certainly tanks and bombs, ought to be owned by government).

Edited by John Link
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Obviously Rand's definition is not quite right (provision for ownership of some property by government is necessary) and obviously Peikoff's answer is completely wrong (government might rent some property privately owned but most property used by government, certainly tanks and bombs, ought to be owned by government).

It might be interesting to note that the U.S. government currently actually leases the missiles it puts on its naval warships and makes what is effectively a "bubble payment" when and if it fires a missile. There is a lot of maintenance and updating work on missiles which are not analogous to bullets which can go into a magazine and stay there for years, and most of that work is written into the lease arrangements. The ships themselves are owned outright by the government.

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You got your answer in the previous thread where you brought this up. So, you're arguing against a straw-man here.

In fact, you know you're arguing against a straw-man, because you yourself said that Rand was advocating things that were contradictory to your reading of her definition.

I read your response about how a definition is the way to try to express something and it is not a definition itself that makes the philosophy. Yet, Ayn Rand herself heavily pushed taking words for exactly what they say and seeing what follows. So, I was discontent to ignore Ayn Rand's advice from Philosophy: Who Needs It? Just like she suggested her readers do, I want to take the assertions of people literally and see what follows.

Edited by determinist
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... I want to take the assertions of people literally and see what follows.
Well, imagine if someone wrote a thesis and then also wrote a one sentence summary. if you agreed with the thesis but thought the summary was flawed, that's fair enough. Show the problem with the summary and offer a better alternative. Summaries are summaries... it is of their essence that they leave a lot unsaid and that they do not list all the exceptions.

So, the situation is as follows: Rand did not say that the government may not own court buildings nor did she say that the government may not own any weapons etc. it is not clear that Peikoff was implying the former, and he certainly was not implying the latter. So -- in a meaningful way -- you;re not really following up on what Rand or Peikoff said. At most, you're pointing to a problem with the summary; but, if that's what you're doing, focus on that instead of ignoring the thesis and saying that given the thesis and the summary you're sticking with the summary.

As others have pointed out, the government ought to own stuff. Nobody has said otherwise on the forum or in Rand's writing. You too agree. So, what's the debate?

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