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Is currency inefficient?

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tbj2102@gmail.com
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@Spiral Architect: Me too. That was Galt's behavior, though. Selfish investment in improving the mind's of others. There is a reason he worked to get the protagonists to join him in Galt's Gulch. Everyone seems to be ignoring that. It wasn't so he could mooch off them but rather so he could be more productive himself with them around. He didn't ask for money for his services to the protagonists because their moral, rational minds are all that mattered to his purposes. That is the extent of my argument and model for my behavior, no more no less.

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On the subject of Wesley Mooch being a victim you are engaging in a horrible straw man fallacy here. I am arguing that Mooch and the protagonists were co-responsible for their negative relationship and both capable of improving it. This is demonstrated by the fact that the protagonists did. That is the definition of "fault" or "blame": if you view both parties in a negative relationship as co-equal you see the reality that they are both potentially positive actors.

To pretend one party is a helpless victim fails to recognize that person's power of choice in the situation. Galt never thought of himself as a victim of anything. I compare his torture scene in Atlas Shrugged with the story of Jesus's crucifiction. Both are stories of very powerful men who predicted and accepted their own physical torture and refused to break mentally at the expense of their physical bodies. If you suppose Galt is extremely intelligent and arranged his own torture at the hands of Stadler, then you can see that the results of that inconsequential physical pain were actions taken on the part of the protagonists that taught them behavior patterns more useful to Galt.

Edited by [email protected]
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There is a much easier and more efficient way of identifying human value which does not involve using the size of a person's bank account or yacht as a poor proxy of that peron's value. Simply observing the value of a person's behavior in each moment and being very aware of that person's behavior patterns is both sufficient and necessary to an evaluation of the person.

No one ever said that the size of a bank account is a proxy for the value of a person, or implied it. Not even Atlas Shrugged suggested it. I tried pointing out one specific part in the book to read to discuss, and mentioned the point Wyatt was making. I made that point elsewhere, and you never did address money as an abstract representation of what you can trade (even good-will!) on a nearly timeless scale. Money is not being asserted as the value a person has, but a means of trading value for value on a level good-will alone is not capable. I even addressed what you said about wikipedia, but you never answered how you offer value for wikipedia, which you find valuable. Not much else can be said, since it starts to sound like an elaborate, logically valid, rationalization of freeloading.

(And no, a mistake doesn't reflect any incompetency in all cases. Evasion is what Rand always argued is fundamentally what is immoral, not just being wrong.)

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". . . that the symbolic value of having property rights . . ."

Stop. Money is, in a way, symbolic. It is a medium used to stand in for value produced. (Some people stealing/counterfitting/otherwise misusing it doesn't change what it is and partly because of these things people often try to use something for currency that isn't easily made up without earning it) Property rights are not symbolic.

As for Rearden and Dagny, you are throwing a whoooole lot of babies out with the bath water there. Dagny and Rearden and all these other future strikers were extremely moral in the vast majority of ways - it was just one or two places where they were mistaken which had large bad consequences that they needed to learn of.

"Given that, I could just as easily trade in a currency based on how fast I can run a marathon or how big a skyscraper I could build in a given amount of time."

What? How the heck would that work?

" Instead of valuing a college degree let's value someone's underlying skills and competencies."

That's . . . actually how it is supposed to work in theory already. The college degree works in a way a lot like concepts, it is one single, simple thing which stands in for a whole lot of stuff to make thinking and communicating easier. People show that they have a degree in X and that is supposed to mean they have a certain amount of skills and knowledge in that field. There are frauds though here as there is with money, however that means these people need to be exposed, stripped of their degree/money, and possibly convicted for fraud/breech of contract, not that money or degrees are flawed. As a matter of fact, you bringing up the LSAT functions much the same way as a degree, though for a different subject.

" We don't need such a useless proxy for productive behavior when we can simply observe the productive capacity of other individuals (what is really valuable) from the way those individuals behave."

This only holds any water rather than being extremely inefficient if we've thrown out trading, which you seemed interested in doing earlier. That subject needs addressing before this subject can be answered.

" A mistake reflects a fundamental incompetency and unwillingness to think -- i.e., immorality -- no matter what."

Being unable and being unwilling are two completely different animals. Morality only applies where choice is possible. If somebody doesn't have a choice about something, it isn't open to moral evaluation. I don't think Dagny and Rearden were unable or unwilling to think though. Reason isn't automatic and learning is a process and thus takes time. It wasn't that they tried not to see or that they were blind, they just hadn't been aware of what there was to see. Once they knew what was there (that their productivity was only abetting calamity under the present circumstances), they recognized and acted on it accordingly.

"The fact that they used any one thing as a tool for a specific purpose in Galt's Gulch does not necessarily elevate that particular tool to a status as something fundamentally necessary or useful for human existence."

Yes, but nobody was arguing for that anyway. We're arguing that its purpose is a very good and handy one. Also, giving up language, cars, airplanes and such would have sucked too.

"Not only should people not be valued only in terms of how much money they have, my argument is that someone having money does not reflect any inherent value in that person."

Under present, highly unideal circumstances, money is a loose indicator at best and certainly requires further examination. In a free market, rights respecting society though it would be much more reliable of an indication, though still just an indication and requiring further inquiry.

". . . into what should be an instantaneous process that comes from the gut. "

Feelings, they're a lot like money and concepts and degrees - they are a condensed summary of many things. Your feelings may be unreliable because they are based on prior thoughts and you aren't all knowing and infallible. Why do you say it "should come from the gut"?

" If you conduct taxable trade in the US or any other country I am aware of in order to acquire currency you are no better than Dagny or Rearden pre-Gulch. "

You should go check out one of the threads where people have asked why we aren't all going on strike now. The short version though is that we aren't because it still seems like we can get the changes we want to see done without having to go to such extreme measures. We're trying to manage our lives the best we can under the current conditions while working toward educating the populace and gradually turning the tide that way. We aren't trying to bring about total economic collapse at this point. That's a pretty severe last resort. Were we striking, yeah, time to do what is necessary to keep the value we create out of the wrong hands. Since we aren't though, we tolerate a bit of such while we work toward ending it.

Edited by bluecherry
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... because it still seems like we can get the changes we want to see done without having to go to such extreme measures. We're trying to manage our lives the best we can under the current conditions while working toward educating the populace and gradually turning the tide that way. We aren't trying to bring about total economic collapse at this point. That's a pretty severe last resort. Were we striking, yeah, time to do what is necessary to keep the value we create out of the wrong hands. Since we aren't though, we tolerate a bit of such while we work toward ending it.

This does not describe my own motivation. This seems to indicate that we live in a mixed situation which is bad but tolerable, and that there are two possible ways to affect change:

  • one can live in the current situation and try to change minds; or,
  • one can go on "strike"

If you go on strike because you figure the personal life you will lead under those circumstances is better, that is fair enough. I cannot see how that's possible, given the tremendous values available in the world, but that's an argument for a different post.

However, any notion that going on strike is a step toward changing the world for the better is wrong. An economic collapse would be a terrible disaster which would most certainly not lead to anything good, far less to some Objectivist paradise. North Korea is an example of economic collapse. That is not an ideal worth aiming for. Even if all the Objectivists in the world went on strike, and took a few of the world's richest people with them, we would not see economic collapse. So, striking as a form of activism is neither practical nor desirable.

Banish the idea that "going on strike" is one way to change the world. It is the exact opposite.

In any compromise between poison and food, it's the poison that wins.
This quote says absolutely nothing about how one should choose when faced with dealing with someone who is a mixture of good and bad. Rand is simply saying that the evil has no value as such: in fact that very aspect is what makes it evil. If someone or something is pure evil, then it obviously cannot add value to your life. If a person is a mix of good and evil, the evil does not add value to that person's life. However, this does not mean that such a mixed person cannot add a net of value to their own life or to your life.
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I agree. I wasn't speaking of people who can be reformed being inherently good or bad, but of actions which are no either good or bad. We should admit no morally imperfect actions when we feel an inkling of imperfection or hesitation. If you feel good about accruing tax obligations then go ahead, but there is no "mixed" instance which cannot be further defined into good components to keep and bad ones to reject.

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@bluecherry: you've raised a lot of points and responding by entering text into a smartphone is very time consuming. I'd suggest setting up an in-person meeting or at least video chat for me to be able to continue the conversation efficiently and satisfy fully our mutual desire for communicating.

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If you feel good about accruing tax obligations then go ahead, but there is no "mixed" instance which cannot be further defined into good components to keep and bad ones to reject.
Paying tax is not about feeling good, it is about doing the good thing... i.e. about being morally perfect.
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Paying tax is not about feeling good, it is about doing the good thing... i.e. about being morally perfect.

No, it's about doing what you have to do to stay out of prison or accruing fees. Someone who avoids paying taxes and gets away with it is being just as morally good as the person who pays. You are suggesting someone who runs away from a robber putting a gun to his head for his money is not doing the morally good thing.

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I'm suggesting a failed attempt at escape resulting in being killed is probably immoral. The easiest way to avoid roberry is to ensure a potential robber doesn't become an actual one.

How is a failed attempt at escape immoral? Now you are pushing the blame on the victim? This is similar to the argument, the women dressed inappropriately so she invited the rape. What you are talking about is impractical. You can't get any goods from US stores without currency so currency is almost necessary if you want to get food, clothing, tv's, anything really. You don't blame the victims for a corrupt system.

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This does not describe my own motivation. This seems to indicate that we live in a mixed situation which is bad but tolerable, and that there are two possible ways to affect change:

  • one can live in the current situation and try to change minds; or,
  • one can go on "strike"

If you go on strike because you figure the personal life you will lead under those circumstances is better, that is fair enough. I cannot see how that's possible, given the tremendous values available in the world, but that's an argument for a different post.

However, any notion that going on strike is a step toward changing the world for the better is wrong. An economic collapse would be a terrible disaster which would most certainly not lead to anything good, far less to some Objectivist paradise. North Korea is an example of economic collapse. That is not an ideal worth aiming for. Even if all the Objectivists in the world went on strike, and took a few of the world's richest people with them, we would not see economic collapse. So, striking as a form of activism is neither practical nor desirable.

Banish the idea that "going on strike" is one way to change the world. It is the exact opposite.

I wasn't suggesting going on strike now was a good idea or that it would give good results in any way or, heck, that it was even possible. That is definitely not the case. I strongly agree that were such a strike on the scale in Atlas Shrugged even possible currently and done today it would be a major turn for the worse. Really, as long as there is still any other realistic possibility that possibility is better to pursue. The strike is only justified in Atlas Shrugged because they reached a point where life was becoming impossible and they didn't have any alternative to get the necessary changes done and done fast enough. We're not in really good shape under present circumstances, but we're still a long way from what would justify that kind of strike. The costs of such a strike, if it could be done effectively at all, are astronomical.

@bluecherry: you've raised a lot of points and responding by entering text into a smartphone is very time consuming. I'd suggest setting up an in-person meeting or at least video chat for me to be able to continue the conversation efficiently and satisfy fully our mutual desire for communicating.

Oh, you're typing from a phone? That sucks. I won't complain about a lack of response due to sympathy and hating those tiny keyboards myself as long as you don't try to keep talking like I never said anything in response to things you've said at all. If you really are set on continuing to insist trade and such is inefficient, try to get to a full size keyboard some time soon so we can keep the record going in here.

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@bluecherry: instead let me just be extremely concise. Targeted investment of effort which produces a desired effect in another person while helping that person better achieve his or her own values is sufficient for value creation. This skips the "consumer" and "producer" model of trade in favor of trade which is essentially mutual investment. Currency is not a value in itself so any action which produces mutual value creation without need for it is, all else being equal, more efficient.

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That still neglects problems of scale. This may do just fine among a small group who knows each other well for certain things from time to time or for short periods, however, when it is covering everything any anything one could need and want over an entire lifetime with all people operating on this model problems arise quickly. Short interactions with people one doesn't know well and may never see again for the sake of exchanging goods or services are a common part of life.

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That is how currency is used and the function it fulfills, but I don't have these "problems" that supposedly quickly arise. Tractors are used for farming but if I can produce the same results with less effort without the tractor, it is inefficient. Everyone is having a hard time understanding this because it seems so different from the way most people live. The best example I can give is Galt's philosophical conversion of the AS protagonists. He did not even ask for gold currency or any other property right in exchange but only something intangible that was already the natural effect of his productive actions. This was the most valuable type of thing he did in the novel, so just expand that principle and maybe you'll see what I am going for.

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Another way to think of my point is that exchanges a based on deep mutual understanding of one another are the most valuable ones. I have been gradually shifting away from these types of trustless interactions you mention towards ones based more on rationally founded trust with those who know me well and who I know well.

Edited by [email protected]
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" but I don't have these "problems" that supposedly quickly arise."

That's because you haven't gotten to a large scale operation on this yet. You haven't been doing it for very long, you haven't needed or tried to get things that people you knew didn't have on hand or could easily get, and the majority of people are not also operating on this system.

"He did not even ask for gold currency or any other property right in exchange but only something intangible that was already the natural effect of his productive actions. "

He wasn't counting on this type of interaction to be the sole manner of sustaining himself for his whole life though. I've tried to mention before that not all interactions and exchanges need to be done in currency or are even best done in currency or some other similar arrangement, but this is not so for everything with everyone all the time.

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Define a large scale operation for me and explain exactly when that will occur, why I should conduct it, and why it will require me to use currency. This thread has already had 705 views and 70 posts. That's a much larger scale than I operated on previously, and none of this productive discussion has required me to use currency.

You haven't presented any evidence to me to support an assertion that I will need currency at some indefinite time in the future for some indefinite purpose, or for an assertion that I should worry about earning currency before such a need arises. Are these claims reflective of your position?

Edited by [email protected]
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"Define a large scale operation for me and explain exactly when that will occur, why I should conduct it, . . ."

I'm not saying you need to do some big project, I'm saying the economy in general involves lots of big projects with lots of people and so on and so forth. You may not be, say, trying to build a microwave, but other people are. If nobody else can make stuff like that, then your daily life will be impacted because things do not exist for you and your friends to pass around in the first place.

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So your position then is not that I need to use currency to be productive and create anything I want to create, but rather that it's required for any hypothetical profitable microwave manufacturer to use it?

That's the same thing. Profit is the measure of productivity in an economic setting.

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I think that not generally using currency or some other kind of exacting running count on who has done or given what typically works well among relatively small groups of people who know and like each other well for various reasons, but that there is a ton of things which cannot be well conducted just between members of such a group. People could theoretically try to stop doing any value transferring stuff with anybody they don't know well or plan to get to know well, but that would involve a HUGE regression in standards of living, going back to the point where we've almost eliminated specialization of labor and all its benefits.

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