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Privacy rights against private intruders

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I've only found a couple of Rand's statements on the subject of "privacy" using Google. Both of them seemed to deal with the question of privacy against governmental intrusion.

 

Here, I'm more interested in how Rand specifically, and Objectivism generally, handle the question of privacy against private intrusion. Optimally, I'd like citations in the answers, but they're not absolutely necessary.

 

Below are a few fact situations I'd like addressed. Some of them make assumptions which might seem improbable, but that's because I'm trying to see if Rand/Objectivism have any way of addressing these issues beyond contract and private property rights, or how it handles them within that paradigm. Please answer according to the assumptions. If it is important to you to comment on how "unrealistic" a situation is, feel free to do so--after you answer according to the assumptions. B)

 

All questions take place in Aynrandzistan, a duly constituted functioning Objectivist state. Please analyze these situations according to the hypothetical laws (as you suppose them) of Aynrandzistan. 

 

Do not begin your answers until the proctor says "start." Later, when the proctor says stop, immediately stop, lay down your pencils, and close your blue books. Await further instructions.

 

Ready... start. :fool:

 

1) CEO Adam and CFO Bill sit down in an outdoor park on company property. Conversation at a normal voice is inaudible from any physical location within X distance of them. All physical locations within X distance are on company property. They have a conversation at a normal voice involving sensitive company information. 

 

But PI Charlie has an electronic listening device similar to but more powerful than one of these (yes, I'm aware it's a toy). It's what might be called an "electronic ear." It is a dish with an electronic device making it possible to hear normal conversation at Y distance, beyond X. He listens to and records their conversation from distance Y, off of company property. He delivers the recording to Adam and Bill's competitor.

 

2) Very similar circumstances to 1, but this time Adam and Bill have their conversation *inside* a corporate building. Now Charlie has an even more advanced electronic listening device which allows him to hear their conversation even through the closed windows of the room.

 

3) CEO Adam takes his smart phone to get it repaired. Ricky Repairman says "oh, I think I can fix that problem really quick. Give me a second." Adam nods his head, and the repairman takes the phone to another room.
 

He repairs the phone, but also installs on it software which permits him to remotely intercept Adam's phone calls and text messages. Ricky hands the phone back to Adam. Adam pays in cash, and leaves without ever signing a contract.

 

Ricky makes a small fortune selling information he receives to Adam's competitors.

 

4)  A retiring psychiatrist publishes all of his patient records complete with names and identifying (lawfully taken and owned) photographs on the web. Any pertinent contracts are silent on the question of confidentiality of patient records. Patients trusted their confidentiality because of the profession's known custom of keeping patient records confidential.

 

5) What would Ayn Rand think of our Federal Wiretap Act, which bars private interception of electronic communications?

 

6) The Federal Wiretap Act bars electronic interceptions in ways Objectivists might not expect. For example, it bars you from electronically eavesdropping on conversations you are not a party to, even when the phone being used belongs to you.

 

So now CEO Adam is at a dinner party hosted by a business associate. He gets a text from CFO Bill asking to please call. Adam's phone malfunctions without warning. He decides to take the phone to Ricky Repairman tomorrow. But tonight, he needs to get back in touch with Bill. 

 

He asks to use the host's land line. The host declines to mention to Adam that he records all calls made on his land line. Adam makes his call. The host sells the information so obtained to Adam's competitors.

 

The host's conduct is clearly illegal in America under the FWT. Would Rand be okay with that? Is his conduct legal in Aynrandzistan?

 

7) CEO Adam has a 13 year old daughter. Pervert Pete has to go out of his way to do it, but he eventually does find a place off of Adam's property and where he has a right to be where he can peer into the girl's bedroom, and even record her activities with a video camera. He records the daughter's bedroom activities, and sells the pornographic videos on the internet.

 

8) Same as 7, only this time Pete doesn't record the girl's activities. He just watches them for his own arousal.

 

I guess what I'm ultimately asking is whether or not Rand recognizes any sort of interpersonal privacy rights other than those arising from contract, and those built into natural boundaries of private property, and what happens when the boundaries of private property may be breached without any apparent "initiation of force"

 

Thank you in advance to anyone who dares to tackle these.

Edited by aselene44
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1 and 2 I guess really depends on why the PI is listening and for what purpose they will use the information. Listening per se is not really anything that is a violation of rights, but my sense is that for the purpose of corporate espionage, it is likely to be a violation of intellectual property. If the information they want is a release date of a product, I can't see how that violates a right.

3. Fraud because installing the software was not agreed upon. The software is not in any sense an improvement, either. In any case, Adam did not want the software or to give up information to repair the phone.

4. If there is no confidentiality agreement, it wouldn't be illegal. But preying upon ignorance and using deception to get people to believe there is a confidentiality agreement when there isn't probably would be fraud, though. If the patients simply didn't bother to check, well, people are sometimes stupid...

5. Probably that it's a good law; wiretapping requires actually using your property without your agreement or knowing. Interception may be a form of fraud as well if a person never agreed to it and if the information is used for manipulative ends. Personally, I think the government shouldn't wiretap for pragmatic reasons, that is, the potential for wanton abuse is so massive that I think it goes beyond the proper role of government. As for private people, refer to 1 and 2.

6. The law still sounds fine to me. At least, if it follows 1 and 2.

7. To some extent, it's abusing a minor's ignorance; a minor deserves protection here to a greater extent than an adult, at least when making a profit. Rand wrote enough I think as to why adult/minor is a valid legal distinction.

8. I think it's creepy but I doubt it's a legal issue.

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Thank you for your efforts to answer my questions.


 

1 and 2 I guess really depends on why the PI is listening and for what purpose they will use the information. Listening per se is not really anything that is a violation of rights, but my sense is that for the purpose of corporate espionage, it is likely to be a violation of intellectual property. If the information they want is a release date of a product, I can't see how that violates a right.

 

To be clear, 1&2 would violate our Federal Wiretap Act. It's commonly called the "wiretap" act, but by its plain language, it's really broader than that. The law's answer--and I'm not saying it's the best one (or that it's not the best one)--doesn't depend on the reason Charlie is intercepting. It doesn't matter if the only conversation he hears is about their bowling league.

 

3. Fraud because installing the software was not agreed upon. The software is not in any sense an improvement, either. In any case, Adam did not want the software or to give up information to repair the phone.

 

Under our law, fraud requires a misrepresentation. Rick didn't misrepresent anything. Under our law, Rick's conduct certainly violates the Federal Wiretap Act. But that doesn't depend on the initiation of force or the violation of "rights" in the Randian sense. Our right against electronic interception of our conversations proceeds from statute. It requires the government to "initiate force" to vindicate it in most circumstances.

 

It might also violate laws created to bar "access or use beyond authorization" of computers; but those laws were enacted in part because traditional law didn't provide adequate relief for many computer crimes.

4. If there is no confidentiality agreement, it wouldn't be illegal. But preying upon ignorance and using deception to get people to believe there is a confidentiality agreement when there isn't probably would be fraud, though. If the patients simply didn't bother to check, well, people are sometimes stupid...

 

I don't understand why the outcome here for psychiatric patients differs from the outcome for Adam in 3. Psychiatric patients need express contract terms to protect their privacy, but CEOs don't? Ricky didn't do any material harm to Adam's phone. Uninstalling the program is a cinch once you know it's there.

 

Again here too: there would have had to have been a misrepresentation for there to be fraud, unless Rand's concept of fraud differs from the law's.

 

5. Probably that it's a good law; wiretapping requires actually using your property without your agreement or knowing. Interception may be a form of fraud as well if a person never agreed to it and if the information is used for manipulative ends. Personally, I think the government shouldn't wiretap for pragmatic reasons, that is, the potential for wanton abuse is so massive that I think it goes beyond the proper role of government. As for private people, refer to 1 and 2.

 

It doesn't follow one and two. And to be clear, I specified the situations I did in 1 & 2 because these were electronic interceptions that did not require interference with property. He's just using a highly sensitive listening device that can pick up and distinguish sounds from a distance even through closed windows.

 

As our surveillance technology improves, the zones where we can count on privacy that we now take for granted--inside our own homes, for examle--are going to continue to diminish. And it won't require any "initiation of force" to intrude on the privacy of those domains. I'm wondering if Objectivism furnishes us with an ethical and legal basis to respond to that. Or is Objectivgism okay with a world where nearly all personal privacy is lost, except against the government?

6. The law still sounds fine to me. At least, if it follows 1 and 2.

 

In number six, our law has barred the host from intercepting conversations made using his own phone. That sounds like a "violation of rights" within the Randian framework to me. Maybe I'm wrong.

7. To some extent, it's abusing a minor's ignorance; a minor deserves protection here to a greater extent than an adult, at least when making a profit. Rand wrote enough I think as to why adult/minor is a valid legal distinction.

 

Can you direct me to where she wrote about that distinction? I can't recall having read it myself. This situation certainly doesn't involve the "initiation of force" in the literal sense. Based on my understanding (which I concede may be wrong) Objectivism furnishes us with no basis to punish Pete's conduct here.

8. I think it's creepy but I doubt it's a legal issue.

 

And even less basis here.

 

 

 

 

Edited by Eiuol
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Thank you for your efforts to answer my questions.


 

1,2,3,6 the competitors are using information improperly

 

I tend to agree--or more accurately, I believe the intruders on Adam and Bill's privacy are obtaining that information improperly. But I don't understand how these examples of intrusions on personal privacy can be lawfully protected against in Aynrandzistan.

4 would depend on the jurisprudence of doctor / patient confidentiality of arstan

 

Based on your understanding of Objectivism, what do you believe that jurisprudence would look like? Based on my understanding, it would say "tough luck" to the patients, because the psychiatrist didn't have to initiate force to screw them over like this.

5 would have to ask AR

 

Sure. Based on your understanding of her writings, what do you suppose she would have said? Can you back that up with citations? 

 

7 deals with child pornography

 

It certainly does. And the implicit question here is whether or not Objectivism furnishes us with a basis to bar it under these circumstances. I'm not seeing an initiation of force here. Someone else said Rand wrote about minor/adult distinctions, but I'm not personally aware of those writings. Can you direct me to them?


 

Edited by Eiuol
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1.
"To be clear, 1&2 would violate our Federal Wiretap Act. It's commonly called the "wiretap" act, but by its plain language,"

Weren't you asking about your Aynrandzistan? Here it seems like you wanted to ask about the wiretap act. I think it should depend on details of the interception, although I don't know the details of the wiretap act. I'm just telling you what I think is most relevant to whether or not rights were violated.

2.
"Under our law, fraud requires a misrepresentation. Rick didn't misrepresent anything."

I don't understand - how is installing software Adam doesn't know about not misrepresentation? And again, you asked about Aynrandzistan, not US law.

3.
"I don't understand why the outcome here for psychiatric patients differs from the outcome for Adam in 3."

My point is that while a contract would make it easier to determine a rights violation, there is more here to consider if fraud is used in the process. The same applies to the CEO and his phone. If installing spyware is not part of the deal or not reasonably expected, that would be fraud. But if it was deliberately open ended through vague terminology of an agreement to repair the phone like "you allow me to install any software to fix your phone", then that's probably not fraud.

4.
"Or is Objectivgism okay with a world where nearly all personal privacy is lost, except against the government?"

Fraud would probably be where most conflict of a right to privacy will come from. I keep mentioning fraud because that is recognized as initiation of force under Objectivism. Perhaps we'd need to analyze further what is the best way to protect rights in our digital age. If Rand were alive today she'd probably talk about how we'd stick to a principle of rights protection, but also stick to the fact that new technologies brings changes of how to implement proper law. Objectivism has no *specific* answer to your questions, as a lot of it is technology based. We'd have to apply principles. I don't believe though personal privacy will be nearly lost. It's plausible though to need to expand our understanding of rights violations as personal information becomes a bigger part of your life than ever.

5.
"In number six, our law has barred the host from intercepting conversations made using his own phone."

My answer would be nearly identical to point 1.

6.
"Can you direct me to where she wrote about that distinction?"

I may have been thinking of something else. I can't find much that Rand wrote on adult/minors. Here are some links I found that are useful:
http://books.google.com/books?id=-2D6VqMXfFIC&pg=PT14&lpg=PT14&dq=ayn+rand+on+child+rights&source=bl&ots=D83AJarwdn&sig=LWsFOMzdxVYN2OVF5NVdyHR2fJM&hl=en&sa=X&ei=1fgHU8rfMeTuyAHpgoGoCQ&ved=0CCQQ6AEwADgK#v=onepage&q=ayn%20rand%20on%20child%20rights&f=false
http://www.atlassociety.org/childrens-rights
http://www.aynrand.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=7289

I haven't listened to the 3rd link, so I can't vouch for it.

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1.

"To be clear, 1&2 would violate our Federal Wiretap Act. It's commonly called the "wiretap" act, but by its plain language,"

Weren't you asking about your Aynrandzistan? Here it seems like you wanted to ask about the wiretap act. I think it should depend on details of the interception, although I don't know the details of the wiretap act. I'm just telling you what I think is most relevant to whether or not rights were violated.

 

I was asking about Aynrandzistan. I already understand the wiretap act. I was drawing a contrast between the outcome in Aynrandzistan and under the FWT.  You may hjave taken my response as disagreeing with yours; it really wasn't.

 

2."Under our law, fraud requires a misrepresentation. Rick didn't misrepresent anything."

I don't understand - how is installing software Adam doesn't know about not misrepresentation? And again, you asked about Aynrandzistan, not US law.

 

A misrepresentation is a false statement of a fact. Ricky didn't make any false statements of fact.

 

I mentioned common law fraud here because it wasn't clear to me what you or Ayn Rand meant by "fraud." I was seeking elucidation. Can you contrast Rand's concept of fraud with the common law definition? Or does by "fraud" Rand mean something roughly equivalent to what we mean by it?

 

3. "I don't understand why the outcome here for psychiatric patients differs from the outcome for Adam in 3."

My point is that while a contract would make it easier to determine a rights violation, there is more here to consider if fraud is used in the process. The same applies to the CEO and his phone. If installing spyware is not part of the deal or not reasonably expected, that would be fraud. But if it was deliberately open ended through vague terminology of an agreement to repair the phone like "you allow me to install any software to fix your phone", then that's probably not fraud.

 

Actually, I think there is less here to consider if fraud is involved. It seems to settle the question without need for more information.

 

You seem to be placing a higher burden on psychiatric patients to contractually protect their privacy than on Adam. Not installing spyware wasn't "reasonably expected," you say. But the industry custom of protecting patient confidentiality would seem to give rise to some kind of "reasonable expectation" too.

 

As I describred the transaction, there was virtually no terminology. Ricky Repairman quickly identified the problem as easy to fix, took the phone, repaired it, and added the spyware. I certainly see a crime under our law. But that crime isn't fraud. So I guess you're saying Rand had a different conception of fraud than ours. Can you elucidate that?

 

4. "Or is Objectivgism okay with a world where nearly all personal privacy is lost, except against the government?"

Fraud would probably be where most conflict of a right to privacy will come from. I keep mentioning fraud because that is recognized as initiation of force under Objectivism. Perhaps we'd need to analyze further what is the best way to protect rights in our digital age. If Rand were alive today she'd probably talk about how we'd stick to a principle of rights protection, but also stick to the fact that new technologies brings changes of how to implement proper law. Objectivism has no *specific* answer to your questions, as a lot of it is technology based. We'd have to apply principles. I don't believe though personal privacy will be nearly lost. It's plausible though to need to expand our understanding of rights violations as personal information becomes a bigger part of your life than ever.

 

See, from Rand's use of words, I don't see a lot of room to "expand our understanding of rights violations." She's very specific and repetitive on the point that a rights violation requires initiation of physical force. She does speak of "indirect" and "direct" initiations of force. But her "indirect" initiations of force are tied to contract and property rights. There doesn't seem to be any room to speak of "reasonable expectations of privacy." In Aynrandzistan, if you own a telescoping video camera that can see through walls, there doesn't seem to be any reason you can't use it to record little girls in their bedrooms.

 

Or if there is, I don't know what it is.

5. "In number six, our law has barred the host from intercepting conversations made using his own phone."

My answer would be nearly identical to point 1.

 

I was drawing a contrast, and asking if you would elucidate your understanding of fraud in this situation.

6. "Can you direct me to where she wrote about that distinction?"

I may have been thinking of something else. I can't find much that Rand wrote on adult/minors. Here are some links I found that are useful:

http://books.google.com/books?id=-2D6VqMXfFIC&pg=PT14&lpg=PT14&dq=ayn+rand+on+child+rights&source=bl&ots=D83AJarwdn&sig=LWsFOMzdxVYN2OVF5NVdyHR2fJM&hl=en&sa=X&ei=1fgHU8rfMeTuyAHpgoGoCQ&ved=0CCQQ6AEwADgK#v=onepage&q=ayn%20rand%20on%20child%20rights&f=false

http://www.atlassociety.org/childrens-rights

http://www.aynrand.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=7289

I haven't listened to the 3rd link, so I can't vouch for it.

 

Thank you for the links.

Edited by aselene44
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Forgot to welcome you to the forum! :)

1.

"Ricky didn't make any false statements of fact."

A false statement, no. But installing spyware was not what Adam was agreeing to that or that was a reasonable expectation. It's a misrepresentation in that sense - Ricky portrayed himself as a repairman, not a "customer enhancement and repair" person. Not only that, but Ricky used Adam's property in a literal way to do something Adam did not want done.

The rest:

Fraud is seen as a form of force because it compels a person to act to the extent that information about the world is manipulated and shown as something it isn't. I don't mean a lie specifically, I mean a false presentation where rational evaluation and planning isn't possible even if you don't realize. You're purposely led to believe X so that you'll do Y. In the case of Adam, he's led to believe, through Ricky's self-portrayal as a repairman and not Apple's customer enhancement professional, (I'm making fun of company's that tell you what they do if you read the details) that the phone will just be repaired, so that he'll hand over the phone for Ricky to install spyware. A way to steal intellectual property.

About psychiatric patients, yeah, you're right. I was trying to say that I don't know how to take into account a custom of communication as opposed to an expectation of advertised services.

Privacy is not the issue to me, it's more like a result of proper use and respect of rights. So, it's not that I'm arguing for a right to privacy, it's closer to arguing that your property is for your private use until you allow other people at least partial use of your property. Or if not property, at least you have the right to act as you plan and as you wish, which as a result allows for control of privacy. Privacy though isn't really property or a need for survival to any extent. So, when I say expand our understanding, I mean expanding our understanding of any relation between privacy and your right to life. To do that, we'd need information professionals and lawyers as well probably. My answers are at least working with my understanding so far.

"I was drawing a contrast, and asking if you would elucidate your understanding of fraud in this situation."

My point about 1 and 2 is intellectual property, not fraud. Same with 6.

Edited by Eiuol
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Ayn Rand was a philosopher, not a lawmaker. So she never created a legal framework, be it of an actual or hypothetical (Aynrandistan) country.

But her political principles do require that the government punish fraud, and protect contracts, IP rights and privacy rights (where privacy rights are defined as a derivative of property rights - in other words, privacy rights don't contradict property rights, they are simply the right of a person to be secure, from spying of any kind, within his property).

As long as you require that someone give you the Objectivist answer and nothing else, that's about as concrete as the answer gets. Anything further is an application of Objectivist principles (dependent on context not described by the philosophy), not Objectivism.

But these principles should still answer your questions in a fairly straight forward manner. Here's how I see it, personally:
1,2,3 illegal;
4 - depends what you mean by "known custom", but in today's world, illegal, because it's reasonable to expect confidentiality unless otherwise stated;
5 - a ban on third party wiretapping is legitimate - state laws (in 12 states) requiring the consent of all parties on the other hand is not - single party consent is sufficient;
6 - it's not for the government to determine the conditions under which a device is rented or loaned out to someone, the government should be restricted to enforcing those conditions (contract enforcement). As far as your scenario, if fraud can be proven, penal action should be taken, otherwise it should be settled at a civil trial, like all contract disputes.
7 - same as 1,2,3 

8 - In general, looking shouldn't be outlawed because some people can't be bothered to use curtains. But there might be instances in which it's reasonable to expect privacy, in which case a breach might be illegal. I guess it depends on what you mean by "went out of his way". 
 

I guess what I'm ultimately asking is whether or not Rand recognizes any sort of interpersonal privacy rights other than those arising from contract, and those built into natural boundaries of private property

 

Property is the "setting of boundaries". Property rights are the rights to action. They describe the boundaries of an individual's right to action. There is no action that isn't covered by the Oist principles of private property.

 

In practice, of course there are limits, but whenever a government wishes to extend those limits and provide a more precise framework for rights protection, it can rely on the principles of private property to do so. A separate concept of "privacy rights" would be needless and confusing.

 

, and what happens when the boundaries of private property may be breached without any apparent "initiation of force"

Objectivism is opposed to all initiation of force, including the kind someone might characterize as other than apparent. 

Edited by Nicky
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Thank you for your efforts to answer my questions.

 

Ayn Rand was a philosopher, not a lawmaker. So she never created a legal framework, be it of an actual or hypothetical (Aynrandistan) country.

 

She never created a set of laws. Though I dispute she never created a "legal framework." Her philosophy consists in the main of an argument for an alternative operation of law than today's. It's becoming increasingly apparent to me that her initiation of force principle is reductivist, and inadequate to cover numerous situatons wherein what people think of as their rights (and reasonably so!) aren't protected.


But her political principles do require that the government punish fraud, and protect contracts, IP rights

 

How do violations of IP rights implicate the initiation of physical force? Joe finds a copy of Atlas Shrugged in his dear auntie's attic. He reads it. He likes it so much, he converts the book to electronic form, and then sells a million copies of it for the low low price of $1 each.

 

Where is the initiation of force? In order to enforce the copyright requires the government to initiate force against Joe. He hasn't committed fraud in any conventionally understood sense of the term; he hasn't made any representations whatsoever, and hasn't failed to fulfill the terms of any contract. He just made copies.

 

"Copies of something he didn't have the right to copy."

 

Who says? If our sole basis for the "violation of rights" consists in "initiation of force," then you lose any basis to protect a so-called "copyright." Infringing a copyright requires no force whatsoever. Copyright exists solely by virtue of statutes protecting it. Owners of copyrights initiate force against copyright infringers all the time. 

 

and privacy rights (where privacy rights are defined as a derivative of property rights - in other words, privacy rights don't contradict property rights, they are simply the right of a person to be secure, from spying of any kind, within his property).

 

Your neighbor climbing a tree on his property to just the right height and the exact angle he needs to see in through the gap between your curtain and the window is "spying of any kind." But if there is an initiation of force here, I don't see it.

As long as you require that someone give you the Objectivist answer and nothing else, that's about as concrete as the answer gets. Anything further is an application of Objectivist principles (dependent on context not described by the philosophy), not Objectivism.

But these principles should still answer your questions in a fairly straight forward manner.

 

(scratches his head)

 

Okay. 

 

Here's how I see it, personally:
1,2,3 illegal;

 

Where is the initiation of force, especially in the first two? Number three at least involves a use of a chattel exceeding the scope of the authorization for which the chattel was given. But how does electronically capturing and enhancing soundwaves initiate force?


7 - same as 1,2,3 

 

Why?

 

8 - In general, looking shouldn't be outlawed because some people can't be bothered to use curtains. But there might be instances in which it's reasonable to expect privacy, in which case a breach might be illegal. I guess it depends on what you mean by "went out of his way". 

 

Can you please direct me to anywhere Rand wrote of a "reasonable expectation of privacy?" It's exactly the kind of thing I'm looking for. Not only do her principles fail to furnish any basis for IP protection, as mentioned above, but they seem to furnish little to no basis for privacy protection. I'd like to know how Rand found an "initiation of force" in reverse engineering a product, making a copy, or peering through a distant neighbor's window with a telescope.


Objectivism is opposed to all initiation of force, including the kind someone might characterize as other than apparent. 

 

Okay. Then show me the initiation of force involved in peering through a 13 year old girl's window, filming her activities, and uploading them to the internet. The initiation of force here isn't apparent to me. But if you want to say Objectivism furnishes us a legal basis to protect privacy rights and prohibit child porn, it needs to be apparent to someone.

Edited by aselene44
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Thank you for your efforts to answer my questions.

 

Ayn Rand was a philosopher, not a lawmaker. So she never created a legal framework, be it of an actual or hypothetical (Aynrandistan) country.

 

She never created a set of laws. Though I dispute she never created a "legal framework." Her philosophy consists in the main of an argument for an alternative operation of law than today's. It's becoming increasingly apparent to me that her initiation of force principle is reductivist, and inadequate to cover numerous situatons wherein what people think of as their rights (and reasonably so!) aren't protected.

But her political principles do require that the government punish fraud, and protect contracts, IP rights

 

How do violations of IP rights implicate the initiation of physical force? Joe finds a copy of Atlas Shrugged in his dear auntie's attic. He reads it. He likes it so much, he converts the book to electronic form, and then sells a million copies of it for the low low price of $1 each.

 

Where is the initiation of force? In order to enforce the copyright requires the government to initiate force against Joe. He hasn't committed fraud in any conventionally understood sense of the term; he hasn't made any representations whatsoever, and hasn't failed to fulfill the terms of any contract. He just made copies.

 

"Copies of something he didn't have the right to copy."

 

Who says? If our sole basis for the "violation of rights" consists in "initiation of force," then you lose any basis to protect a so-called "copyright." Infringing a copyright requires no force whatsoever. Copyright exists solely by virtue of statutes protecting it. Owners of copyrights initiate force against copyright infringers all the time. 

 

and privacy rights (where privacy rights are defined as a derivative of property rights - in other words, privacy rights don't contradict property rights, they are simply the right of a person to be secure, from spying of any kind, within his property).

 

Your neighbor climbing a tree on his property to just the right height and the exact angle he needs to see in through the gap between your curtain and the window is "spying of any kind." But if there is an initiation of force here, I don't see it.

As long as you require that someone give you the Objectivist answer and nothing else, that's about as concrete as the answer gets. Anything further is an application of Objectivist principles (dependent on context not described by the philosophy), not Objectivism.

But these principles should still answer your questions in a fairly straight forward manner.

 

(scratches his head)

 

Okay. 

 

Here's how I see it, personally:

1,2,3 illegal;

 

Where is the initiation of force, especially in the first two? Number three at least involves a use of a chattel exceeding the scope of the authorization for which the chattel was given. But how does electronically capturing and enhancing soundwaves initiate force?

7 - same as 1,2,3 

 

Why?

 

8 - In general, looking shouldn't be outlawed because some people can't be bothered to use curtains. But there might be instances in which it's reasonable to expect privacy, in which case a breach might be illegal. I guess it depends on what you mean by "went out of his way". 

 

Can you please direct me to anywhere Rand wrote of a "reasonable expectation of privacy?" It's exactly the kind of thing I'm looking for. Not only do her principles fail to furnish any basis for IP protection, as mentioned above, but they seem to furnish little to no basis for privacy protection. I'd like to know how Rand found an "initiation of force" in reverse engineering a product, making a copy, or peering through a distant neighbor's window with a telescope.

Objectivism is opposed to all initiation of force, including the kind someone might characterize as other than apparent. 

 

Okay. Then show me the initiation of force involved in peering through a 13 year old girl's window, filming her activities, and uploading them to the internet. The initiation of force here isn't apparent to me. But if you want to say Objectivism furnishes us a legal basis to protect privacy rights and prohibit child porn, it needs to be apparent to someone.

All actions involve the use of physical force. If that action is a violation of someone's rights, then the physical force used is initiation of force. The list of physical force used in filming a 13 yo. is fairly long: there's the walking to the site, the lifting of the camera, the various electromagnetic forces used to capture the recording, etc.

 

And sure, that's not very insightful. I'm just stating the obvious, in answer to your question. If that's what Objectivism was, it would be useless and stupid, because it offers no criteria to determine what is initiation of force, and what is someone just minding their business.

 

But please note that Ayn Rand didn't construct her politics on initiation of force, she constructed it on the concept of individual rights. For the insight Oist Politics has to offer, you have to ask the right question: "Where is the violation of rights?", not "Where is the initiation of force?". 

 

The violation of rights is there. She has the right to privacy in her own bedroom. Makes no difference where the rights violator is standing, when he infringes on that right of hers.

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All actions involve the use of physical force. If that action is a violation of someone's rights, then the physical force used is initiation of force. The list of physical force used in filming a 13 yo. is fairly long: there's the walking to the site, the lifting of the camera, the various electromagnetic forces used to capture the recording, etc.

 

 


And sure, that's not very insightful. I'm just stating the obvious, in answer to your question. If that's what Objectivism was, it would be useless and stupid, because it offers no criteria to determine what is initiation of force, and what is someone just minding their business.

 

But please note that Ayn Rand didn't construct her politics on initiation of force, she constructed it on the concept of individual rights.

 

 

You've put the cart before the horse, according to Rand. She described her greatest contribution in the world of politics as her "discovery that in politics the evil--violation of rights--consists in the initation of force (emphasis added)."

 

To Rand, "violation of rights" didn't define the scope of "initiation of force." Rather, initiation of force was the violation of rights. Hence, under Objectivism as Rand formulated it, to find a violation of rights you must first find an initiation of force.

 

That probably explains why, using Google, I can't find any instances in which Ayn Rand wrote of "initiation of force" in the sense you're using it here. She mostly used it to describe what ordinary people think of when they hear the phrase "initiation of force against another:" actual or threatened violence. The exceptions are fraud and breach of contract. But even when she talks about those, she talks about the withholding of physical, material goods. 

 

Now, in Capitalism the Unknown Ideal, Rand wrote: "What the patent or copyright protects is not the physical object as such, but the idea that embodies it (emphasis added)." And our law agrees with her on this. But her writing evinces no awareness of the contradiction between defining violation of rights as initiation of force, and the reality that it's impossible to initiate force against an idea.

 

I will give you some credit: this approach did throw me for a loop at first. In hundreds of conversations I've had about Rand, I've never seen anyone argue for reversing Rand's formulation, and defining initiation of force in terms of violation of rights. Your formulation seems to work better than Rand's, but it does have one serious flaw, at least from Rand's perspective.

 

That is that it admits that there's no mechanistic, "objective" law which makes Objectivism--well--objective. Rand knew she had to formulate her argument the way she did in order to skewer all other political and economic systems as various grades of evil. They're all really violent, she argues. Only Objectivism, which prohibits the initiation of force, is peaceful.

 

But once you start redefining "initiation of force" in terms of the rights it purportedly violates, Objectivism loses that claim. There are scores of good reasons to protect intellectual property rights. Not a single one of them involves protecting people against "force" in terms of non-consensual acts against one's person or material posessions. It's just good policy, and we initiate real world force in terms of civil suits and criminal prosecutions against IP violators for that reason alone.

 

Rand couldn't acknowledge that, because if we start saying it's okay to initiate force to promote these values just because we think they're a good idea, then why can't we initiate force to promote those values? If we'll sue or criminally prosecute IP violators who've never engaged in the "initiation of force" as conventionally understood, then why can't we sue or criminally prosecute persons who refuse to pay a tax to finance care for the disabled and senior citizens? If we're declaring IP protection a moral value even though you don't have to initiate force to violate an IP right, and in fact have to initiate force to vindicate it, we can also declare public assistance a moral value, and initiate force to vindicate it.

 

So formulate her politics in terms of initiation of force, and you get what you called "useless and stupid." Formulate her politics in terms of "violation of rights," and you get Objectivism without the objectivity.

 

Another Rand quote cinches the case:

 

"There is only one basic principle to which an individual must consent if he wishes to live in a free, civilized society: the principle of renouncing the use of physical force."

AR~~The Nature of Government

 

Defining "force" so broadly as you did, to include walking, would be silly. Rand's politics would require the cessation of all physical activitiy whatsoever. You can't walk around without the "use of" force, after all. By "force" she must have meant non-consensual physical actions against one's person or material property.

 

I'd respond to the rest of your post, but mommy says it's past my bedtime.

Edited by aselene44
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You've put the cart before the horse, according to Rand. She described her greatest contribution in the world of politics as her "discovery that in politics the evil--violation of rights--consists in the initation of force (emphasis added)."

 

Sounds like someone who thinks he knows the answer. So why bother asking the question? 

 

I answered your questions in good faith. But I'm not gonna debate the contents of Rand's philosophy with someone who doesn't seem to have read her works, and is using google search as his only tool for building arguments.

 

I'll just tell you that you're wrong, and leave it at that. Perhaps that will cause you to find out for yourself, by reading up on what you're talking about.

Edited by Nicky
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Now, in Capitalism the Unknown Ideal, Rand wrote: "What the patent or copyright protects is not the physical object as such, but the idea that embodies it (emphasis added)." And our law agrees with her on this. But her writing evinces no awareness of the contradiction between defining violation of rights as initiation of force, and the reality that it's impossible to initiate force against an idea.

All I can say is, if you're analyzing Rand's specific argument, it seems like you didn't finish reading the essay she wrong on the nature of government.

http://www.aynrand.org/site/PageServer?pagename=ari_ayn_rand_the_nature_of_government

"A unilateral breach of contract involves an indirect use of physical force: it consists, in essence, of one man receiving the material values, goods or services of another, then refusing to pay for them and thus keeping them by force (by mere physical possession), not by right—i.e., keeping them without the consent of their owner. Fraud involves a similarly indirect use of force: it consists of obtaining material values without their owner’s consent, under false pretenses or false promises. Extortion is another variant of an indirect use of force: it consists of obtaining material values, not in exchange for values, but by the threat of force, violence or injury."

Google is not enough here. Of course it doesn't look like Rand showed any reason to think fraud or IP violations are an initiation of force - you didn't read her arguments! Thoughts can't be force, but actions use some amount of force. Initiating force against another largely has to do with using force against your property, your means of survival and application of reason. That means some physical act against you or your property. That may include photocopying a book to sell for profit that you didn't write, punching someone in the face, walking onto your property without permission, etc. That would not include insulting words, writing a book that you happen to find offensive, or believing the Earth rides a giant turtle.

Does overhearing a conversation count? That's what we're discussing - my answer tends to be that it counts only if it's an IP violation and the intent of listening. It used to be that it was almost always synonymous with trespassing. Nowadays, the context is very different, so the answer isn't simple.

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Sounds like someone who thinks he knows the answer. So why bother asking the question.

 

To see if I'm wrong.

 

I answered your questions in good faith. But I'm not gonna debate the contents of Rand's philosophy with someone who doesn't seem to have read her works, and is using google search as his only tool for building arguments.

 

Incompetent to formulate a cogent argument constructed from Rand's actual words, you instead attack my person. This speaks both to your character and your intelligence. You are a degenerate halfwit. Your own words prove it.

 

Like unto those who retaliate against the initiation of force, those who retaliate against the initiation of personal attacks do no wrong.

 

Of the participants in this thread, it's reasonably clear I'm the only one who's read with comprehension any significant portion of Rand's works. I used Google to faciliate argument, not as my "only tool" for building them. Rand's apologists here, by contrast, have barely bothered to reference Rand's works at all.

 

I'll just tell you that you're wrong, and leave it at that. Perhaps that will cause you to find out for yourself, by reading up on what you're talking about.

 

I'll just tell you that I'm right, that you've fatally misunderstood Rand, that I've cited evidence for my propositions, and that you've asserted without support that I'm wrong.

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All I can say is, if you're analyzing Rand's specific argument, it seems like you didn't finish reading the essay she wrong on the nature of government.


http://www.aynrand.org/site/PageServer?pagename=ari_ayn_rand_the_nature_of_government
"A unilateral breach of contract involves an indirect use of physical force: it consists, in essence, of one man receiving the material values, goods or services of another, then refusing to pay for them and thus keeping them by force (by mere physical possession), not by right—i.e., keeping them without the consent of their owner. Fraud involves a similarly indirect use of force: it consists of obtaining material values without their owner’s consent, under false pretenses or false promises. Extortion is another variant of an indirect use of force: it consists of obtaining material values, not in exchange for values, but by the threat of force, violence or injury."

 

It is unclear why you think this undermines what I've said. Maybe you should reread what I wrote, or elaborate on why you think it does.

Google is not enough here.

 

It's almost like you weirdly took my mention of Google to mean those quotes are the only Rand I've ever read. Rather, I used it as an efficient aid to spot research a proposition I knew from my other reading was true; that Rand didn't use "initiation of force" in the sense you used it.

 

Of course it doesn't look like Rand showed any reason to think fraud or IP violations are an initiation of force - you didn't read her arguments!

 

I did. You see, where I said that even when she mentions fraud and breach of contract, she's still very clearly referring to the retention of material goods (go ahead--scroll up--it's there), that's pretty solid evidence not only that I read the argument, but that I processed it, analyzed it, and incorporated it into mine.

 

Also worth mentioning: neither fraud nor breach of contract conceptually support a law of IP. A copyright violator need not violate any agreement to infringe a copryight. Neither need a patent infringer. 

 

Thoughts can't be force, but actions use some amount of force. Initiating force against another largely has to do with using force against your property, your means of survival and application of reason. That means some physical act against you or your property.

 

And in her core polemic, This is John Galt Speaking, and elsewhere, she repeatedly emphasizes the material nature of the property she's talking about. It's clear she supported IP protection. It's (at this point) apparent she failed to formulate an adequate philosophical foundation to justify IP protection. In the sense she used it everywhere else in her writings, IP infringement requires no "initiation of force."

 

That may include photocopying a book to sell for profit that you didn't write,

 

Her statement that a man must renounce the "use of physical force" in order to live in civilized society rather radically undermines this. As I said above: accepting your construction that Rand meant by "force" "any physical activity of any kind whatseover" makes the statement I quoted (in my prior post--scroll up, it's there) above mean "a man must renounce all physical activity of any kind whatseover" in order to live in civilized society. An astonishing reinterpretation of Rand's politics, I'll give you that.

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Her statement that a man must renounce the "use of physical force" in order to live in civilized society rather radically undermines this. As I said above: accepting your construction that Rand meant by "force" "any physical activity of any kind whatseover" makes the statement I quoted (in my prior post--scroll up, it's there) above mean "a man must renounce all physical activity of any kind whatseover" in order to live in civilized society. An astonishing reinterpretation of Rand's politics, I'll give you that.

I'll reread the particular essay I mentioned, and I'll save discussion about IP for another thread if you want (I know that copyright violations aren't typically a contract violation).

 

For the use of physical force line, I had no reason to think it refers to force that isn't initiation against another person. Yeah, it doesn't *say* that, but she was explaining initiation just sentences before - it makes no sense she'd suddenly switch to talking about all force. If she said "use of all force whatsoever", you'd be right. I don't like the wording myself, but the claim isn't referring to the use of force for any purpose. What counts is that people take action against someone's property or body; thinking doesn't end up as using force so can't even qualify as force initiation. It's important to remember that Rand spoke of all property being about the ideas they embody, and necessary for living life (you gave the quote even). That necessity is why Rand uses powerful language of "rights violation".  So someone taking action against the embodiment of your creative ideas (a book you wrote, a house you built, the property you have) that are necessary for your life is a rights violation. Taking action is impossible without some sort of physical force, though.

 

By the way, I take initiating "direct force" as force against your body, and "indirect force" as force against your property. I thought it might be an issue later. Sorry I took it that you didn't read the whole essay in question, some of your statements made me iffy if you did.

 

For what it's worth, I don't think Rand had really great arguments for IP,

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It certainly seems that the OP was either a setup to lead to a discussion of IP , or has become the organic springboard into a discussion about the basis for IP being invalid, because ideas aren't physical matter.

There are lots of threads devoted to that/those arguments. Search the forums jump in one and prove your points.

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