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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YKjPI6no5ng

This is a clip of Barack Obama's "you didn't build that" explanation.  I know that almost everyone on this forum knows that the assertion is wrong, but I'm curious as to how many people know why.

What do you think is the fundamental problem with that assertion, which all other errors stem from, and which his audience apparently shared?

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Its an argument from dependence. If you are dependent on something you can't argue with it. Its a basic method of abuse. Its horrible when done in non-coercive settings like work or romance. Its even worse when done in the context of the state or family where one rarely has any choice in the matter at all.  

 

 The fact is that there are many immoral acts that in some indirect sense led to my existence and prosperity. Our hominid ancestors broke off from chimps five million years ago. Do you think every woman in your bloodline gave birth due to consensual sex? We are still against rape though. It doesn't matter if the American system used taxation, slavery, and irrational wars to become what it is today. Just because I benefit from it now doesn't mean that I endorse in anyway those actions. 

 

His argument relies on the idea that if you value infrastructure and education, then you must value government infrastructure and education. It is absurd. Medieval guilds, aristocrats, and churches made the same arguments to the first advocates of free markets. If a stone mason is educated by a guild no liberal today would argue that it validates the guild system. If aristocrats build infrastructure with the spoils of war no liberal today would argue that war is a proper way to fund infrastructure. Just because the Church provided social safety nets and ways for people organize would not convince liberals today to support the Church.

 

 It is quite obvious that people are educated and are aided by other individuals. That is the achievement of those individuals for sure but they are compensated for it.The actions required to generate wealth cannot be done by those educators though. The individual who possesses those capacities is ultimately responsible for using them and maintaining them. Great teachers can't be blamed for the failings of their students nor can they be credited for their success. Bosses don't call up professors when their new employees screw up. People don't tip road workers for the pizza deliveries they have gotten. People don't credit war and strife when they date refugees and immigrants from terrible countries. 

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Do you think every woman in your bloodline gave birth due to consensual sex? We are still against rape though.

That's one of the most elegant observations I have ever seen.

There's incalculable value in the capacity to arrive at the same conclusion (or make the same argument) in less time and energy.  That single point subsumes a dozen or so that I hadn't thought to condense yet; I just wanted to thank you for that, briefly.

 

As for fundamentality, I think that your post essentially pegged the epistemological error at the root of "you didn't build that".  I specify "epistemological error" because I suspect that its factual flaws stem from something else (which is what I'm driving at).

So, in that line of reasoning:

Bosses don't call up professors when their new employees screw up. People don't tip road workers for the pizza deliveries they have gotten. People don't credit war and strife when they date refugees and immigrants from terrible countries. 

All of which is accurate- but is that proper?  Should people blame an employee's professors for his incompetence, or praise construction workers for punctual deliveries?

Or is there some specific reason why people don't do that; something essential?

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Mister Obama's statement reflects a blatant denial of individual genius and initiative. The error in his statement is that individual genius not only exists, it is the primary source of the most successful, and thereby inspiring, achievements in history. His argument dismisses the role a prime mover plays in the creation of historical movements and infrastructure of both high and low technologies. This argument is conflicted, to say the least. The man, the individual, speaking those words is a leader whose very identity is dependent on the cult of personality he and his handlers produced. One could argue that Mister Obama's handlers and financial supporters created his celebrity. I would argue that his handlers would be selling other products or personalities of lesser historical significance, if it were not for the prime ego that is Barack Obama. The genius of Barack Obama is the source of an image the entire world population is aware of, with perhaps the exception of the inhabitant of some remote primitive village. Awareness of his achievements will have historic consequences. To be sure, the making of an American president is normally a collective effort, visa vi the elector process, the mass media, etc. But his personality is the end product, made possible only those his own ego.

 

While I may disapprove of the historical movement resulting from the Obama presidency, is exists nonetheless. The sweep of change in social order is the result of prime movers. There were indeed individuals who, through their collective effort, created the internet. There were indeed prime movers leading that effort. It might have been more amusing if Mister Obama had been addressing a crowd gathering in honor of Al Gore, "creator of the internet," and spoke the words: "You didn't do that." But I doubt if he would have spoken those words at a tribute to former-heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali. I don't care how many handlers Ali may have had, the achievement was his, and belonged to no one else.

 

It is somewhat troubling to note that someone as revered as Mister Obama is can tell people that their individualism and initiative is a minor factor in the development of innovation. "You didn't do that." It sounds as if you have no need to try. Someone else will do it. I'm certain a significant number of people will disregard his comments, and recognize them for what they are: Rhetoric for the support of collectivism.

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You might add that "You didn't build that" is a way to deny property rights. You might also add that well-defined property rights distinguish between third world countries and more civilized ones. Mr. O's words are a shortcut to rule by whim and force.

We all know that rights are not primaries, but derived from one's moral system. To deny me the product of my productive efforts is to deny me my life and mind. In Mr. O's view, your life is not your own. Since he is leader of the collective, he may dispose of your life as he sees fit. He believes you have a duty to provide for the needs of others. A duty ethic divides virtues from values, destroying the proper purpose of morality.

Since morality is based on a basic choice, to live, and implementation of the courses of action required to achieve life, Mr. O's philosophy is based on the evasion of that course of action or of that goal. At root is the rejection of the Law of Causality--a view that plagues the American left and the religious right. Just about every policy you hear of these days is a evasion of the Law of Causality.

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That's one of the most elegant observations I have ever seen.

There's incalculable value in the capacity to arrive at the same conclusion (or make the same argument) in less time and energy.  That single point subsumes a dozen or so that I hadn't thought to condense yet; I just wanted to thank you for that, briefly.

 

Thanks!

 

 

As for fundamentality, I think that your post essentially pegged the epistemological error at the root of "you didn't build that".  I specify "epistemological error" because I suspect that its factual flaws stem from something else (which is what I'm driving at).

So, in that line of reasoning:

All of which is accurate- but is that proper?  Should people blame an employee's professors for his incompetence, or praise construction workers for punctual deliveries?

Or is there some specific reason why people don't do that; something essential?

 

There are instances in which you could blame a professor or praise a construction worker for the failures or successes of the people they support. The source of wealth is ability, the choice to use those abilities rationally, and the choice to use those abilities fruitfully. If one doesn't have abilities, no wealth can be produced. If one uses their abilities in a self destructive way, that won't lead to wealth. Also sometimes things just don't work out and the right things don't get produced, and all entrepreneurs have to deal with that risk. 

 

Capitalism is a results oriented system ultimately. It doesn't matter if you work hard or if you are smart. Neither of those qualities are sufficient for producing wealth, although they may sometimes be necessary. People are only rewarded for their ability to produce commodities/services and sell them. Capitalists in particular are rewarded for directing capital towards the production of the correct things. It simply doesn't matter if you are a smart hard working person who can't get a leg up, you are either making the things are you are not. 

 

So if a pizza guy delivered a pizza quickly, or was cute, or was nice, or had any quality that people appreciated in that pizza driver, they may get a tip. If someone did receive a poor education, they still lack the ability to produce those results and were being dishonest or very ignorant when they claimed they had skills that they didn't have. The construction worker may have built a good road, and maybe people will want to hire his firm again giving him more work. Each reward is due to the abilities, choices made, and results that the each producer had. Obama's argument ignores the source of wealth and values. 

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The White House issued a press release of the text of that speech in mid July 2012.  
 
In the campaign speech, O'Bama states his view of morality.  He starts by emphasizing the means, names values and their beneficiaries, and completes his view of morality by stating the ultimate value and beneficiary.  He starts by saying, "..., at the heart of this country, its central idea is the idea that in this country, if you’re willing to work hard, if you’re willing to take responsibility, you can make it if you try."  
 
After his emphasis on hard work, O'Bama goes on to list values and their beneficiaries by saying, "That you can find a job that supports a family and find a home you can make your own; that you won’t go bankrupt when you get sick.  That maybe you can take a little vacation with your family once in a while -- nothing fancy, but just time to spend with those you love.  Maybe see the country a little bit, ... That your kids can get a great education, and if they’re willing to work hard, then they can achieve things that you wouldn’t have even imagined achieving.  And then you can maybe retire with some dignity and some respect,..."   
 
For his finale, O'Bama ends his list with the purpose of his morality, by saying, "be part of a community and give something back [to the community]." ... "That’s the idea of America.  ... That’s what binds us all together."
 
From the context of his morality, O'Bama lays down the role of government.   "Our goal isn’t just to put people back to work -- although that’s priority number one -- it is to build an economy where that work pays off.  An economy where everyone, whether you are starting a business or punching a clock, can see your hard work and responsibility rewarded."  
 
Later in the speech, he describes the political process among the Parties, a process in which all parties share the basic political principle but differs in the means to implement it.  He says, "..., they’ve got a basic theory about how you grow the economy."  and "I’ve got a different view."  
 
Within the context of his morality and politics, he's being consistent when he says, "If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help.  There was a great teacher somewhere in your life.  Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive.  Somebody invested in roads and bridges.  If you’ve got a business -- you didn’t build that.  Somebody else made that happen.  The Internet didn’t get invented on its own.  Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet."  
 
He concludes his basic ideas about both by saying, "The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together.  There are some things, just like fighting fires, we don’t do on our own.  I mean, imagine if everybody had their own fire service.  That would be a hard way to organize fighting fires."  "So we say to ourselves, ever since the founding of this country, you know what, there are some things we do better together.  That’s how we funded the GI Bill.  That’s how we created the middle class.  That’s how we built the Golden Gate Bridge or the Hoover Dam.  That’s how we invented the Internet.  That’s how we sent a man to the moon.  We rise or fall together as one nation and as one people, and that’s the reason I’m running for President -- because I still believe in that idea.  You’re not on your own, we’re in this together."
 
According to O'Bama (and to what he says about the views of his adversaries), the role of government is to build an economy.  The question his Party faces is how to do it.  He says, "So all these issues go back to that first campaign that I talked about, because everything has to do with how do we help middle-class families, working people, strivers, doers -- how do we help them succeed living their lives?  How do we make sure that their hard work pays off?  That’s what I've been thinking about the entire time I've been President."  
 
I am summarizing his speech this way.  You citizens won't be living a fanciful life but you will be working hard, spending a little time with your loved ones and dying with some dignity and respect.  More importantly as you live, you'll be giving back to the community.  We, the Government, will make sure that there is a community to give back to.  Toward that end, the government will grow the economy.  You will participate in the economy by working hard and being innovative.  Also, you will have a political say in this; all that you have to decide by your vote is which Party can best grow the economy.  From time to time, you might take pride in your accomplishments.  However, you really shouldn't because if it wasn't for others and the government, you never could have done anything.
 
I believe that O'Bama's fundamental error has to be that he has no grasp on the nature of man.  Instead, he has reified the community and serves this entity through his statist politics.  
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This is an interesting topic to consider.  Thanks for posting it, Harrison Danneskjold.

 

Obama's observation promotes consideration of others at best, and sacrifice to others at worst.  No one exists in a vacuum, so the premise, "you didn't build yourself" is true.  His conclusion that, "you owe your existence to others" is incomplete, as no clear identification of who created you is made.  A priest may similarly assert, "you owe your existence to God", and a Dictator that, "you owe your existence to The State", but all these kind of assertions rely on the sanction of the victim to gain potency.  A rational individual knows they own themselves and aren't persuaded otherwise by claims of duty made on the behalf of unspecified others.

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This is an interesting topic to consider.  Thanks for posting it, Harrison Danneskjold.

 

Obama's observation promotes consideration of others at best, and sacrifice to others at worst.  No one exists in a vacuum, so the premise, "you didn't build yourself" is true.  His conclusion that, "you owe your existence to others" is incomplete, as no clear identification of who created you is made.  A priest may similarly assert, "you owe your existence to God", and a Dictator that, "you owe your existence to The State", but all these kind of assertions rely on the sanction of the victim to gain potency.  A rational individual knows they own themselves and aren't persuaded otherwise by claims of duty made on the behalf of unspecified others.

 

If I was just going to take his politics at face value it seems like he thinks of the state as a guild. A lot of liberals aren't even egalitarians in any serious way. They just think that the state is supposed to build the economy like OhReally points out.  I actually had a liberal argue to me that taxes weren't theft, they were "guild dues", and that without them there wouldn't be infrastructure or technological progress. You don't have to be a leftist nutbag to find this argument persuasive.

 

If it were true however that the only for the ecology, infrastructure, and technology to be developed in safe manner was through some sort of monopoly I would argue that there should be a separation of power between that monopolistic entity and the state itself. It doesn't make any sense that a commander in chief should be responsible for the development of an economy. 

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Obama's argument ignores the source of wealth and values. 

Precisely.

 

You might add that "You didn't build that" is a way to deny property rights.

Yes!  And that was his motive in making the statement (as opposed to the motives of his audience); if you didn't cause X then you have no right to X.

 

At root is the rejection of the Law of Causality--a view that plagues the American left and the religious right.

Yes, but of what sort?

Because the statement is not a rejection of causality, itself (I'm not sure if such a rejection is even expressible in English). . .  But it is a definition-by-nonessentials which rejects one particular sort of causal relation.

 

That's why I bring this up.  If we can identify the relation that's being rejected (by the methods Hairnet pointed out) and the motivation in rejecting it, you'd be amazed at what we could then deduce.

Edited by Harrison Danneskjold
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I believe that O'Bama's fundamental error has to be that he has no grasp on the nature of man.

I agree with everything else in your post except this, insofar as I think you underestimate it.

One does not scream with such vitriol about an honest mistake. . .

 

No one exists in a vacuum, so the premise, "you didn't build yourself" is true.

Please elaborate on this point.

That's the exact thing it boils down to; whether you are responsible for the content of your own mind- or not!

 

This is an interesting topic to consider.  Thanks for posting it, Harrison Danneskjold.

You're welcome!

Although, if I may play devil's advocate for a moment, B)  you should thank my mother and Ayn Rand for teaching me to think in the terms which were necessary to have the idea.

 

 

Thanks!

This exchange is what Barack Obama, and every person who applauded his speech, wants to prevent.  Ultimately, he would tell Hairnet that he has no reason to be proud of his own idea.

 

Now, once you get an explicit grasp of that, the question becomes- why?

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...

Please elaborate on this point.

That's the exact thing it boils down to; whether you are responsible for the content of your own mind- or not!

 

You're welcome!

Although, if I may play devil's advocate for a moment, B)  you should thank my mother and Ayn Rand for teaching me to think in the terms which were necessary to have the idea.

...

 

The premise, "you didn't build yourself" is true because no one wills themselves into existence.  Of course Obama is referring more directly to ones passage from infancy to adulthood, during which numerous persons are responsible for ones survival, education and well being until one achieves independence.  However if such caregivers are responsible for ones future success, then they are logically equally responsible for ones future failures.  Is one then entitled to extended coverage (or a tax rebate) if one remains unsuccessful.  Or can a criminal rightly claim they're not entirely responsible for their actions, such that all prior caregivers are accomplices to whatever future crimes one commits??

 

Your mother and Ayn Rand deserve credit, but not compensation from you.  Did you ask to be born, or direct Ayn Rand to produce an Objective philosophy for your benefit??  One presumes mom and Ayn Rand made their choices and recieved compensation prior to your having any influence on them, therefore you remain duty free.

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Without going back over the speech, from memory I think the 'line' was being discussed in the context of existing infrastucture and how individuals and individual businesses are 'afforded' the resources that is the infrastucture. The underlying theme to such a tone is that society is organized to benefit 'others' , duh. As one of the others that derives benefit from the agreeded upon premise( a cousin premise to from each.., to each..) one should not whine when it comes time to put up your fair share, and woe to those with the termitity to claim ownership of their individual efforts in building 'that' (what ever that that happens to be).

The answer , I think, from an individualsist's pov would be , if someone did in fact lay resources at my feet( ie roads to allow my business to function) , then I should pay them for it and not whine. But if the roads were not constructed with my sole benefit in mind , why claim a debt in my name? The stance that society exists to deliver the goods and not for protection of individual rights , I think, is what the writers of the speech were trying to reinforce.

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"We’ve already made a trillion dollars’ worth of cuts. We can make another trillion or trillion-two, and what we then do is ask for the wealthy to pay a little bit more."

...

"There are a lot of wealthy, successful Americans who agree with me — because they want to give something back. They know they didn’t — look, if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own."

...

"The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together." ~ President Obama

http://radio.foxnews.com/2012/07/26/president-obamas-you-didnt-build-that-transcript/

--

Follow the logical dominos...

1)  Success is dependent on infrastructure, e.g., roads, schools, security, i.e., commons maintained by society.

2)  Wealth is relative to initiative and access to infrastructure.

3)  Therefore wealthy, successful Americans ought to pay more for infrastructure because...

 

Point 3 is incomplete because no metric has been provided to determine what a fair/equitable share of common use of infrastructure is with respect to individual initiative.  Apparently the metric to be used is guilt, i.e., that disproportionate wealth/success implies disproportionate access/use of infrastructure.  If this is the case, then compensation above and beyond fair/equitable taxation is necessary to restore fair/equitable access/use of infrastructure.  But if a disproportionate use of initiative, combined with a fair/equitable use of infrastructure, creates wealthy, successful Americans, then overuse of infrastructure isn't the metric, and initiative is.

 

In any case, a flat tax would be more effective in providing fair payments for infrastructure based on equitable access/use.  One is then free to use initiative to create wealth/success without relying on Obama's guilt metric to pay disproportionately for access/use of common resources.

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The premise, "you didn't build yourself" is true because no one wills themselves into existence.

You're getting ahead of yourself.  Causality is all about alternatives.  When we ask why X happened, we're asking "why X, instead of Y?"  So no, I didn't cause my own existence- that implies that I could have chosen not to be born.  In that sense you're right.

But "you didn't build yourself" does not mean "you didn't cause your own existence"; it means something simpler and much more insidious.

 

Of course Obama is referring more directly to ones passage from infancy to adulthood, during which numerous persons are responsible for ones survival, education and well being until one achieves independence.

"Responsibility" is based on causality.  If person 1 is "responsible" for X, it means that without them X would not have happened at all.

So while we certainly influence children in raising them, does any adult become the direct sum of their parents' influence?  Don't children sometimes grow to disagree with their parents, mentors; even childhood friends?

If so then what are we missing, here?

 

Did you ask to be born, or direct Ayn Rand to produce an Objective philosophy for your benefit??

I didn't ask for a body that requires Oxygen to survive, either.  But this is closer. . .

 

But if the roads were not constructed with my sole benefit in mind , why claim a debt in my name?

Is that the reason for property rights?

You're whitewashing it with a semi-plausible meaning (as is Devil's Advocate); stop it.  Take it literally, as a rejection- not of property rights, as such- but of their source.

Ask yourself precisely what part of human nature is being discussed.  Because Hairnet and Oh Really were right; it is about the nature of man.  But Aleph was also right; it is about causality.

 

1)  Success is dependent on infrastructure, e.g., roads, schools, security, i.e., commons maintained by society.

Look closely at this premise, DA, because that is the precise root of it.

---

 

"You didn't build that" boils down to "you didn't build yourself"; you have no causal relation to your own thoughts, ideas and feelings.

 

This is a rejection of volition.  And if you can identify its motivation, you'll understand every single Collectivist slogan- because they are all based on it!

 

So why would so many people (such as "the 99%") who have never met each other before, be united by this hysterical denial of free will?

Why would someone develop that fundamental hostility towards it?  What causes anyone to truly hate anything- and how would it apply to the concept of volition?

Edited by Harrison Danneskjold
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@ Harrison Danneskjold,

 

Again, one doesn't exist in a vacuum, which is to say that everyones existence is interactive and therefore one cannot dismiss the contributions/impediments presented by others;  a self-made man doesn't exist.  Wealth is a smoke screen in Obama's argument, the real issue being to what degree does ones success depend on others, and the reality is, quite a bit *ouch*.

 

First off, consider what success implies in isolation; not much.  Success is relative to others, i.e., in order for there to be winners, there are necessarily losers.  If everyone were successful, the term would lose it's distinction.  Therefore Obama is correct to say, "If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help."  Of course it's equally true to say that if you were a failure, somebody along the line presented you with an impediment.  Neither the former nor the latter imply you had no role to play yourself.  It's your game to win or lose, however other players are necessary for either result to occur.

 

Obama isn't trying to take away your property, you need that in order for him to collect taxes.  He believes in the redistribution of wealth via taxation, and he's treating infrastructure as though it were a form of collective intellectual property that one must continue to pay for in order to use.

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DA:

 

"i.e., in order for there to be winners, there are necessarily losers."  this is the "zero sum" error made by socialists.  Don't fall into the traps of that false premise.

 

 

When your neighbor sells you his iPhone for $300, it is because he values your $300 MORE than the iPhone. You gave him your $300 for the iPhone because you value the iPhone more than the $300.  In the end you BOTH ended up with more value.

 

A socialist would never see that... he'd just say .. "someone must have lost out on the deal" and it is because socialists are not traders, and inasmuch as they talk of a so called dog-eat-dog world, it is because IT IS THEY who think in those terms.

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a self-made man doesn't exist.

So who caused you to think (and subsequently type) this?  Because if people do not intentionally make themselves, in that they fashion the content and functioning of their own minds, then neither can they do anything else intentional.

"Choice" implies alternatives and values.  So if your own thoughts and values are not caused, even in some indirect way, by your own judgment then nothing else in the world can be.

 

If there is no such thing as a self-made man then there is no such thing as choice (or a self).  It's one or the other; you can't have both.

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a self-made man doesn't exist.

If so then our wealthiest citizens didn't make themselves; all of their talents were caused by other people.

If so then the people responsible for those talents, which caused such profits, rightfully deserve the rewards.

If so then on what basis can anyone own anything, under any circumstances?

 

Your assertion leads directly to unbridled Collectivism.  Check your premises.

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@ StrictlyLogical,

 

The term success requires something to compaired against, e.g., failure, or lack of success.  Similarily, for winners to exist there are necessarily losers.  Otherwise these terms are meaningless as descriptions of reality.  A Socialist may claim what you suggest, or I might say the exchange of $300 for a iPhone is an exchange of assets, the value of which was equal at the time of trade.  I think the point is more that success depends on trade, and trade on marketplaces, i.e., infrastructure.  Obama is correct in that knowledge that leads to success is aquired from many sources, including the mistakes of others.

 

The fault I see is in presuming that success ought to be taxed more than failure, or that infrastructure is like intellectual property.  I certainly don't place a financial burden on those who create infrasturcture by using it.  And they certainly haven't been waiting for me to become successful in order to get paid for their efforts.  Neither they nor I wanted to pay taxes in the first place.

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@ StrictlyLogical,

 

...Similarily, for winners to exist there are necessarily losers.

Not really: not in the sense in which SL used the term. He used "winning" to describe the gaining of value. For there to be "gainers", there don't have to be losers. Production and trade can be a creative process: i.e. values grows and all involved can be "gainers" (or 'winners" in the sense SL used the term). Edited by softwareNerd
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Not really: not in the sense in which SL used the term. He used "winning" to describe the gaining of value. For there to be "gainers", there don't have to be losers. Production and trade can be a creative process: i.e. values grows and all involved can be "gainers" (or 'winners" in the sense SL used the term).

 

Well, I agree that when traders trade, all parties gain something they didn't have prior to trading.  However that doesn't mean a new acquisition is worth more than the item used to acquire it.  In StrictlyLogical's example, $300 = iPhone, and neither item increased (or decreased) in its objective worth as a result of trade.  To equate gaining with winning is a bit of a stretch.  For example, gaining stock that subsequently tanks, isn't winning.

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Be careful of disguising the idea of "intrinsic worth" with the words "objective worth".

 

Value presupposes a valuer.  Valuation is context specific.

 

 

If you ask each person in a trade if they increased their own values, each would say "yes".  There is nothing more to say about the issue.

 

A socialist would of course disagree.

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