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Conflicting Conclusions and therefore Conflict of Interest

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7 minutes ago, MisterSwig said:

Rand writes: "Only an irrationalist ... exists in a perpetual conflict of 'interests.' Not only do his alleged interests clash with those of other men, but they clash also with one another." (VOS, p. 58)

Yes, I have seen the following too "When a person reaches the stage of claiming that man’s interests conflict with reality, the concept “interests” ceases to be meaningful—and his problem ceases to be philosophical and becomes psychological" (VOS, p. 47)

Seems like she may be attacking the idea that there is a conflict of interest between man and reality (which I would suspect all of us agree with -- it is meaningless).

Does Marxism hold that reality or a society is perpetual conflict of interest? Or that the reality of society i.e. the nature of society necessitates conflict of interest?

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I mean, you've been asked a few times exactly why you have a different view. You began the discussion by suggesting that Rand didn't understand the "common meaning", and/or was really only talking abo

You keep giving different versions of the same scenario. I keep asking each time why you think it is a conflict of interest, or phrased differently, which interests conflict.  At this point it'

ET, Thanks for bringing up this issue. I think of the conflicts of interests that brought on the American Civil War. Slavery was a crucial economic factor of production and profit in the Sou

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2 hours ago, Easy Truth said:

As if the "objective" value of something does not exist? Indeterminable?

Of course not, because I said price. Then take my example. Since we both place a different price on an iPhone, is it because we don't yet know what the actual price is? Or is it because there is no such thing as actual price? Is it because of another reason? 

2 hours ago, Easy Truth said:

I say this because it seems like you are ultimately saying that a free market is not a fair market.

I'm saying anything more than a free market doesn't guarantee that all transactions are fair. I'm also saying that it's incoherent to call a market "fair" without smuggling in the idea that a price can be wrong. Do people disagree about prices because someone is wrong about the price and just needs to calculate it correctly? 

1 hour ago, MisterSwig said:

1. Perhaps Rand did not believe that the clashing "interests" were actual interests

By that point in the essay, it was clear what she had in mind by saying interests, namely, rational self-interest rather than any kind of interest one chooses. Also, if one is irrational to a great degree, they won't even know what the hell their interests are, which is the correct interests, which one to pick, which one is correct. It just would make no sense to their mind. Their mind is in conflict. 

For what it's worth, I think your questions here are pretty good. I reread the essay today, and I stopped at the same passage. It sounded weird to me, as if Rand was just being sloppy. But I think there is a charitable and sensible reading.

1 hour ago, MisterSwig said:

2. Who are these "other men" with interests that clash with the irrational man's "interests"?

Everyone and anyone I think. Irrationalists being those who are irrational to the core. For those kinds of people, whatever vague notion of interest that they hold will conflict with every single person they meet.

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50 minutes ago, Eiuol said:
2 hours ago, Easy Truth said:

As if the "objective" value of something does not exist? Indeterminable?

Of course not, because I said price. Then take my example. Since we both place a different price on an iPhone, is it because we don't yet know what the actual price is? Or is it because there is no such thing as actual price? Is it because of another reason? 

That actual price is the price paid when the voluntary exchange happens. That's why it's called actual. What you describe "we both place a different price" is not actual, just because we "place" a price. An offer is not a price. An ask for is not a price. The exchange, the ACTUAL exchange determines the ACTUAL price at that moment.

This of course has to happen in uncoerced circumstances for it to be accepted as fair ... by rational people.

That is the fair price, that is actual desert, that is what happens in Market A in my example. When a price is determined by a free market, this is what is meant by a good/fair/appropriate price, not the subjective opinion of a trader that has not made the trade.

The ACTUAL price is not determined by a Marxist Central Planner, or you and I's opinion on what the price of the iphone is supposed to be. A free market should determine the price.

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14 minutes ago, Easy Truth said:

This of course has to happen in uncoerced circumstances for it to be accepted as fair ... By rational people.

I'm not really interested in pursuing this anymore, but I am curious about why you think people disagree about prices (why people differ about their preferred selling price, why people differ about their preferred asking price).

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50 minutes ago, Eiuol said:

I'm not really interested in pursuing this anymore, but I am curious about why you think people disagree about prices (why people differ about their preferred selling price, why people differ about their preferred asking price).

The issue arose when actual interest was questioned. What is the nature of actual interest?

To determine actual interest objectively, not opinion one has to have an environment that would provide that.

The disagreement about asking or selling price can be arbitrary, it can be a lie as in I am willing to sell lower but i will ask for a higher price. But that is not the objective price of something. So it has always been irrelevant in this discussion.

People disagree about the price they paid, (the actual price) when they discover some unfairness. In a fair trade, that disagreement should not come up (i.e. it is not real, just a psychological reaction).

That similarly (actual and opinion) can apply to "no conflict of interest".

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8 hours ago, merjet said:

The dictionary definition you cited is the kind of conflict of interest I referred to in my first post on this thread (post, Wikipedia). Since some very rational people could be insurance claims adjusters, purchasing agents, financial advisors, lawyers, etc. as described in the Wikipedia article, it is clear that there could be conflicts of interest of that kind among those very rational people.

Take the 'very rational police officer' charged by his superior officer to enforce a piece of legislation or a court-ordered decree that undermines the right of a citizen. 

This would be quite different from an attorney defending a client he knows is guilty from a prosecution that has failed to make an airtight case.

This might be more in line with an aspect taken from the movie "A Few Good Men" regarding the soldiers charge of protecting the rights of those unable to protect their rights for themselves.

 

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6 hours ago, MisterSwig said:

1. Perhaps Rand did not believe that the clashing "interests" were actual interests. Here she put the word in scare quotes and then said "alleged interests." So maybe the conflict is with something else, something she thought people mistake for an interest.

Yes, that has to be the case, it is the only way that it makes sense.

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39 minutes ago, dream_weaver said:

Take the 'very rational police officer' charged by his superior officer to enforce a piece of legislation or a court-ordered decree that undermines the right of a citizen.

Clearly an ethical question, but how do you see it in the terms of "conflict of interest"? Internal conflict or between people?

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6 hours ago, dream_weaver said:

Take the 'very rational police officer' charged by his superior officer to enforce a piece of legislation or a court-ordered decree that undermines the right of a citizen. 

This would be quite different from an attorney defending a client he knows is guilty from a prosecution that has failed to make an airtight case.

This might be more in line with an aspect taken from the movie "A Few Good Men" regarding the soldiers charge of protecting the rights of those unable to protect their rights for themselves.

I consider the first as a “conflict of interest” broadly construed, but not in the narrower sense of “conflict of interest” per the Wikipedia article. The interests of the 'very rational police officer' and his superior officer do conflict. However, the 'very rational police officer’s' oath of loyalty is to his employer (e.g., city, county, or state; oath for city of Phoenix) rather than his superior officer.

The attorney is entrusted to serve the best interest of his client. That may not go so far as trying to get the client known to be guilty off scot-free based on a technicality. It may mean getting the client charged with a lesser crime or less jail time.

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5 hours ago, Easy Truth said:

Clearly an ethical question, but how do you see it in the terms of "conflict of interest"? Internal conflict or between people?

Earlier in the lockdown process, a barber in Owosso, Michigan, continued to ply his trade. A police official refused to arrest the barber, even though he was in violation of an executive order that was issue under a law that was later struck down as unconstitutional per the Constitution of the state of Michigan. 

The initial conflict was for the officer to perform his duty and uphold the law, to arrest the barber for not closing shop like most of the rest of the hair salons. At the time the officer refused. The law and executive order he was sworn to uphold and carry out created a conflict for him.

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2 hours ago, merjet said:

However, the 'very rational police officer’s' oath of loyalty is to his employer (e.g., city, county, or state; oath for city of Phoenix) rather than his superior officer.

Poorly worded on my behalf. In the post regarding Owosso, Michigan, the officer is sworn to uphold the law. Oft times, it is a superior officer, or representative of an executive branch that informs/reminds others in law enforcement of particular laws thus stressing their priority at a given time.

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15 hours ago, Easy Truth said:

People disagree about the price they paid, (the actual price) when they discover some unfairness. In a fair trade, that disagreement should not come up (i.e. it is not real, just a psychological reaction).

I wrote this up as a kind of review to myself, so the next 3 paragraphs are probably rehashing things. Skip to the very end of my post for newer ideas.

Right now I think Plan A is the best. My interest is rational self-interest. Right now you think Plan B is the best. Your interest is rational self-interest. We conflict about the plan, but not about our interests. We conflict about Plan A and Plan B because we hold different knowledge, leading me to believe that A is in my self-interest but not B, and you to believe that B is in your self-interest, but not A. Seemingly, a conflict of interest! 

Upon reflection, through the pursuit of rational self-interest, our knowledge overlaps enough that Plan A is discovered as the best plan for both of us. That is, plans exist for companies or wider context goals, and we wouldn't be working together to decide about plans unless we shared the same wider goal. Even wider than that, we both seek rational self-interest. 

You don't say that you found the "actual plan", nor do you refer to Plan A as the "actual plan", even though you still talk about "actual interest". Yes, you can refer to plan A as the "actually selected plan", but "actual" there is a completely different concept than the "actual" of "actual interest". 

===

The difference with price is that there is exactly one best plan, but there are infinite best prices (because the best price is different for everyone).  

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2 hours ago, Eiuol said:

You don't say that you found the "actual plan", nor do you refer to Plan A as the "actual plan", even though you still talk about "actual interest". Yes, you can refer to plan A as the "actually selected plan", but "actual" there is a completely different concept than the "actual" of "actual interest". 

We have to be careful because we are getting caught up in analogies and metaphors.

I don't know how to communicate, using price and plan metaphors in combination.

The closest thing I can come up (based on my understanding of Rand) using your labels, would be "actual interest", would refer to "what you want, which takes into consideration that (it is right to want it) it is the right thing to want" i.e. a rational person would want the right thing. And when rational people want the right thing, conflict goes away. This would end up including "you deserve it, it is just, it is proper, it is fair ... and all in the long run".

As in rational people would appreciate and push for laws, rights, justice, responsibility, etc.

In broad strokes, that is reasonable/common sense, right? I suspect no one disagrees with that.

The objections have been regarding the potential interpretations, because things can mean "long term" or temporary, or that "no conflict" would mean none at all. And from what I gather we all agree that those aspects or terminology are at a minimum ambiguous.

But we don't disagree with the idea that rationality is good and conflicts (of any kind) certainly decrease because of it.

So, now, I am trying to find out what was she arguing against.

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Karl Marx argued that competition over limited resources was inherent in society and framed it as a perpetual conflict of interest of the members of that society. Marx’s theory of exploitation of the working class in capitalist societies is summed up with a ruling bourgeoisie and an oppressed proletariat are not interacting using rational means (voluntary agreements).

The bourgeoisie maintains social order through domination rather than agreement.” This state of affairs is considered a constant conflict of interest going on in society … not voluntary trading.

"Exploitation: when workers receive less money than what their labor is worth." Rand argues for a political/economic/civilization model in which demonstrates that the conflict is not a valid conflict i.e. in a laissez fair Capitalist system, this conflict is simply nonsensical.

Similarly, "Problems become noticeable because the upper class is looking to get the most production possible for the least amount of money." would also indicate a conflict that does not exist.

"Consider the relationship between the owner of a housing complex and a tenant in that same housing complex”. An Austrian economist “might suggest that the relationship between the owner and the tenant is founded on mutual benefit. In contrast, a conflict theorist might argue the relationship is based on a conflict in which the owner and tenant are struggling against each other."

And sure enough "Social conflict theory is a Marxist-based social theory which argues that individuals and groups (social classes) within society interact on the basis of conflict rather than consensus."

In Objectivism/Austrian economics, these conflicts don’t exist. In other words their (Marxist) ideologically based perspective observes a conflict that is not valid.

The implication of the Marx’s analysis is that "conflict of interest among men" will be perpetual since bourgeoisie “domination” is itself a "conflict of interest". A Hegelian Dialectic progression that will never end. So they see Capitalism attempting to create law and order … through "conflict of interest" (i.e. domination and subjugation).

In a free market society, by it’s nature, no one is dominating. This is seen as impossible in the Marxist view so Rand’s “no conflict of interest” is a refutation of the impossibility.

Competition over limited resources (a normal free market operation for an Objectivist) is considered to be a state of “conflict of interest” by a Marxist, in fact, it a perpetual state of conflict of interest. So based on Marxist reasoning, (what an Objectivist would consider normal) as in a competitive market pricing allocation supply and demand based system with the inequality of outcome it produces is viewed as a perpetual conflict of interest.

According to them rational agreements, between members, are not happening (perhaps because they are impossible in a Marxist perspective).

As far as rationality goes, Irrational justice, or justice among irrational people, at best may refer to a momentary blip where these people were lucky and there was some justice. Perpetual is the key word that Rand uses specify conflict.

Rand writes: "Only an irrationalist ... exists in a perpetual conflict of 'interests.' Not only do his alleged interests clash with those of other men, but they clash also with one another." (VOS, p. 58)

The momentary aspect of “conflict” or “interest”, their not being in the long run has some relevance. Rand is to attacking the perpetual aspect of Marx’s formulation. Perpetuity is an implication that has been omitted from “conflict” but essential to gain a proper interpretation. Therefore, I would argue that in the context of refuting Marx’s argument, conflict refers to perpetual conflict.

So whenever she says conflict, she means “perpetual conflict”, and no conflict means no perpetual conflict. It is obvious to any observer, that “no conflict” cannot mean absence of all conflict (as was observed in the thread).

She is also attacking the Marxist idea that Capitalism. by its nature, is an exercise in dealing with “conflict of interest” via brute force, subjugation of the worker by the bourgeoisie.

Finally, it is common sense that, rationality is at the core of eliminating “perpetual conflict of any kind”, including conflict over scarce resources. But in Marxism you are a product of your environment, so rationality has no import.

This is currently is my most plausible interpretation of “no conflict of interest” among rational men which is her response to the Marxist notion an “inherent” perpetual conflict of interest exists among men in a Capitalist society.

I think I am satisfied no and I'm letting it go. Thanks for helping get me here (all of you in the thread).

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_conflict

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_conflict_theory

https://learn.robinhood.com/articles/gzswQoUGEZSTPk9xcGS2T/what-is-conflict-theory/

 

 

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18 hours ago, Easy Truth said:

I don't know how to communicate, using price and plan metaphors in combination.

They are not metaphors, I'm comparing concepts to show how they differ and relate. The point of doing that is to understand the concept "conflict". Are all conflicts exactly like conflicts of interest? Which characteristics do they share, which characteristics don't they share? 

9 hours ago, Easy Truth said:

The momentary aspect of “conflict” or “interest”, their not being in the long run has some relevance. Rand is to attacking the perpetual aspect of Marx’s formulation. Perpetuity is an implication that has been omitted from “conflict” but essential to gain a proper interpretation. Therefore, I would argue that in the context of refuting Marx’s argument, conflict refers to perpetual conflict.

It was all great, up to this point. I thought the analysis was pretty good. However, you might be focusing too much on refuting a Marxist notion of conflict within capitalist society. You lose the context that Rand even acknowledges that conflicts of interest can occur within a capitalist society. You also lose the context that conflicts can become perpetual - conflict of interest is perpetual as long as someone is acting irrationally, because interests are perpetual (they span the course of your entire life). I think what we have here is what Rand would call a frozen abstraction: you demonstrated that conflicts of interest are not perpetual, but act as if you demonstrated that all conflict is not perpetual. You are correct though that the lack of perpetuity is critical to why there are no conflicts of interest among rational people.

But I think you had the overall idea, and I like this part:

10 hours ago, Easy Truth said:

Finally, it is common sense that, rationality is at the core of eliminating “perpetual conflict of any kind”, including conflict over scarce resources.

 

 

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6 hours ago, Eiuol said:

you demonstrated that conflicts of interest are not perpetual, but act as if you demonstrated that all conflict is not perpetual. 

Correction: you demonstrated that conflicts of interest need not be perpetual*

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Maybe the following Venn diagrams will help. Venn diagrams offer a means of categorizing things as compatible or incompatible, i.e. mutually exclusive. “No conflicts of interest” translates to only mutually beneficial relations (trade, cooperation).

image.png.bec4c6d918bc5a771e38c13c985749f2.png

The top set of two circles depicts what I construe as Rand’s perspective on conflicts of interest, and in effect, mutually beneficial relations. I was quite charitable to Rand to include ‘no COI’ in the right circle, since she nowhere endorsed it in her essay The “Conflicts” of Men’s Interests. She wrote, “Only an irrationalist … exists in a perpetual conflict of ‘interests’ (VoS, 59).

The lower set of three circles depicts my perspective on conflicts of interest, and in effect, mutually beneficial relations. In this perspective all space outside the conflicts of interest circle is for mutually beneficial trades or relations. The middle circle of the set of 3 circles can be regarded as mild on the left and become more severe moving to the right.

Comments

The meanings of “conflict of interest” are not identical in the two sets of circles. That partly explains why the circles are drawn differently in the two sets.

Don’t attach too much to the size of the intersecting areas. They are partly affected by fitting the text.

In Rand’s perspective a person who is mostly rational must be regarded as leaping from the left circle to the right circle (above the horizontal) every time he/she has an episode of irrationality. Also, a mostly irrational person must be regarded as leaping from the right circle to the left circle every time he/she has an episode of rationality. In my perspective there is no need for any leaping.

Long-term contracts cannot anticipate every contingency, and unanticipated contingencies can lead to conflicts of interest. I believe examples I gave earlier in this thread support that. If the parties to the contract are rational and such a conflict of interest does arise, then how does one view the matter? Was somebody “really” irrational because he/she failed to anticipate? If yes, in effect rationality assumes perfect foresight, in effect omniscience. Or did somebody rational experience a (rare) conflict of interest? If the latter, it is inconsistent with Rand’s perspective and stated position.

Ayn Rand was a polemical writer and often polarized, beyond doubt in my opinion. She wrote about heroes and villains, the very rational and the very irrational, independent people and dependent people, pure capitalism and Marxism, and to a great extend ignored the wide range in between. This describes her non-fiction as well as her fiction. I believe it even affected the way she “carved up reality,” e.g. her perspective versus my perspective as depicted by the Venn diagrams.

image.png

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8 hours ago, merjet said:

The meanings of “conflict of interest” are not identical in the two sets of circles.

Why use two different meanings?  What is the difference?  If the meanings are different, how does either perspective clarify or improve the other?

Perhaps it would be clearer, instead of using circles, to use a universe of discourse region divided by two parallel vertical lines.  The left-hand line has rational to its left and irrational to its right.  The right-hand line has no COI to its left and COI to its right.  (Sorry, I don't know how to draw this in a post.)

It is in the interest of both parties to live in a society with a good system of courts and laws that provides an objective way of resolving any disputes that arise due to the unexpected.  

Edited by Doug Morris
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13 hours ago, Doug Morris said:

Why use two different meanings?  What is the difference?  If the meanings are different, how does either perspective clarify or improve the other?

All your questions are answered in the post to which you replied and/or this one. I suggest reading more than once, especially the later one, sort as if you were reading an advanced math textbook. When I took advanced math courses, I had to read the same section a few times for a good grasp of the content. Such content doesn’t “leap off the page” or seem intuitively obvious immediately. It takes effort. I believe you can do it.

13 hours ago, Doug Morris said:

Perhaps it would be clearer, instead of using circles, to use a universe of discourse region divided by two parallel vertical lines.  The left-hand line has rational to its left and irrational to its right.  The right-hand line has no COI to its left and COI to its right.  (Sorry, I don't know how to draw this in a post.)

The first set of circles – Rand's perspective but ignoring the straight line and “no COI” – in essence does that, except the separation is by circles instead of two parallel vertical lines.

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On 10/3/2020 at 5:22 AM, merjet said:

The common meaning is ‘a set of circumstances that creates a risk that professional judgment or actions regarding a primary interest will be unduly influenced by a secondary interest.’ 

Ayn Rand was not talking about the common meaning.  She was saying that if A and B are rational people in a free society, there us never anything that is simultaneously in A's interest and against B's interest.  Your focus on the common meaning is utterly irrelevant to understanding or evaluating what she said.

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On 10/20/2020 at 5:44 AM, merjet said:

Such content doesn’t “leap off the page” or seem intuitively obvious immediately. It takes effort. I believe you can do it.

It is actually a poor depiction of a relationship through the use of a Venn diagram. What you could do is use a diagram that shows how rational interests of 2 individuals fail to overlap in some instances. You can't use a diagram like this to as an algorithm of jumping between being rational and irrational. It just doesn't make sense.

2 hours ago, Doug Morris said:

Ayn Rand was not talking about the common meaning.

I'm not even sure that's actually a "common meaning". Or at least, I don't think it matters, because we aren't trying to consider if something has undue influence on a person. If something has undue influence on a person, that person is already being irrational. Merjet is having his own little conversation with himself. 

Anyway, I'm posting because I wanted to share this section of Viable Values by Tara Smith, particularly for ET. Keep in mind that optional here refers to the way that values can vary between people, while simultaneously having a standard that applies to all people (ie there exists a procedure to figure out what the correct values are for you). 

c3k9Zn4.jpg

 

Edited by Eiuol
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2 hours ago, Eiuol said:

What you could do is use a diagram that shows how rational interests of 2 individuals fail to overlap in some instances.

I had trouble understanding the Venn diagram myself, but regarding your statement, if it is in A's interest to go North, and B's to go South, isn't that a non-overlapping interest? That would have no conflict in it.

I say this because I thought you were making the case that overlapping interests means "a conflict" in the making.

But i did enjoy your research from Smith, trying to absorb it.

On 10/19/2020 at 4:12 AM, merjet said:

Long-term contracts cannot anticipate every contingency, and unanticipated contingencies can lead to conflicts of interest.

We have to differentiate conflict of interest, in the area of perpetual vs. non perpetual.

There are some conflicts of interest where "the system" will not allow it to be solved i.e. it has evil or corruption. A society with slavery has conflict of interest built in. A cannibalistic society also has conflict of interest built in, even though there are friendships in it "sometimes". A monarchy has conflict on interest built in. In all these cases, conflict of interest is perpetual.

4 hours ago, Doug Morris said:

Ayn Rand was not talking about the common meaning.  She was saying that if A and B are rational people in a free society, there us never anything that is simultaneously in A's interest and against B's interest.  Your focus on the common meaning is utterly irrelevant to understanding or evaluating what she said.

I take Merjet's fundamental argument as being "if we take what Rand said, with the common meaning, she would be wrong". If so, we all agree with that.

2 hours ago, Eiuol said:

(ie there exists a procedure to figure out what the correct values are for you). 

Is "being rational" this procedure? Or is there more to it? From what I am gathering, there are optional values ... but are these optional "rational" values? I mean are there "good values" that are not necessarily rational?

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14 hours ago, Doug Morris said:

Ayn Rand was not talking about the common meaning.  She was saying that if A and B are rational people in a free society, there us never anything that is simultaneously in A's interest and against B's interest.  Your focus on the common meaning is utterly irrelevant to understanding or evaluating what she said.

That doesn’t bother me. I don’t live in a hypothetical, fully free society where everybody is rational. I live in the real world.

Your focus on a hypothetical, fully free society, where everybody is rational is irrelevant to me.

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12 hours ago, Eiuol said:

[1] It is actually a poor depiction of a relationship through the use of a Venn diagram. 

[2] What you could do is use a diagram that shows how rational interests of 2 individuals fail to overlap in some instances.

[3] You can't use a diagram like this to as an algorithm of jumping between being rational and irrational. It just doesn't make sense.

[1] Then show me a better depiction.

[2] Can you draw one? You could try drawing one to cover both:

1. The rational interests of 2 individuals overlap and conflict.

2. The rational interests of 2 individuals don’t overlap because they are entirely independent. They live 1,000s of miles apart and have no dealings whatever with one another.

[3] Speak for yourself. It is not an "algorithm."

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9 hours ago, Easy Truth said:

I had trouble understanding the Venn diagram myself, but regarding your statement, if it is in A's interest to go North, and B's to go South, isn't that a non-overlapping interest?

The answer could be ‘yes’ or ‘n/a.' If A going N and B going S are part of a cooperative plan to reach a common goal, then ‘yes.’ If A going N and B going S are totally independent, then ‘n/a’ and the Venn diagram is not relevant.

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