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Conflicting Conclusions and therefore Conflict of Interest

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On 10/7/2020 at 10:33 PM, 2046 said:

Thing is, I don't think Merlin knows anything about 1-7, mainly because he's not that good or smart. Most of his posts are a smattering of isolated assertions without argument, or question begging framing. Most can resolve to "begging all of the relevant questions and adopting my entire framework, that's is not how X, Y, or Z works in the real world, bucko." Well, no shit.

1 hour ago, merjet 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.

 

One you see the code in the matrix, you can predict the syntax

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I mentioned this upstream, but thought I'd show more of it here, hoping to encourage more of the scholarly-inclined to get this book and make it one of our tributaries to discussions here. (I personal

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'

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11 hours ago, Easy Truth said:

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

No, not at all. If our interests overlap, then to the extent that they overlap, we should work together. If interests are going to conflict, they need to be different, in the sense that if one person pursues their interest or value, a different person has be denied a different value. Smith kind of gets at this idea, by describing how the zero-sum view leads to the idea that anyone pursuing an interest is at the cost of another person. Merjet has a similar but less strong view, that *sometimes* when (rational) people pursue their interests, it is at the cost of another person. (Leaving aside whatever the "common meaning" is, this is what were talking about)

You are right that sometimes when interests differ, they don't conflict because they are so different. But when interests do conflict, they contradict each other, meaning that realizing one interest will make realizing the other interest impossible. If something contradicts, by definition it doesn't overlap (the two things are mutually exclusive). If you want to invade Poland for Nazi Germany, but I want Poland to remain an independent country, it's easy to see a major conflict brewing into World War II. I want A, you want not-A, that's a conflict of interest.

Imagine 3 circles, interests of person X (which we assume is rational at least as far as this interest), interests of person Y (which we assume is irrational, not just mistaken), and rational long-term self-interest. X and Y have no overlap. X falls completely within rational long-term self-interest. Y is completely separate. 

Now introduce interests of person Z (which we assume is rational like X). X and Z partially overlap. Both X and Z fall largely within the rational long-term self-interest circle, but I'm leaving a fraction outside because that's how I want to represent possibility of making mistakes. As long as a particular interest remains within the big circle, there will be no over arcing contradiction. Any particular interest outside the big circle, can contradict anything that is also outside the big circle. 

11 hours ago, Easy Truth said:

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?

Yeah, that's the procedure. But I mean everything about rationality that Rand talks about. The phrasing optional values I think is controversial, I would rather call them "individualized" or "personalized" values. But anyway, the particulars of us can vary so much that we can't make a rule like "everyone should enjoy the Beatles", but there is enough commonality that we can say "everyone should pursue their own flourishing" or "everyone should be honest".

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1 hour ago, merjet said:

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.

Okay, that is helpful.

I usually think about conflict of interest as being related to scarce resources i.e. two people can't eat the same exact thing, or occupy the same space.

In that sense "conflict" is inevitable. But "conflict of interest" is not inevitable. (or natural as Tara Smith says)

Now, this example you bring up is a breach of contract, a promise that is not kept. I would agree that some promises will not be kept even in a rational society, but I argue that Rand is talking about a breach of contract where there can be no "compensation" as in an unfair society. Rationality applied will mend/heal problems. A perpetual conflict of interest is different from an everyday conflict or "dispute" as you put it. It is like wound that won't heal. While a conflict of interest among rational people is a wound that gets healed.

I gravitate to fair markets, free societies because they explain the point best. Notice how a Marxist wants to get rid of conflict of interest. "By having no interest", no ownership, no boundary, no wants in as sense. You don't want a conflict of wants ... let's stop wanting.

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1 hour ago, 2046 said:

One you see the code in the matrix, you can predict the syntax

2046 failed to acknowledge that my previous posts met 1-7, likely because he's not that good or smart or honest. “He is free to evade reality, he is free to unfocus his mind and stumble blindly down any road he pleases, but not free to avoid the abyss he refuses to see.” - Ayn Rand   Link.

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20 minutes ago, Eiuol said:

Imagine 3 circles, interests of person X (which we assume is rational at least as far as this interest), interests of person Y (which we assume is irrational, not just mistaken), and rational long-term self-interest. X and Y have no overlap. X falls completely within rational long-term self-interest. Y is completely separate. 

Then let's talk about "land" or "space" as the object of desire (wants) or interest. Wanting the land or owning the land is interest.

Now, when two or more rational people get together they come up with an agreement to not "be" on the same spot at the same time.

I am arguing that a Marxist is saying that "agreement' is impossible, hence the "conflict of interest" (perpetually). And Rand is saying "no, that 'conflict of interest' does not exist".

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Examples of optional but not individualized:

It is optional whether everyone drives on the right or everyone drives on the left, but we have to pick one or the other.

It was optional exactly where the state lines were drawn, but they had to be drawn someplace.  (Perhaps not the best example, since the irrational entered into the decisions.) 

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3 hours ago, Doug Morris said:

Examples of optional but not individualized:

Just in case there was confusion, my comment about "optional" was clarifying what Smith meant in the passage. Essentially, she was trying to argue against the idea that sometimes rational people will have conflicts of interest. Her argument went that if one supposes that all values are optional, one would have no way of discriminating between genuine and artificial ("actual") values. If *all* values are optional, we would have no grounds to favor one interest over another in relation to those values. So of course, sometimes interests will deprive one person while benefiting another.

But that concern goes away if only some values are optional (or individualized as I prefer saying). In fact, holding optional values doesn't depart from objectivity because we are still thinking within the context of pursuing rational self-interest with life as the standard of value. People don't vary on life as the only objective standard of value. 

8 hours ago, Easy Truth said:

I am arguing that a Marxist is saying that "agreement' is impossible, hence the "conflict of interest" (perpetually). And Rand is saying "no, that 'conflict of interest' does not exist".

That's fine, but you might implicitly be thinking that by reaching agreement, conflicts of interest have been eliminated. With that view, the only way to be in perpetual conflict is to believe that agreements can never be reached. The conflict of interest only reflects the state of things before negotiations. 

I don't think even a Marxist would deny that two capitalists can reach an agreement, even agreements that they both are quite pleased about. But that's why we have class conflict according to them - because the capitalist class promotes the interests of others in the capitalist class, and any such interest necessarily deprives other classes of their interests. It's not that there will never be agreement, but more that *someone* is being deprived somewhere. So if you and I made an agreement about how to divide a plot of land on Mars that we have both laid claim to, a Marxist could come along and say that this is only accomplished by exploiting or acting against the interests of your laborers. All of us could be rational, but by virtue of our economic position (privilege?), someone is necessarily being harmed. 

So, I don't think Rand was trying to address any argument that Marx made. Rather, by thinking about rationality, and trying to consider whether following your self-interest could necessarily harm others, and the way interests align among many people at once, any Marxist argument starts to look absurd anyway. You and I might see the wonderful opportunities of billionaires settling land on Mars, but a Marxist would probably see (read: hallucinate) all the ways that a billionaire is screwing you over and putting you in a consumerist haze by means of false consciousness.

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On 10/19/2020 at 7:12 AM, merjet said:

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.

From Atlas Shrugged: Atlantis

We are not a state here, not a society of any kind—we're just a voluntary association of men held together by nothing but every man's self-interest. I own the valley and I sell the land to the others, when they want it. Judge Narragansett is to act as our arbiter, in case of disagreements.

From Atlas Shrugged: The Utopia of Greed

"Did it ever occur to you, Miss Taggart," said Galt, in the casual tone of an abstract discussion, but as if he had known her thoughts, "that there is no conflict of interests among men, neither in business nor in trade nor in their most personal desires—if they omit the irrational from their view of the possible and destruction from their view of the practical? There is no conflict, and no call for sacrifice, and no man is a threat to the aims of another—if men understand that reality is an absolute not to be faked, that lies do not work, that the unearned cannot be had, that the undeserved cannot be given, that the destruction of a value which is, will not bring value to that which isn't.

Both of these were penned prior to Atlas Shrugged being release in 1957.

In Atlantis, the provision for disagreements is provided for. In The Utopia of Greed, there are two if—then clauses established.

Turning to the essay being placed under the microscope, the first and third paragraphs raise an if—then when taken in conjunction with one another. The first paragraph holds true—if the conditions under four delineated considerations are taken into account.

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5 hours ago, dream_weaver said:

that the unearned cannot be had, that the undeserved cannot be given

If everyone believes this, there would be no conflict of interest.

7 hours ago, Eiuol said:

The conflict of interest only reflects the state of things before negotiations.

Seems accurate to me. And Marxism posits that agreements won't resolve them, instead "interest" has to be eliminated or controlled by "not-self" (whatever that is).

7 hours ago, Eiuol said:

So, I don't think Rand was trying to address any argument that Marx made.

Think again. It most likely permeated all of her work. In fact in your following statement, you make my point. The Marxist sees a perpetual conflict of interest. As the essence of Capitalism.

7 hours ago, Eiuol said:

I don't think even a Marxist would deny that two capitalists can reach an agreement, even agreements that they both are quite pleased about. But that's why we have class conflict according to them - because the capitalist class promotes the interests of others in the capitalist class, and any such interest necessarily deprives other classes of their interests. It's not that there will never be agreement, but more that *someone* is being deprived somewhere. So if you and I made an agreement about how to divide a plot of land on Mars that we have both laid claim to, a Marxist could come along and say that this is only accomplished by exploiting or acting against the interests of your laborers. All of us could be rational, but by virtue of our economic position (privilege?), someone is necessarily being harmed. 

Someone being deprived somewhere is the ongoing conflict of interest that never seems to be resolvable (in their eyes). Rand says, that state of affairs does not exist. They are resolvable, permanently resolvable, and we see that all the time and it is the truth.

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9 hours ago, Easy Truth said:

Think again. It most likely permeated all of her work. In fact in your following statement, you make my point. The Marxist sees a perpetual conflict of interest. As the essence of Capitalism.

When you say things like this, it makes it come across as if Objectivism is primarily a polemic against Marxism. If the only way you know how to look at this is as an argument against Marxism, then you're going to miss all the connections with ethics and rational self-interest.

9 hours ago, Easy Truth said:

And Marxism posits that agreements won't resolve them, instead "interest" has to be eliminated or controlled by "not-self" (whatever that is).

Did you not see how I said that Marxism would not deny that capitalists can totally fulfill each other's interests in a mutual way, while asserting that capitalists they will always have conflicts interest with lower classes? You're inventing a strawman. I don't even think Marxists believe that interest have to be eliminated. They believe that the interests of capitalists must be eliminated, to the degree someone is being exploited necessarily. Now I can't explain why they would think that the interests of lower classes must be promoted since I don't know enough about Marxism, but they certainly believe that capitalists pursuing their interests will go against the interests of those in lower classes. Of course you and I can see that this is very collectivistic, thinking of capitalists as a single entity which has interests. It's just as wrong to think of lower classes in that way. 

9 hours ago, Easy Truth said:

Seems accurate to me. And Marxism posits that agreements won't resolve them, instead "interest" has to be eliminated or controlled by "not-self" (whatever that is).

This sounds very shallow though. Not all agreements are necessarily a satisfaction of interests in a mutual agreement, in the way losing a duel isn't "agreeable" despite both parties agreeing that it will be the end of the disagreement. Someone always loses objectively speaking. One person is going to be worse off, despite the agreement. The conflict of interest still exists. There is no discovery of a mutually beneficial resolution, they just discover that one of them has to lose. In other words, someone is succeeding at the cost of another (but then it's easy to argue that dueling is irrational). 

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1 hour ago, Eiuol said:

When you say things like this, it makes it come across as if Objectivism is primarily a polemic against Marxism. If the only way you know how to look at this is as an argument against Marxism, then you're going to miss all the connections with ethics and rational self-interest.

I wouldn't say that it is primarily that, but it was the motivation and it helps explain things. Isn't that stated in biographical works on her and in we the living, the idea to go to the west and tell them how bad it is?

It is how it started chronologically speaking and a helpful place to start when trying to understand (to see where she is coming from). The other one is the fact that she has an interrelated functional system without contradicting itself. The elements of the system have to work together rather in opposition.

So if there is "no conflict of interest", it can't acknowledge that there is "conflict of interest". So it has to have a certain meaning that does not contradict.

By the way something else I notice from Greg's find

10 hours ago, Easy Truth said:

that the unearned cannot be had, that the undeserved cannot be given

Also fits with the idea/hypothesis of of "no conflict of desert". I don't know if you see the connection, but I do.

The fundamental question is how do you know what was earned and what is deserved but I believe you acknowledge that there is a procedure.

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1 hour ago, Eiuol said:

I don't even think Marxists believe that interest have to be eliminated. They believe that the interests of capitalists must be eliminated, to the degree someone is being exploited necessarily. Now I can't explain why they would think that the interests of lower classes must be promoted since I don't know enough about Marxism, but they certainly believe that capitalists pursuing their interests will go against the interests of those in lower classes. Of course you and I can see that this is very collectivistic, thinking of capitalists as a single entity which has interests. It's just as wrong to think of lower classes in that way. 

I agree, it is wrong to think of lower classes in that way.

Marxists do believe that interest has to be eliminated because it is at the core of altruism. Although one could say the interest of everyone else is above your interest ... is to your interest. But that ends up meaning give up your interest.

In actuality it can't be implemented, nevertheless that is the ethical belief.

(although if you want to go that route then the implied meaning of "conflict of interest" has to become "conflict of self-interest"). I assume that interest implies self-interest.

The state comes first, not you. (Fascists and Monarchist believe that too)

Remember, all members of society could become capitalists. A Capitalist interest does not discriminate. A minority of people are NOT born with the "mark" of the capitalist on their forehead whose interest is "wrong". The potential is there for everyone (kind of like Covid).

Furthermore, by definition and in action, promoting the interest of a group (as in "lower class"), (perpetually) is in fact creating a system with a conflict of interest built in (perpetual). Anything other that respecting individual rights, is an attack on equal rights, or rights in Objectivism.

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3 hours ago, Easy Truth said:

(although if you want to go that route then the implied meaning of "conflict of interest" has to become "conflict of self-interest"). I assume that interest implies self-interest.

Yes, when Rand says conflict of interests, she means conflict of self-interest! She's more importantly arguing against the idea that self interest is bad, that selfishness is bad, that pursuing your own selfish interests will mean that someone is being sacrificed to you. You know how a conservative Christian would say that selfishness is bad? Because they think pursuing your selfish interest harms others. Self-interest means harming others, because how else can you pursue your interest without harming someone somewhere? A Marxist would say that capitalists pursue their self-interest, and because of their economic privilege, they can pursue their self-interest better than anyone else. Some "enlightened" liberal might say "but I gave to charity, I'm not pursuing my self-interest!", except that's bullshit. He is still a capitalist. 

We would agree that the so-called enlightened liberal is just virtue signaling. But we would say to that the capitalist shouldn't apologize for his self-interest, because pursuing his self-interest enhanced the ability of other people to pursue theirs. There is no conflict of interest because in actuality, there is no way to prevent me from pursuing my self-interest if you are also pursuing yours. 

3 hours ago, Easy Truth said:

A minority of people are NOT born with the "mark" of the capitalist on their forehead whose interest is "wrong".

Tell that to Hunter "Fortunate Son" Biden and Trump Jr. 

Their interests are objectively wrong, and they were essentially born into their position. The only thing I'm pointing out here is that although this might sound Marxist, I'm pointing out that some people are in a position to do damage to your interests. But it's not because of their class, or because of their power, or their race, but because their (irrational) self-interest harms your (rational) self-interest. 

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Somehow I was reminded that Ayn Rand's idea of conflicts of interest was discussed in Reason Papers in July 2013 (link). Eyal Mozes reviewed Tara Smith’s Ayn Rand’s Normative Ethics. In Section 2 of his review, he harshly criticized what Smith wrote about conflicts of interest. Carrie-Ann Biondi and Irfan Khawaja responded to Mozes' review.

None of the four indicated awareness of the ordinary meaning of 'conflict of interest'.

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2 hours ago, merjet said:

None of the four indicated awareness of the ordinary meaning of 'conflict of interest'.

At the beginning of the discussion, people explained to you many times that you just don't understand what the topic is. If you forgot, it was like talking past you because you didn't understand the topic well enough to even argue for or against.

I read the article you mentioned. It's a pretty poor evaluation. As far as conflicts of interest, it fails to understand the argument Smith makes (that you should calculate gains and losses according to the values you have). 

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1 hour ago, Eiuol said:

At the beginning of the discussion, people explained to you many times that you just don't understand what the topic is. If you forgot, it was like talking past you because you didn't understand the topic well enough to even argue for or against.

Cretins, I've observed, are often unable to conceive of two or more people talking about what they want to talk about, and not what you want them to be talking about.

 

1 hour ago, Eiuol said:

I read the article you mentioned. It's a pretty poor evaluation. As far as conflicts of interest, it fails to understand the argument Smith makes (that you should calculate gains and losses according to the values you have)

I remember when that issue came out, I felt bad that Biondi and Khawaja even had to respond to Mozes.

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11 hours ago, Eiuol said:

At the beginning of the discussion, people explained to you many times that you just don't understand what the topic is. 

I have explained to you what the topic is and given you lucid examples. It was like talking past you, because you didn't understand the topic well enough to rationally discuss it.

10 hours ago, 2046 said:

Cretins, I've observed, are often unable to conceive of two or more people talking about what they want to talk about, and not what you want them to be talking about.

Cretins, I have observed, are unable to conceive what I was talking about, and they are only interested in shouting their own a priori, subjectivist views of the topic.

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""A widely used definition is: "A conflict of interest is a set of circumstances that creates a risk that professional judgement or actions regarding a primary interest will be unduly influenced by a secondary interest.""

A too narrowly technical definition, besides bulky.

What rational individuals share is a non-malevolent universe view, and a commitment to reality and confidence in their reason. From which follows their rational self-interest, the values and virtues (self-esteem, productiveness, independence, integrity etc.) they have in common. Being rational, each is in the full knowledge that their personal self-interests, purpose and goals or achievements can't collide with those of rational others, who are on parallel courses. Simply, the world is 'big enough'. Your gain is not my loss. Our pursuits of happiness, nor that happiness itself, cannot conflict. The defining of "interests" should contain every possible one, from financial, material or health to romantic and spiritual. 

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4 hours ago, whYNOT said:

A too narrowly technical definition, besides bulky.

It is obvious from the rest of what you wrote after your quoting Wikipedia that you don’t understand the significance of “primary interest” and “secondary interest.” Here is a shorter and clearer explanation. A conflict of interest arises when what is in a person’s best interest is not in the best interest of another person or organization to which that individual owes loyalty.”

Maybe the following will clarify it more. Let P1 = primary interest and P2 = secondary interest. P2 owes loyalty to P1. P1 (or somebody else) trusts P2 to act in P1’s best interest. The relationship might come about in various ways. P1 could choose P2, expecting P2 to act on behalf of P1 and in P1’s best interest. P2 might be chosen otherwise, such as by a court of law, a government agency, or non-profit organization.

Common situations where conflicts of interest could arise are:

- P2 = doctor and P1 = patient of P2;

- P2 = lawyer and P1 = client of P2;

- P2 = person P1 hires to manage P1’s investments.

In each case P2 is trusted and owes loyalty to make P1’s best interest primary.

For example, if P2 is a doctor, P2 is expected to act in P1’s best interest regarding P1’s health. Suppose there are different treatments for treating P1’s health. P2 choosing not the best treatment for P1’s health, but the most expensive one, or the one that maximizes P2’s income would be a breach of trust.

For another example, suppose P1 engage money manager P2 to manage P1’s investments, and P2 has discretion in choosing what to invest in. Suppose P2 prioritizes and chooses investments that generate high commissions or fees paid to P2, as opposed to choosing ones that maximize the expected return and safety for P1. That would be a breach of trust conflict of interest violation by P2.

It should be obvious by now that the only example Ayn Rand gave in her essay – two people pursuing the same job that only one of them can get – doesn’t even come close to satisfying the conditions described above. Neither job applicant owes loyalty to the other. Nether commits a breach of trust. In many such cases the two applicants would be complete strangers to one another and have no relationship with one another whatever.

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14 hours ago, merjet said:

I have explained to you what the topic is and given you lucid examples. It was like talking past you, because you didn't understand the topic well enough to rationally discuss it.

It's not even your thread, and nobody thinks you are interpreting this correctly. It should feel like you are talking past me, because despite everything discussed, you never could maintain the discussion.  Rather than insisting that we are all wrong and nobody gets it, it would be far more productive if you simply said "conflict of interest might not be the best term to use here"' instead of going on about how the terms don't match up with what you think they should be.  That way you could talk about the content of the topic even if you don't like the phrasing. 

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Rand often dips into seeing the philosophic position from an other side, identifying the cause of the conclusion, identifying the error in the position and proposing an objective alternative. This resonates with the advice given by Dale Carnegie: Seek first to understand, then be understood.

If she did so in this case, then surely it is available in her "copybook headings". If not, demonstrate understanding in the effort be be understood. Disagreement can be an indicator of where to investigate for the more persuasive element of the subject at hand.

 

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10 hours ago, merjet said:

It is obvious from the rest of what you wrote after your quoting Wikipedia that you don’t understand the significance of “primary interest” and “secondary interest.” Here is a shorter and clearer explanation. A conflict of interest arises when what is in a person’s best interest is not in the best interest of another person or organization to which that individual owes loyalty.”

Maybe the following will clarify it more. Let P1 = primary interest and P2 = secondary interest. P2 owes loyalty to P1. P1 (or somebody else) trusts P2 to act in P1’s best interest. The relationship might come about in various ways. P1 could choose P2, expecting P2 to act on behalf of P1 and in P1’s best interest. P2 might be chosen otherwise, such as by a court of law, a government agency, or non-profit organization.

Common situations where conflicts of interest could arise are:

- P2 = doctor and P1 = patient of P2;

- P2 = lawyer and P1 = client of P2;

- P2 = person P1 hires to manage P1’s investments.

In each case P2 is trusted and owes loyalty to make P1’s best interest primary.

For example, if P2 is a doctor, P2 is expected to act in P1’s best interest regarding P1’s health. Suppose there are different treatments for treating P1’s health. P2 choosing not the best treatment for P1’s health, but the most expensive one, or the one that maximizes P2’s income would be a breach of trust.

For another example, suppose P1 engage money manager P2 to manage P1’s investments, and P2 has discretion in choosing what to invest in. Suppose P2 prioritizes and chooses investments that generate high commissions or fees paid to P2, as opposed to choosing ones that maximize the expected return and safety for P1. That would be a breach of trust conflict of interest violation by P2.

It should be obvious by now that the only example Ayn Rand gave in her essay – two people pursuing the same job that only one of them can get – doesn’t even come close to satisfying the conditions described above. Neither job applicant owes loyalty to the other. Nether commits a breach of trust. In many such cases the two applicants would be complete strangers to one another and have no relationship with one another whatever.

What is fundamental: the rational know to let reality be the final judge.

If those P1's and P2's arrive at a conflict of interest, one or both are being irrational. Or, one is not performing his role with integrity to the situation, that is, rationally.

The "secondary interest" is there might arise disagreements of the ~means~ to an end between the two, which they'd certainly sort out - but not conflicts about the primary end goal (if both are rational/moral actors).

It is not loyalty (i.e. "breach of trust") to the other participant that necessarily features, it's doing what one does to the highest standards, excellently. Which is rational and self-interested.

The other person involved in the arrangement benefits.

What you've introduced are more complex examples of conflicting interests which boil down to at least one person not being rational. I.e. If I gain, you must lose. Then we're back into altruism, the complete and permanent conflict of interest..

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