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Conflicting Conclusions and therefore Conflict of Interest

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I have never been able to integrate the idea that "conflicts of interest do not occur between rational men".

  • Although from an abstract (robotic sense), I can see that the inputs to a computer program will produce the same outputs (without random number generation of course).
  • It sometimes can be interpreted as a form of determinism too.

I have assumed that I don't understand it and put is aside.

Based on the current presidential contest one can conclude that rational men do in fact have a conflict of interest due to conflicting conclusions.

  • One can brush that aside by saying some of us are not perfectly rational and make arguments supporting it.
  • The other argument is that we experience within a context and so can come up with different conclusions.

But there is no avoiding the fact that people don't agree even though faced with the same alternative, in this case, the choice of president.

It used to be that when one indicates a fallacy in logic, or shows absurdity in supporting premises, that would be adequate in finding the truth.

In theory, there is, objectively, one best candidate (when faced with the choices provided)

Is that we are in fact rational on this forum? Or are some of us irrational?

If true, is this only detectable in hind sight?

It is too difficult to communicate saying "you are irrational" ... or more insulting statements because of it's attack on self esteem. So I am wondering about how best we can get at the truth of something, faster, and without the emotional angst that exists today.

Or is the idea that "conflicts of interest do not occur between rational men" not applicable to the current situation?
 

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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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"Reason and morality are the weapons that determine the course of history."

Most folk like to think they're both reasonable (rational) and moral (good). Where, then, would a conflict of interest arise? 

The presidency is a quest. Would those in pursuit of the presidency be a case of two (or more) men seeking rational agreement of who ought to be president?

What was the context Miss Rand put forth the observation of there being 'no conflict of interest between rational men' within? What would substituting another context in place of her context do to the conclusion or result?

Remember, there are few disagreements that occur regarding 'first level' concepts. The phenomenon of 'all hell breaking loose' is proportional to the distance between the concept and the perceptual concretes that gave rise to its necessity.

The relationship between a conclusion and what lies within one's interest depends on the ability to segregate the abstract (what is beneficial to man, qua man) from the concrete (what purpose(s) have appeal from among that which is beneficial to man, qua man?).

 

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4 hours ago, Easy Truth said:

I have never been able to integrate the idea that "conflicts of interest do not occur between rational men".

  • Although from an abstract (robotic sense), I can see that the inputs to a computer program will produce the same outputs (without random number generation of course).
  • It sometimes can be interpreted as a form of determinism too.

I have assumed that I don't understand it and put is aside.

Based on the current presidential contest one can conclude that rational men do in fact have a conflict of interest due to conflicting conclusions.

  • One can brush that aside by saying some of us are not perfectly rational and make arguments supporting it.
  • The other argument is that we experience within a context and so can come up with different conclusions.

But there is no avoiding the fact that people don't agree even though faced with the same alternative, in this case, the choice of president.

It used to be that when one indicates a fallacy in logic, or shows absurdity in supporting premises, that would be adequate in finding the truth.

In theory, there is, objectively, one best candidate (when faced with the choices provided)

Is that we are in fact rational on this forum? Or are some of us irrational?

If true, is this only detectable in hind sight?

It is too difficult to communicate saying "you are irrational" ... or more insulting statements because of it's attack on self esteem. So I am wondering about how best we can get at the truth of something, faster, and without the emotional angst that exists today.

Or is the idea that "conflicts of interest do not occur between rational men" not applicable to the current situation?
 

Good question. I think there's one main and rational context to consider in political decisions:

Which alternative offers the greater freedom - on balance?

(That's freedom from other people and their group or 'tribal' interests/demands, as well as from the state - which amounts to the same).

But many more people nowadays find their esteem and solidarity in more and more artificially -created groups and a group identity so are fearful of the responsibility of individual freedom. "Liberty" and "equality" means to them enhanced advantages over other group identities that the state -must- provide.

On a second rank, to be rational I think one needs to consciously remove "the persona" - or public personality - of a political candidate, and to get past the visceral gut feeling one has about the individual. Often that impression is completely wrong anyway, and a sort of intrinsicism. The media are expert at depicting someone in a positive or negative light and should all therefore be treated skeptically. A person's true character and integrity is less obvious. Their actions count more than fine and/or comforting words, (especially from a politician) from which one can eventually deduce their motives, values and character, or lack of.

And anyone who disagrees with me is irrational. ;0

Over all, I can't answer your concern. The criteria applied to facts and forming value-judgments among O'ists who prize their rationality appear to vary, is all I can say. But certainly context - reality- matters first, and sometimes context is suspended in favor of our political ideals. Partisan politics and majoritarianism isn't going to accommodate those ideals.

 

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10 hours ago, Easy Truth said:

I have never been able to integrate the idea that "conflicts of interest do not occur between rational men".

Me, too.

Ayn Rand’s essay The “Conflicts” of Men’s Interests (Rand 1964) alleges that there are no such conflicts. However, she failed to prove there are no “conflicts of interest” with that term’s common meaning. 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.’ The actor’s interest is not primary. The “secondary interest” is another person -- the actor himself or another party that is not the primary interest, such as a friend or relative of the actor. It describes a situation that gives more opportunities for breach of trust, whether or not a breach occurs. Several examples will follow below.

The only example Ayn Rand gave in her essay is two people competing for the same job. While there is a “conflict of interest” in the trivial sense that both people won’t be hired for one and the same position, her example is not at all a “conflict of interest” as commonly meant. Maybe she didn’t know the common meaning. See for example “conflict of interest” on Wikipedia for other examples of the common meaning beyond the ones given below.

A fiduciary is a person who holds a legal or ethical relationship of trust with one or more other persons. Typically, a fiduciary prudently takes care of money or other assets for another person. Examples are the trust department of a bank and managers of pension plans, mutual funds, or endowments. The fiduciary must not profit from his position as a fiduciary without the consents of said other person(s).

“Trustee” is usually interchangeable with “fiduciary”. It also may denote a role in the non-financial management of an organization, often called a trust. Herein, I will ignore that role to focus on money or property.

The prudent man rule in common law directs fiduciaries "to observe how men of prudence, discretion and intelligence manage their own affairs, not in regard to speculation, but in regard to the permanent disposition of their funds, considering the probable income, as well as the probable safety of the capital to be invested." The rule does not explicitly say that, if there is a conflict of interest, the interest(s) of the beneficiary(-ies) outweigh those of the fiduciary. However, the focus of the rule is clearly on loyalty to the beneficiary(-ies) being primary. Moreover, often included along with implementations of the prudent man rule are statements such as: The fiduciary must put the beneficiaries’ interests before her own or act solely for their benefit. As such, the fiduciary must not undertake any transaction that would be adverse to the beneficiaries’ interests, especially avoiding any self-dealing.

Fiduciaries are typically paid, often very well, for managing the assets of the beneficiary(-ies). So it is hardly correct to say that the fiduciary sacrifices or lives for the sake of said parties. On the other hand, the fiduciary clearly acts for the sake of said parties (as well as his own). His actions as fiduciary put the interests of others above his own. These might seem to conform to a moral dictum of Comte and violate one of Rand. I don’t think so.

Fund Manager. Suppose the trustee(s) of a pension plan hire(s) an outside person or firm to manage the plan’s investments. The hired manager implicitly or explicitly promises to maximize the return on investment of the assets subject to constraints on riskiness. The manager typically has some discretion and may abuse it to the detriment of the trust’s beneficiary(-ies), such as executing trades with a friend who charges high fees.

Stockbroker. Churning is the practice of executing trades for an investment account by a salesman or broker in order to generate commissions from the account which increase the salesman’s or broker’s pay. Ceteris paribus commissions reduce the return to the account owner or beneficiary, his client. The client one way or another pays the broker or salesman for his service, and the client should be aware of that. However, if the broker or salesman increases his pay by churning that doesn’t positively benefit of the owner or beneficiary, doesn’t the broker inappropriately put his self-interest ahead of his client? It is neither coercion nor fraud, but it is a breach of trust.

 

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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 South overall. And farmers without slaves thought that were slaves emancipated it would bring greater competition to their sector of the economy.

In her essay “The ‘Conflict’ of Men’s Interests” (1962), as all here know, Rand defended her view that “there are no conflicts of interests among rational men” (1957). From what I read in the essay, she should conclude that however dependent upon slavery were the livelihoods and wealth of Southern farmers, the institution of slavery was not in their rational self-interest. The rationality that Rand upholds and adores (me too) is not run-of-the-mill. It courses throughout the truly noble human’s being.

“A rational man never holds a desire or pursues a goal which cannot be achieved by his own effort. He trades value for value. . . . If he undertakes to achieve a goal that requires the cooperation of many people, he never counts on anything but his own ability to persuade them and their voluntary agreement.”

“If, in any given set of circumstances, any victory is possible at all, it is only reason that can win it. And, in a free society, no matter how hard the struggle might be, it is reason that ultimately wins. / Since he never drops the context of the issues he deals with, a rational man accepts that struggle as to his interest—because he knows that freedom is to his interest.”

It is through the system of correct, objective individual rights that freedom undercuts interests born of irrationality. Property in any man—slavery—was a human irrationality and not in anyone’s rational interest, getting on down to the bones and soul of human interests.

The circumstance that rational people do come to different conceptions of what are the correct, objective individual rights, or the circumstance that rational people in agreement on that conception but do not agree on what are the better courses for instituting and preserving that system of rights is no showing that: (i) there is no such correct, objective scheme of rights implementing a system in which mutual rational behavior can flourish or (ii) there is no correct, objective answer to the question of which courses are more effective means to instituting and preserving that system of rights.

That one's rational cohorts cannot agree on all policy issues, while looking to the same conception of rights, the same set of rights, does not mean they cannot all see the following as reasoning to be rejected: The reason defense spending should be increased is because I work for the Air Force. Or, the reason the government should make special loans available to farmers during the harvest season when crop prices tend to be lower is because I raise crops. Those sorts of reason, which on the face of it appear to be in one's self-interest, do not measure up to rationality down to the fingertips. And it is this last that Objectivism (and characters like Socrates) champion, such as in the Objectivist thesis "there are no conflicts of interest among rational men."

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Boydstun, that is a tough act to follow, in a complimentary sense.

Here is a further reflection drawn from Atlas Shrugged.

In the valley, John, Dagny, and Francisco illustrated this principle, even using aspects of the toast to help concretize the point with Francisco handing Dagny and John the set of matching wine goblets, keeping for himself the third glass the evening prior to Dagny's departure from her month's stay. 

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5 hours ago, merjet said:

The common meaning is

You quoted Wikipedia here. That might not be the common meaning. It provides a citation the definition without a way to verify if that is the "common meaning". It's a definition that seems oriented towards specifically financial conflicts of interest, and that's it. It might be a conflict for the individual alone and nobody else. 

A conflict of interest is just when one interest works against another. Rand is claiming is that when the situation is between what two or more individuals want, it is not actually a conflict of interest if they are rational people. Boydstun covers the rest pretty well.

The principle at work here is that interests among rational men are mutually productive. Lying, cheating, hiding, or any type of irrational action like that in order to make your interests prevail is not helpful to your flourishing in the long run. In fact, if the 2 of us are both rational, our interests will always benefit each other in the long run, even if it isn't very apparent right now. 

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I suggest that the main topic of Rand's essay is that there is a harmony of interests among rational men. If rational men's interests were harmonious, e.g.,  98% of the time, it would still sound fine to me to say there is generally a harmony of interests among rational men. Why the need to claim 100% instead of 98%? On the flip side, why the need to say 'no conflicts of interests' instead of 'rare conflicts of interests'  or 'there are conflicts only 2% of the time'?

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15 minutes ago, merjet said:

I suggest that the main topic of Rand's essay is that there is a harmony of interests among rational men. If rational men's interests were harmonious, e.g.,  98% of the time, it would still sound fine to me to say there is generally a harmony of interests among rational men. Why the need to claim 100% instead of 98%? On the flip side, why the need to say 'no conflicts of interests' instead of 'rare conflicts of interests'  or 'there are conflicts only 2% of the time'?

Because her point is when you are being rational, you take 100% of the context in mind. Context refers to, she wants to say, the fact that you aren't living in a solipsistic way. So her point isn't about a given percentage or amount of time that any understanding of one's interests don't conflict but that they need not ever, when rightly understood (ie., are "rational.")

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16 hours ago, 2046 said:

Because her point is when you are being rational, you take 100% of the context in mind. 

Here is a context for you. Employees E1 and E2 work together. E1 is E2’s boss. Both are rational. In order to solve a particular work problem or achieve a particular goal, E1 wants to execute Plan1 and E2 wants to execute Plan2. Plan1 and Plan2 are incompatible; can’t do both. Each believes his or her own plan is somewhat better than the other. They argue. E1 decides on Plan 1 since E1 is the boss. What’s you analysis? It seems to me like 4 possibilities. There was a conflict of interests, Plan1 and Plan2 did not conflict, one of them is irrational, or this sort of thing never happens in reality. Do you have a 5th?

Edited by merjet
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"Of interest".

(Conflicts of).

This "interest" is primary to Rand's statement. Conflicts of *interest* do not occur...etc.

It's the ~ends~ that rational men will not have conflicts of.

The ~means~ to those ends, the methods - that may and often will vary. And yet, from consideration and discussion rational persons should reach accord here as well. Action has to be taken before long, they each know.

The good of an enterprise (merjet's employees) is the identical goal which the employees have in common.

The good of a nation, is the identical goal which all ~rational~ citizens share.

Comes full circle then: In the present and foreseeable context, do Biden-Harris and the Dems and the Democratic supporters better represent the rational, objective, good of the nation, or does Trump and the GOP and their support?

What are their characteristics and what is the nature of America? Do they correspond?

Which places most -value- in the USA and its people and their freedom? (of ALL the people, and future (legal) immigrants, thereby in principle, not of factions). What is the country's relations to the rest of the world and what ought they to be and who better understands that?

'Better and most' are crucial. Not perfection nor absolutes, the context must be maintained, and one has minimal influence over electioneering by the mass of voters and zero say over selection of candidates.

Given the extensive and prolonged irrationality, sophistry, sabotage, cynicism, nihilism and tribalism - in short, the anti-value or subjective 'values' - predominantly shown by one party and most supporters, apparently, there's one simple choice that I can see.

 

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6 hours ago, merjet said:

Here is a context for you. Employees E1 and E2 work together. E1 is E2’s boss. Both are rational. In order to solve a particular work problem or achieve a particular goal, E1 wants to execute Plan1 and E2 wants to execute Plan2. Plan1 and Plan2 are incompatible; can’t do both. Each believes his or her own plan is somewhat better than the other. They argue. E1 decides on Plan 1 since E1 is the boss. What’s you analysis? It seems to me like 4 possibilities. There was a conflict of interests, Plan1 and Plan2 did not conflict, one of them is irrational, or this sort of thing never happens in reality. Do you have a 5th?

I mean I'd say neither. There is a conflict in the sense that the plans conflict since you stipulated they are incompatible. And that's fully coherent with saying one, both, or neither of them is being irrational. We don't know that yet. But this tells us nothing about whether there is a conflict of rational interests. Again, the thesis is about interests: whether there is a basic conflict in our individual human good. It's not a thesis about conflict of conclusions, conflict of plans, or legal/financial conflict.

So to rework your example to make it more relevant to the problem at hand, I'd say you'd have to change it to where whoever's plan (E1 or E2) gets chosen by the boss to be implemented, gets a promotion (with corresponding pay raise and increase in status and authority), and then ask is it an example of a conflict between E1 and E2's good if the other's plan gets accepted, since it seems like either of their good will be served if their own plan gets accepted.

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7 hours ago, merjet said:

Here is a context for you. Employees E1 and E2 work together. E1 is E2’s boss. Both are rational. In order to solve a particular work problem or achieve a particular goal, E1 wants to execute Plan1 and E2 wants to execute Plan2. Plan1 and Plan2 are incompatible; can’t do both. Each believes his or her own plan is somewhat better than the other. They argue. E1 decides on Plan 1 since E1 is the boss. What’s you analysis? It seems to me like 4 possibilities. There was a conflict of interests, Plan1 and Plan2 did not conflict, one of them is irrational, or this sort of thing never happens in reality. Do you have a 5th?

5)  At least one of them made an error of knowledge.

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8 hours ago, Doug Morris said:

5)  At least one of them made an error of knowledge.

I guess you could say that, but the question isn't so much about figuring out which the best goal is. Conflicts of interest in this context are not about mere clashing situations. It's more about zero-sum games, or the idea that if one person benefits another person is left worse off. Contrary to that, including when we are mistaken, your rational self-interest does not conflict with my rational self-interest. If we have to decide on a plan, it doesn't go against my self-interest to go with your plan instead. That assumes we actually thought about it and discussed it. While there is a conflict to be resolved, namely which plan to choose, Rand would have us believe that this can always be resolved so that both of our interests are improved. 

If E1 made the decision because he is the boss, and no other reason, then that is irrational. 2046 sounds like he was basically disputing that the example was any good. I was going a little further to say that even with the example, we probably can say that E1 is irrational if taken at face value.

But let's assume that the boss had rational reasons. Merjet is basically asking "isn't E2 being denied his interests because E1 chose a different plan?" The answer is no. Presumably, E1 listens pretty well, delegates pretty well, and is welcome to other plans as long as the plans make an honest effort to find the best solution. E1 has damn good reason to trust E2. If anything, E1 should be excited that he got to argue his case and probably influence other projects as a result of the discussion. In the long run, this is really good, and actually how good science, technology development, and research gets done especially. 

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21 hours ago, whYNOT said:

"Of interest".

(Conflicts of).

This "interest" is primary to Rand's statement. Conflicts of *interest* do not occur...etc.

It's the ~ends~ that rational men will not have conflicts of.

The ~means~ to those ends, the methods - that may and often will vary. And yet, from consideration and discussion rational persons should reach accord here as well. Action has to be taken before long, they each know.

The good of an enterprise (merjet's employees) is the identical goal which the employees have in common.

I believe it is reasonable to say that there are no conflicts between the goals of rational men, but there may be conflicts between the means chosen by rational men. However, that is your argument, not Rand’s. She said there are no conflicts between the interests of rational men, period.

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18 hours ago, 2046 said:

I mean I'd say neither. There is a conflict in the sense that the plans conflict since you stipulated they are incompatible. And that's fully coherent with saying one, both, or neither of them is being irrational. We don't know that yet. But this tells us nothing about whether there is a conflict of rational interests. Again, the thesis is about interests: whether there is a basic conflict in our individual human good. It's not a thesis about conflict of conclusions, conflict of plans, or legal/financial conflict.

I could have made it clearer, but I assumed readers would take it for granted that Plan1 and Plan2 were both rational and good. “Both [E1 and E2] are rational. ... Each believes his or her own plan is somewhat better than the other” (link).

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8 hours ago, Eiuol said:

If E1 made the decision because he is the boss, and no other reason, then that is irrational. [ ] I was going a little further to say that even with the example, we probably can say that E1 is irrational if taken at face value.

But let's assume that the boss had rational reasons. Merjet is basically asking "isn't E2 being denied his interests because E1 chose a different plan?" The answer is no.

No, there was nothing in the scenario that I described as irrational. I could have made it clearer, but I assumed readers would take it for granted that Plan1 and Plan2 were both rational and good. “Both [E1 and E2] are rational. ... Each believes his or her own plan is somewhat better than the other” (link).

No. I was basically stating that E1 and E2, both rational, have a conflict of interests.

Adding a new point to the discussion, conflicts of interests, like disputes, can range from mild to severe. I classify the one between E1 and E2 as mild. On the other hand, Rand’s claim was that there are no conflicts of interests between rational men, period. So implicitly she claimed that there are not even mild conflicts of interests between rational men.

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"Basically stating" is not demonstrating anything. We see that E1 and E2 have plans that conflict. Most people have ordinary experience of conflicting plans among people in life. So now you need to show how this is a "conflict of rational interests" in Rand's sense in the essay.

 

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4 hours ago, merjet said:

No. I was basically stating that E1 and E2, both rational, have a conflict of interests.

Your scenario stipulates that the conflict is about one person not having their plan selected, while the other plan is selected. If that isn't the conflict, then what is? All of I said is that although you claim it as a conflict of interest, it is not. 

4 hours ago, merjet said:

Adding a new point to the discussion, conflicts of interests, like disputes, can range from mild to severe. I classify the one between E1 and E2 as mild.

Okay, but how come you consider them to be conflicts of interest?

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12 hours ago, merjet said:

I believe it is reasonable to say that there are no conflicts between the goals of rational men, but there may be conflicts between the means chosen by rational men. However, that is your argument, not Rand’s. She said there are no conflicts between the interests of rational men, period.

Both or any rational people take reality as their final arbiter, and so it may be said that their specific purpose/goals - and "interest"- can't and won't clash, in the final analysis. Two individuals apply for the same position or contract; or suitors vie for the one woman - they'll understand that the acceptance of their rival was due to a rational judgment (the one's abilities/experience/etc. were more suitable to an employer, or the girl placed higher value/love in the other guy) and so no conflict and animus is possible to them. Neither, in rational justice, would want or could tolerate the unearned - if they 'won' by other, irrational or underhanded means.

Much like that vilified and scorned "Capitalist competition" as appraised by Rand (which one sees to be as true): saying something like, competition of capitalist markets isn't the main goal but instead the byproduct of productive individuals.

We don't essentially try to beat each other, our products of our minds and a free market decide who will do better.

In reality there is more than only one fine woman and the market is infinitely expansive for all to enter and do well, no conflict.

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8 hours ago, 2046 said:

So now you need to show how this is a "conflict of rational interests" in Rand's sense in the essay.

There is no such thing as a “conflict of rational interests" in Rand's essay. So you are saying that I need to do something impossible.

She implied, even roughly said, that if there is a conflict of interests, then one or both of the parties is irrational. “It is only among the irrational … that chance rivalries, accidental conflicts and blind choices prevail” (VoS 64, 50th Anniv. pb).

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14 hours ago, merjet said:

I believe it is reasonable to say that there are no conflicts between the goals of rational men, but there may be conflicts between the means chosen by rational men. However, that is your argument, not Rand’s. She said there are no conflicts between the interests of rational men, period.

I think one can get fixated on one word, when it's clear Rand assumed her readers recognize that "interests" covers a wide gamut.

Take: Needs, wants, ambitions, goals, ideas, actions, purpose, work, career, love life, friends, pastimes, financial profits, appreciation of art - and "self-interest", itself. And substitute any one for "interests" in her statement.

They all equally fit.

 

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2 hours ago, merjet said:

There is no such thing as a “conflict of rational interests" in Rand's essay. So you are saying that I need to do something impossible.

Indeed it is impossible, that's why you just admitted you are wrong.

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The weighting of various factors in making a decision is where the appearance of conflict comes into play. For instance, weighting the fight against allowing the nation to slip into nearly explicit socialism as being more fundamental when choosing to vote for Trump versus weighting a woman's right to choose or gay equality when choosing to vote for Biden.  

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There seems to be agreement that "conflict" will always exist no matter what.

The disagreement is about "conflict of interest" not "conflict". (problem is that any conflict is about wants, is that interest?) The question hinges on the definition of interest. Does interest mean wants, as in desires? If so, there will always be conflict of wants. But the definition must be "what is objectively good for you" not simply what you want. What is actually good for you is your interest. If so, then the precondition is rational thinking, meaning a "well thought through want".

But rational thinking will not necessarily bring one to the truth at all times, because of the contextual nature of knowledge. 2046 mentions taking all contexts into account, but wouldn't that be omniscience?

If even with rational thought, one would not know what is ultimately and absolutely to one's interest, then some interests will simply be wants and desires and will inevitably conflict.

It seems that the belief is that rationality will always come up with what is to your interest. Discounting the issue of mistakes, (as in rational men will consider that mistakes will happen and they will be dealt with rationally too), thought through desires will make conflict less likely (as in the percent issue that Merjet brought  up).

Conflict of interest, even with complete rationality would make conflict less likely, but not impossible. In other words, rational self interest is an objective good, but the ideal situation she talks about (no conflict of interest) may be a metaphoric statement to emphasise the point.

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