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If there is one aspect of Objectivism that is not spelled out, with no possibility of refutal from the peanut gallery, it is Objectivism's answer to Environmentalism. I think it is because Environmentalists see the world as a finite resource, whereas Rand referred to the World as offering "infinite resources." I've only actually found one reference even to that, because her approach was usually from the angle of what effect environmentalism in practice would have on the human race. Of course all these arguments are true, rational, and perfect. However, whenever I read them I get the same feeling as I got before I understood the communist arguments completely: even if you prove that environmentalism in practice is harmful, if you can't prove it morally there is no leg to stand on because Mankind wants to be moral. Granted that, environmentalism is then proven, by objectivism, to be totally immoral and crude, anti-man, disgusting, etc. It is after this step that I get stuck. People start bringing up examples, situations, to which I have no answer. I think it is because I do see the world as a finite resource. Yes, man is VERY capable of coming up with scientific ways of expanding natural resources, but somehow I can't imagine us building an alternative world if resources on this one become exhausted.

Also, if the answer to the public goods problem is always privitization (which I do believe it is), how do we privitize air, water? These are just arguments I haven't been able to answer when confronted with them, and the reason I joined this site was in the hopes that someone else has been confronted with the same arguments and found the answers. I hope you have and can share them with me.

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Also, if the answer to the public goods problem is always privitization (which I do believe it is), how do we privitize air, water?

This is going to be slightly simplified, for the sake of brevity, but here's a partial reply:

What makes something private property by right of the owner is that person's having given it the form in which it is valuable, or having traded value for value with other persons to gain values which they've created in exchange for values you've created. If one writes a novel, it is the intellectual effort of its creation that gave it value, and it is therefore the author's intellectual property by right. Bare earth is of little value to human life as such, it must be cultivated through a combination of mental and physical effort to produce food. The person who originally cultivates a piece of land may then claim ownership of it by right.

Air, on the other hand, can't be "privatized," because it requires no effort on our part to have value; its value to human life is automatic (one of few things that is). Since no one expends effort to give air its value, it belongs to no one by right. Air can't be owned privately--or publicly, for that matter. It just exists.

Water, however, does require some effort to give it value. One must discover sources of usable water, or take steps to make it usable--i.e., safe for human consumption. One must transport it if one wants to use it anywhere other than at the source. Water, then, can and should be privately owned--at least in the context of its use for human consumption. There are other contexts where this will apply as well. Obviously, there are some where it won't, e.g. rainwater that happens to fall on one's crops--this is accidental and does not require effort on the part of the person who benefits from it, which is fine. But if he wants more water for his crops, he's got to provide it for himself somehow. His wishes won't secure him sufficient water for his farm.

I don't know exactly where the unclarities are in your thinking on this issue, but I hope this addressed some of them and helped you to clarify them. I think part of the problem might be that you're coming at it from a "public goods problem" standpoint. I don't think that "public goods" is a legitimate concept. Either something just exists (such as air) that nobody can own (in which case, "the public" doesn't own it), or if it can be privately owned by individuals, then it is not legitimately a "public good" to begin with.

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I don't think the term "Public Good" is a valid one, either. It is merely the best way I can put it, or perhaps this is better: a Good that all individuals on earth require in order to survive, life being the precondition to production being the precondition to consumption. Now, this is still very fuzzy because it can be applied in such a way as to say "need is a claim" and it most certainly is not. Air, water, food, right? But I don't think that food (or as you have now proven, water) is something that can't be procured through one's own individual effort, so it is no longer something that is to be provided FOR you but something you can and must provide for yourself. Air, as you explained (and I agree with your entire post, thank you for that explanation), requires no effort to be procured and just "is." This is why I have an issue with it. It cannot be privitized, so I can not ensure the quality of my own air; I don't get to own it. Therefore, my air supply is at the mercy of the masses, whatever pollutants etc. are poured into it, I have no way (and no right) to stop it. Obviously, for someone who is fiercely individualistic and independent, this is the ultimate horror. This is what I meant. I hope this is more clear, and I hope someone can explain how this can be solved.

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Air, as you explained (and I agree with your entire post, thank you for that explanation), requires no effort to be procured and just "is."  This is why I have an issue with it.  It cannot be privitized, so I can not ensure the quality of my own air; I don't get to own it.  Therefore, my air supply is at the mercy of the masses, whatever pollutants etc. are poured into it, I have no way (and no right) to stop it.  Obviously, for someone who is fiercely individualistic and independent, this is the ultimate horror.  This is what I meant.  I hope this is more clear, and I hope someone can explain how this can be solved.

Well, this can get a little tricky. Obviously, Objectivism isn't against clean air; and it does seem to be a prerequisite to all the other values that we want to support (such as individual rights). I think that if it got to the point where poor air quality was objectively a significant health risk, that could maybe be considered an infringement of rights, and the government would legitimately be expected to step in and take action. (Here I should state that I don't believe that we are anywhere close to that point right now--even in the infamously "polluted" cities such as L.A., where I have no trouble breathing at all.)

Of course, the problem then would be to know whom to hold accountable, and what could be done about it without infringing anybody's rights. Of course, this is where the private sector comes in. If it ever gets to be a serious concern, there will probably be a huge increase in demand for products that did not add pollutants to the air (or even removed pollutants from it, perhaps), such as cleaner cars, etc. As it becomes a more serious concern, I would hope that people would be smart enough to invest in solutions themselves. And that usually seems to be the case.

[edit] And as far as global warming goes, to preempt another favorite crusade of the environmentalists, the actual evidence does not support it. As for the evidence that purports to do so, it has been pretty thoroughly discounted by the few objective scientists left who actually bother with those kinds of issues. [/edit]

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Guest RadCap

fanofayn (would you mind if I called you by your real name - m - or do you prefer your nick?)

You say:

"I think it is because I do see the world as a finite resource. Yes, man is VERY capable of coming up with scientific ways of expanding natural resources, but somehow I can't imagine us building an alternative world if resources on this one become exhausted."

In other words, you are worried about resource 'running out'. The idea that natural resources are close to exhaustion has been around since at least the time of the Romans. It simply is not true.

While it IS true that the earth is a finite thing, for all practical purposes, its natural resources are limitless. From the height of its upper atmosphere to the depth of its core, the Earth is made up entirely of natural resources. The planet is a GARGANTUAN resource repository. It holds every element in quantities millions - probably billions - of times greater than man has EVER extracted. That is why even the suggestion that we are running out of natural resources should be obviously illogical just on the face of it.

The only 'problem' of natural resources isn't one of abundance. It is merely one of access. Which is precisely why man needs to be free - free to use science, technology, and industry in order to reach and/or collect those resources. Take mining for instance. Advances are being made in mining technology today which, in the future, should make it possible for us to remove materials *economically* from depths of at least ten thousand feet.

That one technological advance would so increase man's access to natural resources that ALL previous supplies would seem PUNY by comparison. And even at ten thousand feet, we'd literally just be scratching the surface, because the earth extends more than four thousand miles to its core.

Additionally, and more to the point, man's survival and prosperity does not depend on any one or any number of specific materials. His survival depends on freedom.

--

Concerning the 'pollution' man produces, and its ability to change the environment in any consequential manner, consider this: nature is the worlds BIGGEST polluter.

Natural erosion pours sand, silt, clay, and minerals into streams and rivers.

Deserts saturate the atmosphere with dust during every storm.

Natural fires pollute the air with heavy smoke and particulates.

And volcanoes and other vents spew sulfates, methane, carbon dioxide, and other noxious materials into the atmosphere.

And they all do this in volumes man does not even come CLOSE to releasing. Take carbon dioxide for instance. Man releases maybe seven billion tons of CO2 into the atmosphere annually, whereas the planet releases almost two hundred billion tons over the same period of time.

And then there's life itself. Living creatures are all notorious polluters. When they breathe, they pollute. After they eat, they pollute. In fact, termites alone expel about fifty billion tons of CO2 and methane each year. That's ten times more than man produces by burning fossil fuels.

These are just small, isolated examples of the overwhelming amount of pollutants the rest of nature releases. Next to them, man's pollution is insignificant.

In fact, it's been estimated that all the air polluting materials produced by man since the BEGINNING of the Industrial Revolution are dwarfed by the amount of toxic materials, aerosols, and particulates released by just three volcanic eruptions - Krakatoa in 1883, Mt. Katmai in 1912, and Hekla in 1947.

So to say man's contributions to the planet's environment are decisive - and to seek to regulate those behaviors because of it - is to completely ignore reality - and is to do so at the expense of man's continued well-being.

Now you (or someone else) might well ask if all this means global warming, the ozone hole, or other 'planetary' threats are true. However, whether they are true or not is irrelevant. Sooner or later, NATURE will produce major climate changes on it's own (consult the history of the planet for evidence of this). The point is, in order to deal with such changes - whether they're natural or man-made - it is imperative for men to be free - free to decide how best to cope with the particular effects such a change would have upon them.

And that is a freedom ONLY capitalism can provide.

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Another great post, RadCap. Why not take a moment and become a registered user? *nudge, nudge* :D

Take your coat off, stay awhile! B)

p.s. Thanks for filling in the details about the lack of evidential support I mentioned in my previous post. You stated exactly the essential facts to which I was referring. I really should be more specific about those kinds of things, but I'm generally content to let others do most of the work themselves.

Edited by AshRyan
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Additionally, and more to the point, man's survival and prosperity does not depend on any one or any number of specific materials. His survival depends on freedom.

It is obvious to me, after reading your post (which was absolutely wonderful and I printed it out to read any time I feel sad about poor little earth -haha- :D!), that it is THIS point I can't yet integrate. It makes me sick to think about it, but is my problem with environmentalism an example of me thinking the same way those morons do when they say "A hungry man is not free"? If it is, I believe that was the last answer I needed. I don't know how to thank you.

Also:

Why don't you make that post into a full-fleged article and send it into periodicals? I've never read anything remotely like it, never read a defense of Man against Environmentalism like it, and I think it would really get through to the people that nothing else seems to get through to. If you do, I'll submit it to my school newspaper for you, I'll make it into pamphlets and hand it out; it would make me thrilled to have it sitting in the Co-op (student/envi-major-run vegan food shop, filled with Green party stickers and Just Say No to Fur buttons), as an insult, as a light. It would be such an eloquent exposé of their nonsense. It would be so wonderful if even one person became sick with themselves for ever thinking otherwise. Would you consider it?

(Of course, call me Margot.)

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  • 1 month later...
Guest RadCap

Its been a while since I did the research on these topics, but I believe they came from these sources:

The Resourceful Earth - Julian L. Simon et al.

Toxicity of Environmentalism - George Reisman

Capitalism - George Reisman

Rational Readings on Environmental Concerns

Trashing the Planet - Dixie Lee Ray

Enviromental Overkill - Dixie Lee Ray

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  • 6 months later...

Yes, YES, YES RadCap,

I was browsing through old threads and just as everyone else here I was thoroughly impressed with your post. I am in complete agreement.

The only two pieces of evidence I ever needed to refute that industry is the cause of global warming are:

1) Amount of CO2 released by nature (as you stated)

2) That 12,000 years ago there was an ice sheet a mile thick where I stand today (Upstate NY) which obviously didn't melt because of the industrial revolution.

I haven't been able to find a source for the CO2 data you cite. I see you have listed several sources and I intend to read them all but I was wondering if you could tell me specifically where you found the CO2 stats?

It is also my understanding that when you combine all natural sources of CO2 they account for more than 99% of the annual output so probably just the annual natural variance of that amount would be more than the annual industrial output. Which should further refute the "tipping point" argument -- that the earth can accomodate just so much CO2 and that industry pushes it beyond that point. Do you agree with my reasoning?

Thanks,

Marc

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What makes something private property by right of the owner is that person's having given it the form in which it is valuable....Bare earth is of little value to human life as such, it must be cultivated through a combination of mental and physical effort to produce food
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The answer to your question is contained implicitly in the statements you make prior to that question. Land, to be of value and thus property, must have mental and physical effort applied to it. So - when, as you say:

" people would and often do pay a lot of money to experience the unique beauty of uncultivated wilderness"

...what is required before they can do that? What mental and physical activity must someone have engaged in for these people to go experience the so called 'uncultivated' wilderness?

You also say:

"We also buy and sell uncultivated wilderness all the time."

Again, what is required before an individual can either buy or sell uncultivated land? What mental and physical activity must someone have engaged in for such land to be available for sale?

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Land, to be of value and thus property, must have mental and physical effort applied to it.

Yes, that is what AshRyan said. So my question to him was: if that must be the case, then how do we explain and justify property rights in uncultivated wilderness, i.e., land that has had no mental or physical effort applied to it?

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I gave you two examples and asked you what mental and physical effort has been applied in each instance to reach the state you name in the sentence quoted. You ignored them, apparently not feeling the need to answer or even acknowledge my questions. Instead you simply repeated your original question.

In both instances, mental and physical effort is applied. So try answering my questions. In doing so, you SHOULD find the answer to your own.

(I will add that you have now CHANGED your original proposition. First you spoke of UNALTERED land when referencing "uncultivated". Now you say it means NO mental or physical effort has been applied at all. There is a BIG difference between the two. And this change represents an error in thinking, because it presents an impossibility. For man to be able to claim ANY land as property, there necessarily HAS been some physical and mental effort applied before hand. That is a major hint to the questions you need to answer. Again, actually TRY answering them, instead of ignoring them.)

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" people would and often do pay a lot of money to experience the unique beauty of uncultivated wilderness"

"We also buy and sell uncultivated wilderness all the time."

... let me take a whack at these ...

the land [uncultivated] was also at some time inacessible, until someone trod a path to it, or excavated a road to access it [both at a cost]. To buy and sell, someone must have accessed it first, then claimed it via homestead, then surveyed it to lable the extents of the property to buy/sell, at which point a value is ascribed to it in an amount determined by whomever desires to own it and limited by the minimum the owner will accept to hopefully recoup his investment [he may choose to take a loss --- its his right].

.... someone may say you can walk right up to the beach [on Daytona maybe, but not necessarily in California --- you might need a ladder/steps/etc]... yes, you can -- and people have --- and many people claimed [homesteaded] the beach at Daytona, and many desire to own it, and many accesses have been built to it. It is now very valuable.

...am i getting warm ??

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I gave you two examples and asked you what mental and physical effort has been applied in each instance to reach the state you name in the sentence quoted. That is a major hint to the questions you need to answer. Again, actually TRY answering them, instead of ignoring them....You ignored them, apparently not feeling the need to answer or even acknowledge my questions. Instead you simply repeated your original question.

Yes, that is right: I asked the original question: "So if cultivation and effort is really the precondition of property rights, then how do we explain and justify, as objectivists, a person's right to own tracts of uncultivated wilderness?" It is a reasonable question for which I think we ought to have a convincing answer. But instead of answering this question--the original question--RadCap, you asked more questions. Surely, you appreciate the irony of answering a question with another question, and then complaining that your question went unanswered.

So let us try and properly answer what is, prima facie, a reasonable question, a question that we are surely to be asked by our opponents and for which we will be expected to have a full and compelling answer. It will not do in a debate to answer our opponent's questions with more questions or to merely provide "hints" to answers. When asked a fair question in good faith, the onus is on us to provide a full and clear answer. So if Objectivism has a good answer to this question, then let us knock it out of the park.

Let me repeat my original problem:

The kind of land to which I am referring is land that has not been cultivated by human effort; it has not been farmed; it has not been logged; it has not been mined; it has not been pruned; it has not had a house built on it, etc. Nevertheless, such land, in virtue of its pristine, uncultivated state, has great value to many people as an object of beauty. But it was not human effort that gave the land its beauty, and therefore, value (as opposed to a work of art such as a painting or a statue which does require human effort to bring its value into existence). So what kind of effort on our part justifies our claim to exclusive ownership of such land? Is it merely the effort of sweeping our arm before us and declaring, "From here to here is mine." If so, then let us be prepared to openly admit and defend that position. If not, then what is the real answer?

Either way, we must have a consistent and compelling answer to offer.

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R -

You say it is ironic that I ANSWERED your question with another question, and then complained that you IGNORED those questions completely.

In other words, I tell you the answer to your questions are contained in the answers to my questions. You choose to ignore those questions. Yet you somehow believe the two behaviors are intellectually similar and thus dismiss a complaint about your LACK of an answer as "ironic".

The only thing "ironic" here is that you believe your post on the topic has intellectual merit while you denegrate the posts which actually DO have merit.

To recap: You asked a question. Instead of an answer being handed to you on a silver platter, you are asked to actually do your own thinking - and pointed in the right direction so you might find the correct answer. Do you do such thinking? No. Do you say you cannot figure out the answsers to the questions? No. Your response is to act as if you were not asked the questions at all. In other words, your response was not thinking. Your response was EVASION. On top of that you attempt to add ridicule. And finally you petulantly complain that you were NOT given the answer without having to do any thinking of your own.

As I clearly stated, such behavior is not tolerated on this site. Since you were warned, and chose to repeat the behavior anyway, you are now gone.

--

For others who are interested: Guest is on the right track, indicating some of the things which must have occured to make some land property. While they are valid in many cases, there is one even more fundamental physical and mental effort which must have been done in ALL cases. (It may be that Guest actually did provide the answer, but just not the specific term - its hard to tell exactly)

So - what mental and physical effort must occur before ANYONE can admire the beauty of land...or the nourishment of wild berries...or the protection of a natural cave? (All things which man does not create, but can still value and can still be owned despite the fact he did not create the thing being valued.)

--

R-

Your continued attempts to post to this site despite your removal from it demonstrates your contempt for property rights. As such, it clearly reveals your lie that you are an objectivist, thus demonstrating the properness of your removal.

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  • 1 year later...

This thread intrigues me, and the question of why land should be owned in the eyes of an "objectivist." After some thought, the only answer I have is existance. The only mental/physical effort that is required to enjoy nature and the your natural world is the struggle of remaining alive.

FYI: I don't claim to be anything but ignorant on objectivism, that's why I'm here.

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Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. To value anything, including untouched nature, a mental effort is required, the effort of comprehension, and a value judgment is made. The judgement "my life is better for seeing this, this is good for me."

RadCap, is that on the right track?

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