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How does one practice morality in a mixed economy?

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john galt says that there are two sides to every issue-one side is right and the other is wrong ,but the middle is always evil.

are we all not betraying him by choosing the middle path.

this brings me to my own case........i live in a country where most of the basic amneities provided by the govt. - my education, the electricity, rail and roads etc etc. so am i immoral?

suppose i want to payback all this debt after completing my education......how do i do that : paying tax will be feeding and furthuring the existing system, while not paying it will only put extra burden on those very productive men whose money i expropriated in the first place.

in short how does one practice morality in a mixed economy?

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in short how does one practice morality in a mixed economy?

Howdy,

That is a very good question. I don't know what country you are from, but I too live in a mixed-economy. Although many of my fellow countrymen seem to think it is a Capitalist economy.

Personally, I am on strike. I will not hold a government job. I pay as little in tax as I possible can. That is much easier as I almost always work at jobs where a part if not all of my pay is in undeclared cash. In fact I have had jobs where it was all cash. Nine months of untaxed income it was marvelous. Then the boss went legit, but at least he payed overtime in cash.

It may not make me rich very quickly, and I get the satisfaction of knowing that I control, more of my own production.

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john galt says that there are two sides to every issue-one  side is right and the other is wrong ,but the middle is always evil.

are we all not betraying him by choosing the middle path

You are thinking implicitly in a "collectivist" way, while at the same time wanting to reject that very thinking. "We" - meaning those of us who oppose statism - have not chosen this path. It has been imposed on us. As such, you have no moral responsibility in regard to its consequences. Remember, morality presupposes choice and it is precisely your choice which statism rejects.

this brings me to my own case........i live in a country where most of the basic amneities provided by the govt. - my education, the electricity, rail and roads etc etc. so am i immoral?
You should now be able to answer that question yourself. What choice have you been given?

suppose i want to payback all this debt after completing my education......how do i do that : paying tax will be feeding and furthuring the existing system, while not paying it will only put extra burden on those very productive men whose money i expropriated in the first place.

You didn't expropriate anything. In fact you have been forced yourself to pay for it- and over the course of your life you will be forced to pay much, much more. I can assure you that in all liklihood you will end up paying far more than you ever objectively get back in return.

The principle here is: don't accept unearned guilt.

Fred Weiss

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john galt says that there are two sides to every issue-one  side is right and the other is wrong ,but the middle is always evil.

are we all not betraying him by choosing the middle path.

this brings me to my own case........i live in a country where most of the basic amneities provided by the govt. - my education, the electricity, rail and roads etc etc. so am i immoral?

suppose i want to payback all this debt after completing my education......how do i do that : paying tax will be feeding and furthuring the existing system, while not paying it will only put extra burden on those very productive men whose money i expropriated in the first place.

             

in short how does one practice morality in a mixed economy?

That is a really good question.

To begin with, I would suggest you stop being so hard on yourself. You are not responsible for the circumstances under which you were born. I do not know which country you refer to, but what you describe could even be a good deal of the free world. You are under no obligation to "payback all this debt" which you accrued through no fault of your own. When you are not free to choose, you are not really involved in a trade.

For instance, if education was a private affair, rather than being co-opted by the government, you would be free to choose among alternatives. That would be a trade, where you provide value for value. Since you are not given a choice in education, avail yourself of what you can and do not sacrifice yourself with a sense of unearned guilt.

Ayn Rand wrote a lovely article in the April 1962 issue of The Objectivist Newsletter, in which she answered the question "How does one lead a rational life in an irrational society, such as we have today?" In the article she focused on just one of many principles which would apply, and the one she chose was "Never fail to pronounce moral judgment." This does not mean that you go around waving a metaphorical moral flag to everyone and in every instance of your life. It does mean you keep a clear perspective on all important issues and do not fear to judge according to rightful values. As Ayn Rand notes "An irrational society is a society of moral cowards -- of men paralyzed by the loss of moral standards, principles and goals." Whether your judgment is private or public, keep a strong sense of right and wrong and apply justice in a rational manner. The character you build is your best defense against the irrationality of others.

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thanks all for your replies, but there are certain clarificatons that i would like to make(it was my mistake not to be exact in the first post) and some questions i would like to ask.

1. the country i belong to is india

2. the college i chose for my education is a govt. college but i did have an option to chose a private college as well. the choice was made based on the better education the college provided and the lower tution fees. but again the choice was not entirely my own as i still depend on my parents.

so the questions are

1. when is a choice a volitional choice(what exactly is meant by force?)

2. can an independent person alone make a volitional choice?

3. is an option of using or not using a highway(provided by govt.) not a volitional choice?i mean the govt doesnt force you to use the highway, it only forces certain people to pay taxes so that everyone can use these.

4. fred weiss says"over the course of your life you will be forced to pay much, much more. I can assure you that in all liklihood you will end up paying far more than you ever objectively get back in return."

is evil that potent ?

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1. the country i belong to is india

Objectivism does seem to have some presence in India, tiny of course in relation to the population, but nonetheless noticeable and greater than in other parts of Asia.

2. the college i chose for my education is a govt. college but i did have an option to chose a private college as well. the choice was made based on the better education the college provided and the lower tution fees. but again the choice was not entirely my own as i still depend on my parents.
I attended Brooklyn College, run by the city of NYC, and then went to the Univ. of Wisconsin, a state school. As an out of state resident, I did pay some tuition at UW but it was a fraction of what I would have paid at a private university. I never, then or now, felt the slightest guilt about it. The gov't has usurped a huge part of education, funded by taxation which both you and your parents pay. So long as it exists and so long as you are penalized by the taxation, you should feel no guilt in taking advantage of it - and in effect getting back some of the funds which they have confiscated from you.

so the questions are

1. when is a choice a volitional choice(what exactly is meant by force?)

2. can an independent person alone make a volitional choice?

I'm not sure how you think this issue relates to the question you are raising. Suffice it to say that your choices have been limited by gov't interference in the education marketplace (and others) and you are compelled to pay taxes to support it.

3. is an option of using or not using a highway(provided by govt.) not a volitional choice?i mean the govt doesnt force you to use the highway, it only forces certain people to pay taxes so that everyone can use these.
No, you aren't forced to use the highway, but why would you want to penalize yourself in that way - by not using them - when the gov't doesn't permit private highways? You have been forced to sacrifice already in the taxes you and your parents have paid to build and maintain the highways. So why now add to your sacrifice by not using the highway?

4. fred weiss says"over the course of your life you will be forced to pay much, much more. I can assure you that in all liklihood you will end up paying far more than you ever objectively get back in return."  is evil that potent ?

You mean, "is evil that impotent", i.e. that unproductive. The answer is yes. Virtually anything the gov't does would be better done privately.

Fred Weiss

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galt and all the people who struggle with this question: Read Ayn Rand's The Question of Scholarships, in The Voice of Reason. It deals with the problem of receiving scholarship funds from the government (which is even more serious than simply using roads built by the government). I quote:

The recipient of a public  scholarship is morally justified only so long as he regards it as restitution and opposes all form of welfare statism... It does not matter, in this context, whether a given individual has or has not paid an amount of taxes equal to the amount of the scholarship he accepts. First, the sum of his individual losses cannot be computed; this is part of the welfare-state philosophy that treats everyone's income as public property. Second, if he has reached college age, he has undounbtedly paid - in hidden taxes - much more than the amount of the scholarship. Or, if his parents cannot afford to pay for his education, consider what taxes they have paid, directly or indirectly, during the twenty years of his life - and you will see that a scholarship is too pitifully small even to be called a restitution.

Third - and most important - the young people of today are not responsible for the immoral state of the world into which they were born...

It goes on. Recommended reading.

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erandror,

Very good! Now I'm so happy I don't feel guilty about it at all. (That's sarcasm, BTW.)

No, I'm not happy. In fact, I don't feel any better now that I've read this than I've felt before, because my position hasn't changed at all. I don't need to be forgiven and I don't ask forgiveness and I don't want anyone to tell me I'm forgiven. Conclusions stated in that short paragraph you posted are all obvious. Accepting any kind of guilt for the way things work in the kind of world I was born in is equal to accepting the original sin - the notion that we are all born guilty (no matter what of).

But when you tell others to leave you alone, they can only understand it in terms of isolating you from themselves and themselves from you. They don't want to see you, hear you, talk to you or know that you exist. They don't know what it means to be an individual(ist); they can't understand it, just as Harry Binnswanger put it nicely in "The Dollar and the Gun" (quoted from Ayn Rand, "Why Businessmen need Philosophy"),

"When you talk to [the second-hander]in your terms, telling him that we are all separate, independent equals who can deal with each other either by reason or by force, he literally doesn't know what you are talking about. Having abandoned his critical faculty, any idea, any offer, any deal is compulsory to him if it is accompanied by social pressure. You may tell him that in order to survive, man must be free to think. But he lacks the concepts of independent survival, independent thought, and even of objective reality; his credo is Erich Fromm's: "Love is the only sane and satisfactory answer to the problem of human existence.""
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erandror,

Very good! Now I'm so happy I don't feel guilty about it at all. (That's sarcasm, BTW.)

No, I'm not happy. In fact, I don't feel any better now that I've read this than I've felt before, ...

What does this have to do with the issue raised by "galt"?

No one is saying that we are happy with taxation or gov't involvement in the economy. The question "galt" is raising is whether, given the current situation and until we can get it changed, what is the proper way to deal with it. I'm sorry that you don' t "feel" any better about it. But that's the way it is. Objectivism is starting to have some influence on the culture but it is still a long way off before you can expect any kind of radical shift toward laissez-faire. In the meantime, if one values living in a civilized society and accepting its benefits, which are many even with the degree of statism we must endure, then one must accept the proper means for changing that society: rational persuasion. When, and if, we reach a point where rational persuasion is no longer possible, then and only then is it proper to consider other means.

Fred Weiss

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erandror,

Very good! Now I'm so happy I don't feel guilty about it at all. (That's sarcasm, BTW.)

No, I'm not happy. In fact, I don't feel any better now that I've read this than I've felt before, because my position hasn't changed at all.

I do not understand your words here to erandror. Your "position" on what has not changed? Your only post in this thread was one with a smiley mentioning Ragnar. Is that a position? And, why the sarcasm to erandror? He posted what seemed to be a very relevant commentary by Ayn Rand. This is worthy of sarcasm?

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1. the country i belong to is india.

I assume you meant that you live there, not that you are property. I understand how, living in India, at least old style, you might say "belong to" ;).

2. the college i chose for my education is a govt. college but i did have an option to chose a private college as well. the choice was made based on the better education the college provided and the lower tution fees. but again the choice was not entirely my own as i still depend on my parents.
But did you know that it was wrong to attend a state school? Was it a fundamental principle of life which you acknowledged, that it was absolutely wrong to accept anything from the government other than protection of rights? If so, and you went to the state school, then to be brutal I would say you were being immoral (moral remenption is always possible). But people often do not really grasp these subtleties until they are much older (Fred used to be a commie!). The basic question is whether you knew that you were doing wrong, and consciously sought the unearned. Failure to consistently integrate all of your knowledge at age 18 is not the worst crime in the world.

I would suggest concentrating more on choices, rather than actions as absolutes.

so the questions are

1. when is a choice a volitional choice(what exactly is meant by force?)

Volition really should be conceptually separated from force, though they aren't totally unrelated. Force is where a volitional being uses (or threatens to use) violence against you. Force is relevant to choice because it presents a metaphysically non-obligatory alternative between life and death. By "metapysically non-obligatory" I mean that reality itself does not necessitate a choice -- the man-made is not metaphysically necessitated. Volition simply refers to the fact that our choices are free -- they are not metaphysically given.

2. can an independent person alone make a volitional choice?
Yup. I decided to be brief there.

3. is an option of using or not using a highway(provided by govt.) not a volitional choice?i mean the govt doesnt force you to use the highway, it only forces certain people to pay taxes so that everyone can use these.

Yes, it is a volitional choice, but that's not the real issue. What does that choice represent, when you make the choice? Are you implicitly claiming a right to the lives of other people, or are you simply recognising that because of the massive incursions of th state into what should be the domain of free enterprise, the plausible options for you are (1) stay at home, forever -- i.e. curl up and die; (2) somehow overthrow the socialist state and sell the roads (good luck) or (3) deal with the probem that the state has used force to preempt human rights, handing you a contaminated deck of cards.

The one note of caution I want to append to Eran Dror's Rand quote is that the fact that you've paid taxes which support the state should not amount to a universal entitlement card. If the government taxes you and offers free education, free medicine, free daycare, free vacations, free transportation, free water, free phones, free electricity, free food... (oh, plus some occasional police protection), the fact of paying taxes should not be taken to be an automatic "anything from the government is my right, I'm a taxpayer!" immunity. There has to be a point at which a moral person says "I will not accept this handout from the state".

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When you recognise "This is wrong". ;) It requires a hierarchy of values, and a purpose.

I knew it when faced with the option of a free market mortgage vs. a government subsidised lower interest rate mortgage.

It also requires distinguishing between a handout and restitution.

If the subsidized interest rate is funded by the government from taxes and you have or will pay taxes, take the money and run.

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It also requires distinguishing between a handout and restitution.

If the subsidized interest rate is funded by the government from taxes and you have or will pay taxes, take the money and run.

Is there any limit to how much tax money you should take in the name of restitution? I.e. should it have some relationship to the amount of money you've paid in taxes, or reasonably might pay in the future?

It is extremely unlikely that a being exists who hasn't paid taxes one way or another, especially sales taxes. So even if you don't pay personal income or property taxes, there are so many ways in which people pay taxes that it's hard to imagine who could not claim to be taking restitution. Welfare recipients can claimed to be getting restitution from past taxes -- or even future taxes, on the presumption that they "will" pay taxes (meaning, intend to).

The conclusion I would draw from this is that no act of receiving subsidy from the government could be considered wrong.

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The conclusion I would draw from this is that no act of receiving subsidy from the government could be considered wrong.

That's true, so long as you are fighting -- ideologically, -- to eliminate the subsidy.

As Ayn Rand wrote:

"Since there is no such thing as the right of some men to vote away the rights of others, and no such thing as the right of the government to seize the property of some men for the unearned benefit of others—the advocates and supporters of the welfare state are morally guilty of robbing their opponents, and the fact that the robbery is legalized makes it morally worse, not better. victims do not have to add self-inflicted martyrdom to the injury done to them by others; they do not have to let the looters profit doubly, by letting them distribute the money exclusively to the parasites who clamored for it. Whenever the welfare-state laws offer them some small restitution, the victims should take it.

[...]

"The same moral principles and considerations apply to the issue of accepting social security, unemployment insurance or other payments of that kind. It is obvious, in such cases, that a man receives his own money which was taken from him by force, directly and specifically, without his consent, against his own choice. Those who advocated such laws are morally guilty, since they assumed the "right" to force employers and unwilling co-workers. But the victims, who opposed such laws, have a clear right to any refund of their own money—and they would not advance the cause of freedom if they left their money, unclaimed, for the benefit of the welfare-state administration.

[...]

"The issue is primarily ideological, not financial. Minimizing the financial injury inflicted on you by the welfare-state laws, does not constitute support of welfare statism (since the purpose of such laws is to injure you) and is not morally reprehensible. Initiating, advocating or expanding such laws, is."

[italics Ayn Rand, "The Question Of Scholarships," The Voce of Reason]

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Fred Weiss,

It has everything to do with Galt's issue, exactly for the reasons you mentioned yourself. I'm convinced that "rational persuasion" doesn't work any more. At least it won't work here where I live, if any such persuasion is ever to take place. If you think that the US can be brought back on the path of Laissez-Faire by means of rational persuasion, then good. I wouldn't know about that. But if it really can and if it is brought back, then I'm almost certain that the rest of the world won't follow and in fact would be ready to "derail" the US back into the abyss of welfare statism by any means possible.

Which brings me to my first post in this thread. This is exactly why I mentioned Ragnar.

stephen_speicher,

Your "position" on what has not changed?

I don't think that the paragraph quoted by erandror is relevant in a way he mentioned before he pasted the quote. Galt's issue wasn't that of feeling guilty for receiving government funds, but that of how to deal with that government. In this way, the passage quoted doesn't do anything to change or improve my abilities to deal with the government. It is easier to deal with the government when you know you're not guilty, but that is why I said that "Accepting any kind of guilt for the way things work in the kind of world I was born in is equal to accepting the original sin..." There is no reason to feel guilty for living under a socialist/welfare/tyrannical government, or any government for that matter. What you should feel guilty of is accepting that government and taking advantage of their handouts, although that is no longer the subject of this thread.

Hope I've made myself clear.

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I don't think that the paragraph quoted by erandror is relevant in a way he mentioned before he pasted the quote. Galt's issue wasn't that of feeling guilty for receiving government funds, but that of how to deal with that government.

You seem to be the only one here on this forum, not to mention the many people I have known over the years who have read that piece, to interpret what Ayn Rand wrote as an issue of "feeling guilty." I find such an interpretation to be, at the least, rather bizarre.

In this way, the passage quoted doesn't do anything to change or improve my abilities to deal with the government.
I have no idea of what your "abilities" are in that regard, but personally I consider clearly identifying the moral relationship between the individual and the government, in the context that Ayn Rand wrote, to have been, as all real moral principles are, of practical value to me. I am sorry for you that you did not likewise benefit.

What you should feel guilty of is accepting that government and taking advantage of their handouts ...

I'll leave you to wallow in your own guilt, and I will just go merrily on my way with full knowledge of what is right and wrong, and the moral justification for each.

Hope I've made myself clear.

Yes, your views are becoming quite clear to me now.

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I'm convinced that "rational persuasion" doesn't work any more.

Do you possess some gift from god which grants you reason - and no one else?

I'll just mention to those genuinely concerned about the state of the culture that no new idea - certainly none as radical as Objectivism - has ever been able to change a culture overnight. It takes time, usually several generations at least. It was 75 years - 3 generations - between John Locke's treatise on gov't and the American Revolution. There was a similar period between Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations and complete free trade in England.

Atlas Shrugged was written less than 50 years ago. No, we are still a far distance from seeing its ideas sweep the world, but there are signs of some influence, including the death of communism. And who any more of any intellectual stature even advocates socialism? As bad as things must seem to the younger people here and as discouraged as you understandably must be, I can assure you that intellectually it was much worse in the 60's and 70's.

Fred Weiss

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john galt says that there are two sides to every issue-one  side is right and the other is wrong ,but the middle is always evil.  are we all not betraying him by choosing the middle path.

You forgot something else that John Galt says, which answers your question: "Morality ends where a gun begins."

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I have no idea of what your "abilities" are in that regard, but personally I consider clearly identifying the moral relationship between the individual and the government, in the context that Ayn Rand wrote, to have been, as all real moral principles are, of practical value to me. I am sorry for you that you did not likewise benefit.

How does that relate to the quoted paragraph? It does not identify any moral relationships between the individual and the government. What it IS identifying is a relationship between the individual and the government which is present today in real life (which clearly is not a moral relationship, regardless of the individual because the government is the immoral party). And you are correct, from the paragraph in question I did not benefit in any practical values, and frankly I cannot see the way to interpret it as anything other than releasing the students who receive scholarships from the government and oppose welfare statism from feeling guilty about it. Perhaps you would care to explain?

I'll leave you to wallow in your own guilt, and I will just go merrily on my way with full knowledge of what is right and wrong, and the moral justification for each.
I don't know whether this misinterpretation of my words is intentional or not, but it is a misinterpretation nonetheless. I did not say I feel guilty of anything.

Yes, your views are becoming quite clear to me now.

I don't think so.

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Do you possess some gift from god which grants you reason - and no one else?

What is that supposed to mean?

Atlas Shrugged was written less than 50 years ago. No, we are still a far distance from seeing its ideas sweep the world, but there are signs of some influence, including the death of communism. And who any more of any intellectual stature even advocates socialism? As bad as things must seem to the younger people here and as discouraged as you understandably must be, I can assure you that intellectually it was much worse in the 60's and 70's.

So you suggest we wait for 30 more years?

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How does that relate to the quoted paragraph? It does not identify any moral relationships between the individual and the government. What it IS identifying is a relationship between the individual and the government which is present today in real life ...

Morality provides a guide for actions. In that article Ayn Rand spoke of actions that are proper, and actions that are improper. Those define, in the context addressed by Ayn Rand, the moral relationship between my actions and the government.

And you are correct, from the paragraph in question I did not benefit in any practical values, and frankly I cannot see the way to interpret it as anything other than releasing the students who receive scholarships from the government and oppose welfare statism from feeling guilty about it. Perhaps you would care to explain?
Not particularly.

I don't know whether this misinterpretation of my words is intentional or not, but it is a misinterpretation nonetheless. I did not say I feel guilty of anything.

You said: "What you should feel guilty of is accepting that government and taking advantage of their handouts." I assumed that when you stated "you" you were referring to yourself, since it certainly does not refer to me.

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You said: "What you should feel guilty of is accepting that government and taking advantage of their handouts." I assumed that when you stated "you" you were referring to yourself, since it certainly does not refer to me.

An error. Lapsus calami. Let me correct it: "What one should feel guilty of is accepting that government and taking advantage of the handouts."

Morality provides a guide for actions. In that article Ayn Rand spoke of actions that are proper, and actions that are improper. Those define, in the context addressed by Ayn Rand, the moral relationship between my actions and the government.

And in the quoted paragraph, she gave a concrete example. That particular paragraph is not a guide for actions. I think it was safe for me to assume that erandror quoted that particular paragraph because the broader context of the article did not matter for his post. And the "It goes on..." (or something alike) he added after the quote suggests to me that the context doesn't get broader than this at least for a while. If he wanted to point out that the broader context of the article mattered, he would have, or he would have chosen another paragraph.

Also, it would be at least appropriate if at this point I asked erandror what he meant to say with his post. It is pointless to argue with you about what he wanted to point out, when he is here and can speak for himself. After all, on a discussion board, from another person's silence I can only assume that either he hasn't read the post or that I'm correct. Only now I can no longer understand his silence given that there is so much debate about what he posted.

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