Book Review: The Mind of the Market

(Author’s Note: The following review was solicited and is written in accordance with this site’s policy for such reviews.)

Summary: A libertarian political tract disguised as a work of science.

Michael Shermer’s The Mind of the Market concerns “evolutionary economics” – the way that evolutionary forces have shaped human instincts about trading, value and exchange, and how those tendencies have played out in creating the variety of economic systems in the world today. There’s enough material on these topics for a good book. Unfortunately, Shermer didn’t stop with presenting the science. Instead, he took a large step beyond it and presumed to make conclusions about which is the best economic system. Unsurprisingly, those conclusions lined up with the political views he holds, which appear to be an extreme form of libertarianism. (Even Timothy Sandefur, himself a libertarian, found Shermer’s arguments unconvincing and lacking in scientific rigor.) I found it hard to believe that this was the same Michael Shermer who once wrote a biting expose of Ayn Rand titled “The Unlikeliest Cult”. Evidently, he retains considerable sympathy for her ideas.

In this review, I’m not going to focus on the scientific studies Shermer discusses. The book covers topics like the evolutionary roots of fairness and reciprocity in primates, the parts of the brain involved in economic reasoning, and some common fallacies in human decision-making. For people who’ve read books like Blink or Stumbling on Happiness, most of this will not be new. At least in my eyes, Shermer’s condescending political lectures drowned out the relatively uncontroversial scientific material. This review will likewise focus on those chapters.

The political moralizing begins in chapter 2, titled “Our Folk Economics”. The analogy is to “folk science” – incorrect and superstitious ways of interpreting the world that result from our brains only being wired to comprehend the types of phenomena we encounter every day. Human beings originally lived in egalitarian hunter-gatherer societies, where food and goods were equally shared out of survival necessity, and where the accumulation of individual wealth was an outrage against the group. Shermer claims that this psychology survives today, and that it is for this reason and this reason only that people believe in redistributive taxation. If we could get past this primitive mentality, he says, we would understand that there is no injustice in having a few people be vastly wealthier than the majority, no matter how large the wealth gap is or how abject the poverty of the majority is.

As part of his argument, Shermer does something that many libertarian works do: he considers the potential worst-case scenarios of socialist policies, pronounces them undesirable and thereby asserts he has settled the issue – but he never attempts to examine the potential worst-case scenarios of the libertarian position.

For example, consider universal health care. Shermer expresses concern that this policy would lead to waste, inefficiency, and cost overruns. I quite agree – these are things that can go wrong with government-provided universal health insurance. Now, let’s consider the alternative: what can go wrong with private health insurance? I can think of one obvious negative consequence: people die painfully from treatable conditions because they cannot afford medical care. This seems like an obvious followup point, but Shermer ignores it. In a similar passage, he discusses the phenomenon of confirmation bias as it applies to members of both American political parties – again, a serious and legitimate issue, I agree – but never shows any acknowledgment that this is a problem which might apply to him as well.

Shermer also discusses the creative power of free markets and their role in fostering efficiency and innovation. This is true, as far as it goes, but he then goes on to claim that fewer restrictions on markets are always better. He also argues that markets’ ability to create innovation without top-down regulation is comparable to the way evolution creates novelty through random changes in individuals. As a consequence, he states explicitly that people who advocate any sort of regulation or restriction on markets – laws against collusion and monopoly, import duties and tariffs, even patent protections – are analogous to evolution deniers. (I hope you can see why this book raised my hackles.)

I’m not denying the power of markets. Directed to the right ends, they are potent tools for generating wealth and fostering innovation. They fully deserve the credit for the millionfold rise in the number of goods and services available to us as compared to what is available to hunter-gatherer tribes. But they are not panaceas to solve every problem, nor are they sources of omnipotent wisdom whose choices are always the best ones.

Shermer’s analogy between markets and evolution is an excellent one in more ways than he realizes. Both processes emerge in a bottom-up fashion from the interaction of many local decisions; both can produce superbly adapted results directed toward their given ends; but both processes also tend to be short-sighted, concerned more with immediate gain than with long-term sustainability, which can lead to dead-ends in design space and catastrophe when the environment abruptly changes, and in both processes, the winners prosper while the losers suffer disastrous consequences. Contra Shermer, the reason many people advocate legal controls on markets is not because we do not understand their similarity to evolution, but because we understand it all too well.

About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Broken Ring, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • Steve Bowen

    Human beings originally lived in egalitarian hunter-gatherer societies, where food and goods were equally shared out of survival necessity, and where the accumulation of individual wealth was an outrage against the group.

    There was probably an element of (less controversial than it used tob )group selection favouring tribes/societies that behaved this way as they would arguably have been more socially cohesive. The assumption that the same conditions no longer exist doesn’t stack up. In our larger society it is easier to generate large imbalances of wealth but as long as most of us are on a general parity we still maintain a stable society. If there really was allowed to develop a few super rich and a large underclass which could happen in a totally unregulated market, revolution would not be far behind.

  • Mrnaglfar

    Shermer also discusses the creative power of free markets and their role in fostering efficiency and innovation. This is true, as far as it goes, but he then goes on to claim that fewer restrictions on markets are always better. He also argues that markets’ ability to create innovation without top-down regulation is comparable to the way evolution creates novelty through random changes in individuals. As a consequence, he states explicitly that people who advocate any sort of regulation or restriction on markets – laws against collusion and monopoly, import duties and tariffs, even patent protections – are analogous to evolution deniers. (I hope you can see why this book raised my hackles.)

    The link of the other review says much the same thing; that those that don’t trust in the complete evolution of the market are those who need an ‘intelligent designer’ of the economy (though he does make it clear that is his opinion and he’d like to see if backed up far better than Shermer did). I have a major problem with this line of thought because it seems to be an all-or-nothing deal. Either you’re for market regulations and thus back socialism/might as well support stalin, or you’re for completely open market and wear an american flag pin; America! Fuck yeah!

    Kidding aside,

    However, I would think of market regulations in a different way, say a tweaking of the laws of nature. That tweaking still allows for the development of an economy through it’s own supply and demand evolution, just working under different intial perameters; there is no government planning of the businesses themselves, just of market conditions (I wonder if they oppose the use of that nasty, government made currency too). Under those new natural limits, different kind of markets can grow can grow and flourish, but others cannot. However, markets left to their own with no restriction, as we have seen, have led to some pretty nasty results. Not to mention the problems markets face with things like “The tradegy of the commons”, to which a ‘natural’ strategy of action will leave everyone worse off once eventually overusing and destroying natural resources (see population, overfishing, unsustainable population growth).

  • Jim Baerg

    For the most part I agree with Mrnaglfar’s post. Eg: I think the least bad way to handle most pollution problems is a tax on emissions.

    However, Re: “I wonder if they oppose the use of that nasty, government made currency too”. Quite a few people of libertarian bent think that a commodity based currency such as a gold standards has fewer drawbacks than government based paper money. Certainly that has the advantage of limiting the possibility of inflation. Taking government out of the issuing of money strikes me as having some merit.

  • Sean M.

    “Shermer claims that this psychology survives today, and that it is for this reason and this reason only that people believe in redistributive taxation. “

    If correct, that summary is pretty damning. Any socialist or economic centrist would be happy to explain to him why they believe in redistributive taxation. Most of these are moral arguments, and you cannot rebut a moral argument except by showing that it results in a contradiction or is based on a principle that you do not agree with. For example, you can rebut arguments against gay marriage by showing that they also apply to infertile couples, or that they are based on moral principles like “do exactly what the Bible tells us, because it is the word of God” which most people no longer support. Some of the arguments are practical arguments, and it can be shown that things like universal health care work pretty well in Canada and most of Europe. Saying that his opponents are all irrational is very foolish but sadly common in politics.

    Also, does he recognize problems like Tragedies of the Commons?

  • http://ellis14.wordpress.com evanescent

    Hi Ebon,

    I wouldn’t attempt to derive any social-moral-politic system based on the theory of evolution. Evolution explains how we came to be – it is not a prescription for morality. Those who assert otherwise would be committing the Naturalist Fallacy. Evolution may select for kinship behaviour, but it also seems to have produced a tendency toward magical thinking. This says nothing about the good or ills of either.

    A politic system must be derived from moral principles that relate to the nature of man. As you know, I am not a Libertarian, and I don’t reject the need for government. I fully support government and the need for it. As an Objectivist (who subscribes to the philosophy of Ayn Rand as best as I understand it), I merely state that government should never violate individual rights.

    I’m not going to defend Shermer because I’m not a libertarian and a lot of what he comes out with I think is nonsense, but I will throw my support behind the free market for one very simple reason: property is an individual right, and nobody has the RIGHT to the property of others. This is a moral principle that is a necessary corollary of human nature. If one accepts individual rights, one accepts property rights. If one accepts property rights, then “universal health care” is wrong.

    what can go wrong with private health insurance? I can think of one obvious negative consequence: people die painfully from treatable conditions because they cannot afford medical care.

    This is an Appeal to Adverse Consequences. The principle is the same: nobody has the RIGHT to the property of others. Now, IF people cannot afford healthcare in a free society (that is yet to be proved), that is unfortunate, but there are many avenues to provide for them: the care and money of loved ones, and/or private charities. (Or should we socialise restaurants to that beggars don’t go hungry and socialise shoe-manufacturing since everybody needs a pair of shoes?) There is absolutely no valid argument to justify the socialization of one private business over others. And I think that is why Shermer extends any form of socialism to its natural unavoidable resultant: statism, whether it be fascism or communism.

    They fully deserve the credit for the millionfold rise in the number of goods and services available to us as compared to what is available to hunter-gatherer tribes. But they are not panaceas to solve every problem, nor are they sources of omnipotent wisdom whose choices are always the best ones.

    I totally agree with you here – but would also reply that neither is government the solution to solve our problems. That is an Argument from Ignorance.

    he states explicitly that people who advocate any sort of regulation or restriction on markets – laws against collusion and monopoly, import duties and tariffs, even patent protections – are analogous to evolution deniers.

    I agree with you that rejection of free markets is not a rejection of evolution. Shermer is being disingenuous here.

    I thought I would throw my two cents into the defence of free markets. The free market is the right political system because it is the only one that respects individual rights. And no matter what benefits you suggest arise from socialism (like “universal healthcare” – at whose expense?), they cannot succeed because they do not respect property rights.

    On everything else I’d probably agree with you; I’m not a fan of Shermer.

    All the best as always.

  • Chris Granade

    Sad to hear that the executive editor of Skeptic has shown so little skepticism towards his own position. I would have hoped for better.

  • http://wildphilosophy.blogspot.com Mathew Wilder

    evanescent,

    If one accepts individual rights, one accepts property rights. If one accepts property rights, then “universal health care” is wrong.

    I’m not sure how the second sentence follows logically from the first.Please explain to me why this is not a non sequitur.

    Universal health care, it seems to me, is merely the state of everyone’s individual right to health care being met. It seems to me if there are rights at all, then we have rights to those things (i.e. food, shelter, clothing, proper medical care, education) that are necessary to live more than a mere animal existence. Human rights exist to make sure that we can live fully human lives.

    See these for more explanation on why property is neither fundamental nor all-trumping:

    Propert is Unnatural

    Property and Coercion

    Constructing Rightful Property

  • http://wildphilosophy.blogspot.com Mathew Wilder

    Must have forgotten a quotation mark or something in the last link. Here is it is.

  • Samuel Skinner

    For the record, evolution is an extemely bad role model. I would base a moral system on it ever (maybe to explain how it came to be, but not to justify). Given how the evolutionary process can be similar to completely unrestrained markets I can’t see how that would be a good thing. Heck, the whole idea behind being good is giving up actions that normally would benefit us.

    Socialism is a broad term. For the record though Sweden seems to be enjoying it. They apparently are a workers paradise, although the taxes will eat you alive. The Free Market isn’t an absolute- it is a tool. Nothing more and nothing less.

  • Alex Weaver

    If there really was allowed to develop a few super rich and a large underclass which could happen in a totally unregulated market, revolution would not be far behind.

    What do you mean, “if?” It’s historically happened. O.o

  • Martin

    Marvelous. This is probably your best post yet. I saw a video on Youtube back in September or thereabouts, of a lecture that Shermer gave on the topic of evolution and markets (this was a few months before the book came out). I had many of the same thoughts as you.

  • Alex Weaver

    For the most part I agree with Mrnaglfar’s post. Eg: I think the least bad way to handle most pollution problems is a tax on emissions.

    Despite the irritation of occasional shallow thinkers who mindlessly reject the concept because it’s “weird” (“counterintuitive?”), I also strongly support taxing emissions, preferably in the form of a cap-and-trade scheme, which has the effect of reducing net emissions, creating a profit opportunity for companies that can cheaply and efficiently reduce emissions below the target levels (by selling their allotment of emission output to other companies) and not giving companies which cannot do so the grounds for an “undue burden” argument if they cannot (by allowing them to purchase the aforementioned surplus allotments, rather than forcing them to simply shut down).

    I’m not going to defend Shermer because I’m not a libertarian and a lot of what he comes out with I think is nonsense, but I will throw my support behind the free market for one very simple reason: property is an individual right, and nobody has the RIGHT to the property of others. This is a moral principle that is a necessary corollary of human nature. If one accepts individual rights, one accepts property rights. If one accepts property rights, then “universal health care” is wrong.

    By that logic, since freedom of speech is an individual right, restrictions on the publication of secret defense information, libel, incitement to criminal activity, and so on are also “wrong.” Would you care to make this argument?

    This is an Appeal to Adverse Consequences.

    …are you contending that it is erroneous to select a course of action (as opposed to a proposition about what is factually true) on the basis of its consequences?

    Now, IF people cannot afford healthcare in a free society (that is yet to be proved)

    Statistics on the price of health insurance, incomes, and the number of uninsured are publicly available. Go learn.

    that is unfortunate, but there are many avenues to provide for them: the care and money of loved ones, and/or private charities.

    And if neither of these are capable of meeting their needs?

    (Or should we socialise restaurants to that beggars don’t go hungry and socialise shoe-manufacturing since everybody needs a pair of shoes?) There is absolutely no valid argument to justify the socialization of one private business over others.

    That’s curious; none of the propositions I’ve heard for universal health care suggests that this comparison is accurate. What exactly have you been reading about this?

    And no matter what benefits you suggest arise from socialism (like “universal healthcare” – at whose expense?), they cannot succeed because they do not respect property rights.

    If you explicitly reject the idea that propositions should be judged based on good or bad results, then what basis do you have for asserting that property rights matter that does not nakedly beg the question?

    PS: Adam, any idea why the preview function doesn’t seem to correctly process links with anchor references included, even though they show up correctly when it’s posted?

  • MisterDomino

    evanescent,

    property is an individual right, and nobody has the RIGHT to the property of others.

    Hmm, that’s very Lockean of you.

    There has been much investigation into the origin of private property; most sociologist and anthropologists have postulated that this resulted from the emergence of agrarian societies as the dominant form of human civilization. It’s as simple as this: staying in one place makes it easy to accumulate stuff; this is not easy to do if one must constantly chase his food.

    However, progress has been made since then in sociological and economic theory to advocate the benefits of wealth redistribution.

    Since you’re basing your argument on such a Lockean ideal, let me throw one right back at you: citizens become a part of a government in order to protect their private property. In doing so, they forfeit their individual right to make decisions independent of the body politic regarding policy, up to and including the allocation of tax monies.

    In such a society, if the majority decides that the redistribution of wealth will alleviate many of the social problems and stigma associated with socio-economic class-consciousness (e.g. crime, poor medical care, etc.), then it is your duty as a citizen of that society to contribute your share.

    On another note, Locke also advocates the benefit of choosing the greatest future good in order to achieve happiness in his Essay Concerning Human Understanding. It’s very short-sighted to dismiss the redistribution of wealth as immoral simply because of an antiquated notion of private property. Actually, giving up a bit of your income can help you to protect the rest of it, as the risk of others seeking your goods and benefits because they have none will be much less than if one were to adopt an “every man for himself” policy.

    You’re right when you say that no one else in a society has the “right” to another’s property, but never forget that your “property” was only made possible by being a member of that society. It is in your best interests to keep that society stable, and if this requires a slight redistribution of wealth, I cannot see how one can argue against this.

    There’s a reason that all kindergartners learn how important it is to share.

  • http://ellis14.wordpress.com evanescent

    MisterDomino, just came across your reply now. I’m about to nip out so will respond in full tomorrow and explain why you are totally wrong! :) (Oh and there is nothing Lockean about my politics at all).

  • http://ellis14.wordpress.com evanescent

    Ok so I have a few minutes:

    Alex said:

    By that logic, since freedom of speech is an individual right, restrictions on the publication of secret defense information, libel, incitement to criminal activity, and so on are also “wrong.” Would you care to make this argument?

    This is a totally bizarre non-argument. Please explain how keeping government secrets violates freedom of speech.

    are you contending that it is erroneous to select a course of action (as opposed to a proposition about what is factually true) on the basis of its consequences?

    I am saying that the ends do not justify the means, and the correct course of action is not deemed retrospectively based on some arbitrary non-objective standard of suffering (if that can even be measured).

    Example: if the only way a starving man can survive is to break into your property and steal your food, he is STILL a criminal if he does so, and he is still wrong. I don’t know what your standard of morality is if you disagree!

    Statistics on the price of health insurance, incomes, and the number of uninsured are publicly available. Go learn.

    You will find that it is governmental interference in healthcare that artificially inflates prices and causes more problems in the long run. Go learn. Here you go:
    http://theobjectivestandard.com/issues/2007-winter/moral-vs-universal-health-care.asp

    And if neither of these are capable of meeting their needs?

    What are you saying? That if it’s still not enough, people should be stripped of their property to provide for others? ‘Need’ does not create ‘right’.

    That’s curious; none of the propositions I’ve heard for universal health care suggests that this comparison is accurate. What exactly have you been reading about this?

    I’m confused by your curiosity: why is healthcare socialised and no other private endeavour? Pray tell: why do sick people have the right to the property of others, but shoeless and homeless people not have the right to free shoes and free meals at fancy restaurants? Could there be a double-standard at work here? Yes I think so.

    If you explicitly reject the idea that propositions should be judged based on good or bad results, then what basis do you have for asserting that property rights matter that does not nakedly beg the question?

    Because my standard for morality is what is not “the ends justify the means”. Moral principles exist as guides to our actions based on what is objectively beneficial or detrimental to man’s life. Rights are a moral principle that guarantee freedom of action in a social context.

    It is never acceptable to violate the rights of another.

    That’s all I can write for now. I’ll check back tomorrow. Best regards.

  • Thumpalumpacus

    Mister Domino –

    I personally don’t consider notions of private property to be “antiquated”. Firstly, assuming that I have come by my possessions legally, I have sweat equity that you lack. Secondly, to assume that the rest of society is required for me to have property ignores those of us who build stuff ourselves.

    Since private property is so passé, I eagerly await your turning your bank accounts over to me. You may e-mail me at thumpalumpacus@yahoo.com so that we may arrange the specifics of time and place.

  • Curiosis

    Mathew states “Universal health care, it seems to me, is merely the state of everyone’s individual right to health care being met.”

    Why does everyone have a right to health care? I would agree that everyone has a right to eat, but your statement is analagous to saying that everyone has a right to be fed.

    Your positive right must, by its very definition, take away the rights of another.

    Human rights exist to make sure that everyone has the freedom to persue their own happiness. There is no right to that at the expense of others.

  • Curiosis

    MisterDomino states “citizens become a part of a government in order to protect their private property. In doing so, they forfeit their individual right to make decisions independent of the body politic regarding policy, up to and including the allocation of tax monies.”

    So we become part of the government (i.e. pay money) to protect our property so that the government can then use our property without our permission. Does this sound like the mob’s protection racket to anyone else?

    I agree that government is necessary, but when it does the very thing that it is supposed to protect us from, then what good is it?

  • MisterDomino

    (Oh and there is nothing Lockean about my politics at all).

    Have you read his Second Treatise on Government? Because you pretty much paraphrased Locke’s view on private property in your post.

  • nfpendleton

    This idea that taxation is somehow an infringement on property rights is a tired Republican strawman. As simple as I can put it, a representative society sets its priorities and pays for them accordingly. This is not Man Against Oppressive Government. If you don’t like taxes or what they pay for, I think we’re all smart enough to know what needs to be done–vote or move. The argument is over the priorities, not whether anyone’s getting robbed. Priorities determine whether your republic is capitalistic or socialistic.

    Personally, to those who fearmonger about oppressive taxation and poor universal health care and welfare, might I point out that the majority of the 1st World self-detrmined to provide these services and are doing pretty well from the looks of things. How are our United States doing in comparison?

  • MisterDomino

    Heh, I stumbled on your reply one minute after you posted it, so forgive me if this seems like I’m trolling this thread looking for people to cut down to size.

    So we become part of the government (i.e. pay money) to protect our property so that the government can then use our property without our permission. Does this sound like the mob’s protection racket to anyone else?

    I was referring specifically to a “state of society” versus a “state of nature.” Government exists to protect a citizen’s private property, but government also exists to force us to do things that we don’t want to do for the benefit of maintaining society. Taxes are the prime example; no one would pay them if the IRS (or insert your country’s tax collectors here) didn’t force us to.

    Government doesn’t have a free license to do whatever it wants, though, as it’s an artificial construct created by the people. Once a person is a member of society, however, he is obliged to abide by the decisions of the majority.

  • MisterDomino

    Yeesh, I stumbled into a nest of libertarians!

    I personally don’t consider notions of private property to be “antiquated”. Firstly, assuming that I have come by my possessions legally, I have sweat equity that you lack. Secondly, to assume that the rest of society is required for me to have property ignores those of us who build stuff ourselves.

    Then please, allow me to clarify. I meant that the antiquated notion of “labor,” that somehow the acquisition of property and the pursuit thereof, is intrinsically good and anything contrary to this notion is an “infringement” on personal liberty.

    Regardless of whether or not you build a series of goods yourself, your ability to retain those goods is made possible by society. Were there no rules punishing theft and violence, I would be completely justified in coming to your home and taking everything you own (especially if I was bigger than you), because as you claim, having property is a good thing, and I would obviously want all that great stuff.

    As it is, government places laws against such action in order to protect everyone’s property. Government may not be directly responsible for the initial creation of your goods (which begs the question: where did you get the materials to build it? Trade goods from other countries? Buying it from a store? All these are made possible through a stable government!), but it is responsible for the lawful protection of your property. This is why we pay taxes; we enter into a “social contract” to protect our private property.

    I was trying to explain earlier how something such as redistribution of wealth can actually aid the retention of property and help to promote a stable society. The reduction of social stigma associated with poverty can ease the friction caused by an unregulated economy (or a poorly regulated one) and generally, make life better for everyone involved. One can argue that something such as universal health care falls into this category, as greater health among all citizens can promote more efficient production in the economy. The positive effects are (theoretically) hollistic.

    [Note that I myself am against universal health care in many of its current mainfestations, simply because existing plans are inadequate to accomodate a country the size of the United States].

    Private property is not passé; the notion that private property is automatically a moral positive – and something on which we should base most key aspects of our lives – certainly is.

  • http://wildphilosophy.blogspot.com Mathew Wilder

    I’m going to strongly recommend that people read the links I posted earlier. Richard addresses quite lucidly the problem of “original acquisition” and how property as an institution is constructed by society. He also addresses the moral requirement to redistribute wealth much more forcefully than I can manage.

    I’m going to offer a few thoughts here, nonetheless.

    I think it should be obvious that certain forms of redistribution of wealth are to one’s own benefit. There is no doubt at all that poverty breeds crime. So if for no other reason than to cut down on the chances that one is a victim of crime, one should support redistribution.

    More to the point, though, I think people do, in fact, have a right not just be able to eat, but to have food to eat. If people have a right to eat, but no food, that right does them absolutely no good. One cannot pull oneself up by one’s bootstraps if one does not even have boots in the first place!

    The Objectivist and libertarian (I’m sure I see no difference between the terms, despite evanescent’s protests) theory of rights is based on a flawed idea of what it means to be human. The consequence of such a theory is to say to those who cannot fend for themselves, “Die in whichever way you see fit.” Such a theory (see Jan Narveson’s article in the Blackwell Guide*) maintains that we have no positive duties to our fellow human beings (much less to any animals or “the environment”). In other words, Narveson would disagree with Peter Singer, who in his famous article Famine, Affluence, and Morality, uses the example of a small child drowning in a pond. Singer argues that, if we can save the child at little or no cost to ourselves, we ought to do so. This seems quite right to me, and I guess the only response I could have to someone who disagrees is an incredulous stare. (A bit of philosophical humor – see Lewis. I know, of course, this might, nay, WILL not convince a hardened libertarian, but I guess I don’t know what would.) Some people are just born with a sense of empathy, usually at least some small shred of fellow-feeling, I guess, and others aren’t.

    This is getting rather longer than I expected, but I want to emphasize again that this is a matter or morality, not just practical politics. To those of you who haven’t read Rawls, or, especially, Scanlon (his What We Owe to Each Other is a masterpiece of recent moral philosophy), I suggest you do so. Imagine you don’t know how the vicissitudes of fate will affect you in society. Imagine that you are getting together with a group of people who will live together in society, but have no idea which roles fate will assign to them. You don’t know whether you’ll be a Christian, Jew or atheist. You don’t know if you’ll be male or female, intelligent or less so, rich or poor. Which sort of society would you want to create? I submit that, rationally, you would create a society with a safety net to catch you if you fall – a safety net which includes the provision of clothing, food, shelter, education, and health care. Such is the society that I believe we are morally required to try to make a reality.

    It has nothing to do with taking away people’s rights. It has to do with what sort of view of humanity you have – one where you are a beast only with the right to die alone, or one where you are given the chance to flourish and thrive.

    *See this book: http://www.amazon.com/Blackwell-Ethical-Theory-Philosophy-Guides/dp/0631201181. For some reason when I tried to put the link in the body of my text it cut out a few words and make the whole next sentence a link, and down here it includes a quotation mark in the link if I try to use the “a” HTML tag. Weird.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org/ Ebonmuse

    Curiosis:

    So we become part of the government (i.e. pay money) to protect our property so that the government can then use our property without our permission. Does this sound like the mob’s protection racket to anyone else?

    No, for two reasons. One, the government uses the proceeds of taxation to pay for services that directly benefit all members of society, including you. Two, the payment of taxation is voluntary. If you’d rather not pay, you’re free to leave that society and seek another whose policies are more congenial to your beliefs.

    What you’re not free to do is to remain in that society, taking advantage of all the services it provides, while refusing to pay the upkeep. You have no more right to do that than someone else has to come into your house and use your belongings. He can do that, with your permission, if he’s willing to abide by whatever rules you see fit to set. If he’s not willing to abide by those rules, he can leave. Those are his choices. The case with society is the same, the only difference being (at least in a democracy) that the decision-maker is not one person, but the collective will of all members of that society. Since those people, working together, created the property and assets of that society, they are free to decide how it should be used.

  • http://wildphilosophy.blogspot.com Mathew Wilder

    I think you make a point that I want to emphasize, Ebon. Wealth is not created by just one person, and it is not created in a vacuum. There are a whole host of factors that go along with the creation of wealth. Denying this, and upholding the supermen capitalists (think Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, denies the role that workers, laws, and all sorts of other factors play. Perhaps the one providing the capital does take more risk than the one who works for him, and thus should benefit more, but we can’t forget that the society that allowed him or her, the opportunity to flourish, also holds some responsibility. Without good roads, and a good police force, for example, there would be little to no opportunity for businesses to flourish. Redistribution pays for these things, as well as helps out the people involved with them. We ought not to treat corporations as individuals, nor individuals as abstractions.

    Let me preempt a common objection here – that such “socialist” policies take away people’s moral responsibilities. I’m all for letting people face the consequences of their actions – if they’re truly responsible for them. I think there are many factors that vitiate our moral responsibility. Furthermore, it is wrong to let others suffer the consequences of a third party’s mistakes – children, for example, should not be made to go hungry, simply because their parents blew all of their money gambling. (How much more is this the case when the parents have done nothing wrong, but simply face misfortune, such as Hurricane Katrina, or the massive flooding in the southwest part of Minnesota this past summer. [My home state, which is why I mention it.]) I think a rigid adherence to principles can lead to terrible consequences. Such adherence ends up treating people as abstractions, as means and not ends – which is contradictory to the principles which are often offered in the first place in support of libertarian policies.

  • http://ellis14.wordpress.com evanescent

    I’ll say it again, I’m not a Libertarian and I’m not a Republican – I live in England so the American political system is not of great interest to me. Although I agree with Curiosis here:

    “Human rights exist to make sure that everyone has the freedom to persue their own happiness. There is no right to that at the expense of others.”

    There can never be a right to violate a right. There is no right to food if you have to steal for it. There is no right to healthcare if you have to take others’ money to pay for it.

    I think it should be obvious that certain forms of redistribution of wealth are to one’s own benefit. There is no doubt at all that poverty breeds crime. So if for no other reason than to cut down on the chances that one is a victim of crime, one should support redistribution.

    What you are basically asking for is government backing to enforce your particular brand of favoured political system. On what authority and moral argument can you do this??

    Enforcing morality is a contradiction in terms. Even if you’re right, which you’re not, that would still not justify redistribution of wealth. Being free to make the right decision also means being free to make a wrong one – and reaping the consequences for it. What people like you want is their own personal political bias enforced – how is this any different to the average fundie who wants the 10 commandments shown in public places??

    The Objectivist and libertarian (I’m sure I see no difference between the terms, despite evanescent’s protests) theory of rights is based on a flawed idea of what it means to be human. The consequence of such a theory is to say to those who cannot fend for themselves, “Die in whichever way you see fit.” Such a theory (see Jan Narveson’s article in the Blackwell Guide*) maintains that we have no positive duties to our fellow human beings (much less to any animals or “the environment”).

    Well, Matthew, there is a difference and if you don’t see it then I suggest you do your research. What it means to be human is basically to be a rational being.

    There is no such thing as a moral duty to other people – again, this is a contradiction in terms. The notion of moral duties is Kantian, and altruistic, and is the sort of morality Christianity is based on. There is no moral virtue external to moral agents – there is no “greater good” to serve external to human values. Morality is a guide to actions – it is guided by objective rational values. Each person must discover these for himself/herself. You cannot FORCE a value on somebody. A value accepted by force is no value at all. If somebody freely chooses to help others – great. But FORCED CHARITY, FORCED KINDNESS, FORCED redistribution of wealth is immoral – a coerced moral action is a heinous contradiction.

    In other words, Narveson would disagree with Peter Singer, who in his famous article Famine, Affluence, and Morality, uses the example of a small child drowning in a pond. Singer argues that, if we can save the child at little or no cost to ourselves, we ought to do so. This seems quite right to me, and I guess the only response I could have to someone who disagrees is an incredulous stare.

    Well, I too would agree with you and save the drowning child – and if you think differently then you don’t understand Objectivism in the slightest. Objectivism merely states to be guided by your values. Now, tell me how saving a child sacrifices your values? It doesn’t.

    The difference is that no person has a DUTY to live for another. Your life is your own, your own property – it belongs to no one but you. Therefore, no one can make a claim to it on any grounds for any reason. Whatever you CHOOSE to do you are morally responsible for.

    This is getting rather longer than I expected, but I want to emphasize again that this is a matter or morality, not just practical politics.

    Practical politics are an extension of morality. You cannot have a political system that is divorced from moral principles. That is, unless you have absolutely no stable objective worldview – do you?

    I submit that, rationally, you would create a society with a safety net to catch you if you fall – a safety net which includes the provision of clothing, food, shelter, education, and health care. Such is the society that I believe we are morally required to try to make a reality.

    Here’s a better idea: limitless freedom, on the condition that you don’t violate the rights of others. Those that can work, can produce, can trade, can better themselves, can exchange VALUE for value, reap the benefits. It is NOT in my rational self-interest (nor yours) to accept a system that punishes productivity and rewards parasitism. If I can produce vast value to other people and be compensated for it, please explain why that gives anyone else a right to my property? The only right to my property is by those to whom I’m freely chose to make a legal exchange with – they have their goods, I have my money – everybody’s happy. What you’re advocating is a system where the wealth and property of individuals (there is no other kind of wealth or property) becomes the claim of others, because….??

    It has nothing to do with taking away people’s rights. It has to do with what sort of view of humanity you have – one where you are a beast only with the right to die alone, or one where you are given the chance to flourish and thrive.

    No offence, but that is absolute emotional nonsense. The society that fully respects the human right to freedom and total personal potential and flourishing is capitalism, where you are allowed to live like a human being in every sense of the word, neither living off the expense of others or having other people live off yours.

    This is hardly a brutal “dog eat dog” world that your strawman suggests. Rather, acts of generosity and charity would actually be genuine!

    I agree with you on this: it is each person’s rational self-interest to promote a society of kind benevolent friendly generous free healthy people. To that end, we should do what we can. In fact, doing so is the MORAL thing to do, because it is our selfish interest to do so.

    Now, we agree on that. But what you want to do is pull the dissenters aside and stick them back in line at the point of a gun. You don’t realise that you’re defeating the purpose of freedom and morality by doing so.

    The only rights that exist are individual rights. You either accept this or you don’t. Society has no rights. A society that fully respects individual rights will be happier and more prosperous as a simple matter of logic.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org/ Ebonmuse

    Evanescent:

    I will throw my support behind the free market for one very simple reason: property is an individual right, and nobody has the RIGHT to the property of others.

    Property is not an individual right. I can demonstrate that: Look around your house and ask yourself how many of the things in it were made by just one person. I’m betting it won’t be many, and of the ones that are, most of the important things won’t be among them.

    The computer I’m using to type these words is made of metal ore that was mined out of the ground by some people and refined by other people, petroleum that was drilled out of wells by some people and turned into plastic by others, glass that was forged and shaped by still others. All those components were transported to factories where they were molded and cast into shape, fabrication plants where the chips and circuits were etched (behind which process stands all the R&D required to make that happen, worked out by countless more people), more transportation networks – truck drivers, train engineers, pilots, ship captains – to deliver it to points of purchase, advertisers who promoted it, and retailers who distributed and sold it. And then there are the politicians and lawyers who set rules of fair trade and commerce, agencies and regulators who interpreted those rules, courts and police that enforced them, traders and investors who allocated resources to the company that made this computer, reporters and analysts who supplied the traders with the information they needed to make that decision, and so on. And then, after that, there’s the massive infrastructure of the educational system that trained and prepared people to do all these different jobs, as well as all the equally elaborate infrastructure of commerce, medicine and law enforcement that fed those people, protected them from harm, built the homes they live in, and so on. Every single member of that vast network played a part in the computer that ended up sitting on my desk.

    The claim that all this complexity can be abstracted away, because I paid for the computer and that makes it “mine”, is far too simplistic. The only reason I was able to buy it, the only reason that such products exist to be offered to consumers, is because of this vast and elaborate web of societal infrastructure that creates a technologically advanced, stable, trustworthy, free-enterprise market system, within the bounds of which such products can be created and sold. Without that system, without all the work – all the sweat equity – that went into creating it, I wouldn’t own this computer right now.

    In short, it was society that made my computer possible, far more so than any single one of the individuals who designed or built it. The same holds true for virtually all of the items I use in my daily life. My purchase of this computer, then, represents an allocation of resources from society in general to one specific individual in that society, namely me. The same holds for every economic interaction I take part in – the paychecks I receive, the food I consume, the products I buy. Society is what made those transactions possible. Society, therefore, has a rightful claim on at least some portion of them. That is what taxation is.

    (As an aside, this is the fallacy in Thumpalumpacus’ ironic point about private property: Taxation levied on me is due to society in general, not to any single individual within it. No one person made these things possible; therefore no one person has a right to the proceeds of taxation on them.)

  • http://ellis14.wordpress.com evanescent

    What you’re not free to do is to remain in that society, taking advantage of all the services it provides, while refusing to pay the upkeep. You have no more right to do that than someone else has to come into your house and use your belongings.

    Hang on a second, so if I work every day of my life but choose not to pay for other peoples’ lives, I have to leave…

    But, if I can’t work (for whatever reason) I am allowed to stay in a country and get supported by the work of others?

    How is that fair?

    How does “need” create Right?

    How is that not punishing ability for the sake of ability and rewarding inability for the sake of inability?

    I’m not being incompassionate – but you can see the dilemma?

    And I agree with you that you shouldn’t receive without paying for services – but that totally invalidates your welfare state and socialist theory, since that is exactly what those things provide.

    He can do that, with your permission, if he’s willing to abide by whatever rules you see fit to set. If he’s not willing to abide by those rules, he can leave. Those are his choices. The case with society is the same, the only difference being (at least in a democracy) that the decision-maker is not one person, but the collective will of all members of that society.

    What if the collective decide to make rape legal? What is the collective decide that entering your home for the “greater good” is acceptable? What if the collective decide that a military draft is acceptable?

    Could you clarify this for me Ebon: is whatever the “collective” decides acceptable? And how does that not reduce to pure subjectivism?

    Since those people, working together, created the property and assets of that society, they are free to decide how it should be used.

    But they didn’t though did they?

    In a free society, people exchange value for value. Property belongs to individuals. If you write a story and I buy it, what right does Joe Bloggs down the road have to either of our money?

    In every aspect of trade, people are remunerated for their services by money. Those who are actually involved in the labour are paid! So your statement that every member of society is somehow owed something for the work of others is confusing to say the least.

    You are treating society like a living collective entity in itself like the Borg!, which it is not. Society is a collection of individuals – I really don’t see how you can respect individual rights with this position, and I fail to see how you can avoid Communism by this appeal to the “greater good”.

  • http://ellis14.wordpress.com evanescent

    Ebonmuse said:

    Property is not an individual right. I can demonstrate that: Look around your house and ask yourself how many of the things in it were made by just one person. I’m betting it won’t be many, and of the ones that are, most of the important things won’t be among them.

    Ebon, I’m really surprised by this because it is so divorced from reality:

    Every object in my house has already been paid for – at some level by individuals. From the worker who constructed the frame for my computer, the microprocessor etc. All the people involved in the parts and labour and production and creativity have already been paid INDIVIDUALLY. They produce a computer which when I buy, becomes MY property. Now, if we happened to live in the same country, are you saying that part of my computer is yours…because…we happen to live in the same place? Please tell me what part of my computer you helped to build, and if you actually did contribute towards it, like, designing a memory chip, were you not paid for this?? So you’ve been paid; you gave your service and were compensated.

    The computer is my personal individual property. No one else on earth can make a claim to it.

    I think you think that I’m disavowing the benefit of society – I’m not. Society is enormous benefit, and true – I wouldn’t have my computer if it wasn’t for living in a society. But I get my computer by PAYING for it from those that can produce it. Society allows people to exchange value for value – based on personal property.

    Property relates to the produce of a living being – it can mean nothing else. And society is not a living being, only individuals are. Therefore, logically, categorically, property can only ever be private and individual.

  • http://wildphilosophy.blogspot.com Mathew Wilder

    So what happens, in a libertarian or Objectivist state, when someone is injured and unable to work? Their family or their church might take care of them. What if they have no family and are an atheist? Or what it neither their family nor church can afford to take care of them? I guess they’re just out of luck, huh?

    How is that not dog eat dog?

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org/ Ebonmuse

    What if the collective decide to make rape legal?

    You’ll notice that all my examples refer to possessions, not to persons. The right to bodily integrity and autonomy is an individual right, because it does not require the existence of a society to make it possible. The same goes for freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, and all those other good things. The ownership of property, however, is not an individual right.

    And, again, please note my point about choosing to participate or choosing to leave. Being part of a society should always be a matter of individual consent. If a society in any way forbids people from leaving, thus denying them the chance to opt out of policies they dislike, then that is immoral.

    But, if I can’t work (for whatever reason) I am allowed to stay in a country and get supported by the work of others? …How is that not punishing ability for the sake of ability and rewarding inability for the sake of inability?

    You’re attacking positions I’ve never advocated and do not hold. No one in this thread or, as far as I know, anywhere else has claimed that people who cannot or will not contribute to society in any way should be indefinitely supported by those who can.

    This paralyzing fear of having to work to support the lazy or the untalented seems to be the primary, if not the sole, motivating force behind Objectivism, and I really don’t understand it at all. It seems to me that people like Ayn Rand are so repulsed by the idea of helping a selfish free-rider that they’re willing to slam the door even on the genuinely needy, those who temporarily find themselves in need of help and could return to being productive members of society if they were given that help. I think the much more sensible tradeoff is the reverse – it’s better to help those in genuine need, even if an occasional free-rider slips through the cracks.

    Society allows people to exchange value for value – based on personal property.

    Yes, it does. And that, in and of itself, is a valuable service which should also be repaid with fair compensation. Taxation is that compensation. That was my entire point. As I said, no one individual provides this service; rather, it arises from the collective, organic action of thousands or millions of people. It’s therefore fair and just that the repayment be distributed among the collective of society as well.

  • http://wildphilosophy.blogspot.com Mathew Wilder

    I think the much more sensible tradeoff is the reverse – it’s better to help those in genuine need, even if an occasional free-rider slips through the cracks.

    Well said, Ebon.

    Objectivism (and libertarianism) are opposed to arbitrary authority. This is admirable. However, it opposes arbitrary human authority so staunchly it overreaches and ends up condemning people to be subject to the most arbitrary of all authorities – simple fate. The less subject people are to arbitrariness, the better off they are. It seems to me a basic moral principle that we ought to try to make people better off. I submit that it doesn’t matter whether the arbitrariness comes from human authorities, or “the world” (for lack of a better term). What matters is making people less subject to arbitrary forces, and thus, better off.

  • Alex Weaver

    This is a totally bizarre non-argument. Please explain how keeping government secrets violates freedom of speech.

    You don’t see how a restriction on what people can say is incompatible with free speech interpreted in the same absolutist fashion you interpret property rights?. (I note that you chose only one of my points to respond to).

    I am saying that the ends do not justify the means, and the correct course of action is not deemed retrospectively based on some arbitrary non-objective standard of suffering (if that can even be measured).

    Example: if the only way a starving man can survive is to break into your property and steal your food, he is STILL a criminal if he does so, and he is still wrong. I don’t know what your standard of morality is if you disagree!

    This will go a lot better if you’ll stop trying to tar consequentialism (“the results of an action, to the fullest extent they can be predicted with reasonable consequence, determine the morality of an action”) with “the ends justify the means” (“the goals one is hoping to achieve justify actions, with no regard to the full range of their consequences”).

    ‘Need’ does not create ‘right’.

    Then what, exactly, does?

    I’m confused by your curiosity: why is healthcare socialised and no other private endeavour? Pray tell: why do sick people have the right to the property of others, but shoeless and homeless people not have the right to free shoes and free meals at fancy restaurants? Could there be a double-standard at work here? Yes I think so.

    What is it about the proposition of government funded universal health care that you think is analogous to taking over private restaurants or stores? Don’t give me some vague platitude about “socializing” an industry, explain how the situations are comparable.

    Because my standard for morality is what is not “the ends justify the means”. Moral principles exist as guides to our actions based on what is objectively beneficial or detrimental to man’s life.

    Will you make up your mind?

    Rights are a moral principle that guarantee freedom of action in a social context.

    It is never acceptable to violate the rights of another

    If one rejects consequential analysis of morality, then why should this be? Especially considering that you justified the existence of rights in a consequentialist fashion just a moment ago. It seems like you accept it except where it’s inconvenient to your argument.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org/ Ebonmuse

    What matters is making people less subject to arbitrary forces, and thus, better off.

    Well said, Mathew! I made a very similar argument in the third part of my last summer’s series, “Why I Am Not a Libertarian“.

  • Mark

    Evanescent,

    Our bodies are not our property–we do not absolutely own ourselves. (http://www.strike-the-root.com/72/nonentity/nonentity2.html) I assume you’ll make a comeback at that comment with something that is not deducible from it, so “check your premises” first.

    Rights can only be said to exist when people recognize them and agree to them, since they exist entirely in a person’s mind and don’t hold the same status as concepts of number, for example. (http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/rights/) The idea of property suffers similar shortcomings. (http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/property/)

    Regarding moral theory, Rand was very confused on selfishness and altruism, something Objectivists seem to fail to realize. Look here: http://aynrandcontrahumannature.blogspot.com/2008/02/rands-ethics-part-8.html. Read both the post and the comments. Note: The topic discussed in that blog post is perhaps the greatest reason why I stopped being a “student of Objectivism”.

    I also highly recommend checking out other entries on the site AND the comments for them.

    Also, you never told me what you think about Robert Bass’s various criticisms of Objectivism (http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Olympus/2178/oism.html). Ergo brought up criticism of one of Bass’s essays, but there are two problems: first, that that particular essay wasn’t meant to refute Objectivism in the first place, and second, that Bass made a response to the very criticism Ergo posted. Neither you nor Ergo responded when I made these facts known. Ergo misrepresented Bass and his criticism of Objectivism, losing much credibility in the process, and you remained entirely silent. How open are you to inspecting possible flaws in your chosen philosophy? During our interaction both on your blog and on Atheist Forums, how many of the links that I’ve provided have you actually clicked on and the associated pages read or inspected?

    Anyway, apologies to Ebonmuse for the off-topic elements of this post.

  • http://wildphilosophy.blogspot.com Mathew Wilder

    As I have said, the “negative rights only” philosophies have a flawed view of the human person. They are based on a fiction – the rational man. In other words, there is no place in such a theory for the imperfect. We are not fully rational all the time, and even if we were, to make the most rational decisions, we would need all relevant information, which we rarely have.

    Permit me to quote from an interview in Reason magazine with Martha Nussbaum, one of my favorite philosophers:

    Reason: On the other side, you argue that liberal contractarian theories of the sort many libertarians find appealing (David Gauthier, James Buchanan, etc.) tend to give rise to a (paradoxically illiberal) shaming or stigmatization of “abnormal” or dependent citizens; can you sketch that argument briefly?

    Nussbaum: Sure. I should also say that this argument is the theme of my Tanner Lectures in Human Values 2003, which will come out as a book eventually, so the very brief allusion to those ideas in the present book is actually a forecast of my next book. To put it very briefly: All theories based on the classical idea of the social contract hypothesize that people are “free, equal, and independent” (to use Locke’s phrase) in the state of nature. Their rough equality in power and resources is an important part of such theories, since they hold that people will get together and bargain about the shape of a state only when it is mutually advantageous to do so. That condition would be defeated were the bargain to include people with unusually expensive needs, or people who can be expected to contribute less than most to the overall wellbeing of the group. People with severe mental disabilities are clearly in this class, as are many with physical disabilities. I then argue that the problem of care for and inclusion of people with disabilities (including elderly people who once were “normal”) is one of the major problems of justice that any modern society must solve. It is a problem of justice for the person with a disability, since such people need protection for their self-respect and citizenship; it is also a problem for the people, almost always women, who provide the needed care for people in a condition of dependency or disability. This problem cannot be solved if we conceive of society as a bargain for mutual advantage. We need to develop a richer account of the purpose of social cooperation. In my new book I also apply this insight to justice between nations (for nations, obviously, are grossly unequal in power and resources).

    One more example to clarify my point. Objectivists, libertarians, etc. claim that there are no positive duties, only negative rights. We are never required to do anything, in other words. What, then, of children? Are parents morally required to feed and care for their children? Or can they let them starve, if they feel like it? If they can let them starve, I trust most people will see the bankruptcy of this theory of rights. If they must feed and care for them, how is this consistent with the claim that there are no positive duties?

  • Mrnaglfar

    I wouldn’t say universal health care is a right, I would just say it’s a good idea.
    I would also caution that by saying “universal health care” by no means equals “everyone has everything paid for regardless of situations and past records”. There are going to be restrictions, and likewise, people will be responsable for answering to the government about their use of the service.

    Unfortunately, I haven’t laid out my own personal report on the health care system because I’m not getting paid to.

    As for rights, they are revelevant to the situation under which they are actted upon. For all their wisdom, no founding father, no matter how intelligent, could have foreseen what would happen to the world 100, 200, or 300+ years from the time they penned our rights initially. The world they were living in wasn’t facing things like global warming, overpopulation, or any of the other hosts on issues we are experiencing today and will face in the future.

    The best way I’ve heard it put was that “The morality of any action is dependant upon the situation in which it’s performed”. And these posts seem to get back to the idea of the libertarian philosophy of what amounts to almost (if not totally) dog-eat-dog. Just because some of your tax dollars are not directly benefitting you now, it does not mean they won’t/can’t benefit you in the future, or even indirectly benefit us all now. And for the record, Yes, I do feel we all owe a great deal of responsibilty to our society and to those in it.

    To those who insist on putting a dollar sign on everything on this planet, if you do manage to succeed what you will have will be efficency, not happiness. I think many of those who study economics fail to remember the fact that after a certain point, money isn’t going to make you happy anymore. To say that you deserve a 40″ plasma screen tv because you work so hard, and that those who are below you in the socioeconomic ladder whom you depend on for your lifestyle, do not deserve to be taken care of when they are ill is a remarkable selfish proposition. I know, you’ll complain “The government is taking money out of my pocket for things that don’t benefit me directly all the time” while forgetting about things like roads and police and firemen, and all the wonderful services they do enjoy. And yes, in case you don’t realize it, those services are identicial in their available to you as health care would be.

    I know many of my friends, who had the unfortunate luck to be born into bad circumstances, did not do anything that warrants them not deserving health care. Hell, many of them bust their ass working 2 or 3 jobs just to try and have enough money to live in a house and eat. They’re not lacking health care because they just aren’t working hard enough or because they aren’t productive members in our society; they lack it simply because of their circumstances of birth.

  • Alex Weaver

    So what happens, in a libertarian or Objectivist state, when someone is injured and unable to work? Their family or their church might take care of them. What if they have no family and are an atheist? Or what it neither their family nor church can afford to take care of them? I guess they’re just out of luck, huh?

    How is that not dog eat dog?

    Well, “World-Eat-Dog” might be a better description in that situation. x.x

  • http://deconbible.blogspot.com bbk

    Ebon, I’m going to take your review with many grains of salt. You disparage a number of individual ideas that depend entirely on the given context, but you didn’t tell us the exact context in which Shermer presents them. You also didn’t explain what makes someone an extreme libertarian rather than just a regular one. I haven’t heard his views on this subject, but being that he’s a very intelligent thinker, I’m willing to guess that he has a number of valid points or subtleties that you’re not willing to acknowledge.

  • lpetrich

    Another libertarian flame war. And I’d like to know where evanescent disagrees with libertarianism, since he is so hard to distinguish from a libertarian. Like implying that businesses are composed of individuals, while governments are not. And ignoring the collective nature of most businesses, especially big businesses. He asks why healthcare is to be socialized and nothing else. But consider all these socialized things:

    • Protection: military and police forces
    • Judges and court systems
    • Prisons
    • Roads and harbors and airports and in many countries, railroads
    • Postal systems
    • Parklands

    And quasi-socialist things like electric utilities, landline phone companies, etc. Many of these things are natural monopolies, meaning that it is hard for more than one of them to coexist in one place. You have one and only one road running in front of your home, not a stack of roads that you can choose from.

    Furthermore, roads are often built with the help of Eminent Domain — and I’ve seen capitalism groupies become vehement socialist roaders, one might almost say Stalinist roaders, foaming at the mouth at those kulaks who refuse to let their property be collectivized in the form of letting roads be built in it.

    Ebonmuse is right about libertarians’ fear of supporting those that they consider unworthy parasites; he expresses very clearly what I’ve seen a LOT of online. It’s a curious mirror image of the Marxist view that business leaders and managers are unworthy parasites.

    And many libertarians have a very Nietzschean view of business and social organization, much as their hero Ayn Rand did. Nietzschean in the sense of regarding business leaders as superior beings and the rest of humanity as the “bungled and botched” (Nietzsche’s words).

    And they sometimes justify it by trying to argue that business leaders are the real proletariat and that the rest of society is the bourgeoisie, to use Marxist terminology.

  • http://ellis14.wordpress.com evanescent

    I have to apologise in advance for not being able to reply in full – I have had compose a limited reply, so apologies to those I’ve missed, I will come back to you later.

    Matthew said:

    So what happens, in a libertarian or Objectivist state, when someone is injured and unable to work? Their family or their church might take care of them. What if they have no family and are an atheist? Or what it neither their family nor church can afford to take care of them? I guess they’re just out of luck, huh?

    How is that not dog eat dog?

    Mathew, no one has the right to the property of others. If you care that much about such people, what is stopping you taking care of them? That is what private charity is for. But taking somebody’s property without their permission does not become “ok” just because a consensus says so.

    Ebon said:

    The ownership of property, however, is not an individual right.

    Ok, I see where you’re coming from – I can address this:

    It is impossible for man to survive without reaping the rewards of his own creative effort. In order to live like a rational being, a man must have the freedom to use and dispose of his creative effort as he sees fit. Property rights make all other rights possible.

    The Right of Property is necessary from the Right to Life, and without the Right to property, no other rights can exist.

    Being part of a society should always be a matter of individual consent. If a society in any way forbids people from leaving, thus denying them the chance to opt out of policies they dislike, then that is immoral.

    Yes I agree that being part of a society is a matter of consent. But I think you’re begging the question here: you’re saying that the form of government you’re advocating is acceptable because a majority of the people who choose to live under it accept it – but that is exactly the position I’m attacking: that weight of numbers does not make right. Fascism, for example, doesn’t become acceptable even if the populace accept it! Majority rule at the expense of the individual doesn’t become acceptable just because the majority say so.

    What you’ve described is impossible in practice – nobody can ever agree on every policy a government decides. Now, I’m not complaining about this in principle, what I’m saying is that no policy should ever violate individual rights – and there can be no consensus to violate a Right. I am NOT opposed to majority votes, assuming rights are never contravened.

    This paralyzing fear of having to work to support the lazy or the untalented seems to be the primary, if not the sole, motivating force behind Objectivism, and I really don’t understand it at all.

    I’m sorry you feel that way but it’s not true. The moral theory of Objectivism is: act according to your rational values, and never sacrifice them.

    But in ALL matters of morality as I am certain you will agree with me: morality becomes impossible where force is present.

    Even if you were right about the redistribution of wealth being moral, that would still not justify enforcing it – even if SOME people agreed with it.

    It seems to me that people like Ayn Rand are so repulsed by the idea of helping a selfish free-rider that they’re willing to slam the door even on the genuinely needy, those who temporarily find themselves in need of help and could return to being productive members of society if they were given that help. I think the much more sensible tradeoff is the reverse – it’s better to help those in genuine need, even if an occasional free-rider slips through the cracks.

    Actually, the free-rider isn’t being selfish – being a parasite is a very selfless act, but that’s another discussion.

    I agree with you here! I think if the cost is no sacrifice to us, we should help people in need. We should give to charity and support the needy – I have no problems with this. But it should be a FREE choice to do so. Like I say, you can’t enforce a moral value. And you can’t take people’s property by force just because you personally feel they should hand it over. What kind of charity is that?

    And that, in and of itself, is a valuable service which should also be repaid with fair compensation. Taxation is that compensation. That was my entire point. As I said, no one individual provides this service; rather, it arises from the collective, organic action of thousands or millions of people. It’s therefore fair and just that the repayment be distributed among the collective of society as well.

    In any system of trade the people involved in the production, labour, etc are rewarded for their service with money.

    If you make a table, you assemble the parts you need from those that have. You exchange value for value – they receive money and you receive legs, nuts, bolts etc. You finish the table and sell it to me. I give you money in exchange for the table. It then becomes my property. So, what part of the table still belongs to you?? What part of the table belongs to the leg/nuts/bolts manufacturers?? All those involved in the process have been rewarded. I HAVE PAID fair compensation for the creative effort and ability by buying the table. This “service” is not provided by a faceless collective organic mass – every single aspect of trade in society always reduces to the individual – from the people who make roads to those who transport the table etc etc. There is no mystical ethereal property that arises from people living together in a given area. Society is a collection of individuals, nothing more.

    Matthew said:

    However, it opposes arbitrary human authority so staunchly it overreaches and ends up condemning people to be subject to the most arbitrary of all authorities – simple fate.

    Nothing could be farther from the truth!! Objectivism actually says that reason is man’s primary means of survival, and that we live in a world we can transform to better ourselves by means of our intelligence. It promotes flourishing and independence – independence in the sense of not living off other people and not having other people live off you. Being self-sufficient literally means to never desire the unearned.

    Now, I really can’t see what your problem with this is.

    One more example to clarify my point. Objectivists, libertarians, etc. claim that there are no positive duties, only negative rights. We are never required to do anything, in other words. What, then, of children? Are parents morally required to feed and care for their children? Or can they let them starve, if they feel like it? If they can let them starve, I trust most people will see the bankruptcy of this theory of rights. If they must feed and care for them, how is this consistent with the claim that there are no positive duties?

    I’m not entirely au fait with this subject myself so I will endeavour to give a better answer in time. I do know that Rand believed that parents should take care of their children because they bear the responsibility for having them. Let me come back to you on this.

    Ipetrich said:

    Protection: military and police forces
    Judges and court systems
    Prisons
    Roads and harbors and airports and in many countries, railroads
    Postal systems
    Parklands

    Ipetrich, all property should be private.

    The military and police forces and legal systems are a government’s means of protecting its citizens’ individual rights. They are objective and necessary. This is a way of bringing the use of self-defence under objective control. That is why I am not a Libertarian.

    I still oppose taxation to support these services, but agree that they are necessary.

    Everything else you mention should be privatised.

    I say again: the government’s role is to protect Rights. Whatever the circumstances, there can be no appeal to violate a Right on any grounds.

    As for roads, I see this argument many times, and it’s always incredible dramatised and unrealistic. Here is an excellent article regarding the ownership of roads. You might not read it but here it is: http://ergosum.wordpress.com/2008/02/11/private-ownership-of-roads/

    A great counter-example is the internet. The cost of the individual to use the internet is virtually free these days. Companies that support and operate it are supported by things like advertisement etc. It is in their self-interest to make the internet cheap/free and easy to use so that people do actually use it and so they can sell their services to manufacturers/advertisers etc. There is every reason to think roads would work the same way. Either way the principle is the same: property is individualistic, because only living beings are individuals.

    And many libertarians have a very Nietzschean view of business and social organization, much as their hero Ayn Rand did.

    Can’t claim to be an expert of Nietzsche but I disagree with everything of his that I have read so far.

    I seem to be the only Objectivist around here so please bear with me. There is a lot to respond to from many people. The most disappointing thing I see so far is this grim uncaring harsh dog-eat-dog “money is everything” mentality being pinned on Objectivism. It is false, and hopefully I can demonstrate differently.

  • Alex Weaver

    Ok, I see where you’re coming from – I can address this:

    It is impossible for man to survive without reaping the rewards of his own creative effort. In order to live like a rational being, a man must have the freedom to use and dispose of his creative effort as he sees fit. Property rights make all other rights possible.

    Given that you are ostensibly responding to a multi-paragraph comment arguing that “his own creative effort” is not an accurate or meaningful description of the items to which property rights are held to apply, you evidently don’t see where he’s coming from.

    What you’ve described is impossible in practice – nobody can ever agree on every policy a government decides. Now, I’m not complaining about this in principle, what I’m saying is that no policy should ever violate individual rights – and there can be no consensus to violate a Right. I am NOT opposed to majority votes, assuming rights are never contravened.

    By your logic above, I can consider money that wound up in my pocket due to a paycheck “my property” and therefore consider that anyone else is depriving me of my “rights” when they insist that I hand it over in exchange for, say, buying a candy bar. This actually fits perfectly with what you’ve said – you’ve repeatedly declined to provide a consistent reason for why certain claimed entitlements are “rights” and not others (in particular, you’ve failed to provide a reason that doesn’t also apply to the acts you are decrying as “violations of rights”). The fact that by taking the candy bar I effectively agreed to pay for it is irrelevant, since no consensus can violate rights, including property rights, and you’ve implicitly disclaimed that a person can meaningfully act in a way that constitutes an implicit consent to pay for a service or good enjoyed when it is provided by society, and have given no reason for this not to also be extended to other providers. The fact that the shopkeeper feels he is owed that money is irrelevant – if a need cannot create a right, then how can a want?

  • http://ergosum.wordpress.com Ergo

    I don’t think you quite comprehend the nature and dynamics of the free market system; otherwise, you wouldn’t have said the following, which is actually a factual critique of *socialism* and government regulation, not the free market:

    “nor are [markets] sources of omnipotent wisdom whose choices are always the best ones.”

    It is precisely because humans are not omniscient beings and because no one can have infinite wisdom or foresight that the free market system functions the best: it is because the market permits the creation of private networks of individuals, agents, and stakeholders who can enter or exit their own transactional frameworks depending on the circumstances that only they alone are best able to guage, because they are the ones involved in it and/or affected by it. The market allows for immediate and rapid correction and adaptation to new environments precisely because it only requires the individuals within that particular transactional framework to act and respond; usually, this response time is swift and short because this decentralized loop consists of far fewer actors than a government system of bureaucracy and top-down decision-making.

    It is precisely the free market mechanism that gives individual actors and agents full and complete control over their circumstances and of the best and efficient ways to respond to them. It is in the self-interest of such individuals to act efficiently, to minimize waste, reduce their costs, maximize their productive value, and adapt quickly to changing market demands or patterns. Alternatively, it is only individuals who are on the “ground” who can quickly assess trends and forsee social, economic, or cultural patterns in order to act proactively. By the time such trends and patterns become explicit and apparent to a government bureaucrat sitting somewhere in New Delhi or Washington, it is usually late and untimely.

  • Valhar2000

    Shermer’s analogy between markets and evolution is an excellent one in more ways than he realizes.

    You left out a particularly damning similarity between evolution (by natural selection) and free markets (in certain conditions): the sheer wastefulness of the process. Individual organisms that are very well adapted to their environment are geenrally not very wasteful, at least not anymore than the laws of physics require. However, evolving those organisms took the deaths of billions of other organisms.

    Do libertarians suggest that we should allow countless societies to collapse, starve and disappear, in the hopes that a stable one will appear somewhere down the line? Including our own?

  • http://wildphilosophy.blogspot.com Mathew Wilder

    Mathew, no one has the right to the property of others. If you care that much about such people, what is stopping you taking care of them? That is what private charity is for. But taking somebody’s property without their permission does not become “ok” just because a consensus says so.

    I make $20,000 a year and have $20,000 in student loans currently. I’m sure taking care of a disabled person on my own would be so easy! That’s the whole point of government programs – to do what individuals can’t do.

    I notice you obfuscate the point by changing the subject to me. I am unable to take care of someone, and it is at least conceivable that there might be no one else to do so. What then? Just come out and say it – handicapped people with no family or church willing or able to care for them deserve and ought to die. How very “Humanist” of you.

    I look forward to seeing how child care can be required according to your system. Oh wait, it can’t.

    Repeating “You can never take someone’s property” is not going to convince anyone. Such an argument depends on treating property as some sort of natural right which precedes society and trumps everything else. Richard demolishes these arguments (much more effectively than I can).

    Read the following posts and tell us all where he is wrong. I’m sorry for providing such a wealth of links, but they are necessary to provide a full treatment of the issues. Easier to provide the links than simply plagiarizing Richard’s writing, or trying to top it myself.

    http://www.philosophyetc.net/2005/06/self-ownership.html

    http://www.philosophyetc.net/2006/05/property-is-unnatural.html

    http://www.philosophyetc.net/2007/05/property-and-coercion.html

    http://www.philosophyetc.net/2005/04/equal-concern.html

    http://www.philosophyetc.net/2005/03/freedom-and-constraint.html

    http://www.philosophyetc.net/2005/06/indirect-utilitarianism.html

    http://www.philosophyetc.net/2005/06/sacrifice-and-separate-persons.html

    http://www.philosophyetc.net/2005/06/libertarians-for-infanticide.html

    http://www.philosophyetc.net/2005/06/consistency-and-utilitarianism.html

    http://www.philosophyetc.net/2006/05/institutional-rights.html

    http://www.philosophyetc.net/2004/11/new-freedom.html

    http://www.philosophyetc.net/2005/06/substantive-freedom.html

    http://www.philosophyetc.net/2005/06/initial-acquisition.html

    http://www.philosophyetc.net/2005/06/more-on-libertarianism.html

    http://www.philosophyetc.net/2006/06/constructing-rightful-property.html

  • http://ellis14.wordpress.com evanescent

    Alex said:

    By your logic above, I can consider money that wound up in my pocket due to a paycheck “my property” and therefore consider that anyone else is depriving me of my “rights” when they insist that I hand it over in exchange for, say, buying a candy bar. This actually fits perfectly with what you’ve said – you’ve repeatedly declined to provide a consistent reason for why certain claimed entitlements are “rights” and not others (in particular, you’ve failed to provide a reason that doesn’t also apply to the acts you are decrying as “violations of rights”).

    Alex, Rights are moral principles that define man’s freedom of action in a social context. You have the right to the produce of your creative effort – that is the definition of property. Property is a necessary corollary of the right to life and property rights make all other rights possible. There is no right to the property of others; there is no right to the unearned.

    You have no right to a candy bar. You have the right to offer money in exchange for one and you can receive the candy bar if the seller freely agrees to trade with you. That is because the candy bar is someone else’s property – until you buy it from him. There can be no right to violate the rights of others. Either the property is yours or it isn’t. I fail to understand how you can fail to understand this.

    The fact that by taking the candy bar I effectively agreed to pay for it is irrelevant, since no consensus can violate rights, including property rights, and you’ve implicitly disclaimed that a person can meaningfully act in a way that constitutes an implicit consent to pay for a service or good enjoyed when it is provided by society, and have given no reason for this not to also be extended to other providers. The fact that the shopkeeper feels he is owed that money is irrelevant – if a need cannot create a right, then how can a want?

    Neither ‘need’ nor ‘want’ create ‘Right’. Rights are not invented, nor can they be traded away. They are a philosophical principle relating to man’s metaphysical nature.

    What creates your Right to a candy bar is the free voluntary exchange of money for goods. Your right to property includes the right to dispose of it as you see this. You can burn your money if you want, or buy a candy bar with it. The shop owner can throw his candy bar away, or sell it to you if he wants. The Right to property means that you are FREE to use your own property – no one else’s.

  • http://ergosum.wordpress.com Ergo

    The right to own property is the right that makes all other rights *practicable*, that is, possible in reality.

    The above principle is the political parallel of the metaphysical fact that humans are integrated entities of mind and body: there is no dichotomy or dualism between the two.

    Since only individuals can think, the thoughts are undeniably and inextricably an individual’s *own*. The practical manifestation or implementation of his thoughts, therefore, are also his own–they are borne out of his actions motivated by his reasoning abilities.

    However, while a man can never be denied of his thoughts, man can indeed be denied of the products or manifestation of his thoughts by the use of force or fraud from other individuals. This raises the necessity of establishing a moral principle among men that will objectively protect one man’s ownership (each man’s ownership) to the product of his thoughts, namely, the right to own property. This is the basis of the right to property, in brief.

    The right to property is the moral principle that protects man’s ownership to the products of his thoughts (like, the right to own the book I wrote). To deny this right to the product of one’s thought is the political parallel of metaphysical dualism–to divorce man’s body from his mind, to invent a soul (religion), to invent a collective Borg (Socialism/Communism), to condemn man to brute physical existence (dictatorship, Statism), to divorce man’s faculty of reason from its practical uses and applications (Idealism).

    To live, man must use his mind in dealing with reality. He must therefore be permitted to act freely on the directions given by his mind, his reasoning faculty, in order to tackle the task of survival. This includes being left free to create, fabricate, invent, or procure by means of free trade property that he believes might help him in achieving his goal. He may end up acting irrationally or erroneously; but he must be free to do this as well. He is however not free to initiate force or act fraudulently, because this undercuts the very basis of the freedom upon which he himself seeks to act.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org/ Ebonmuse

    I still oppose taxation to support these services, but agree that they are necessary.

    Do you really think that this would work? What are you suggesting here, that paying taxes to support the upkeep of government should be voluntary?

    That would lead to an instant, massive tragedy-of-the-commons problem – the very same tragedy-of-the-commons problem that arises in communism, ironically enough. If it’s left up to the individual, some people are not going to pay their fair share, which will encourage other people to adjust their own contribution downward to compensate, and before long you have a self-destructive spiral.

    A great counter-example is the internet.

    The Internet was created and is still sustained by major public investment.

    It is in their self-interest to make the internet cheap/free and easy to use so that people do actually use it and so they can sell their services to manufacturers/advertisers etc.

    In fact, telecom companies are currently arguing that they should be able to selectively penalize certain kinds of traffic by charging it higher rates (e.g., an ISP that provides voice-over-IP services should be able to raise the rates of a competitor who wants to run that same service over its wires). The only reason they haven’t done this, and the reason the Internet remains an open and level playing field which supports investment and innovation, is because the government currently mandates that each packet of data be charged the same rate (“net neutrality”). Your example is actually a perfect example of how public investment and regulation is necessary to steer the market’s decisions and keep it open to new players.

  • http://ellis14.wordpress.com evanescent

    Ebon said:

    Do you really think that this would work? What are you suggesting here, that paying taxes to support the upkeep of government should be voluntary?

    That would lead to an instant, massive tragedy-of-the-commons problem – the very same tragedy-of-the-commons problem that arises in communism, ironically enough. If it’s left up to the individual, some people are not going to pay their fair share, which will encourage other people to adjust their own contribution downward to compensate, and before long you have a self-destructive spiral.

    Ebon, let me start off by saying that even if this destructive course of action you suggest were a reality, that would still never justify violating individual rights. You cannot avoid a disaster by committing a crime.

    However, the idea of voluntary taxation is only unrealistic because we are just not accustomed to thinking that way. In a free society, people are more inclined to pay to protect their property. There are other alternatives, such as a national lottery. Another idea still is to charge a percentage of business transactions for the use of the legal system that will enforce them. Companies would be free to opt out of this service (government provides a service after all), but they wouldn’t be legally covered for any business transaction they are involved with. Say 5% of every business exchange is paid to government. Consider the vast business in any country – 5% (for example) would be more than enough to cover the costs of any government reduced to its proper roles: police, army, law courts.

    Everyone in a country would benefit from these services – but that is quite different to anybody being forced to support the livelihoods of other people. I’m no legal expert, but what I’ve demonstrated is that there are alternatives to taxation if we stop to consider them.

    In fact, telecom companies are currently arguing that they should be able to selectively penalize certain kinds of traffic by charging it higher rates (e.g., an ISP that provides voice-over-IP services should be able to raise the rates of a competitor who wants to run that same service over its wires). The only reason they haven’t done this, and the reason the Internet remains an open and level playing field which supports investment and innovation, is because the government currently mandates that each packet of data be charged the same rate (“net neutrality”). Your example is actually a perfect example of how public investment and regulation is necessary to steer the market’s decisions and keep it open to new players.

    In a free market, competition is always open and free to anyone who can do a better job at a better price.

    The internet is not a right remember. You have no right to the property of any ISP – only what you agree to pay for. A free market is self-regulating; if private companies were left to set their prices at whatever fee they desired, this would encourage greater competition and service. If one company is exceptionally brilliant at providing service and keeps it costs so low to prevent having its market share eroded, 1. that is not a coercive monopoly 2. it is in the rational self-interest of that company and every user of that company. Government interference in any market artifically strangles prices, which ignores the self-regulating law of supply and demand. That is exactly what healthcare is in such a mess in England, and why it is has become a mess in America. The article I linked to above makes the case for American healthcare if you’re interested.

    In a free market, the actual costs of goods and services are passed on at every level – no company is immune to the principles of supply and demand. Any company that charged excessive fees would ALWAYS be undercut by another company that did an equal/better job for a better price, until a point was reached where no reasonable profit at low fee was possible, and a natural equilibrium is reached. Consumers are free to vote with their wallets. There is only one possible way to artifically avoid the principles of market, and that is government force, namely: the power of a gun (to use of Rand’s favourite expressions).

    That is why privatising healthcare would have the same competitive benefits as any other private sector market. More important, the actual costs of services for drugs/medicine would be passed on to those that actually use them.

  • http://ellis14.wordpress.com evanescent

    Oh and I’d just like to add that if taxation was removed, it would be foolish to do it overnight. I wasn’t suggesting anything of the sort, Ebon – sorry for not clarifying. Such a process would have to be carefully considered, planned, and repealled step by step – certainly not in a day! But it could happen, and should.

  • http://deconbible.blogspot.com bbk

    I wouldn’t say universal health care is a right, I would just say it’s a good idea.

    I personally think that purporting it as a right makes that a bad idea. It’s a damn stupid thing that politicians do to pander to the working class, and in the end that type of language is what kills constructive debate on socialization issues. I don’t think that something governed by scarcity can be a right. Freedom of speech, pursuit of happiness, justice – those are rights not governed by scarcity. I don’t think a 99 year old alcoholic has the right to a liver transplant – both the organ and the money may be in limited supply and we’ve got better uses for them. There’s many reasons why I’d prefer single-payer coverage than employer based coverage. For one thing, it’s cheaper. For another, it’s more consistent throughout my lifetime. For another, as a single adult with no dependents I already subsidize my coworkers’ wives and kids, so it would really be no different.

    The value added by having as many healthy people in the society as possible is an excellent argument for universal health care. It’s in the interest of employers to maintain relationships with potential customers and employees as well as with the current ones, so it’s just a small logical step to go beyond paying for just its own employees and their families. Maximizing the pool of available resources is in everyone’s best interest. Therefore, it should be discussed as a service provided by the government that compliments other services such as schools, police forces, road crews, you name it. But talking about having it be a moral right – that just scares rational people away. That’s what inspires thoughts of inefficiency and abuse. So I really don’t understand why people present moralistic arguments for such things as if they were somehow the ultimate argument. It’s not. It’s the worst argument to make, and it’s quite misleading.

  • Mrnaglfar

    Evanescent,

    Ebon, let me start off by saying that even if this destructive course of action you suggest were a reality, that would still never justify violating individual rights. You cannot avoid a disaster by committing a crime.

    What? Are you serious? You would rather have everyone be worse off, probably to the point of death and damage to most other life on this planet, in order to avoid violating someone’s rights? Sounds noble and stupid.

    I think you’re failing to realize something here, and I know you’re going to argue it, but here it is; The government is the body that gives you your rights in the first place. This can be made no more apparent except by looking at countries with different rights and different governments. It’s noble to say “there’s a universal right to free speech and property” and all that stuff (and I agree there SHOULD be rights), however, without government protection of your rights they mean nothing. It means that when someone bigger than you wants your property ‘that you have a right to’, they won’t think twice before breaking your legs and taking it. Whether you realize it or not, the government protects your rights, and those rights should be reevulated from time to time due to shifting natures of the world. For instance, a right to reproduce as much as we want could (and should) be limited by the government for the benefit of everyone, and if not regulated can lead to a point where life becomes a whole lot worse for everyone else. Worse even than if a few people feel they got some rights violated.

    Consider the vast business in any country – 5% (for example) would be more than enough to cover the costs of any government reduced to its proper roles: police, army, law courts.

    If the government is a body working on a free market with this money, who are you to say what their roles are with it? Taxes are the government’s property; you wouldn’t consider telling someone what to do with their property would you? Maybe the government decides people should be providing for their own personal safety and things like police and courts aren’t the government’s business to meddling with in your life; after all, if you don’t have the good sense to learn to protect yourself then why should the government be there to help you with your problems? Because you FEEL you’re entitled to it? Maybe because others FEEL they are entitled to protection? Well the collective will of people doesn’t make it right, and it being a need doesn’t make it a right either.

    That is similiar to the argument you’re making. You seem to only thing the government should be involved in things that you directly benefit from (roads, military, police, courts) that you also don’t pay for all on your own. Everyone’s taxes work towards paying for it.
    Likewise, you also seem to either be missing or just avoiding the point that by making other people better off, those investments may also return to the market in the form of a net bonus to society, leaving everyone better off.

    all property should be private.

    Oceans?
    National forests?
    Parks?
    The air (pollution)?
    Roads (imagine going through all those toll booths?
    And who, pretell, is going to be in charge of who decides who gets to own what?

    Or, just think of it this way; the government is like a business, and it owns the land. All property is private, and that private owner is the government. They have a list of things they will allow you to do on the land and things they won’t. I believe that same point was mentioned in the the earlier posts ebon linked you to.

    Government interference in any market artifically strangles prices, which ignores the self-regulating law of supply and demand.

    Because we all know how well monopolies and cartells are regulated by supply and demand. And how even after they are established it’s not a problem for other companies to start up and compete.

    That is why privatising healthcare would have the same competitive benefits as any other private sector market. More important, the actual costs of services for drugs/medicine would be passed on to those that actually use them.

    and, if you were to fall on hard times, you and your family would actually be able to use them
    Same way the benefits of police are passed on only to those who use them (i.e. get robbed, hurt, whatever). I haven’t ever needed the police directly, so why should I have to be paying for them? It’s not like I derive any secondary benefits from the police that are merely intanigle to me at the moment, same way other people wouldn’t secondarily benefit from health care, right?

    But it could happen, and should.

    It’s been pretty much shown that people don’t like paying taxes, and some will make huge problems with it when they’re even having their arms twisted to do so. What makes you think, if taxation wasn’t mandatory, that people would pay?
    After all, taxation is against our self interest isn’t it? That’s why countries with taxes are doing so poorly compared to those without.

  • ex machina

    In a free market, competition is always open and free to anyone who can do a better job at a better price.

    Untrue. In a totally “free” market, nothing prevents any of the business entities from monopolization or (effective monopolization). In such situations the market would categorically not lead towards efficiency and lower prices. This has been demonstrated by history.

    A free market is self-regulating; if private companies were left to set their prices at whatever fee they desired, this would encourage greater competition and service. If one company is exceptionally brilliant at providing service and keeps it costs so low to prevent having its market share eroded, 1. that is not a coercive monopoly 2. it is in the rational self-interest of that company and every user of that company. Which is true as long as you pretend that monopolies just won’t happen. Even in an anti-trust environment, you can have effective monopolies, where the company can name their price due to customer ignorance or the difficulty of getting into that particular business. You might counter that “it’ll work itself out eventually,” but in the meantime you’ve got people victimized by said lopsided economy and who knows for how long. What if the Robber Barons had been allowed to keep their businesses intact? I imagine people would have lived and died for several generations working for slave wages, forever in debt to the company store.

    In a free market, the actual costs of goods and services are passed on at every level – no company is immune to the principles of supply and demand. Any company that charged excessive fees would ALWAYS be undercut by another company that did an equal/better job for a better price, until a point was reached where no reasonable profit at low fee was possible, and a natural equilibrium is reached.

    Unless, of course, actual or effective monopolization occurs, in which case equilibrium never comes about.

    Consumers are free to vote with their wallets.

    Which results in an inherently unequal “election.” The rich would always have more votes than the poor, and the poor could never influence the outcome to the extent that the rich could, even if it was more efficient or a better option economically. Voting with your dollars = Patently undemocratic. I really wish people would stop using the term as if it’s some kind of acceptable option.

    That is why privatising healthcare would have the same competitive benefits as any other private sector market. More important, the actual costs of services for drugs/medicine would be passed on to those that actually use them.

    Even if what you say is true, what if the most efficient and market friendly solution is to only insure a small portion of the population and to let the rest wallow in disease? You assume that the market will automatically work towards a socially just end, but there is no guarantee. There’s not even a reason to think it’s likely.

    You talked before about there being no difference between public healthcare and “public shoecare.” I argue that there is a vast difference. Shoes are a decent example of the free market at work. There’s many choices and it’s very likely that you’ll find something affordable. But the biggest difference is that when someone has no shoes they don’t die from it. Lack of healhcare patently compromises the quality of life whereas lack of eating in fancy restaurant does not. So, it’s not logically inconsistent to say that some things should be publicized and others shouldn’t.

    You talk about the Right to Property, but you’re ignoring completely the phenomenon of economic exploitation. I think people have a right not to be economically exploited as much as they have a right not to be exploited by any other kind of force. Much like your Freedom of religion ends where it might violate another’s rights (human sacrifice or whatnot), your Right of Property ends where it would encroach on the rights of others. So yes, your Right to Property is finite. You should not be allowed to accumulate wealth regardless of the consequences to those around you. As such, taxation and social programs are no crime, and we should skillfully maximize the benefits form them.

  • http://ellis14.wordpress.com evanescent

    What? Are you serious? You would rather have everyone be worse off, probably to the point of death and damage to most other life on this planet, in order to avoid violating someone’s rights? Sounds noble and stupid.

    The point I was making is that no supposed imagined “worst case scenario” that socialists like to postulate EVER justifies violating individual rights.

    But since I totally reject your notion that the world would self-destruct in a free market, it’s not a problem I have to deal with.

    I think you’re failing to realize something here, and I know you’re going to argue it, but here it is; The government is the body that gives you your rights in the first place. This can be made no more apparent except by looking at countries with different rights and different governments. It’s noble to say “there’s a universal right to free speech and property” and all that stuff (and I agree there SHOULD be rights), however, without government protection of your rights they mean nothing.

    I think you’re confusing something here: the existence of rights and the protection of Rights. Your Rights exist whether they are protected or not. You have a Right to Life whether the government recognises that fact or not. Some governments have an awful understanding and respect for human rights – but these rights are moral principles that exist all the same. Government does not give rights at all. It should merely protect them.

    Whether you realize it or not, the government protects your rights, and those rights should be reevulated from time to time due to shifting natures of the world. For instance, a right to reproduce as much as we want could (and should) be limited by the government for the benefit of everyone, and if not regulated can lead to a point where life becomes a whole lot worse for everyone else. Worse even than if a few people feel they got some rights violated.

    But rights don’t change over time. Either you’re exercising your rights validly or you’re not; either you’re a criminal or you’re not. If you are, the government is there to stop you. If you’re not a criminal the government has no action to take.

    Rights cannot be reevaluated. They exist because of the nature of man in a social context. They either exist in full or they don’t.

    If the government is a body working on a free market with this money, who are you to say what their roles are with it? Taxes are the government’s property; you wouldn’t consider telling someone what to do with their property would you? Maybe the government decides people should be providing for their own personal safety and things like police and courts aren’t the government’s business to meddling with in your life; after all, if you don’t have the good sense to learn to protect yourself then why should the government be there to help you with your problems? Because you FEEL you’re entitled to it? Maybe because others FEEL they are entitled to protection? Well the collective will of people doesn’t make it right, and it being a need doesn’t make it a right either.

    The government only has the power that its citizens invest in it. The question is: what power is MORAL and RIGHT for a government to hold? What power is moral and right for citizens to invest in government? Because of the nature of individual rights, there is only one power that free citizens can invest in government: the use of force in self-defence. This is to protect themselves from those who would violate their rights. Now, simple logic tells you that there cannot be a Right to violate a Right. Therefore, citizens cannot invest power in government that would result in a violation of rights – no matter how many people agreed. That is why democracy is wrong: either you’re a criminal or you’re not, and this isn’t decided by majority vote, it’s decided by objective laws.

    You seem to only thing the government should be involved in things that you directly benefit from (roads, military, police, courts) that you also don’t pay for all on your own.

    Not at all. I am saying the government as an independent objective body with the monopoly on physical force, should use this to wield the power of self-defence against those who violate rights FIRST. The post office, roads etc are not valid moral roles of government. Only the police, military, and courts are.

    Oceans?
    National forests?
    Parks?
    The air (pollution)?
    Roads (imagine going through all those toll booths?
    And who, pretell, is going to be in charge of who decides who gets to own what?

    This is an argument from incredulity, and an argument from ignorance. Do you want the government to impose a curfew and set your alarm for you so that you don’t oversleep in the morning too? (I’m not trying to be facetious). Government is not our Big Brother and we are not children.

    Or, just think of it this way; the government is like a business, and it owns the land. All property is private, and that private owner is the government. They have a list of things they will allow you to do on the land and things they won’t. I believe that same point was mentioned in the the earlier posts ebon linked you to.

    This begs the question. Property is an individual right. What is government in your scenario but the collective whim of the people. Government cannot be a private owner of anything – that is a contradiction in terms!

    I have seen the articles by Ebon on this matter and I disagree with him on this, because the scenario he presents begs the question. Since the land does not (or should not) belong to government, his (and your) scenario is false.

    That is all I can write for now. I’ll post more shortly, apologies for any typos.

  • ex machina

    This begs the question. Property is an individual right. What is government in your scenario but the collective whim of the people.

    Exactly. If individuals are free to enter into contracts with each other, what’s the difference between “government ownership” of land and widespread joint ownership of land?

    Government cannot be a private owner of anything – that is a contradiction in terms!

    Nonsense. How does the amount of people owning it change the rights of the owner? By this standard corporations wouldn’t be able to own anything either, as they too are only the collective whim of a group of people.

    The government, along with it’s other duties, is to manage these things that every individual in the nation is invested in. We hold elections do make sure they are in line with our wishes as owners. If you’re unhappy with how they are “managing the contract,” start voting for new Executive Officers. It may do you no good, but I can’t help it if the majority of the other shareholders don’t share your economic vision for the company.

    Actually, when you start to view the Government as the collective economic demands of the people, a lot of libertarian rhetoric starts to fall apart. If the government weren’t around to own and manage things collectively, it’s likely that you’d see a huge rise in unions that served similar functions, and you’d be in the same boat. But that would be a waste, as we already have a mechanism for the management of a union so big: the US government. If the market is so wonderfully dynamic, why can’t it deal with the demands of those they wish to do business with?

  • Curiosis

    No, for two reasons. One, the government uses the proceeds of taxation to pay for services that directly benefit all members of society, including you.

    Agreed. I have no problem paying the government to protect my rights. My problem is taking my money bt force and giving it to someone else.

    Two, the payment of taxation is voluntary. If you’d rather not pay, you’re free to leave that society and seek another whose policies are more congenial to your beliefs.

    I am sick and tired of this “love or leave it” mentality. Would you have said the same thing to blacks in the south before the civil rights movement?

    The case with society is the same, the only difference being (at least in a democracy) that the decision-maker is not one person, but the collective will of all members of that society. Since those people, working together, created the property and assets of that society, they are free to decide how it should be used.

    Well, I for one am glad that we don’t live in a democracy. If we did, then the majority could just vote away the rights of a minority. By living in a constitutional republic, some rights are beyond the control of the majority. Property should be one of those.

    We are not a collectivist society. I work and earn and buy things and you do the same. Just because we all live in the same society doesn’t mean that you should have a say in what I do with those things that I own.

  • Curiosis

    Mathew,

    In other words, Narveson would disagree with Peter Singer, who in his famous article Famine, Affluence, and Morality, uses the example of a small child drowning in a pond. Singer argues that, if we can save the child at little or no cost to ourselves, we ought to do so. This seems quite right to me, and I guess the only response I could have to someone who disagrees is an incredulous stare. (A bit of philosophical humor – see Lewis. I know, of course, this might, nay, WILL not convince a hardened libertarian, but I guess I don’t know what would.) Some people are just born with a sense of empathy, usually at least some small shred of fellow-feeling, I guess, and others aren’t.

    And I would help that small child even if it meant my own death. Libertarianism isn’t about not caring about other people. It says that someone who chooses not to help the child shouldn’t be imprisoned. It says that the government shouldn’t put a gun to our heads and insist we jump in the pond.

    Government is here to make sure we don’t do the wrong thing to others. It shouldn’t be in the business of making us do the right thing. That’s just legislating morality.

  • Curiosis

    Mathew,

    Furthermore, it is wrong to let others suffer the consequenes of a third party’s mistakes – children, for example, should not be made to go hungry, simply because their parents blew all of their money gambling.

    I agree. That is why these children should be removed from that home. Don’t just throw a welfare check at the parents.

    How much more is this the case when the parents have done nothing wrong, but simply face misfortune, such as Hurricane Katrina…

    Yes, they did something wrong. The lived in a bowl below sea level in an area prone to hurricanes and had no way out. It is pure negligence not to have a means of leaving in the event of a disaster. I live in Texas where we get tornados. I have a plan in the event of one. My son knows what to do. Not allowing for these things is irresponsible.

    No doubt some will say I am being too harsh. I feel for those who lost their homes or loved ones. But we must expect adults to be responsible for themselves. They can’t just depend on the state for everything.

  • http://ellis14.wordpress.com evanescent

    ex machina said:

    Untrue. In a totally “free” market, nothing prevents any of the business entities from monopolization or (effective monopolization). In such situations the market would categorically not lead towards efficiency and lower prices. This has been demonstrated by history.

    This is patently false. For a start, total Capitalism has never existed in history, so I don’t know what you’re using as your frame of reference. The closest we’ve come is the US – you know, the freest, happiest, richest, most productive nation in human history…

    Coercive monopolies are impossible in a free market. This is because coercive monopolies throughout history have ONLY and ALWAYS been as a result of governmental preferential treatment. Now, if some business has 51% of a market through brilliant service and excellent prices so that no competitor can erode it’s market share – good! What is unfair about that? That is not a monopoly in the sense that you mean it. I suggest Capitalism – The Unknown Ideal for an excellent read on this.

    Which results in an inherently unequal “election.” The rich would always have more votes than the poor, and the poor could never influence the outcome to the extent that the rich could, even if it was more efficient or a better option economically. Voting with your dollars = Patently undemocratic. I really wish people would stop using the term as if it’s some kind of acceptable option.

    When I say vote with their wallets, I mean vote in terms of which producers they favour for their goods and services. This brings the means of produce into the circle of supply and demand. A company that constantly set its prices too high would lose customers, and a company that set its prices too low would go out of business. Opening the market up freely to consumer choice is self-regulating and allows the actual value of everything to be reflected in reality. This is exactly what government interference does not do.

    I am not talking about a democratic vote at all, so I think you misunderstood me. In a free society, no one could possibly vote to change anyone’s personal rights, no matter how many votes they had.

    You talked before about there being no difference between public healthcare and “public shoecare.” I argue that there is a vast difference. Shoes are a decent example of the free market at work. There’s many choices and it’s very likely that you’ll find something affordable. But the biggest difference is that when someone has no shoes they don’t die from it. Lack of healhcare patently compromises the quality of life whereas lack of eating in fancy restaurant does not. So, it’s not logically inconsistent to say that some things should be publicized and others shouldn’t.

    But, and here is the point: there is NO difference in principle between the property of shoes and the property of healthcare. What if the shoe-manufacturers decided to pack up and go home? What if the drug companies did?? It doesn’t matter if you need shoes or a life-saving drug: if that product is somebody else’s property you cannot make a claim simply because you NEED or want it. But you’re describing an unreal world anyway: in a free society, it is in the rational self-interest of drug companies to make their products as affordable as possible whilst still making a profit. We should be glad that these companies exist at all, and invest so much wonderful human intellect and research into such a worthwhile cause.

    You will consistently fail to demonstrate why the privatization of shoes is wrong but that of healthcare is right – it comes down to property rights, either you respect them or you don’t.

    You talk about the Right to Property, but you’re ignoring completely the phenomenon of economic exploitation. I think people have a right not to be economically exploited as much as they have a right not to be exploited by any other kind of force. Much like your Freedom of religion ends where it might violate another’s rights (human sacrifice or whatnot), your Right of Property ends where it would encroach on the rights of others. So yes, your Right to Property is finite. You should not be allowed to accumulate wealth regardless of the consequences to those around you. As such, taxation and social programs are no crime, and we should skillfully maximize the benefits form them.

    You’re mostly right, except for the last sentence. Assuming you acquire your wealth legitimately, that is: without violating anyone else’s right, there is no limit to how much you can earn.

    The distinction is this: either you have violated rights or you haven’t; either you’re a criminal or you’re not. If you are illegally exploiting other people or defrauding them, the legal system is there to stop you.

    No Right can be limited. A Right is a principle of freedom, and freedom must be unlimited. This is like saying that the Right to Life is limited – an obvious error!

    But, since taxation is forced expropriation of wealth, it violates Rights. Therefore it cannot be moral, or legal.

  • ex machina

    I am sick and tired of this “love or leave it” mentality. Would you have said the same thing to blacks in the south before the civil rights movement?

    I can’t help it if you’re unhappy with the decisions of the rest of the shareholders of the American Government. The only way to force them to conform would be to violate their Property rights, which I don’t want to do. So it only makes sense to ask you to find another “business” to be a part of if you don’t like the behavior of your current stock. I suggest you vote with your dollars.

    Being a Libertarian is fun.

  • Curiosis

    Ebonmuse,

    In short, it was society that made my computer possible, far more so than any single one of the individuals who designed or built it. The same holds true for virtually all of the items I use in my daily life. My purchase of this computer, then, represents an allocation of resources from society in general to one specific individual in that society, namely me. The same holds for every economic interaction I take part in – the paychecks I receive, the food I consume, the products I buy. Society is what made those transactions possible. Society, therefore, has a rightful claim on at least some portion of them. That is what taxation is.

    Yes, society (or at least a part of it) contributed to making your computer. And you do owe society for that. And you paid that debt when you paid for the computer. You paid the store, who paid the manufacturer, who paid the raw goods supplier, who paid the miners, who paid for the land. To say that you somehow owe more than what was asked for the computer is nonsense.

    What you are advocating is paying some people (the poor) do to nothing for anyone. You are confusing a sybiotic relationship with a parasitic one.

  • http://ellis14.wordpress.com evanescent

    I said:
    “You will consistently fail to demonstrate why the privatization of shoes is wrong but that of healthcare is right – it comes down to property rights, either you respect them or you don’t.”

    I meant to say “the socialisation of shoes” – not privatization! Stupid error – I type too fast.

  • http://deconbible.blogspot.com bbk

    there is only one power that free citizens can invest in government: the use of force in self-defence. This is to protect themselves from those who would violate their rights.

    This suggests that the government does not have the right to build and maintain roads. Since all property is private, you do not posses the right to leave your house unless you pay all the relevant tolls and agree to the terms and conditions of those who own the roads. A very similar property rights scheme has been tried before on a large scale in feudal societies, and it was abandoned for governments based on social contract theory. Besides having empirical evidence that such schemes will be very inefficient, it doesn’t really make logical sense. You seem to imply that citizens have the right to enter into contracts with each other, but they don’t have the right to enter into such contracts with the government. I’ll tell you what – whoever it is that you end up having to pay tribute to in order to use the roads, they will end up being your de facto government because they will hold immense powers over you. If it’s an individual, he will be your Lord of the Realm. If it’s your democratic government, they will a department of public works. I prefer to pay fees to the latter than the former.

    Also, it’s amazing how we’ve glossed over the contradictions in Ebon’s book review. Ebon says that Shermer is against tariffs and import quotas while against patent laws. This flies in the face of both Libertarian and Socialist philosophies.

    In practice, tariffs are not only a poor mechanism for accomplishing their stated goals, but they’re the equivalent of subsidies to the corporate special interests who lobby for them. They rarely, rarely benefit workers or consumers over the long term, and the further upstream on the production chain that a tariff exists (steel versus engines), the more it distorts and harms all the other downstream producers who then have to pay a higher price to make use of the resource. Protecting steel workers hurts car manufacturers – protecting/hurting car manufacturers hurts commuters, etc. Tariffs can easily create an inefficient, broken market. So for socialist who are anti-globalism, wanting tariffs is a form of confirmation bias – the more tariffs we have, the more anti-corporate we become, the more anti-global we become.

    Second, I would think Ebon would at least acknowledge that being against patent rights takes Shermer away from the camp of Libertarians, not deeply into it. Patent laws are “intellectual property.” Before attempting to take on this subject, I suggest people read up on relevant thinkers such as Lawrence Lessig, look at media ownership by companies such as Disney whose old products should have entered the public domain decades ago, pharmaceuticals who patent basic chemical formulas to raise profits and prevent generic medicines, just generally study up on the concept of the right to own an idea. Here is a fake “right” if there ever was one. I don’t understand how someone could be for universal health care and for pharmaceuticals having extensive patent rights.

  • ex machina

    This is patently false. For a start, total Capitalism has never existed in history, so I don’t know what you’re using as your frame of reference. The closest we’ve come is the US – you know, the freest, happiest, richest, most productive nation in human history…

    If you read up on the 1900 – 1930 era of the US, you’ll see that the opposite is true. And if you look around at the standard of living compared to moderately socialized European countries, you’ll see the opposite is true.

    Now, if some business has 51% of a market through brilliant service and excellent prices so that no competitor can erode it’s market share – good! What is unfair about that? That is not a monopoly in the sense that you mean it.

    Save that there is nothing keeping them from creating a real monopoly in that case, but I already talked about that.

    When I say vote with their wallets, I mean vote in terms of which producers they favour for their goods and services. This brings the means of produce into the circle of supply and demand. A company that constantly set its prices too high would lose customers, and a company that set its prices too low would go out of business. Opening the market up freely to consumer choice is self-regulating and allows the actual value of everything to be reflected in reality.

    And my comments show how that kind of voting with your dollars will only reflect the needs of those with the most dollars, not everyone’s. Which wouldn’t lead to a mutually beneficial economy for everyone. . . but I already talked about that.

    But, and here is the point: there is NO difference in principle between the property of shoes and the property of healthcare.

    Save for the principles I already outlined. . . I already addressed this.

    No Right can be limited. A Right is a principle of freedom, and freedom must be unlimited.

    Except for the fact that they always are. Remember my example about religious freedom being limited if my religion involved human sacrifice? You don’t agree?

    All you’ve really done is repeated yourself. It’s not anymore convincing the second time around. Your argument is damaged. You’re going to have to back up and address it’s shortcomings if you want to have a meaningful dialoge.

  • Curiosis

    Mathew,

    One more example to clarify my point. Objectivists, libertarians, etc. claim that there are no positive duties, only negative rights. We are never required to do anything, in other words.

    This is where I may disagree with evanescent. I agree with you that we have a moral obligation to help others. But we shouldn’t have a legal obligation to do so.

    For example, I think that we should all stop and help an elderly lady with a flat tire. However, I don’t think that it should be illegal to drive past her. No one should be imprisoned for failing to offer assistance.

    To say that I should go to jail for not helping the poor is nothing more that your attemp at legislating morality.

  • http://ergosum.wordpress.com Ergo

    Ebonmuse,

    The Internet is kept free for the rest of us primarily by the investments of *private* companies (think Google and all its free services, Yahoo, Microsoft, blog platforms, web hosters, etc.).

    Net neutrality (if passed) will be a gross violation of individual property rights and will in fact lead to the collapse of the free internet as we now know it. So don’t even think of positing it as some great success of the government. It is an empirical fact that every endeavor that the government has interfered in (including interference in the Internet by government gateways in India, Iran, China, etc.) has resulted in botched service, high costs, inefficiencies, large bureaucratic wastes, arbitrary laws, and gross violation of human rights.

    You don’t seem to have your facts straight.

  • http://ergosum.wordpress.com Ergo

    “Since all property is private, you do not posses the right to leave your house unless you pay all the relevant tolls and agree to the terms and conditions of those who own the roads.”

    For those intellectually challenged and unable to imagine how a free market might function, refer to this post to see in concrete terms how private ownership of roads will result in high-quality roads equipped with high-quality utility services and practically free for the end-user:

    http://ergosum.wordpress.com/2008/02/11/private-ownership-of-roads/

  • Curiosis

    lpetrich,

    But consider all these socialized things:

    Protection: military and police forces
    Judges and court systems
    Prisons

    These first three items fall under the government protecting our rights, which, according to libertarianism, is the sole function of government.

    Roads and harbors and airports and in many countries, railroads

    I view the road system as one giant easement. If I need to travel from Austin to Dallas, that will require me to cross other people’s property. The road system creates an easement that all can use.

    Postal systems

    Privatize

    Parklands

    Those interested in preserving certain areas of our country’s wilderness should purchase that land. That is the beauty of the free-market. People can put their money towards what they find important.

    Ebonmuse is right about libertarians’ fear of supporting those that they consider unworthy parasites

    I wouldn’t call it fear. It’s more just a recognition that it is wrong to forcibly take from one person and give it to another. Here’s my favorite example of this. You and I are walking down the street. I see a homeless man and want to give him some money. I only have a one, so I take a five out of your wallet and give them man $6. Now you should instantly recognize this as wrong. That five belongs to you (arguments against property notwithstanding). It is wrong for me to just take it without your agreement first. Maybe you need that money for lunch, or for some medication, or a card for a friend who just lost a loved one. The point is that you should be the final arbiter of how to use your property.

  • Mark

    Evanescent,

    1.Your Rights exist whether they are protected or not.
    2. You have a Right to Life whether the government recognises that fact or not.
    3. Some governments have an awful understanding and respect for human rights – but these rights are moral principles that exist all the same.
    4. Government does not give rights at all.
    5. It should merely protect them.

    6. Rights cannot be reevaluated. They exist because of the nature of man in a social context. They either exist in full or they don’t.

    1. Provide a clean (i.e. step-by-step), valid deduction for this. You know by now that I think it to be false.

    2. That depends on if you can establish as fact your assertion that rights exist independent of what people think.

    3. This is like saying that propositions exist all the time. There is no physical component to rights, so it is very strange to say that such a thing exists. Does “I can open the window” exist, as well?

    4. That depends on what rights actually are, which you haven’t established, merely asserted.

    5. It should merely protect them in particular normative systems. The existence of a government does not tell us what it should do.

    6. Based on what I’ve said above, I call BS on this until you can prove your assertions. Do not quote or cite Rand or any other Objectivist. I want your own words.

    Property is an individual right. What is government in your scenario but the collective whim of the people. Government cannot be a private owner of anything – that is a contradiction in terms!

    First of all, Objectivists are overly fond of the word “whim”. They erect a false dichotomy between what they believe and whims. I challenge you to examine things closer before using the term.

    Also, as someone else said, if governments can’t be said to own anything, then can corporations really own anything? Does Microsoft own Windows?

    Just so you know, Rand’s rights in her ethical theorizing are at least largely status-based. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy has the following to say on the weaknesses of the status-based approach (http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/rights/):

    However, the strength of status-based rights can also be seen as a weakness of the theory. One does not wish to be carried from the great importance of each individual to the implausible position that all fundamental rights are absolute. As Nagel (2002, 36) allows while defending a status view, “there are evils great enough so that one would be justified in murdering or torturing an innocent person to prevent them.” Consequences, if bad enough, do justify the qualification of individual rights, which leaves the status theorist needing to explain how a theory which rejects consequences so resolutely at the outset can concede their importance later on.

    Moreover, the directness of the status approach to rights can also appear to be a liability. On close examination, the fundamental rights that most people believe in are intricately “shaped.” For example, consider the widely-accepted right to free speech. This right includes the right to make damning personal attacks on others. Yet the right that we acknowledge is much more permissive about assailing public figures than it is about attacking private citizens. Or again: the right to free speech contains a right to say what the speaker knows to be untrue. Yet we are much more tolerant of deceitful speech in politics than we are in advertising or in the courtroom. It is an open question whether status theory has the conceptual resources to explain why individual rights should be shaped in these specific ways.

    Status theory also faces the challenge of vindicating its foundations and its scope. Why after all is it “fitting” to ascribe individuals rights? The Kantian value of inviolability can look puzzling when presented independently of a metaphysical grounding. As Nagel (2002, 34) admits, “it has proven extremely difficult to account for such a basic, individualized value such that it becomes morally intelligible.” This is a soft echo of Bentham’s protest that the doctrine of natural rights “is from beginning to end so much flat assertion: it lays down as a fundamental and inviolable principle whatever is in dispute” (Bentham 1796, 66).

    Moreover, status theorists must also resolve an internal debate over exactly which rights should be thought express an individual’s inviolability. Nozick held that private property rights are status-based, while other status theorists reject the libertarianism to which Nozick’s position leads. The resolution of this debate has recently become more urgent, as a group of neo-Kantian and neo-Lockean “left libertarian” theorists have advanced the view that the status of individuals requires that each be accorded strong rights to self-ownership, along with initially equal shares of “world-ownership” (Vallentyne and Steiner 2000, Otsuka 2003).

    Here is what is especially damning from another believer in status-based rights, with my emphasis in bold:

    It is not that we think it fitting to ascribe rights because we think it is a good thing that rights be respected. Rather we think respect for rights a good thing precisely because we think people actually have them—and… that they have them because it is fitting that they should.

    (That’s like saying I can commit genocide because it is fitting that the people be gotten rid of.)

    If that is what you believe, then you need to do the following:

    1. Establish a standard for what is fitting of humans and convince others, via deduction, to accept this standard.

    2. Prove that humans should have whatever is fitting of them (David Hume rears his ugly head for you here).

    3. Prove that it is fitting that humans have certain specific rights.

    If you want to claim that humans have rights in all cases, anyway, you need to argue for that, as well, given my objection to alleging that rights are even things that can exist independently of what anyone thinks.

    Furthermore, what is fitting of a human in Objectivism is what Rand thought fitting of her ideal man. The trouble is… her ideal man was ideal to her and not to everyone else.

  • http://deconbible.blogspot.com bbk

    Ergo, I actually have a degree in economics and most likely unlike you, I’ve put in the sweat equity of spending years understanding and modeling free markets. Insulting others by questioning their intelligence fails to make you correct, so I suggest you look towards presenting a complete thought rather than an insult and a link.

    Your link presents us with nothing more than a host of very poor analogies. You ignore critical differences of basic economics – such as increasing versus constant marginal cost of additional users. It’s easy to make the internet free – a million folks visiting my site costs nothing more than a few clock cycles, a million visitors to my house costs tons of asphalt to re-pave it the next day.

    Google isn’t free. When I use Google I am hampered by advertisements. Since I pay my ISP for bandwidth and I pay more money for a large display, I am inadvertantly paying for the same service multiple times over. Google is by no means free. But speaking of Net Neutrality, what do you think Google is doing when they collude with the Chinese government to censor internet traffic? Yahoo, same. Same with television – hell, CNN has separate versions of the same exact news reports for different parts of the world – one network, one story, 2 entirely different “truths” being reported. Net Neutrality says that CNN, Yahoo, Google, Comcast, Att, none of them can tell me what I can and cannot access over the infrastructure. Speaking of which – the privately held offerings of radio are hardly so glorious as you purport them to be. They are dull, miserly garbage. That’s why I paid so much money for an iPod when a radio costs next to nothing. You won’t find atheist content similar to this website at places like Walmart or on CNN, either. Being against Net Neutrality is dumb – it is like getting on the turnpike and only being allowed to drive to shopping centers who are paid advertisers for the turnpike authority. Organized crime likes to charge “protection fees” to local businesses, which is the same type of outcome that you’re advocating.

  • Mark

    Curiosis,

    Government is here to make sure we don’t do the wrong thing to others. It shouldn’t be in the business of making us do the right thing. That’s just legislating morality.

    Your first statement is sometimes true, but false in general. Ditto for your second statement. Your third statement leads me to infer that governments should not legislate prohibitions on killing other humans, among many other things.

  • Curiosis

    Or, just think of it this way; the government is like a business, and it owns the land. All property is private, and that private owner is the government. They have a list of things they will allow you to do on the land and things they won’t. I believe that same point was mentioned in the the earlier posts ebon linked you to.

    That whirring sound you hear is all the founding fathers spinning in their graves.

    How is this statement in any way conducive to liberty? The government owns everything and lets us borrow it at their whim?

    I may disgree with others here, but this statement is downright scary.

  • Curiosis

    It’s not like I derive any secondary benefits from the police that are merely intanigle to me at the moment, same way other people wouldn’t secondarily benefit from health care, right?

    So when the police arrest a thief, you and the rest of society don’t benefit directly from that?

    Now try to use that example to defend how a lung transplant for a life-long smoker benefits me, you, or society.

  • http://ergosum.wordpress.com Ergo

    Mark,

    Objectivists do not indulge in feeding the laziness of others–intellectually or materially. Rather than asking Evanescent to pretty much re-write the Objectivist theory of epistemology and ethics, look them up for yourself. (Or, would you prefer that the government also force the more intellectually agile to redistribute their wealth of knowledge more equitably, since knowlegde is imperative for survival? If you think about this carefully enough, you will see that knowledge is a more fundamental requirement of survival than even food is: as the old adage goes “give a man a fish, you feed him for a day; *teach* him how to fish–the knowledge–and feed him for a lifetime.”)

  • http://ellis14.wordpress.com evanescent

    Google isn’t free. When I use Google I am hampered by advertisements. Since I pay my ISP for bandwidth and I pay more money for a large display, I am inadvertantly paying for the same service multiple times over. Google is by no means free. But speaking of Net Neutrality, what do you think Google is doing when they collude with the Chinese government to censor internet traffic?

    Google is a private company. If you pay to use their service and they also choose to advertise as well, that is their choice. The point is that the cost of ISPs are so heavily supported by other means, such as advertisement, that the cost to the average internet user (us) is virtually free.

    As for net neutrality, Google cannot censor anything. It’s a private company and they display what content and information they like. Only a government can censor information – but in a free society the government would be constitutionally prevented from doing so.

    ex machina said:

    Save that there is nothing keeping them from creating a real monopoly in that case, but I already talked about that.

    What’s a real monopoly?? You can’t have a coercive monopoly in a free society and I’ve already explained why. I don’t recognise a brilliant producer having a majority share of the market as a monopoly – what are you saying that some of his product and effort should be limited just in case any old dimwit wants to come along and get into his market? What if they can’t? Does the “monopoly” company have to give over some of their property to potential competitors??

    Coercive monopolies exist all the time today – because of government. E.g.: historically the Post Office in the UK.

    And my comments show how that kind of voting with your dollars will only reflect the needs of those with the most dollars, not everyone’s. Which wouldn’t lead to a mutually beneficial economy for everyone. . . but I already talked about that.

    I don’t even know what you’re trying to say anymore. What do you mean by “mutually beneficial”? The people actually involved in any transaction or those not? If you mean the former, I’ve already explained that. If you mean the latter, why would people not involved in an exchange have any say in it?

    Except for the fact that they always are. Remember my example about religious freedom being limited if my religion involved human sacrifice? You don’t agree?

    All you’ve really done is repeated yourself. It’s not anymore convincing the second time around. Your argument is damaged. You’re going to have to back up and address it’s shortcomings if you want to have a meaningful dialoge.

    Ex machina – I thought my original comment was obvious, and this just demonstrates that you’re more interested in trying to shoot me down than listening to what I’m saying: of course you cannot do whatever you want if you violate somebody else’s rights! Rights are freedom, but if you violate somebody else’s rights than you are not exercising YOURS anymore. That is why I said Rights are unlimited, because they are! You’re either a criminal or you’re not (yes I am repeating myself because it’s necessary apparently) – you either act in accord with your rights or you don’t.

    You have the right to have a religion, and practice it, but not by violating others’ rights – that would NOT be exercising your freedom, so like I said, properly interpreted: rights don’t have limits.

    I have written substantially today – I don’t believe I have left anything out so far. Perhaps you should see everything I’ve written because you ask me to provide even further backup. I hope you take that in the spirit meant – I don’t mean to be aggressive.

    Mark – I have no intention of replying to you and I’m saying that here publically so everyone can see: you have shown a consistent dishonest disrespectful aggressive irrational disregard toward Ayn Rand in all our past discussions – I completely and utterly annihilated your arguments on Atheist Forums. You have no interest in having an honest open debate like everyone else here, you want to attack Objectivism for the sake of it and I have no intention of debating with you. I’m only here to talk to honest people. And I’m making that clear here in case I’m accused of ignoring your comments. If other Objectivists want to debate with you, that’s their choice.

    I’d like to point out that Mark is moral subjectivist – so bear that in mind people when reading his comments. You won’t find many subjectivists here Mark (at least not ones that recognise they are)! Even though I disagree with Ebon on this particular issue, he too recognises the necessity of objective morality. This is yet another reason why debate with you is impossible.

  • Curiosis

    ex machina,

    I know this was written just to be sarcastic, but I’ll respond just the same.

    I can’t help it if you’re unhappy with the decisions of the rest of the shareholders of the American Government. The only way to force them to conform would be to violate their Property rights, which I don’t want to do.

    How does insisting that everyone have full control over their property “violate their Property rights?”

    So it only makes sense to ask you to find another “business” to be a part of if you don’t like the behavior of your current stock. I suggest you vote with your dollars.

    So if gangs of thieves constantly steal your stuff, you should just leave rather then defend your rights. To say nothing of helping your neighbors who are also victims. Nice.

    Being a Libertarian is fun.

    It can be, but it gets difficult when you run into people who think everything we have belongs to the government.

  • Curiosis

    Mark,

    Your third statement leads me to infer that governments should not legislate prohibitions on killing other humans, among many other things.

    I am using “legislating morality” in the common usage, meaning passing laws to stop activities that one thinks immoral but do not actually harm anyone. Blue laws are a good example.

  • Mrnaglfar

    evanescent,

    The point I was making is that no supposed imagined “worst case scenario” that socialists like to postulate EVER justifies violating individual rights.

    What’s imagined about global warming? Or unsustainable population growth? Or over-fishing? Or that through services like health care and police, who both only benefit those who use them, that secondary benefits aren’t reaped by all members of society?
    What is imagined is that I’m a socialist; I have mixed views that incoorperate aspects of capitalism and socialism, depending on the situation.

    Your Rights exist whether they are protected or not. You have a Right to Life whether the government recognises that fact or not. Some governments have an awful understanding and respect for human rights – but these rights are moral principles that exist all the same. Government does not give rights at all. It should merely protect them.

    Unprotected rights are about as useful as key with no lock. This point is… well, pointless; Morals do not exist in a vaccum, rather morals are highly dependant upon the situation. I don’t understand how you are just unwilling to see that point. Government grants you your rights by deciding on which ones it feels like protecting, since by your definition, we have a right to do whatever we want. If you care to argue the point why I don’t have a right to take something from you because I can with your bullet-proof logic, lay it on me.

    But rights don’t change over time. Either you’re exercising your rights validly or you’re not; either you’re a criminal or you’re not. If you are, the government is there to stop you. If you’re not a criminal the government has no action to take.

    Rights cannot be reevaluated. They exist because of the nature of man in a social context. They either exist in full or they don’t.

    Rights can absolutely be reevulated, I don’t understand why you think they cannot. Your rights in the US are not the same as your rights in the UK, or your rights in the middle east, or your rights in china. Apperently they aren’t as universal as you claim. Also, our supreme court seems to differ with the idea as well.
    As for who is a criminial and who isn’t, last time I checked the government decided that. An act that might be criminal in the US may also not be criminal in other areas, or in different situations. There is plenty of varity here, wheather you’re going to acknowledge it or not.

    Besides, didn’t the founding fathers recommend that our constitution be revised, or am I crazy? I also recall they held slaves (so much for their rights, huh?). What about that recommendation that only their class be allowed to vote

    The government only has the power that its citizens invest in it.

    and the citizens do because it’s in their best interests

    Because of the nature of individual rights, there is only one power that free citizens can invest in government: the use of force in self-defence.

    Seemingly not, since every government goes far beyond that.

    Now, simple logic tells you that there cannot be a Right to violate a Right.

    Your rights, by their very existance infringe upon the rights of others. Because you “own” land, now other people don’t have access to it. From whom did you acquire the right and sole right to use this land?

    That is why democracy is wrong: either you’re a criminal or you’re not, and this isn’t decided by majority vote, it’s decided by objective laws.

    Objective, as evidenced by every culture, and even different areas within a culture, having different laws and different variations on those laws.

    The post office, roads etc are not valid moral roles of government.

    Roads and post offices are used for military purposes as well. If you dont think the government should be building roads though, see how long you can deal with not using them.

    Do you want the government to impose a curfew and set your alarm for you so that you don’t oversleep in the morning too?

    This point, of course, addresses nothing about what I asked. Without the government, how do you propose people internalize externalities? How does the public control pollution? How do people deal with problems of the commons, for which a free market solution dictates overuse and depletion?

    Government cannot be a private owner of anything – that is a contradiction in terms!

    Again, apparently not, since they are. If cooperations can own things (collections of people), why can’t the government? And if that collection wants to do something (universal health care) why should they not be able to? If you don’t like the collection, you can leave it and find one that suits you more.

  • ex machina

    How does insisting that everyone have full control over their property “violate their Property rights?”

    Because it is not the property of any individual. This is not hard to understand. The entire stock market is based on the idea of joint ownership. Owning a stock in a company does not mean that you control the entire company, and it would be foolish to assume you did or try to attert control. Similarly, roads, lakes, National parks, (whatever other national program you can think of) are owned collectively by the people, and as such, no single person asserts control. Control is asserted via the democratic process as outlined by the constitution.

    So if gangs of thieves constantly steal your stuff, you should just leave rather then defend your rights. To say nothing of helping your neighbors who are also victims. Nice.

    Because thieves are not stealing anything, the other shareholders have a different idea of what to do with this jointly owned property. If you own a business with 3 other people, and person 2 and 3 won’t let person 1 do whatever he wants with it, it would hardly be theft. Do you just not agree that anything can or should be jointly owned?

    You can’t have a coercive monopoly in a free society and I’ve already explained why.

    Not at all, all you’ve said is that someone with a better plan can come along and make a better business. But you continue to ignore that economic opportunity is not always optimal for that kind of thing. In such an event, there is nothing keeping the monopoly from consolidating power and ruining your game. You think this is impossible and I don’t know why, but I guess we just don’t agree.

    What do you mean by “mutually beneficial”? The people actually involved in any transaction or those not? If you mean the former, I’ve already explained that. If you mean the latter, why would people not involved in an exchange have any say in it?

    Mutually beneficial for the consumer and the producer. Specifically the Producer who has much and the consumer who has little. The consumer who has little will never be able to influence the market as much as the Producer (or the consumer) who has much if they are restricted to “voting with their dollars.” So there is no reason to believe a completely free market will adjust itself to everyone’s economic benefit.

    You have the right to have a religion, and practice it, but not by violating others’ rights – that would NOT be exercising your freedom, so like I said, properly interpreted: rights don’t have limits.

    I don’t think your definitoin of rights and freedom is really that workable or useful. You seem to be saying that freedom does not mean . . well I don’t know what word to use anymore. I’ve talked about limitations on rights, but you’ve used some definition that says they are always unlimited. I think I understand what you mean, but if I use your definition, I’m left without any real way to describe the phenomenon of “what you wouldn’t be allowed to do and not being allowed to do it wouldn’t be a violation of your rights.” But I think you’re just equivocating.

  • Alex Weaver

    You have no right to a candy bar. You have the right to offer money in exchange for one and you can receive the candy bar if the seller freely agrees to trade with you. That is because the candy bar is someone else’s property – until you buy it from him. There can be no right to violate the rights of others. Either the property is yours or it isn’t. I fail to understand how you can fail to understand this.

    Because you still haven’t given one good goddamn reason (at least, one that you do not yourself contradict one or two paragraphs up or down) why the line of what is a right, and what is not, should be drawn where you say it is. In fact, by proclaiming that needs cannot establish rights, that consensus cannot rewrite them, and that judging their limits on the basis of results is untenable, and by not appealing to divine command, you have in fact denounced pretty much every prospective reason I’ve ever heard. Your argument is and will remain circular until this question-begging premise is addressed, and I was really hoping calling attention to this fact will produce a correction.

  • http://ellis14.wordpress.com evanescent

    Mrnaglfar said:

    What’s imagined about global warming? Or unsustainable population growth? Or over-fishing? Or that through services like health care and police, who both only benefit those who use them, that secondary benefits aren’t reaped by all members of society?

    What is imagined is that I’m a socialist; I have mixed views that incoorperate aspects of capitalism and socialism, depending on the situation.

    Mrnaglfar, first of all – there is so much debate about global warming and controversy on both sides of the argument that I do not feel intellectually comfortable taking sides. However, I am firmly resolved that we should not sacrifice humans for the sake of the environment. Human manipulation of the earth brings untold benefits and rewards.

    Now, as for over-fishing, it is in a fisherman’s rational self-interest to not be greedy. If he is, he encourages the same activity from others. Fisherman who agree to quota themselves would be acting rationally and morally. However, if a fisherman chooses not to do so, he must pay the consequences for his actions. This is not an argument for government intervention. Just as man should be free to reap the rewards of his production, he must also pay the penalty for his mistakes. Now, if you could demonstrate that a businessman’s activities violate the Rights of others, then objective law can indeed stop those activities.

    The last part of your sentence above is most telling: sometimes you’re a socialist, sometimes you’re a capitalist, depending on the situation. That sounds like gross moral subjectivism to me. Do you have an objective code of morality or not? You cannot half-bake capitalism. The reasons that make capitalism the only moral political-economic system demand that it be exercised fully, that is: laissez-faire. Socialism is a deeply immoral politic system.

    Unprotected rights are about as useful as key with no lock. This point is… well, pointless;

    Well, obviously your rights need to be protected, but they still EXIST. They don’t require anyone’s consent to exist.

    Morals do not exist in a vaccum, rather morals are highly dependant upon the situation.

    The first part is true, the second is woefully false! Are you a moral subjectivist? Morals are most certainly not situation-dependent! I’m curious where your moral code comes from?

    Morals derive from man’s nature and his relationship to reality. Since man’s nature doesn’t change, and the metaphysically given (reality) doesn’t change, morals do not change.

    I don’t understand how you are just unwilling to see that point. Government grants you your rights by deciding on which ones it feels like protecting, since by your definition, we have a right to do whatever we want. If you care to argue the point why I don’t have a right to take something from you because I can with your bullet-proof logic, lay it on me.

    Government does not grant Rights though. It PROTECTS them. Rights already exist. They are a moral principle that necessarily exist. I think this is difficult because you don’t seem to have a clear definition of what Rights are in your own mind, so you’re having difficulty understanding the Objectivist concept of Rights. That’s not an put-down or anything, but a suggestion? It might help if you explain what you think rights are and where you think they come from? How do YOU morally account for human rights? I’ve already shown how I do.

    Rights can absolutely be reevulated, I don’t understand why you think they cannot. Your rights in the US are not the same as your rights in the UK, or your rights in the middle east, or your rights in china. Apperently they aren’t as universal as you claim. Also, our supreme court seems to differ with the idea as well.

    We’re talking about two different things here. I am not denying that there exists different laws in society in different countries. You seem to be implying that Rights are location specific. Now, in a sense: they are. But only in the sense that governments arbitrarily violate these rights in different ways to different extents. I agree with that.

    BUT, if one has a clear definition and understanding of Rights, like I have explained here several times, one sees that Rights are moral principles that arise because of metaphysical human nature. This is a philosophical matter. So yes, the Indian government can make homosexuality illegal. The British government can make certain drugs illegal. Both countries violate Rights in doing so. I’m not denying that it happens, I’m denying that it’s moral!

    As for who is a criminial and who isn’t, last time I checked the government decided that. An act that might be criminal in the US may also not be criminal in other areas, or in different situations. There is plenty of varity here, wheather you’re going to acknowledge it or not.

    And how do you think the government decides this?? Majority vote? Whim? Finger in the air guesswork? No! In most civilised countries there are objective laws that define what is a crime or not. E.g.: murder, theft, rape etc. These things aren’t crimes because the government says so (although practically that is the case) – they are crimes because they violate individual rights, and if you don’t see this I think you have a very questionable moral foundation.

    In other words: in a country where rape is legal, rape is still metaphysically, morally, a crime! That a certain evil government doesn’t think so doesn’t change the fact.

    Besides, didn’t the founding fathers recommend that our constitution be revised, or am I crazy? I also recall they held slaves (so much for their rights, huh?). What about that recommendation that only their class be allowed to vote

    I’m not saying the Constitution is perfect. Slavery is immoral and wrong. It should also be illegal. The FFs weren’t right on everything.

    Roads and post offices are used for military purposes as well. If you dont think the government should be building roads though, see how long you can deal with not using them.

    Non-sequitor.

    This point, of course, addresses nothing about what I asked. Without the government, how do you propose people internalize externalities? How does the public control pollution? How do people deal with problems of the commons, for which a free market solution dictates overuse and depletion?

    I don’t understand the first question.

    As for the second; government has no right to “control” pollution. If you pollute my property or vice-versa, you can sue me. But the earth as a planet doesn’t belong to anyone one person or every person. Defining property rights is a detailed and long and legal process and I won’t get into it here.

    As an aside: I’m not debating whether it’s moral or immoral to pollute the earth. Forget that for a second. The point continues to be: there is a difference between the immoral and the illegal, unless you want 1984 Thought Police, and that is not a slippery fallacy by any means.

    Again, apparently not, since they are. If cooperations can own things (collections of people), why can’t the government? And if that collection wants to do something (universal health care) why should they not be able to? If you don’t like the collection, you can leave it and find one that suits you more.

    I think you’re missing the point. This debate isn’t about whether Evanescent likes to live in a socialised society or not. The debate is: what is the morally correct political system? And why? I have presented the Objectivist case. You seem to agree to a point, but fail to accept the full realisation of property rights.

  • http://ellis14.wordpress.com evanescent

    Alex, first of all: you have presented absolutely NOTHING of your own that represents anything even closely resembling an objective sound definition of rights, what they are, and where they come from. And I have presented nothing contradictory at all. Your inability to understand my position does not constitute an error on my part.

    Now, Ergo earlier eloquently summarised the Objectivist concept of Rights, which seems to be exactly what you’re asking for, so here it is again. This completely answers your question, and proves exactly what Rights are, why they are, and where they come from…

    Ergo said:

    The right to own property is the right that makes all other rights *practicable*, that is, possible in reality.

    The above principle is the political parallel of the metaphysical fact that humans are integrated entities of mind and body: there is no dichotomy or dualism between the two.

    Since only individuals can think, the thoughts are undeniably and inextricably an individual’s *own*. The practical manifestation or implementation of his thoughts, therefore, are also his own–they are borne out of his actions motivated by his reasoning abilities.

    However, while a man can never be denied of his thoughts, man can indeed be denied of the products or manifestation of his thoughts by the use of force or fraud from other individuals. This raises the necessity of establishing a moral principle among men that will objectively protect one man’s ownership (each man’s ownership) to the product of his thoughts, namely, the right to own property. This is the basis of the right to property, in brief.

    The right to property is the moral principle that protects man’s ownership to the products of his thoughts (like, the right to own the book I wrote). To deny this right to the product of one’s thought is the political parallel of metaphysical dualism–to divorce man’s body from his mind, to invent a soul (religion), to invent a collective Borg (Socialism/Communism), to condemn man to brute physical existence (dictatorship, Statism), to divorce man’s faculty of reason from its practical uses and applications (Idealism).

    To live, man must use his mind in dealing with reality. He must therefore be permitted to act freely on the directions given by his mind, his reasoning faculty, in order to tackle the task of survival. This includes being left free to create, fabricate, invent, or procure by means of free trade property that he believes might help him in achieving his goal. He may end up acting irrationally or erroneously; but he must be free to do this as well. He is however not free to initiate force or act fraudulently, because this undercuts the very basis of the freedom upon which he himself seeks to act.

  • Bill D. Johnston

    Shermer expresses opinions on many things. He did an editorial piece in Scientific American about this same subject.
    He also expressed an opinion about managed economies such as Sweden which he considered one of several successful experiments.

  • Ingersoll’s Revenge

    I can sum up this entire thread in a few steps:

    1) Side A presents an argument.
    2) Side B rebuts, attacking positions that Side A never held.
    3) Side A retorts, attacking positions that Side B never held.
    4) Repeat knocking down of straw men ad nauseum.
    The result: both sides refuse to yield because they’re stubborn and are missing Ebon’s original point entirely, which is that society and property are not mutually exclusive.

    Libertarians, socialists and government. Oh my!

  • lpetrich

    First, calling parasitism unselfish is absolute idiocy — it is selfishness at the expense of others.

    evanescent reveals that he is an Objectivist, not a libertarian. However, the difference between those two is hard to tell from the outside; they look so similar. It’s like non-Xians trying to distinguish similar Xian sects, or non-Marxists trying to distinguish similar Marxist factions.

    That post on the private ownership of roads proposes a truly laughable utopian pipedream. I see no hint as to how selling right-of-way access rights would make enough money to finance the roads. And it is just plain wrong about the Internet. We do pay for access to it, by paying our ISP bills.

    And how would a government be financed without taxes? On the honor system?

    Ergo’s argument about needing near-omniscience to make economic decisions is just plain specious. We *dont* have to be omniscient in order to make management decisions; ask anyone who has ever run a business.

    I’ve had a lot of experience with optimization algorithms, and while trial-and-error (natural selection) is the closest to being guaranteed to work, it is also the least efficient. I usually used algorithms that used various sort of knowledge about what I was trying to optimize, like continuity and gradient values. And so it is with business management — one usually tries to use methods that are more efficient than trial and error. And businesses, especially big businesses, depart from libertarian romanticizations of them in several ways, often fitting libertarians’ caricatures of government agencies. They operate collectively, they have central planning, they have bureaucracies, etc.

    As to troubles like overfishing, that’s a classic case of the Tragedy of the Commons. In fact, some fisherman might try to get all the fish he can before the fishery is gone in such a case, making the problem worse.

    So that’s why I have a hard time taking seriously evanescent’s and ergo’s and Curiosis’s arguments — they feature an absurd sort of utopianism and disconnection from reality.

  • Mrnaglfar

    Evanescent,

    there is so much debate about global warming and controversy on both sides of the argument that I do not feel intellectually comfortable taking sides.

    I have heard plenty of evidence, and I’m firmly on the side that says global warming is happening and we’re the cause. I’m also aware at our current rates of consumption, we will run out of non-renewable resources on which we depend. I don’t see the debate.

    Now, as for over-fishing, it is in a fisherman’s rational self-interest to not be greedy. If he is, he encourages the same activity from others. Fisherman who agree to quota themselves would be acting rationally and morally. However, if a fisherman chooses not to do so, he must pay the consequences for his actions. This is not an argument for government intervention. Just as man should be free to reap the rewards of his production, he must also pay the penalty for his mistakes. Now, if you could demonstrate that a businessman’s activities violate the Rights of others, then objective law can indeed stop those activities.

    It’s not in the fisherman’s rational self-interest because he reaps all the rewards and only pays a small portion of the cost, since the ocean is not private property. And apparently it’s not in their rational self-interests to quota themselves because, shy of intervention, they don’t seem to.
    You’re assuming they have perfect, or even reasonable, knowledge of this stuff, and they don’t.
    How, though, do you intend on creating a law against such thing without a government? How do you decide who gets to fish in what part of the ocean for how long? Who decides how much to sell the ocean for, and who owns the ocean in the first place? How does one enforce such policies? Who is going to order the research?
    Perhaps all the fishermen could get together, and pool some money so all share the cost and hire an outside consultant to figure out the issue, and then set an enforcable standard for who can fish and how, and hire personal security to make sure that happens.
    You know, they could do all the stuff that the government does. Except left to their own devices, they don’t do such things. After all, it wouldn’t be hard for a few, or even many, free-riders to pass through, since no one is trying to coordinate the research, contact all members of fishing community, and organize that matter, let alone punish those who don’t join in or have the authority to do so.

    sometimes you’re a socialist, sometimes you’re a capitalist, depending on the situation. That sounds like gross moral subjectivism to me. Do you have an objective code of morality or not? You cannot half-bake capitalism. The reasons that make capitalism the only moral political-economic system demand that it be exercised fully, that is: laissez-faire. Socialism is a deeply immoral politic system.

    Yes, depending on what the situation calls for, my ideas are capable of shifting, and I am in no way bound to defend or attack either system of economics. Some matters are best left to the open market, and sometimes the regulations of that market need adjustment.
    No, I have no definitive, black or white, objective moral system because a correct one does not exist. Not for me. I don’t have one because it doesn’t work for all situations; there’s sutilty that should be considered. You may feel you’re objective about your moral system, but since I can’t seem to understand it’s obvious objectivity, something is wrong. Either I’m a highly immoral person, or these ‘truths’ of yours aren’t as objective as you think they are.

    Well, obviously your rights need to be protected, but they still EXIST. They don’t require anyone’s consent to exist.

    If people don’t recognize your right, you can feel you have it all you want. Doesn’t mean you’ll be free to exercise it, and if you can’t exercise it then it’s not much of a right is it? That definition isn’t even workable; What’s to stop me from saying “I have the right to kill someone because I can and you’re ‘right to life’ is infringing on my right”.

    I’m not denying that it happens, I’m denying that it’s moral!

    I would deny that banning homosexual acts is immoral too. Obviously some people feel differently.

    And how do you think the government decides this?? Majority vote? Whim? Finger in the air guesswork? No! In most civilised countries there are objective laws that define what is a crime or not. E.g.: murder, theft, rape etc. These things aren’t crimes because the government says so (although practically that is the case) – they are crimes because they violate individual rights, and if you don’t see this I think you have a very questionable moral foundation.

    Murder and rape are illegal because most people think they should be. I know you hate to admit that, but where do you think people came up with the ideas of rights? They’re a product of the evolution of our social morality. If 99 people decided murder was ok in a population of 100, whether that last person feels it’s moral or not doesn’t much change the fact that it’s about to happen.
    Now, you piss all over majority opinion so much you forget that rights also come from majority opinion. I don’t know how you can argue otherwise. If most people feel murder isn’t ok, then murder isn’t ok. If most people feel the freedom to speech is a right, then it becomes one. If you’re not using the majority opinion then you’re only using your own opinion (even though one can use both), and implying by doing so that your morality is the best one out there. Now, if that’s what you’re doing you might want to consider your own moral foundation before you start to question mine.

    But why not go ahead and keep telling me how immoral I am for fully considering the issue instead of polarizing things into black and white.

    In other words: in a country where rape is legal, rape is still metaphysically, morally, a crime! That a certain evil government doesn’t think so doesn’t change the fact.

    I would certainly still feel rape is immoral, but it’s not one because of a metaphysical reason (whatever the hell that is). And in that situation you listed, it might still seem immoral to us, but in that country it wouldn’t be a crime.

    You still have yet to show me how laws aren’t products of collective human opinions (or how rights are, for that matter).

    I’m not saying the Constitution is perfect. Slavery is immoral and wrong. It should also be illegal. The FFs weren’t right on everything.

    Slavery is considered immoral and wrong now. It wasn’t then.
    Which is why the rights they penned for us need to be reexamined from time to time.
    But wait, can’t rights not be changed or revised? Don’t they have to be absolute forever across time?

    The point continues to be: there is a difference between the immoral and the illegal, unless you want 1984 Thought Police, and that is not a slippery fallacy by any means.

    I agree that legal and moral are different. However, from what you’ve wrote I don’t know how you suddenly believe that. By your definition morals should be objective, so anyone looking at them should be able to come to much the same conclusion. However, morality and legality of things have constantly shifted over time, and according to your argue that shouldn’t happen.

    If you pollute my property or vice-versa, you can sue me.

    How does one sue for pollution released into the air (which no one ‘owns’)? How can you tell that pollution from one particular factory is the cause when air gets circulated around the global? Can every person collectively sue every polluter? Or could pollution simply be taxed in order to make it economical for businesses to avoid pollution in the first place. Sounds like it would save a lot of wasted time and money through the court system.

    The debate is: what is the morally correct political system? And why?

    The system (to me) is a mixture of socialism and captilism, with the ability to change over time and between situations.
    Why? Because time and situations change things, bringing about problems that didn’t previously exist and a static system cannot deal with well. On top of that, social support structures net benefits to all involved and work towards bringing people back into the work force and redistrubting oppertunity in a way captialism alone does not.

  • http://deconbible.blogspot.com bbk

    Google is a private company. If you pay to use their service and they also choose to advertise as well, that is their choice. The point is that the cost of ISPs are so heavily supported by other means, such as advertisement, that the cost to the average internet user (us) is virtually free.

    If you were ordering steak at a restaurant and someone said the steak is free, but you have to pay for this sack of rotting potatoes AND keep them on your plate while you eat, what would you think of that? What if the sack of rotting potatoes actually costs more than what the steak is worth?

    Every inch of my desktop and every kilowatt used to display that advertisement costs me money while not being the actual service that I’m seeking. Ranking search results by order of advertisement contributions also detracts from my ability to use google’s search facilities efficiently. In fact, the total costs to me of dealing with that advertisement is greater than the profits it garners to Google.

    Think about it this way – one of Google’s highly efficient data centers uses up enough electricity to power 80,000 homes. Your home computer takes more electricity while it’s displaying the data that Google sends you than it took Google to generate it – 1,000 users connecting to 1 server have 1,000 monitors attached while the server has 0. A back-of-the-envelope calculations would lead you to conclude that the costs of you displaying just the advertisement on your computer is costing you more than both the core service and the advertisement cost Google. It would be cheaper to pay for just the cost of the core service and leave the advertisement out of the loop.

    So the conclusion is that the semblance of a “free” website provided by a for-profit company is just an illusion. The reason that Google is “free” is because advertisers are willing to pay more for an ad than the end-user would be willing to pay for the core service. But the final cost of supporting the service by everyone put together is more than what the service is actually worth. This is called an externality.

    And that is the best result that you can hope for when you purport that for-profit ventures would be able to offer a free service to most people and yet still make a profit. The profits have to come from somewhere! So it’s always more efficient to provide a free service by a non-profit that only seeks to recoup the costs of providing that service. Privatizing roads would inadvertently result in a higher overall cost of operating the infrastructure, and if you made it “free”, it just means that the higher costs would be hidden. Also, you have not proposed any sensible way to hide the costs, either. Look at every toll road privatization project in the world and the costs to the end-user – they invariably involve higher long term prices to drivers, not lower.

    As for net neutrality, Google cannot censor anything. It’s a private company and they display what content and information they like. Only a government can censor information – but in a free society the government would be constitutionally prevented from doing so.

    You could plant a flag pole in that pile of bs… Your logic is a chicken vs egg scenario. So corporations are not liable to the end users, no matter what, and so long as the governments are not liable then the corporations can do whatever the governments want them to do with impunity. Alright, I guess bring on the retro-active telecom immunity laws. It’s really funny because if the Libertarian perfect free market is to have any chance of working out, it depends on perfect information. A private corporation who withholds or distorts information should be the cardinal sin for such a system. But by your reasoning, anyone who seeks totalitarian power could overturn this system with just a couple pen strokes.

  • Mark

    Ergo,

    Objectivists do not indulge in feeding the laziness of others–intellectually or materially.

    If you are calling me lazy because I haven’t argued anything to the extent or quality of other people posting here, you’re right. I don’t deny for a second that my skills there are lacking. If, however, you are implying something else, then come out and say it. As things stand, I have pointed out your misrepresentation of Robert Bass’s arguments, and you have failed to respond. Your post I am here quoting also indicates that you have no intention of taking substantive criticism head-on, but would rather brush it aside and insult non-Objectivists, all the while telling them that they would agree with Objectivism if they would just read more. How condescending. The same goes for evanescent when he claims to be justified in dismissing anything uttered from the mouth of a relativist, though this claim is never extensively supported.

    Rather than asking Evanescent to pretty much re-write the Objectivist theory of epistemology and ethics, look them up for yourself.

    I’m not interested in attempting to dialogue with a dead woman. As the ARCHN blog and other places demonstrate, Rand’s philosophy is very confused, which *gasp* results in confusion with regard to at least understanding it, if not also explaining it. This is why I have been requesting a dialogue with evanescent–he can actually respond to my particular questions and requests, while Rand can not. As well, since I think Objectivism is false, I would like the opportunity to convince someone I’ve been talking to of this. Peikoff and other living Objectivists do not matter to me.

    It should also be remembered that philosophers, en masse, do not take Rand seriously, and they have good reason not to.

  • http://ellis14.wordpress.com evanescent

    Mrnaglfar said:

    No, I have no definitive, black or white, objective moral system because a correct one does not exist.

    and…

    Murder and rape are illegal because most people think they should be.

    Wow. I think this is very telling indeed. I wonder how many other people on this thread this attitude represents.

    So, Mrnaglfar , if most people thought homosexuality and premarital sex should be illegal, that would be enough in your eyes to pass a law??

    I’ve picked out these two points only because you clearly have no objectively morality, and without that you cannot have any basis for judging anything right or wrong.

    bbk said:

    Think about it this way – one of Google’s highly efficient data centers uses up enough electricity to power 80,000 homes. Your home computer takes more electricity while it’s displaying the data that Google sends you than it took Google to generate it – 1,000 users connecting to 1 server have 1,000 monitors attached while the server has 0. A back-of-the-envelope calculations would lead you to conclude that the costs of you displaying just the advertisement on your computer is costing you more than both the core service and the advertisement cost Google. It would be cheaper to pay for just the cost of the core service and leave the advertisement out of the loop.

    I don’t even know if that is true or not, bbk! I really don’t see that my point has been disproven: the internet is incredible cheap and easy to use. In many cases, most of what is accessed on the information is free. Why do you think so many open source communities exist? Why do companies like Yahoo, and Google, and Microsoft give you FREE e-mail accounts and continually encourage you to use their service? They make their service bigger, better, and easier, without you having to pay a penny! Another example is video sites like YouTube – totally free to use and upload videos – the user doesn’t actually pay for anything, but advertisers do. The examples abound! Even my wordpress blog is totally free. WordPress is supported to host blogs, but not by me, but by other companies, like advertisers.

    In the UK, we are bombarded on TV by commercials to subscribe to different ISPs: BT, Orange, Sky, Tiscali etc etc. All offering bigger and better, and lower prices. They aren’t doing it out of the goodness of their heart, they’re doing it because they income doesn’t primarily comes from subscription, but from sponsorship deals, which annoying as they might be, as easily acceptable when one realises they support the internet. The internet is probably the closest thing we have to a universal unregulated free-market (by that I mean no one body can control the internet) and look at its unparalleled success.

    You could plant a flag pole in that pile of bs… Your logic is a chicken vs egg scenario. So corporations are not liable to the end users, no matter what

    Ignoring for one second your unnecessary offensive remark, corporations are liable to whoever they enter a transaction with. Of course they are liable to end-users in matters of breach of contract or fraud.

    …and so long as the governments are not liable then the corporations can do whatever the governments want them to do with impunity.

    What do you mean, “what the governments want them to do”?? In a free society, government telling anybody to do anything would be pointless since government would not interfere in economics. It would only protect individual rights.

    Alright, I guess bring on the retro-active telecom immunity laws. It’s really funny because if the Libertarian perfect free market is to have any chance of working out, it depends on perfect information.

    Rubbish. Strawman. Not at all reflective of anything I’ve said. You’re force-fitting some of my free society examples into today’s non-free world and moaning that you think it won’t work. Well, duh.

    A private corporation who withholds or distorts information should be the cardinal sin for such a system. But by your reasoning, anyone who seeks totalitarian power could overturn this system with just a couple pen strokes.

    Absolute nonsense. For a start, in a free society (there’s that phrase again!), no body could ever attain such power. Coercive monopolies are impossible (already explained this), and government power would be limited so that the violation of rights is impossible. Statism, totalitarianism, fascism, communism, democracy – all forms of government that yield authority that contravenes individual rights – would be impossible.

    I’ve noticed lots and lots and lots of talk from the mixed-economists here about “what if this” and “what if that” representing supposed worst-case scenario crises… yet no one has presented a sound moral and political argument that justifies the government you crave, and founded it philosophically on objective principles. All your arguments boil down to this: “I can’t imagine how X would work in a free market, therefore we should continue to let government do our thinking for us even if that means violating rights”.

  • http://ellis14.wordpress.com evanescent

    Mark said:

    As well, since I think Objectivism is false, I would like the opportunity to convince someone I’ve been talking to of this. Peikoff and other living Objectivists do not matter to me.

    It should also be remembered that philosophers, en masse, do not take Rand seriously, and they have good reason not to.

    Why are you here then?? I don’t care what you think of Rand – and I don’t need your convincing that Objectivism is false. I obviously disagree, and since you’re a subjectivist nothing you say means anything anyway.

    If you don’t want to take Rand seriously, fine. Why not start your own blog about this where you can disagree with Objectivism all you want and leave the rest of us who are here for an honest intelligent discussion to get on with the matter at hand.

  • http://ellis14.wordpress.com evanescent

    I’m off for the night now. I look forward to resuming this tomorrow. Best regards to all.

  • ex machina

    I suppose in the end I don’t find socialism immoral (at least in theory, it’s more than possible to create a socialist system I would consider immoral) because I don’t think it has the soul crushing effect that Objectivists think it does. If a tax is an appropriate amount, and can be shown to be otherwise useful, the fact that it is levied on me does not really hinder my creativity as a human being. Provided I’m still able to use my money as I wish, and that I’m free to engage in whatever entrepreneurial endeavor that I wish, I can still lead a productive and free life.

    I’m a musician who pays my taxes, and, for the most part, I am happy to do so. You could say that those taxes have increased the price of the gear I need, or that it will take longer to save for whatever investments I need to make, and you might be right. But those taxes didn’t dissolve into thin air, they helped pay for roads (on which the gear is shipped), public transportation (that helps me get to gigs) and police officers (that help me keep my gear from getting stolen). So to call taxation legalized theft isn’t really accurate. As a society we reap real benefits from those taxes, and one could make the argument that we have far more opportunities “to create, fabricate, invent, or procure by means of free trade property that he believes might help him in achieving his goal.”

    I also realize that I’ll be taxed on whatever earnings I get from my endeavor, but so far in my life, I’ve never been able to fail to turn a profit due to taxes, nor have taxes affected my ability to afford a significantly better life. Were I no longer charged any taxes, I would lead a very similar life to the one I lead now.

    Anyway, my point is that socialism could potentially do great damage to a man’s creative drive, but I don’t feel the system under which we live in the US is having that effect. I’ve never felt that way at least. And while you could argue that public programs are not practically optimal (I don’t think you’d be right, but it’s logically possible) I don’t think that socialism is patently immoral as a few have suggested.

  • Mrnaglfar

    So, Mrnaglfar , if most people thought homosexuality and premarital sex should be illegal, that would be enough in your eyes to pass a law??

    I would not vote to make it illegal, but the US has done similiar things in the past (sodomy laws). You’re mistaking my support of the issue with majority laws with my own personal views. There will always be laws I don’t agree with, and I will do my part to speak out against them. However, what can we derive from your system? It’s not as objective as it lends itself to be, as I mentioned before, because we’re examining the same evidence and coming to different conclusions.

    I’ve picked out these two points only because you clearly have no objectively morality, and without that you cannot have any basis for judging anything right or wrong.

    Damnest thing though, I do see right from wrong, I just see more shades of grey than you do. If you’d like to tell me what a terrible moral person I am, feel free to give it a shot.
    You’re convinced that your morality is right and always should be right, whereas I am allowing for the possibility that I’m mistaken. You have, however, yet to do much in the way of convincing me that I am wrong on the issue of the existance of government and taxes, nor that unregulated free markets are a good thing.

  • Mark

    evanescent,

    I have no intention of replying to you and I’m saying that here publically so everyone can see:

    Dismissing someone outright is not the same as logically dismissing their arguments. When you won’t even reply to the deficiencies pointed out by Stanford philosophers, why should anyone listen to you?

    you have shown a consistent dishonest disrespectful aggressive irrational disregard toward Ayn Rand in all our past discussions

    Dishonest regard? In what way? Disrespectful regard? Why should I respect Ayn Rand? I don’t think she deserves my respect, after all. Plus, she’s dead. Agressive regard? Maybe because she deserved it? So much of my aggression is because Objectivists love to be condescending, thinking they’ve found The Truth. In that regard, my aggression has not been toward Rand. Irrational regard? I certainly don’t think so. This looks like so much character assassination without reply to the substantial problems and issues I’ve either brought up or provided sources for.

    And all those adjectives only serve to make our interactions seem worse than they actually are/were by making me out to be some kind of “bad guy”. Nice.

    - I completely and utterly annihilated your arguments on Atheist Forums.

    I disagree. I got burnt out and haven’t yet posted a reply in the main thread, but even with you having had the last word to-date, I don’t see any justification for claiming my arguments as having been annihilated, let alone refuted. For anyone who cares, here’s the link (I’m Daggett): http://www.atheistforums.com/what-are-morality-and-rights-and-need-only-humans-apply-t5334-45.html.

    You have no interest in having an honest open debate like everyone else here,

    I have no intention of having a formal debate, but I have every intention of being honest.

    you want to attack Objectivism for the sake of it and I have no intention of debating with you.

    Wrong. I want to get to the truth of the issue of morality, and I happen to think Objectivism is very wrong. That being the case, I want to convince you. It just so happens my argument and rhetorical skills aren’t up to snuff, so I like to provide sources that say things better than I can–much like you and Ergo wanting me to read Objectivist literature. The big difference is that there is only one Objectivism, while there are many critiques of it, and, that being the case, it’s more likely that I have greater exposure to Objectivism than you do to the critiques I cite.

    I attack Objectivism as much as I attack Christianity–i.e., not much. What I actually do is try to convince Objectivists that they are wrong, much like I try to convince theists that they are wrong.

    And this isn’t even a crusade of mine–it’s not as if I hunt down Objectivists and try to make them convert/deconvert to another philosophy or ethical theory. I just happened to think Ebon’s current post and the comments were interesting, so I wanted to chime in.

    I’m only here to talk to honest people. And I’m making that clear here in case I’m accused of ignoring your comments. If other Objectivists want to debate with you, that’s their choice.

    I just LOVE character assassination!

    I’d like to point out that Mark is moral subjectivist – so bear that in mind people when reading his comments.

    “I’d like to point out that evanescent is a moral objectivist – so bear that in mind people when reading his comments.”

    Doesn’t prove anything, does it? And can you not let people decide the merits of what I say for themselves without practically telling them to disbelieve everything I say?

    I can’t subscribe to anything with 100% certainty right now, but even if I am a subjectivist, that doesn’t make you OR any other objectivist correct. Oh, and I just love how you’re trying to make people look upon me negatively. Such an… honest… tactic, especially when my posts, which bring up substantial problems with the view(s) I’m criticizing, do not get responses.

    You won’t find many subjectivists here Mark (at least not ones that recognise they are)!

    And? You won’t find many Objectivist philosophers in universities. Doesn’t prove anything.

    Even though I disagree with Ebon on this particular issue, he too recognises the necessity of objective morality.

    The necessity of it for what? And why should anyone accept the goal when it is provided? THESE are some of the most important questions in ethics. Despite the fact that moral absolutists keep coming up with answers, dammit, David Hume just won’t die! I’m not an absolutist because I haven’t been convinced of any absolutist arguments, mostly owing to the fact that their premises are either not of a factual or verifiable nature (in my experience), or they are not, if not factual or verifiable, agreed with by 100% of humanity. Objectivism is, to my knowledge, an absolutist philosophy, thus I don’t agree with it.

    This is yet another reason why debate with you is impossible.

    I suspect that debate between us is really “impossible” because Objectivism is a confused philosophy and you have bought into it, just as I did 2-3 years ago.

    The Barefoot Bum’s views on ethics/metaethics are closest to my own at the moment: http://barefootbum.blogspot.com/search/label/Meta-Ethical%20Subjective%20Relativism.

    (Apologies for not knowing which tags to use for URLs.)

  • Mark

    evanescent,

    Why are you here then??

    Because Ebon’s post interested me and I saw things said in the comments that I think are false. I assume you are here for the same reasons.

    and since you’re a subjectivist nothing you say means anything anyway.

    If that were true, it would also apply to you. But it’s not, and more importantly, you have just strawmanned a great many people.

    If you don’t want to take Rand seriously, fine.

    I did take Rand seriously. She had her chance. She got an F.

    Why not start your own blog about this where you can disagree with Objectivism all you want

    1. Because other people explain Objectivism’s faults much better and more thoroughly than I can, which is the reason I’ve provided so many sources.

    2. Because it’s not an important enough issue to me.

    and leave the rest of us who are here for an honest intelligent discussion to get on with the matter at hand.

    So not only do you go hysterical, you also assassinate my character in the same sentence… again.

    Note that critiquing your views as they pertain to Ebon’s topic is going to entail critiquing Objectivism, so don’t try to make it look like these are completely separate things.

    This is my last comment to you here, but only because I don’t want to further sidetrack the discussion and irk Ebon and other commenters. I want to make it known right now, however, that because this is my last comment to you, every certainty you proclaim in any further responses to me should be taken with a bucket of salt due to the fact that I won’t be defending myself.

  • http://deconbible.blogspot.com bbk

    You’re force-fitting some of my free society examples into today’s non-free world and moaning that you think it won’t work. Well, duh.

    Some time ago Ebonmuse wrote about the prisoners’ dilemma. While his post was an incomplete explanation, you’d be well served to read up about it on Wikipedia. What I was attempting to point out about the perfect society that doesn’t exist is that it couldn’t, in fact, ever exist. The system falls very neatly into a typical prisoner’s dilemma scenario. What I sense from you is a confirmation bias – it would work because none of the things that would easily break it down now would be possible then. So, no new Hitlers being born, I guess? Actually, this is the same problem that I saw with Ebon’s use of the dilemma. He went over what it was, but then in his basis for his system of ethics (universal utilitarianism), he actually reversed the rules of the prisoners dilemma in the end (“Do the most good for the most people” – draw yourself a prisoners’ dilemma game and see what square that lands you on – the opposite of what is predicted by the prisoner’s dilemma.)

    But the Libertarian society suffers from the same fatal flaw as the altruistic society. They’re both too easy to take advantage of. Here’s my argument: governments would, in fact, collude with special interests. It’s all great fun to talk about how things would be like if collusion didn’t exist, but I think I’d rather actually smoke crack. You have no proposed means, no system of checks and balances, nothing to either get us to this perfect state or keep us there if we do get there. To say that it will happen “slowly, over time, by carefully getting rid of taxes,” no, that’s just not a plan at all, that is the lack of a plan. All you’re doing is sheltering the weakness of your arguments with statements similar to, “no, you just don’t know what it means to be free!” But that’s why I just had to laugh out loud when Rand concluded one of her books with the invention of a perpetual motion machine to generate power for her perfect society that was created when perfect people refused to participate in the rest of society with all the lazy ungrateful dregs, so they secluded themselves to a secret, remote region hidden by invisible force fields. That pretty much summed up what I had already thought of Rand’s philosophy was based on and she did such a good job of confirming it for me in such a nice little nutshell.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org/ Ebonmuse

    Something evanescent said earlier today caught my interest:

    The point I was making is that no supposed imagined “worst case scenario” that socialists like to postulate EVER justifies violating individual rights.

    Let’s see how this principle plays out in practice, using an argument I first heard from, I think, Alonzo Fyfe. Let’s say I’m lost in the mountains during a snowstorm, without food, heat or warm clothes, and near death from hypothermia and exposure. Let’s say I stumble across a remote cabin, locked, well-supplied with all the provisions I need to stay alive, and the owner isn’t home.

    I believe it would be my moral right to break a window and take shelter in the cabin (and yes, I’d absolutely say the same thing if it were my cabin). To Objectivists like evanescent, however, this would be a violation of the property rights of the cabin’s owner, which he’s said is never justified. I can only presume he believes it would be my moral duty to lie down in the snow and freeze to death, even if life and safety are just the thickness of a glass pane away.

    This is by far my most serious objection to libertarian ethical systems: their claim that, if it comes to that, my right to property trumps your right to live. Even if imposing a tax on you would literally save my life, without significantly hindering you from pursuing any of your interests, they’d still resist it to their last breath. This is an utterly unreasonable and utterly heartless assertion. It fails both the test of reason and the test of conscience.

    Also, I’d like to respond to a point made by Curiosis:

    So when the police arrest a thief, you and the rest of society don’t benefit directly from that?

    Now try to use that example to defend how a lung transplant for a life-long smoker benefits me, you, or society.

    It’s not hard to come up with ways in which giving organ transplants to the critically ill could be a net benefit to society, but I’ll do you one better. I’ll propose a sound, self-interest-based reason for universal healthcare.

    From my post “Why I Am Not a Libertarian II“:

    Even if a libertarian, through hard work and intelligent economic decisions, has guaranteed their own access to quality medical care for life, what will happen to people who lack that access? Since the poor aren’t under regular medical supervision, any new infectious disease that appears will be likely to flourish among them. By the time it spreads out of the have-nots and begins to infect the rest of society, it may have become far more virulent and dangerous, putting many more people at risk. On the other hand, if an epidemic is detected early, it is far easier to stop it. This is not a hypothetical scenario: we see it happening around the world right now with diseases like tuberculosis or avian flu, where virulent, drug-resistant strains emerge first among society’s underclass.

    I’d like anyone who responds to this comment to deal specifically with this example. Where, according to the strictest libertarian principles, is the fallacy in this argument?

  • Alex Weaver

    While we’re at it, I’d be interested to hear the logic by which a “right to Life” does not translate into a right to necessary medical services.

  • http://deconbible.blogspot.com bbk

    While we’re at it, I’d be interested to hear the logic by which a “right to Life” does not translate into a right to necessary medical services.

    Ebon re-stated a very excellent point, but I think the logic you’re asking for can be provided. It’s pretty easy – it’s called scarcity. Services which may be necessary may not be available at any cost. But even when they are available to some extent, we use our sense of reciprocity to decide how to distribute them fairly rather than a sense of it being a right. A heavy smoker might have the right to life, but he does not have the right to a lung transplant if someone who was not a smoker is waiting for that same organ. This by no means implies that the heavy smoker has any less of a right to life than the non smoker, but yet we have this sense of fairness about picking one over the other. Even if the only resource required was money, we still wouldn’t throw everything we have at medical services on the basis of right to life. If there was a million dollar pill that extended your life by 1 year each time you took it, how could that be sustained if every senior citizen demanded that this be provided for them on the basis of right to life? The logical outcome would be that within 80 years, the entire population of the world would demand a million dollar pill once yearly even if the average income was closer to that of a social security check. In these cases, we would leave such treatments pretty much to those who can afford it and we wouldn’t claim that this particular service is anyone’s right even if it may be necessary for their survival.

    The one thing that’s left is the “if it’s basically free, then it’s a right” argument. Well, medical services are hardly ever basically free, which is why health care is such a huge issue. But let’s put it this way – anything that’s free, is, well, free. Or close to it. It can be taken as easily as it is given. If it’s basically no effort at all to save the drowning girl in the lake, she can pull herself out by grabbing onto my coattails as I pass on by, it won’t bother me any. So I don’t find this argument to be very compelling against the greater problem of scarcity.

    So this right to medical services certainly isn’t unalienable or self evident, which means that it fails the test as a basic human right (life, liberty, pursuit of happiness). The best you could do is make it a circumstantial right within a given society at a given time, based more or less on nothing more than a social contract.

  • John Gathercole

    What do Libertarians/Objectivists think about land ownership? Nobody created land, so who has the right to own it? Especially in the United States, where the land was forcefully taken from the previous inhabitants? And going back even farther, those inhabitants took the land from others, who took it from animals. Do animals have the right to own land? If not, why not?

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org/ Ebonmuse

    I have a further comment on evanescent’s conception of (as lpetrich insightfully described it) “government on the honor system”:

    However, the idea of voluntary taxation is only unrealistic because we are just not accustomed to thinking that way. In a free society, people are more inclined to pay to protect their property.

    I just want to point out, for the record, that this is the exact same reasoning used by communism. Yes, it’s true that we’ll pay every person the same amount, no matter how hard they work – and yes, maybe that seems unrealistic to you bourgeois capitalists, but what you don’t understand is that, after the great revolution comes, people will be so eager to see the revolution through that they’ll all gladly do their part and work their hardest!

    Every economic system that’s been premised on betting against human nature has collapsed. Communism was the first example. If this vision of libertarianism ever came to pass, it would undoubtedly be the second.

  • http://wildphilosophy.blogspot.com Mathew Wilder

    Ebon, don’t expect an answer about your cabin in the snow example. No one has yet addressed my examples: whether children have rights claims against their parents, or what would happen to a paraplegic with no family or church to care for him in a libertarian state. The reason is that Objectivism and libertarianism don’t have the moral resources required to deal with these problems.

  • http://ergosum.wordpress.com Ergo

    Alonso’ hypothetical scenario is an absurd critique of the Objectivist ethics; indeed it serves fantastically as a critique of socialism and enforced regulations. Here is his scenario as described by Ebonmuse:

    “Let’s say I’m lost in the mountains during a snowstorm, without food, heat or warm clothes, and near death from hypothermia and exposure. Let’s say I stumble across a remote cabin, locked, well-supplied with all the provisions I need to stay alive, and the owner isn’t home.

    I believe it would be my moral right to break a window and take shelter in the cabin (and yes, I’d absolutely say the same thing if it were my cabin). To Objectivists like evanescent, however, this would be a violation of the property rights of the cabin’s owner, which he’s said is never justified. I can only presume he believes it would be my moral duty to lie down in the snow and freeze to death, even if life and safety are just the thickness of a glass pane away.”

    Do you really think that in a Statist or Socialist society, somehow, this marooned and starving individual will have a bureaucrat miraculously appear by his side with Beef Steak and Diet Coke!? For a marooned and starving individual stuck in the middle of a snowstorm, no great amount of government taxation will feed his immediate need!

    And are you really willing to claim that it should be a *right* to break into someone’s home if you are starving, dying, homeless, and on the verge of collapse? Remember, rights are moral principles that must be protected even by force, if necessary. So, are you claiming that every starving bum has a right to break into anyone’s home and steal their food with lethal government force on their side–and the only criteria to justify their stealth and loot is their physical need of hunger?

    In a free society, an individual like in Alonso’s example will realize that it is his *privilege* to be able to use someone else’s property without compensation or trade. The cabin owner realizes that he faces no threat by the force of a government from such marooned individuals, and that helping the starving man is not something forced upon him at the point of a gun. In a free society, genuine charity and benevolence is organically fostered and encouraged, because such a society accepts the premise that men are capable of moral actions, men are capable of autonomous decisions, men are capable of living their own lives effectively, and that men are capable of being generous and helping others who are not quite so capable of doing these things.

    For a marooned and starving individual stuck in the middle of a snowstorm, no great amount of government taxation will feed his immediate need! His immediate need can only be satisfied by the benevolence of cabin owner in a private and voluntary transaction. Would you really want to snuff out the last remnant of benevolence in this context by introducing force even here and demanding that the cabin owner help the man at the point of a gun? And would you really want to extend the consequences of introducing forceful expropriation of property to every hungry, starving, needy bum on the street?

    If the scenario is such that the individual is hungry, starving, and marooned, and his only hope of survival is to get water and food from a cabin whose owner is not even around, in this case, the man still cannot ludicrously hope for government (divine) intervention and forceful backing in any manner. He must act swiftly on his own to mitigate his survival risks and be cognizant of the nature of his actions: according to the Objectivist ethics, the man must enter the cabin to only take the items that will most immediately and sufficiently stave off his certain death. All the while, the man must realize that he had *no right* to the property of this private cabin owner but has been a privileged recipient of the good sense of this cabin owner (since it requires rationality and smart sense to be productive enough to have a well-stocked cabin even in a very remote location as in this scenario, also it requires that the hypothetical scenario has a government that respects the private property of this cabin owner to let him own his cabin and the food and things in it).

    After the crises of survival has been controlled, the man has the moral obligation to inform the owner of the cabin about the incidents that transpired and of his actions and offer to make appropriate payments within a specified amount of time. This is because the starving individual acted out of immediate need, was cognizant that his survival literally depended on the good and rational sense of the productive achievements of this cabin owner who had a well-stocked home, had no immediate means of repayment, and knew that it was not his right but his privilege to have found a cabin in such remoteness that had the food he had taken.

    As a general rule, life-boat scenarios are not proper grounds to test ethical theories; this is because by their very nature, life-boat scenarios are transient and require unsual actions, whereas ethical theories are meant to be guides on actions over the life-span of an individual, which means actions that are to become routine, usual, and standard. Read more about emergencies here: http://ergosum.wordpress.com/2007/08/21/moral-dilemmas/

    Finally, at the beginning of the essay “Why I am not a libertarian” Ebonmuse commits the self-selection sample bias in finding comfort among that greater number of academics who are not libertarians. This is like a socialist finding comfort in the fact that there are so few capitalists in the Chinese Communist Party!

    Let’s ignore the argument from authority for a moment and just examine this:
    A capitalist or libertarian is more likely to be found in–guess where?–in the market place of course, as an entreprenuer, businessmen, corporate professional, or in some private industry! It would be less likely for you to find a Philosopher in Wall Street, just as you are more likely to find bleeding heart liberals in the UN, neo-hippies in the Gaia movement, and rich people in Monte Carlo! It is the kind of sample you choose to survey. You can’t look at Monte Carlo and conclude that poverty does not exist in the world!

    Likewise, in academics, you would most likely find people who do not share the tendencies, inclinations, interests, or skills of businessmen, entreprenuers, capitalists, traders, doers, etc.; academicians are usually thinkers, artists, intellectuals; they deal in the marketplace of ideas primarily. Hence, they have little real or concrete exposure to market capitalism other than some of their theoretical and intellectual approaches to it (for those in the relevant departments), which are already filtered through their biased tendencies.

    Of course, if your sample is this, then you will find few takers for capitalism among them. If your sample is Wall Street professionals (or even modern Indians in rising India today), you will find plenty of takers for capitalism and few for Philosophy, or Psychology, or Sociology, say.

    This is my last comment here. I don’t wish to grant any more of my time on this.

  • http://ergosum.wordpress.com Ergo

    One final response to Ebonmuse’s following comment:

    “I just want to point out, for the record, that this is the exact same reasoning used by communism. Yes, it’s true that we’ll pay every person the same amount, no matter how hard they work – and yes, maybe that seems unrealistic to you bourgeois capitalists, but what you don’t understand is that, after the great revolution comes, people will be so eager to see the revolution through that they’ll all gladly do their part and work their hardest!

    Every economic system that’s been premised on betting against human nature has collapsed. Communism was the first example. If this vision of libertarianism ever came to pass, it would undoubtedly be the second.”

    Ebonmuse,
    One aspect of this libertarian vision has already come to pass, and it is functioning superbly! The volunteer military. From my post on this topic:

    Take the case of the military draft: there was the fear that if citizens are not forced to join the military and serve the State, they won’t volunteer for it. This fear is absolutely unfounded, and the United States military is just one evidence of it.

    Certainly, nations with oppressive regimes will need to force people into their armies because–without coercion–people wouldn’t risk their lives for a government they despise and a nation they do not value. This simply highlights the need for a government to be cognizant of its role, actions, and boundaries with respect to how it treats the people under its protection.

    If young men and women are willing to voluntarily offer their life–their most precious value–in defense of a nation’s right to exist (and therefore, their own personal right to live in liberty), then why would it be inconceivable similarly for a nation’s people to voluntarily offer some money (in proportion to how much they can afford or some other legal arrangement) for the protection of their way of life, their property, their security, their nation, their values?

    The end of the military draft and a switch to a volunteer force did not spell doom for the nation’s defenses: in fact, it attracted the best men and women of the highest character, who are motivated to fight on grounds that they accept, believe in, identify with, and wish to protect–not on the basis of compulsion by the State and servitude to an ideology of self-sacrifice.

    The key to remember is, if you let people free to produce values and enjoy their values, then you will also have them voluntarily willing to do whatever it takes to protect those same values. This is a very important principle, which also sheds light on why enforcing moral values upon people undercuts the entire process of valuation and undermines the intensity of pursuing values.

    http://ergosum.wordpress.com/2008/01/29/financing-the-government-in-a-free-society/

  • http://wildphilosophy.blogspot.com Mathew Wilder

    I’m trying to trackback ping using haloscan and it says “Problem: Server said ‘You are a spammer. Go away.’” Any idea what the deal is?

  • http://deconbible.blogspot.com bbk

    One aspect of this libertarian vision has already come to pass, and it is functioning superbly! The volunteer military.

    You mean the richest country on earth can find enough poor among its ranks who have absolutely no opportunity in the civilian world that bests the small bribe that the rich are willing to pay for someone else to do their bidding? If you think that there is no coercion involved, look at the average salary of a troop in Iraq versus the average salary of a Blackwater employee – typically 1/3 of the going rate! It’s not really volunteering if you can’t quit any time you want, buddy. Blackwater employees can quit and go back at any time they wish, within reason. Troops have to go back for deployment after deployment even if they disagree with the war on moral grounds. The military is also completely socialist. Pay grades are not decided based on demand for the skills, ability to negotiate, or ability to work hard – they are the same for a cook as for a nuclear technician. Pay is given based on need – married military members are given more pay simply for being married. Food and shelter are considered a “right” even though they’re often times provided in deplorable conditions. You must be really kidding yourself – the military is the ONLY contractual servitude in the free world where the employer has a right to break the contract anytime they wish but the employee has no such right and, in fact, is threatened with military prison and/or a criminal record for quitting his job. Any person under normal circumstances can declare bankruptcy, give a 2 week’s notice, etc. The military even uses coercion to ensure that servicemen pay all their creditors first, even before the immediate needs of themselves and their families, even if they are a reservist whose civilian pay has just been cut in half because they got deployed. But they’ll still force you to buy your own pair of combat boots to go to Iraq because the issued supply ran out. There’s a very special word that military servicemen have to describe the qualities of their service: “voluntold.” Sounds like this Libertarian ideal is working out splendidly, doesn’t it?

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org/ Ebonmuse

    First off, I want to point out that Ergo made no attempt to respond to my self-interest-based argument for universal healthcare.

    Second, I can only assume the cabin argument upset him, judging by all the agitated verbiage he expends upon it. However, his ultimate conclusion is one I find eminently sensible:

    …according to the Objectivist ethics, the man must enter the cabin to only take the items that will most immediately and sufficiently stave off his certain death.

    I agree! And we can extend this conclusion in a straightforward manner to all the analogous situations where people are at risk of dying and could be saved by the assistance of others. Clearly, if we can help without putting ourselves at serious risk of harm, we have a moral obligation to do so. And that understanding forms the basis of my advocacy of a society which creates a social safety net through the proceeds of taxation.

    And about “lifeboat scenarios”:

    As a general rule, life-boat scenarios are not proper grounds to test ethical theories; this is because by their very nature, life-boat scenarios are transient and require unsual actions…

    This is an argument I’ve seen before, and it still strikes me as ludicrous. It’s essentially saying that Objectivism does not apply, or leads to incorrect conclusions, in situations where one party’s actions are forced by circumstance. If that’s the case, then Objectivism is a moral system with very little application to the real world! Scenarios like that are not rare aberrations. They are common moral dilemmas, possibly one of the most common. There are billions of people around the world in desperate need. If Objectivism is useless at telling us how to deal with this – if it applies only to free trades between well-fed capitalists – then it can hardly be the basis for a comprehensive moral philosophy. At best, it could be a moral guide in a very small and restricted set of human interactions.

    One aspect of this libertarian vision has already come to pass, and it is functioning superbly! The volunteer military.

    The “volunteer military” has been sustained by involuntary drafts at multiple times in the U.S.’s history: the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War. If U.S. military involvement in Iraq continues at its current level, a draft may soon be required to sustain the military as well.

  • http://deconbible.blogspot.com bbk

    I noticed that Ergo added his own caveat to the cabin scenario. He implied that if there is a moral right to break into the cabin to survive, then the government is obligated show up out of thin air and enforce that right by force. Yet his own play-by-play of the scenario has the owner agree to let the survivor use his property after-the-fact. The “Objectivism doesn’t take property by force” argument is nothing but a strawman. Any rational government would provide the facilities for the owner and the survivor to arbitrate a settlement after the fact, not to show up out of thin air during the dilemma with a steak and a diet coke to help the traveler survive. His argument is that the facilities of the government are not needed, because the two parties are able to find a settlement on their own. Well yes, if they choose to do so in private, no one is stopping them. Ergo’s argument is that the very existence of a moral right implies that the government has to force the involved parties to abdicate their ability to settle the matter on their own. So in that case, if murder is morally wrong, then in the Libertarian society, Uncle Sam would have to hold my gun for me everywhere I walk. But I thought Libertarians were usually gun freaks.

  • ex machina

    Do you really think that in a Statist or Socialist society, somehow, this marooned and starving individual will have a bureaucrat miraculously appear by his side with Beef Steak and Diet Coke!? For a marooned and starving individual stuck in the middle of a snowstorm, no great amount of government taxation will feed his immediate need!

    This is just analogy obfuscation. For future reference, when people use analogies, they create an imaginary world to clearly demonstrate a principle that one can apply in certain situations. You have to look at the analogy and find the principle it demonstrates to understand it’s meaning. Adding or subtracting equally imaginary elements or asking why another imaginary action does not occur completely misses the point.

    The whole cabin scenario attempts to demonstrate a situation where one might find it acceptable to take from another without immediate compensation, and it has nothing to do with whether or not the state can or cannot magically arrive at a remote location to arbitrate. Good Lord.

    And are you really willing to claim that it should be a *right* to break into someone’s home if you are starving, dying, homeless, and on the verge of collapse? Remember, rights are moral principles that must be protected even by force, if necessary. So, are you claiming that every starving bum has a right to break into anyone’s home and steal their food with lethal government force on their side–and the only criteria to justify their stealth and loot is their physical need of hunger?

    No one ever advocated this. Controlled taxation is not the same as someone breaking into your home and taking everything they want. If I think there are situations in which the right to live trumps the right to property, it does not follow that I must allow complete dissolution to the right to property.

  • http://ellis14.wordpress.com evanescent

    I believe Ergo’s response to the cabin scenario was excellent and fully elucidated the beauty of the free market, Objectivist ethics, and denounced socialism. As such, I need not add any more to it.

    Ebon said:

    Clearly, if we can help without putting ourselves at serious risk of harm, we have a moral obligation to do so. And that understanding forms the basis of my advocacy of a society which creates a social safety net through the proceeds of taxation.

    A moral obligation is a contradiction in terms. No one is obliged to do something that do not feel is in their rational self-interest. This is simply because there are no values external to a valuer. There is no intrinsic ethereal value to human life – that is precisely what the religious try to claim!

    I certainly agree that it is always in your rational self-interest to help other people when at no sacrifice to yourself (notice I didn’t say COST, I said sacrifice) – and therefore this is the moral thing to do. But morality cannot be policed!

    If a social safety net is a good idea, then leave it to the rational conscience of free men to choose this course of action. If you think it is such a good idea to have such a safety net, are you afraid of giving people the choice to decide this for themselves? Enforcing your moral opinion is deeply immoral, because, as I will explain below, morality becomes impossible where force is present.

    Ebon said:

    This is an argument I’ve seen before, and it still strikes me as ludicrous. It’s essentially saying that Objectivism does not apply, or leads to incorrect conclusions, in situations where one party’s actions are forced by circumstance. If that’s the case, then Objectivism is a moral system with very little application to the real world! Scenarios like that are not rare aberrations. They are common moral dilemmas, possibly one of the most common. There are billions of people around the world in desperate need. If Objectivism is useless at telling us how to deal with this – if it applies only to free trades between well-fed capitalists – then it can hardly be the basis for a comprehensive moral philosophy. At best, it could be a moral guide in a very small and restricted set of human interactions.

    On the contrary Ebon, the Objectivist Ethics recognises that human beings do not live in emergency situations. We are not faced with life or death struggles everyday – this is simply not the case. We actually live on a planet that we can change to our needs, and increase our quality of life. Man’s mind is incredibly efficacious in changing the world to meet his needs – just observe the wonders in science and technology. Objectivism is an excellent system of ethics precisely because it prescribes advice on how a man ought to live based on his day to day life.

    That is why “lifeboat” scenarios are NOT valid grounds on which to form a moral system! It would be like using “man on the moon” situations to draft a guide to actions – but man does not live on the moon. He lives on earth, and he is a certain type of being, and these metaphysical facts of reality allow us to form objective moral principles.

    The reason why many of these emergency situations are invalid as tests of morality is because they steal the concept of morality and drop it into a scenario where force is present. The perfect example of this is the Prisoner’s Dilemma, a grim underhanded thought experiment indeed. If you are under duress, without full knowledge of the facts (required) and without the freedom to act as your rational judgment would suggest, you cannot act morally. Therefore, a system of morality that prescribes advice in these situations and not everyday life is USELESS. It is also invalid, because morality cannot exist where force is present. Morality presupposes rational thought; it presupposes that a man is responsible for his actions precisely because he freely chose to do something that he did not have to do. That is why we hold criminals accountable for their actions. However, we do not hold animals responsible for their actions. And we usually don’t hold the retarded or insane responsible either. Why? Rationality.

    That is why many of these emergency scenarios are false dilemmas, but since many “moral” systems such as utilitarianism use non-objective non-measurable suffering as their benchmark, it is unsurprising that this goes unnoticed. The standard for morality with Objectivism is the value of human life (each life; your own life). It is not pleasure (hedonism), nor suffering (utilitarianism, Christianity etc).

    In other words, just because “I enjoy it” is NOT the standard by which to call an action “good”, “it hurts me” is NOT the standard by which to call an action “bad”. I doubt many here would disagree with me on the first part, so it’s hard to see why you would disagree about the latter. The method for checking morality is rationality.

    ex machina said:

    Controlled taxation is not the same as someone breaking into your home and taking everything they want. If I think there are situations in which the right to live trumps the right to property, it does not follow that I must allow complete dissolution to the right to property.

    First of all, taxation is no different to breaking into somebody’s house. The difference is that a man with a government badge does it.

    Your confusion about the nature and concept of rights is clearly manifest here: there is no dichotomy between the Right to Life and the Right to Property. The Right to Life means that a man must REASON his way to survive, and his property is the material manifestation of his reasoned thoughts; the Right to property is a direct corollary of the Right to Life. The body is not separate to the mind (like the religious believe). Life is impossible without the Right to property. Your property is what you use to maintain your life! Violating somebody else’s property is violating their right to life – there is no other way of looking at it. By taking somebody else’s property without their consent, you are questioning their very Right to Life as a human being.

    All rights are connected, and they all flow from the one ultimate right: Life.

    Do you have an alternative definition and justification of Rights? If so, please explain them and philosophically validate them on objective grounds.

  • http://ellis14.wordpress.com evanescent

    Just to use my last comment to answer ex machina’s scenario: you do have a right to life. But you do not have the right to anybody else’s life, which means you do not have the right to anybody else’s property. If you choose to break into somebody else’s house because you are starving, you must accept that you have no RIGHT to do so. You have become a criminal. Now, I’m sure the person whose house you broke into would be lenient or maybe even forgive you altogether assuming you weren’t abusive and, like Ergo said, make reparations if required.

    But in NO situation do you ever have the right to anybody else’s property, because you never have the right to anybody else’s life. Again: there is no dichotomy between the mental and the material; property is the manifestation of a man’s mind. If the mind is free, the property should be also.

    That is why “the greatest good for the greatest number” is an atrociously immoral system, because it treats the individual as a sacrificial object for the “needs of the many”. No system that is based on this thinking (democracy, socialism, communism, utilitarianism) can possibly respect individual rights fully. And individual rights are the only ones that exist.

  • ex machina

    First of all, taxation is no different to breaking into somebody’s house. The difference is that a man with a government badge does it.

    I don’t understand this. How is it that you can’t see the distinction between the two? When a burglar robs you he or she may take everything according to their whims or ability, while taxation only takes a controlled portion. Indeed, taxation could have the same effect, but it is logically possible that it won’t and does not. You can wave your hand and say they are the same all you want, but the only thing you’ve demonstrated is your inability to distinguish between two different actions.

    Your confusion about the nature and concept of rights is clearly manifest here: there is no dichotomy between the Right to Life and the Right to Property. The Right to Life means that a man must REASON his way to survive, and his property is the material manifestation of his reasoned thoughts;

    I realize that this “material manifestation of his reasoned thoughts” business is the Objectivist basis of Property rights. But stating it over and over again does not make it right, or very persuasive.

    the Right to property is a direct corollary of the Right to Life. The body is not separate to the mind (like the religious believe). Life is impossible without the Right to property. Your property is what you use to maintain your life! Violating somebody else’s property is violating their right to life – there is no other way of looking at it.

    I’m afraid not. One does not need an indefinite amount of property to maintain their life. The two are not inextricable. I’d give you another example of how a Person’s right to property could potentially infringe on another’s right to life, but I’m fairly confident that you’d invoke your definition of rights again to get out of it: “of course you cannot do whatever you want if you violate somebody else’s rights! Rights are freedom, but if you violate somebody else’s rights than you are not exercising YOURS anymore. That is why I said Rights are unlimited, because they are!”

    And then you’d say that the right to property must therefore be unlimited. . . not realizing that even by your definition the “acquiring of things that would jeopardize the life of another” wouldn’t fit in your definition of Property Rights. Now that’s confusing as hell, but it’s what you keep saying. I think you keep mistaking the word “unlimited” that you’ve attached to your definition of rights to mean unfettered under any circumstance, forgetting that you originally described it as meaning something else.

    I only bring this up because I think it’s hard to have a meaningful conversation about Rights when you can’t use the word “limitation” to describe where said rights would fail to apply. There’s lots of activities that might seem at first to be covered as a right, but upon examination are found not to be (like shouting fire in a movie theater/freedom of speech). I and others have come up with several examples of this kind of thing in regards to the right to property, but each time we do, you respond with . .”but rights are unlimited.” And then we’re back where we started.

    All rights are connected, and they all flow from the one ultimate right: Life.

    Do you have an alternative definition and justification of Rights? If so, please explain them and philosophically validate them on objective grounds.

    I think at their base our definition and justifications are quite similar. The major difference is that I’m able to see that the right to property could infringe on the right to life and when it does it should be limited. I know you don’t like me putting it that way, but I don’t know how else to say it. Hopefully what I’ve written above has explained what I mean by it.

  • ex machina

    Just to use my last comment to answer ex machina’s scenario: you do have a right to life. But you do not have the right to anybody else’s life, which means you do not have the right to anybody else’s property. If you choose to break into somebody else’s house because you are starving, you must accept that you have no RIGHT to do so. You have become a criminal. Now, I’m sure the person whose house you broke into would be lenient or maybe even forgive you altogether assuming you weren’t abusive and, like Ergo said, make reparations if required.

    Thanks for clarifying. This actually makes a lot of sense and really is how I would describe the situation if I owned the cabin. But my question is this: Why would the owner ever be lenient? You and I would both probably say that the circumstances made it appropriate. It’s not hard to say that you’d rather have someone break into your cabin to keep from freezing provided they were not abusive. In fact, maybe, you’d be happy to help.
    But therein lies the rub, if I can think of a good reason to deprive myself of property, why can’t I then apply those principles to others, and ask them to do the same. If it was right for me to do, why would I allow someone else not to do so without consequences. If my friend had owned the cabin, it wouldn’t be a stretch to tell him, “Hey, don’t be a dick about it. The guy would have died, and there’s no reason to press charges.” I would feel that him pressing charges was wrong, as wrong as murder or fraud or other crimes. If we feel that it’s wrong, we should structure society to prevent or punish such actions just like we do with fraud and murder. And it wouldn’t be based on whims or fuzzy feelings, it would be based on the same logical reasons that the forgiving cabin owner would have used when he didn’t ask for restitution.

    The example is a little convoluted, but maybe you can see what I mean.

  • Mrnaglfar

    There is no intrinsic ethereal value to human life…

    All rights are connected, and they all flow from the one ultimate right: Life.

    Do you see where the confusion may lie in there? If there’s no value to human life, other than what we assign to it, how can you rightly then claim that this right to life exists?

    But morality cannot be policed!

    I bet the police think otherwise.

    If a social safety net is a good idea, then leave it to the rational conscience of free men to choose this course of action.

    Rational men decided taxation was a good idea, and if they decide that a social safety net is also a good idea, then I don’t see the debate. If you don’t like the conclusion they come to, you can either work to change people’s opinions or find somewhere else to live. Sound harsh? Well if you feel that it’s not in your rational self-interests to live in a country that taxes, move somewhere that doesn’t.

    Ebon, the Objectivist Ethics recognises that human beings do not live in emergency situations. We are not faced with life or death struggles everyday – this is simply not the case.

    What a crock. There are plenty of people in the US who are facing scenerios like revolve around their own life and death and countless people throughout the world that are Starving or too poor to support themselves. Trying to deny that this is the case is ludicrous.

    The ‘best’ moral system in my mind is one that can deal with situations in the good and bad end of the spectrum. If your moral system only works when everyone is well supported but doesn’t support the idea of supporting people, then I see a huge flaw.

    …without full knowledge of the facts (required)

    And who has full knowledge of the facts? Do you understand how your existance effects not just those in your general area but people in the country and world as well? How about how many externalities you create, and what the real price of your lifestyle is?

    I certainly don’t have full knowledge of such things.

    without the freedom to act as your rational judgment would suggest, you cannot act morally.

    Non-sequitor.

    It is also invalid, because morality cannot exist where force is present.

    So you can’t rightly say that murder is wrong when there are police trying to prevent it and jail increasing the cost of such things. That would be coercion! And it seems you even feel mutal coercion is a bad thing.

    The standard for morality with Objectivism is the value of human life (each life; your own life). It is not pleasure (hedonism), nor suffering (utilitarianism, Christianity etc).

    I feel quality of life is more important than quantity of life. There has to be a balance between the two.

  • http://wildphilosophy.blogspot.com Mathew Wilder

    This discussion doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, so this is all I have to say on the matter. (Couldn’t trackback ping, so I’m just posting a regular comment. Oh well.)

  • lpetrich

    I marvel at the obsessive fear of being deprived of their property that evanescent and Ergo have shown here.

    evanescent: I really don’t see that my point has been disproven: the internet is incredible cheap and easy to use.
    The Internet is the Internet and NOT other communications media, let alone transportation media. The economics differ.

    Consider that road building essentially requires Eminent Domain. It would otherwise be hard to build useful roads, because property owners unwilling to sell would make roads very crooked. That’s the real world, the world that we all have to deal with, not the Randroid-libertarian fairyland that some people imagine.

    evanescent: In the UK, we are bombarded on TV by commercials to subscribe to different ISPs: BT, Orange, Sky, Tiscali etc etc. All offering bigger and better, and lower prices.
    They piggyback onto existing land-line and cable service, which are natural monopolies, just like roads. Do you really think that stacked roads in front of your house are feasible?

    evanescent: Coercive monopolies are impossible (already explained this),
    Wishful thinking. Imagine someone buying the roads surrounding your house. You then cannot leave it without trespassing on the road owner’s property. Thus, a coercive monopoly.

    In fact, property rights are based on coercion; anyone who screams “I have a right to defend my property” is claiming the legitimacy of coercion for that purpose.

    evanescent: and government power would be limited so that the violation of rights is impossible.
    The last I saw, Somalia’s government is very limited; you might want to consider moving there.

    Ergo: Alonso’ hypothetical scenario is an absurd critique of the Objectivist ethics; indeed it serves fantastically as a critique of socialism and enforced regulations.
    Enforced regulations, like property-protection regulations?

    Ergo: Do you really think that in a Statist or Socialist society, somehow, this marooned and starving individual will have a bureaucrat miraculously appear by his side with Beef Steak and Diet Coke!? For a marooned and starving individual stuck in the middle of a snowstorm, no great amount of government taxation will feed his immediate need!
    No, that the government will take that individual’s side in a dispute between him and that cabin’s owner. Given your ideological predilections, you’d prefer that the government take the cabin’s owner’s side, no matter what.

    Ergo: In a free society, genuine charity and benevolence is organically fostered and encouraged, …
    That would not be apparent when one sees all the spiteful, hostile rhetoric directed by libertarians and Randians at those that they consider losers.

    Ergo: Let’s ignore the argument from authority for a moment and just examine this:
    A capitalist or libertarian is more likely to be found in–guess where?–in the market place of course, as an entreprenuer, businessmen, corporate professional, or in some private industry! …

    But I don’t see such people donating hundreds of millions of dollars to the US Libertarian Party and similar large sums to similar parties elsewhere in the world. Instead, they often donate to more statist parties. Why might that be?

    (evanescent on “volunteer” armed forces…)
    Except that those are essentially mercenaries, not “true” volunteers.

    evanescent: A moral obligation is a contradiction in terms.
    Which would mean that there is no moral obligation to respect others’ property claims.

    No one is obliged to do something that do not feel is in their rational self-interest.
    Including respecting property claims that they do not think are legitimate?

    evanescent: The reason why many of these emergency situations are invalid as tests of morality is because they steal the concept of morality and drop it into a scenario where force is present.
    Except that many important moral situations are not dealings between Nietzschean/Randian heroes living in their lordly estates.

    evanescent: First of all, taxation is no different to breaking into somebody’s house. The difference is that a man with a government badge does it.
    I don’t think that taxation is theft; it is like charging rent, or like charging a fee for some service. Are you claiming that governments have no right to do so?

    (lots more assertion of property rights snipped for brevity)

  • Curiosis

    Ebonmuse,

    I wasn’t planning on making any more comments, but Mathew threw down the gauntlet regarding your scenario.

    I believe it would be my moral right to break a window and take shelter in the cabin (and yes, I’d absolutely say the same thing if it were my cabin). To Objectivists like evanescent, however, this would be a violation of the property rights of the cabin’s owner, which he’s said is never justified. I can only presume he believes it would be my moral duty to lie down in the snow and freeze to death, even if life and safety are just the thickness of a glass pane away.

    The simple answer is that you should break the window and survive the snowstorm. However, you have still damaged someone’s property and are guilty of a crime. You owe the cabin’s owner for this. I believe that in most instances, the owner would accept your apology and restitution for the damage.

    The important thing to note here is that you do not have a right to damage someone else’s property. You just did it anyway. Now come the consequences.

    This is by far my most serious objection to libertarian ethical systems: their claim that, if it comes to that, my right to property trumps your right to live. Even if imposing a tax on you would literally save my life, without significantly hindering you from pursuing any of your interests, they’d still resist it to their last breath. This is an utterly unreasonable and utterly heartless assertion. It fails both the test of reason and the test of conscience.

    Your argument seems to boil down to: I’ve got a really good reason for screwing you over, so it must be okay for me to do so.

    I’m saying that it is never ok to infringe on the rights of others. Once we create exceptions, they never end. Someone, somewhere always needs something. You no doubt ate today while millions of children starved in Africa.

    If needs can trump rights, then there are no rights, because there will always be needs.

  • Curiosis

    Ebonmuse,

    Since the poor aren’t under regular medical supervision, any new infectious disease that appears will be likely to flourish among them. By the time it spreads out of the have-nots and begins to infect the rest of society, it may have become far more virulent and dangerous, putting many more people at risk. On the other hand, if an epidemic is detected early, it is far easier to stop it. This is not a hypothetical scenario: we see it happening around the world right now with diseases like tuberculosis or avian flu, where virulent, drug-resistant strains emerge first among society’s underclass.

    I can see a need for the government to step in when it comes to disease outbreaks. Much like the need for the government in the event of a forrest fire. If that were the only aspect of your suggested “Universal health Care” we’d be fine. But you go a step further and demand that I help pay for things that only affect specific individuals. That I help pay for the cancer treatments for life-long smokers.

    You see someone in need and then reach into someone else’s pocket for the money to address it. Your compassion is noble; it’s your methods that suck.

  • Curiosis

    ex machina,

    I don’t understand this. How is it that you can’t see the distinction between the two? When a burglar robs you he or she may take everything according to their whims or ability, while taxation only takes a controlled portion. Indeed, taxation could have the same effect, but it is logically possible that it won’t and does not.

    If I told you that last year that I found 1000 dollars, but someone took half of it from me, you’d probably commiserate with me over the injustice of it. Why would your attitude change if I tell you that it was the US government that took that half? Why does that suddenly make it okay?

    One does not need an indefinite amount of property to maintain their life. The two are not inextricable.

    Then please tell us what the limit is. $50,000? $100,000? A million? How do you determine when someone has too much money?

  • Curiosis

    ex machina

    But therein lies the rub, if I can think of a good reason to deprive myself of property, why can’t I then apply those principles to others, and ask them to do the same.

    You can. Most of do ask others to be kind and understanding. What I’m suggesting is that you shouldn’t use the police power of the state to make others be nice.

    If it was right for me to do, why would I allow someone else not to do so without consequences.

    The important word here is “allow.” You can’t allow or disallow someone else to do what they want with their property. Even if your are certain that you have a better use for it.

    If my friend had owned the cabin, it wouldn’t be a stretch to tell him, “Hey, don’t be a dick about it. The guy would have died, and there’s no reason to press charges.”

    I would say the same thing. Peer pressure is a perfectly legal means to change someone’s behavior.

    I would feel that him pressing charges was wrong, as wrong as murder or fraud or other crimes.

    So expecting others not to damage or steal your property is the same as murder or fraud? Also, bear in mind that we have a justice system, judges and juries, to decide these cases. Most likey the case would be dismissed if the hiker agreed to pay for the damage.

    If we feel that it’s wrong, we should structure society to prevent or punish such actions just like we do with fraud and murder.

    I’ve heard this argument before. Christians use it all the time about homosexuality and blasphemy. Just because you feel something is wrong, that is not, by itself, a good enough reason to prohibit it. You must first show how the action is an initial use of force against someone’s person or property.

  • Curiosis

    Mrnaglfar,

    But morality cannot be policed!

    I bet the police think otherwise.

    The police only affect actions. You don’t make someone moral by arresting them. You dont make some charitable by forcing them to pay taxes.

    Rational men decided taxation was a good idea, and if they decide that a social safety net is also a good idea, then I don’t see the debate. If you don’t like the conclusion they come to, you can either work to change people’s opinions or find somewhere else to live. Sound harsh? Well if you feel that it’s not in your rational self-interests to live in a country that taxes, move somewhere that doesn’t.

    So rational men made decisions for you? I’m suggesting that we all make decisions for ourselves. Why is that such a terrible idea?

    Oh, boy. “Love it or leave it” again.

    What a crock. There are plenty of people in the US who are facing scenerios like revolve around their own life and death and countless people throughout the world that are Starving or too poor to support themselves. Trying to deny that this is the case is ludicrous.

    So then we should follow Ebon’s advice and apply it to the real world. All these starving and poor people now have the right to take from others whatever they need to survive. They can come in your house and raid your fridge.

    But of course you probably don’t like that solution. So instead you hide the solution by having the government do this for them.

    And who has full knowledge of the facts? Do you understand how your existance effects not just those in your general area but people in the country and world as well? How about how many externalities you create, and what the real price of your lifestyle is?

    You talk as if the very act of having money harms people. There is not a finite supply of wealth.

    I feel quality of life is more important than quantity of life. There has to be a balance between the two.

    And you should be free to persue that balance. The problem is that you want to force everyone to have the same balance. You have figured out what works for you and now want to share that with the world, even if you have to use police power to make it happen.

    Like should be a buffet, where we can all choose what we like and what works well for us. If you decide that PB&Js are the best, that won’t work for me. I don’t like them. It would kill my son. He’s allergic.

    How about you eat what you like, I’ll eat what I like, and neither of us will force the other?

  • Curiosis

    Imagine someone buying the roads surrounding your house. You then cannot leave it without trespassing on the road owner’s property. Thus, a coercive monopoly.

    One word: easement.

    In fact, property rights are based on coercion; anyone who screams “I have a right to defend my property” is claiming the legitimacy of coercion for that purpose.

    By this logic self-defense is murder.

    That would not be apparent when one sees all the spiteful, hostile rhetoric directed by libertarians and Randians at those that they consider losers.

    You’re right. I have no respect for someone who is capable of being self-sufficient but simply chooses not to. Find me an example of “spiteful, hostile rhetoric” by libertarians and Randians about people who have simply had a bad break.

    But I don’t see such people donating hundreds of millions of dollars to the US Libertarian Party and similar large sums to similar parties elsewhere in the world. Instead, they often donate to more statist parties. Why might that be?

    Because in the US, where the government has their fingers in everyone’s pie, if you want to get ahead, you have to have leverage with those in power. In an free society, there would be no need for greasing the government because the government would be impotent to special interests.

  • MisterDomino

    First of all, taxation is no different to breaking into somebody’s house. The difference is that a man with a government badge does it.

    I smile every time I hear a Libertarian make a statement that’s tantamount to the “government is a thief” idea, such as this one. It demonstrates that they understand little – if anything – about representative government and civil law.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org/ Ebonmuse

    On the contrary Ebon, the Objectivist Ethics recognises that human beings do not live in emergency situations. We are not faced with life or death struggles everyday – this is simply not the case.

    Friend, I say this with all sincerity: What planet are you living on?

    Whichever one it is, it doesn’t seem to be Earth. On Earth, an average of 30,000 children die each day from malnutrition and treatable disease. Nearly 800 million more people are chronically hungry. And nearly three billion people live in extreme poverty, earning the equivalent of two dollars a day or less.

    By your own definition, Objectivism does not apply to “lifeboat scenarios”, and thus is utterly incapable of providing any guidance or advice when it comes to the daily lives of something like half the people on this planet. What you need to recognize is that the living conditions which we citizens of the First World enjoy are not the norm; they are the exception. For nearly all people throughout history, and for the most part still today, human life is nasty, brutish and short, and millions of people’s everyday decisions absolutely are driven by necessity and desperation. By your argument, Objectivism is useless in such situations. Thus I conclude that we need to turn to a different ethical system when we’re faced with these dilemmas, one that actually takes reality into account and doesn’t blithely dismiss the suffering of one-half of humanity as an irrelevant special case.

    I also must again point out that I laid out a libertarian, self-interest-based argument for universal health care in my previous comment. I specifically asked anyone who takes issue with my position to respond to that argument and show where the fallacy is. Ergo and Evanescent have both declined to do so. (Curiosis, on the other hand, seems to have conceded the point.)

  • http://wildphilosophy.blogspot.com Mathew Wilder

    I wonder if there is really an intellectual way to resolve the differences between Objectivists/Libertarians and humanitarians. It seems that we have different basic moral intuitions. If we have different axioms, we are bound to reach different conclusions, and there seems no way to argue someone into having a different moral intuition. You either “see” things one way, or you don’t. It seems that emotional persuasion or brute force are what’s left to settle axiomatic differences.

  • http://deconbible.blogspot.com bbk

    three billion people live in extreme poverty, earning the equivalent of two dollars a day or less

    To be fair, the definition of extreme poverty is $1 a day (in purchase power parity dollars). The portion of the world’s population in that group has actually been cut in half in the last couple years. $2 PPP a day is still very, very bad poverty, but not the accepted definition of extreme. The most crucial factor to extreme poverty are diseases such as AIDS and malaria… not lack of food. The hurdles facing $2 a day poverty levels tend to be different, which is why economists separate the groups.

    The link you gave us provides some potential misleading statistics, such as the declining growth rates of 3rd world country economies. It has to be understood that they’re counting the Asian Miracle economies and similar 3rd world countries who experienced extremely fast growth until they reached closer to 1st world standards and leveled off. What’s missing from the conclusion that “growth is slowing” is the fact that the other 3rd world countries didn’t grow at all during the same decades. There are at least a dozen economic to what is required to actually launch those 3rd world countries into sustained growth and just as many theories about why none of those theories have worked. And those theories are nothing new – some of them have been turned into policies by both local governments and international banks that have contributed to the lack of growth, in addition to wars, corruption, etc. And it’s not just Western capitalist policies that have lead to blame – eastern Socialist countries have had just as big a share of bad policies. I.e. look at Kenya, which was ultimately a failed socialist developmental experiment.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org/ Ebonmuse

    Although he seems to have granted my point about universal healthcare as a self-interest measure to prevent the spread of epidemics, Curiosis still has objections. Let me further address them.

    I can see a need for the government to step in when it comes to disease outbreaks. Much like the need for the government in the event of a forrest fire. If that were the only aspect of your suggested “Universal health Care” we’d be fine. But you go a step further and demand that I help pay for things that only affect specific individuals.

    Again, there is a straightforward argument from self-interest that can be applied here. Even if you secure health insurance for yourself, you obviously have an interest in paying as little as possible. By far the most effective way to do that is to pool as many people as possible – preferably, all of society – into that same health insurance plan. That distributes the risk among as many paying customers as possible, and therefore lowers your premiums. Do you agree that, from a libertarian standpoint, this is desirable?

  • Mark

    I doubt he’ll agree that it’s desirable from the libertarian POV, but only if the contributions are not voluntary–i.e., if they are required by law. Libertarianism doesn’t purport to be a consequentialist system of thought, after all.

  • http://ergosum.wordpress.com Ergo

    For a properly intelligent and scholarly review of Michael Shermer’s book, read this post: http://sandefur.typepad.com/freespace/2008/03/silliness-and-s.html

    It is written by Timothy Sandefur, Attorney and author of “Cornerstone of Liberty: Property Rights in 21st Century America” (Cato Institute, 2006). He has published more than 25 scholarly articles, which have appeared in such publications as the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy and the Michigan State Law Review. In Februrary, 2006, he was featured on the cover of California Lawyer magazine.

    He is also a contributing editor of Liberty magazine, and has written for many other publications as well, including The Claremont Review of Books, The Independent Review, The Humanist, The Washington Times, and The Orange County Register. His writing has won a number of awards, including the George Washington Honor Medal (The Freedoms Foundation), the Felix Morley Journalism Competition (Institute for Humane Studies), the Madison-Maibach Award (Center for the Study of the Presidency), a Ronald Reagan Medal (Claremont Institute) and first place in the Americans United for Separation of Church And State essay competition. He was a 2002 Lincoln Fellow at the Claremont Institute, and holds Chapman’s prestigious Dean’s Professionalism Award.