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Post 80

Sunday, May 9, 2004 - 1:59pmSanction this postReply
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What follows are the sorts of questions that never seem to be answered directly or honestly by militaristic Objectivists.  I don't expect that anything will change now, but if a war enthusiast here should surprise me, I'd be delighted.
 
 
What is the purpose of government?  Is there any difference, in principle, between sanctioning a single activity that falls outside the scope of that purpose and sanctioning a million noble-sounding but illegitimate activities?
 
Under what criteria are politicians justified in forcing a country into war?  Based on those criteria, what wars specifically would the government be justified in forcing taxpayers to fund right now? 
 
What should politicians do to citizens who refuse to pay taxes that go toward the Iraq war/occupation?  If the answer is "nothing," then what should politicians do with the money they've already extorted from the unwilling?  Give it back or spend it on Iraq?  One or the other, please.
 
If you could return all the money spent by governments on Iraq re-making to the people who earned it, would you do it? If you could bring back the thousands killed in fighting, undo the war-related torture and other atrocities, and un-mobilize al Qaeda and disempower radical Islamic clerics in the country by completely undoing all of Bush's Iraq policies, would you do it? -- even if it meant that an aging dictator might be in power for a few more years (or until such time as some sort of coup from within could be plotted and carried out)? Yes or no please.
 
If no, then at what point would you conclude that the war wasn't worth it -- even assuming that its ends were achieved -- in terms of money spent and lives sacrificed? $1 trillion? Half the US GDP? 20,000 people? 1 million people? But what if the Islamic fundamentalists take over the country? Is there any reason to prefer that sort of regime to Saddam's? At any price?
 
-Logan
www.individualistvoice.com
 




Post 81

Sunday, May 9, 2004 - 2:04pmSanction this postReply
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Chris: My comments above show that virtually nothing the British did was able to alter the tribalist cultures on which they attempted to graft their institutions.  There are noble exceptions, but these exceptions are almost uniformly among British cultures that were, in essence, fully transplanted to the host countries:  the American colonies, the Canadians, the New Zealanders, etc.

There seems to be a contradiction here. And a big exception too, Hong Kong for example....? Or are you going to collectively blame the British for making Hong Kong too attractive to mainland China? Or are you going to claim that Britain is collectively responsible for the pro-free market influence Hong Kong has had on mainland Communist China, in favour of the pro-free market Chinese businessmen that actually live there?

Chris: Nevertheless, we are downright stupid if we don't understand that colonization has had deleterious consequences for the West.  World War I was, in essence, a collision among colonial powers, and the death throes of that colonial system reverberated throughout the rest of the 20th century.  The British were at their best when they simply united their colonies under a growing free market and the rule of law; they were at their worst as the statist elements of their system came to predominate.  Today, those statist elements pervade virtually every political system on the planet.

So you are saying that it is Britain’s fault that America has become statist? That Americans are open to what ever whims from the UK that come their way, because basically they can't think for themselves?

 

On Iraq: Imagine this example. The next US president with a majority in both houses decides to cut all taxes in the USA by 90%. There are some objectivists that applaud the move, there are others however (like you) that condemn it. Why condemn it? Because you say, the president still believes in taxation and therefore the principle of taxation has not been negated, and therefore the president is wrong.

Why not invade Iraq? Because, you say the USA is not a truly free country and (although it is nice if SH is removed and Iraqi people may become liberated) the foreign policy principle behind it is still wrong. And it seems you go even as far as to insinuate that if the people of Iraq do not ultimately live in a free country and take responsibility for their own lives, then it is OUR (the free western countries) collective fault, but of course not theirs!




Post 82

Sunday, May 9, 2004 - 4:06pmSanction this postReply
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Logan:

What follows are the sorts of questions that never seem to be answered directly or honestly by militaristic Objectivists.  I don't expect that anything will change now, but if a war enthusiast here should surprise me, I'd be delighted.
 
 
What is the purpose of government?  Is there any difference, in principle, between sanctioning a single activity that falls outside the scope of that purpose and sanctioning a million noble-sounding but illegitimate activities?
The purpose of government is to protect the individual rights of the citizens against the initiation of force. I would not sanction any actions outside that purpose.
 

Under what criteria are politicians justified in forcing a country into war?  Based on those criteria, what wars specifically would the government be justified in forcing taxpayers to fund right now?
 
No one should ever be forced into war. Nothing justifies taxation. Having said that, however, it does not follow that the nation must remain totally defenseless until we achieve a complete elimination of taxation and move toward a government that is voluntarily funded . The government should still protect us from the initiation of force -- including waging pre-emptive war as necessary -- even if the funding for said war is being coercively collected. The fact that my rights are being violated through taxation does not mean that I have to surrender all rights; it does not mean that I am no longer entitled to protection by the military. 
 

What should politicians do to citizens who refuse to pay taxes that go toward the Iraq war/occupation?  If the answer is "nothing," then what should politicians do with the money they've already extorted from the unwilling?  Give it back or spend it on Iraq?  One or the other, please.
 See the answer above.

 
If you could return all the money spent by governments on Iraq re-making to the people who earned it, would you do it? If you could bring back the thousands killed in fighting, undo the war-related torture and other atrocities, and un-mobilize al Qaeda and disempower radical Islamic clerics in the country by completely undoing all of Bush's Iraq policies, would you do it? -- even if it meant that an aging dictator might be in power for a few more years (or until such time as some sort of coup from within could be plotted and carried out)? Yes or no please. 
This set of questions is a package deal that cannot be answered yes or no any more than you can answer the following question yes or no: Logan, have you stopped being immoral? Yes or no please.
The premise that you are trying to sneak in is that the U.S. is responsible for "mobilizing al Qaeda" and "empowering radical Islamic clerics". I reject both of those premises. The burden of proof rests with the person making the positive assertion -- you, in this case. If you wish to provide support for your assertions, I will listen. 
 

If no, then at what point would you conclude that the war wasn't worth it -- even assuming that its ends were achieved -- in terms of money spent and lives sacrificed? $1 trillion? Half the US GDP? 20,000 people? 1 million people? But what if the Islamic fundamentalists take over the country? Is there any reason to prefer that sort of regime to Saddam's? At any price?
There is a reason to prefer a regime that does not have the means of making nuclear weapons to one that does. There is no reason whatsoever to engage in altruistic nation-building. We should destroy the regime and as much of its weapons program infrastructure as possible and tell those that remain that if they erect another threatening regime, we will come back and destroy it again.




Post 83

Sunday, May 9, 2004 - 7:24pmSanction this postReply
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Michael,

I do not want to interrupt your interesting debate with Logan, but on the side, I have a question.

You said, The purpose of government is to protect the individual rights of the citizens against the initiation of force. I would not sanction any actions outside that purpose.
 
Since the time I first read Rand, (and every time since in the last forty years) I have been aware of an obvious flaw in this concept. I have even mentioned it on this thread, but no one seems to get it.

Your statement is exactly what Ayn Rand said the purpose of government is, but then she almost immediately contradicts that, adding that government also is required to guarantee contracts, patent rights, and to protect against fraud, none of which involve the initiation force.

Sticking to her original definition, the obvious problem is, it is impossible. There is no way a government can prevent the initiation of force, and therefore no way for a government to protect individuals from it.

You can search the entire corpus of Objectivist writing and you will not find one word about how a government protects individuals from the initiation of force. You only find retaliation, which, as I pointed out earlier, means the initiation of force has already occurred and was not prevented.

Of course, that is, as far as I'm concerned, an additional mistake in Objectivism. Even if Objectivism explicitly admits it cannot actually protect citizens from the initiation of force, which it cannot, retaliation is certainly the wrong response to force that is already initiated. The correct response ought to be corrective, not vindictive. (Justice is served by restitution, not retribution. If someone steals your property, how does punishing the thief correct your loss suffered at the hands of the thief?)

(Self-defense is a separate issue. Self-defence is not retaliation.)

It is obvious to me you have a good handle on Objectivist principles and I would be interested to know if this question has ever occurred to you, and whether it has or not, how you would address it?

Regi




Post 84

Sunday, May 9, 2004 - 7:48pmSanction this postReply
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Hey Regi,

I hate to interrupt your interesting interruption--he he--but I'm curious as to whether you believe deterrence is a correct and verifiable method of protecting citizens from force.  A common practice among some states is to make the costs of getting caught so grossly out of proportion with the type of crime committed that criminals are forced to become cost-benefit analysts, and many lack the marbles to brave the threat of retaliation. 
And if not for the steely-eyed glare of our men in uniform across numerous DMZ's and no fly zones, many a rambunctious tyrant may have seen little risk in testing our resolve.  In addition, I think before Sept.11th 2001 we had yet to transfer this threat of overwhelming, brutal and catastrophic warfare over to the arena of combating terrorism--perhaps why al Qaeda got so brave in the last decade.  Deterrence seems to work in many cases, though of course not all.  A government can protect its citizens from the initiation of force in such a way.

Thanx

J




Post 85

Monday, May 10, 2004 - 4:36amSanction this postReply
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Jeremy,

I hate to interrupt your interesting interruption--he he...

Don't worry about it. I'm used to being interrupted. I'm married.

I'm curious as to whether you believe deterrence is a correct and verifiable method of protecting citizens from force. 
 
Sure. That is the unstated assumption behind the Objectivist view of criminal justice. And it does work in a limited way. The problem is, there will always be those who believe they they will not be caught, (and often are not), or weigh the risk and decide if they "do the crime" and get caught, they are willing to "do the time, " or are pathologically criminal (which no threat will stop), or are just too stupid to make the connection between acts and their consequences.

As a method, retribution as a deterrent is philosophically problematic to me. In Objectivism it introduces psychology as political principle. The threat of retaliation my be looked at in two ways: to the rational and objective, it probably appears as a concretization of a fact of reality--actions have consequences and wrong actions have bad consequences--this much is good and appropriate. But it is not the rational and objective people that deterrence is aimed at. Retaliation is meant to deter the irrational criminal by intimidating them, to "make people good," by, "making them afraid to be bad."  
 
A common practice among some states is to make the costs of getting caught so grossly out of proportion with the type of crime committed that criminals are forced to become cost-benefit analysts, and many lack the marbles to brave the threat of retaliation.
 
Yes, exactly, it is a threat and will only work against those kinds of people who will be intimidated by it. Since I think there is something wrong with the principle in the first place, even if it did work (and it does sometimes) there is still something wrong with the principle. Even in those states that have draconian penalties for crimes, crime is not prevented. People used to point to Japan as a model of low crime rates and the effectiveness of severe penalties for crime. But low crime rates are not no crime rates, but it turns out crime rates in Japan are generally no less than anywhere else, and higher in some cases.

Perhaps, to me, the thing most wrong with retaliation as a method of protecting individuals from the initiation of force is the concept of retaliation itself. Retaliation is not prevention, its retribution or revenge. If others choose that root, it is fine with me; but, personally, if someone harms me or my property, hurting them is not going to help me at all. I want whatever harm was done corrected or whatever loss I incurred restored. The current criminal justice system based on retaliation not only "punishes" the criminal, if the police manage to catch him, it punishes the victim of the crime as well, because they are required to foot the bill for that punishment.

Deterrence seems to work in many cases, though of course not all.  A government can protect its citizens from the initiation of force in such a way.

Yes, but I'm not sure, just because it works it is right, and it certainly does not work very well. The more of that system we have, the more crime we have, at least in practice. (Consult any newspaper.)

I think there is a way individuals can be protected against the initiation of force but I do not think government is that way. Maybe there is a way government can do it, but I do not think it has yet been identified.

But, I am willing to listen to any arguments or suggestions to the contrary. Governments are inevitable, good or bad; that is a reality. My question about retaliation seems obvious (and important) to me, but apparently to few, if any others. There certainly could be something I'm missing here.

Thanks for the interruption.

Regi 
 





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Post 86

Monday, May 10, 2004 - 4:47amSanction this postReply
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Marcus, I have no clue who you are reading or where you are getting any of the implications that you draw in your most recent response.  So I'll make an attempt to clarify here.

The example of Hong Kong makes one of my points:  Namely, that the British were most successful when they either (a) transplanted British culture to the countries they colonized (through British settlement), OR (see above) (b) when the societies they colonized were dominated by a uniformity of culture and a flourishing middle class (thereby making the adoption of Western institutions that much easier).

Iraq lacks Western culture and a flourishing middle class and it is fractured by ethnic, cultural and tribal conflict. The British were never successful in Iraq (then, Mesopotmia), and, for similar reasons, the US will probably meet the same fate.  In fact, the political culture in current-day Iraq has been so devastated by years of dictatorship that the masses are infused with an "entitlement" mentality, which is being nourished now by the dominant welfare state politics of the United States.

Nobody is blaming the British for the mess of the modern world.  I've simply rooted some of the current problems in an historical context, which happens to include a number of factors: British colonialism in Mesopotamia, US intervention in the Middle East, internecine strife and statist ideology within Iraq, and the effects of various Islamic strains on the political and social climate.

I have no clue how you or anyone can derive from my posts the implication that I'm blaming Britain for America's march toward statism.  All I did was reiterate Rand's claim that the British empire was at its best when it was dominated by a pro-free market ideology, so as to extend markets and the rule of law to its territories (see "The Roots of War").  But by the beginning of the 20th century, that free market ideology had been supplanted by a statist one, not only in Britain, but across the civilized world. World War I represented the statist wreckage of the liberal order.  The adoption of statist politics occurred within each country and globally, such that each country's domestic and foreign policies reciprocally reinforced the same trend.  Americans did this to themselves on their own; they didn't need much help from the British (though America's entrance into the war did intensify the statist trend exponentially).  But since the world is an interconnected place, the failures of statism in America were, indeed, exported to the rest of the world (among these failures was the Great Depression, a result of Federal Reserve manipulation, exported to Europe, and having deleterious consequences for all the post-war economies). 

This other example you come up with---that the next US president decides to cut taxes by 90%---is a wonderful dream.  But it's not going to happen precisely because of the domestic and foreign policies that this country has institutionalized, and the welfare state ideology that dominates the political culture.  Even though politics can influence culture, institutions do not change by simple writ; there has to be a predominating cultural change that drives and sustains the political one.  This is what I've learned from Ayn Rand.  Indeed, Rand argued that too many libertarians tried to play at politics without recognizing the necessity for a cultural foundation for freedom.  Some Objectivists who accept Rand's argument with regard to the United States and the need to change American culture, suddenly go loopy when I try to apply that same argument to the situation in Iraq, where the culture is that much more hostile to individual responsibility, procedural democracy, and free institutions.

Hypothetically, of course, I would not reject a 90% cut in taxes.  And such a society would be freer than the current one.  But none of my arguments have depended on the degree of US freedom as the criterion for invasion; that's an argument that pro-war Objectivists have used.  I'm uninterested in that argument as a criterion for invasion (and for the most part, what the US is exporting has nothing to do with free-market capitalism, and everything to do with what Rand called "the New Fascism").

The relative freedom and slavery of societies offers no rational criterion by which to drive current US foreign policy.  Even if one believes that the US has such a right because it is a free society, or a relatively free society, that is not a sufficient condition for justifying any invasion.  Because once you adopt that criterion, you cannot justify one invasion or another.  You can't justify an invasion of Iraq, but not an invasion of Iran, or the Sudan, or Rwanda, or Bosnia.  Using such a criterion simply gives license to the US to become the humanitarian "liberator" of the rest of the world, with all the consequent effects that such a role would have on citizens' lives, liberties, and properties.

On this point, I'm reminded of something Rand said, referencing the superb work of historian Arthur Ekrich, in her essay, "The Intellectual Bankruptcy of Our Age":

If you have accepted the Marxist doctrine that capitalism leads to wars, read Professor Ekirch's account of how Woodrow Wilson, the "liberal" reformer, pushed the United States into World War I. "He seemed to feel that the United States had a mission to spread its institutions—which he conceived as liberal and democratic—to the more benighted areas of the world." It was not the "selfish capitalists," or the "tycoons of big business,'' or the "greedy munitions-makers" who helped Wilson to whip up a reluctant, peace-loving nation into the hysteria of a military crusade—it was the altruistic "liberals" of the magazine The New Republic edited ... Herbert Croly. What sort of arguments did they use? Here is a sample from Croly: "The American nation needs the tonic of a serious moral adventure."

If you still wonder about the singular recklessness with which alleged humanitarians treat such issues as force, violence, expropriation, enslavement, bloodshed—perhaps the following passage from Professor Ekirch's book will give you some clue to their motives: "Stuart Chase rushed into print late in 1932 with a popular work on economics entitled A New Deal. 'Why,' Chase asked with real envy at the close of the book, 'should Russia have all the fun of remaking a world ?'"


Is it any coincidence that the neoconservative progeny of Woodrow Wilson and Leon Trotsky should be advocating the same "humanitarian" wars "to make the world safe for democracy"?  Leave those arguments to the neocons; they are most definitely not an implication of Rand's radical legacy.

US military action can only be justified by reference to the nature and purpose of government, which is:  the protection of the individual rights of US citizens against threat or imminent threat.  Period.  That's why I have had no problem with the invasion of Afghanistan (though I do have a problem with what the US is currently doing in Afghanistan):  because it was proved that the Taliban had sponsored Al Qaeda, and that Al Qaeda had made a home in that host country, and that Bin Laden and his crew were actually living in that country.  It didn't matter to me whether the US was free or partially free because that was not the necessary and/or sufficient criterion that I used to define or defend US action in Afghanistan.

If it was proved that Iraq was sponsoring Al Qaeda, I would have been on your side of this debate, and I would have led the calvary into Baghdad:  Because Al Qaeda attacked the United States and it and its sponsors must be brought to justice. 

Nowhere in my posts have I argued anything about collective guilt.  I don't believe in collective guilt.  Whatever has happened in the Middle East that might be traceable to US intervention is the fault of US politicians, of both parties, who adopted pragmatic policies with no principle.  It is not traceable to all Americans. But, unfortunately, it is the individual American citizen who must now pay the price for those short-sighted policies:  with money and blood.
(Edited by sciabarra on 5/10, 4:57am)




Post 87

Monday, May 10, 2004 - 7:38amSanction this postReply
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Regi-

I understand your point. The criminal justice system is inherently reactive, it can do little before the fact.

However, in addition to the (admittedly limited) protection created through deterrence, there is the added protection of taking criminals out of circulation. This is an aspect of the system that could be greatly improved. It is outrageous that criminal sentences are shortened and prisoners released early because of a lack of jail space. And many plea bargains are made because prosecutors are understaffed and underfunded.

The "Three Strikes Law" is a good example of how the system can be improved. Once an individual has been convicted of felonies three times, there can be little doubt about his character. Put him away for good. Since most crime is repeat crime, there is a large potential for further reducing crime rates, if the government provided the necessary resources instead of spending trillions on all sorts of other functions.

However, I agree that the crime rate will never be zero, and in that sense government can never do its job perfectly. But what an improvement it would be if we could get it to stick to only that function!

Restitution is the function of the civil justice system. You can bring suit against a criminal and attempt to recover damages. This is occasionally done with great success. The families of the victims in the Simpson murders won a substantial monetary award in a wrongful death lawsuit. The problem, of course, is that most criminals have little to take away.  If they steal your money it is often gone by the time they are captured. I don't know if it presently does, but the civil justice system should allow one to obtain a lien on any of the criminal's future earnings based on the amount of damages suffered.

Why have two systems? There are pros and cons to this. The advantage of two systems is that they can operate under different rules, and they do. In the criminal system -- where far more serious sanctions are handed down -- the standard of proof is more stringent: guilt must be established beyond all reasonable doubt. In the civil system, the standard of proof is lower -- responsibility for damages must only be established by a preponderance of the evidence at hand.

This seems like a reasonable set-up to me, with one exception. One could make a good argument that the burden of initiating a civil suit -- after a criminal conviction -- should be with the government; the injured party should only have to request it and then cooperate in providing evidence of damages, as opposed to forcing the injured party (the victim of the crime) to incur all the expenses of a lawyer and investigators on the front end.

Regarding contracts, patent rights, and protection against fraud,  I believe that all of these do involve the initiation force.

What is force, in this context?  Force is the application of means to get what the mind of another will not voluntarily give. The means may be a gun to the head to force you to surrender your wallet to a thief, an action your mind would not agree to voluntarily. In a contract violation, the means is solicit a value from another party by promising a value in exchange, but then refuse to provide the value promised, thereby acquiring a value that would not have otherwise been given.  In a fraud, the means is to fake a reality under one's control -- to claim,  for example, that a car is new when it has actually had its odometer rolled back -- so as to obtain a price that would not otherwise be volunteered.  In a patent infringement, the means is to steal another's invention by copying it, thereby destroying its novelty and obtaining a device that otherwise would not be offered.

Those are my initial thoughts.

I agree with the criticism that government can provide only limited protection; the rest of what it can provide is recourse and restitution -- and it could do a heck of a lot better at both.





Post 88

Monday, May 10, 2004 - 9:52amSanction this postReply
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Chris: Nowhere in my posts have I argued anything about collective guilt. I don't believe in collective guilt.

 

If you sincerely mean that, then I apologise.

 

The severity of my response merely derived from my interpretation of posts (not just yours) of people who should know better who started to throw around ideas about the Western World, past and present, being responsible for the current state of freedom and prosperity in the Middle East and former colonies. Although you may have not stated it directly, once someone such as yourself starts making such generalisations about the Western World, I do believe they are starting down the old "collective guilt" road that Greenies and anti-Globalists so love to tread.

It is bad enough being bombarded by this “guilt mentality” on a daily basis in the media, but whenever I think that anyone here would countenance such ideas (even indirectly) - it sends me ballistic.




Post 89

Monday, May 10, 2004 - 12:26pmSanction this postReply
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Sciabarra: “If it was proved that Iraq was sponsoring Al Qaeda, I would have been on your side of this debate, and I would have led the calvary into Baghdad: Because Al Qaeda attacked the United States and it and its sponsors must be brought to justice.”

But without the nation-building, I trust. Right?




Post 90

Monday, May 10, 2004 - 5:31pmSanction this postReply
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Mike,

Sorry it's taken awhile to respond to your questions, but I was exhausted from typing at the time.  Here is your question, again, in its entirety. 

================================

You are saying it is a war to the death with Islam per se. It is a thought that has occurred to me on more than one occasion. Let me ask two questions:

1) Since evil is impotent, what would the Islamic world threaten us with if we gave it nothing? 

Suppose we destroyed what they presently "have", in terms of the regimes,  the infrastructure that could be used to support a nuclear weapons program. and their import-export infrastructure -- rail sidings, shipping facilities, oil pipelines, etc., so that they can export nothing  and therefore receive nothing. Will the "head that grows back" really be a threat to us?

2) Does a person surrender his right to life merely by believing in an evil philosophy, even one that worships death?

================================

Here is my reponse to question one:

I think the Atlas Shrugged scenario is totally apropos here, with the exception that we have to do something to protect those within those cultures who follow our American philosophy...

We shut them out completely, and withdraw all of our "infidel" goodies that they damn us for so much.  If they want to behave like ungrateful children, we should treat them as such.

After this, if they take and/or plan action against us or our ideological allies which is hostile, then we rain a monsoon of annihilative fury upon them that would make Allah's wrath itself seem like a weekend retreat to Napa Valley, while listening to the soothing music of Enya, and receiving a full body nude massage from Galadriel, the heavenly elf queen from the Lord of the Rings series.  (I rather like that type of girl; you know, the Gwyneth Paltrow type).

But all the while, we have to be finding ways of advertising and assisting in protective amnesty (if that's the right concept) for those within these cultures who support our philosophy.

And also, all the while, we make sure that we continue to clearly and exhaustively and explicitly communicate The Logic of America, as most eloquently outlined by such writers as John Locke, Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, Patrick Henry, and the ultimate American herself, Ayn Rand.

We then maintain this policy without foolish "mercy", until these nations can demonstrate a full understanding and an ability to communicate clearly American, and particularly Objectivist principles, and beginning to employ them. 

Also, we relentlessly support all movements within these nations that come to endorse and live by our philosophy.

That's the best I can think of.  That's my answer.  Whether you hate it or love it or anything in between, I will not attempt to control, and you are fully entitled to that feeling.

================================

Now, here is my response to question two:

I think that human beings, being "logic engines", have a need to explore and weigh various philosophies in order to grow... at times, I think that even the endorsement of evil philosophies are important during this philosophical evolution process.  However, I think that it is imperative that they be closely monitored.  They should be restricted in their access to implements by which they could cause undeserving harm to undeserving parties, yet they should also at all times be engaged in explicit and logical dialogue by which the compelling logical aspects of their evil philosophies seem convincing, in order to uncover logic and premise flaws.

An expert on the psychological circuitry of evil is Roy Baumeister, Ph.D., who has written a book called Evil: Inside Human Violence and Cruelty.  But another expert on the maximally superior method of realigning the sinister mind is Stanton Samenow, Ph.D., who has written a hugely important book on criminal therapy called Inside The Criminal Mind.  These books are not just recreational reading, but essential reading for all purposeful, caring people.

================================

Those are my responses; comments?
O.

(Edited by Orion Reasoner on 5/10, 5:37pm)




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Post 91

Tuesday, May 11, 2004 - 6:46amSanction this postReply
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In response to my claim that I did not believe in the notion of "collective guilt," Marcus apologizes for the "severity of [his] response":  "If you sincerely mean that, then I apologize."

Of course I sincerely mean that!  And your apology is accepted. I fully understand why all these discussions lead to a little passion, which gets the juices flowing.  I have said it before, and I'll say it again:  It is entirely possible for people of good will and even for people who share the same fundamental values to have reasonable differences on the applications of principle.

In response to my statement that I would have led the cavalry into Baghdad if a link to Al Qaeda had been established, Rick Zuma asks: "But without the nation-building, I trust. Right?"

Right.  That doesn't mean that I would have argued for leaving a total "power vacuum" in a country prone to tribalism, but I think this penchant for going into a country and trying to reshape it from top to bottom is pure folly.

When the Israelis discovered that the Iraqis were building a nuclear power plant, they simply destroyed it. They didn't send scientists to Iraq to help them build alternative sources of energy, or legislators to Baghdad to help them build alternative political institutions.

If a person commits a crime in this country, the law should be enforced, aiming for restitution for the victim primarily, and punishment for the crime, secondarily (as long as the "crime" is objectively defined as a species of the initiation of force---not a so-called "victimless crime," such as drug use, gambling, prostitution or consensual sexual relationships of any sort). 

I'd apply that same criterion to international criminals; the primary goals should be to get restitution for the victims and to punish the guilty.  The moment you try to "reform" the guilty, whether these are domestic criminals or foreign governments, you get into a very murky area.

I have some additional musings on this subject at Liberty and Power Group Blog.




Post 92

Tuesday, May 11, 2004 - 7:29amSanction this postReply
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On a not altogether serious note: Chris often claims to be on the side of Ayn Rand in the Iraq debate. Linz often refers to Chris as Dr. Diabolical. I quote from an article by Ayn Rand in 1973 called "Epitaph for a Culture".

 

"Apparently, Dr. Dubos's followers and I perceived the same implications in the same event. The difference - the death-or-life difference - lies in our respective estimates of these implications."

 

Uncanny :-)

 

On a serious note:

 

Ayn Rand also wrote an article about the Cuban missile crisis (can' t remember the title). She criticised Kennedy for compromising with the Soviets and (if my memory serves me correctly) would have been in favour of a military strikes against Cuba.

 

This has some parallels to the Iraq war.

 

1) Like Saddam, Khrushchev denied that there were any Soviet missiles (WMD) in Cuba, in contradiction to US intelligence reports.

 

2) Like Iraq, the Soviets had never before attacked American soil previously through terrorism or otherwise.

 

3) Like Iraq, many (esp. Left-wingers) claimed that the USSR and Cuba were in fact telling the truth and were better left alone.

 

BTW: I may not be able to post on SOLOHQ for the next few days, as I will be attending a scientific conference in France.

 




Post 93

Tuesday, May 11, 2004 - 8:39amSanction this postReply
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Well, Chris, we are both against nation-building and we understand the important but yet intransigent nature of culture. Where did we ever disagree? It seems we only disagree on the trigger point for going to war with Iraq. You’d go to war if Saddam was proven to be part of the 9/11 plot and I’d go to war to prevent him from being a possible component of an even greater attack - given that he appeared to be a gathering threat.

You address the difference in: hnn . I can’t buy the idea of the state as an individual writ large. The criteria for using coercion against an individual within a civilized society involves proof beyond the benefit of a doubt, retribution for the act but not past acts or character, and a process that aims at the avoidance of state commissions of coercion at the cost of the full conviction of all criminals.

I would think that war is more an ethics of emergency issue. War is not a normal activity to living one’s life. It’s not an everyday occurrence of the guy down the street having a nuke. I think some degree of a dictator’s bloody history, his past acts, his attempts to gain the means of future evil acts, and his general unreformed nature are part of the considerations to military action - not the only part but part of the consideration. Yes, weighing the costs – at all times – weighing the costs.

I know you are developing your thoughts on this matter (as am I). I thought I’d just encourage you. OK, provoke you!

Rick



Post 94

Tuesday, May 11, 2004 - 3:00pmSanction this postReply
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Reginald Firehammer writes (way back at the beginning of this thread):

"Muslims have never created anything of value. Eveything Muslims have of value was stolen, including so-called contributions to science and algebra, (which all came from India, [and Persia], mostly from Hindu scholars, before the Muslims slaughtered them."

I'm sorry, but this is just wildly, wildly false.  The Islamic world in the Middle Ages was at the forefront not just of preserving (though they did plenty of that, thank goodness) but of developing the sciences, mathematics, medicine, geography, and philosophy, at a time when these fields were hopelessly stagnant in the west.  The west's scientific and cultural debt to medieval Islam is simply enormous; we largely owe them Aquinas, the Renaissance, and the scientific revolution. 

To focus just on philosophy, the field I know best:  can one really say with a straight face that al-Kindi, Ibn Sina, Ibn Rushd, and Ibn Khaldun contributed nothing of value?

Islam was the center of world civilisation -- and likewise at the forefront of religious tolerance -- until it was hit by two blows:  culturally, the rise of religious fanaticism (which started gaining power in the Islamic world just around the time it was beginning to lose power in the West) and politically, the invasions and conquests of the Turks, with the centralisation of power that followed.




Post 95

Tuesday, May 11, 2004 - 5:40pmSanction this postReply
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Thanks Roderick,

Yours is a popular view, but I do no agree with it. al-Kindi, for example was Persian, not Arab, and like most Persians, if a Muslim at all, it was only as an expediency.

Here is more reason why I disagree with you:

Regi

 The Golden Age of Islam is a Myth

By Serge Trifkovic


FrontPageMagazine.com | November 15, 2002

 
The hatred of Western Civilization, and the corresponding urge to glorify anything outside it, especially if it can be depicted as a victim of the West, is a well-known phenomenon of the contemporary liberal mind. One of the forms it has taken in recent years is the attempt to artificially inflate the historic achievements of other civilizations beyond what the facts support. The noble savage myth is a commonplace; what is more complex is the myth that has been bandied about concerning the supposed "golden age" of Islamic civilization during what we know as the Middle Ages.
 
The myth of an Islamic Golden Age is needed by Islam’s apologists to save it from being damned by its present squalid condition; to prove, as it were, that there is more to Islam than the terrorism of Bin Laden and the decadence of the oil sheiks. It is, frankly, a confession that if the world judges it by what it is today, it comes up rather short, being a religion that has yet to produce a democratic or prosperous society, or social and cultural forms admired by neutral foreign observers the way anyone can admire American freedom, Japanese order, Israeli courage, or Italian style.
 
Some liberal academics openly admit that they twist the Moslem past to serve their present-day intellectual agendas. For example, some who propound the myth of an Islamic golden age of tolerance admit that their goal is,

"to recover for postmodernity that lost medieval Judeo-Islamic trading, social and cultural world, its high point pre-1492 Moorish Spain, which permitted and relished a plurality, a convivencia, of religions and cultures, Christian, Jewish and Moslem; which prized an historic internationality of space along with the valuing of particular cities; which was inclusive and cosmopolitan, cosmopolitan here meaning an ease with different cultures: still so rare and threatened a value in the new millennium as in centuries past."

In other words, a fairy tale designed to create the illusion that multiculturalism has valid historical precedents that prove it can work.

To be fair, the myth of the golden age of Islam does have a partially valid starting point: there were times in the past when Moslem societies attained higher levels of civilization and culture than they did at other times. There have been times, that is, when some Moslem lands were fit for a cultivated man to live in. Baghdad under Harun ar-Rashid (his well-documented Christian-slaying and Jew-hating proclivities notwithstanding), or Cordova very briefly under Abd ar-Rahman in the tenth century, come to mind. These isolated episodes, neither long nor typical, are endlessly invoked by Islam’s Western apologists and admirers.

This "golden" period in question largely coincides with the second dynasty of the Caliphate or Islamic Empire, that of the Abbasids, named after Muhammad’s uncle Abbas, who succeeded the Umayyads and ascended to the Caliphate in 750 AD. They moved the capital city to Baghdad, absorbed much of the Syrian and Persian culture as well as Persian methods of government, and ushered in the "golden age."
 
This age was marked by, among other things, intellectual achievement. A number of medieval thinkers and scientists living under Islamic rule, by no means all of them "Moslems" either nominally or substantially, played a useful role of transmitting Greek, Hindu, and other pre-Islamic fruits of knowledge to Westerners. They contributed to making Aristotle known in Christian Europe. But in doing this, they were but transmitting what they themselves had received from non-Moslem sources.

Three speculative thinkers, notably the three Persians al-Kindi, al-Farabi, and Avicenna, combined Aristotelianism and Neoplatonism with other ideas introduced through Islam. Greatly influenced by Baghdad’s Greek heritage in philosophy that survived the Arab invasion, and especially the writings of Aristotle, Farabi adopted the view — utterly heretical from a Moslem viewpoint — that reason is superior to revelation. He saw religion as a symbolic rendering of truth, and, like Plato, saw it as the duty of the philosopher to provide guidance to the state. He engaged in rationalistic questioning of the authority of the Koran and rejected predestination. He wrote more than 100 works, notably The Ideas of the Citizens of the Virtuous City. But these unorthodox works no more belong to Islam than Voltaire belongs to Christianity. He was in Moslem culture but not of it, indeed opposed to its orthodox core. He examples the pattern we see again and again: the best Moslems, whether judged by intellectual or political achievement, are usually the least Moslem.

The Moslem mainstream of this time, on the other hand, emphasized rigid Koranic orthodoxy and deployed Greek philosophy and science solely to buttress its authority. "They were rationalists in so far as they fell back on Greek philosophy for their metaphysical and physical explanations of phenomena; still, it was their aim to keep within the limits of orthodox belief." But when the thinkers went too far in their free inquiry into the secrets of nature, paying little attention to the authority of the Koran, they aroused suspicion of the rulers both in North Africa and Spain, as well as in the East. Persecution, exile, and death were frequent punishments suffered by the philosophers of Islam whose writings did not conform to the canon.
 
On the other side of the Empire, in Spain, Averroës exercised much influence on both Jewish and Christian thinkers with his interpretations of Aristotle. While mostly faithful to Aristotle’s method, he found the Aristotelian "prime mover" in Allah, the universal First Cause. His writings brought him into political disfavor and he was banished until shortly before his death, while many of his works in logic and metaphysics had been consigned to the flames. He left no school.
 
From Spain the Arabic philosophic literature was translated into Hebrew and Latin, which contributed to the development of modern European philosophy. In Egypt around the same time, Moses Maimonides (a Jew) and Ibn Khaldun made their contribution. A Christian, Constantine "the African," a native of Carthage, translated medical works from Arabic into Latin, thus introducing Greek medicine to the West. His translations of Hippocrates and Galen first gave the West a view of Greek medicine as a whole.
 
The "golden age" of Islamic art lasted from AD 750 to the mid-11th century, when ceramics, glass, metalwork, textiles, illuminated manuscripts, and woodwork flourished. Lustered glass became the greatest Islamic contribution to ceramics. Manuscript illumination became an important and greatly respected art, and miniature painting flourished in Iran. Calligraphy, an essential aspect of written Arabic, developed in manuscripts and architectural decoration.
 
In the exact sciences the contribution of Al-Khwarzimi, mathematician and astronomer, was considerable. Like Euclid, he wrote mathematical books that collected and arranged the discoveries of earlier mathematicians. His "Book of Integration and Equation" is a compilation of rules for solving linear and quadratic equations, as well as problems of geometry and proportion. Its translation into Latin in the 12th century provided the link between the great Hindu mathematicians and European scholars. A corruption of the book’s title resulted in the word algebra; a corruption of the author’s own name resulted in the term algorithm.

The problem with turning this list of intellectual achievements into a convincing "Islamic" golden age is that whatever flourished, did so not by reason of Islam but in spite of Islam. Moslems overran societies (Persian, Greek, Egyptian, Byzantine, Syrian, Jewish) that possessed intellectual sophistication in their own right and failed to completely destroy their cultures. To give it the credit for what the remnants of these cultures achieved is like crediting the Red Army for the survival of Chopin in Warsaw in 1970! Islam per se never encouraged science, in the sense of disinterested enquiry, because the only knowledge it accepts is religious knowledge.

As Bernard Lewis explains in his book What Went Wrong? the Moslem Empire inherited "the knowledge and skills of the ancient Middle east, of Greece and of Persia, it added to them new and important innovations from outside, such as the manufacture of paper from China and decimal positional numbering from India." The decimal numbers were thus transmitted to the West, where they are still mistakenly known as "Arabic" numbers, honoring not their inventors but their transmitters.

Furthermore, the intellectual achievements of Islam’s "golden age" were of limited value. There was a lot of speculation and very little application, be it in technology or politics. At the present day, for almost a thousand years even speculation has stopped, and the bounds of what is considered orthodox Islam have frozen, except when they have even contracted, as in the case of Wahabism. Those who try to push the fundamentals of Moslem thought any further into the light of modernity frequently pay for it with their lives. The fundamentalists who ruled Afghanistan until recently and still rule in Iran hold up their supposed golden age as a model for their people and as a justification for their tyranny. Westerners should know better.

Serge Trifkovic received his PhD from the University of Southampton in England and pursued postdoctoral research at the Hoover Institution at Stanford.




Post 96

Tuesday, May 11, 2004 - 6:17pmSanction this postReply
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I have been asked to clarify that my comments made in post 90 were in response to Mike Smith's questions to me in his post 34.



Post 97

Wednesday, May 12, 2004 - 12:03amSanction this postReply
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I wonder just *which* Saddamite will be the first to post that the beheading of the American hostage by the newest group of Muslim scum was America's fault?

Linz



Post 98

Wednesday, May 12, 2004 - 2:03amSanction this postReply
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The beheading of the American hostage by the newest group of Muslim scum was not America's fault.




Post 99

Wednesday, May 12, 2004 - 2:05amSanction this postReply
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And some people wonder why I created this topic string?



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