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Post 60

Sunday, September 4, 2005 - 1:41pmSanction this postReply
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Why would any person ask a price that he had no possibility of obtaining, such as with the diabetic boy, if the asking price were exorbitantly above what would normally be the going price outside the island?

Answer:  to kill him.




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Post 61

Sunday, September 4, 2005 - 1:44pmSanction this postReply
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Kat,

If you force me to sell my property at any price, I will not produce again. Hmm... but if I don't produce, then I will die. I must revoke my first statement, I must produce. Ok, then I'll just be a slave to some degree, just to survive! Wahoo!

I swear by the love of my life, as soon as I can make the valley or join it, I will.



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Post 62

Sunday, September 4, 2005 - 1:48pmSanction this postReply
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Kat, those "anti-gouging" laws are enacted based on an ignorance of economics and the pandering of the legislatures.

And no, sellers are not entitled to make a "reasonable profit". Sellers are entitled to make any profit they can negotiate.



Post 63

Sunday, September 4, 2005 - 2:38pmSanction this postReply
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Jay

There's nothing wrong with your economics, but I'm seriously worried about your sense of irony.

Best

Tim




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Post 64

Sunday, September 4, 2005 - 2:45pmSanction this postReply
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Great post, Jay. In reading your profile, I'm amazed to see that you've just discovered Objectivism this year.

One clarification to my earlier post: it's important to remember that the standard for measuring right and wrong is life, man's life in general, your own life in particular. In some situations (our old friend, context,) it may be appropriate to encroach on another person or their property, especially in emergency situations, if the other individual is unavailable, lacking information or is acting irrationally. Settlement can be determined later by the parties involved or settled by the judiciary (in one of government's proper roles.)

The proper question to ask is, "What would a reasonable man do in this situation?" And that would apply to both parties.

None of this changes the fact of property rights. Encroachment still requires restitution.

(Edited by Bob Palin on 9/04, 3:06pm)




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Post 65

Sunday, September 4, 2005 - 3:05pmSanction this postReply
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Thanks, guys.  Bob, regarding how long it took me to discover Objectivism, I can only say that anti-Rand propaganda is immensely strong. 



Post 66

Sunday, September 4, 2005 - 3:17pmSanction this postReply
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Jay, I'm not amazed at how long it took you to discover Objectivism. I'm amazed that you understand it so well already, with less than a year of studying the subject under your belt.
(Edited by Bob Palin on 9/04, 3:18pm)




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Post 67

Sunday, September 4, 2005 - 4:59pmSanction this postReply
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Kat:

"There are laws on the books in about 20 states against price gouging... These laws were enacted because of shady home improvement contractors and other vultures who prey on such catastrophes... [and] to minimize petty complaints from people griping about normal price increases caused by the situation.

...a seller is certainly entitled to make a reasonable profit. ...but calling price gouging a myth and saying that people will not prey on others when they are down is utter nonsense."

Ahh, isn't that lovely. Kat just wants a kindler, gentler capitalism.

Gee, I'm feeling so warm and cosy, I might curl up in front of the fire tonight with a nice hot cup of credulity and a copy of the Anti-Trust Act...

Ross




Post 68

Sunday, September 4, 2005 - 5:23pmSanction this postReply
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Tim,

Thanks for a great belly laugh from your Post 57.




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Post 69

Sunday, September 4, 2005 - 8:36pmSanction this postReply
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Gotta step in if Kitten is under attack.

First problem. Those with supply in NOLA are also facing the disaster themselves.

Second problem. No right exists if there is no way to enforce it. Let a man sit on a wealth of food with a multitude of people starving around him and see what happens when his armed protectors (police, army, thugs, whatever) loose their clout. The question of trade becomes academic in the literal sense. Such man will be lucky to escape with his life. Talking about rights will not hold off the hungry mob (and they will be pissed).

Third problem. The context of normal everyday life in a capitalist country and an emergency where an entire city is flooded are completely different. I stated in another post that just staying alive was the most moral thing anyone of those caught in it could do. That moral premise (in such an emergency) even supersedes trade and property.

Fourth problem. Lack of common sense. That is the most valuable commodity of all in an emergency. Gotta repeat it because that is one thing I see almost completely lacking in this discussion. Common sense. That is so much more valuable than any rigid "all-or-nothing" adherence to out of context principles or knee-jerk reactions. Dayaamm!

If anyone thinks Kitten is a bleeding-heart liberal and want to try to slay that particular pussykat for lack of a dragon (and I know most everyone who has read Rand froths at the mouth at least once to trounce a real collectivist or altruist), then you simply do not know her. You also have a humongous problem - me.

But I suggest you first try to understand what she is saying.

More than anything else, she is making a plea for common sense. Once the critical part of the emergency has passed, the context changes.

She is talking about that man with tons of food when the multitude is starving, not about free trade. In this case it is gasoline. You have to be alive before you can trade. That should be obvious to anyone. Kitten is simply disgusted with the man who would trade in lives, not just gasoline.

Of course, you can go the way of Steven and simply say that there is no such thing. The all-or-nothing approach is suitable anywhere and anytime. A phrase like "price gauging" is simply meaningless because it is used predominantly by bleeding hearts and is contrary to this principle or that, regardless of context. Then you never have to think about it anymore either.

Just one question. Everybody goes on and on and on about the rights of those to charge any price they want, regardless of how high and under what circumstances. Well, what do you do if you don't have the money and you will die shortly if you don't get that particular item and it is available? I'm talking about the critical part of an emergency, not any other time. What do you do? Do without? Fuck that.

Oh. I forgot. Context doesn't exist for the all-or-nothing brigade...

Still, I know what I would do. I would exercise common sense. Case by case. Even by event. In that context, that means doing what you can while you can for as many as you can to survive. After the critical part, you can go back to being an asshole if you like with all the morally correct appanage that tickles your fancy. And you are free to rebuild an even better world and still make oodles of money doing it.

Michael



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Post 70

Sunday, September 4, 2005 - 9:44pmSanction this postReply
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Michael I have to admit I disagree.

Oh. I forgot. Context doesn't exist for the all-or-nothing brigade...

Still, I know what I would do. I would exercise common sense. Case by case. Even by event. In that context, that means doing what you can while you can for as many as you can to survive. After the critical part, you can go back to being an asshole if you like with all the morally correct appanage that tickles your fancy. And you are free to rebuild an even better world and still make oodles of money doing it.

This isn't about all or nothing, it is about context.  And the simple thing is if you have a good set of standards guiding your life you need to adhere to them ESPECIALLY in a crisis.  It may mean applying them in new ways or some minor adjustments along the way but the standards have to remain. 

Survival is the main value but I'd say the closest second would be civilization.  Keeping standards where people may deal with each other as humans, not violent mobs looking for the first possible opportunity to rightously screw each other over.

If someone is sitting on a stockpile of something they need to keep their heiarchy of values intact.  This means knowing how much of the commodity they need for themselves. Who the people who matter most to them are, and how much they will need of said commodity.  And how they can best disperse whatever excess they may have in a manner to which they won't be quickly cleared out and which will keep their bargaining power fairly even to where it was before the trade.  There are probably things they need which they don't have and so they have to guard what they do have in order to ensure THEIR survival.

At this point admitedly looting of shopping malls and major stores becomes moot people have to survive... but like the old Objectivist idea goes the things beyond absolute basic needs (like gas) need to be protected if any hope for effective use of it is to be made.  They could drop their price to a point where anyone could afford it... and maybe 10 carloads later they run out of gas and because they didn't plan for the best use of their resources, and their buyers weren't forced by market factors to do so as well it results in even more carnage.

The other thing is eventually people have to rebuild.  People are going to have to face each other.  And it will be of value to no one to know that at their time of greatest challenge, instead of dealing with each other like civilized humans who were able to best plan for their own saftey and interact on that level, they dealt with each other like canibalistic animals.

---Landon




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Post 71

Sunday, September 4, 2005 - 9:55pmSanction this postReply
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Landon,

Did you read my context? I stated my case specifically for the critical time of a crisis. That means human survival time.

The other point. You don't think common sense is a good idea? You disagree with common sense in a crisis?

Michael




Post 72

Sunday, September 4, 2005 - 10:03pmSanction this postReply
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Common sense is good especially in a crisis.  I'm just saying ultimately free trade is the best thing to keep people honest in a crisis.  The thing is these people are going to have to face each other again after the crisis,... and everyone will know what they did right and wrong and they're going to have to live with it one way or the other.

---Landon




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Post 73

Monday, September 5, 2005 - 12:08amSanction this postReply
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Michael, you can't have your capitalism and eat it, too.

"No right exists if there is no way to enforce it."

You're pulling my leg, right? C'mon, 'fess up, you said this just to get a few of us going. Right?

Just in case you're serious, here's the deal: just because someone sticks a gun to my head and *violates* my rights it does not mean my rights do not exist. It means they have been abrogated.

"Oh. I forgot. Context doesn't exist for the all-or-nothing brigade..."

Principles can be applied differently depending on the context, but you're not advocating any such thing. You're advocating not only the suspension of principle in favor of pragmatism (which you conflate with common-sense) but you seem to be suggesting that the exact opposite to the principle is mandated.

It's one thing to treat, because of the context, a petty thief less harshly than a heavily-armed bank robber but it's quite another to let him off completely.

If I was in NOLA, injured and desperate, I wouldn't hesitate to break into a house and raid the medicine cabinet. The difference is, I wouldn't pretend that my *need* was ethical justification for violating someone else's property rights.

Help others because it's the decent thing to do or, conversely, because in emergencies it would be indecent to do otherwise, but don't pretend there can ever be enforced benevolence or a price-capped free-market. Those are contradictions that can *never* be kept in context.

Ross
(Edited by Ross Elliot
on 9/05, 12:11am)




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Post 74

Monday, September 5, 2005 - 12:17amSanction this postReply
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I think that this argument is being carried out on two different planes.  One group is defending the free market and its highly desirable effects even to markets that are in crisis.  I am in agreement with those who think that there is no such thing as "price gouging".  The second group is promoting the value of charity, but seems to be inferring a "duty of charity toward those in need" that is applicable in emergency situations.

 

There is a great deal of evidence that even for markets that are in crisis a free market provides the best means for improving economic conditions.  A free market in these situations is of mutual benefit to both producers and consumers and does not violate the individual rights of those involved in it.   For businesses to provide products on a LARGE SCALE to consumers in a market that is in crisis they will be subject to all manner of extra costs and obstacles including heavy transportation costs and higher costs of labor.  In order to operate in these situations without making an irrational sacrifice business owners and their management charge higher prices.   To the consumers in crisis markets these higher prices allow consumers to attain goods that they would not otherwise be able to attain if the markets were subject to price controls.  They would not be able to acquire the volume of goods they would have in a non crisis situation but this is simply the reality of the situation.    Price controls would have the effect of causing almost immediate shortages and ultimately a feeding frenzy.   In the long term they would eliminate the incentive and even the ability of businesses to do business in difficult markets like those we see in the hurricane stricken areas and thus stall economic recovery.  The call for voluntary price controls on a mass scale would cause the same effect though I doubt we will ever see such a thing as voluntary price controls.   Singular acts of charity must be distinguished from large scale business activities which sacrifice long term productively and profitability by giving away large numbers of goods at artificially low prices.  It is in no one's long term interest to see businesses commit acts of self sacrifice. 

 

To the second point, there are some instances in which one's survival depends on the charity of others since he has nothing of value to trade for his rescue.    We see many instances of this in the wake of the recent hurricane.  Many here seem to be assuming that human life has an intrinsic value that places those with the resources and the ability to carry out such a rescue in a position where the "categorical imperative" demands that they do so.  For reasons which are obvious on an Objectivist website I reject this form of ethical duty.  However, I would argue that anyone with a rational set of values in such a situation would value the preservation of someone's life more then the discomfort they may suffer in the process or the loss of wealth required on their part to carry out the rescues.  For someone with a pro-life set of values it is in his rational self interest to see someone who is suffering or dieing survive their plight.  He would not be making a duty based sacrifice but would instead be carrying out a freely chosen act of charity which achieves his values and promotes his sense of life.  I would strongly question the value hierarchy of someone who has, say, a truckload of bottled water and yet refuses to give one bottle to someone right in front of him who is dieing of thirst.   He has no moral OBLIGATION to give the dieing man a bottle of water but precisely because there is no categorical imperative I can judge his freely chosen actions, his freely chosen values and his sense of life to be irrational and rotten.  Most of those people we see on TV carrying out various rescue operations are not sacrificing their own self interests in helping others they are promoting it.  I suspect that most of them achieve a great deal of reward in seeing their productive action result in a promotion of their values and sense of life and that is precisely why they do what they do.

 

 - Jason



(Edited by Jason Quintana on 9/05, 12:53am)




Post 75

Monday, September 5, 2005 - 12:57amSanction this postReply
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Well put, Jason, extremely well put.

Ed



Post 76

Monday, September 5, 2005 - 1:29amSanction this postReply
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Well said, Jason. Maybe that's enough.

At least, I've got nothing more to say.

Ross



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Post 77

Monday, September 5, 2005 - 6:18amSanction this postReply
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Migod, I am amazed at how so many people here have let sentimentality gum up clear thinking on this issue.  A crisis is no exception to the law of supply and demand.  In fact, the price mechanism becomes vital in communicating precisely what is needed by those who are suffering.  Anti-gouging laws are the nails in the coffin of those stricken by a disaster supplied by grandstanding politicians trolling for votes to keep them safe in their sinecures.  Such laws are the compassion of the collective, which is no compassion at all.

Let's examine one piece of nonsense.  From Kat ...
These [anti-gouging] laws were enacted because of shady home improvement contractors and other vultures who prey on such catastrophes.
You mean the carpenters, plumbers, electricians, and other builders who would otherwise have no incentive to pack up their bags and converge upon a disaster area to eliminate the shortage in skilled construction labor?  Odd how those who create rather than destroy, especially under dire circumstances, are called vultures.  Maybe you can explain it to me after you return from Comintern.  Meanwhile, I'll know it for the slander it is.

Andy

Edit:  P.S. My last sentence is a bit ambiguous and suggests that I think Kat slandered me.  I am not a builder and have no personal beef with Kat.

(Edited by Andy Postema on 9/05, 7:31am)




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Post 78

Monday, September 5, 2005 - 6:44amSanction this postReply
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There's another problem with those here who think price-gouging exists and needs to be eliminated by the state.  Just as anti-gouging laws destroy the price mechanism, they also destroy charity.

There is nothing wrong with donating money, supplies, time, or skills to those harmed by a natural disaster.  Charity is a virtue and perhaps not as minor as Miss Rand would have it.  (But then she was speaking during the ascendence of the Great Society, otherwise known as the Great Destroyer of self-reliance in this country.  In a way, her dismissiveness of charity was a necessary response to that moral crisis.)  Charity is, as Shakespeare put it, a twice-blessed act.  But that double-blessing occurs only if each of us makes his own decision as to whether the beneficiary of our charity is worthy of it.

Donations will effect the price of things in the disaster area.  Unlike anti-gouging laws charity's effect is not a distortion of the price mechanism.  Instead the price mechanism reflects through lower prices the greater value individuals have in aggregate placed on their virtue (in the form of charity) rather than their profit.

So charity is consistent with the trader principle.  An Objectivist is not morally bound to measure his profit in only dollars and cents.  He can take his profit in the form of virtue.  However, anti-gouging laws decrease and even destroy the opportunity for charity.  Therefore, they are a twice-cursed act.

Andy




Post 79

Monday, September 5, 2005 - 6:57amSanction this postReply
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Great post, Jason.



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