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Post 100

Monday, September 5, 2005 - 1:05pmSanction this postReply
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M. Postema, I do not think that I can express enough my gratitude for you arguing my points so eruditely and incessantly logically. Thanks.

M. Kelly, your recent attitudes when you get backed into a corner disturb me. You lash out with invective that is not usually indicative of the way you argue. You have expressed yourself in poor fashion here and on my other recent article. You should reevaluate yourself and you should not act so shamefully.

To the larger point, I want someone to please, please, please give me a logical, reality-based, true example of the anti-concept price-gouging. I call it an anti-concept because that's what it is. It lacks a basis in reality. I understand the concern of individuals on businesses operating using force or fraud...we have indeed, as Objectivists, roundly and thoroughly condemned fraud. However, charging a price that is higher than "usual", no matter how high, is not a moral crime or ethical error. It is up to the individuals involved in said transaction to determine if they value enough what they are buying and selling. Nothing more.

On an even larger macro point, it is saddening to see so many people on here making a moral claim to producers and sellers to "dutifully" reduce their prices because their "fellow human beings" are experiencing difficulties. We do not have a duty to all humans to help them when they are down...that is a Christianist/welfare state mentality. Kat, your endorsement of laws prohibiting an individual with his own property, made of using his own mind, and therefore his LIVELIHOOD, from selling that for what he pleases...well, it sucks, to put it bluntly...and I can see where you may be painted red for putting your intellectual "seal of approval" on a central committee governing prices and putting people in jail for failing to "follow the rules". You made your bed, and you should lie in it or change your mind. The concept of a mixed-economy is a pernicious evasion...at least the Soviets had no compunction about what they were doing, but your constant rationalization of these disgusting laws and still calling yourself an Objectivist...well, you need to check your premises.

Side note, there's nothing wrong with being a Randroid (I myself prefer Randian). The fact that M. Postema adheres closely to the thought of that great woman should not be invective, M. Kelly, and again, shame on you for using it. If his attitude is that of a Randroid, I will stand proudly and bear that label as well. I would consider it an honor.



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Post 101

Monday, September 5, 2005 - 1:09pmSanction this postReply
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Dean,
What is your standard for morality? Your own life? Or not killing innocent people? Michael has created a scenario where these two values are pitted against each other. Which value will you choose?
Michael posed a dichotomy that does not exist in Objectivism.  Rights do not conflict.  The man who owns the food has a right to his property, and I have a right to my life.  I do not have right to survive.  So I don't have right to the other man's food.  There are no rights pitted against each other.

There are, however, values in conflict.  I value my life and I value my survival.  As I explained in my previous post, the two are not the same.  My life is that of a human being, not an animal.  As a human being my life is that of a moral being.  That life ceases to exist when my morality does.  So if I must choose, then I value my life as a human being over my survival as an animal.  That choice may imperil my life, but the other choice surely extinguishes its value.

Think about it, Dean.  What good is a life that you maintain by killing and stealing from others?  That's why survival is not enough.  Your life, which will eventually end, must add up to more than that.  An emergency will re-prioritize what you value, but no emergency will ever alter the ultimate standard of value.  That standard is life, not survival.

Andy




Post 102

Monday, September 5, 2005 - 1:11pmSanction this postReply
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“Bravo” does not do Rick justice in this case.
Jon, I stand humbly corrected.

Andy




Post 103

Monday, September 5, 2005 - 1:16pmSanction this postReply
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Dean,

You added this to your post after I had responded to it.  My response does address your following statement ...
Objectivism ethics claims that an individuals value of their own life is supreme to all other values. When two innocent lives are stuck in a situation where it is one life verses the other, a battle between rational men will occur.
... but it does not express the vehemence of my disagreement with it.  So here we go, caps-lock on ...

NO, IT WILL NOT!!!  NEVER WILL RATIONAL MEN ENGAGE IN SUCH A BATTLE.

Read my previous response to understand why.

Andy




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Post 104

Monday, September 5, 2005 - 1:24pmSanction this postReply
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Steven D,
M. Postema, I do not think that I can express enough my gratitude for you arguing my points so eruditely and incessantly logically.
You have put me in the unusual situation of saying "you're welcome" for what is in fact a compliment.  Thanks.  Also thanks for the insight to wear "Randroid" as a badge of honor.  If the Methodists and Quakers can turn insults inside-out like that, then so can I. ;-)

Andy

P.S. You can address me as Andy, if you prefer.




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Post 105

Monday, September 5, 2005 - 2:02pmSanction this postReply
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Dean-

I disagree. Objectivism ethics claims that an individuals value of their own life is supreme to all other values.

Objectivism also says that you can not claim the right to a contradiction and Rand has explicitly stated that anyone who does so in this context(i.e. taking the life of another through the initiation of force) can make no claim to their right to life or the value of their life.  Do we not live by the motto: I will not sacrifice my life for another or ask another to sacrifice their life for mine?  What are you people saying?  This thread has brought about some disturbing statements that are the antithesis of Objectivism and instead the epitome of collectivist/altruistic moralities at best and the morality of a murderous thug at worst.

Kat-

If you take "scam" to mean 'fraud', then I do not think that anyone here would disagree with you.  Fraud is wrong at all times.  If you are merely substituting 'scam' in the place of the term 'price-gouging' then I think everyones disagreement will still stand.  Charging a high price and having that price accepted by another individual is not a 'scam'.

(Edited by Jody Allen Gomez on 9/05, 2:12pm)




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Post 106

Monday, September 5, 2005 - 2:14pmSanction this postReply
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MSK denies the Objectivist concept of rights.
Sorry, Rick Pasotto. That is absolutely wrong. (Actually, you deny it, but showing that will take a longer post than I have time for right now.)

Ayn Rand's concept of rights is rigidly tied to her ethics, which I intend to show in an article.

Her hatred of other kinds of rights was so great that she claimed that only her version of individual rights was of any validity. That caused her to usurp the word "rights" in the same sense that she usurped the word "moral" to mean only her type of morality.

Using a word like "right" is like a using a word like "government." You are not talking about which kind of right or government until you qualify it. The same goes for "moral." An Altruist, for example, who sacrifices himself and others acts "morally" according to the morality of Altruism. Yet Rand would call such act as "immoral." That is because her premise is Objectivist morality. And when she called a person "moral," she meant morally good according to Objectivist ethics.

The same thing applies to her premise of Objectivist ethics for rights. btw - I did not see you mention anything in your little list about my own statement on this, which was that she based her concept of rights on ethics, and that was the premise of all her writings on it.

Anyway, I don't want to give away too many goodies. But here is just an appetizer:
"The most profoundly revolutionary achievement of the United States of America was the subordination of society to moral law.

The principle of man's individual rights represented the extension of morality into the social system...
[her emphasis] ... from "Man's Rights" in The Virtue of Selfishness.

In the same essay, she defines property rights as political rights (in the philosophical sense).

She also claims that governments have rights - delegated ones.
The source of the government's authority is "the consent of the governed." This means that the government is not the ruler, but the servant or agent of the citizens; it means that the government as such has no rights except the rights delegated to it by the citizens for a specific purpose.
[her emphasis] ... from "The Nature of Government" in The Virtue of Selfishness.

Rights? Government? Ayn Rand? "How can that be?" shall be the howling from the anarchist circle and Randroids.

But there you have it. Her words. She wrote it.

I could go on, but you, Rick, like so many others read into Rand only what suits your convenience. In your case, I know it is anarchism. Yet these other quotes of hers exist. And there are many.

This usurpation of a generic word to denote one kind of meaning is great as an attention getter and was a valid artifice when she wrote. However it is a crack, and like all cracks, the ill-intentioned and hair-brained end up driving a truck through it. They will claim that Ayn Rand was stating that other alternatives do not exist. (She was not stating that, but you have to want to understand what she was stating before you are able to get it.) This is bad for Objectivism, regardless of whether such misguided souls agree or disagree.

My intention is not to redefine the Objectivist concept of rights, which I consider to be resoundingly correct, but to emphasize context and make the alternatives very clear.

Only absolutely rational truth will stop the irrational convoy in her name.

Michael

(Edited by Michael Stuart Kelly on 9/05, 2:31pm)




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Post 107

Monday, September 5, 2005 - 2:15pmSanction this postReply
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"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" [Jason] ..."No one is promoting a duty of charity here. " [Kat]

This is something which to the best of my knowledge is not, at least not fully, covered in the Objectivist literature on ethics.

I'd like to add my two cents to the Objectivist philosophical (and, in a way, psychological) literature.

I think there seems a misunderstanding in the quotes above. Let's move from the abstract to the concrete. Let's do it by considering different 'cases' the way a law student of a business major would.

Here are several cases in which I am going to say there -is- a moral obligation to help. Yet it is not altruism:

1. A drowing man can be helped with no risk of your own drowning by a) throwing him a rope or b) slowing your boat so he can climb aboard.

2. You have lots of water to spare, are not in any particular hurry, and you are driving through a natural disaster area and people are dying of thrist. And you choose to let them die.

3. Rand's example paraphrased from (I believe) the Virtue of Selfishness: A mother buys new hats for herself while her young children are slowly becoming malnourished because she doesn't use that money to provide them with enough food to keep them strong and healthy.

The third example Rand already explained: It is non-sacrificial to choose the children's needs over your own short term habadashery pleasures, if you value the children more than the hat.

What about the first two?

In each case, IF (1) you generally like to see people succeed, happiness, thriving, and therefore people not dying of neglect, you are (2) contradicting your own values by not acting to further them if it is non-sacrificial (giving up something material of considerably less importance like expending energy to throw a rope or slowing down a boat or giving up an item you possess of comparably less value) to further them.

So, if (1) is true you are acting IMMORALLY to not do (2).

It is thus a moral obligation in that context. And if you are someone for whom (1) is not a value, then I don't want to know you and there is something wrong, cancerous, and ulcerous with you. You are, in point of objective and geometrically provable fact, a lousy human being.

A case could be made that the failure to value (1) is ITSELF immoral. It is like the silly conundrum academic philosophers pose to Objectivists: "Well, all your ethics is based on the -choice- to value life. What if you don't, what if you choose to die, either quickly or slowly over decades? Isn't that your free moral choice?"

I would argue no. That is silly. To contradict your nature and slit your own throat is ethically wrong (in non-emergency situations as opposed to concentration camps, for example.)

So making the wrong choice on (1) or as a consequence (2) is immoral.

So, Jason and Kat, do you have a moral obligation when you are "on the scene" and its non-sacrificial as in the cases I named.

Absolutely... And it's an ethical principle of Objectivism - and of selfishness - as well (as I've tried to "prove" in the philosophical excursion above).

--Philip Coates

PS, You can easily extrapolate this to natural disasters when you are on the scene. And you can distinguish the -degree- to which (1) causes you to go out of your way to implement(2). THAT is where there are options and personal value choices which legitimately determine how far you may go to extend help.

In the extreme or simplified examples I gave, however, there are no moral options: Note that I am not making an argument that you always have to help people when you happen upon them in serious need.

It is contextual.
(Edited by Philip Coates
on 9/05, 2:25pm)




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Post 108

Monday, September 5, 2005 - 3:10pmSanction this postReply
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Let me say right now that any article claiming rights are merely social conventions won't make it onto the front page, except on the Dissent board. Sorry, Michael, but Objectivism that ain't. It's true that many bogus "rights" are laid claim to, but the fact that we can identify them as bogus bespeaks an objective criterion. Rights are an objective concept derived from man's metaphysical attributes of volition & rationality. They uphold & validate a man's freedom to think, choose & act on his judgement in the presence of other men who might otherwise stop him. Any "right" that violates that freedom is not a right, even if social convention calls it one.

As for the article that unleashed this most revealing mayhem, I agree with it completely. Recognising that "gouging" is an anti-concept is not incompatible with compassion, empathy or benevolence. The reverse is true. There is nothing compassionate, empathetic or benevolent in claiming a bogus right to dictate to the producer of a good or service what he may charge for it. Fraudsters, as has been noted, are already, properly, criminalised.

Seems we have a schism opening up within SOLO. Limp-Dicks vs. Hards-On! :-)

Linz



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Post 109

Monday, September 5, 2005 - 3:22pmSanction this postReply
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Mr. Coates--

 

I don't think there is anything fundamentally different in our viewpoints but I think my own formulation is better and avoids a flawed rule based non contextual application of ethical principles that might result from misunderstanding the use of "moral obligation" in the manner in which you are using the term.   The distinction I prefer to use in my formulation (and which Rand chose to use in her own arguments in similar cases) is done to designate more clearly the difference between Objectivist ethics and systems of ethics which rely on intrinsic values and thus rule based, duty based, determined categorical imperatives.

 

There are values which should rationally be judged to be Objectively superior to others when we are faced with a set of choices.  We are in agreement on that fact.  Based on that I would argue that in certain contexts there clearly exist RIGHT and WRONG choices.   There are choices between the clearly ethical and the clearly unethical.   There is in such contexts a clear set of choices between good and evil.  There is no room for moral grayness in these situations if one chooses to think through his choices.   The elimination of the categorical imperative allows me to make this distinction when judging people rather then just writing off someone who makes a good choice as "merely performing his duty".  I can judge the person, his values and his actions to be good or evil individually because I recognize that he has the ability to choose his values and his actions logically rather then making the blanket assumption that he just did what he was "supposed" to do based upon some social or mystical predetermination.

 

 - Jason

 

Edit : Haha, that first sentence is quite interesting isn't it. :)

 

(Edited by Jason Quintana on 9/05, 11:19pm)




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Post 110

Monday, September 5, 2005 - 4:58pmSanction this postReply
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Linz wrote,

Seems we have a schism opening up within SOLO.
 
Looks like it's time for me to use that shore leave I've been saving up...  ; )

Steven's request for concrete examples of "price gouging" gains more and more weight as those who cling to the concept fail to provide any. So, let me offer one example for comment:

In preparation for Hurricane Katrina, a farsighted New Orleans resident (who is unable to leave town because, for instance, his presence is required in order to maintain his business) stockpiles water and gasoline and purchases a gasoline-powered electric generator. Katrina hits, leaving many thousands of N.O. residents without power or water. Our farsighted resident, recognizing that he has enough water and gasoline to last six weeks (and believing that everything will be back to relative normalcy within three), decides to sell half his stockpiles at "whatever the market will bear," which turns out to be five times what he paid for them. His motive is simply to make as much profit as possible for himself before the value of his goods returns to pre-Katrina levels.

Do his actions run counter to the virtue of benevolence? Would the desperate residents of N.O. be in the right if they seized these things from him by force?




Post 111

Monday, September 5, 2005 - 5:04pmSanction this postReply
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Never has one word been so appopriate; no.  In answer to both of your questions.




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Post 112

Monday, September 5, 2005 - 5:09pmSanction this postReply
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Do his actions run counter to the virtue of benevolence? Would the desperate residents of N.O. be in the right if they seized these things from him by force?
no and no


Here is an example of customers being fleeced in the aftermath of a disaster.  They charged a nursing home $54,000 for $18,000 in work, and included a charge for a crane that was not there.  Price increases caused by economic forces is not price gouging, but apparently many are being prosecuted for predatory practices and consumer fraud related to clean-up.  That is the type of scum I was talking about.

(Edited by katdaddy on 9/05, 6:22pm)




Post 113

Monday, September 5, 2005 - 5:22pmSanction this postReply
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Phillip, not to nitpick but I think the line about the baby and the hat was from Galt's speech... I think it was quoted in "the Ethics of emergencies" though so that could be why you thought it was from VOS

---Landon




Post 114

Monday, September 5, 2005 - 6:16pmSanction this postReply
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Just to clarify, Andrew's example of the farsighted stockpiler who sells at a fivefold profit would NOT be an example of the execrable type of person leaving people to die in a natural disaster in the very specific examples I gave. Everyone can afford it and still not have their lives ruined, though they will grumble I'm sure. In fact he would be helping a lot of people out...and if it were known in advance that 'price gouging' were legal, there would exist more stockpiles all across a city just for occasions like this.

A win-win all around.

--Limp-Dick Phil

(Oh, by the way Linz ... the expression in English is "Hard-Ons not "Hards-on")
(Edited by Philip Coates
on 9/05, 6:19pm)




Post 115

Monday, September 5, 2005 - 6:27pmSanction this postReply
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Andrew,

"No" and "no" (about the residents of N.O.).

Ed
Expert identifier/reverberator of what-it-is that is REALLY good for folks on earth



Post 116

Monday, September 5, 2005 - 6:30pmSanction this postReply
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Phil, someone will have to be left out in the cold in the example I provided. If the stockpiler sells his supply at a fivefold profit, it will be because that was the most he could get for it. This implies that he kept raising prices until the supply people were willing and able to buy equaled the amount he had available for sale. But it certainly seems, from the posts on this thread, that some here have a moral objection to the stockpiler raising his prices in that way.

That a trade of any sort "helps people out" is almost axiomatic. I suppose Adam Smith's insight has some value here: every (honest and voluntary) trade, no matter the terms, must be of value to both parties, else they wouldn't go through with it.

That the stockpiler is helping a lot of people out is precisely the point. As far as I can tell, "vulture" building contractors who charge a "price-gouging" premium in the wake of a disaster are doing exactly the same thing.




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Post 117

Monday, September 5, 2005 - 6:37pmSanction this postReply
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Kathy, I'd call that fraud, not price gouging.



Post 118

Monday, September 5, 2005 - 6:40pmSanction this postReply
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For more insights on this subject, see "Gouge On" by Cato's Jerry Taylor.



Post 119

Monday, September 5, 2005 - 6:48pmSanction this postReply
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Kat, that does sound like fraud.

---Landon




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