Rebirth of Reason

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Post 40

Sunday, February 6, 2005 - 8:43amSanction this postReply
Jon, I understand that the topic is about the morality of the situation, but I don't think you can talk about morality effectively without being prepared to defend that morality. Otherwise it becomes a pointless endeavor. And just having read your post on the guns right dilemma, I think you know that.
Marcus, I don't have the book anymore, but I think it was PHILOSOPHY WHO NEEDS IT where Rand made the comment. I think the essay was "What Can One Do?".
(Edited by Joe Maurone on 2/06, 8:49am)

Post 41

Sunday, February 6, 2005 - 9:06amSanction this postReply
Thanks everyone for the thought provoking discussion.  I finally weigh in on my own questions.  My answer to my first questions is as follows:

1.  Assuming there are portions of the island that don't have huts and and villages on it, and that these portions of land contain extractable resources, John may feel free to inhabit these areas and start harvesting.  He may do so as long as he doesn't interfere with the Kiki's ability to subsist.  John should continue to offer to trade with them, as they give in to some form of trade eventually.  Through trade, the Kikis woud (hopefully) come to understand the concept of individual property rights.  Trade is the best hope for bringing the Kikis into the modern world.   

However, despite the fact that they are a simple primitive tribe, they are still human beings and have a right to their own individual lives.  Someone born into the modern industrialized world typically has the benefit of having been groomed to survive in such a world: understanding of written language, basic mathematics, familiarity with the concept of property rights etc.  To live off the land in the way a primitive tribe does takes hundreds if not thousands of years of adaptation (stick anyone of us out in the wilderness without any goods or tools from the industrialized world, and we probably wouldn't last too long).  If you forced a Kiki to start living in the context of the modern world immediately, it would be a disaster - some consideration must be given to those who only comprehend existence in their traditional way.

2.  As for any new lands that John decides to settle, he would have the ability to make it his own country if he wished, but he would assume the burden of defending his borders, establishing and enforcing laws etc.  Assuming John isn't an oil mogul himself, he will have to work with companies in the oil industry to see any financial windfall from his discovery.  Presumably, he would contact an oil company telling him that he has found substantial unclaimed oil reserves which could be easilly harvested.  He would offer to show them the location of the oil in exchange for either a large cash payment or a percentage of future earnings thereof.  Chances are the oil companies would opt for the former in an attempt to outright own the land  (I suppose it depends on how much negotiation leverage John really has).  And seeing as that contract would most likely be validated and enforced by some neutral third party -- most likely the Canadian or American government -- it's hard to imagine those governments not involving themselves with new territory.

(Edited by Pete on 2/06, 9:41am)

Post 42

Sunday, February 6, 2005 - 9:22amSanction this postReply
Marcus wrote:
Therefore, if I buy a piece of land from someone else and then and leave it abandoned for ten years -  no one is allowed to use it for their own purposes and then claim it as their own.
Actually I think there are abandonment laws that would come into effect at some point. But this is just a legal nuance; I don't see why you've brought it up here.
Another point is that it does not seem that the kikis have a Government that upholds property rights. If that is the case, then they just have anarchy. In that case, John is not [legally] obligated to respect their property rights.
I added the word "legally" since that's what you said you meant below. I've a few things to add to what others have said regarding this comment:

Since this is a discussion about what is *right*, I don't see what your point is. Sure, John can try to get away with not respecting their rights. But he shouldn't. At the point where he does, he becomes a criminal, regardless of whether there happens to be a formal government or not. Further, unless he's planning on exterminating the Kikis (and being able to get away with something so unspeakable), he's got to be able to work with them still on the island. I don't see how he can pull it off while abusing them. I.e., the moral is the practical.

I'd add that if he did violate their rights and his government found out, then they should throw him in prison for it, on the same basic grounds that we are justified in throwing any dictator abroad in prison.

Post 43

Sunday, February 6, 2005 - 11:51amSanction this postReply
Marcus, I found the passage, from PHILOSOPHY: WHO NEEDS IT. It is in "What Can One Do?" on p. 202-203:

Referring to activism, Rand writes:

"Above all, do not joing the wrong ideological groups or movements in order to "do something." By "ideological" (in this context), I mean groups of movements proclaiming some vaguely generalized, undefined (and usually contradictory) political goals. (E.G., the Conservative Party, which subordinates reason to faith, and substitutes theocracy for capitalism; or the "libertarian" hippies, who subordinate reason to whims, and substitute anarchism for capitalism). To reverse such groups means to reverse the philosophical hierarchy and to sell out fundamental principals for the sake of some superficial political action, which is bound to fail...
"The only groups one may properly join today are ad hoc committees, i.e., groups organized to achieve a single, specific, clearly defined goal, on which men of differing views can agree. In such cases, no one may attempt to ascribe his views to the entire membership, or to use the group to serve some hidden idealogical purpose (and this has to be watched very, very, vigilantly.)

Though she wasn't specifically talking about the scenario in this thread, I think Rand's idea here equally applies to the question about whether an explorer can sieze the island for the Canadian (or any) government, or if the Kikis can band together to protect their turf.

Post 44

Sunday, February 6, 2005 - 1:48pmSanction this postReply
Pete: “Assuming there are portions of the island that don't have huts and and villages on it, and that these portions of land contain extractable resources, John may feel free to inhabit these areas and start harvesting.”

Hi Pete. This is an interesting hypothetical, but the focus of attention has been misplaced. The issue is not so much one of property rights as sovereignty, that is, the power to make and enforce rules, norms of behaviour, and so on over a defined geographical area. You have told us that the Kiki have little notion of property rights, but you do mention that the tribal elders make a decision that is presumably binding on all members of the tribe.

Therefore, and if the Kiki are anything like any other “primitive” people, they will have well developed notions of sovereignty – the tribe will claim the authority to expect and enforce certain norms of behaviour, and punish any transgressors. This authority will be embodied in tribal elders, who will appeal to tradition to support their judgements.

And of course this sovereignty will typically extend over the whole island. This is where John will face some difficulty in squaring his idea of property with the islanders’ idea of sovereignty, since his actions in the uninhabited areas will be construed as a beach of sovereignty, effectively, as an invasion.

What John has to do is persuade the islanders that “property rights” and “drilling for oil” could be positive tribal norms, perhaps by interpreting the Great Sun God’s instructions to allow for these notions.


Post 45

Tuesday, September 6, 2005 - 9:24pmSanction this postReply
Rational self interest. Morality based on one's own survival.

What action would be in John's best interest to survive and flourish? I think the context isn't defined well enough. Maybe it would be in John's best interest to claim and use whatever he wants on the island-- by whatever means he is capable of using. Maybe it would be in John's best interest to just stay away. I think John's greatest concerns would be how people in the rest of the world would react to his actions on the island. If he can find a way to accomplish what he wants without making himself at odds with the rest of the civilized world...

Maybe he can take a small part of the island, develop it, trade with the more rational primitives. Some of them will go to war with him, and John will prevail. Eventually, he will expand his territory, and some of the primitives will become modern. For the ones that stay primitive, he'll designate a small shitty place for them to live on-- just to make some people from the modern world happy.

John will live long and happily on his new island. The end.

What is this? You complain about initiation of force, the primitive's property, etc? That's not objectivism, as far as I know-- maybe libertarianism. The basis of the morality in objectivism is an individuals own survival, not other human beings, and not primitive human beings.

An objectivists doesn't respect the property of anyone. An objectivist only respects the property of others when its the objectivist's advantage to do so. When is it in your best interest to respect other's property? What kind of laws/punishment would be best for you to survive and flourish?

Post 46

Sunday, March 12, 2006 - 1:06pmSanction this postReply
After talking with Joseph Rowlands on this subject, and after watching The Last of the Mohicans, I've realized that I made a mistake here. If "John" were to take some of the island by force when the natives were innocent, he would be doing something against his long term interest, because he would be destroying his integrity-- and his integrity would be destroyed justly so.

Post 47

Monday, March 13, 2006 - 7:30amSanction this postReply
Lets get out of the hypothetical and into the actual for a moment. Are whatever arguments y’all have been promoting applicable to the conquest of the New World? It seems to me that what half of you are basically saying is that my country was founded illegitimately. (i.e. y’all sound like a bunch of leftists)

Virtually very nation that exists on this planet has been conquered at one time or another (with the possible exception of Iceland). It happens, and some of the time it’s a good thing.

Do collective property rights exist? It depends; corporation’s own property, the government can own property (I’m talking like the land the White House sits on, not the stuff out west). If a tribe is organized into a government, I can’t see why it can’t own property either.

To me however, these arguments ended with the phrase “hunter-gatherer.” The entire concept is an affront to the concept of property rights. It demands that the vast majority of the land remain unproductive and uninhabited. The only exception I can think of about this is where hunter-gathering is the most productive use of the land there is; such as in the artic but that obviously wouldn’t apply to this hypothetical island.

Post 48

Monday, March 13, 2006 - 9:27amSanction this postReply
Hunter/gatherer is what animals do - tis the human version of being an animal, not flourishing like a human.

Post 49

Saturday, May 13, 2006 - 10:03amSanction this postReply
I am not going to attempt to parse all of this, or even reply.  I found this Topic while looking for discussions here about the ontology of "property rights" as a result of the Topic, "The Problem of 'Crime'?"

John and I were discussing his participation in a corporation that owns a hotel.  He objects to being told by the government that he must plant trees, etc., and I have no argument against his feelings there.  We all share them.  Deeper than that, though, is the question of how or why we feel coerced in one context, but not in another. 

Clearly, the origin of "will" is within the individual.  So, if you feel coerced, you are (-- hold that thought!)...  But feelings are not tools of cognition.  They do not tell you about the external world, only  your experience of it.  So, you can feel as coerced as you want, but if (in realilty) you are not being coerced, then your feelings are inappropriate.  So, it would seem that we are looking for an objective definition of coercion. 

I raise that here because this Topic is all about that, really.  I found it interesting that you can condemn any assortment of individuals by calling them a "tribe."  If the Kiki were "Kiki and Friends, LLC" the would be on firmer ground with many Objectivists. On the other hand, I confess to seeking to dilute the property rights of individuals who claim to collectively own property. 

The Eskimos or Inuit have an interesting concept about the property rights associated with driftwood.  Wood found arbitrarily "far" up the beach did not get there by accident and must have been dragged there and so it cannot be taken by the next finder, but must be left for the original owner.  That sound "primitive" perhaps, but here at a community college, we patrol officers do not loot the place of every nice pen someone leaves on a lecture desk.  If it is not yours, then it is not yours.  Period.

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