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Post 20

Sunday, February 20, 2005 - 1:33pmSanction this postReply
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Hi Frank,

I am also from Germany and I'd really appreciate it if we could get in contact.

my ICQ is 85125011
You may also reach me via www.sascha-settegast.de or sascha.settegast@gmx.de

Viele Gre, Sascha.


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Post 21

Sunday, February 20, 2005 - 5:57pmSanction this postReply
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Regarding this issue of accepting a job at a public university, I agree wholeheartedly with Robert Bidinotto's analysis of the moral quagmire created once coercion is introduced into an equation of choice. In the given case of public schools and universities, regardless of whether one is partaking of the education as a student or as a paid instructor, it becomes extremely difficult, if not impossible, to determine whether one is morally justified under Rand's umbrella pardon of "restitution" or whether one is a moocher, living off the current tax dollars extracted from others. Where you come down on the issue most probably depends upon the perspective and position you adopt regarding Robert's insightful comment on the virtue/value scale, created once these moral attributes have been artificially divorced from one another.

On the other hand, I believe that I understand and really resonate with the point that Michael Marotta is making. Much earlier in my life I also had the opportunity to accept a post teaching computer science at a State university. I was torn by the decision to accept this position because I didn't want to be one of the moochers. Ultimately, I talked myself into the job through some rationalistic analysis which boiled down to deciding that teaching was a noble activity which I would have no problem pursuing if the government had not preempted the majority of the profession, so why should I allow myself to be deterred from pursuing the natural course I would have taken in a more appropriate context? Without going into the sordid details, I came to regret this as one of the worst professional decisions I had ever made and I soon extracted myself from that - and any future entanglements with public organizations.

Because of the moral ambiguities created by so much coercive governmental meddling in our lives, it is not possible to pass prima facia moral judgement on decisions such as accepting scholarships or positions at public schools, taking Social Security and Medicare payments, etc. Like Rand, I think one can make a case that these actions are justified. However, let me offer a bit of personal advice. If you are already honestly asking yourself questions about the rightness or wrongness of a decision such as this, and you have other options, then don't do it! Because the chances are that, in the long run, you will come to regret it.

Tying this back to another recent discussion concerning the Myers-Briggs personality sorter, my guess is that the more one falls into the introspective (I) and judging (J) categories, the greater one is personally affected by such issues and the more important it is to refrain from engaging in actions that one will later come to see as morally compromising.

Regards,
--
Jeff


Post 22

Sunday, February 20, 2005 - 9:14pmSanction this postReply
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Ethan Dawe: "The government takes our money in the form of taxes and uses it as it sees fit. Should we, who believe in a system that does not do this, drive on the roads paid for with our money? Collect Social Security checks paid for with our money? Use any service or product that is funded by the government with our money?"

Not if you don't have to.You pretty much have to use the roads. Alternatives to that become disproportionate in the extreme.  (For instance, living as a hunter-gatherer in the wilderness.)  On the other hand, wealthy people do have the resources to isolate themselves, establish near, if not complete, self-sufficiency and otherwise privatize their lives.  Still, the roads are ubiquitous 
The bookkeeping for social security is upfront.  You can go to a government website and see how much you have paid in and how much you are entitled to.  Not only was it stolen from you, but they admit that and show it to you and tell you when they are going to give some part of it back.  Again, however, if you make in excess of $90,000 a year, you can buy your way out and be as free as you want to be.

Getting a government job, or applying for a government scholarship, are actions you have to take. John Galt walked on the street.  He did not work for the State Science Institute.


Post 23

Sunday, February 20, 2005 - 9:17pmSanction this postReply
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Joe Maurone wrote: "Do you have a problem with the scene from ATLAS where Ragnar confronts Rearden with his take on reclaiming stolen goods? Do you share Reardon's initial disgust with the "pirate", and do you think such a revulsion is similar to your point in your article?"

Nope. I never understood Rearden's point of view. I also am not familiar with the feelings "revulsion" and "disgust." I have probably experienced them, but not often enough to know what they feel like without introspection.  Do you experience them often?

When Ragnar redistributed Dagny's income tax back to her, she was paid only on the basis of her salary as VP Ops., not on taxes from the profits from her Taggart stock.  I do not remember a scene where Ragnar redistributed Dr. Stadler's income tax back to him.  Maybe you read a different edition than the one I have.


Post 24

Sunday, February 20, 2005 - 9:29pmSanction this postReply
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"I also am not familiar with the feelings "revulsion" and "disgust." I have probably experienced them, but not often enough to know what they feel like without introspection. Do you experience them often?"

Yup, Michael. Every time I look at the communal microwave at work.

"I do not remember a scene where Ragnar redistributed Dr. Stadler's income tax back to him. Maybe you read a different edition than the one I have."

Down, boy. Not trying to pick a fight. Was just wondering about how your take on the scene might relate to your article. Wasn't trying to make any point.



Post 25

Sunday, February 20, 2005 - 9:35pmSanction this postReply
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Robert Bidinotto wrote:"... morality presupposes freedom of choice in the face of rational alternatives. Where the use of force and coercion deprive you of any rational, life-serving options ... then no morality is possible. In such a situation, you shouldn't deem any coerced victim as "immoral" for trying to make the best of a bad, harmful situation."

I think that was Paul Larkin's point of view.  He couldn't help it.  He had to live, didn't he?  Maybe it was Dr. Bob. He had no choice because men are irrational brutes who will not listen to reason. He had to live, didn't he?  If you were in a concentration camp, would you suck up to the guards to get favors?  If so, how should the rest of the people view you?  As a rationally self-interested man in an untenable situation, or as a collaborator, and therefore as their oppressor?

RB: "At the point of a gun, no fully "moral" options are possible"
Someone applying for a scholarship is not facing a gun. They are facing an invitation to meet a hold-up man at a pre-appointed time and place at which he will "return" to them some of the loot he has taken from some other people and from them.

RB: "... being taxed to pay for your neighbor's education, OR accepting offsetting government education grants yourself simply to avoid financial and competitive ruin..."
Do you know any Catholic families?  They pay taxes to send other people's kids to public schools and still manage to send their own often larger families to their own schools.  Do not over-dramatize the sitiuation.  There is a difference between life-and-death and financing education. Speaking of the Papists, does the fact that their neighbors tax them for schools they do not support give the Papists a right to steal from their neighbors?

RB:  "...  if the Nazis came to your door and ... "
The Nazis came to my door and gave me a form to fill out so that I could apply for a scholarship to Hitler University.  I threw it away.  Do not justify the people who filled out the form and got government money for education.

RB: "If you say ... at the expense of those, like you. ... Your unilateral observance of "rights" in a coercive context will drive you... "
Was that the rhetorical "you" or the Mike Marotta "you"? None of that applied to me.

RB: In metaphysically "normal" circumstances -- i. e., under freedom -- the principles of morality are practicable, so one wouldn't be moral if he used government to gain unfair advantages over others: that would truly be a violation of rights. But under governmental force and duress, rights aren't recognized, and one is not trying to obtain unfair advantages: one is simply trying to survive and minimize unfairness imposed by others, and not be taken advantage of. The aim is simple self-defense.

First of all, what are metaphysically normal circumstances?  Any possible circumstance is metaphysically "normal." What can the phrase "metaphysically abnormal" mean? Does that mean those times when the laws of reality sort of hold, but not quite?

You say that in a free society, it would be immoral to use the government take advantage of other people. I say that in a free society that would be impossible by definition.  The fact that it is possible is evidence that this is not a free society. I point out, furthermore, that the Constitution of 1789 granted to the government the power to maintain post roads and to coin money and to regulate the value thereof and to lay and collect taxes.  All three of those are examples of government force and duress and according to your point of view would justify anything by anyone on the excuse that they were simply trying to survive and get by, say, as a tax collector or postman or port inspector or die sinker at the Mint.

RB: Since rights are no longer recognized under coercion, it is no violation of anyone's "rights" to take self-defensive actions in a governmentally imposed welfare-regulatory state.

Unless, perhaps, your goal is to become a policeman or some other well-defined and Objectivistically permitted government career, getting a government scholarship so that you can become a biologist or a philosopher or a computer programmer is participating in the coercion. Even then, I have to ask if becoming a policeman in a police state is the proper course of action for an Objectivist. Self-defensive actions do not include joining an oppressor group and ganging up on others.

RB: "...  in the face of a gun, [morality] does not apply..."
In America, there is no gun pointing at those who apply for government scholarships or apply for government jobs.  Our social context allows wide latitudes in personal choices.

RB: "... you are forced to seek your self-interest by more primitive means."
That rhetorical "you" again.  I am not forced to seek my self-interest by primitive means. As I read you, however, I see you identifying the existence of evil in the world as your excuse to be evil yourself.  I read your words as: "Some man somewhere has a gun, therefore, I can steal from my neighbors."

RB: "Do whatever you must in order to survive, and to return to morally normal conditions."
If "doing whatever you must to survive" is irrational, then it prevents the return to "morally normal" conditions.



Post 26

Monday, February 21, 2005 - 5:50amSanction this postReply
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I think Michael and I have defined two vastly different approaches to interpreting the Objectivist ethics. Rather than playing ping-pong any further over this, I'll leave it to the rest of you to read each presentation closely, and -- keeping firmly in mind the Randian distinction of "intrinsic, subjective, objective" in ethics -- decide for yourselves which term applies to whose approach to the ethics.



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Post 27

Monday, February 21, 2005 - 3:25pmSanction this postReply
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Michael,
     In the thread Are civilians guilty in some wars?, post #28, you said, parenthetically,
I am more consistent in my understanding and application of the principles of Objectivism than is either Clarence [Hardy] or Robert [Bidinotto].
In this thread, you claim that
Ayn Rand was wrong about seeking government funding.  [Bold in the original.]
So, I guess you also are more consistent in your understanding and application of the principles of Objectivism than was Ayn Rand.  That's quite astounding.  And you're a numismatist, too?


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Post 28

Wednesday, February 23, 2005 - 9:10amSanction this postReply
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Taking a government job is not initiating force. You just make a contract with the state.
If you eat in a restaurant owned by a mafia boss, and the mafia boss is committing crimes
and invests his stolen money into the restaurant, you are not a criminal and not a money
launderer. 

But there is another thing, which can be wrong about taking government money. If you take
government money, you get disconnected from reality, since you do not know, if your work
is something people really demand or a political correct obsession of the state. If you
work at a public university, you do not know exactly, if your research will help other
people, or if it is abstract nonsense. You don't know, if your teaching is O.K. or if you
would not have a chance as a teacher in a free society. The reason for this problems is,
that there is no competition and no price system for government services.

You cannot avoid this problem, if you work in the private sector. Would your job at a
private bank exist, if we had the gold standard? Would your job in the steel industry
exist without steel tariffs? You don't know.

While you can boycott the restaurant of the mafia boss, you can never be sure, that you
do not take privileges, which would not be there in a free society. The only possibility
would be to move to a lone island.

For some jobs the chances are higher, that they would still exist in a capitalist society.
In a capitalist society you would still need micro chip designers, but probably less
professors for linguistics or other basic research. If it is your dream to become a professor,
you have to choose. Either you give up your dream or you do have a less intense feeling that
there is really a demand for your work. Decisions of this kind depend highly on the personal
context. Therefore it is not SOLOs business to answer these questions, but my own. The only
thing the SOLOists can do is to tell me the principles to answer these questions.
Since I have to find the answers for my own, I think I will leave this discussion.



Post 29

Wednesday, February 23, 2005 - 2:01pmSanction this postReply
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This is, I think, the kind of issue that doesn't present the best image of Objectivists. I think most 'normal' people would find the question of whether it's ethical or the sanction of the victim to teach at a public university to be...well, bizarre. And I have to say that I do, too.

It doesn't present the best image of 'a philosophy for living on earth', unless you're talking about this earth, circa 2005. On here, there are much bigger issues to worry about rather is it okay to drive on the roads, mail a letter through the USPS, or teach at UCLA or the University of Texas. (At this point, I should add 'hook 'em, horns!')

I don't believe it's a bad question to ask because I don't believe in 'bad questions', but I don't think it's anything to think too much about. In the year 2005, here in the USA, we live in a mixed economy. We've lived in such an economy for as far back as I can remember, and I don't see that changing anytime soon. There are hundreds of worse things you can do than teach, especially if teaching doesn't require you to repudiate your own views.



Post 30

Wednesday, February 23, 2005 - 3:10pmSanction this postReply
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If you take government money, you get disconnected from reality, since you do not know, if your work is something people really demand or a political correct obsession of the state. If you work at a public university, you do not know exactly, if your research will help other people, or if it is abstract nonsense. You don't know, if your teaching is O.K. or if you would not have a chance as a teacher in a free society.
Frank, this is all wrong. Scientists and professors at any decent university, public or private, are judged largely objectively: by their scientific productivity, by their peers, and by their students. You somehow have a very skewed view of academic life in university. Where did you get that? 




(Edited by Hong Zhang on 2/23, 3:45pm)


Post 31

Thursday, February 24, 2005 - 12:50amSanction this postReply
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Hmm....I agree with Frank in that statement.  I think a lot of professors, including mathematicians, are paid by the government to do research nobody would pay them to do in a free society.  This kind of work is encouraged by loads of other government-funded professors.  If I were a professor, I would have to wonder if anybody would pay me to do my research in a free society.

All the same, I would still be a professor at a public university, and I wouldn't worry about it that much.  Not my fault there's so much socialism in the world.

(I think one of the undesirable practical consequences of government funded research is that so many people who are really smart, but not geniuses, end up spending their lives doing pure research that's pretty much useless and quickly forgotten...I think it's a big waste, practically speaking.  (I'm thinking of pure math professors; and at least their work is harmless, unlike the bad philosophy spread by humanities professors whom nobody would fund in a free society.)  These really smart people couldn't get away with being so unproductive without government funding.

I think the geniuses who are smart enough to make important contributions in pure math would be able to find jobs that allow plenty of time for their own research in a free society; for example, they could always go to a place like Los Angeles and tutor math (currently $85 an hour for the best tutors; $35 or $40 an hour is typical for UCLA grad students) or tutor LSATs (currently about $80 an hour for the best tutors; $50 an hour starting salary at Testmasters).  There are actually LSAT tutors who make $100,000 a year.)


Post 32

Thursday, February 24, 2005 - 11:35amSanction this postReply
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Daniel,
It is at university that hundreds or even thousands of science and engineering students take various math courses every semester. And almost all math professors that I've known teach one or more of those courses. It's a worthy and rewarding profession.

I don't deny that there are some researchers who do useless things, but I doubt that those people are "really smart".  


Post 33

Thursday, February 24, 2005 - 1:35pmSanction this postReply
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Frank R. wrote: "Taking a government job is not initiating force. You just make a contract with the state. If you eat in a restaurant owned by a mafia boss... "

First of all, you  would have to define what you mean by "Mafia boss."  As I understand the people involved in that as it once existed in a past generation, there was not much that would have bothered me about them except their intensity.  Gambling, prostitution, alcohol, the whole matrix of enterprises were pretty much a matter of unfettered entrepreneurs providing people what they wanted at prices they were willing to pay.

By the nature of illicit trade, aggression and retaliation were the only avenues open aside from occasional "truces."  (A truce admits the prior state of warfare, of course.)  Perhaps a visit to the American Arbitration Association would have helped everyone just get along.  The fact is that I probably have eaten in "Mafia" restaurants and they seem a lot more interested in my happiness than, say, the Post Office, the county clerk, the motor vehicle department, or, heck, I even remember one day I spent at the Draft Board back in 1970, and of course, the public college or university.

However, let us assume that you mean this:  A business in your neighborhood is operated by someone who espouses beliefs antithetical to your own.  However, their goods and services meet your needs at prices you want to pay.  Is it in your self-interest to do business with that person?

It would depend on the range of values in conflict and how basic they are.  I would not shop someplace that said "Death to Atheists."  On the other hand, I have shopped at places (Mafia restaurants, for instance, but other stores as well) that had religious icons prominently displayed.

For myself, I prefer to trade with those who share my values -- or who, at least, do not declare against my beliefs.  

At some arbitrary level, it becomes the well known "sanction of the victim" problem to participate in any activity with your destroyers. 


Post 34

Thursday, February 24, 2005 - 1:49pmSanction this postReply
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Hong Zhang wrote: "Frank, this is all wrong. Scientists and professors at any decent university, public or private, are judged largely objectively: by their scientific productivity, by their peers, and by their students. You somehow have a very skewed view of academic life in university. Where did you get that?"

Are they being judged by traders who offer value for value received?  In other words, who wants this work done? 

I believe that Frank's point was well made.  If you are not in a market situation, in an agoric context, then you are divorced from reality.  How far removed that divorce makes you depends on many factors. 

Professors do not earn more or less money based on their ability to attract more or fewer students and then take them successfully into careers. 

In his autobiographical monograph, Dancing Naked in the Mind Field, Nobel Laureate biochemist Kary Mullis tells of being uninvited to speak at pharmacology conferences because he believes that the link between HIV and AIDS has not been proved -- and more, he believes that no one actually claimed it was, except by second-hand quotes.  This is just one example of many -- Feyman's works expose many others -- of how academic researchers go along to get along, rather than pursuing the truth regardless of where it leads.

It is true that such injustices and iniquities happen in the private sector as well, usually at larger corporations.  That is my point: the less directly the decision makers profit or lose from market responses to their choices, the less rational those choices will be.

Public universities breed irrationality.


Post 35

Thursday, February 24, 2005 - 1:56pmSanction this postReply
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Frank R. wrote: "If you eat in a restaurant owned by a mafia boss, .... you are not a criminal and not a money launderer. "

I want to thank you for not confusing buying and selling. 

It is possible to differentiate the customer in a Mafia restaurant from the driver of a Mafia car.  One is a consumer; the other is a producer.  Shopping at the post office does not make you an SEC regulator.

However, as you note implicitly, it does not matter which side of the transaction is yours.  All transactions are bilateral.  All freely agreed trades are for mutual profit.  It does not really matter if you are buying spaghetti with dollars or buying dollars with the ability to drive.  You are still doing business with the Don. 

Similarly, it does not matter if you work for the SEC or are enrolled at a state university: either way, you are engaged in coercion.

Thanks for pointing that out.


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Post 36

Thursday, February 24, 2005 - 2:00pmSanction this postReply
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Daniel O'Connor wrote: "All the same, I would still be a professor at a public university, and I wouldn't worry about it that much.  Not my fault there's so much socialism in the world."

(That was sarcasm, right? It was humorous?  If it was not, then, there is a serious problem here.)

That would hold true for an SEC regulator, too, would it not?  Parks and Public Lands?  IRS auditor?  FCC enforcer? 

Whose fault is it, then, that there is so much socialism in the world?


Post 37

Thursday, February 24, 2005 - 2:11pmSanction this postReply
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Lee Stranahan wrote: "I don't believe it's a bad question to ask because I don't believe in 'bad questions', but I don't think it's anything to think too much about. In the year 2005, here in the USA, we live in a mixed economy. We've lived in such an economy for as far back as I can remember, and I don't see that changing anytime soon. There are hundreds of worse things you can do than teach, especially if teaching doesn't require you to repudiate your own views."

Actually, it is exactly the question to ask in a mixed economy.  Once there is no choice at all, it is too late to ask. 

As long as you have a choice, your freedom is maximized by taking a rational option. In the old USSR, there were only state schools and the state was the only employer.  Here, we have choices.  If you work for a state enterprise, you are a hypocrit to denounce socialism.

Murray N. Rothbard repudiated his own works -- such as they were -- by teaching at UNLV, rather than at a private school -- or rather than establishing his own profitable think tank.  If capitalism is such a great idea, why do capitalist philosophers and (so-called) economists work for public schools?

If you truly have reason to believe that individual enterprise is superior to public works, then you will be an entrepreneur. 

If you work for a public office, then you admit that your skills have no marketplace and you need the guns of the state to provide you with income.


Post 38

Thursday, February 24, 2005 - 4:41pmSanction this postReply
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Michael Marotta wrote "Here, we have choices.  If you work for a state enterprise, you are a hypocrit to denounce socialism. "

No you aren't, because a mixed economy isn't socialism. It's a mixed economy.


Post 39

Thursday, February 24, 2005 - 8:24pmSanction this postReply
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Daniel O'Connor wrote: "All the same, I would still be a professor at a public university, and I wouldn't worry about it that much.  Not my fault there's so much socialism in the world."

(That was sarcasm, right? It was humorous?  If it was not, then, there is a serious problem here.)

That would hold true for an SEC regulator, too, would it not?  Parks and Public Lands?  IRS auditor?  FCC enforcer? 

Whose fault is it, then, that there is so much socialism in the world?

Umm...it's the fault of all those people who advocated socialism all over the world throughout history.

That wasn't sarcasm.  I meant that.

You've read "The Question of Scholarships" right?  So you disagree with the arguments Ayn Rand presented there.  Well, I thought they made sense.


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