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Post 20

Tuesday, January 29, 2008 - 2:38pmSanction this postReply
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Here's some elaboration on the ideas of Thomas Barnett, ideas for which presentation was allowed at RoR #1:

States that have benefitted from globalization and begun to share in the wealth and prosperity associated with that are also losing interest in waging war with one another. Participants in the project noticed that once the per capita income of a country increases to about US$3000 per year, war essentially disappears. There are a few places where this hasn't exactly been the case, but it seems to largely hold true for now.

Another interesting thing to note was that, of U.S. military deployments around the world since 1990, virtually all have taken place in countries that do not meet that level of income. Examining the regions more thoroughly, it was also noted that the countries have very little flow of people, information, or investment money across their borders. This all leads to the idea of these countries being "disconnected" from the outside world, running on rule sets that are different from that of globalized societies.

From:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Barnett

Recap:
If the U.S. gambles much, if not most, of its current wealth and ability (bringing global per capita income to at least "US$3000 per year") -- then there might be a huge payoff of "world peace" at some time in the future.

Edit:
Here's a quote from a recent and relevant article:
Gates called for corporations and governments to devote far more time and money "doing work that eases the world's inequities.”
Ed

(Edited by Ed Thompson on 1/29, 2:53pm)




Post 21

Tuesday, January 29, 2008 - 6:21pmSanction this postReply
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The more  I read of Gates and his 'give to the poor' mindset, the more am reminded by that part of Stossell's GREED show, where Ted Turner says other rich folk ought to 'give back'.....
(Edited by robert malcom on 1/29, 6:21pm)




Post 22

Tuesday, January 29, 2008 - 7:22pmSanction this postReply
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hehe,

It was great when Stossel asked Turner if giving money away helped others as much as it would if he personally used it to grow his or even other entrepreneurs' businesses (as through buying stocks). Ted got shifty, expressed false disgust, and wouldn't answer, but instead, immediately cut the interview short in order to weasel out of having to tell the real truth (which is something his wife wouldn't want to hear about)!

Ed




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Post 23

Wednesday, January 30, 2008 - 1:23amSanction this postReply
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Thanks for taking the time to explain your position, Ed.  It’s actually a pleasure to read an opposing viewpoint that displays calm reflection and clarity instead of hysteria and pedantry.

 

You would think people would figure out that, on a web forum like RoR, trying to obscure what others say with convoluted mud-slinging is not effective.  The mud just winds up being permanently plastered all over the mud-slinger’s pathetic face.

 

It’s interesting that John Stossel’s 1998 ABC documentary on Greed would be brought up in the context of a discussion about TAS.  David Kelley was a featured commentator on that show, which was obviously intended to convey the radical idea that, contrary to cultural convention, Greed is good.  If I remember correctly, Kelley gave his endorsement to that perspective.

 

Ironically, however, in February, 1993, Kelley went on record in REASON magazine arguing that the concept of greed was actually destructive because it carried the implication of an improper quest for wealth.  He co-wrote the article, “Gekko Eccho,” with Jeff Scott.   The title referred to Gordon Gekko, the financier in the popular film Wall Street, and the article dealt with the so-called “Decade of Greed” ushered in by the Reagan administration.  Here are two quotes from that article:

 

“…In motive, greed is a desire for wealth without regard for achievement or creation.  In action, greed is the unprincipled pursuit of wealth….”

 

“Of course, the pursuit of happiness does not entail selfishness in the conventional meaning of that term: the vain, self-centered, grasping pursuit of pleasure, riches, prestige or power….”

 

No one denies that the concept of greed can carry some unfortunate connotations, but these statements struck me as dangerously close to an apology for unbridled ambition. (No doubt RoR’s resident fussbudget on rhetorical fallacies will be eager to jump in here with some pedantic twaddle about “intellectual nitpicking.”)  Ayn Rand did not hesitate to title one of the chapters about Galt’s Gulch as “The Utopia of Greed.”  I can imagine her defense: “For the reason that makes you afraid of it…”  She once wrote glowingly about the blessings of “commercial greed” during the Christmas season.

 

I got the distinct impression that there was something about the morality of rational self-interest which Kelley found obnoxious. As much as I admire some of his truly brilliant work, that article was the beginning of my personal disillusionment with David Kelley.

 

 




Post 24

Wednesday, January 30, 2008 - 5:51amSanction this postReply
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Part of that greed problem is that it has almost always been used to connotate those who gained wealth by theft - as was almost always the case thru most of history.... remember, few traders got rich, for they were always considered of a lower class, and disliked more for the riches they got as somehow being covert theft - for the dominant view was that of a zero-sum world, where one's gain had to be,. somewhere, another's loss, and thus the gain beyond sustaining was 'greed', accumulating more than was necessary..... 

In today's world, where the trader syndrome has much more effect - the sum-plus view of the world - there is not another word to replace 'greed', and thus the attempt [failingly so, in my estimation] to use it in a positive sense....  while Kelly was right, in the Stossel show, the latter summation simply reflects the reality that Wall Street is how almost everyone sees as the meaning of the word..... whether one likes it or not......




Post 25

Wednesday, January 30, 2008 - 1:26pmSanction this postReply
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RM:

     Such is the same problem with the term Selfishness, which we all know Rand centered a whole ethical system upon and around.

     The problem is that the denotation of 'greed' has not been that adequately analyzed as has (by Rand) the denotation of Selfishness; everyone (apparently now including Kelley) is stuck on the connotations as the only 'meanings' worth discussing. Unfortunate. Hope Kelley doesn't go farther with this...style...of analyzing basic aspects of O'ism.

LLAP
J:D




Post 26

Wednesday, January 30, 2008 - 1:38pmSanction this postReply
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Dennis,

You continue to bring up good points. When participating in on-line forums, a thousand eyes are watching and silently -- or not so silently! -- judging. If your closet's clear, then you have nothing, ultimately, to worry about. Even the skilled rhetoric of a Master Troll is ultimately revealed as just that (and I'm not insinuating that this is directed at Phil; regardless of it seeming so).

Also, David Kelley's printed words are indeed disturbing. Thanks for the quotes. However, continuing in the same vein I was in as much as I can, has Kelley ever been personally asked to explain? Has he been moving toward, or away from, this 15-year old stance? Has he flatly endorsed the thing, or flatly rejected it anytime since? Was he given the chance?

A moral judgment of David Kelley is possible, but there are several questions -- like those above -- needing answering first. Particularly, I'd be interested in his response to what you (post 23) and the good Rev'rend (post 24) have had to say about him decrying "greed."

Ed





Post 27

Thursday, January 31, 2008 - 3:38amSanction this postReply
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Ed,

 

As of 2005, the article remains a citation on page 4 of Kelley’s TOC curriculum vitae.  Even though he was a co-writer of this particular piece, I certainly see no evidence that he has ever disowned any part of the content. And I am confident he would not disavow it, for reasons I will explain.

 

To begin with, I think it’s likely that he genuinely believes that, in spite of his participation in Stossel’s documentary, using the negatively charged word ‘greed’ is counter-productive to the spread of Objectivism.  I think he’s wrong, but I would not judge him morally for holding that view per se.  Prior to reading that REASON article, however, I had thought of him as the leading authority on Objectivism.  I no longer believe that. 

 

I said that his sentiments about greed suggested to me that he likely had some misgivings about Rand’s view of ethics.  That was further confirmed for me when I read TOC’s official “Position Statement” regarding the terrorist attacks of 9-11-01.    He was still TOC’s executive director at that time.  The following quotation may sound benign, but it marked the end of any support I would ever give to that organization:

 

4. While it is legitimate in war to risk civilian casualties, the military campaign should make every reasonable effort to avoid them….

 

I said then, and I still firmly believe that this principle is tantamount to altruism.  The “Position Statement” was issued around the same time that TOC offered and endorsed an analysis by Patrick Stephens entitled “The Justice of War.”  That essay is an open defense of so-called ‘Just War Theory,’ an historically Christian doctrine which is, once again, clearly altruistic.

 

That article explicitly rejects Ayn Rand’s view that “there are no innocents in a dictatorship,” and praises the “heroic efforts” of our troops to minimize enemy casualties.  It is clear that TOC—and Kelley—gave their endorsement to the policy that American soldiers should be put in harm’s way as necessary to minimize “innocent” civilian deaths.  Such a viewpoint is obscenely altruistic.  An additional implication is that the lives of soldiers can be jeopardized if using technology (i.e., bombs) will result in significant collateral damage.  And that targeting innocents to achieve swift and total victory, as the U.S. did in World War II, is inconsistent with their view of “justice.”

 

This places the lives of our soldiers below that of “innocent” civilians.  Given these altruistic principles—together with TAS’ virtual silence about the Bush administration’s religious and inherently self-sacrificial approach to prosecuting the war--I would be very surprised to hear David retract one word of that REASON article.

 

So I would have to say that these positions, taken together, cast TAS and its leadership in a very compromised moral light.  As an Objectivist institution, TAS is adopting positions that are clearly immoral.  These are ideas that will lead directly to innocent American deaths, and I just do not see how TAS can reasonably claim ignorance of that fact.  If TAS were a Christian organization, Kelley and his cohorts would be very sadly mistaken—but unless they saw this matter as clearly as I do, I could see not judging them morally.  But they don’t have that excuse.

 

It all adds up.  I see all of this as connected, with the resultant TAS atmosphere of semi-nihilistic moral confusion leading directly to brazen moral lapses such as the Perigo disaster.  TAS is reflecting its founder’s feelings of ambivalence about rational selfishness and morality in general.  I regard that as craven and cowardly, and—by the standard of Objectivist morality—I see no alternative but to characterize TAS’ leadership as immoral.

 

I know this sounds harsh, so let me qualify my assessment by saying that I am not “condemning” TAS in ARI fashion.  I have no doubt that there are some decent people in the hierarchy of TAS.  And I think they undoubtedly do some good work.  (As I said, much of David’s past work, especially The Evidence of the Senses, is nothing short of brilliant.)  I think their leadership could fairly easily redeem itself by correcting these errors and changing course.  But unless and until they do, my fundamental moral evaluation stands.

 

 

 




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Post 28

Thursday, January 31, 2008 - 6:51amSanction this postReply
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Dennis said:
That article explicitly rejects Ayn Rand’s view that “there are no innocents in a dictatorship,” ...
Dennis: can you tell me where Rand said this?
Thanks,
Glenn




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Post 29

Thursday, January 31, 2008 - 7:03amSanction this postReply
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I second Glenn's question.

Also, does "non-innocent" imply the person has no rights at all, and there is nothing wrong with killing him/her? Was Ayn Rand an innocent or non-innocent when she lived under a dictatorship in Russia?

How do you reconcile it with the folowing?
A slave country has no national rights, but the individual rights of its citizens remain valid, even if unrecognized, and the conqueror has no right to violate them. Therefore, the invasion of an enslaved country is morally justified only when and if the conquerors establish a free social system, that is, a system based on the recognition of individual rights (Ayn Rand in Collectivized "Rights").




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Post 30

Thursday, January 31, 2008 - 10:35amSanction this postReply
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In post #23, Dennis Hardin makes much of David Kelley's alleged repudiation of the concept of "greed" in an article in Reason magazine. To support this claim against Kelley, he offers two quotations from that article.

I should say "torn from that article." Please note the ellipses that precede and follow the two quotations. That should have been enough for any objective observer to wonder exactly what Mr. Hardin may have chosen to omit from his selection.

Let me now provide some of what he left out, quoted directly from that article:

"The antimaterialist outlook is embodied in the conventional concept of greed. For centuies, religious authorities taught that any concern with material wealth beyond the subsistence level was greedy, just as any sexual desire not connected with the needs of reproduction was lustful. In effect, economic ambition and sexual enjoyment--the two most powerful this-worldly motives--were put on the list of moral sins. Today most people would not consider it sinful to strive for material comforts beyond the level of a medieval monk. But a vestige of the old view survives in the notion that it is greedy to want too much. Indeed, some dictionaries define greed as an excessive desire for material possessions. Notice that we do not have comparable concepts for those who want too much knowledge, too much beauty, too much love. Why is wealth singled out for special concern, if not for a lingering bias against material success?

"Considering how deep a rut the concept of greed has worn in public discourse laterly, it is worth pausing to consider its proper meaning.
In a market economy, money is the medium of exchange for the products and services people have created. It is thus the reward for productive achievement in a society of traders, of people who live by peaceful exchange rather than plunder. When the desire for money is connected with achievement, there is no vice involved, and the concept of greed is inapplicable. There cannot be any excess in the desire to achieve, and it is proper to want one's achievement recognized and rewarded by those who benefit from it." [Emphasis added]

It is clear that Dr. Kelley and his co-author are condemning not rational self-interest, but the conventional definition of greed as "an excessive desire for material possessions. It is in that conventional definition that they refer to when, in a following paragraph, they begin:

"The [conventional] concept of greed can properly be applied only when the desire for money is divorced from any concern with achievement. Some people want money without having to earn it--a life of luxury without the effort of producing. Some want power over others. In motive, greed is a desire for wealth without regard for achievement or creation. In action, greed is the unprincipled pursuit of wealth. This includes the use of force, fraud, and other coercive means. It also includes the violation of ethical norms, both the universal standards of honesty and fairness, and the specialized standards that apply to particular professions."

The emphasized sentence here is the one quoted by Mr. Hardin. He comments, "No one denies that the concept of greed can carry some unfortunate connotations, but these statements [by Kelley] struck me as dangerously close to an apology for unbridled ambition." As you can see, it is only by cherry-picking sentences from their full context that Mr. Hardin conjurs a betrayal of principle in an article that is anything but. Dr. Kelley's article champions the exact opposite view, saying, "There cannot be any excess in the desire to achieve, and it is proper to want one's achievement recognized and rewarded by those who benefit from it."

What part of "There cannot be any excess" does Mr. Hardin not understand?

To further illustrate Mr. Hardin's complete distortion of Dr. Kelley's clear meaning, consider the following. After illustrating the immorality of conventional greed by citing the example of Ivan Boesky, Dr. Kelley and Jeff Scott continue:

"So there is such a thing as greed, and it is, as another common definition says, a reprehensible form of the desire for money. But what makes the desire reprehensible is not a matter of degree. If our standard is human life and happiness, we cannot set any arbitrary upper limit on permissible levels of material comfort--any more than there can be too much knowledge or beauty in our lives."

What part of "not a matter of degree" and "we cannot set any arbitrary upper limit" does Mr. Hardin not grasp?

Mr. Hardin then quotes Dr. Kelley thus:

"Of course, the pursuit of happiness does not entail selfishness in the conventional meaning of that term: the vain, self-centered, grasping pursuit of pleasure, riches, prestige or power...."

This is no more than a restatement of Howard Roark's comment in The Fountainhead that it is very hard to use the term "selfishness" positively, because "it has come to mean Peter Keating." Where is the controversy?

And, given that Mr. Hardin's agenda is to diminish Dr. Kelley, you may also find interesting another passage from the same Reason article that he didn't bother to quote:

"Yet as Ayn Rand has observed, this attitude [that "the pursuit of self-interest has carried the burden of proving that it serves the public good"] is incompatible with the liberal principle that individuals are ends in themselves--the principle that lies behind the legal system of individual rights. If the individual is an end in himself, he is morally as well as legally entitled to be an end for himself. He has the right to the pursuit of happiness, which includes the right to regard his own happiness as a self-sufficient end, requiring no further justification in the form of service to God, society, the biosphere, or whatever."

After ignoring that, next comes the sentence that Mr. Hardin chooses to quote:

"Of course the pursuit of happiness does not entail selfishness in the conventional meaning of that term: the vain, self-centered grasping pursuit of pleasure, riches, prestige, or power. The ethics of individualism, backed up by abundant psychological evidence, holds that happiness is the product of achievement, of stable relationships with friends and family, of peaceful exchange with others, and of the kind of self-esteem that is above the need for comparisons. The pursuit of self-interest in this sense requires that one act in accordance with moral standards of rationality, responsibility, hoesty, and fairness. But it does not require self-sacrifice or 'service above self'."

You may characterize Mr. Hardin's selective quotations any way you wish; I have my own choice words for it, but will refrain in the interests of civility.


Finally, here is some further context, from Dr. Kelley's posted reflections on the John Stossel special, "Greed," in which he was the expert who was defending -- explicitly -- the "greed is good" proposition:
But I will say there was one key point, which we spent a lot of time talking about, that really did not get into the program: the distinction between "good greed" and "bad greed." "Greed" is an ambiguous term. There is an important distinction to draw between the pursuit of money as a reward for achievement and as a financial instrument for further achievement, on the one hand; and the pursuit of money as an end in itself, or a means of acquiring power, or a means of acquiring prestige, or any of the other "global values" that I talked about in "The Best within Us" (The IOS Journal, March, May 1993). The pursuit of money in those latter contexts is greed in a bad sense. And that is a vice.

The distinction is important because my core goal in appearing on the program was to connect the creative impulse to the creation of wealth, of new products, and of new industries; and to compare that with the artistic or scientific impulse and the creation of beauty or of knowledge.

To the ABC people, this was one of the most arresting things I had to say. Using nineteenth-century industrialists, as well as contemporary people like Michael Milken and Bill Gates, I said they were doing essentially the same thing as Shakespeare or Newton or Einstein. Well, we did get a little piece of that in the show, with Albert Einstein and Jackson Pollock, though I'm sorry they used Jackson Pollock. But that comparison, and the resulting good-greed/bad-greed distinction, were never made clear.


Those riding anti-TAS hobby horses continually pay us a great compliment by being reduced to distorting our words in order to attack us.

(Edited by Robert Bidinotto on 1/31, 12:22pm)




Post 31

Thursday, January 31, 2008 - 11:01amSanction this postReply
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On a personal note, I remember that when I lived in L.A., Dennis Hardin and one other fellow (whose name I forget) ran a very good discussion group, called the Forum for the New Intellectual and he seemed to be an intelligent, reasonable fellow. And he performed the difficult feat of hosting Kelley-side and Peikoff-side participants debating “Fact and Value” and “Truth and Toleration” quite calmly and civilly and without ill-will or moral condemnations.

That's why I'm surprised by the incredibly obvious thinking mistakes and basic misreadings he is making on this thread. (post #27):

1. “[if Kelley’s view is] the negatively charged word ‘greed’ is counter-productive to the spread of Objectivism. I think he’s wrong.”

Abuse of the English language / the failure to grasp subtle distinctions or the importance of shades of meaning ==> A dictionary on the word “greed”: excessive desire to acquire or possess more (especially more material wealth) than one needs or deserves. Greed is not the same thing as the healthy desire for wealth, to live prosperously. It connotes a single-minded focus on money or wealth at the expense of other values, or without regard to whether one acquires them honestly. An Objectivist would not –literally and seriously- use the term “greed” in formal writing to define his philosophy for the same reason he would not use the term “gluttony” to describe his approach to nutrition.

2. “this principle [military campaigns should make every reasonable effort to avoid civilian casualties] is tantamount to altruism.”

Twisting the meaning of an opponent’s position ==> Avoiding unnecessary civilian casualties simply means, as one concrete example, you don’t bomb mosques full of non-combatants or nuking cities when there is no military need & when it would in fact lead to military harm by turning the whole population against you, especially in places like Iran where the population chafes under dictatorship and is very pro-American. It does not mean placing “the lives of our soldiers below that of” civilians.

3. “targeting innocents to achieve swift and total victory, as the U.S. did in World War II, is inconsistent with their view of ‘justice’.”

Putting words into your opponent’s mouth and trying to ‘infer’ of him a position he did not actually take ==> Switching the meaning of no –unnecessary- civilian deaths to mean –no- civilian deaths (even when necessary as they were in fighting WWII).

4. “That article explicitly rejects Ayn Rand’s view that ‘there are no innocents in a dictatorship’,”

Throwing out quotes from Ayn Rand as gospel with no need to contextualize, explain, and defend them ==> So, Ayn Rand herself was not innocent because she happened to live in Russia and couldn’t get out (except for a lucky break)? And all the other people held captive? All the Cubans who couldn’t flee the island and didn’t have a rowboat? And all the Eastern Europeans who chafed under communism till the wall came down in ’89? The Hungarians in the fifties who held secret meetings in the their basements to re-teach their children, to undo the lies and propaganda taught in the schools. The jews under Nazism herded into ghettos or camps?

None of them innocent?

Zero?

5. Non-sequitur ==> “I would have to say that these positions, taken together, cast TAS and its leadership in a very compromised moral light.”







Post 32

Thursday, January 31, 2008 - 11:05amSanction this postReply
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Robert and I cross-posted.....I was still composing my reply



(Edited by Philip Coates on 1/31, 11:13am)




Post 33

Thursday, January 31, 2008 - 11:34amSanction this postReply
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Abuse of the English language / the failure to grasp subtle distinctions or the importance of shades of meaning ==> A dictionary on the word “greed”: excessive desire to acquire or possess more (especially more material wealth) than one needs or deserves. Greed is not the same thing as the healthy desire for wealth, to live prosperously. It connotes a single-minded focus on money or wealth at the expense of other values, or without regard to whether one acquires them honestly. An Objectivist would not –literally and seriously- use the term “greed” in formal writing to define his philosophy for the same reason he would not use the term “gluttony” to describe his approach to nutrition.



Well said - but that still raises the same problem I mentioned in my post - what other word to use in place of greed for that proper wanting of wealth [in all its various forms] as the reward for achievement?  It is not quite the problem of 'self-interest', where the meaning was simply - concern with oneself - despite adversed connotations, but with a definition - a denotation -  that as mentioned would not even be used by an Objectivist.....

(Edited by robert malcom on 1/31, 11:35am)




Post 34

Thursday, January 31, 2008 - 6:50pmSanction this postReply
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> what other word to use in place of greed for that proper wanting of wealth [in all its various forms] as the reward for achievement? It is not quite the problem of 'self-interest', where the meaning was simply - concern with oneself [Robert Malcolm]

Good question. My thesaurus suggests 'acquisitive' as the most neutral word when contrasted to the negative words -- greedy, avaricious, covetous, rapacious. It puts the emphasis on the actual process of coming into possession of the goods, rather than on the [inordinate or unearned or unprincipled] desire.

But that's still not a positive word. Ambitious or aspiring are words you would use with regard to aiming at any achievement broadly, but they are used more for things like career success or fame rather than money.

We could speak of an 'earning personality' - someone who wants to work hard to produce as much wealth as he can and takes pride in the earning of it. And explain that that is a virtue. But our language does not have a single concept for that, probably because it was not conceived of prior to Rand, let alone prior to the Industrial Revolution, the great creators and inventors.

The Soviet 'hero of labor', the 'Stakhanovite' - if one strips it of the altruistic base and the idea of only physical labor - captures the part which refers to unstinting effort, taking enormous pride in ruthlessly driving oneself to enormously hard work.

Rand's concept of the 'producer' captures all of the preceding as part of the concept. But it's not limited, again, to the reward in the form of monetary earnings from this, but to the creation itself.



Post 35

Thursday, January 31, 2008 - 11:43pmSanction this postReply
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Glenn and Merlin:

 

Here is a link to several quotations from Ayn Rand regarding the issue of “innocents” under a dictatorship.

 

Regarding your question, Merlin, note that Ayn Rand refers to what a “conqueror” can properly do, after the invasion is successful.   She is not talking about the actions permitted to achieve the goal of conquest.  Once a dictatorial government has been neutralized and is no longer a threat, the invading army cannot proceed to trample on the rights of the population.  Their right to invade is only legitimate if their intent is to end the dictatorship.




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Post 36

Thursday, January 31, 2008 - 11:58pmSanction this postReply
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In response to Mr. Bidinotto:

 

I think my previous remarks made clear that what I objected to about “Gekko Echo” was the clear implication that there was something immoral about the concept of greed—i.e., with wanting money and wealth for its own sake.  The additional quotes cited by Mr. Bidinotto do not contradict that conclusion.  On the contrary, they support it:  “…there is such a thing as greed, and it is, as another common definition says, a reprehensible form of the desire for money.”

 

The quote I used to summarize the article is as follows:  “…In motive, greed is a desire for wealth without regard for achievement or creation.  In action, greed is the unprincipled pursuit of wealth….”

 

The striking thing about the quotes cited by Mr. Bidinotto is how thoroughly they serve to illustrate that same quote.  For instance: "The [conventional] concept of greed can properly be applied only when the desire for money is divorced from any concern with achievement…”  It is clear that Kelley and Scott are arguing that  the vain, self-centered, grasping pursuit of pleasure, riches, prestige or power...." must be redeemed by achievement.   In fact, there is nothing wrong with the pursuit of money for its own sake, or the pursuit of pleasure, or with being rationally self-centered.  (Of course, Kelley and Scott try to sell their point using a “package deal” by throwing in prestige and power, which certainly are irrational values.)  To say that “pleasure and riches” have to be redeemed by “achievement” suggests that these values are evil in themselves and require such redemption.

 

Is the skillful card player who earns a fortune by gambling in Las Vegas acquiring money through “achievement”?   Or the lottery winner who retires to a life of luxury?  What about the person who inherits wealth, and prefers to spend his life touring the world and studying history rather than working?  Or what about the cab driver who works two shifts and saves his money to retire to a life of playing chess with friends?  What about the ticket scalper who makes a fortune buying and selling tickets to hip-hop concerts?  What about the accident victim who never has to work another day in his life following a successful multi-million dollar lawsuit?   And what about the person of moderate intelligence who toils daily at a menial job but refuses to give to charity, preferring all the selfish pleasures his paycheck can bring?

 

Quoting Kelley and Scott:  “…When the desire for money is connected with achievement, there is no vice involved, and the concept of greed is inapplicable…”

 

Are all of these people guilty of the "vice" of “greed”?

 

Mr. Bidinotto says: “It is clear that Dr. Kelley and his co-author are condemning not rational self-interest, but the conventional definition of greed as ‘an excessive desire for material possessions’…”  That’s correct.  I see nothing wrong with such “greed.”  I do not believe there is anything immoral about an “excessive desire” for material possessions.

 

The quotes cited by Mr. Bidinotto do seem to explain Kelley’s participation in Stossel’s documentary, and eliminate any suggestion that his participation involved a contradiction.  I was not familiar with the article he refers to.  The REASON article would have been significantly less confusing if it had contained a similar explanation of “good greed” vs “bad greed."  It did not.  It attacked greed as such.

 

Mr. Bidinotto characterizes my agenda as being that of “diminishing Dr. Kelley.”  Isn’t it telling that a supposed spokesman for the philosophy of Objectivism cannot distinguish the effort to make a philosophical point from a personal attack?  That says a great deal about the mentality of the “civil” Mr. Bidinotto.  Keep up the dispassionate pursuit of the truth, sir.  You are a shining exemplar of reason and objectivity.  An inspiration to us all.




Post 37

Friday, February 1, 2008 - 1:22amSanction this postReply
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Phil:

 

Point One:

 

Here’s the first definition of “greed” offered in the American Heritage dictionary:

An excessive desire to acquire or possess more than what one needs or deserves, especially with respect to material wealth: "Many . . . attach to competition the stigma of selfish greed".

Here’s the next definition offered: excessive desire to acquire or possess more (especially more material wealth) than one needs or deserves.

 

I made explicitly clear that the word has troublesome connotations.  So does selfishness.  I assume you wouldn’t use that word to define your philosophy either.  Like selfishness, it is a word that needs to be used by Objectivists because it emphasizes and underscores that there is nothing morally wrong with wanting as much material wealth as you can attain.  Like selfishness, there is nothing about the word itself that suggests it involves anything illicit.  People attach that connotation because altruism carries that implication.

 

Point Two:

 

The phrase “making every reasonable effort to avoid civilian casualties” means that such casualties are to be a primary consideration in military strategy.  Any military objective other than achieving total victory as swiftly as possible places the lives of our soldiers and citizens at risk unnecessarily, and that is altruistic.  If one soldier’s life is lost because of that strategy, that soldier’s life was valued less than that of the opposing nation’s citizens, and that is grossly immoral.

 

Point Three:

 

You consider “making every reasonable effort to avoid civilian casualties” consistent with targeting civilians with two atom bombs?  Unbelievable.

 

Point Four:

 

Most of the civilians in dictatorships are fundamentally passive.  Their economic support of the government is largely responsible for the continued existence of those governments.  It is their responsibility to do whatever they can to help topple a criminal regime or fight against it or flee.  They cannot continue to live their lives as “business as usual” and claim innocence while their government engages in aggression and mass murder against innocent nations.   That is the point Ayn Rand was making.

 

Incidentally, it was widely reported that a great many Iraqi’s in fact supported the U.S. military invasion to overturn Hussein, even though it put their lives in jeopardy. The same was true in Nazi Germany.  A number of Afghans joined with our military in the fight against the Taliban.  If any citizens could be described as innocent, they would deserve that label because they were willing to join us in the fight against their dictators—while recognizing that it might well cost them their lives.   I am quite certain Ayn Rand would also recognize them as such.

 

So you once thought I was an “intelligent, reasonable fellow,” huh?  I remember the joke Ronald Reagan told when he was asked why he was no longer a Democrat.  He spoke about a farmer who was riding in his truck with his wife, and suddenly she says:

 

“Honey, do you remember years ago when we always used to sit so close?”

 

The farmer looks at her and says:  “I ain’t moved.” 

 

 

 




Post 38

Friday, February 1, 2008 - 5:18amSanction this postReply
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In Post 36, Dennis raises some good points about the acquisition of wealth (e.g. via inheritance) not needing to be "redeemed" by one's own efforts.  I recently learned of a "Universal Inheritance" campaign being conducted in the United Kingdom (UK) via this site:

http://www.universal-inheritance.org/

In essence, the campaign seeks to grant to all citizens at age 25 a "guaranteed inheritance" of 10,000 British pounds, treating it the same way as they treat "guaranteed voting" at age 18.  I find it ironic that the proponents of this program frown upon "unearned wealth" through normal inheritance yet advocate "unearned wealth" through state redistribution.  I posted something about this to the RoR UK forum but it generated no response.  It seems somewhat relevant to this thread.

(Edited by Luke Setzer on 2/01, 5:27am)




Post 39

Friday, February 1, 2008 - 5:19amSanction this postReply
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Dennis Harden wrote:
Regarding your question, Merlin, note that Ayn Rand refers to what a “conqueror” can properly do, after the invasion is successful. She is not talking about the actions permitted to achieve the goal of conquest.
I must say you are an expert at "reading into" AR's words things that aren't there. Here is the quote again:
A slave country has no national rights, but the individual rights of its citizens remain valid, even if unrecognized, and the conqueror has no right to violate them.
You didn't answer my first two questions.




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