Ayn Rand and Individualism: a book project outline

Chris Cathcart's picture
Submitted by Chris Cathcart on Mon, 2010-02-15 07:02

(I know Goode and plenty others might be interested in this...)

Tentative proposal, February 2010

Ayn Rand's unique moral vision holds an important place in the history of individualist thought. I plan to demonstrate that her individualist moral vision merits an important place in the history of normative thought, and that philosophers need to take her seriously as such. From this time forth, there should be no mistaking within the philosophical community what her individualist moral vision is and what it rightly entails, and why it serves as one of the most promising ethical theories in the history of philosophy to date.

Rand's moral vision is an originally-formed and systematic one in its own right; at the same time, it manages to incorporate the most appealing elements of the many competing theories in the ethical tradition, from Socrates and Aristotle to Kant and Nietzsche and many in between. Her ethics can be most briefly summed-up in the term eudaemonistic individualism. In a eudaemonist-individualist moral vision, each individual has a unique and irreplaceable worth and a responsibility to develop the capacities and actualize the potentialities unique to every individual human being. The goal is happiness, rightly understood to be a feeling and a condition associated with the satisfaction of right desire. The means of achieving this happiness is a life of virtue, best understood as fidelity to the requirements of actualizing one's potentialities. This moral vision is individualistic in that this perfection or actualization of unique potentials is necessarily self-actualization.

Eudaemonia is attained when one's condition as a human being matches what the "inner voice" or daemon tells the individual is the means to self-actualization. Self-knowledge is crucial to living well or being eudaemon. And fidelity to what one's daemon dictates is the essence of virtue or moral excellence - that the inward and the outward self be one. This entails living with scrupulous rationality, integrity, honesty, and independence of spirit. These virtues have implications socially (the virtue of justice), materially (the virtue of productivity), and psychologically (the virtue of pride).

The heroes of Ayn Rand's novels are her depictions of morally ideal individuals - people of excellence with unwavering integrity of spirit. In this regard, she identifies man as an end in himself, an idea with both Kantian and Nietzschean connotations. I plan to show that her ethics retains the right aspects of both of these thinkers' conceptions of man as an end in himself, while rejecting the wrong aspects. After all, Rand, contra Kant, sees happiness as the purpose of ethics, and, contra Nietzsche, believes that value and virtue are objective as means to happiness and thus necessitate morally-informed behavior. With Nietzsche, she rejects altruism; with Kant, she emphasizes that desire must be rationally-informed in order to be right desire. Other similarities and differences will be fleshed out and it will be shown that her ethics closely resembles Aristotle's, in which case her conception of egoism is best placed within the virtue-ethics tradition.

After a discussion of Rand's fictional heroes as moral exemplars, I will compare and contrast her moral vision with that of David L. Norton, author of Personal Destinies: A Philosophy of Ethical Individualism. Norton's moral vision is not only appealing but it is right in every way that we would expect a moral theory to get things right. This means, among other things, that the right moral theory is an individualistic one.

At a certain juncture, Rand and Norton part ways, particularly as it relates to the social entailments of eudaemonism. Not only is there a (self-actualizing-justified) obligation to actively encourage members of one's community to self-actualize themselves, but there is also a political obligation based in the virtue of justice to members of one's community that goes beyond the negative obligation not to "initiate the use of physical force," but also to ensure that the necessary political conditions are in place so that people can flourish. This entails a political community or state that ensures, if the community can afford it, that every member is guaranteed certain basic goods and opportunities. This fully retains the appealing features of individualism, because every member of the community has a rational stake in every member being able to flourish.

In this regard, I hold that Randian individualism properly entails a political liberalism in the tradition of Locke, Jefferson, and F.A. Hayek. In regard to Hayek, I will show that Rand shared the same views about rationalism, or as Hayek termed it, constructivist rationalism. I will also show that, while Hayek did not offer a moral vision in the same way that Rand did, he did offer a supremely practical vision for the ordering of society in ways that answer to the rational self-interest of its members. And as Rand was keen to insist, there is no dichotomy between the moral and the practical. Being that Rand was supremely practical herself, I urge for Randians to reconsider that her ethics does not entail a "laissez-faire" politics by necessity, and in this regard I urge a consideration of liberal individualism in the tradition of these thinkers named above. This is also the politics entailed in Norton's eudaemonism.

This politics is also genuinely a liberal one, in spite of the virtue-ethics underpinnings. Just as there is no dichotomy between the moral and the practical, so there is no dichotomy between virtue and liberality. They are one and the same. The individualist moral vision of Rand and Norton is strong enough to counter objections from communitarians who urge that virtue-ethics has non-liberal political implications.

Since John Rawls is the most dominant figure on the contemporary moral landscape, a detailed treatment of the liberal individualism I set forth as it relates to Rawls's is crucial. Of particular interest would be how a Randian conception of man as an end in himself compares and contrasts with Rawls's Kantian conception. Since Rand's conception is inspired by Nietzscheanism with respect to its non-egalitarianism and partiality to one's own flourishing, but infused with the Kantian ideal of respect and concern for one's fellow human beings and of freedom as the highest political aim, a promising individualist alternative to Rawls's theory of justice emerges.

One potential area of application of Rand's moral vision is the ethics of how we rightly treat non-human animals. Since animals are not moral agents but are nonetheless part of the sentient community, we owe them consideration to the extent that they have mental lives that individuate them in morally significant ways. This is to say that the proper approach to the subject of how to treat animals is a eudeamonistic one, i.e., that the right way to treat animals is the one most expressive of our commitment to moral excellence and self-actualization in all its social entailments.

Updates/revisions of this outline would be available here.


( categories: )

John

Michael Moeller's picture

I understand your position. We appear to have the same fundamentals, but differ on our structural view. Anyway, good discussion.

Michael

Michael, I have to break off

John Donohue's picture

Michael, I have to break off the discussion. We are basically on the same team, but don't see this the same way. You seem to have Ayn Rand's statements in alignment with your view, and you are certainly clear about your lines of deployment.

I will continue to picture the diagram my way, with Metaphysics and Epistemology at the top and the three normative branches below. The pre-moral foundation of life shines down on all three. Then, when establishing the structure of any of the three, moral reasoning engages, always rooted in life as the fundamental value.

I have no problem under this setup making the moral case for Capitalism without mentioning "ethics." Moreover, this keeps me in my main groove: vigilance in keeping all attempts to drag personal ethicical positions/choices into politics.

Respectfully,
John

John

Michael Moeller's picture

I did not realize there was a question about aesthetics, I thought you were just making a statement. Let me address the politics first, as that is another topic, although tangential to the discussion here.

You write:

Each of these three branches are driven by man's inescapable pre-moral highest value: life. Politics should be completely blind to the individual's ethical choices; it should only care about non-contradiction in carrying out it's function of protecting life. A Political system can make norms about what is fair and just in carrying this out.

John, on what grounds does a political system determine the norms about justice? Metaphysics and epistemology tell you about the nature of reality and the means by which you grasp it. From this ethics is derived, and you cannot bypass this step on the way to politics because you need to first define a standard by which things are judged as good/evil.

In other words, what is your standard for what is just? Your political system and the application of justice is going to look a lot different if the standard is "the common good" or some collective, or an individual's self-interest.

Your approach, I surmise, would be driven by the ethical primary of what "... allows me to live according to my own judgment based on my life as a standard..." and sliced up with the tenet "...the boundary between ethics and politics is private actions vs. government action..." and you would argue that education is a private choice. Correct me if I am wrong.

Even though correct, how much chance do you think you hav;e in contributing to the reversal of entrenched bad politics with that? Zilch, I conjecture.

First I would say that it has everything to do with reversing the trend. The principle provides the foundation for saying businesses should be allowed to compete in education, and parents should be free to choose where they want to send their kids to school. I mean, how do you make the argument without at least implicitly endorsing rational self-interest? The same is true of the other side, as in your quote which says: "well, what about the poor and their 'right' to an education". You combat this with proper ethical foundation for "rights", not by excising ethics.

Secondly, these principles are the foundation, not the end of the argument. Politics is it's own specialized science, to be sure, but it is derived from the ethical standards. Life as the standard of value is a broad abstraction, you still need to learn how to apply it. And therein lies the rub here, saying that it needs further application when dealing with others (i.e. politics) is not equivalent to saying that the ethical standard is not the foundation for politics, and should be divorced from politics.

This is true of any derivative concept within the realm of politics. Consider the right to property. In a dispute, one does not just say "I have a right to property" and leave it at that. It is the foundation, not the end of the inquiry.

One needs to define the nature of property and further develop rules to apply the right to particular circumstances, eg. what is the scope of the right, what conduct does it cover, what constitutes infringement, etc etc. But you do not begin the application by excising the foundation; that is, you do not say we need to settle this dispute of property rights but let's leave the right to property out of it. The right to property provides the epistemological (and ethical) foundation, and this general principle defines the scope of application. Ditto for the interdisciplinary relationship between an ethical foundation and the application to politics.

If we must justify proper government by inculcating ethical issues, it is too easy for it to become "your selfish ethics against my caring ethics."

This is why I included the quote from Rand on the Founding Fathers. Her point is that this application of individualism lacks and does not explicitly lay out a full moral defense, which is why the political structure has been subverted over the years. Yes, it includes epistemology and metaphysics, but it also goes a step further with an ethical foundation. Not just what is nature of reality/man and the nature of cognition, but also what is the standard for governing the relationship and actions among men.

Let me draw an analogy. Say a person argued that man is fundamentally irrational and, to keep him from harming himself, his judgments should be superceded by a benevolent dictator or some collective notion of "the common good". Would you then say that we should severe epistemology and reason from politics? No, I think you fight for reason and it's foundation in politics, just as you do selfishness.

On aesthetics, are you in agreement with Rand that art conveys metaphysical value-judgments? I do not think you can make "value-judgments"--of what is "for me" or "against me"--without setting a standard of value. In this case, that means life as the standard of value.

I think the way Rand described in re ethics is that art conveys what is "important"--important to whom and by what standard. A choice about what is important necessarily entails morality, which I think is why she also states that aesthetics is based on ethics.

Michael

Michael,I still disagree

John Donohue's picture

Michael,

I still disagree with your lines of connection. I see each normative branch of philosophy co-equally pointing back to Metaphysics and Epistemology. You did not respond to my challenge about Aesthetics. How does Objectivist Aesthetic Philosophy source its moral position?

Each of these three branches are driven by man's inescapable pre-moral highest value: life. Politics should be completely blind to the individual's ethical choices; it should only care about non-contradiction in carrying out it's function of protecting life. A Political system can make norms about what is fair and just in carrying this out.

You asked for a specific. I'll start with the case of government enmeshment with education. Your approach, I surmise, would be driven by the ethical primary of what "... allows me to live according to my own judgment based on my life as a standard..." and sliced up with the tenet "...the boundary between ethics and politics is private actions vs. government action..." and you would argue that education is a private choice. Correct me if I am wrong.

Even though correct, how much chance do you think you have in contributing to the reversal of entrenched bad politics with that? Zilch, I conjecture. Here is the voice:

"First of all, it is in your interest to live in an educated society that; is a moral certainty. Second, you are still free to exercise your moral choice to send you kids to private school. Third, this is a democracy; you have a say in the moral choices made with you tax money; call you Senator (who is NOT in favor of outlawing public schooling, I might add). Last, we are not a cruel and heartless culture. Children did not chose to be born and do not chose their circumstances. You want to destroy public schools on some obscure principle. I thank God and the Progressives that your selfishness ethical position has not the slightest chance against our heartfelt moral stand to give all kids a fair chance."

My point is that the Progressives and Theists have not the slightest qualms championing the march of their ethical beliefs into law. They consider it absurd, insulting and heinous for politics to be so cold as to not 'care.' To them, someone calling for a retreat back to the stupid founders who were immoral slave holders is insane and evil.

Objectivists are faced with dethroning the huge a priori presumption that our "country" is 'good' and one thing we do is act good in Washington and every state legislature. If we must justify proper government by inculcating ethical issues, it is too easy for it to become "your selfish ethics against my caring ethics."

The more unattached Politics is from ethics, the "colder" and more "uncaring" it is, the sooner people will cease and desist the urge to legislate morality. There should be utter certainty that politics should not and can not fit into the circle of ethics. This results in more emphasis on the urgency for fighting the good fight in the marketplace of ideas on ethical positions. People will be clear they will get NO help from Politics, yet feel safe that if they fail to win adherents to their cause ethically, they are assured of not being jailed -- or having their money jailed -- by the victors.

Tentative

Chris Cathcart's picture

All, please do keep in mind that I wrote this proposal as a "tentative" one and that I am taking every comment/criticism that I get to heart; my aim is to get things exactly and fully right with the utmost standards of intellectual care. If some proposal truly involved anything that can be rightly construed as the initiation of physical force, robbery, etc., then I am against it, firmly and fully. I just need a bit more time to work things out in exacting detail. (I am having internet connectivity issues at the moment so my posting time may be limited for the time being.)

I appreciate those who've given me the benefit of the doubt; I shan't let you down. Innocent

John

Michael Moeller's picture

The respect is mutual. Please do not take any disagreement to imply that we are not on the same side, or that you are "watering down" the moral defense of capitalism. I have seen other Objectivists make similar arguments, which is why I wanted to weigh in. Nor did I intend any "gotcha" moment, I just wanted to set up Rand's quotes with some explanation. The point of of my utilitarian example was simply that theories of punishment are applications of ethical principles--in that case, utilitarianism vs. individualism/self-interest.

As a lawyer, I do adore the Socratic method. So let me ask you: what do you consider the dangerous interplay between ethics and politics? I think a concrete example here would help move us forward.

What *I* worry about is that the "boundaries" of politics do not fit inside the ethical boundaries, while keeping a clear boundary between politics and ethics. Think of a Venn diagram in which a smaller "politics" circle falls inside a larger "ethics" circle.

My interpretation from others, who have adopted a similar position as yours, is that they are afraid of "legislating morality". That is, the government legislating on such things as prostitution, drugs, homosexuality, etc. etc. But this blurs the line between private action and government action. Private actions are not the province of politics (so long as they do not physically coerce others) and it is necessary to keep that boundary intact. However, we do exist in a social context, and where our actions intersect with the actions of others is where politics comes into play--the defining principle being that I am free to live according to my own judgment so long as I do not use force against others. This principle itself is an application of ethics.

You ask:

Do you consider Political Science to itself engage in normative considerations?
...
Why can't these normative choices be wholly part of Political Science itself, which is directly integrated with the Epistemological discovery of "What is man" and "What is his primary value (which is pre-moral)?

No, politics does not engage "to itself" in normative considerations, by which I take it you mean outside ethics. I say that capitalism is "good" or "of value" to me because it allows me to live according to my own judgment based on my life as a standard. The same for all derivative political concepts, like the right to property, right to freedom of speech, the right to form contracts, the right to pursue gainful employment of my choosing, the right to property, etc. etc.

These all serve my life as the standard of value. These normative dimensions of political abstractions are not "outside" of ethics, but applications of ethics in a social context. The political concepts derive from this ethical standard. And the boundary between ethics and politics is private actions vs. government action, whereby government serves to protect those rights in the face of potential violations by others.

Or, looking at it epistemologically, if in your case you hold the same normative standard for politics and ethics, then they will by necessity intersect. What is good/evil for you does not change because you have to deal with others in a social context, you just need a further application of ethics because you are dealing with others, i.e. politics.

Michael

"Moral" applies to all three normative branches of philosophy

John Donohue's picture

Now a second writer whom I respect contesting my point. So let me start by saying I've long respected your writing and voice and am positive we are on the same side.

Michael, I'd like to do two things in this response: 1) go Socratic; and 2) respond to the Rand excerpts.

Do you consider Political Science to itself engage in normative considerations? To be unSocratic and give the subtext: I made it clear that Politics must, yes, make decisions about the extent of retribution and the correct application of Justice as a concept to adjudication; I claim this was not due to Ethics but that it certainly MUST rest on Metaphysics and Epistemology. You are projecting, I feel, that I advocate no normative interplay if I separate out Ethics (which is why you hoisted the Utilitarian example)

With regard to the Rand citations:

"The answers given by ethics determine how man should treat other men, and this determines the fourth branch of philosophy: politics, which defines principles of a proper social system. As an example of philosophy's function, political philosophy will not tell you how much rationed gas you should be given and on which day of the week--it will tell you whether government has the right to impose any rationing on anything." (PWNI, pg 4)

and...

"Politics is based on three other philosophical disciplines: metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics--on a theory of man's nature and of man's relationship to existence. It is only on such a base that one can formulate a consistent political theory and achieve it in practice...We [Objectivists] are radicals for capitalism; we are fighting for that philosophical base which capitalism did not have and without which it was doomed to perish" ("Choose Your Issues", The Objectivist Newsletter)

Okay, you "got" me. Ayn Rand drags in an explicit connection. At this point I -- fasten your seatbelts -- suggest she may have not needed to say that! Why can't these normative choices be wholly part of Political Science itself, which is directly integrated with the Epistemological discovery of "What is man" and "What is his primary value (which is pre-moral)?

Here is my position: Both Ethics and Politics are normative sciences. The word "moral", I suggest, applies to a concept germane to normative science, not 'only' to Ethics. Moral choices are in play in all normative sciences, including, I would posit, in Aesthetics (as our host has been on about, admirably, at length.)

Michael, I wish to convey that my purpose in pursuing this is NOT to win an argument about the number of angels that can fit on the head of a pin, not to water down Objectivism's moral justification of capitalism. My burning drive is to smash the dangerous boundary violations between Ethics and Politics with which all variants of tyrants begin their hideous work.

John

Michael Moeller's picture

I think this "wall of division" between politics and ethics is a misconception, and I do not think this is how Rand looked at it. I mean, if you could not defend NIOF morally (and epistemologically and metaphysically), on what grounds would you defend it? To severe ethics from politics, I think, concedes a defense of capitalism as moral.

This might be a timely issue as Tara Smith is apparently giving a talk on the matter. Looks to be a talk worth checking out.

In any event, ethics covers more than just politics, it also governs your private actions (eg. lying to your wife, lying on your resume, backstabbing a co-worker, etc.). But politics is a subset of ethics, it is the application of ethics in a social context. The idea that one should be free to use their mind, to pursue their happiness, and reap the rewards absent force is a profoundly moral concept. The idea that one should serve "the common good", or God, or some other collective and can be implemented by means of force is also an (im)moral concept.

Politics does not govern how you should act in a particular circumstance (absent force), or keep you from acting irrationally (provided it doesn't include force), but should guarantee that you are free to act according to the judgment of your mind. This defining principle that leaves you free to act is a moral concept, and should not be severed.

And the application does include punishment for crimes. Consider that the American criminal justice is generally based on the proportionality principle--i.e. that the punishment should fit the crime. I would consider this a form of "retributive justice", which takes account that an individual created some harm to an individual victim--and punishment is meted out according to the extent of that harm.

Compare that with a utilitarian approach (Bentham et al), which justifies punishment based on the deterrent of future criminals. In other words, it separates punishment and justice from the individual perp and victim, according to their actions, and loses a foundation for exacting punishment based on different crimes. Or look the primitive barbarism of systems that cut off hands for theft or stone to death adulterers. These are all political applications of an underlying ethics.

Indeed, I think the connection between ethics and politics is the power of Rand's defense of capitalism. Here are a few quotes on the matter:

The answers given by ethics determine how man should treat other men, and this determines the fourth branch of philosophy: politics, which defines principles of a proper social system. As an example of philosophy's function, political philosophy will not tell you how much rationed gas you should be given and on which day of the week--it will tell you whether government has the right to impose any rationing on anything. (PWNI, pg 4)

Politics is based on three other philosophical disciplines: metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics--on a theory of man's nature and of man's relationship to existence. It is only on such a base that one can formulate a consistent political theory and achieve it in practice...We [Objectivists] are radicals for capitalism; we are fighting for that philosophical base which capitalism did not have and without which it was doomed to perish ("Choose Your Issues", The Objectivist Newsletter)

The political philosophy of America's Founding Fathers is so thoroughly buried under decades of statist misrepresentations one one side and empty lip-service on the other, that it has to be re-discovered, not ritualistically repeated. It has to be rescued from the shameful barnacles of platitudes now hiding it. It has to be expanded--because it was only a magnificent beginning, not a completed job, it was only a political philosophy without a full philosophical and moral foundation, which the "conservatives" cannot provide. ("It's Earlier Than you Think", The Objectivist Newsletter)

Michael

"And my point about taxes is

Aaron's picture

"And my point about taxes is that they did not keep Ayn Rand from living a flourishing life. That was the original contention at issue, and I think I've answered it. Seeing as that's so, likening taxation to some form of robbery (which does negatively impact on one's flourishing) looks quite suspect, does it not?"

Is 'well, it didn't keep you from flourishing' at all a relevant gauge of morality? Taxes aside for a moment, I've been cheated for hundreds of dollars in internet based purchases before. Just a few weeks ago I was robbed out of a couple hundred dollars of firewood. I've been scammed out of about $10K investing in a company which fraudulently published fabricated press releases and financials. All of these are utter chump change to what I've lost to government, of course, but the point is I've lost a respectable amount to private forms of theft. These haven't prevented me from living a flourishing life - so does that also make such theft moral?

Aaron

Chris

Richard Goode's picture

There is no such thing as histrionic personality disorder.

Being a drama queen is a lifestyle choice, like drug addiction.

Let's get back to Rand's justification of socialism. LOL.

Rational politics

John Donohue's picture

Ellen, your non-support of Cathcart's idea noted and I already could tell that. I am sure we are on the same side.

I'd like to start by clarify something at the top here myself: my insistence on a solid wall of division between the two branches of philosophy -- politics and ethics -- is driven by one major concern: vigilance against government applying force to advance norms from the outside on sovereigns when no infringing has taken place. To me, this is the size of the Empire State Building compared to perhaps a small newsstand at 34th and 5th representing getting the hierarchy of how the two sciences 'fit together.' The major abuses of history are caused by some ethical belief being encoded into law and applied with iron hand on otherwise free people. As soon as there is even a hint that government (politics) is about knowing ethically how a citizen "ought to" think or behave, they say "well then we oughta make a law about it!." Five minutes later they are burning people at the stake for advocating an "incorrect" ethics.

Your post back to me reflected this, yes, but only in passing. Your concern that I don't have the breakdown correct seems strong. Are you simply trying to academically get straight how Rand floated the two sciences with regard to each other, or do you feel my error in the 'arrangement' brings on danger?

I don't mind a theoretical discussion about interrelatedness, but we are dealing here with someone who is not taking a walk in the park: he is advocating government force to be applied on ethical judgement while putting absolute individual rights in abeyance.

That having been said, and referring to your post content, I see that you are reporting that Ayn Rand includes "justice" in the list of virtues in her ethics. You and I both note that all the other virtues are about the self, about norms for ones personal behavior. I suggest that walking through the list a thinker would not examine these personal norms as they pass and then abruptly jump far afield at "justice" and take it to mean "how the Justices of the Supreme Court ought to interpret the law." etc. You provide Miss Rand's paragraph on Justice and it backs up my contention. She is talking about the value of the person holding her ethics being "just" in their judging of their identifications and moral appraisals. I have no quarrel with that. Yes, it does (as you said) deal with others, but in thought and word and decision to speak out or to associate or not associate with the other in question. There is no hint in there about the political (force/government) aspect.

Now, you introduce another aspect which Rand nor I inculcate: The choice of an individual to initiate force. Certainly it is excellent to think that a code of ethics would inhibit a marginal person from commiting crime. It won't matter a fig to a true criminal, however. They need politics applied to their head, period.

With regard to your sentence:
"rational ethics (non-initiation) can be insisted upon. I.e., the government is to stay out of it with all other ethical issues, but when there are issues of rights violations, this is the one category of exception where people can be required to comply with rational ethics and to provide redress for violations whether they want to or not."

I think it is a 'rational politics' that must be insisted on. Government can't have "an ethics." A government is defined by its Political structure. I see no reason -- and huge danger -- in ascribing 'ethical issues' to it.

My main message to you back is the one I began with: the configuration is a box at the bottom of the Empire State Building for me.

Re: Clarification

Ellen Stuttle's picture

John,

Maybe I'd best say first, trying to avoid misunderstanding, that my questioning doesn't pertain to supporting Chris Cathcart's idea that providing for needs is part of the legitimate function of government. I very much disagree with that idea.

I'm merely puzzled because of your drawing a divide between ethics and politics. As I see it, politics is a special subcategory of ethics pertaining to a special category of behavior (rights-violating behavior).

 

I'll repeat your whole post "Clarification" - - #84877 -- since it's by now a fair piece down the thread.

Ellen

I was referring to the public/societal term "Justice" as in "the police incarcerated the murderer and the courts brought him to Justice." Like that.

Normative means: evaluating what is normal for man qua man. What the norms should be. Ethics establishes the norms for the individual electing to follow it, Politics establishes the norms for dealing with violations of the rights of individuals.

My contention, and I would ague also Ayn Rand's, is: Political Philosophy defines the boundaries of each sovereign and declares the powers of government to deploy its monopoly on use of force when it determines (judges) that a violation by one citizen upon another has occurred. It is the Judge's job to make the wisest objective evaluation if a violation occurred and what, if any, rectification ought to follow.

"Judging" as in discernment, evaluation, choice, action, etc. yes is a major tool of ethics when one engages that kind of judging to determine if ones contemplated action is ethical for oneself. Rand suggests the grounding of the evaluation be: does it help sustain and further my life and the purpose I've elected to seek. I don't think the word "Justice" itself applies in Ethics. Unless it is something like "I knew what I was doing was against my self-chosen rules and convictions for my life plan and reality brought me to justice!"

 

Well...Rand thought the word "Justice" applied in Ethics. Here's the section from Galt's Speech. (Signet paperback *For the New Intellectual*, pg. 128-129; the paragraph about "Justice" can be directly linked on the Lexicon website. The website entry leaves out an italicization -- of an "is" -- which I've restored.)

From Galt's Speech

My morality, the morality of reason, is contained in a single axiom: existence exists--and in a single choice: to live. The rest proceeds from these. To live, man must hold three things as the supreme and ruling values of his life: Reason--Purpose--Self-esteem. [....] These three values imply and require all of man's virtues, and all his virtues pertain to the relation of existence and consciousness: rationality, independence, integrity, honesty, justice, productiveness, pride.

[....]

Justice is the recognition of the fact that you cannot fake the character of men as you cannot fake the character of nature, that you must judge all men as conscientiously as you judge inanimate objects, with the same respect for truth, with the same incorruptible vision, by as pure and as rational a process of identification—that every man must be judged for what he is and treated accordingly, that just as you do not pay a higher price for a rusty chunk of scrap than for a piece of shining metal, so you do not value a rotter above a hero—that your moral appraisal is the coin paying men for their virtues or vices, and this payment demands of you as scrupulous an honor as you bring to financial transactions—that to withhold your contempt from men’s vices is an act of moral counterfeiting, and to withhold your admiration from their virtues is an act of moral embezzlement—that to place any other concern higher than justice is to devaluate your moral currency and defraud the good in favor of the evil, since only the good can lose by a default of justice and only the evil can profit—and that the bottom of the pit at the end of that road, the act of moral bankruptcy, is to punish men for their virtues and reward them for their vices, that that is the collapse to full depravity, the Black Mass of the worship of death, the dedication of your consciousness to the destruction of existence.

 

Clearly Rand did consider "justice" a virtue in a rational ethics. It was the one virtue she listed which pertained to the individual's relationship to others.

Further, if I understand Rand correctly, it's the one virtue in regard to which she thought an exception could be made, in cases of injustice in the form of rights violations, and the virtue could be enforced.

If I understand you correctly, on the other hand, you're drawing a separation between redress for rights violations and ethics. It's here that I'm not following you.

You wrote in an earlier post, which Scott DeSalvo strongly seconded in his #84916:

Politics is ONLY about the matter of outlawing all initiation of force and the one exception to the use of force at all. It is not about anything else whatsoever. [....]

Ethics has nothing to do with coercion.

I will raise my voice against any effort to equate them, to conflate them or to conjunct them in any way. In fact, much more emphasis must be made to differentiate.

 

Although I agree that politics should be restricted as you indicate, what's bothering me is the idea that this has nothing to do with ethics and that ethics "has nothing to do with coercion."

As I see the breakdown -- and I think I'm in keeping with Rand in seeing it this way: Choosing to coerce or not to coerce is very much an issue of ethics. A person whose ethics is geared to living a rational life will refrain from coercion except in retaliation or in certain kinds of emergency circumstances. Thus in the sphere of a rational personal ethics, the initiation of coercion is a not-to-be-done. However, there are those who don't choose to live by a rational personal ethics. Whereas with all other choices besides those involving the initiation of coercion, it isn't the business of government to enforce ethics, in regard to the sole exception of the initiation of coercion, rational ethics (non-initiation) can be insisted upon. I.e., the government is to stay out of it with all other ethical issues, but when there are issues of rights violations, this is the one category of exception where people can be required to comply with rational ethics and to provide redress for violations whether they want to or not.

Thus, in terms of classification, as I see it Ethics is the wider category; Justice is a subcategory; and violations of Justice in the form of rights violations is the special subcategory which alone can be redressed using retaliatory force (such retaliatory force to be subject to objective law).

Ellen

Really?

atlascott's picture

"And my point about taxes is that they did not keep Ayn Rand from living a flourishing life. That was the original contention at issue, and I think I've answered it. Seeing as that's so, likening taxation to some form of robbery (which does negatively impact on one's flourishing) looks quite suspect, does it not?"

Ayn Rand would not have had a better life if she had 90% or 100% of her earned wealth, rather than having 1/3 of it confiscated? Since it was her wealth, by definition, her life is less enriched insofar as she had no control this portion of her productivity.

If someone breaks into your home and steals your television, it is less a setback than a government stealing 30 or more cents of every dollar you earn.

So how is robbery "theft" and taxation is not? I do not track you.

Maybe this will clarify: can you refuse to give the government your money in the amount in requests without having violence initiated against you?

Scott

Right on, John

atlascott's picture

"Politics is ONLY about the matter of outlawing all initiation of force and the one exception to the use of force at all. It is not about anything else whatsoever. As long as you can identify all existents subsumed under the concept "human being" and identify the boundary of a human being's life and property to the extent possible, you have everything you need for a proper political system. Going any further than that is social mystic collectivism, thought police and the road to tyranny.

Ethics has nothing to do with coercion.

I will raise my voice against any effort to equate them, to conflate them or to conjunct them in any way. In fact, much more emphasis must be made to differentiate."

Right on, and you beat me to it.

I'd also add that no one has denied Chris a fair hearing. Rather, in the face of strong skepticism, Chris repaired to the gutter. I agree he should apologize, and I am interested in what he has to say.

Taxes don't stop people from

PhilipD's picture

Taxes don't stop people from flourishing?

Try telling that to those who pay taxes for healthcare and then get sicker and sicker while on a public waiting list.
And you think that one wouldn't flourish more if they kept their own money and looked after themselves. That's flourishing. Or, is there some sort of rationing, according to you, on how much one should be allowed to flourish?

PhilipD

Chris Cathcart's picture

And my point about taxes is that they did not keep Ayn Rand from living a flourishing life. That was the original contention at issue, and I think I've answered it. Seeing as that's so, likening taxation to some form of robbery (which does negatively impact on one's flourishing) looks quite suspect, does it not?

So, which sub-type might we

Chris Cathcart's picture

So, which sub-type might we be dealing with here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/H...

I'm gonna go with Millon's subtype #1: Theatrical hystrionic: especially dramatic, romantic and attention seeking.

some indicators of HPD:

# Excessive dramatics with exaggerated displays of emotions.

# Excessive sensitivity to criticism or disapproval.

You mean your 'it depends'

PhilipD's picture

You mean your 'it depends' question?

'Consider the level of taxation Ayn Rand would have experienced during World War II. The end for which taxes were raised was an end that Ayn Rand had a rational stake in seeing accomplished.' Sure.

And straight from that you can do a quick hop-step-jump to it being in her interests to pay taxes for welfare so that others can flourish? On her coin.

BTW, you've ruined for ever the word flourish. With the stupid way you use the word, and your 'inner voices' thing, flourish now sounds like a silly dance that fairies do while squealing over and again, 'Linzy-Poo-Pee-Bibbles, Linzy-Poo-Pee-Bibbles.' I've got issues, I suppose.

Aw, would you look at that

Chris Cathcart's picture

More histrionics. No, Linz isn't the problem, it's all those smearing bastards that are the problem, those fucking pieces of pseudo-wanking filth. Man, the world is just teaming with smearing bastards. And anyone who calls Linz out for being a big crybaby is a smearing bastard.

One has to be dense not to see the irony here.

I know ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

... Chris, you unrepentant smearing prick, that you'll find this hard to come to grips with, but what you call a "pattern of outbursts" is simply taking one's values seriously, and there is nothing wrong and everything right about feeling anger when those values are outraged. Like your fellow-pomowankers you think it's all a parlour game and a barrel of laughs (or rather, sneers). Only when you're called on your Obamian agenda, that cool detachment suddenly goes out the window and you repair to the first available smear against those calling you on it. Funny that.

PhilipD

Chris Cathcart's picture

Well, you were giving me a hearing, at least up till a few posts below. You asked me a question, and I responded. Just look down the thread and you'll see it.

Anyway

Chris Cathcart's picture

So I was wrong in my impression about what Linz said in regard to his drinking. Again, I apologize.

"Call for silence"? Was I

PhilipD's picture

"Call for silence"? Was I "silent"?

'...give him a hearing?' Was I not giving him a hearing?

Linzy-Poo-Pee-Bibbles, cont'd

Chris Cathcart's picture

Could you kindly explain how this qualifies as pseudo-intellectual Hayekian filth? Thanks much, dear.

Philip

James S. Valliant's picture

"Call for silence"? Was I "silent"?

Linzy-Poo-Pee-Bibbles

Chris Cathcart's picture

"I have said no such thing. That I ever said such a thing is a lie spread by Babs and Michael Kelly. Your apology as worded means nothing and I don't accept it. You're an unrepentant smearing prick, claiming on another thread that I need "treatment," and James is extending way more charity towards you than you deserve. As in fact am I by letting you post your smears of me and your pseudo-intellectual Hayekian/Alinskyan/Obamian filth here. I do the latter because I'm committed to the proposition that we're in a contest of ideas and therefore must engage in that contest, however unsavoury our adversaries. But I'm struggling to think of a good reason why I should do the former."

Okay, Drama Queen.

I take it, then, you won't even consider seeking the opinion of a professional regarding your pattern of outbursts, like the one above?

(Has someone taken over Linz's account to do satire? I can't tell the difference.)

Cathcart

Lindsay Perigo's picture

Regarding the "tipsy" comment, I had been under the impression that Linz himself actually had admitted to being more likely to fly off the handle - in such a way that he himself had to apologize for - if he had his inhibitions reduced by some drink. If I was mistaken in that impression, then I apologize.

I have said no such thing. That I ever said such a thing is a lie spread by Babs and Michael Kelly. Your apology as worded means nothing and I don't accept it. You're an unrepentant smearing prick, claiming on another thread that I need "treatment," and James is extending way more charity towards you than you deserve. As in fact am I by letting you post your smears of me and your pseudo-intellectual Hayekian/Alinskyan/Obamian filth here. I do the latter because I'm committed to the proposition that we're in a contest of ideas and therefore must engage in that contest, however unsavoury our adversaries. But I'm struggling to think of a good reason why I should do the former.

Waffling about Babs?

Chris Cathcart's picture

Linzy-Poo-Zizzles emotes some more:

"I agree that Chris came through magnificently on PARC (though interestingly, waffled on the matter of Babs)."

Let's clear up any misunderstandings right now. I think the problem with Babs is that her pattern of behavior is like yours - drama queen - which is more of an un-self-reflective psychological disorder rather than a product of conscious evasion. She is motivated by nothing but love and respect for Ayn Rand but it's an Ayn Rand viewed through her own emotionalistic lens. You don't need anything more to explain why Rand warmly received Barbara in her apartment in 1981; if she had judged Barbara to be a rotten human being, then that wouldn't have happened. Nathaniel, on the other hand . . . there's no rehabilitation of his image to be had here. He might be more of a way-fucked-up head case than anything benign by comparison like drama queendom. I'm beginning to think he had serious Oedipal issues or something going on with Rand, it's just so fucking creepy what he did. It's way more head-casey than, say, mere Narcisstic Personality Disorder, which it already indicates. Still, some diagnosis of severe psychological disordering doesn't get him off the hook; he engaged in knowing and conscious betrayal of his ideals. People need to understand that it was what Branden did to himself that had hurt Rand so badly. It was like taking Howard Roark, beating him and stringing him up on a cross while forcing her to watch. It was that fucking hurtful to her. Unconscionable.

"If Chris is sure of his ground, he'll stand it (he's not the only closet Obama supporter on SOLO I'm sure)."

My views on Obama are very similar to Andrew Sullivan's; in brief, skeptically favorable and detesting of sycophancy.

Anyone with a clue knows that Sullivan and Glenn Greenwald run the best political blogs on the internet, by the way.

'For all of these reasons,

PhilipD's picture

'For all of these reasons, don't you think that we should give him a hearing...'

That's just crap, James. A call for silence and calm respect? Yeah, that's just what's needed. He is of course getting a hearing from the 'hyenas', the 'drama queens' and others here ; one far more polite than he deserves in my opinion.

Clarification

John Donohue's picture

Ellen

I was referring to the public/societal term "Justice" as in "the police incarcerated the murderer and the courts brought him to Justice." Like that.

Normative means: evaluating what is normal for man qua man. What the norms should be. Ethics establishes the norms for the individual electing to follow it, Politics establishes the norms for dealing with violations of the rights of individuals.

My contention, and I would ague also Ayn Rand's, is: Political Philosophy defines the boundaries of each sovereign and declares the powers of government to deploy its monopoly on use of force when it determines (judges) that a violation by one citizen upon another has occurred. It is the Judge's job to make the wisest objective evaluation if a violation occurred and what, if any, rectification ought to follow.

"Judging" as in discernment, evaluation, choice, action, etc. yes is a major tool of ethics when one engages that kind of judging to determine if ones contemplated action is ethical for oneself. Rand suggests the grounding of the evaluation be: does it help sustain and further my life and the purpose I've elected to seek. I don't think the word "Justice" itself applies in Ethics. Unless it is something like "I knew what I was doing was against my self-chosen rules and convictions for my life plan and reality brought me to justice!"

Jim V

Chris Cathcart's picture

Thank you.

Regarding the "tipsy" comment, I had been under the impression that Linz himself actually had admitted to being more likely to fly off the handle - in such a way that he himself had to apologize for - if he had his inhibitions reduced by some drink. If I was mistaken in that impression, then I apologize.

As for the Hayek stuff, please see the same link I posted in the Hayek thread:

http://chriscathcart.blogspot....

As for the Kant-tie-in stuff, well, there's my journal article.

Rest assured that my book project will strive to achieve the highest standards of intellectual excellence you have come to expect from me.
Smiling

Hmmm, John

Ellen Stuttle's picture

How do you define the category "normative science"?

Are you relegating "justice" only to the political realm, and as only pertaining to the deployment of force? (Then what of personal judgments of another person's moral worth and consequent decisions as to how to act personally toward that person, with no issues of force involved? Wouldn't you classify such judgments as instances of the concept "justice"?)

Ellen

there is nothing missing

John Donohue's picture

there is nothing missing inside the Philosophy of Politics, a normative science, that cannot speak to justice. That is the entire point of a wise Politics, to not over empower the government and not underpower it in its role as deployer of force (always in rectifcation of initiation of force only.) That is what justice IS!

Ethics is a personal matter.

James

Lindsay Perigo's picture

You ask:

For all of these reasons, don't you think that we should give him a hearing... provided he retracts his inexcusable "tipsy" crack? (If he persists in this, then dishonesty is, in fact, indicated.) We are sooo very right about the substance of this matter, and from so many different angles, and so rich in substance and logic and fact, that we can surely afford this much, folks.

Forgive me, but it's my impression we are giving him a hearing. Giving him a hearing doesn't mean we must remain calm in the face of outrage. It's not just the fetid fascist filth, as I've called it, that he's peddling; it's not just the slithering Sciabbarian weasel-words with which he justifies it; it's not just the immediate recourse to a standard Babsian smear when he's called on it (thank you for your stout defence on that matter, James); it's putting Ayn Rand's name anywhere near it. Then he calls us "fundamentalists" for getting so exercised about it. Well, when it comes to the "fundamentals" of Objectivism, I'm a fundamentalist, proudly (though I would certainly distinguish "fundamentalist" from "Randroid"). And unlike you, I don't consider him that smart—rather, as someone who above all else wishes to be seen to be smart. Hence the Sciabarrian approach of, why use one small word when a hundred big ones will suffice?!

I agree that Chris came through magnificently on PARC (though interestingly, waffled on the matter of Babs). His integrity through that period makes this latest Hayekian Horror Show all the more baffling. But the latter is in front of us, right here. Chris is at perfect liberty to go on performing it, but please don't ask the rest of us whose stomachs are churning to turn off our gag reflexes. If Chris is sure of his ground, he'll stand it (he's not the only closet Obama supporter on SOLO I'm sure). If he isn't, and he's honest, he'll back off.

In any event, none of us should ever be afraid of the debate, whatever its ferocity. This is SOLO after all, run by a drama queen. Eye

Ethics and Politics: Question to John Donahue

Ellen Stuttle's picture

JD: "I really don't see any matter of ethics that enters the political sphere, or the converse.

When establishing the particulars of how a government goes about it's duty in the use of force, yes, choices must be made; politics is a normative branch of philosophy. But those are elements of Politics, not ethics.

Ethics is the personal code of behavior one follows to sustain and advance one's life."

What of justice? Isn't justice a "matter of ethics that enters the political sphere," indeed is the required guideline for the protection of individual rights? What of the adage "Let the punishment fit the crime"? Would you see that as "political" but not "ethical"?

Ellen

James if you need what to

John Donohue's picture

James if you want to hear him out, just read his abstract and the Norton PDF. Is there more necessary to form a judgment?

I do NOT consider the

John Donohue's picture

I do NOT consider the appraisal of what level of force to deploy against a criminal as an ethical matter. It is political.

In the Political Philosophy I would favor:

All initiation of force is absolutely outlawed. Including by government. The only exception to the lawful deployment (deployment, not initiation) is the government reacting to and adjudicating a citizen who initiated force. That is the "exception."

I really don't see any matter of ethics that enters the political sphere, or the converse.

When establishing the particulars of how a government goes about it's duty in the use of force, yes, choices must be made; politics is a normative branch of philosophy. But those are elements of Politics, not ethics.

Ethics is the personal code of behavior one follows to sustain and advance one's life.

Mr. Donohue

James S. Valliant's picture

Yes, I am deeply troubled by that line, as well. I agree that the spheres of ethics and politics are not coextensive at all. There is however a "junction" between the two, if not a complete "conjunction." No politics needed when alone on an island, but ethics most desperately so. Also, I do think that ethics has something to say about the wielding of force, but perhaps this is what you meant by the one "exception," and we can, I believe, discriminate between levels of force, such as the different penalties for different crimes in criminal law imply. These kinds of discriminations are an ethical matter and do not make us the Marquis de Sade.

More troubling even than this problem is that of Chris's understanding of coercion. Circumstances are not "coercion," of course, and I can't be compelled to account for the coercion of others. Only the coercive thief can be compelled to pay restitution, for example. We lose sight of the mandate for individual justice otherwise, and there should be no contradiction between the two, in any case. And I wonder if Chris is serious about the limitation to force Rand defined and which most important of all in this context: that it is physical. Physical violence or damage or force against a person, or physical harm to or deprival of his goods, or the seizure of physical property or the right to (ultimately) physical property are the limited scope of the law, in my view. (I'm sounding like Olivia Newton-John at this point. Smiling )

If it were just the question of taxes, I would be troubled, but to raise the question of welfare is even worse.

We are on the same page here.

But I need to know more before I can condemn him as a monster, at this point. See, I do care that he is smart. This is a value to me and I will not toss it aside lightly. It has also earned my thorough hearing.

Maybe it's just my context.

I don't care if he is smart and sensitive

John Donohue's picture

James: "ethics comes FIRST and lays the foundation for politics. Politics is merely one expression of ethics. The two are inseparable."

Strong objection.

Politics is ONLY about the matter of outlawing all initiation of force and the one exception to the use of force at all. It is not about anything else whatsoever. As long as you can identify all existents subsumed under the concept "human being" and identify the boundary of a human being's life and property to the extent possible, you have everything you need for a proper political system. Going any further than that is social mystic collectivism, thought police and the road to tyranny.

Ethics has nothing to do with coercion.

I will raise my voice against any effort to equate them, to conflate them or to conjunct them in any way. In fact, much more emphasis must be made to differentiate.

Meanwhile, this Cathcart Project and the thinker he is sourcing are all about conflating ethics and politics. I condemn that in the strongest terms and daresay so would Ayn Rand.

Mr. Cathcart strongly objected to my suggestion that his project is being pitched as "Objectivist". Good. Glad to hear it. He should remove "Ayn Rand" from the title of the project on his destination page. Perhaps instead of the "Ayn Rand book outline" it could be called the "David Norton book outline." It was nothing in common with Ayn Rand or Objectivism.

David Norton:
"My argument is for the necessary conjunction of politics and ethics."

Chris Cathcart...

James S. Valliant's picture

... is one of the smartest and most sensitive guys with whom I have exchanged thoughts. Ever.

And his proposed project is an exciting one. He will get my brain to fire up on all cylinders. And, goddamn it, I appreciate this as much as anything else.

No, he will have a whole lotta convincing to do before he gets me to see anything like a valid "welfare right," or to understand how the state won't be initiating force by securing material goods of any kind, or for anybody, without the consent of its producer. Violence and theft of this kind is not justifiable even on the grounds of another man's starvation, misery or death. No one's need is a valid moral claim to use force against anyone else. Ever. My wealth is mine absolutely, and the condition of those around me is utterly irrelevant to this calculation. No one may seize my extra kidney against my will, no matter what the life-and-death nature of his need. No one may seize a single penny in my pocket, absent my consent, without it being a form of robbery, and no argument about how "society made this penny possible" can do the trick, either. I am not properly made a slave to my neighbor's plight, whatever it may be, no, not even .0001% of the time.

I am also confident that a capitalist society would have only quite marginal poverty and that this would be abundantly assuaged by the Great Souled Men of Aristotle's description.

Nor does the consciousness of animals, for what it is, entail any moral requirement for the legal protection of their... "rights"(?!)

The problems spread out for him in all directions, as other have observed here. What constraints can he argue for that would stop him short of an ethics of rank socialism? What exactly are those "objective requirements" for flourishing? (Mine, I am certain, involve many things that society cannot provide or afford or should be required to provide.) Wouldn't such a case also be grounds for the "allocation" and "distribution," ultimately, of anything and everything? Force and mind are opposites, so how does he square this round hole? Etc., etc.

So, understanding the mighty mountain he must climb, and after registering our deep and almost certainly abiding skepticism, let us see what he comes up with before completely freaking out.

Yes, he is dead wrong to accuse Linz of being "tipsy," and he owes Linz a public apology. THAT, my friend, was simply inexcusable, although I might see beyond it (as an emotionalist effusion in the heat of the discussion), given such a retraction. (Have you ever even met the man, or partied with him, as I have??!)

And, yes, I smell a deeper Hayekian rat than he currently lets on, as well. While Rand opposed some of the same politico-rationalistic constructs of which Hayek complained, his criticism of reason, as such, was much wider than that -- and also seems to have encompassed the same kind of "reason" that Rand employed. Indeed, in some ways, she was the very epitome of the optimistic liberal who sought to improve society with reason whom Hayek denounced. We should never give in to the belief that tradition has some presumptive validity simply because it "evolved" outside of reason's understanding. Quite the reverse. The message should not be, "see how Marx and Hegel used their comprehensive 'reason,' so 'down with reason!'" Nope. We should be able to see that it was not reason at all. The failure of central planning was a devastating shock to Hayek, as it was to so many other socialists, and, like so many others, he unjustifiably saw this as a failure of reason itself. All that was left for the poor man was a puny, pip-squeak kind of "reason" crawling through the minutiae of tiny details, never daring to see the Big Picture. (And we can blame Hume for this, I think.) Yuk!

And, even worse, I smell the odor of his Kantian rat, too. At least this time it's a bit more overt. That Rand shared certain relatively superficial similarities with the guy is true, and worthy of investigation. But, sakes alive, the man taught that mere consequences have no part in the highest ethical thinking. This denies the true foundation of ethics -- indeed, the very point of ethics -- worse than any claim of Christianity ever could have. (I am happy with my "hypothetical imperatives," thank you very much.) Univeralizability, for lack of better term, is purest rationalism out of the context of consequences and realities, and, much worse than mere rationalism, when we use it to guide our actions in reality outside of that context. It is the inhuman torture of a concentration camp. Indeed, with all due respect, I may have to act in way that no one else ever has or ever would act, if the circumstances warrant it.

Also, I am with Peikoff about error, especially philosophical error: it usually indicates something deeply unwell in the thought process, and often of moral significance.

Having said all of that, I cannot yet say that Chris is being dishonest or that what I suspect are profound errors are, in fact, the result of any moral failure. His honesty in all matters with which I have had occasion to interact with him has indeed been quite striking. His recognition of Robert Campbell's dishonest fantasy-merchant ways is a good example, even if that one is low-hanging fruit. His willingness to give PARC a fair hearing is also noteworthy. Perhaps most revealing, his high admiration for Peikoff and his willingness to defend the man against most of his dishonest and sniping critics shows that he is not merely being led by the mob when he comes to a conclusion.

And about one thing he is absolutely right: ethics comes FIRST and lays the foundation for politics. Politics is merely one expression of ethics. The two are inseparable.

For all of these reasons, don't you think that we should give him a hearing... provided he retracts his inexcusable "tipsy" crack? (If he persists in this, then dishonesty is, in fact, indicated.) We are sooo very right about the substance of this matter, and from so many different angles, and so rich in substance and logic and fact, that we can surely afford this much, folks.

Do not wish to disappoint

atlascott's picture

"...that taxation with representation isn't relevantly different from taxation without representation, in terms of determining their objectionability?"

Fundamentally, both are theft. They are not voluntary contributions. It is taking of wealth backed by violence if one resists. Whether there purports to be representation or not does not change the fundamental nature of theft. Representation maight make it more palatable to some who are confused.

"Consider that in every government that's existed, there is the power to lay and collect taxes granted by the Constitution."

Many governments which have existed had no Constitution. Many governments which existed and do exist are utterly, irredeemably corrupt cesspools.

"Now . . . Supreme Court decisions tend to be informed by the wisdom of the ages."

There is no such thing. And repair to such concepts as "Wisdom of the Ages" -- this is puzzling epistemologically, especially for someone who claims to have completely integrated Objectivism.

"What the taxation-is-robbery crowd is demanding is a radical reorientation of the legal system's understanding of constitutional rights. Judicial radicalism is, for a number of reasons, not a very bright thing to be advocating."

No, we aren't necessarily calling for judicial activism, because if a Judge acted against clear precedent, the case would be overruled by a higher Court. There should be legislative and Constitutional change. But most here are wise enough to know that if the Constitution-amended can of worms is opened, it is likely to be in the direction of Constitutionally-mandated redistribution of wealth, which both you, politcal Progressives, and President Obama support.

See, its doesn't matter if you ride the road to hell in a red jacket claiming to be fighting for the lumpen proletariat or as an individualist dressed like James Dean, and claiming collectivism is compatible - or even REQUIRED by -- individualism. You end up in the same place.

Why are you so insulting and defensive? I would like to hear more about how and why you think individualism and collectivism are mutually compatible or beneficial, and have you address the difference between morality and the law, if you believe that there are any differences.

Darn it!

atlascott's picture

Richard, you beat me to it.

"You're not talking about moral obligation, you're talking about legal compulsion, and that's a very different matter." and "It's not the role of government to enforce morality."

I would add merely that the moral system is an individual choice, right or wrong. And, that in the example of the doctor working at the hospital, it is one of his professional obligations (contract) and terms of employemnet (contract) - and therefore, also individually chosen.

Chris- Yes, law enforcement

Aaron's picture

Chris-
Yes, law enforcement involves force. The question was whether you viewed enforcing laws for wealth redistribution as potentially moral.

As for the taxation question, does determining that 'extortion' is a more precise word than 'robbery' make it any more ethical?

Aaron

OK

gregster's picture

I'll take a breather from observing your train wreck.

That's a fair question; "What makes you think I don't regard Prof. Campbell as an ass in his own right?"

I understood, from your readiness to substitute accusations for facts and a predisposition for hissy fits, your Drama Queen thesis notwithstanding, combined with the "objectivism individualism within socialism" theorem of your latest Hayekian (?) proposition here, you were an able understudy of and a ready substitute for the kind of bluster that Campbell elevated to his signature anti-artform.

gregster

Chris Cathcart's picture

I asked you a question before, why didn't you answer it?

The question:

What makes you think I don't regard Prof. Campbell as an ass in his own right?

Pushing your Statism cart

gregster's picture

I don't find you worth engagement. I'll watch the train wreck rather than savaging the weakened beast.

Relevant differences

Chris Cathcart's picture

Richard, would you say, for instance, that taxation with representation isn't relevantly different from taxation without representation, in terms of determining their objectionability? Now, I could agree that taxation without representation is little or no different morally than organized, regularly-scheduled robbery. But isn't that different from taxation with representation?

EDIT: Consider that in every government that's existed, there is the power to lay and collect taxes granted by the Constitution. Now, if laying and collecting taxes were like a violation of constitutional rights, our case against taxation as a form of robbery would be up and running. And, yet, our Courts have never found the laying and collecting of taxes per se to be violations of constitutional rights. They did say that the power to lay and collect taxes in incomes would require a constitutional amendment - and we now have that. So now we have income taxes, and the Supreme Court has determined income taxes to not be violations of constitutional rights. Now . . . Supreme Court decisions tend to be informed by the wisdom of the ages. Might not these pronouncements about taxation being the moral equivalent of robbery, be pronouncements in defiance of some wisdom of the ages? What the taxation-is-robbery crowd is demanding is a radical reorientation of the legal system's understanding of constitutional rights. Judicial radicalism is, for a number of reasons, not a very bright thing to be advocating.

Good god, I can only guess at the many, many ways that these rather incontrovertibly-true words can be misconstrued by the hyenas here.

Chris

Richard Goode's picture

I'm saying that there are relevant differences...

What are they?

Linzy-Poo

Chris Cathcart's picture

It seems to elude you that taxation is "regularly scheduled robbery."

No, silly, my point is that it begs the question to say that taxation is regularly-scheduled robbery, when the whole point of whether it is robbery is what's under contention. I'm saying that there are relevant differences between these activities that make it perfectly legitimate to ask whether you're really talking about regular-scheduled robbery (or the moral equivalent of such) when you're talking about taxation.

I'll get to Richard Goode's post in a bit.

All matter

Robert's picture

exerts a gravitational pull. That is a property of matter. It is an easily definable, limited and observable property that is well described (see Newton on the law of gravitation).

Which is more than I can say for Cathcart's 'social conventions.'

And that's just for starters.

"the social obligations we have towards one another"

Richard Goode's picture

And when did I agree to such?

When did you agree to be subject to the Earth's gravitational pull?

Libertarianism 101

Richard Goode's picture

It all depends, of course, on what substantive content we can give to "initiation of physical force."

in a presumptive medical emergency, you do have a basic human right to be seen by qualified medical personnel whether you can afford it or not.

so the question then becomes whether the doctor being legally compelled to help in such cases is the victim of "the initiation of physical force."

We have social obligations, i.e., moral obligations to others. I'm not questioning that. I'm prepared to accept that, as a general rule, a doctor working in an accident and emergency clinic is morally obliged to treat all-comers. But that's not what you're talking about. You're not talking about moral obligation, you're talking about legal compulsion, and that's a very different matter.

It's not the role of government to enforce morality. A doctor should not be legally compelled to treat people, nor should I be legally compelled to pay for such treatment. So, yes, a doctor being legally compelled to help in such cases (or me being compelled to pay for said help) would, indeed, be the victim of "the initiation of physical force".

"the social obligations we have towards one another"

Robert's picture

Other than not pushing your face in should we ever meet, what social obligation do I have towards you? And when did I agree to such?

Comrade Chris

Lindsay Perigo's picture

It seems to elude you that taxation is "regularly scheduled robbery."

So much for being "many steps ahead of a lot of folks here . . . "

PhilipD

Chris Cathcart's picture

Consider the level of taxation Ayn Rand would have experienced during World War II. The end for which taxes were raised was an end that Ayn Rand had a rational stake in seeing accomplished. So isn't the natural thing to say about how one responds to some level of taxation is, "It depends"? Was taxation to finance the war the kind of activity that would produce the same kind of psychological result that robberies, regularly scheduled or otherwise, would produce?

It's apparent I'm many steps ahead of a lot of folks here . . .

Here's one similarity:

PhilipD's picture

Here's one similarity: theft/burglary/robbery- taking without consent.
: taxation- taking without consent.

This question seemed straightforward enough: "But, what, she wouldn't have enjoyed it more had she not been repeatedly robbed by the government?" Change 'robbed' to 'taxed' if it makes you feel better.

Here's one distinction

Chris Cathcart's picture

theft/burglary/robbery - an element of surprise for the target

taxation - not an element of surprise for the target

(That's not the only distinction, though; regularly scheduled robberies or shakedowns would still be abhorrent despite the lack of surprise for the target, but it's still question-begging to say that taxation is just like regularly-scheduled robberies. There are other distinctions.)

PhilipD

Chris Cathcart's picture

Perhaps the real psychological effects of being taxed are actually different than the real psychological effects of having your pocket picked or your goods burgled. Perhaps that's why Rand lived an excellent life while being required to pay taxes.

Now, the interesting question is: WHY would there by such psychological differences in response to seemingly similar sorts of acts? Is it because there are relevant distinguishing features between the acts that render one kind of act morally abhorrent and the other kind of act morally permissible in some respect or respects?

'Well, let's apply this to

PhilipD's picture

'Well, let's apply this to Ayn Rand's life. Ayn Rand worked a ton of hours running businesses and writing and whatnot, and a government came in and took a third of the profits. Are we going to say that she wasn't having an excellent life? Blasphemy!'

Of course, it was an excellent life. But, what, she wouldn't have enjoyed it more had she not been repeatedly robbed by the government? Or is it that you think that she should have put the matter of theft aside because she had it so good?

That's some reward for excellence; having your pocket picked.

Yep

Chris Cathcart's picture

so the question then becomes whether the doctor being legally compelled to help in such cases is the victim of "the initiation of physical force." Well . . . ?

Chris

Richard Goode's picture

It all depends, of course, on what substantive content we can give to "initiation of physical force."

How about

in a presumptive medical emergency, you do have a basic human right to be seen by qualified medical personnel whether you can afford it or not.

?

I'd just like to know...

Chris Cathcart's picture

...does anyone know of any exceptions to my Linz/Babs/Sciabarra drama-queen hypothesis?

Richard

Chris Cathcart's picture

It all depends, of course, on what substantive content we can give to "initiation of physical force." Of course this cannot be defined in a vacuum, just as the substantive content of "rational self-interest" can't be defined in a vacuum, as I pointed out in my article with supportive quotation from Peikoff. Saying that I advocate the initiation of physical force is akin to saying that I advocate people acting against their rational self-interest. It's silly to claim it, as I gather you're well aware.

Mark

Chris Cathcart's picture

I do have your posting in mind and I'll be considering/thinking it through. It's good food for thought and a challenge as to how to implement an individualist moral theory at a socio-political level. I do take it as something of a given that the flourishing of all individuals is rightfully an individualist moral concern. That seems to be where my views might depart from Rand's, but that's to be determined by a look at what her basic moral commitments are and what proceeds from those. I do think she seemed to under-emphasize the role of the social obligations we have towards one another. When actively encouraging others' flourishing is partly constitutive of our own flourishing - and I think it is - then the social entailments of eudaemonism seem rather rich ones.

Chris

Richard Goode's picture

So long as men desire to live together, no man may initiate the use of physical force against others.

The NIOF principle is Objectivism's saving grace. If it's not one of your conclusions, then your argument has gone badly awry.

gregster

Chris Cathcart's picture

What makes you think I don't regard Prof. Campbell as an ass in his own right?

Chris, I'd love a reply to my

Mark Hubbard's picture

Chris, I'd love a reply to my post here: http://www.solopassion.com/nod...

All the braying by your pack of hyenas and sycophants

gregster's picture

"All the braying by your pack of hyenas and sycophants"

Must have been your time with Prof. Campbell and JARS.

Aaron

Chris Cathcart's picture

Let's start off with this: whenever there is a law, there is a legal compulsion to obey it, correct?

So, Linz

Chris Cathcart's picture

I take it that you're flouncing off? All the braying by your pack of hyenas and sycophants is not going to erase a flounce.

This thread has gotten ridiculous, with a bunch of folks acting like fundamentalists (with a couple genuinely-intellectually-curious exceptions) when a threatening-seeming idea comes along.

Aaron, you're one of those exceptions. I'll get to you momentarily.

First hand observation

atlascott's picture

I have seen Linz drink enough to be tipsy, twice, years ago.

He is as pleasant and mellow a drinker as you are ever likely to find, from my direct observation.

It is dishonest to attempt to resurrect allegations of alcoholism in order to distract from Linz's laser-focused and accurate critique of your nonsense: coercion is not non-coercion, whatever you say.

Whether Linz ever contradicted himself regarding taxation is also not the issue.

Whether he agrees that Palin is a better choice than four more years of Obama is also irrelevant to the topic at hand. With her participation in Tea Party Movement, there is at least some evidence that she diagnoses some serious problems, something Obama and Progressives do not. That makes her a better choice, at least in that context.

Notwithstanding your Polish, Linz immediately identified your crap ideas as crap, and you do not like it. Seems quite simple. Just be honest.

Cathcart: You're a git.

Robert's picture

I said it before and I am now in your debt for proving it.

Now do us all a favor and join all the other statists who wish to justify their unwanted intrusion into my sovereign life.

"So, in short, it would be inaccurate to say that I promote compulsion of any sort aside from the legal requirement to obey the laws of one's civil society."

Riddle me this you poor man's Dr Goode:

By what mechanism do those 'laws' become enacted? By what means are they to be enforced? How do we define bad law from good law? Presuming that such a distinction exists in your fevered imagination.

Chris- I've generally been

Aaron's picture

Chris-
I've generally been impressed with your writing, but I'm really taken aback by this. I'd like simple clarification of:

"If people are acting in ways that they have a right to act, then there isn't any morally objectionable compulsion going on if people are required to abide by the law reflecting those rights. So, in short, it would be inaccurate to say that I promote compulsion of any sort aside from the legal requirement to obey the laws of one's civil society."

If the laws of my civil society forcibly take money from me for healthcare or welfare of others, do I morally have the right to opt out? Or are you saying morality would be on the side of such laws, thus making such use of force against me not 'compulsion'?

Aaron

Emotional

atlascott's picture

Chris, you name yourself an individualist, yet betray that you are not when you cede individual freedoms to a government bureaucrat, as you must.

Linz is RIGHTLY emotional in exposing your errors, and I wonder whether you are being disingenuous or are just mistaken. You are clearly very bright, which is why it is tough for me to believe that you think that you can integrate individualism and collectivism.

Insidious

atlascott's picture

"Insofar as we might speak of "welfare rights," they would be liberty-rights of a certain kind, or, perhaps better, an expression of the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

This whole thing is, and it reminds me of Political Double Speak you find in American Progressives.

All hogwash. But dangerous hogwash.

Compulsion

atlascott's picture

"So, in short, it would be inaccurate to say that I promote compulsion of any sort aside from the legal requirement to obey the laws of one's civil society."

In other words, you do support compulsion.

"No, I am not trying to

Chris Cathcart's picture

"No, I am not trying to absolve myself of anything I said. I stand by all of it."

So you stand by A and non-A. Just so we're clear on that.

"Yes, I would certainly vote for Palin over Obama in 2012."

Well, okay then. You're an idiot. A cognitive mess. What was it? Was it her ebullient presentation that hooked you? Her empty and cynical populism against unseen elites? The way she quit as governor after two and a half years? The way she explained how Alaska's being close to Russia gave her foreign policy credibility?

Because it can't be anything rational. Palin bypasses all rational categories and dips straight into your psyche's hopes and fears and fantasies. She's a masterpiece of mass-media marketing. Was it the empty slogans and catch-phrases? The rambling word-salads? "Obama needs to reduce the deficit" is about the extent of her policy analysis. And you just chomped right down on that shit sandwich as Roger Ailes intended, and begged for seconds. Isn't it it just great to surrender your mind and dignity like that?

Um, no

Lindsay Perigo's picture

No, I am not trying to absolve myself of anything I said. I stand by all of it.

No, I don't remember all those times you utterly kicked my ass before. I don't even remember one such time. Possibly because there wasn't one.

Yes, I would certainly vote for Palin over Obama in 2012. How does that validate your attempt to enshrine theft and coercion within some vaguely Objectivist tradition?

Chris, if you want to succeed at your pomowanking "Gotcha!" games, it may be prudent actually to get me at some point.

Oh, and the definition of "tipsy" and the evidence of my regularly being "tipsy" is? Me, I'd suspect that someone who talked about "Linzy-Poo" might just be a little "tipsy," but what would I know?

Oh, so much drama

Chris Cathcart's picture

You do know what "drama queen" means, right, Linzy-Poo?

So because what you said was said to an anarchist, it doesn't contradict something you said before? A is not A if not-A is being said to an anarchist?

And you pretend to call yourself some kind of Objectivist? Laughing out loud

Poor Linzy-Poo. Linz, don't you remember all those times I utterly kicked your ass before? Now we've got you trying to absolve yourself of something you said because of who it was said to? This is an even more monumental self-ass-kicking by you!

So, anyway, would you vote Palin over Obama in 2012?

Gimme a break

HWH's picture

Are they supposed to have been unmasked by Menstrual Maurone's quoting of something I said to mad Sharon the anarchist who doesn't believe in any government at all?? Gimme a break.

Exactly!

Seriously Chris

HWH's picture

I've studied why people are so eager to jump on the "goodies for nothing" bandwagon and the reasons are varied, but almost never innocent.

Apologies if I've erroneously tarred you with this brush..only time will tell.

I do not accept ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

... that there's any shit I may be busted for, or inconsistencies that need buffering. What are these, exactly? Are they supposed to have been unmasked by Menstrual Maurone's quoting of something I said to mad Sharon the anarchist who doesn't believe in any government at all?? Gimme a break.

Yes, pomo-Cathcart is playing a game of "Gotcha!"—but he hasn't got me. On what? If I say I'd vote for Palin in 2012 over Obama, what exactly is that supposed to prove? I've just dealt with this voting stuff right here, in posts that are as yet unanswered.

During the fatwa debate, as I recall, Cathcart kept chiming in that the issue of voting was of no importance. While all along, it would now appear, he supported the candidate who pushed universal health care. Funny that.

Cathcart is proposing the entrenchment of socialism/fascism in the name of liberty and backing it up with the reiteration of smears against me. As my friend the late Damon Lanza, a ferocious anti-socialist and son of The Great Mario, would say, "Fuck him and the horse he rode in on."

HWH

Chris Cathcart's picture

No, seriously. I mean it.

Why bother explaining anything to you? You've already determined that I'm rotten so what would you have to gain from hearing anything I have to say, and what would I have to gain explaining something to someone who has already determined that I'm rotten? Makes no sense.

Anyway, you've already made enough groundless assertions about me in a short enough span, that I doubt spending any further time discussing anything with you would be productive for either of us.

Seriously.

Chris

HWH's picture

You're like a kid having been busted for something, and now you're trying to create a diversion by pointing the audience to the shit Linz may be busted for, except that Linz has context and good faith buffering his inconsistencies whereas you're in the spotlight with nowhere to run.

For someone as erudite as you to demand emprical evidence for why one is to be considered worse off after having been robbed speaks of having been motivated by something worse than rotten.

Hope you find your way again.

Hey Chris, I'm clueless too

gregster's picture

but I'm not dumb enough to ask to be robbed!

HWH

Chris Cathcart's picture

Why bother explaining anything to you? You've already determined that I'm rotten so what would you have to gain from hearing anything I have to say, and what would I have to gain explaining something to someone who has already determined that I'm rotten? Makes no sense.

Anyway, you've already made enough groundless assertions about me in a short enough span, that I doubt spending any further time discussing anything with you would be productive for either of us.

Chris, in my post below I

Mark Hubbard's picture

Chris, in my post below I gave a link to the social democrats credo.

What is your opinion of it? What are your objections to it?

http://bowalleyroad.blogspot.c...

Quote:

I BELIEVE that human societies arise out of need. The need for food and shelter, the need for intimacy, the need for nurturing, and the need for protection – both from natural dangers, and the aggression of our own species. To secure these needs, human beings must work, individually or collectively, but always with the ultimate goal of keeping strong those innumerable threads that bind our communities in a functioning wholeness.

The source of fulfillment of human needs is the natural bounty of the planet on which our species dwells. Human beings are but one of the countless life-forms which inhabit the Earth’s surface, and we share with them a fundamental dependency on the planet’s life-giving properties.

Alone among all the creatures of the Earth, humankind possesses the power to consciously alter the fragile environment of its home. Such power bears with it an awesome responsibility: our own future, and the future of all other living things, depends upon our willingness to accept that what is possible is not always desirable. To ensure its survival, the human species must recognise the limits of its power.

In New Zealand, two peoples co-exist in differing states of awareness of the essential collectivism and dependency of human communities. The indigenous people possess a clear and poignant vision of humanity’s place in these islands. But the colonising peoples would not rest until the ideas and institutions of their respective cultures had taken root in New Zealand. To the extent they succeeded, the conflicts and contradictions of their homelands were also transplanted here. Resolving these conflicts and contradictions, and discovering the best means of prospering together, is the historic task of the two peoples fated to share these islands – Maori and Pakeha.

As a social-democrat I am dedicated to furthering in all aspects of my country’s social, political and economic organisation the essential equality of human beings. Social-democracy defines equality in terms of the universality of human need. Old or young, male or female, Maori or Pakeha, we are all defined by the human and ecological relationships indispensable to our existence. None of us live but by the bounty of nature and the collective exertion of our fellow human beings.

That being so, we must reject all claims hostile to the reality of our interdependence. Individuals and groups who by superior strength or simple good fortune are endowed with wealth and influence, enjoy their advantages on the sufferance of that vast majority whose daily labours make possible a functioning society. Only so long as, in the judgement of the many, the possession by a fortunate few of social, political and economic privileges serves the community as a whole, will those privileges endure. Any attempt by a minority to transform the privileges granted to them by the majority into a system of permanent advantage cannot be deemed just.

As a social-democrat I look to the state, as the institutional expression of our interdependence, to secure for all citizens a healthy and abundant life. The provision of gainful employment, education, health, housing and protection against adversity are rights due to all New Zealanders. Political institutions are established to secure these rights, drawing their authority from the freely given consent of all responsible citizens. Those charged with governing our country, hold in trust the resources – both natural and social – that are the common property of all our people.

Chris

HWH's picture

Since by implication I'm one of those clueless ones, please explain how it ever becomes OK to forcibly rob someone of their private property without it becoming theft? (their excellent lives notwithstanding of course..for the sake of avoiding equivocation and package dealing)

PhilipD

Chris Cathcart's picture

Since you're the only one here who seems to be reasonably clued-in, I'll respond to you:

"What, slogging your guts out by running your own business for seven days a week just so the government can take a third of the profit, and then some, makes for an excellent life, does it? All that work just to provide for someone you don't know and probably wouldn't like. That's 'flourishing?'"

Well, let's apply this to Ayn Rand's life. Ayn Rand worked a ton of hours running businesses and writing and whatnot, and a government came in and took a third of the profits. Are we going to say that she wasn't having an excellent life? Blasphemy!

(She was having an excellent life. Duh.)

"You smearing bastard." You

Chris Cathcart's picture

"You smearing bastard."

You drama queen.

So what about Palin and Joe M? You flouncing away from those inconvenient subjects? Flounce away, it's what a drama queen would do! Big smile

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