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Argumentative essay on 1984 - Outline


answers: 47 - page 1 of 2
Jul 16, 2009, 11:40am   #1
Ok so the task is have an outline by tomorrow on an argument you develop. I need to aim for 4 body paragraphs.

How is my argument?

Big Brother has ultimate control over Oceania's communist society because they control and alter the past, therefore controlling the future.

My problem is that I can't seem to develop any arguments to write about what I made up. I can only think about BB changing the truth about the history but I dont think that effects the proles.

Jul 16, 2009, 12:16pm   #3
hmm but do the proles even listen to the BB? They don't even have telescreens but I guess they hear from it from riots and such, yea you're right.

But how can I write 4 body paragraphs on this? Keep in mind this is my first argumentative essay
Jul 16, 2009, 12:43pm   #4
Oceania is not a communist society so you need to revise that point before you proceed or your whole essay will be based on a falsehood. If Big Brother has control of society then by definition the society is not communist. A communist society has no class system. The inner party, outer party, and the proles are a form of social classes. This is a sort of facist/totalitarian socialist state.

Also, your thesis is really just describing "how" big brother controls Oceania not "why." Dig deeper. Anyone who reads the book can see how Big Brother controls the proles. (propaganda, censorship, etc.) This becomes evident from reading the book jacket. Ask a real "Why" question about this book. Make sure it isnt a "how" question disguised as a why question.
Jul 17, 2009, 12:13pm   #6
Gautama:
Oceania is not a communist society so you need to revise that point before you proceed or your whole essay will be based on a falsehood.

Right. Orwell meant 1984 to be a (serious) spoof of totalitarianism. At the time, the USSR was practicing totalitarianism under the guise of communism, so that is why many people mistake the book as a critique of communism.
Jul 17, 2009, 05:42pm   #7
could someone shoot out a few more topics I could write for this argumentative essay please?
Jul 17, 2009, 08:56pm   #8
EF_Simone:
The USSR was practicing totalitarianism under the guise of communism


One could argue that the USSR was in fact practicing communism, which must inevitably lead to totalitarianism, as it has everywhere it has been tried. The notion that communism is a good idea in theory is pernicious, and no more true than the idea that fascism is a good idea in theory.

In fact, Canada recently announced plans to erect a monument to the victims of communism: nationalpost.com/news/story.html?id=1758377

Here is a relevant excerpt: "Marxism maintains remarkable persistence, given that wherever it became policy, there followed brutality . . . That when Nazis gather, we call police, and when Marxists gather we smirk -- though 'all historical evidence shows they're just as murderous,' . . . exposes our double standards."
Jul 18, 2009, 03:07am   #9
Who can you say from history has really given communism an honest effort? Not Russia. Definitely not china or Cuba. I don't argue for communism but I will say that I think it has been misrepresented throughout history. Communism has been a tool for totalitarians to manipulate and decieve populations. If truly noble leaders tried to make a communist society we may see a different results. Communism has failed because the people who held the power to make changes were not communist themselves. So what do you expect? Of course it will fail if every major "communist" leader is corrupt.

And by the way, you can be a Marxist without being in favor of communism. Also, when did Marxism ever become policy?
Jul 18, 2009, 03:26am   #10
Gautama:
If truly noble leaders tried to make a communist society we may see a different results.


So, every country that has ever tried communism has slid into totalitarianism, but this isn't because of anything inherent in communism? It just happens to have always been implemented by evil leaders? How many times does it have to fail before you begin to wonder if the system itself is flawed?

Communism fails because it is based on false premises. First, it assumes that all labor is physical labor. Marx never believed in the power of intellectual labor, which was odd for an intellectual. But of course intellectual labor, the ability to plan and organize, is very valuable, in large part because it is much rarer than the ability to do physical labor, which virtually any able bodied person can become good at through simple repetition. And the idea that different types of labor have different values seems to have largely eluded him, too. Second, it assumes that all people are equally deserving of material wealth, regardless of innate talents, attitude, effort, etc. No one in the world really believes that, and it is probably genetically hardwired in us to want to punish freeriders. Third -- and this is where communism goes from flawed to evil, in my book at least -- it assumes that every man should be the slave of every other. No leader, however noble, could implement such a system without it leading to totalitarianism. In the end, those with power must end up the complete masters of all, for few people will willing agree to be slaves if they can be masters instead, and no one will ever consent to be the slave of lesser people than themselves.

As for the distinction between Marxism and communism, it is fine enough to be a matter of semantics. The only difference is that Marxism remains respectable in many circles, whereas communism has been so widely discredited that no one who wants to be taken seriously will admit to believing in it.

Thank you for making my point, though. No reasonable person would have written here that fascism was flawed in practice, but could have worked well if it had been implemented by noble leaders. Yet people have no trouble saying that about communism, a movement responsible for an order of magnitude more deaths.
Jul 18, 2009, 04:29pm   #11
For my topic could I argue that when Oceania was practicing communism it inevitability lead to totalitarianism.

Is this really an argument though and if its not true how could I manipulate that thesis so it makes sense?
Jul 18, 2009, 11:30pm   #12
yonman:
For my topic could I argue that when Oceania was practicing communism it inevitability lead to totalitarianism.


No. The book doesn't really detail how Oceania came to be a totalitarian state, as far as I can recollect (but it has been a while since I read it, so I could be wrong). In any event, it certainly isn't the focus of the novel. I'd avoid any reference to communism, and focus on Orwell's broader critique of collective totalitarianism, regardless of how it arises.
Jul 19, 2009, 01:54am   #13
I think communism also just assumes that human nature is to good. It would only work if people really had a collectivist mindset and were happy to give to others all the time. Some people are like this but for the most part this is against human nature and the natural order of all things.

I recall Hobbes saying that in a state of nature life is brutish and short. Therefore he proposed that we do away with the state of nature in favor of the leviathon. Most of humanity's efforts to improve life through civilization and laws goes against the natural order of living things. It is tricky to strike that balance between maintaining our natural desires of selfishness and competition and evening the playing field for more less able people. Communism goes to the extreme of trying to create an even playing field at the sacrifice of our most basic human traits such as competition and selfishness. It also tries to do this without a class system or central authority. That means that any potential rules about "sharing" would never be enforced because if they were enforced the system would cease to be communism and would be instead socialism. Socialism forces people to provide for each other. Communism does not. Thats why communism would fail. Because there is no fail safe if someone didnt want to play by the rules. Hence it is so easy for communism to become totalitarianism.

I do agree with most of Marxisms criticisms towards capitalism but not with its proposed solutions.
Jul 19, 2009, 02:31am   #14
Gautama:
I think communism also just assumes that human nature is to good. It would only work if people really had a collectivist mindset and were happy to give to others all the time.


Why should a collectivist mindset be defined as good? For that matter, why should giving to others, periodically or consistently, be defined as good, regardless of context? I don't accept your premises.

Gautama:
Communism goes to the extreme of trying to create an even playing field


No, communism isn't about creating an even playing field at all. An even playing field society would be a capitalist one in which all children had the exact same access to educational opportunities and inheritance was outlawed. Then, people could play based only on their own ability and effort. Communism is more about refusing to allow there to be a game and distributing wealth equally without regard to ability and effort at all, which naturally rewards those those who put out as little effort as possible.

The problem with communism lies in its central tenet: "from each according to his ability, to each according to his need." People with ability are to be made to contribute to serve the needs of others. This is just slavery, pure and simple. And as I said before, where some men must be slaves to others, freedom cannot flourish, and where all men are supposed to be slaves to others, totalitarianism is the natural form of government that will inevitably emerge. Worse, communism involves not the enslavement of the weak by the strong, which, if we cannot condone, we can at least understand, but the enslavement of the strong (those with ability) by the weak (those with needs). This explains why every communist government in existence, to the extent that it has remained communist, has collapsed inward on itself, and why the satellite images of South Korea at night are pictures of light, and the ones of North Korea are pictures of darkness.
Jul 19, 2009, 05:26pm   #15
EF_Sean:
Why should a collectivist mindset be defined as good? For that matter, why should giving to others, periodically or consistently, be defined as good, regardless of context? I don't accept your premises.


That is a very shocking statement. You really dont think that helping others is good? Then what is good? What is your definition? I'm pretty sure that most people on the planet would agree that helping others is a good thing. It's common knowledge.

If every single person on this planet were to "periodically or consistently" give to others the world would be a much better place. There are alot of resources in this world. If people willingly gave them to those who needed it most (intelligently and efficiently of course) then the average quality of life on earth would increase dramatically. The reason that goods cannot be distributed equally amongst everyone is that it would create malcontent amongst those who are stronger than others. That is selfishness. That is what leads people to hoard wealth. If people had a collectivist mindset, there would be no malcontent. No one needs millions of dollars to live on. That is a waste in my mind. I would even go so far as to say that hoarding wealth unneccesarily is evil.

EF_Sean:
An even playing field society would be a capitalist one in which all children had the exact same access to educational opportunities and inheritance was outlawed.


This doesnt make sense either. A capitalist society does not provide an even playing field at all. Everyone is born with different strengths and weaknesses. That is the way of nature. Animals in nature are not on an even playing field either. If one person is born with a higher IQ than someone else that means that the playing field is no longer equal. Then capitalism allows people with superior traits to crush people with inferior traits. That is not fair at all. Communism attempts to break this cycle. It isnt successful, of course. Namely because it is trying to break the cycle of nature which is impossible. Any such effort would be destined to fail from the start. Capitalism is more a reflection of a state of nature where those with unfair advantages dominate those with unfair disadvantages. That is the way the natural world works.

EF_Sean:
Communism is more about refusing to allow there to be a game and distributing wealth equally without regard to ability and effort at all, which naturally rewards those those who put out as little effort as possible.


Carefully examine the central tenet of communism that you yourself quote in the next sentence. If a communist society were to be completely in effect everyone would have to do their part. You wouldn't be able to get away with putting out the least amount of effort possible. If you have the ability to produce x amount, you have to produce x amount. Otherwise you cannot recieve equal benefits. If everyone played by the rules (which I am arguing would be impossible since rules such as these go against our natural impulses) then no one would do the bare minimum as long as they had the ability to do more.

EF_Sean:
People with ability are to be made to contribute to serve the needs of others. This is just slavery, pure and simple.


You are talking about socialism. In socialism there is a central authority that requires it's subjects to give to others. In communism there is no such central authority. Therefore no one can be enslaved. Of course this means that people could willingly not play by the rules. Only those who had a collectivist mindset would play by the rules willingly and they would not be slaves. In true communism there is no state. It would be a form of anarchy. This would also lead to disaster but only because human beings, following their natural impulses, would seek to dominate each other. If humans did not have this desire wired into them then we could exist in a society without a government that might closely resemble communism.

EF_Sean:
This explains why every communist government in existence, to the extent that it has remained communist, has collapsed inward on itself, and why the satellite images of South Korea at night are pictures of light, and the ones of North Korea are pictures of darkness.


Ha ha, remember, a "communist goverenment" is an impossibility. By definition there is no government in a communist society. Again and again you make arguments that would apply to socialism but not communism. There have never been any communist governments in existence, ever. Any government claiming to be communist is lying. It's that simple. North Korea is dark at night because it is a socially and economically closed totalitarian state that is attempting to provide for it's own needs without the help of others. The reason it has become totalitarian is because it is being led by evil people. If these people were not evil this would not have happened.

Remember I am simply arguing about why communism isn't viable not whether it is or not. I know it wouldn't work and hasn't worked in the past. I just argue that it is because of a fundamental problem with human nature that communism is blind to.
Jul 19, 2009, 06:59pm   #16
Sorry to interrupt your discussion.

I thinking about the paradoxical nature of this novel and was wondering if you could help me think of an argument for my essay.
Jul 19, 2009, 09:25pm   #17
Please disregard my last message.

How is this argumentative thesis?

The Government of Oceania controls the people very effectivly through mistrust and torture, but this is not a moral way to treat people because people deserve to live freely.

Can I talk about the paradox of the Ministries if I use this thesis?

These are my arguments but found it hard to expand upon them.

-The Ministries do have total control over the people so that anything they say people will believe and in that sense poeple seem fairly happy
-but this is not the right way to treat people because they are really believing carefully contructed lies


-Torturing people does get the Party to believe what they want
-but this act is not right and there should be other ways of manupulation if its nessary.

I'm finding this difficult and risk failing so any help on this would be appreaciated!

Thanks
Jul 19, 2009, 11:37pm   #18
First, in fairness, to help out yonman: Your current thesis isn't very debatable. I'd suggest focusing on another aspect of the novel. For instance, you could argue that "1984's portrayal of society is unrealistic, as it would be impossible for a government to achieve the level of control the government supposedly possesses on that sort of scale." Then, of course, you would need to think of arguments in favor of this thesis. Or, you could argue that "1984 highlights a very real problem with our current government -- that it is run by people who tend to value power for its own sake, leading to corruption and a tendency to totalitarianism." This again would require you to come up with a series of arguments in favor of your position. Both theses are debatable, and so suitable for an argumentative essay.

Now, for Gautama:

Gautama:
You really dont think that helping others is good? Then what is good? What is your definition?


I really don't. At least, I don't believe it is intrinsically good, regardless of context. I'd define good as pursuing your own rational self-interest, purely and without guilt. This might, of course, mean helping some people in some circumstances.

Gautama:
I'm pretty sure that most people on the planet would agree that helping others is a good thing. It's common knowledge.


What's that logical fallacy involving an appeal to popularity, again? If the majority of people believe it, it must be true! Also, I say it depends on how you phrase the question, and on whether you base the answers on what people say or on what they actually do.

By the way, when you say helping others is good, do you mean the following:

1. That if a neo-Nazi group wants help running a local Muslim family out of town, I should take the lead in terrorizing the family?

2. That I should give as much food aid as I can to a starving village in Africa, knowing that my aid will allow the people there to live and reproduce, growing the population exponentially until 10 times as many people die as would have if I had refused to help them originally when my own ability to help them gives out?

3. That I should hide a dangerous criminal from the law if he asks for my help in evading capture?

All of these would be examples of helping others, if you mean we should do so always and without qualification. Or perhaps you would like to agree with me that context is important?

Gautama:

If every single person on this planet were to "periodically or consistently" give to others the world would be a much better place. There are a lot of resources in this world. If people willingly gave them to those who needed it most (intelligently and efficiently of course)


Hmmm . . . this is loaded with qualifiers to your previous statement. "Help" here is assumed to mean the giving of material resources, and intelligently and efficiently at that. Perchance if everyone were smart enough to be able to decide how to help others intelligently and efficiently on their own, then there would be no for them to exercise their powers?

Also, better for whom? And in what way? It would be better for those who were unable or unwilling to fend for themselves, I suppose. How would it be better for the rest of us?

Besides, why should need entitle anyone to anything? If I need your money, why should I expect you to give it to me, when I haven't done anything to earn it? On what basis would I even begin to justify such a claim?

Gautama:
If a communist society were to be completely in effect everyone would have to do their part. You wouldn't be able to get away with putting out the least amount of effort possible.


Yes, "would have to." Hence my point about it being slavery. This also means you need a central authority to enforce this, which makes your distinction between socialism and communism moot.

Also, "If you have the ability to produce x amount, you have to produce x amount." X amount of what? This was a great problem for communism. Without the supply and demand pressures of an open market, the government had to decide what was produced. It inevitably ended up producing too much of some things, and too little of others (including on some occasions things such as food). If you had no central authority at all, this problem would be even worse. I suppose that, if you did have a central authority, it could force people who had the ability to work on those tasks it deemed necessary, even if they didn't want to work on those tasks, or had other abilities in other areas that interested them more -- which brings us back to the slavery thing.

Gautama:
You are talking about socialism


I don't make the same distinction between them. A communist state, to be a state, must necessarily have someone enforce the rules. Any society must have police force, howsoever free it may be. If you are arguing that communism, as a social and economic theory of how humans should live, is utterly unrealistic and unsuited to human nature, then it is a very poor theory, and does not deserve either praise or defense.

Gautama:
A capitalist society does not provide an even playing field at all. Everyone is born with different strengths and weaknesses. That is the way of nature.


Well, yes, but that nature makes us unequal is not the fault of capitalism, nor, to the best of knowledge, does communism strive to make everyone of equal ability (an impossible task), only to give them equal amounts of wealth. The notion of an equal playing field is that only natural inequalities matter -- that is, merit wins out over anything else. Come to think of it, maybe communism does try to reduce everyone to the same level of ability, at that -- death is the great equalizer, after all, and communism always seems to create so many corpses. But I can't believe this is what you are defending.

Gautama:
Ha ha, remember, a "communist government" is an impossibility. By definition there is no government in a communist society.


Again, not making the same distinction you are, so this becomes a matter of semantics. Essentially, you are arguing that you would agree with me if I used the term socialism rather than communism in my arguments. But, since you admit that communism cannot work without a central government because of human nature, it can only come about through socialism, so it really amounts to the same thing.

Gautama:
it is because of a fundamental problem with human nature that communism is blind to.


Here we go. The problem isn't with human nature. The problem is with the theory. If a mathematical theory breaks the rules of mathematical logic it is meant to conform to, the problem isn't with the rules of mathematical logic, but with the theory. If a theory about how humans should live doesn't work because of the way human beings are, then the problem isn't with human beings, but with the theory. Besides, as I said at the opening, I don't agree that altruism is particularly noble as a philosophy to begin with, and so would not be inclined to view a lack of altruism as a problem with human nature anyway.
Jul 20, 2009, 12:29am   #19
It would be tough to write an argumentative essay on 1984. You need to figure out a topic that you can not only argue, but one that you can support as well. Hmmmm . . . American schools, with the video surveillance, revisionist teachings, and insistence on political correctness are similar to the society portrayed in George Orwell's 1984; Big Brother leaves the proles alone in 1984 and this laissez faire attitude toward the underclass in sure to be the oversight that will bring down the governmental structure; you could argue that the rewriting of history in 1984 is nothing unusual and that societies do it all the time; governments have a right, a duty even, to keep governmental secrets from its citizens; or the converse . . . government has a responsibility to share all knowledge (whether there really were or were not weapons of mass destruction) with its citizens.

EF_Sean:
For that matter, why should giving to others, periodically or consistently, be defined as good, regardless of context?

I have to say that I totally get Sean's point here. Is a person making a million a year a better person because they contribute $400,000 or so to the public coffers through income, sales, and property taxes? Or are they selfish for hoarding the remainder? What if they tithe an additional $100,000 to their favorite charity? What about a person making $20,000 a year who takes out more money in stimulus payments and tax credits than they pay in and only donates $100/year to charity? Should the wealthy really be expected to give their money away while keeping only the average per capita for themselves? Should Luxembourg be mandated to redistribute their wealth to Liberia? Giving is a very personal choice, with that giving already mandated by the government aside that is. I don't judge people on the amount that they give. The person who makes a million/year and the one that only takes in $20,000/year are not more or less good people in my book. I also don't judge a person on the amount of time that they volunteer. Whether a person is a socialite serving on numerous philanthropic committees or a single mother working sixty hours/week and never volunteering does nor increase or decrease their value as a person in my mind.

Gautama:
A capitalist society does not provide an even playing field at all. Everyone is born with different strengths and weaknesses. That is the way of nature. Animals in nature are not on an even playing field either. If one person is born with a higher IQ than someone else that means that the playing field is no longer equal.

This isn't about equal PLAYERS, but an equal playing field. Capitalism, with truly equal access to educational opportunities and no inherited wealth, is indeed a level playing field where players can rise to stardom based on their own merits -- including intelligence and ability. An equal playing field . . . equal opportunity, is very different than equal ability.

It is a tricky topic. I am probably not making much sense here. I am not feeling my best tonight and my thoughts are pretty muddled as a result. I might come back to this thread tomorrow and wonder what in the world I was thinking.
Jul 20, 2009, 12:49am   #20
Notoman:
This isn't about equal PLAYERS, but an equal playing field. Capitalism, with truly equal access to educational opportunities and no inherited wealth, is indeed a level playing field where players can rise to stardom based on their own merits -- including intelligence and ability. An equal playing field . . . equal opportunity, is very different than equal ability.


Thank you Notoman. That's exactly what I wanted to say in response to that point, but you articulated it much better than I did. I must admit, after learning that you had been reading Rand recently, I was wondering if/when you would leap into this discussion.
Jul 20, 2009, 03:36am   #21
EF_Sean:
I'd define good as pursuing your own rational self-interest


I see. So you subscribe to Ayn Rand's philosophy. One thing I do believe is that human beings always act for their own self interest. In fact they are incapable of doing otherwise. It is impossible for humans to act unselfishly and therefore altruism does not exist. They may not act selfishly in a rational way, however. I think that secretly the pursuit of rational self interest is actually everyone's agenda whether they know it or not. If everyone always acts in their own self interest then it is logical that they should strive to do so rationally, when they can. But that is kind of beside the point. In trying to define what truly is the "rational" way to pursue self interest people come up with a million different philosophies and ideologies. So we are still back to square one.

EF_Sean:
What's that logical fallacy involving an appeal to popularity, again? If the majority of people believe it, it must be true!


Yeah sorry bout that! I am embarrassed that I tried to use that crap argument.

EF_Sean:
All of these would be examples of helping others, if you mean we should do so always and without qualification. Or perhaps you would like to agree with me that context is important?



Of course context is important. When I say "helping others" it has to be context sensitive. Mostly I would use a utilitarian approach when deciding when and where to help but of course it would be a case by case basis. Helping someone hurt others is the same as hurting others to me.

EF_Sean:
Perchance if everyone were smart enough to be able to decide how to help others intelligently and efficiently on their own, then there would be no for them to exercise their powers?


Hmmm... I dont understand what you are trying to say here. Who is exercising what powers? What powers are you talking about?

EF_Sean:
Also, better for whom? And in what way? It would be better for those who were unable or unwilling to fend for themselves, I suppose. How would it be better for the rest of us?


Think of it in a utilitarian way. If a millionaire gave a thousand dollars to a child living in poverty the millionaire would be only mildly inconvenienced whereas the child would have his life changed for the better.(provided he was smart with the money.) More good has been done than harm. It wouldnt really be better for the rest of us but it wouldn't be as bad for us as it would be good for others. On a large scale it would have a more positive impact than negative in terms of quality of life. It could also be better for us in the long run because it would improve the lives of people living in poverty so that they could return the favor by becoming educated and productive members of society in the world. Also regular middle class people would benefit more from upper class wealth. The only people who would really lose out would be those people who were rich to begin with.

I think that rich people in many cases are extremely vain and wastefull when they use their money because they usually use it in order to benefit themselves. Humans have certain needs in order to be happy and it does not cost millions of dollars to fullfill these needs. The concept of hoarding for self benefit is the sort of strategy suited for a state of nature where organisms attempt to benefit from other's suffering. The system of nature is immoral so it is our job as humans to rise above such brutish and unethical practices and reject the processes of the natural world as much as we can. (we cant reject it entirely since we ourselves are products of nature but we do possess enough intelligence to transcend most other organisms in the pursuit of justice and fairness.) I believe their is a limit to how much wealth is sensible for an individual to have before it becomes wasteful and selfish to the point of being evil and greedy for such an individual to hoard it away. Millionaires dont need millions of dollars to be happy. If they gave money away they would still be fine. Sure they have the choice to hoard their money but that kind of behavior is actively destructive to other people. It would be like if all the monkeys the jungle starved because one gorilla who was stronger than everyone else took all the bananas for himself despite the fact that he would have more than he would ever be able to eat by himself. You can choose to behave this way but such behavior is vain and destructive to others, therefore you are evil. (at least your economic desicions would be evil.)

EF_Sean:
Yes, "would have to." Hence my point about it being slavery. This also means you need a central authority to enforce this, which makes your distinction between socialism and communism moot.


Another thing I shouldn't have said. A better thing to say would be that in order for the society to remain communist people would have to play by communist rules. Anyone could, of course, decide not to play by the rules and then the society would cease to be communist. This is a major problem with communism. The freedom to oppose it within the system means that there is no slavery issue.

Also, it isn't my distiction between communism and socialism. It is the distiction between communism and socialism. You need to understand the straight definitions for both of them. They are not the same. You seem to want to use the words communism and socialism interchangably. That is a major mistake that goes beyond semantics.

EF_Sean:
Also, "If you have the ability to produce x amount, you have to produce x amount." X amount of what? This was a great problem for communism. Without the supply and demand pressures of an open market, the government had to decide what was produced. It inevitably ended up producing too much of some things, and too little of others (including on some occasions things such as food). If you had no central authority at all, this problem would be even worse. I suppose that, if you did have a central authority, it could force people who had the ability to work on those tasks it deemed necessary, even if they didn't want to work on those tasks, or had other abilities in other areas that interested them more -- which brings us back to the slavery thing.


Point well taken. But just remember, I was origionally talking about communism, not socialism. When you talk about slavery you are talking about things irrelevant to the original discussion. (I guess you unknowingly brought socialism into the conversation then I called you on it so now we have to deal with it.)

EF_Sean:
I don't make the same distinction between them. A communist state, to be a state, must necessarily have someone enforce the rules.


Ha ha, what presumption. Its not up to you to make the distinction. Its like saying, "I looked up the word apple in the dictionary and then I looked up the word banana in the dictionary and found that they have some major differences. But you know what? I personally just don't make the distinction between apples and bananas. In my book they are the same thing." It isn't up for debate. All you have to do is do research and you will find that their is an obvious and definable distinction between communism and socialism. There is no such thing as a communist state. Saying "communist state" is like saying "populated void". By definition it is an impossible statement.

EF_Sean:
If you are arguing that communism, as a social and economic theory of how humans should live, is utterly unrealistic and unsuited to human nature, then it is a very poor theory, and does not deserve either praise or defense.


You are saying this as if you just came to this conclusion yourself. It's exactly what I have been saying all along. It is ulrealistic because it is unsuited to human nature. That's what I said.

EF_Sean:
Well, yes, but that nature makes us unequal is not the fault of capitalism


I just don't like capitalism because it is basically a reflection of how things are run in the natural world. I don't have a solution for it but I can still be opposed to it. Life in the natural world as I have said is brutish and short. Nature has no morals or ethics. It simply is. Since the natural world is not organized in a way that promotes justice, ethics, or fairness I would be opposed to live under such conditions. Capitalism is not as bad as the literal jungle but it still promotes a state of controlled nature and in doing so allows for plenty of unethical behavior, injustice, and unfairness. So I am apposed to it. I don't have a solution but I still think that capitalism is not a system that promotes ethics and justice.

EF_Sean:
The problem isn't with human nature. The problem is with the theory.


Point well taken. I think human nature is greatly flawed because we are so often inclined to do harm to one another which lowers everyone's quality of life as a group.

EF_Sean:
This isn't about equal PLAYERS, but an equal playing field.


Point well taken. In the state of nature the players are not equal and that is not fair or just. Nor is it moral. I am apposed to such a system but I am still stuck with it anyway. Thats why people always say, "life isn't fair." It's because it isn't! Humans try to create fairness in opposition to nature.
Jul 20, 2009, 07:22am   #22
Gautama:
So you subscribe to Ayn Rand's philosophy.


A variation of it, yes.

Gautama:
It is impossible for humans to act unselfishly and therefore altruism does not exist. They may not act selfishly in a rational way, however. I think that secretly the pursuit of rational self interest is actually everyone's agenda whether they know it or not.


You should read The Virtue of Selfishness. In it, Rand makes the point that to be selfish is to act in one's own self interest, i.e., to benefit oneself. But, only through rational thought can one determine what is in one's self interest. If one refuses to engage in the process of rational thought, then one cannot actually act selfishly, except by accident. One might act hedonistically, but few people would consider a life of dedicated hedonism as being in their own self-interests.

Gautama:
Yeah sorry bout that! I am embarrassed that I tried to use that crap argument.


Apology accepted.


Gautama:
When I say "helping others" it has to be context sensitive.


Which brings you a step closer to my side. Yay!

Gautama:

Hmmm... I dont understand what you are trying to say here. Who is exercising what powers? What powers are you talking about?


My point was that if everyone was smart enough to know how to help others as intelligently and efficiently as possible, then everyone would be smart enough to fend for themselves, and so not really need helping.

Gautama:
If a millionaire gave a thousand dollars to a child living in poverty the millionaire would be only mildly inconvenienced whereas the child would have his life changed for the better.(provided he was smart with the money.) More good has been done than harm.


And I have nothing against permitting millionaires to donate money to needy children. It is when you force them to that I object.

Gautama:
I think that rich people in many cases are extremely vain and wastefull when they use their money because they usually use it in order to benefit themselves.


Assuming that they earned, rather than inherited their money, why should they not spend it on themselves?

Gautama:
The concept of hoarding for self benefit is the sort of strategy suited for a state of nature where organisms attempt to benefit from other's suffering.


Ah, you subscribe to the notion of limited wealth. I, on the other hand, subscribe to the view of the production of wealth. If wealth is produced rather than found, then creating wealth, and keeping (hoarding even) that wealth for yourself doesn't harm anyone else.

Gautama:
Millionaires dont need millions of dollars to be happy. If they gave money away they would still be fine. Sure they have the choice to hoard their money but that kind of behavior is actively destructive to other people.


Who are you to say what someone else needs to be happy? And again, if they earned their wealth, produced it through their own activity, then their behavior is not destructive to anyone else.

Gautama:
Ha ha, what presumption. Its not up to you to make the distinction.

I am talking about communism in practice, i.e as real world ideology that led to millions of deaths. You are talking about it as a fantasy that has nothing to do with the real world. As this conversation started by my talking about it as the former, I see no reason why I should accept your arbitrary changing of the definition to the latter. My whole point (way back at the beginning, before the series of ridiculously long posts), was that, because of the assumptions and principles of communism, any attempt to implement it in the real world must inevitably lead to totalitarianism. You cannot deny that by arguing that communism is a wonderful theory so long as no one ever attempts to put it into practice, for reasons that should be obvious.

Gautama:
Life in the natural world as I have said is brutish and short.


And life in primarily capitalist countries is long and relatively easy. Hm.

Gautama:
Capitalism is not as bad as the literal jungle but it still promotes a state of controlled nature and in doing so allows for plenty of unethical behavior, injustice, and unfairness.


Capitalism allows everyone to deal with one another freely, in pursuit of their own happiness. It just doesn't guarantee success, is all. But I suspect our real difference here lies in our differing views on wealth. You subscribe to the limited view of wealth, whereas I subscribe to the productive view of wealth. That is, you believe people ultimately only ever steal money, whereas I believe that money is ultimately made, and that only after someone makes it honestly can it be stolen.

Gautama:
Thats why people always say, "life isn't fair." It's because it isn't! Humans try to create fairness in opposition to nature.


A great deal of human misery is caused by people engaging in unjust acts in an attempt to remedy the perceived injustices of nature. But nature, being blind and unaware, is incapable of either justice or injustice. As you said, it just is. Humans, however, can be just or unjust, i.e. giving people what they have deserved of them. The problem comes when people decide that others should get what they think those others deserved from nature but did not get. Because sooner or later, they always realize that trying to remedy that "injustice" on the part of nature on their own is futile, and so take unjustly from others in the name of a higher justice that never was or can be. Really it's a form of arrogance, a sense that, since God is MIA or just plain mean, certain people should step in and play His role.
Jul 20, 2009, 01:33pm   #23
EF_Sean:
If one refuses to engage in the process of rational thought, then one cannot actually act selfishly, except by accident.


I believe that at all times everyone acts in their own percieved self interest. With every action their is an intent for self benefit. Whether or not what people do will really benefit them in the long run is a different story. I am just talking about their intentions which are at all times selfish.

EF_Sean:
And I have nothing against permitting millionaires to donate money to needy children. It is when you force them to that I object.


This was in response to you asking who benefits from a more collectivist attitude and in what way.

EF_Sean:
Assuming that they earned, rather than inherited their money, why should they not spend it on themselves?


For the exact reasons I stated. It is wastefull (in some cases) and vain. From a utilitarian perspective hoarding wealth is extremely inefficient. Someone could buy a new TV for thousands of dollars in order to get a little bit more mild entertainment in their lives or they could be feeding a family of three for 4 or 5 months. This is of course taken from a utilitarian perspective which I take it you do not subscribe to.

EF_Sean:
Ah, you subscribe to the notion of limited wealth. I, on the other hand, subscribe to the view of the production of wealth. If wealth is produced rather than found, then creating wealth, and keeping (hoarding even) that wealth for yourself doesn't harm anyone else.


I think it is a mixture of both. You can generate your own wealth, yes, but you must do it with limited resources. There are a limited amount of workers in the world, limited amount of real estate, limited amount of raw materials, etc. People have to compete for these limited resources. If one person takes these resources and does not allow others to use them he or she will naturally make more money for themselves and hinder other people's chances at making money.

If everyone in the world was super smart they wouldn't all become millionaires. You cannot just create wealth if you are smart enough. There is a limited amount of wealth to go around. Sure you can produce more wealth but that is only really the conversion of limited useless resources into usefull commodities or services. Even if everyone were smart and skilled in this world there would be some who would be rich and some who would be poor. There simply isn't enough wealth to make everyone wealthy. There is a limit to how much wealth a society can create. Hoarding harms others because it makes it harder for them to generate wealth by withholding the resources required to create that wealth.

EF_Sean:
Who are you to say what someone else needs to be happy? And again, if they earned their wealth, produced it through their own activity, then their behavior is not destructive to anyone else.


I guess everyone can have their own needs in the happiness department but that does not warrant destructive behavior. You talk about production of wealth rather than simply gathering. Ok so lets say that the gorilla got really smart and started planting banana trees. He starts producing his own bananas, but he does not share with the other monkeys. Now, they all live on a relatively small island and there aren't that many trees to begin with. The gorilla uses his power to take half of the island for himself and his banana tree orchard. He hoards all the bananas that are produced and does not share them with the other monkeys. Yes the gorilla produced his own wealth so it shouldnt hurt the other monkeys right? Wrong. The monkeys now only have half of the land they once did which means that food will be more scarce and overcrowding problems will occur. The monkeys can plant trees of their own but the land (which has now been cut in half) will not yield as much as it once did. Half of the areas that the monkeys used to get their food from are now owned by the gorilla. Because the gorilla hoards his bananas and keeps everyone off of his property the rest of the monkeys suffer. Therefore his actions are destructive to everyone else.

EF_Sean:
I am talking about communism in practice, i.e as real world ideology that led to millions of deaths.


Communism has never been put into practice. Thats the fundamental problem with your argument. People have tried to get their but have always failed. Sure people have had it as an ideology but it never came to fruition and yes those efforts led to millions of deaths. Ha ha, you dont need to convince me.

EF_Sean:
As this conversation started by my talking about it as the former, I see no reason why I should accept your arbitrary changing of the definition to the latter.


I was just correcting you on the definition of communism. There is nothing arbitrary about it, its just simply the definition. You seem to think that you can just change the definition of these words around any time you want. You cant. Words have set definitions and are not up for debate. Unless you want to petition to amend american dictionaries then you must abide by them during civil conversation. If you began the conversation by talking about "it as the former" then you began the conversation with a falsehood that needed to be corrected.

EF_Sean:
You cannot deny that by arguing that communism is a wonderful theory so long as no one ever attempts to put it into practice, for reasons that should be obvious.


I don't deny it. You dont need to convince me. (I think I understand this sentence. It isnt complete, though.)

EF_Sean:
And life in primarily capitalist countries is long and relatively easy. Hm.


Only in comparison to life in the jungle and only for some people. There are plenty of people in a capitalist society who work long hours for very little money and only a few who truly have easy lives and hoard wealth.

EF_Sean:
That is, you believe people ultimately only ever steal money, whereas I believe that money is ultimately made, and that only after someone makes it honestly can it be stolen.


No not really. I believe that wealth is ultimately made. I just argue that it is immoral to use such generated wealth inefficiently from a utilitarian point of view. There is enough to go around so why be a pill and dash other people's chances of living happy lives when it is of little consequence to you?

EF_Sean:
since God is MIA or just plain mean, certain people should step in and play His role.


If god has created a cruel world on purpose I will oppose the system because he is ultimately just a big bully. If God actively made people suffer in his world I would have no problem in bypassing his authority and suplementing my own since he would be doing a very bad job. If some bully is pushing you around should you just say to yourself, "It would be arrogant of me to oppose him and make my own, more just, rules because since he has more power he must be smarter than me."

I dont see how it is arrogant at all. If we were all on a plane and god, as the pilot, went to the bathroom and never came back you better believe that it would be in our own "rational self interest" to jump in the cockpit and take over before we all suffer as a result. (Of course how we choose to steer the weel is up for great debate because we could make things better or make things worse.)
Jul 20, 2009, 04:28pm   #25
Gautama:
I believe that at all times everyone acts in their own perceived self interest.


Even this would be a great improvement from how things actually are. As it is, many people act in ways they know to be self-destructive. Besides, how can one perceive one's own self-interests if one has never stopped to ask what constitutes them? A great many people act for their own short term pleasure, but as this has nothing whatsoever to do with their self-interests, such people should be described as hedonistic, not selfish.

Gautama:
From a utilitarian perspective hoarding wealth is extremely inefficient.


Only if you take a certain view of wealth, which I don't.

Gautama:
Someone could buy a new TV for thousands of dollars in order to get a little bit more mild entertainment in their lives or they could be feeding a family of three for 4 or 5 months.


But in buying the TV, they provide employment for television manufactures, people who work for television manufacturers, and indirectly the miners who mine the raw materials necessary for television production. Spending money for one's own benefit is not therefore the same as hoarding wealth.

Gautama:
You can generate your own wealth, yes, but you must do it with limited resources.


There is some validity to this point. At some point, the population becomes large enough that the finite resources of the planet become spoken for. However, even now I don't think we've quite reached this point, and we certainly haven't been in such a state for most of our history. Moreover, just because resources have acquired by one person, that doesn't mean that no more wealth can be created off of them by others. A mining company that extracts iron from the ground turns the iron from useless stone to valuable resource, but others then purchase that iron, and make money off of it by adding value to it, by, say, shaping it into more complex products. Others come along and add value to it by combining these products into even more complex ones. Still others come up with more efficient designs for the products being produced. And, of course, depending upon what is produced, others may be able to create wealth by offering services related to the product.

Interestingly, I believe there may come a time, probably a brief one, where the limited view of wealth may, in a limited way and for a limited time, be true. However, once the resources of the planet have all been tapped, it then becomes highly worthwhile to head to space to harvest the resources available in the rest of our solar system, and so the scope of the system will soon increase to make it one in which resources are, for all practical purposes, infinite.

Gautama:
Ok so lets say that the gorilla got really smart and started planting banana trees


I think my above comments show why your analogy is wrong. Our "island" isn't small enough for that to be a concern, and we certainly don't live in a world in which there is only one commodity that constitutes wealth. A better analogy would be this -- imagine a large island populated by gorillas. Most of the gorillas get their food from banana trees populating the island. But, there aren't very many trees, and so often the gorillas are hungry, though most get enough to survive. Fights frequently break out over food. One day, a gorilla thinks to himself -- hmmm, I bet I could take some bananas, and grow more trees, so that I didn't have to fight all the time for whatever happened to be lying around. He therefore goes off to a remote area of the island and clears some land. It is backbreaking labor, moving the huge rocks in the soil, figuring out how to plow the land (since he first has to invent a plow) and trying to figure out what conditions are most hospitable to bananas. Then, he must plant the trees, haul water to them (or invent a system of irrigation) weed them, and generally tend to them. Eventually, though, the crop is ready for harvest. Then, he finds that he has plenty of bananas, more than the whole island usually produces. Then the other gorillas come to him and say,"you should share, why should you be rich, while the rest of us have barely enough?" To which the other gorilla might reply, "because I put in the effort to figure out how bananas could be grown, and to bring my project, literally, to fruition. While I worked hard to improve my circumstances, you fought amongst yourselves complaining that wealth was limited. Yet I have found a way to provide enough food for all of us, and I surely do not want to see the excess bananas that I cannot eat rot. So, what do you have that is of value that I might trade them for?"

Of course, in real life, not only would the other gorillas not have helped our hero, they probably would have mocked him and derided him for going against tradition and trying to plant banananas, and for neglecting his own particular gang of gorillas by laboring in the fields instead of preparing to defend one of the existing trees from rival gangs. Once he has proven successful, of course, they will adopt his technique, and because of his efforts, bananas will never again be scarce.

In any event, none of the other gorillas on the island have been hurt by the first gorilla's ingenuity, nor do they have any claim on the bananas he produced.

Gautama:
Words have set definitions and are not up for debate.


Now that's just silly and plain wrong. Words have many, many different definitions, and those tied to highly complex concepts, such as various ideologies, are very much up for debate, and are in fact constantly being altered and refined through discourse.

Gautama:
People have tried to get their but have always failed.

Which is my main point, that communism has to fail, because of the premises it is built on. It isn't that communism never gets there, it's that the "there" it promises is a lie. In the end, it always gets to the state logic predicts for it -- a totalitarian state.

Gautama:
There is enough to go around so why be a pill and dash other people's chances of living happy lives when it is of little consequence to you?


And again, being rich doesn't make it any harder for others to be happy. To prove it, why not ask your parents to give you your inheritance now (a la prodigal son) [I'm guessing you're not poor yourself -- you're too thoughtful and well-educated]. Then, go and walk through any large city, giving away five dollars to every person you meet who asks you for change. Do this every day until you have spent every last penny. Then, as you are standing on a street corner begging for change, ask yourself if you have made the world a substantially better place, by ridding a city of beggars, or a worse one by merely adding one more to their number.

Crap. Accidentally posted this, so now I can only edit, not quote. Oh well.
"If some bully is pushing you around should you just say to yourself, "It would be arrogant of me to oppose him and make my own, more just, rules because since he has more power he must be smarter than me.""

You're missing the point. There is no bully. There are only people who believe as you do, deciding that they will be more just with other people's wealth than nature has been. And yes, that is arrogant, as it involves stepping in to fill the role of bully yourself. You have no right to try to dispose of what belongs to other people, and trying to do so is unjust. An unjust act, howsoever noble its intent, remains unjust. The ends do not justify the means, and all the villainy in the world comes from believing otherwise.
Jul 20, 2009, 08:03pm   #26
Pretty divergent views here! It makes for good reading.

I see the ideal society as one that looks after its most vulnerable citizens through laws as well as services/safety nets. In the best-case scenario, families, communities, and charitable organizations would provide for the needs of those unable to provide for themselves. When that fails (or when the task at hand is too large as in the case of natural disaster and foreign invasion), the government would step in.

By no means do I see it as the role of government to equalize wealth though. The oral surgeon, the dentist, the hygienist, and the receptionist all earn different amounts as they should.

Nor do I feel that living at taxpayers' expense should provide more than the basics. In fact, it would make sense to me if government housing resembled college dorm rooms replete with cinderblock walls instead of the current system in the US (okay, I will throw in a private bath and a small kitchenette making subsidized living better than the standard enjoyed by most college freshmen . . . maybe government housing would look more like a hotel room in my scenario).

My ideal society would have a level playing field and equal educational opportunities (how individuals make use of those opportunities would be up to them). That would be impossible to establish. Not only are schools very different from each other, but even individual teachers can have a huge impact on a person's life. This doesn't even take into account family dynamics. You can't mandate that parents read to their young children or help their adolescents with algebra.

It is quite possible to hoard natural resources (water, living in a western state, is one that comes to mind), but wealth -- as in earnings -- is not a natural resource. I do have some minor issues with conspicuous consumption, but my issues have more to do with "carbon footprint" than the way people spend their money. And my issues are only minor. I wouldn't want to outlaw international travel, ownership of private automobiles, or limit the size of television one can buy.
Jul 21, 2009, 07:54am   #27
yonman:
How is this argumentative thesis?

The Government of Oceania controls the people very effectivly through mistrust and torture, but this is not a moral way to treat people because people deserve to live freely.


EF_Sean:
Your current thesis isn't very debatable.


Actually, in recent years, a number of highly-placed people in the United States have argued that both torture and manipulative control of information are defensible. Former Vice President Cheney continues to maintain that torture is defensible and that vital information may rightly be withheld from the public. Discussing 1984 in that context might be very fruitful.
Jul 21, 2009, 08:05am   #28
EF_Simone:
Former Vice President Cheney continues to maintain that torture is defensible and that vital information may rightly be withheld from the public.


The comparison is ridiculous to anyone who does not share a the ideological mindset that inspires it. No one has argued that torturing people to control them is moral, only that torturing people to get information out of them is effective. Of course it is. The whole point is that people will eventually say whatever they think their torturers want to here. This makes it unreliable if the people don't have the information one wants, but presumably very effective if they do. Nor has anyone argued that the public should be habitually lied to and manipulated by those in power, only that secret agents and agencies should be permitted to work, with, well, a fair amount of secrecy. To discuss 1984 in this context can only lead to a massive distortion of either the interpretation of the book, or else of the Bush Administrations policies. Most likely both, I should imagine.
Jul 21, 2009, 01:57pm   #29
EF_Sean:
A great many people act for their own short term pleasure, but as this has nothing whatsoever to do with their self-interests, such people should be described as hedonistic, not selfish.


Of course short term pleasure has to do with self interest. Just because short term pleasure is not a good course of action in the long term doesnt mean that it isnt pursued for selfish reasons. Hedonism is selfishness it just isn't a particularly smart form of selfishness. Maximizing one's own personal pleasure is selfish.

I challenge you to give me any possible example of someone doing something and I will tell you where the selfish intent is. It is not possible to do anything without the goal of self benefit. Just because what someone is doing may be destructive in other aspects of there life doesn't mean they don't get something beneficial from it. (I their eyes.)

EF_Sean:
Only if you take a certain view of wealth, which I don't.


I'm talking about utilitarianism which is a form of ethical thought, not a view of wealth. You can apply it to wealth.

EF_Sean:
But in buying the TV, they provide employment for television manufactures, people who work for television manufacturers, and indirectly the miners who mine the raw materials necessary for television production. Spending money for one's own benefit is not therefore the same as hoarding wealth.


There's just one problem, that wealth doesn't trickle down very well. This would only work if people actually got the money they worked for. Sure planning does take more skills than average and that should be rewarded by higher than average pay but planners shouldn't be paid thousands of times more than an average worker who probably works even harder at his job. Yes of course wealth does trickle down somewhat but most of the money is pocketed by the people at the top. Consuming mass produced goods does support corporations but in alot of cases the actual bottom level mass work force doesn't see a significant amount of benefit. Rather than improving the conditions of their existing workers with their newly generated wealth, corporations usually just employ more workers in order to maximize profits for those at the top. I'm not talking about middle class jobs. I'm talking about lower class jobs and outsourced labor.

EF_Sean:
In any event, none of the other gorillas on the island have been hurt by the first gorilla's ingenuity, nor do they have any claim on the bananas he produced.


Then a few more gorillas decide to start planting banana trees as well. Soon the whole island is privately owned by only a handful of gorillas and they lay claim to all the bananas that the island produces. Then they say, "what do you have to trade?" Some other gorillas find coconuts and want to start planting coconut trees in order to trade with the gorillas. The problem is that the gorillas own all the real estate of the island so they demand payment for the use of the land to plant coconuts. One gorilla finds out a way to produce coconut trees which is different than the process used to produce banana trees. This gorilla is really smart and he works hard but his development is hindered by those with the banana trees because they demand a cut of the profits that the coconut producer makes. Since the few gorillas from the begining own all the land and all the bananas, no one else can profit from banana production except on a very small scale. There are no labor regulations and resources are limited. Unless you are really smart like the coconut grower you will be forced to work for one of the banana producers. These top gorillas can set any prices they want for their bananas and can pay their workers as little as they want. The other gorillas working for them are hard and honest workers but they just werent born with the natural talent and smarts to become an entreprenuer. So now they have to live in squaler working for a handfull of gorillas who have a monopoly on everything and make it extremely difficult for new smart people to start their own fruit companies.

So you have to ask yourself. Does having the power and talent to dominate and oppress others give you the right to do so? I completely reject that. If you own a company and are living an extremely comfortable life why would you make life miserable for your workers for a larger profit increase? You already have enough money to live comfortably. Why are these people so obsessed with money and power that even though they have more money than they will ever need they still seek to raise up their profit percentages just a hair more at the expense of quality of life for their workers? Because they are evil.

EF_Sean:
Words have many, many different definitions, and those tied to highly complex concepts, such as various ideologies, are very much up for debate, and are in fact constantly being altered and refined through discourse.


Don't use this as a way to justify using words incorrectly. Words change definitions very slowly over a period of years but at any given time period words have certain definitions. You used the word communism incorrectly so I corrected you. Don't fall victim to the same charade that totalitarian governments play for their citizens. There is no such thing as a communist state. Totalitarian regimes want their subjects to believe that they live in a communist society so that they will feel better about where they live. This is a lie.

The definition of the word "gay" has a few different definitions and they are slowly changing even today. However, right now you can't just make up any definition you want and then justify it by saying, "words are constantly changing."

EF_Sean:
Which is my main point, that communism has to fail, because of the premises it is built on. It isn't that communism never gets there, it's that the "there" it promises is a lie. In the end, it always gets to the state logic predicts for it -- a totalitarian state.


Ha ha, I don't think you understand that I agree with you here. You don't have to keep selling me on this point. I agree.

EF_Sean:
Then, go and walk through any large city, giving away five dollars to every person you meet who asks you for change. Do this every day until you have spent every last penny. Then, as you are standing on a street corner begging for change, ask yourself if you have made the world a substantially better place, by ridding a city of beggars, or a worse one by merely adding one more to their number.


What kind of example is this? Only if you were a fool would anyone do something like this. If you want to help beggars you don't do it 5 dollars at a time and you don't bankrupt yourself in the process. Obviously this is a foolish way to help the poor. Come up with a better example where the protagonist has some intelligence.

EF_Sean:
You're missing the point. There is no bully.


I am responding to what you said about god. You said that god may simply be MIA or just plain mean. If he was mean then I would constitute him as a bully. I would be totally justified in using that term.

EF_Sean:
You have no right to try to dispose of what belongs to other people, and trying to do so is unjust. An unjust act, howsoever noble its intent, remains unjust. The ends do not justify the means, and all the villainy in the world comes from believing otherwise.


So we just sit around and let those with power dominate others? The whole basis of our civilization especially in democracy is to limit power so that no one person can dominate others. We have two choices: accept natures way (Here we will be guaranteed to live in an unjust world. or try to change our world ourselves. (this could be for better or for worse) So what is better? Guaranteed injustice or a chance at justice?

"The ends do not justify the means."
Exactly, therefore those who gain wealth by any means are not justified in doing so. But if you step in and say "No no there are rules that we live by." You would have to respond, "No No who are you to tell me what to do with what I have earned? You cant make rules that limit my freedom over what I have worked hard for! If I want to dominate others with the power I have gotten I am completely justified in doing just that! Why do I go out of my way to make my workers lives miserable for the chance of making a few more dollars? Because I have earned the right to do so!" Follow the "I can do whatever I want with what I earn" line of thought to it's logical conclusion and you will find that it justifies alot of malicious and cruel acts.
Jul 21, 2009, 06:50pm   #30
Gautama:
I challenge you to give me any possible example of someone doing something and I will tell you where the selfish intent is. It is not possible to do anything without the goal of self benefit.


Only by playing with and misusing words, as you have been doing throughout with communism (see below before excerpting and posting angry reply). You are defining selfishness differently from me. To you, "selfishness" means "acting on whim or personal desire." To me it means "acting in furtherance of one's own self-interest." Again, words can and usually do have multiple meanings and elastic definitions when they refer to highly abstract concepts. Under your definition, every action has to be selfish, as I have to desire to undertake any action for some reason, and therefore every action I take must be the result of personal desire, i.e. selfish. For me, though, an action is selfish only if it can reasonably be viewed as advancing my actual self-interest. If it does not do this, either because I have chosen to be ruled by emotional impulse, or because I have been intimidated by someone else, or because I haven't bothered trying to figure out what constitutes my self-interest, then the action is not selfish. If you want to disagree with me, that's fine, but you will have to use my definition of the term in your refutation if you wish to do so. Otherwise, we aren't disagreeing about anything except the various ways in which we choose to use words.

Gautama:

There's just one problem, that wealth doesn't trickle down very well.


And yet so many people strive to come to capitalist companies even knowing they will have to start at the bottom. Almost as if poor in America was wealthy by the standards of non-capitalist countries.

Gautama:
Then a few more gorillas decide to start planting banana trees as well


We've officially reached the point where we're talking in circles. All of your arguments continue to assume a predominantly limited view of wealth, whereas mine assume a predominantly productive view of it. Every analogy I use will involve expanding the size of the world to one in which resource limitations are not a problem in practice, either directly (by making the island larger) or indirectly (by showing ways in which the gorillas could find other ways of producing wealth with the available resources) and all of yours will involve filling it up again so that everything is monopolized.

Gautama:
Don't use this as a way to justify using words incorrectly.


I'm not. Communism has two official meanings:

"1. a theory or system of social organization based on the holding of all property in common, actual ownership being ascribed to the community as a whole or to the state.

2. (often initial capital letter) a system of social organization in which all economic and social activity is controlled by a totalitarian state dominated by a single and self-perpetuating political party."

And look, both involve the notion of a state. You are using one possible definition of the term, but it is not the only recognized one, and is in fact a variation on the first meaning that is probably among the the least used of the definitions you could have used. It is one thing to say that our disagreement here is a matter of semantics. It is quite another to insist, as you do, that only your definition is right, when any dictionary will prove you wrong.

Gautama:
You used the word communism incorrectly so I corrected you.


No, I used it in one of its official senses, and you deliberately chose to misinterpret me. Either that, or you yourself were under a misconception, which I have now corrected.

Gautama:
Ha ha, I don't think you understand that I agree with you here. You don't have to keep selling me on this point. I agree.


Then the entire debate really is over semantics, and your mistaken belief that the term communism only has one meaning, and that it was different from the one that I was using.

Gautama:
Only if you were a fool would anyone do something like this.


I didn't want to engage in an ad hominem attack by saying that all communists are fools. But I agree, only fools would do what I suggested. And yes, the principle is exactly the same.

Gautama:
Come up with a better example where the protagonist has some intelligence.


Okay. The protagonist opens a factory. He allows anyone who is able to do the job well to work in it. He pays these workers fair market value for their labor. People who had no work and were living on the street are now employed, and can afford to live in a small apartment with sufficient food and the ordinary technological devices we have come to think of as necessities, a vast improvement.

Gautama:
Exactly, therefore those who gain wealth by any means are not justified in doing so. But if you step in and say "No no there are rules that we live by." You would have to respond, "No No who are you to tell me what to do with what I have earned? You cant make rules that limit my freedom over what I have worked hard for! If I want to dominate others with the power I have gotten I am completely justified in doing just that! Why do I go out of my way to make my workers lives miserable for the chance of making a few more dollars?


Again, your last point is nonsensical from my point of view, given our divergent views of the nature of wealth and power. Those who own companies do not dominate their workers -- their workers are free to seek employment elsewhere. Please don't bother posting a long argument against this, btw, unless it involves a justification for the limited view of wealth. If you assume the limited view of wealth and use it as the basis of your argument, then obviously I will not find it convincing, as again, I don't accept it. You are free, of course, to try to convince me of your premise, but simply building up an argument from a premise you know I don't accept will be a waste of time.

Gautama:
Follow the "I can do whatever I want with what I earn" line of thought to it's logical conclusion and you will find that it justifies a lot of malicious and cruel acts.


How so? You haven't shown this. At most, even accepting your premises about wealth and power (which I don't) you can show that this may mean that those who lack the ability or the willingness to earn money might suffer hardship. However, in all cases this is side effect, rather than the goal, of the people with wealth, and so they can hardly be accused of either malice or cruelty.
Jul 21, 2009, 11:35pm   #31
EF_Sean:
You are defining selfishness differently from me.


Selfishness:

1. Devoted to or caring only for oneself; concerned primarily with one's own interests, benefits, welfare, etc., regardless of others.

2. Characterized by or manifesting concern or care only for oneself.

These definitions do not say anything about wether or not such concerns would lead to self benefit in the long term or about rationality or anything like that. They simply imply that if one is selfish he puts himself before others. Bank robbers act in their own self interest. They dont act in their own rational self interest. So would you say that bank robbers are not selfish? They willingly trample other's welfare in order to seek self benefit. How is that not selfish? Find me a dictionary definition that describes what you are talking about.

EF_Sean:
And yet so many people strive to come to capitalist companies even knowing they will have to start at the bottom. Almost as if poor in America was wealthy by the standards of non-capitalist countries.


You think people strive to get lower class jobs? I guess if you are unemployed you will take anything... You also think that people strive to be workers in third world countries as a part of an outsourced labor team? Most of these people don't have a choice. Remember I am not talking about middle class people. Poor in America very well may be wealthy by the standards of non-capitalist countries. That doesn't change the fact that capitalism has problems. Capitalism is alot better than many other economic systems. That isnt the issue here. I'm simply arguing about whether or not capitalism has major problems. Democracy has problems and just because living in a democracy is better than living in a totalitarian state doesn't negate that point.

EF_Sean:
We've officially reached the point where we're talking in circles.


Why don't you present a logical progression in favor of your viewpoint then? I will say this. There are limited resources. There are limited things you can do with such resources. You can use these resources to produce things. Perhaps you can reuse some resources but only limitedly. Once resources are used up, no one else can use them. Sure you can restore some resources but only at the cost of other resources. Perhaps some resources are self replenishing. They still only give out a limited amount over a given time. People with power can use their power to take advantage of limited resources and then claim that they "own" them. Other people can no longer use such resources which makes it harder for them to "produce" things.

Just think about one of the most basic principles in physics. Matter cannot be created or destroyed. You can apply this to production. You can't simply produce things out of thin air it costs limited resources. So tell me how wealth isn't limited by that? Are you saying that there is potential for unlimited wealth and that potential could be fullfilled if every single person on the planet were a genius? (For practical purposes try not to use the idea of infinite resources in space. That may be a very good point but is not applicable in today's time period.)

EF_Sean:
I'm not. Communism has two official meanings


Ok, point well taken. It is in the dictionary. I shouldn't have talked about dictionary definitions. I think I have indirectly addressed this, however. The part that talks about the state is the lie. Of course people may use it in today's world since it is "in the dictionary" and many states use the term today to describe themselves but it does not represent the original idea of communism. In fact, if you know anything about Marx these definitions (for the parts that they talk about the state) don't really make sense at all. It is the product of people taking communism and corrupting it for their own selfish gains, or as you say it is simply what communism must logically become even though that is not what it is aiming to be.

I think we are so used to the idea of "russian communism", "chinese communism", and "cuban communism" that we have forgotten that these regimes are and were #1 not ruled by real communists, #2 bastardizations of the original ideas of communism, and #3 only called communism in order to lie to the people of their state and to sugar coat what was really happening there.

So as ridiculous as it sounds I reject the dictionary definition, ha ha! But I think I have good reason to since it is the product of decades of lies and corruption and has little to do with the original ideas of communism. (But yes, good job, it is in the dictionary.)

EF_Sean:
And look, both involve the notion of a state.


I guess technically you could now use the term "communist state" if you wanted but I know that Marx would puke in his grave everytime you did. In Marx's progression, socialism is the state that controls the means of production, not communism. So I guess I do use "one of many" different definitions for communism but at least the definition I use doesn't come from a bastardization of the origional idea. When I think communism I just ask WWMD? (What would Marx do?)

EF_Sean:
No, I used it in one of its official senses, and you deliberately chose to misinterpret me. Either that, or you yourself were under a misconception, which I have now corrected.


Ha ha, I would never try to deliberately misinterpret you. That would be pointless and annoying. I was laboring under a misconception that has been corrected but I can't help but point out the irony of the situation. One of the "official" meanings of communism was born from a misinterpretation of the original idea. And so now the misinterpretation is considered to be official definition. It would be a misconception to believe that the misconcieved definition of communism is false! Its like saying, "It would be a lie to say that the lie is a lie." That's so bogus! But hey it's official...

EF_Sean:
Then the entire debate really is over semantics, and your mistaken belief that the term communism only has one meaning, and that it was different from the one that I was using.


I was looking at it from a Marxist perspective. You talking about the state controlling people and telling them when and how to produce things is classified as "socialism" not "communism" in pure Marxist theory. I just figure that if you want to cut the bull and really understand communism you need to look at it from a Marxist perspective. You are welcome to look at is from a different perspective but it will not be the original line of thought.

EF_Sean:
Again, your last point is nonsensical from my point of view, given our divergent views of the nature of wealth and power. Those who own companies do not dominate their workers -- their workers are free to seek employment elsewhere.


I talked about the limited wealth vs production above and look forward to your response. Those who own companies set rules for their employees. That is control. Capitalists use the point of "workers have the freedom to seek work elsewhere if they are being exploited." I say that is an illusion. In most societies you wont be able to go from one company to the next with the same skill sets and expect dramatically different pay or benefits. For each time period the people at the top of their professions set the trend for how workers are treated and the government also sets some ground rules as well. A worker is going to find largely the same conditions where ever he goes so the idea that he can simply walk away from an exploitative situation in search of a more fair situation is an illusion. His search won't yield any new results. Company owners dont have signifigantly differing worker treatment plans because whoever spends the most money on their workers will out competed by other business owners since his business is that much less profitable, efficient and competitive. (sorry if that was too long lol. My posts mostly are I guess. I want to hear what you have to say specifically against the limited wealth line of thought.)

EF_Sean:
How so? You haven't shown this. At most, even accepting your premises about wealth and power (which I don't) you can show that this may mean that those who lack the ability or the willingness to earn money might suffer hardship. However, in all cases this is side effect, rather than the goal, of the people with wealth, and so they can hardly be accused of either malice or cruelty.


Go back to the 1920s and see what happened. Rockefeller and Carnegie types made conditions terrible for their workers even when they had the resources to provide them with some benefits and respect for supporting their companies. These workers did show the ability and willingness to work hard for their money and they did. Monopolies held them down and those people who were smart enough to try to start their own businesses were largely crushed by big business owners without regulation. These guys at the top had it within their power to allow others a chance to rise up into the market but they did not. They also had the power to help their own workers who worked hard for them everyday and yet they did not. They accrued wealth and power as if they were addicted to it and nothing else mattered. They valued material wealth more than they valued being ethical in their treatment of their fellow businessmen and their own workers. That makes them evil men. It is because of the way that they ran their companies that the quality of life for the average worker in america at that time was so low. And hmmm... what solved helped to solve this problem again? Oh yeah, government regulation.
Jul 22, 2009, 04:20am   #32
Gautama:
Devoted to or caring only for oneself; concerned primarily with one's own interests, benefits, welfare,


Your definition, not mine. So, if bank robbery can be shown not to actually be in one's own interest, benefit, or welfare, it is not, by own your definition, selfish. Presumably, one would have to perform rational analysis to determine this.

Gautama:
You also think that people strive to be workers in third world countries as a part of an outsourced labor team? Most of these people don't have a choice.


Of course they do. They can keep doing whatever they were doing before the factory opened. They take the jobs because, as bad as the conditions and pay are, they are still better than the original options available.

Gautama:

Why don't you present a logical progression in favor of your viewpoint then?


Because the question is one of population versus resources. Technically, in an infinite universe, resources are also infinite. Presumably you would not accept this, nor should you. However, a planet Earth with only, say, 1,000 people on it has more resources than all of those people together could reasonably claim for themselves. So, the question becomes one of whether or not our population has reached the point where the amount of resources available is such as to make the view of limited wealth reasonable. At the moment, I would say we are far enough from that point that you could argue it either way, without one side ever being able to convince the other.

Gautama:
The part that talks about the state is the lie.

My point, which you keep claiming to agree with, is that the end of communism as it has been practiced is inevitable because of the flaws within the theory. If, as you say, you agree with me on this point, why do you sound as if you are arguing with me?

Gautama:
When I think communism I just ask WWMD?


This doesn't work at all. Marx didn't call for a communist revolution, he merely predicted it. So he wouldn't do anything at all. But obviously someone somewhere has to do something if things are to change, so this is manifestly unhelpful.

Gautama:
I just figure that if you want to cut the bull and really understand communism you need to look at it from a Marxist perspective.


Not at all. Any ideology seems perfectly reasonable from the point of view of its founder, or the founder wouldn't have founded it. We can only judge it by how well it has worked in practice.

Gautama:
A worker is going to find largely the same conditions where ever he goes so the idea that he can simply walk away from an exploitative situation in search of a more fair situation is an illusion. His search won't yield any new results. Company owners don't have significantly differing worker treatment plans because whoever spends the most money on their workers will out competed by other business owners since his business is that much less profitable, efficient and competitive.


My response here would be that, in a free market society, the workers will tend to end up finding that every employer offers them around what is the actual value of their work, given the number of people who could do it, the difficulty of the skills involved, etc. A person is of course free to work such a job while mastering new skills, or to do such a job well enough to win promotion, and so on.

Gautama:
These guys at the top had it within their power to allow others a chance to rise up into the market but they did not. They also had the power to help their own workers who worked hard for them everyday and yet they did not. They accrued wealth and power as if they were addicted to it and nothing else mattered. They valued material wealth more than they valued being ethical in their treatment of their fellow businessmen and their own workers. That makes them evil men. I


Again, I don't accept your premises. As far as I am concerned, the guys at the top had no moral obligation to help their workers. Only to pay them fair market value, which they more or less had to do, or else the workers would have gone elsewhere. So accruing wealth and power for themselves wasn't particular wrong, much less evil. Differing views of wealth and power, again. This is why I said we would end up talking in circles -- all of our views spring from our differing views on wealth. We must either resolve that debate, and then continue, or else agree to disagree, for our arguments will merely talk past each other otherwise.
Jul 22, 2009, 03:02pm   #33
EF_Sean:
Your definition, not mine. So, if bank robbery can be shown not to actually be in one's own interest, benefit, or welfare, it is not, by own your definition, selfish. Presumably, one would have to perform rational analysis to determine this.


This is from the dictionary. This isn't my personal definition. All these definitions say is that a person puts himself before others and that his concerns are for his own interest, benefit, or welfare. Therefor it isn't about what the actual outcome will be it is about intent. Bank robbers rob banks because they believe that it will benefit them. According to the dictionary definitions this would be a selfish act.

EF_Sean:
At the moment, I would say we are far enough from that point that you could argue it either way, without one side ever being able to convince the other.


Well, I guess you've given up before we have even begun this argument. I would say that there is more than enough resources to go around if everyone had access to them. Problem is they dont have access to them because only a select few have ownership over these resources or the power to harvest them.

EF_Sean:
If, as you say, you agree with me on this point, why do you sound as if you are arguing with me?


Where did I argue with you on this? I do agree. Communism failed because it is a flawed theory. We were just debating what the definition of communism is and also what the flaws of capitalism are.

EF_Sean:
This doesn't work at all. Marx didn't call for a communist revolution, he merely predicted it. So he wouldn't do anything at all. But obviously someone somewhere has to do something if things are to change, so this is manifestly unhelpful.


Ok, ha ha, I didn't mean literally "what would Marx do" I just meant what was Marx trying to say. I was saying that if you want to understand communism you need to understand where it comes from. Thus I look at Marxist communism since that was the original idea. I use Marxism as a guide to compare how communism was meant to turn out and what actually happened. When I think communism I think about what Marx predicted. Since his predictions never came true, communism has never existed truly anywhere. This is, of course, because his predictions were wrong and reality would prove to turn out a much different way.

EF_Sean:
My response here would be that, in a free market society, the workers will tend to end up finding that every employer offers them around what is the actual value of their work, given the number of people who could do it, the difficulty of the skills involved, etc. A person is of course free to work such a job while mastering new skills, or to do such a job well enough to win promotion, and so on.


I think we are getting down to a difference of opinion here because how can you really quantify exactly what the value of a specific sort of work is? Sure you can get an idea of how some work compares to others but largely putting an exact price tag on some things requires some arbitrary assignment.

I would argue that workers will tend to end up finding that almost every employer offers them less than the actual value of their work. Think of it this way. Most employers don't care about giving their workers fair pay. All they want to do is give them enough money so that they wont quit. If all employers think this way then of course the average rate of pay is going to be less than the actual value of work because the employers weren't trying to be fair in the first place. Fair would be the actual value for the work but employers aim to pay their workers as little as they can possibly get away with which is less than fair. And what are the workers going to do about it? Go elsewhere? They will find the same thing.

EF_Sean:
Again, I don't accept your premises. As far as I am concerned, the guys at the top had no moral obligation to help their workers. Only to pay them fair market value, which they more or less had to do, or else the workers would have gone elsewhere.


Don't you see you are talking about an illusion. The workers would have gone elsewhere? Like where? To a different company that took better care of its workers? Such companies had been crushed long ago at that time. Industries were taken over by monopolies virtually everywhere. There was no where else to go. You can't simply walk away. If workers were being exploited they couldn't go anywhere where they would be exploited less.

I guess it is a matter of opinion what fair market value is. I would say that by no means were these people paid fair market value for their work and the "fail safe" that you proposed about just walking away is an illusion for the reasons I stated above. If you really believe that fair market value was paid then you must think that Rockefeller did tens of thousands of times more work than one of his average workers. Thats just silly. Sure Rockefeller had more skills than average but he wasnt that skilled. Plenty of people could have done his job just as well as he did if not better. This is where you say: If there were plenty of people just as talented as Rockefeller then why didn't they rise up and challenge him and out compete him. Because it was no longer an even playing field. Rockefeller had money, power, talent, and intelligence. Someone who is born with talent and intelligence but without money or power still wouldn't be able to go against Rockefeller because he was in a position to dominate all potential competition. This isn't because no one was as smart or as talented as Rockefeller its because Rockefeller monopolized his industry before anyone else did. He didn't have to go against a monopoly in his fight to the top. It was easier for him. So you see at this point there could be a number of people who were smarter, more talented, and harder working than Rockefeller and yet they had no chance of competing with him because he had a monopoly on money and power.

And to say that employers have no moral obligation to care for their workers is silly to. Does this mean that workers have no moral obligations to their employers either? Now we have a world where workers can steal from their employers, not do their jobs efficiently, and lie to their supervisors. If workers are honest and faithful to their employers, work hard, and support their companies to the best of their abilities that earns them some respect and gratitude from their bosses. You may say, "Oh well as long as they get fair market value for their work they are totally covered." They don't get fair market value. You might as well say that no one has any moral obligation to anyone else and therefor justify crime, murder, etc. What you are indirectly saying is that if big business owners have the power to make their worker's lives miserable then it is their right to do so for self benefit. This view just destroys all ethical obligations to other people. Maybe you don't disagree with that.

I wonder how far you would take this rational self interest theory. Let me ask you this. If you rationalized that it would be in your own rational self interest to murder a mother and child, take the family's money for yourself, start a business with it and become successful, and never get caught would you do it? Just assume you would never get caught and that it would benefit your life in the long run. You would just need to crack a few heads first thats all.

If something really was in your own rational self interest then would you do it no matter what? Can you justify doing any deed as long as it is in your rational self interest? What's your limit?

EF_Sean:
the guys at the top had no moral obligation to help their workers. Only to pay them fair market value, which they more or less had to do, or else the workers would have gone elsewhere.


Assuming that the workers would have nowhere else to go wouldn't it be in the rational self interest of their employers to pay them less than fair market value?
Jul 23, 2009, 12:22am   #34
Gautama:
This isn't my personal definition. All these definitions say is that a person puts himself before others and that his concerns are for his own interest, benefit, or welfare. Therefore it isn't about what the actual outcome will be it is about intent. Bank robbers rob banks because they believe that it will benefit them. According to the dictionary definitions this would be a selfish act.


But intent and the expected outcome are not unrelated. In any event, you haven't proved selfish intent, even. I would say someone who has never bothered to ask what is really in his self-interest, or made an attempt to rationally ascertain that, cannot be truly said to be concerned with his self-interest. Indeed, I fail to see how anyone can be said to be concerned with their benefit and welfare if they do not know, and are not trying to find out, what would actually benefit them and advance their welfare. Acting on whim, doing whatever makes you feel good in the moment, has nothing whatsoever to do with what is in your own self-interest. Someone who acts on whim or to gratify emotional impulses is not therefore showing concern with their self-interest. You seem to assume that people who act on their emotional impulses believe that doing so is in their own self-interest, but you have no proof of this. On the contrary, they may know that what they are doing is against their own interest, as a heroin addict knows that shooting up is bad for him, but does so anyway. Or, and this is probably more common, they haven't stopped to think about whether it is in their self-interest or not. In neither case can they be said to be acting selfishly, in the sense that you chose to cite.

Gautama:
I would say that there is more than enough resources to go around if everyone had access to them. Problem is they dont have access to them because only a select few have ownership over these resources or the power to harvest them.


You misunderstand. The question is whether there are enough resources that they cannot all be successfully monopolized. You believe that there are not -- hence a limited view of wealth. I believe that there are, though I am prepared to admit that, at some point, the population may be large enough, and our technology not yet advanced enough, that for awhile this may not be true.

Gautama:
I think we are getting down to a difference of opinion here because how can you really quantify exactly what the value of a specific sort of work is? Sure you can get an idea of how some work compares to others but largely putting an exact price tag on some things requires some arbitrary assignment.


The value of any work to the person doing it is always what he is prepared to sell it for. The value of the work to anyone else is what they are prepared to pay for it. This is why capitalism is the only just economic system, as everyone is always paid fair market value for their work. If they believe they are not being paid what their work is worth, they are free to engage in some other form of employment, just as if others feel that the worker is charging too much, they are free to find someone else who values his labor less, or to do it themselves. Any other economic system involves forcing people to accept someone else's economic values, and so is inherently unjust.

Gautama:

I would argue that workers will tend to end up finding that almost every employer offers them less than the actual value of their work.


But the actual value of their work to the employers is only what they are prepared to pay for it. If the workers disagree, they may find a different profession. Otherwise, if they are prepared to sell their work at the rate the employers ask, they agree that the price reflects the actual value, by freely choosing to sell their labor at that rate.

Gautama:
If you really believe that fair market value was paid then you must think that Rockefeller did tens of thousands of times more work than one of his average workers.


No. I believe he did work that was tens of thousands of time more valuable. The quantity of work, in terms of time, may have been the same as that of his workers, or theoretically even less. The quality, though, was clearly orders of magnitude more valuable.

Gautama:
Someone who is born with talent and intelligence but without money or power still wouldn't be able to go against Rockefeller because he was in a position to dominate all potential competition. This isn't because no one was as smart or as talented as Rockefeller its because Rockefeller monopolized his industry before anyone else did.


Yes, you believe in the limited view of wealth. I don't. I believe that there were multiple other industries people could have made their fortune in, and still other industries they could have invented. For that matter, smaller business have risen to challenge industry giants even within existing industries in which one or two giants did dominate. We are likely going to have to agree to disagree on the issue of limited wealth, which will probably make debating many of these other points unnecessary.

Gautama:
And to say that employers have no moral obligation to care for their workers is silly to. Does this mean that workers have no moral obligations to their employers either?


I never said that employers had no moral obligations at all to their workers, only that they had no obligation to care for them. They have an obligation to pay whatever wage or salary the workers were contracted for within the agreed upon time frame, just as the worker is obliged to perform the task for which he was hired as competently as possible. Both agree not to kill, lie, cheat, or steal, in short, to respect the basic rights of the other.

Gautama:
I wonder how far you would take this rational self interest theory. Let me ask you this. If you rationalized that it would be in your own rational self interest to murder a mother and child, take the family's money for yourself, start a business with it and become successful, and never get caught would you do it?


If I believed that it was in my rational self-interest, then yes. I do not, however, believe that it would be in my rational self-interest, nor do I see any circumstances under which I would.

Gautama:
If something really was in your own rational self interest then would you do it no matter what? Can you justify doing any deed as long as it is in your rational self interest? What's your limit?


Yes. Yes. None.

I really think that our only key area of contention here is whether or not the limited view of wealth is true or not. At any rate, all of the things you have said that I disagree with (apart from the semantic issues) rely entirely and completely on accepting a limited view of wealth.
Jul 24, 2009, 12:32am   #35
EF_Sean:
But intent and the expected outcome are not unrelated.

You are talking about what is in one's own best self interest. This is knowledge that can be gained from rationality. The heroin addict who shoots up even though she knows it is bad for her simply doesn't think that the pain and anguish it would take to stop doing drugs is worth what she would get back. So she shoots up the drugs because it is easier in the moment. There is an element of self interest. To her if she doesn't shoot up she will be in pain. If she does shoot up she won't be (at least for a little while). Therefore if her goal is to avoid pain then it is in her self interest to do heroin. This is not in her best self interest for the long term but you cannot deny that she has selfish intent when she does drugs. If she has no selfish intent then what kind of intent does she have? Altruistic intent? She gets a benefit from shooting up drugs: pleasure. Since she shoots up with the intent to gain pleasure, she acts with the intent to gain benefit. Benefiting one's self is selfish. Her course of action isn't rational but it is still self benefiting in the short term.

EF_Sean:
The value of any work to the person doing it is always what he is prepared to sell it for.


Ok, how about slavery then. Slave owners were not willing to pay their slaves anything for their work. Does that mean that the fair market value of the work that a slave does is nothing? The slave, if given a chance, would love to make money for his work but he can't because he doesn't have that freedom.

EF_Sean:
they believe they are not being paid what their work is worth, they are free to engage in some other form of employment


Again this is an illusion. If we go back to the monopolistic society there is no where else to go. This applies to slave labor too. It would be a fantasy to go into another profession. Where are you going to get money to pay for training in another profession? Through working? But you aren't paid well enough to be able to afford the time to take off work and train and pay for training and still provide for your family.

EF_Sean:
If I believed that it was in my rational self-interest, then yes.


Ok, I'll give you an example which is as clean and yet as abstract as I can think of. You know of a man who you have never met before but he does not know you. He is good man, you have judged, in fact he follows Randian philosophy as well. You are given the opportunity (it doesn't matter how. this is fantasy) to gain something you really want for yourself. (money, a woman, skills, better looks, piece of mind, etc. Whatever you value most.) In order to get this thing that you want you must send this man to hell where he will be eternally tortured forever. God does not exist in this scenario. You could even forget the word hell if it bothers you. Just think of it as some theoretical place of eternal torture. However, no one will notice he is gone let alone that you are responsible for his disappearance. If you go through with this you will gain whatever you wanted most and you will never be caught or found out. In fact it will be as if the man never existed. But you will always know that he is and will always be, even after you die, being tortured forever. Kind of melodramatic, I know but relevant. If you would agree to do it then, well I guess we should stop the conversation right now because there are no logical ways for us to persuade each other about our points. If you do not agree to do it then I want you to point out specifically how it would not rationally be in your own self interest. Remember, keep it rational. ;)

On another note: Ha ha I am pretty much done with our limited wealth conversation. I do agree that we should agree to disagree. I do respect your thoughts on the matter, though.
Jul 24, 2009, 02:21am   #36
Gautama:
If she has no selfish intent then what kind of intent does she have? Altruistic intent? She gets a benefit from shooting up drugs: pleasure.


Why does intent have to be either selfish or altruistic? For that matter, why does she have to have any intent at all? If she is acting on impulse, then she is acting at the level of a beast, and we do not normally talk about the intent of beasts. And the pleasure she gets is not in fact to her benefit, as you admit. She even knows that it is not in her self-interest to shoot up, so by doing so, she is acting against what she knows is her self-interest. You cannot say that selfishness is concern with one's own self-interest, and then argue that someone who acts in a way that they know is contrary to their own best interests is selfish. Sorry.

Gautama:
Slave owners were not willing to pay their slaves anything for their work. Does that mean that the fair market value of the work that a slave does is nothing? The slave, if given a chance, would love to make money for his work but he can't because he doesn't have that freedom.


This is a non sequitur. We were talking about people living in a free market society. As slaves are not free, this has no bearing on anything. The fair market value of a slave's labor to the slave would be how much he would be willing to do it for if he were offering it on a free market. The value to the slave owner would be how much he would be prepared to pay for it in the same.

Gautama:
If we go back to the monopolistic society there is no where else to go.


Yes, if we accept the premise of limited wealth, your arguments become much stronger. But, as I keep saying, I don't accept this premise. In our society, there is always somewhere else to go, if one has the intelligence and the determination. I am singularly unconcerned about those who lack either or both.

Gautama:
(it doesn't matter how. this is fantasy)

Gautama:
Remember, keep it rational.


There is a contradiction here. My rational self-interest is determined by the objective nature of reality. If you are going to posit a scenario in which reality is utterly malleable, then this becomes very difficult, but I'll give it my best shot.

I suppose it depends on what I view as being in my rational self-interest to want.
Gautama:
money, a woman, skills, better looks, piece of mind,


If I want peace of mind, for instance, I can hardly get it by consigning a good man to a place of eternal torture.

I do not want unearned money, for I recognize that unearned money has no value.

I do not want a woman who would be a mindless automaton or slave given me by a demon.

I do not want better looks, which would make me appealing only to those who judged by outward appearances, and whose opinion consequently does not matter to me.

I suppose I would view it as being in my self interest to live in a world in which everyone respected the right of everyone else to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. This man is one whom you say I know respects these things. Obviously, I myself must also respect these things for the scenario to hold. If I condemned him unjustly to any sort of prison, then I could not therefore have what I want. Also, as the person you describe sounds like a very moral, capable person, I suppose I would also desire his friendship, which I also could not gain by condemning him to hell. In fact, none of the things I can think of that would tempt me are the sort of things I could get by giving into temptation, as the very act of giving into it would preclude my ever having them.
Jul 24, 2009, 12:34pm   #37
The altruism vs selfishness argument is so 1984. More recent neurological research demonstrates that altruistic acts light up the same brain pleasure centers as sex and food. Humans are social animals. Just like most other social species, we're hard-wired to be altruistic. Stated differently: For members of social species, helping the group is helping the self. The distinction is illusory. The question is moot.
Jul 24, 2009, 07:24pm   #38
EF_Simone:
Just like most other social species, we're hard-wired to be altruistic.


Lol! So much of human history show just that. The statement is so manifestly contradicted by what we know from experience as to be absurd. Neurology doesn't really tell us much of anything when it comes to explaining human behavior, I'm afraid. Wrong level of detail. In any event, even if we did have certain emotional propensities to act in an altruistic way, it wouldn't make acting on them a good idea, any more than acting on an emotional impulse to punch someone in the face when they're being annoying would be. And that, I know we are hard-wired for.

EF_Simone:
For members of social species, helping the group is helping the self.


Depends on who is in the group, and what the goals of the group are. Certainly there are cases in which helping the group might be good (when it is in one's own interests to do so). I certainly wouldn't say that helping the group is always good though.
Jul 24, 2009, 11:36pm   #39
EF_Sean:
The statement is so manifestly contradicted by what we know from experience as to be absurd.

Sorry, but it's true. Altruistic behavior lights up the pleasure centers in the brain. And, indeed, feels good. That's not to say that we -- again as social animals -- have not evolved cultural practices that suppress that instinct.
Jul 24, 2009, 11:58pm   #40
EF_Simone:
Altruistic behavior lights up the pleasure centers in the brain. And, indeed, feels good.


If that were the whole story, there would be no war, no violence, etc. However, watching people fight to the death, for instance, also lights up pleasure centers somewhere in our brains, or the coliseum would never have caught on. So clearly, the statement, stated in the context of this particular conversation, is misleading. In fact, I would say that our behavior shows that altruism clearly isn't as important to us as food or sex. If a neurological study purports to show otherwise, then it is wrong, the same way the mathematical proof that bumblebees couldn't fly had to be wrong.

Besides, these sorts of studies are always sort of suspect. All the study may have proved is that the sort of people who volunteer to take part in scientific studies enjoy being altruistic, which would hardly be unexpected. Or that people get pleasure from doing what they believe they are supposed to be doing, which, from socializing forces, or merely from being in a study that tests for altruism, is being altruistic. For that matter, as the study in question involved asking people to imagine giving away large sums of money rather than keeping it for themselves, it may be that the brain recognized largess as a good way to win either food or sex. In other words, the people may have recognized on an intuitive level that giving the money away was more likely to impress members of the opposite sex than hoarding it. Really, there are dozens of possible interpretations of the data, and nothing in the study to support the conclusion the scientists draw from it, which seem to be little more than wishful thinking on the part of the scientists.

Finally, as I pointed out, just because something feels good doesn't mean we should do it.

So, you have a highly suspect statement, that clearly doesn't support all the implications you would like it to even if it were true, and whose truth has no real impact on the discussion at hand.



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