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    Howard A Hood
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  1. OK, I am out of here. These people cannot discuss philosophical issues rationally. HH It's called self-esteem. I don't willingly make nice with people who would point a gun to my head and order me around. [NOTE FROM MSK: PHRASE DELETED.] Shayne
  2. I cannot tell what you mean but I repeat that I am making a distinction between those who merely consume narcotics and those who import, produce, and sell them. I am not in favor in favor of jailing people for injecting heroin, but I would not allow it to be sold at Wal-Mart. Howard Hood Absolutely. We MUST ban alcohol, caffeine, nicotine and cocoa NOW. Amen to that brother. sarcasm OFF. Seriously you have no business regulating what consenting adults do as long as no one's rights are violated.
  3. This is one issue I have never been able to resolve. Only human beings have rights, otherwise meat-eaters would be murderers. On the other hand, it seems intolerable for anybody to torture animals just for the fun of it. I suggest that the discussion be reframed. Instead of asking whether animals have rights, we might ask whether there is any justification for people to punish those who are needlessly cruel to animals? This approach might open up new lines of analysis. My assumption has been that AR would oppose laws against cruelty to animals and would limit the response to ostracism or verbal condemnation, not enough to stop some people from torturing animals or to insure adequate care under humane conditions. Am I wrong in this assumption? Barbara? Howard Hood
  4. Michael, I believe in absolute property rights. On this topic I am in full agreement with AR. Once you let government take a home or piece of land by force--even while paying--the wolf is inside the house. Taxes imposed on the general population are different, as I have suggested in another thread. Howard Hood
  5. One of the issues which have been puzzled me over the years is that of regulating dangerous drugs. I believe that the Objectivist position is that there should be no prohibition of drugs. Under this view, cocaine, heroin, and meth could be sold in Wal-Mart stores to any adult. I do not accept this idea. I propose that individuals who use dangerous drugs in violation of the law not be penalized, but that it remain illegal to produce and sell dangerous, addictive drugs. Meth factories would continue to be illegal, but if an individual uses the substance, he will not be jailed or fined for doing so. Yes, you have a right to poison yourself if you wish, but you do not have a right to to harm others by selling substances which kill and which create physical dependence. I would add that the notion that people must be free to choose what they wish to ingest or inhale is oversimplified when applied to substances which create addiction. The heroin addict has lost much of his ability to choose; by definition he has a powerful urge to shoot up. He can refrain, but only with great effort and suffering. I believe that allowing dangerous, addictive drugs to be sold freely to adults would create severe social and medical problems that should be minimized. You cannot totally prevent the production, importation, and sale of narcotics, for example, but legal sanctions can greatly reduce these activities. Objectivism concedes that there are dangerous activities and dangerous substances that can be forbidden, consistent with individual rights. Rand and Branden used the example of prohibiting fireworks factories in crowded neighborhoods or enforcing fire laws to prevent conflagrations. I don't think Rand would endorse the legal production and sale of plutonium or mustard gas by private citizens. I would put narcotics into the category of dangerous substances such as poisons which the government can properly restrict and regulate. I would legalize marijuana because I do not believe it is addictive or deadly. Alcohol can be abused but is not dangerous or addictive for most people. Smoking tobacco can be regulated with respect to locations but I would not outlaw it. No one has died from smoking a single pack of cigerettes. The dangers of smoking build up over a period of many years. Private organizations such as the Heart Association are quite correct in trying to discourage people from smoking. Much more could be said about this, but enough for now. Howard Hood
  6. The doctrine of eminent domain derives from the idea that the king owns all the land and if he wants yours, you have to give it to him. This doctrine was unfortunately incorporated into the U.S. Constitution. The Fifth Amendment to the Constitution contains the words, "nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation." This statement implies that government can take private property by force, and indeed the government does this, but adds the requirement that the government must pay for it. The government itself decides how much it wants to pay and if the property owner refuses to sell, a court proceeding will determine the amount. Like many government powers, this little kicker started small and then mushroomed. At first people thought eminent domain would be used merely to facilitate the building of city halls and perhaps roads or bridges. Now state and local governments are seizing private land and turning it over to corporations for commercial redevelopment. The justification offered is that the corporate owners will pay more taxes. This rationale turns American political theory upside down. Instead of the government existing to protect private rights, private rights are sacrificed to the interest of the government in increasing tax revenue. I think that Objectivists reject eminent domain as an obvious, gross violation of individual rights, and I agree. But I do concede that without this power, it would be very difficult to get roads, highways, flood control projects, and hydroelectric dams built. But I believe that price must be paid. Without property rights individuals are at the mercy of government and the whole structure of freedom falls. If it is difficult to build interstates without seizing private property, I say so be it. I would add one new idea, however. I think that government might penalize those who refuse to sell their land by barring them from use of the proposed facility or improvement. To build roads, one must have land. If you refuse to accept a reasonable offer for the purchase of your land, you will not be allowed to use the highway, bridge, or water/sewer service. The individual who refuses to support the road project but wants to drive on the thoroughfare after it is built, cannot have it both ways, as I see it. The details of implementing this kind of penalty would have to be worked out, but the basic idea is that government would have some leverage in getting road projects done without being able to seize private property. Howard Hood
  7. Michael, Discussion requires going from the simple to the more complex and detailed. Remember that Rand summarized her philosophy in four or five (?) statements. On the validity of taxation, I would ask a few of questions: 1. If government requires taxation (I believe so), and you (generic you) oppose taxation, aren't you an unadmitted anarchist? 2. How can a resident of a country rationally object to paying for having his rights protected? Is there a right to have others pay for the protection of your life and property? Someone has to pay for government; if you are not helping support the government financially, but there is a government which is protecting you, aren't you a parasite getting something for nothing? If you own property, or may own property in the future, if you are alive, you need government protection and have an obligation to pay for it if you can. Government protection of rights is fundamental to all aspects of life. I therefore do not think my contentions can be refuted for being an invalid "free rider" argument. Rand offered government lotteries as a possible way of paying for government in a free society. But should the government be running a gambling business? Should government be encouraging this kind of irrational behavior? Should government have a monopoly on lotteries? If anyone could run lotteries legally, how much money would the government get from a state-run lottery? We already have government lotteries in many states and they do not come close to meeting general funding needs. In my opinion, this Rand proposal cannot stand up to scrutiny. Rand also suggested a tax on contracts to make them enforceable by the government. I suppose the charge would be proportional to the value of the contract and so most of the money would come from big transactions. But is it fair to make businesses and the wealthy pay the lion's share of funding, for example, the army and the police? The fees imposed on enforceable contracts would have to be high enough to pay for the court system but also high enough to pay for everything else. Can you fund the costs of a modern political system by imposing fees on contracts? The contract tax could also be imposed on small transactions, such as leases on apartments and purchases over the Internet. Would the cost of insuring ten dollar purchases be disproportional to the benefit to the parties? What if someone failed to pay the contract tax, would he then have no rights in our legal system? I do not think Rand thought through the idea of financing government with a contract tax and was wrong in thinking that government could be totally financed with such fees. More importantly, I think Rand was wrong in implying that any kind of "coercive" tax or compulsory payment to the government would violate individual rights. Howard Hood
  8. I speculate that if government were cut down to size, i.e., if every improper program and expenditure were eliminated, taxes at all levels might be reduced by at least 75%. A large share of local taxes goes to pay for public schools, for example, so all of that could be refunded. Abolishing corporate welfare, such as price supports for sugar and milk, would reduce the cost of living for most people. If government were cut back to essentials, the tax burden would be relatively light for everyone and would not be much of a policy issue. Howard Hood
  9. I can make the case that the only kind of taxation that is not theft is that which produces income needed to protect individual rights and which is fairly allocated among the general population. (I put fees and taxes relating to roads and public utilities in a separate category.) Taxing people and sending some of it to foreign dictators is theft and cannot be justified. Giving away tax money rather than using it to pay the proper expenses of government is theft. Reasonable taxation to pay for police, the army, the courts, etc., is not theft in my opinion. (Example of "unreasonable" taxation: requiring that only people six feet and under have to pay taxes, while taller people are exempt.) AR maintained that government was a necessity but seemed to oppose "coercive" methods of funding it. Although she was not really interested in giving detailed answers to questions about a hypothetical free political/legal system, she offered government lotteries and charges on contracts as examples of proper fund-raising. I think both of these examples are flawed and would not be sufficient to support modern government. In my view, without "coercive" taxation, no substantial government could exist and we would be left with anarchy. (A fee charged to make contracts legally enforceable might be called non-coercive taxation since you do not have to make contracts. AR seemed to believe that imposing fees for services properly rendered by the government would be consistent with individual rights.) I think that gasoline and vehicle taxes are examples of proper taxes, if used to pay for roads, bridges, and enforcing traffic laws. The people who are using the roads, pay for them. Those who do not have cars and do not drive would not pay directly for roads and bridges. The cost of goods and services would include components relating to transportation costs, including taxes on fuel and vehicles. In contrast to Rand and the extreme libertarians, I do not oppose government ownership of streets, roads, bridges, water/sewer systems, and the like. But that is another question. The idea that U.S. tax laws do not apply to domestic income is clearly without merit. Howard Hood
  10. Thanks, Michael. I don't know how the wind blows here and may offend. I will speak frankly. Always do. I knew the Brandens, the Holzers, Robert Hessen, Mike Berliner and his wife, George Reisman, and many others. I was not in the inner circle, but I had some contacts with people who were. I was permitted to attend the live NBI question periods in NYC and saw Ayn Rand in action many times. I was on the panel of Ayn Rand on Campus, a Columbia University radio program which was recorded in Rand's apartment. I saw AR speak many times and had a couple of private meetings with her and NB regarding a proposed article I worked on. I left NYC in the summer of 1968 to deal with the draft and get a job. I thought little about Objectivism until I read the books by the two Brandens. These books got me thinking and I re-evaluated Objectivism, AR, and my connection to the movement. I still consider myself an Objectivist but differ from the orthodoxy on a number of points. Howard
  11. Ayn Rand was at least two different people, and they had little in common with each other. As a novelist and philosopher, she was a brilliant intellectual and artist; in her private life she demanded adulation and agreement and was quite vindictive against those who failed to comply with her demands or who dared to challenge her ideas. Rand preached integrity and intellectual independence, but immediately ostracized anyone who practiced those virtues. You can understand how Rand could have had an affair with Nathaniel and then turn against him and try to destroy his career, if you remember one thing: Rand was a woman and a human being, not the Goddess of Reason. Like many geniuses, Rand was an extreme narcissist with only a theoretical interest in the feelings of others. Her husband had to see things the way she did. What she wanted or needed, he was bound to accept. The "Collective" and her other close associates were an assemblage of individuals who were willing to subordinate their minds and feelings to her in return for the privilege of basking in her aura and greatness. Can you imagine Howard Roark or Hank Rearden doing anything like that? Howard Hood Las Vegas, life is rarely as simple, alternatives rarely as clear cut, as your post suggests. Ayn did not know hos deeply she hurt Frank; perhaps she did not want to know, but that is not quite the same as knowing. Nor would she have accepted the idea that she had made a "mockery" of their marriage. She truly loved Frank -- and she truly loved Nathaniel. And she believed Frank could and did understand and accept that. Can you really look into someone's deeply personal and complex emotional life and say what she "should" have done? Frank was not a weak man. There were many reasons why he did not seek a divorce. The major one was that he loved Ayn but believed he was not her ideal man, although she insisted that he was. He felt that in that respect he had failed her; he wanted her to be happy, and he decided that if her happiness required that she have an affair with Nathaniel, he would accept that. Yes, her ideas on morality did pertain to her. That is, had she been considering four other people whom she thought to be in the same position and of the same stature as she believed she and Frank and Nathaniel and I were, she would have advised them to do as she did. Whether she would have been right or wrong to so advise them -- I think she would have been mistaken, and that she was mistaken in her own case -- is a separate issue from whether she applied her moral code to her own actions. Barbara
  12. I just ran across this old thread and wanted to contribute. Harry Binswanger and I and a number of other people took NBI courses at Robert Efron's house in the Boston area in the early 1960s. A number of us were students at Harvard (me) and MIT (Harry). When we moved to NYC to continue our educations, we had many contacts with Objectivists, took courses, and attended NBI events. I was in NYC 1965-68. Harry and I were going to be roommates in Manhattan but we never found a suitable apartment and we lived in different places. Harry and I were both "true believers." I became a critical or reformed Objectivist in the late 1980's; Harry continued to be an unquestioning apostle and now makes money from junior league true believers. Enough for now. Howard Hood Nashville, TN