Darrell Hougen

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Everything posted by Darrell Hougen

  1. Gee, the government made that same offer, and hundreds of millions of suckers took it. Greg Indeed. As Benjamin Franklin once said: Darrell
  2. The answer to your question is that man must live according to principles. A principle might be something like, one should not steal. If you violate the principle, it is no longer a principle. If you can justify violating it once, you can justify it again. There is no practical way to limit the number of times you violate the principle. To use Christian terminology, if you do something wrong, you must repent. To repent means more than to seek forgiveness. It means to turn away from a wrong course and back towards a righteous course. In non-religious terms, you must recommit yourself to upholding rational principles. But, if you commit another bad act, you have again violated the principle in question. If you continue to violate it, soon it will mean nothing to you and you will become unprincipled. FF has brought up the notion of a "prudent predator". The "prudent predator" presumably only steals or commits other crimes when he can get away with them and thereby gets ahead of the game. The problem is that life doesn't work that way. Your expected payoff in living that way is always less than your expected payoff in living a morally upright life. That's because, as a practical matter, it is impossible to estimate with any accuracy your chances of succeeding. Moreover, the odds of succeeding aren't in your favor. So, if you engage in such behavior, you'll eventually be caught. The not so "prudent predator" is the man that attempts to live without principles, attempting to calculate the odds of succeeding in his contemplated action separately each time. It is simply impossible for a human to rationally expect success in living that way. The fact that some people might have succeeded doesn't alter that fact. They just got lucky. But, the odds are always against the man that attempts to live without principles. There is also another argument to make. This is the positive argument. Living in harmony with other people is generally in one's self interest. That's because other people produce things of value to ones own life. Therefore, living by principles that allow each person to be productive is in ones self interest. That argument tells the rational person which principles to adopt. The argument above tells the rational person why he needs principles in the first place. Darrell
  3. The fact that the kapos had no way of knowing how long the war would last or whether they would survive or eventually be gassed is germane to the issue. In fact, it is the issue. Part of Rand's philosophy is that in order to survive, a person must control his own destiny. The scenario of the kapos is similar to the following simpler scenario: Assume that a wealthy man came along and told you that he would guarantee you a life without want for as long as you lived as long as you agreed to be his prisoner. It is tempting to conclude that the rational man would accept the deal because he would no longer have to worry about his worldly needs. His food, shelter, clothing, and the best medical care money can buy would be guaranteed to him for the rest of his life, guaranteeing him a long and healthy life barring some unforeseen problem such as an untreatable illness. At least, he would be guaranteed to live at least as long as he would have on the outside. The problem is that there is no way of knowing what the guarantee is worth. The prisoner of the wealthy man would be at the latter's mercy, never knowing when or whether he might decide to end the deal and eject prisoner out into the world penniless or worse, kill him. The kapos faced a similar situation. What if Germany had won the war? The Final Solution was to exterminate all the Jews and that would presumably include the kapos. I have read that the Germans used the kapos to help control the other prisoners, thereby allowing the Germans to use far fewer SS guards at their prisons. If that is true, it might have been possible for all of the prisoners to escape if the kapos had joined with the other prisoners and staged a prison break. Alternately, if all of the prisoners had refused to be kapos, the German Army would have had to assign more soldiers to guard their prisons which would have removed some of the soldiers from the front line, increasing the likelihood of German defeat and bring that defeat more quickly, allowing all of the prisoners to be freed. Why would someone agree to be a kapo hoping to briefly extend his life when refusing to be a kapo might extend his life for another 50 years by helping to bring the war to an end? Thank you for clarifying the issue of the drug dealer. Now, I understand your point. However, I still disagree with your conclusion. If the drug dealer believes that the drug laws are justifiable, then he is not consciously violating his principles, if he has any, because he is acting to reduce crime. However, if he believes as you believe that he is helping to steal from a legitimate peddler, then he is violating the principle that one should not steal --- he is violating the principle that one should respect the property of others. Part of Rand's philosophy is that men must live according to principles. It is impossible to know with any kind of certainty when one can get away with something immoral and when that is not possible. Therefore, if the dealer can justify violating one man's property rights, there is nothing to prevent him from justifying the violation of another man's property rights. If it is ok to steal from one man, it is ok to steal from another whenever the opportunity presents itself. But, such a philosophy is a prescription for disaster in the long run. The probability of continuously getting away with rights violations is small. A person that constantly violates the rights of others soon finds himself morally lost and uncertain about what to do on a daily basis. His world turns into a frightening series of calculations about when to lie, or cheat, or steal, and how to evade detection, and the end is usually disaster. It is said that when an honest man is arrested and placed alone in an interrogation room, he paces up and down, worried about what will happen to him and how he can fight it. A criminal falls asleep. For an honest man, his fight is just beginning. A criminal is exhausted from the constant struggle to avoid detection. His battle is over. BTW, similar considerations apply to the kapos. If it is ok to mistreat another man under one set of circumstances, is it not ok to do so under others? And, if he goes down that path, it is hard to see how he could have a decent life even if the conflict ended. Darrell
  4. Francisco, I haven't read the entire thread. I'll catch up eventually, but I would just reply that your prudent predator doesn't exist. I will simply assert, without proof at this point, that cheating, lying, stealing, murdering, etc., are never in a person's self interest. A person's expected payoff in leading a life that involves violating the rights of others is always less than his expected payoff in leading a rights respecting life. I will admit that it is a difficult argument to make. It is probably as difficult as arguing about the economics of freedom versus big government. However, I think you will find that it is impossible to come up with real world examples where a person's expected long term payoff is greater by violating the rights of others. In fact, if the goal of morality is to preserve life, then the proper measurement is longevity. So, you would have to argue that a person's expected longevity is greater if he violates the rights of others than if he respects them. Darrell Impossible? In fact, there are many historical cases of people who survived difficult times by violating the rights of others. To cite one famous example, concentration camp kapos in Nazi Germany were prisoners who were spared the harshest conditions by supervising, often brutally, other prisoners. See in particular Elie Wiesel's autobiographical Night. Of the perhaps thousands who performed this function, only a couple of dozen were successfully prosecuted after World War II. More recently, in the United States, arrested drug dealers are frequently given the promise of a lighter sentence or no prosecution if they serve as informants for the police. As for the statement "the goal of morality is to preserve life," to be fair, that is not Rand's position. According to her "that which is proper to the life of a rational being is the good." I expected you to attempt to give examples that would disprove my proposition and you did not disappoint. The problem is that it is necessary to show that the expected payoff is greater, not the actual payoff in particular cases. In the case of the kapos, the men involved had no way of knowing how long the war would last, whether they would survive or be eventually gassed or be prosecuted and executed after the war. The fact that only a few were executed doesn't mean much. Also, we don't know how those people fared after the war. Some might have done fine while others might have had a hard time finding people with whom to do business and might have suffered as a result. Since many were criminals before the war, they might have returned to crime and died in other ways. I'm not sure what your example of police informants is supposed to show. An informant is arguably doing the right thing by helping to stop crime. An informant might receive leniency, but that doesn't mean that he hasn't suffered as the result of choosing a life of crime. Man's existence --- his life --- is contingent upon pursuing a proper course of action. That is why he needs a moral code and that is it's purpose. Objectivists often talk about thriving instead of merely surviving, but the purpose of thriving is to survive. That is, putting distance between oneself and the needs of every day survival increases ones odds of surviving. A poor person living in a poor neighborhood is more likely to be a victim of crime than a person living in a nice neighborhood. A poor person's car is more likely to break down or suffer a brake failure and crash. He is less likely to be able to afford medical care, etc. Darrell
  5. Michael, Thank you for the link to the story about the 1997 raid. If a bunch of communist secessionists were sitting around celebrating the birthday of mass murderer, Che Guevara and the police raided them and confiscated everyone's cell phone, I'd say that was government overreach. If a couple members of the group had issued false subpoenas, I'd say that they should be arrested. But, they're the only ones that should be arrested. The other 60 people at Che's birthday party shouldn't be arrested. There are two main reasons for expanding government power: 1. As a response to a conflict or threat of conflict such as a war, and 2. As a natural consequence of leftist, utopian idealism. The raid down in Texas is a case of government overreach in response to a mostly quiet secessionist group. Secession through use of force may be illegal, but talking about secession isn't. After all, in principle, secession could be accomplished peacefully by petitioning the federal government. If Congress approved a secession plan and the President signed it into law, it would, perforce, be legal. In my book, a utopian is basically any person who believes that he can create a better society than a free society through force or coercion or the threat of force or coercion. Such people are predominantly creatures of the left. So, your hypothetical meeting of communists is probably more of a threat to liberty than a meeting of secessionists because communists generally want to force everyone into a commune and secessionists usually just want to be left alone. Darrell
  6. Francisco, I haven't read the entire thread. I'll catch up eventually, but I would just reply that your prudent predator doesn't exist. I will simply assert, without proof at this point, that cheating, lying, stealing, murdering, etc., are never in a person's self interest. A person's expected payoff in leading a life that involves violating the rights of others is always less than his expected payoff in leading a rights respecting life. I will admit that it is a difficult argument to make. It is probably as difficult as arguing about the economics of freedom versus big government. However, I think you will find that it is impossible to come up with real world examples where a person's expected long term payoff is greater by violating the rights of others. In fact, if the goal of morality is to preserve life, then the proper measurement is longevity. So, you would have to argue that a person's expected longevity is greater if he violates the rights of others than if he respects them. Darrell
  7. The foreclosure was mentioned in the article that you linked, but not in the "description above." Part of the purpose of my post was to respond to Reidy's comment that he couldn't find a reliable source for the information. Since the WND article refers back to a Houston Chronicle article, I was helping to bolster the case that your information was factual. I think the warrant under which law enforcement was operating was overly broad. The warrant allowed the officers to seize everyone's cell phone and search it. It also allowed the officers to take a DNA sample from everyone. The breadth of the warrant is frightening --- I agree. I also appreciated your references to the history of the 4th Amendment. I was not aware that the British used to issue general warrants that provided them with broad authority to search people that weren't specifically mentioned in the warrant. The warrant issued in this case seemed to operate much like a general warrant and should be found illegitimate under the Constitution. I guess my one objection to your posting was the connection that you made to prosecutorial discretion. That characterization seems to tie what happened in Texas to the Obama amnesty for illegal immigrants. However, in my view, this is an entirely different animal. The Obama Administration is attempting to construct an entire government program on the flimsy foundation of prosecutorial discretion. In this case, it is the judge that issued the warrant and not the executive in the form of the police that over stepped their bounds. While it is true that prosecutors generally ask for a specific warrant and they should be scolded for attempting to obtain such a broad warrant, I blame the judge for issuing it. The fact that it pertained to a large group of people not directly involved in the case should have rung alarm bells in his head. Darrell
  8. My search led back to an article in the Houston Chronicle. I don't know anything about that particular newspaper, but it seems quite normal, so I'm assuming that the story is factual. What the description above leaves out is the reason for the raid. According to the Chronicle, members of the Republic of Texas issued fabricated court documents including an official looking summons for certain persons to appear before a Republic of Texas "court" in connection with the foreclosure of one of its member's houses. In other words, the Republic of Texas had taken the notion of "shadow government" a little too far. When they started issuing summonses to members of the public not associated with the group, they caught the attention of the police. Some people questioned the need for a raid involving multiple local and federal agencies in connection with a misdemeanor offense, but it doesn't necessarily sound like the heavy boot of government coming down on a law abiding group. Clearly, they had gone beyond merely talking and that's what triggered the raid. Darrell
  9. Hi Sam, I'm not sure if understand how your system is supposed to work. Let's say there was a raging debate about how much money should be spent on defense with both sides donating large sums of money in order to win the argument. In the end, it might turn out that the More fund had slightly more than the Less fund. If I understand correctly, that would imply that a small amount of money would be spent on defense. In the mean time, both funds would have large amounts of money in them that would just sit there unused. Or, am I not understanding something? My system would work much the same as the current system except that it would be much harder for the politicians to spend other people's money. One way to attract donations would be to offer to build monuments to the largest donors or put their names on the cornerstones of a new buildings that they helped fund. Of course, people could build their own monuments to themselves, but a plaque on the side of a building demonstrating how much they cared about the Republic would seem much more desirable than a self-aggrandizing monument. Trump has been ridiculed for naming a building after himself, but donors to universities are rarely ridiculed for donating money for the construction of a new building with their name on it. Placing a plaque on the side of building is a token of appreciation from the recipients of the funds. Placing one's own name on a building is like saying, "I appreciate myself." Joke I heard many years ago: Donald Trump decided to name himself after himself. He is now Trump T. Trump. There is a difference between being proud of oneself and being full of oneself and a lot of people seemed to think Trump belonged in the latter category. So, yes, an airport might be named after someone if he donated the funds to build it. But it might also be named after him if he donated a lot of money to fund the government in general. Darrell
  10. I'm not sure what you mean about people being forced to join a union, but I know that Colorado is not a closed shop state. It isn't a right to work state either. It's sort of half-way in between. Darrell
  11. Yeah, that's what I said. Sorry, I didn't read your earlier comment carefully and was replying to your later comment which was unqualified. Darrell
  12. I agree that government intervention in the marketplace is the practice that needs to be banned. I'm just not wild about lobbyists. Darrell
  13. Perhaps we should let people vote based on the size of their contribution to government. Government would not receive any funding from any other source. There would be no taxation or fees. In each cycle, each person would be allowed a number of votes equal to the number of dollars contributed to government less any payments received from the government since the beginning of the cycle. That would make government similar to corporate governance except that one's influence would have to be renewed each cycle. Contributions would have to be made public in order to give people with opposing views time to react. We could keep the current system with representatives having 2 year terms, presidents having 4 year terms and senators having 6 year terms so that one faction couldn't completely change the system in one cycle. Keeping the system in which judges are appointed for life would also help the stability of the system. Any attempt to wield undue influence would be costly as it would require a large contribution to the operation of the government and would likely reduce the influence of that faction in the future. People on welfare and corporations that received government contracts would have their influence severely curtailed, leading to small, efficient government. Would this lead to too much influence by wealthy individuals or corporations? What would they gain by attempting to have their candidates elected? They could vote themselves government contracts, but would give up much of their voting power in the next election cycle by doing so. Besides, they'd be paying for their own contracts if they donated large amounts of money to obtain influence. Would anyone bother to contribute at all? Contributors could build monuments to themselves, as suggested above, but would they donate enough to pay for the national defense? Darrell
  14. I would agree with you if that were all lobbyists did, but I've seen too many cases in which the lobbyists lobby for special privileges for their business that other businesses don't receive. For example, GE lobbyists might succeed in reducing the taxation of GE while leaving the taxes paid by every other corporation at a higher level. In the end, only small corporations end up paying the full corporate tax rate because they're the only ones that can't afford good lobbyists. The result is a government in bed with the giant corporations. I'm not sure what the solution is, but I'm not going to laud the enormous supposed good done by lobbyists. Darrel
  15. True, except that when electing your Aldermen, it's one man one vote, but for the shareholders of a corporation, it's one share one vote. Darrell
  16. I can't watch the video at the moment because I'm in my office, but most of the research is going in the other direction. After 30 years of low fat diets, Americans are waaaay more overweight than they were 30 years ago. The growing consensus is that a low carb diet is the best way to lose weight and improve your health. Darrell
  17. David, To answer your question: Consciousness is "the faculty of perceiving that which exists." Here is the relevant quote from ITOE (as quoted from the Ayn Rand Lexicon): Darrell
  18. Speaking of phoneys, remember how the march in Selma, Alabama led to the conception of Barack Obama? I don't either. But, I bet Brian Williams remembers covering it. It's also interesting how the Kennedy Administration was (not) responsible for the arrival of Barack Obama's father in this country. It's amazing how the lives of all these famous people (don't really) intersect. http://hotair.com/archives/2008/03/30/wapo-reports-on-obama-selma-kennedy-birth-myth/ Brian Williams has a memory problem: He keeps forgetting to stop lying. (Sorry, not original and I don't remember where I read that.) Darrell
  19. Thank you for that post. I guess the official celebration of the 800th anniversary of the original Magna Carta occurred on Feb. 3, 2015. I just became aware of the significance of the date today when I was reading a commentary by Mark Steyn who offhandedly mentioned it. However, I think we could mark this year as the 800th anniversary and not constrain ourselves to a single day. The Magna Carta is probably the first attempt to place written constraints on the power of the government, in that case the king. Therefore, it can be thought of as the first Constitution. Writing down such constraints has a profound effect on behavior of governments. Although leaders or rulers may occasionally break out of the constraints provided by a Constitution, watchful citizens know when they have crossed the line. Every time a ruler crosses a line, he loses some measure of legitimacy. Of course, the effect of losing legitimacy depends partly upon having a citizenry that cares about such things. Darrell
  20. Happy Birthday, George!!! Sorry that I'm late to the party. Darrell
  21. Always a cynic. The glass is always half empty. What we did in Iraq wasn't perfect by any stretch of the imagination. One wonders whether we should have been there at all. We should have insisted on Western values in the Constitution of Iraq. Confiscating guns is justified when they're being used to shoot at the liberating force. Sorry, it's not like we were trying to pry them out of the hands of a bunch of libertarians that just wanted to live in peace. Chris Kyle was there to defend this country and keep his fellow soldiers safe. The implication that he was there to shoot down a bunch of libertarians is both absurd and disgusting. Darrell
  22. First, I'll say that I saw the movie and I liked it. The story is about the true life adventures of Chris Kyle, one of the most successful U.S. snipers of all time. It starts with his early life as a cowboy and follows him as he decides to serve his country after he sees reports of the terrorist attack on the U.S. embassy in Tansania. By the time of the World Trade Center attack, he was already a Navy Seal. The movie skips the war in Afghanistan and jumps to his first of four deployments to Iraq which included places like Fallujah and Sadr City. Chris Kyle is not exactly Rand's style of hero. Her ideal man, John Galt, is much more intellectual and philosophical than Kyle, but in many respects, Kyle is the all American hero. On some level, he was just an average guy --- modest, unassuming, self-assured. On another level, he was as close to the ideal of what a man should be of any man in recent memory --- tough, no-nonsense, professional, yet kind, compassionate, and caring for those that mattered to him --- his family and his brothers in arms. I didn't mind living vicariously through Chris Kyle for a couple of hours. We should all aspire to be such noble creatures. Darrell
  23. It was my understanding that the main problem with the Maginot line was where it ended --- at the Belgian border. As a result, Hitler's army was able to avoid it completely by going through Belgium on the the way to France. By using modern (in 1940) tanks, Hitler was able to drive through Belgium in about four days --- can't find exact references --- and plunge south into France from the north. I guess the fact that the Maginot guns couldn't completely pivot made it easy to attack the line from the rear, but it is unlikely to have significantly changed the battle once the German army was safely behind the Maginot line. They could have simply taken their time laying siege to the line once the rest of France had surrendered. Darrell
  24. Is Chris Langan's idea of eugenics consistent with Objectivism? His idea seems to be education rather than force of law. But maybe not, because he says "or we have to let only the fit breed". Also he wants to plant birth control in all children at age 10. A freedom can be a right (something we can do without permission) or it can be a privilege (something we need permission to do). He says making kids should be a privilege. Is this just education or does someone grant this privilege and play God with the birth control implants? What he means by this exactly, your guess is probably as good as mine. Imagine a world with everybody being a super athlete and an all round genius and nobody with any diseases. I had some reluctance to post this video because most of it is not relevant to the topic. But someone will accuse me of not sourcing the quotes. The relevant part is from 1:20 to 2:40. I haven't had a chance to watch the video, but let me just comment on what has been written. For someone who is supposedly really smart, Langan seems completely clueless about concepts such as "freedom", "right", "privilege", and "earn." Let's start with the concept, "earn". Something is earned if it is obtained from another person through a voluntary and mutually agreed upon transaction for mutual benefit. For example, a man earns a paycheck if he voluntarily agrees to work for another person who voluntarily agrees to pay him for his work. Once the work has been completed, the man has earned his pay and the employer owes it to him to pay him. By saying, "freedom is a privilege that has to be earned", Langman is implying that freedom is something that a person obtains by a voluntary and mutually agreed transaction. But, the person being subjected to the gauntlet of earning his freedom to reproduce is not a voluntary party to the transaction. Langman also misuses the word "privilege". A privilege is not something that is earned. Something that is earned is a right. Once the hypothetical man in the example above has earned a paycheck, he has a right to be paid. Being paid is not a privilege. A privilege is something bestowed upon a person without requiring any action on that person's part. A privilege can also be revoked, which provides some insight into Langman's thinking. The words "freedom" and "right" are similarly misused. Langman's ideas clearly are not consistent with Objectivism. Objectivism views freedom as a right, not a privilege, and that includes the right to reproduce. In broad terms, a person has a right to do anything that doesn't involve coercing someone else to do something against his will or coercively preventing him from doing something he wishes to do. Since, the mutual decision by myself and my wife to have a child doesn't require Mr. Langman to do anything or prevent him from doing anything, he doesn't have any business telling us what we can or cannot do in that regard. Darrell