bradbradallen

My issue with Laissez-Faire Economics

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I was recently having a discussion with a member of the forums whom I have personal connections with outside of this website. He has been a strong advocate of Laissez-Faire Economics since he discovered Ayn Rand, and it all seemed to add up perfectly for him. He had done his homework on Ayn Rand, something I have yet to do; therefore, I'd like to question the philosophy before I become an advocate of it.

My thought process was that, while Laissez-Faire Economics and is an economical system in which to prosper you must strive to do your best, it could also be the breeding ground for an immense amount of corruption within the private business sector, seeing as this is the primary heart of the country in a Laissez-Faire Economy. I feel it could easily become a corrupt society for several reason, but best explained in the following scenerio:

The hypothetical city for my example will be Smithville. As with the country Smithville resides in, the universal economic philosophy is a Laissez-Faire Economic philosophy. Ranging from the public safety (i.e. Fire Dept., Police Dept., etc.) to the small business across the street, all are without regulation and are free to prosper by whatever means necessary. The common ideal of the people is that, seeing as people need to do their best in this society to thrive, companies will be forced to use any means necessary to meet those goals of economic prosperity.

The idea within this society, along with all other Laisse-Faire economic systems, is that corruption cannot exist within these society's simply based on the fact that people will not pay for a service that is either not worth the price or smudged with deception. Let us take for example, the Fire Department. Seeing as there are no taxes to cover the salaries of those working in this "corporation", they will have to be paid by the individuals who want their fires put out if one were to catch within their home / business. Now, seeing as some people will surely be more prosperous within this society than others, I see a means for corruption.

Fire fighters will have to make judgment calls on what fires they are to put out, and how they are to prioritize those fires in need of being put out. Seeing as they will not be paid simply for putting out any fire, as it is within a non-Laissez-Faire economy, if faced with two homes, one in a poverty state, while the other in a prosperous state, the firemen will surely prioritize the fire within the prosperous estate over the home in a poverty state. They will do this simply because they are forced to make judgment calls on whether or not, based on the facts presented from their home and the intrensic value they see on the estate, to put out a fire for a home that may not be able to pay for the service. So only those who have the "flashy homes" or "flashy cars" parked in their driveways will be sure to get their fires extinguished.

Where the corruption comes into play is when the firefighters of Smithville come to the realization that by committing arson to homes of high value then extinguishing those fires for a high profit return while leaving those homes in poverty state left to burn to the ground, that they can receive a far higher profit from corruption than by moral means of success. The common argument against this is that the police department will come in and stop the corruption, and bring those arsonist to justice. But what if the police, themselves, become corrupt. I see no reason why, within a Laissez-Faire economy, the police department would not strike a deal with the fire department of Smithville to intentionally neglect the arson of the Fire Fighters for a portion of the money gained from them extinguishing the fires of the wealthy homes set ablaze by arson.

And, again, one would think that, surely, another police department will come in and try to make peace with the situation, bringing justice to those responsible in the corruption, but these new police forces would realize that, they, too, could make all-the-more money, the ultimate goal of this economic system, by not doing what is morally right within their jobs. And if not working for more pay is not enough incentive for these police men to accept the offer, they now have free time that should be spent in the capture and arrest of the corrupt firefighters to earn more money, whether it be through legitimate means or another corrupt scheme like that which goes on within Smithville.

While that is only one of the situations in which I could perceive corruption overtaking the morally just for the aspiration of money, but several more exist. I would much apreciate some input as to whether this is viable within a legitimate Laissez-Faire economy, or am I fundamentally mistaken about the outcome of the events within Smithville?

~Brad

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I was recently having a discussion with a member of the forums whom I have personal connections with outside of this website. He has been a strong advocate of Laissez-Faire Economics since he discovered Ayn Rand, and it all seemed to add up perfectly for him. He had done his homework on Ayn Rand, something I have yet to do; therefore, I'd like to question the philosophy before I become an advocate of it.

My thought process was that, while Laissez-Faire Economics and is an economical system in which to prosper you must strive to do your best, it could also be the breeding ground for an immense amount of corruption within the private business sector, seeing as this is the primary heart of the country in a Laissez-Faire Economy. I feel it could easily become a corrupt society for several reason, but best explained in the following scenerio:

The hypothetical city for my example will be Smithville. As with the country Smithville resides in, the universal economic philosophy is a Laissez-Faire Economic philosophy. Ranging from the public safety (i.e. Fire Dept., Police Dept., etc.) to the small business across the street, all are without regulation and are free to prosper by whatever means necessary. The common ideal of the people is that, seeing as people need to do their best in this society to thrive, companies will be forced to use any means necessary to meet those goals of economic prosperity.

The idea within this society, along with all other Laisse-Faire economic systems, is that corruption cannot exist within these society's simply based on the fact that people will not pay for a service that is either not worth the price or smudged with deception. Let us take for example, the Fire Department. Seeing as there are no taxes to cover the salaries of those working in this "corporation", they will have to be paid by the individuals who want their fires put out if one were to catch within their home / business. Now, seeing as some people will surely be more prosperous within this society than others, I see a means for corruption.

Fire fighters will have to make judgment calls on what fires they are to put out, and how they are to prioritize those fires in need of being put out. Seeing as they will not be paid simply for putting out any fire, as it is within a non-Laissez-Faire economy, if faced with two homes, one in a poverty state, while the other in a prosperous state, the firemen will surely prioritize the fire within the prosperous estate over the home in a poverty state. They will do this simply because they are forced to make judgment calls on whether or not, based on the facts presented from their home and the intrensic value they see on the estate, to put out a fire for a home that may not be able to pay for the service. So only those who have the "flashy homes" or "flashy cars" parked in their driveways will be sure to get their fires extinguished.

Where the corruption comes into play is when the firefighters of Smithville come to the realization that by committing arson to homes of high value then extinguishing those fires for a high profit return while leaving those homes in poverty state left to burn to the ground, that they can receive a far higher profit from corruption than by moral means of success. The common argument against this is that the police department will come in and stop the corruption, and bring those arsonist to justice. But what if the police, themselves, become corrupt. I see no reason why, within a Laissez-Faire economy, the police department would not strike a deal with the fire department of Smithville to intentionally neglect the arson of the Fire Fighters for a portion of the money gained from them extinguishing the fires of the wealthy homes set ablaze by arson.

And, again, one would think that, surely, another police department will come in and try to make peace with the situation, bringing justice to those responsible in the corruption, but these new police forces would realize that, they, too, could make all-the-more money, the ultimate goal of this economic system, by not doing what is morally right within their jobs. And if not working for more pay is not enough incentive for these police men to accept the offer, they now have free time that should be spent in the capture and arrest of the corrupt firefighters to earn more money, whether it be through legitimate means or another corrupt scheme like that which goes on within Smithville.

While that is only one of the situations in which I could perceive corruption overtaking the morally just for the aspiration of money, but several more exist. I would much apreciate some input as to whether this is viable within a legitimate Laissez-Faire economy, or am I fundamentally mistaken about the outcome of the events within Smithville?

~Brad

It seems that you are describing anarchism - when even the police and armed forces are "private." Is this what you intend? For what it is worth - - - it was not Ayn Rand's position. She advocated government as having the role of military defense, and of police.

Anarchism = neverending civil war.

Bill P

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I was recently having a discussion with a member of the forums whom I have personal connections with outside of this website. He has been a strong advocate of Laissez-Faire Economics since he discovered Ayn Rand, and it all seemed to add up perfectly for him. He had done his homework on Ayn Rand, something I have yet to do; therefore, I'd like to question the philosophy before I become an advocate of it.

My thought process was that, while Laissez-Faire Economics and is an economical system in which to prosper you must strive to do your best, it could also be the breeding ground for an immense amount of corruption within the private business sector, seeing as this is the primary heart of the country in a Laissez-Faire Economy. I feel it could easily become a corrupt society for several reason, but best explained in the following scenerio:

The hypothetical city for my example will be Smithville. As with the country Smithville resides in, the universal economic philosophy is a Laissez-Faire Economic philosophy. Ranging from the public safety (i.e. Fire Dept., Police Dept., etc.) to the small business across the street, all are without regulation and are free to prosper by whatever means necessary. The common ideal of the people is that, seeing as people need to do their best in this society to thrive, companies will be forced to use any means necessary to meet those goals of economic prosperity.

The idea within this society, along with all other Laisse-Faire economic systems, is that corruption cannot exist within these society's simply based on the fact that people will not pay for a service that is either not worth the price or smudged with deception. Let us take for example, the Fire Department. Seeing as there are no taxes to cover the salaries of those working in this "corporation", they will have to be paid by the individuals who want their fires put out if one were to catch within their home / business. Now, seeing as some people will surely be more prosperous within this society than others, I see a means for corruption.

Fire fighters will have to make judgment calls on what fires they are to put out, and how they are to prioritize those fires in need of being put out. Seeing as they will not be paid simply for putting out any fire, as it is within a non-Laissez-Faire economy, if faced with two homes, one in a poverty state, while the other in a prosperous state, the firemen will surely prioritize the fire within the prosperous estate over the home in a poverty state. They will do this simply because they are forced to make judgment calls on whether or not, based on the facts presented from their home and the intrensic value they see on the estate, to put out a fire for a home that may not be able to pay for the service. So only those who have the "flashy homes" or "flashy cars" parked in their driveways will be sure to get their fires extinguished.

Where the corruption comes into play is when the firefighters of Smithville come to the realization that by committing arson to homes of high value then extinguishing those fires for a high profit return while leaving those homes in poverty state left to burn to the ground, that they can receive a far higher profit from corruption than by moral means of success. The common argument against this is that the police department will come in and stop the corruption, and bring those arsonist to justice. But what if the police, themselves, become corrupt. I see no reason why, within a Laissez-Faire economy, the police department would not strike a deal with the fire department of Smithville to intentionally neglect the arson of the Fire Fighters for a portion of the money gained from them extinguishing the fires of the wealthy homes set ablaze by arson.

And, again, one would think that, surely, another police department will come in and try to make peace with the situation, bringing justice to those responsible in the corruption, but these new police forces would realize that, they, too, could make all-the-more money, the ultimate goal of this economic system, by not doing what is morally right within their jobs. And if not working for more pay is not enough incentive for these police men to accept the offer, they now have free time that should be spent in the capture and arrest of the corrupt firefighters to earn more money, whether it be through legitimate means or another corrupt scheme like that which goes on within Smithville.

While that is only one of the situations in which I could perceive corruption overtaking the morally just for the aspiration of money, but several more exist. I would much apreciate some input as to whether this is viable within a legitimate Laissez-Faire economy, or am I fundamentally mistaken about the outcome of the events within Smithville?

~Brad

Okay, the problem I am seeing here is I don't think true LF capitalism is a breeding ground for corruption, because it makes no sense in a truly capitalistic society to take advantage of others - it is fair trade. No getting things over on others, etc.

Regarding the firefighter situation, my view is that in such a town, people would agree voluntarily to contribute money towards fire protection. You see it all around the country - there are many volunteer fire fighters/stations through a lot of rural America. I have a friend that lives in a rural part of the DFW area down here in TX, and they receive a bill every year for the suggested donation. So, I think it can be done, if everyone (or most) in that society is rational and realizes that they need fire protection.

Personally, I think that Laissez-Faire capitalism is not only good, but practical. The issue isn't if it could be put in place and work, but the issue is really how to get there from a extremely mixed/socialist economy to LF. THAT, to me is the real issue.

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Okay, the problem I am seeing here is I don't think true LF capitalism is a breeding ground for corruption, because it makes no sense in a truly capitalistic society to take advantage of others - it is fair trade. No getting things over on others, etc.

Regarding the firefighter situation, my view is that in such a town, people would agree voluntarily to contribute money towards fire protection. You see it all around the country - there are many volunteer fire fighters/stations through a lot of rural America. I have a friend that lives in a rural part of the DFW area down here in TX, and they receive a bill every year for the suggested donation. So, I think it can be done, if everyone (or most) in that society is rational and realizes that they need fire protection.

Personally, I think that Laissez-Faire capitalism is not only good, but practical. The issue isn't if it could be put in place and work, but the issue is really how to get there from a extremely mixed/socialist economy to LF. THAT, to me is the real issue.

Excellent post, Sherry. I think you have done well to reject the presumption that there is a tension between the moral and practical.

Regards,

Bill P

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While that is only one of the situations in which I could perceive corruption overtaking the morally just for the aspiration of money, but several more exist. I would much apreciate some input as to whether this is viable within a legitimate Laissez-Faire economy, or am I fundamentally mistaken about the outcome of the events within Smithville?

~Brad

1. There may be no solution. Laissez faire economics might not "make people better" or "make better people." There may well be corrupt people like the farmers who hire illegals and then refuse to pay them because they can get away with cheating people. People like that plague every society. However, with laissez faire, the damage they can do is limited. Put people like that in charge of something big and centralized with gunpower behind it and you have horrible situations. Laissez faire limits harm while maximizing benefits.

2. Why should dilapidated buildings stand? If they burn down, they do. If they are insured with fire protection, then they survive because someone holds them valuable.

3. Contract fire departments nned not be community-wide.

4. We have communized fire protection and have ever since Day One. We do not know what true free market fire protection would be like. There was a time when only hotels had dishwashing machines and only golf courses had riding mower, etc. Today, they are household goods. Perhaps in a true laissez faire society, homes would have built-in sprinklers, retardants, etc., etc., some easy enough to imagine on experience and some not yet invented. Why do trucks have to do it, why not airships? See? We have never gotten out of socialized fire fighting.

5. As Sherry TX points out, in those places that do have some modicum of market in fire fighting, it works quite well. One factor is that those self-funded operations use more efficient equipment whereas most fire departments want big trucks. What counts in fire fighting is the first 3 minutes. You get there with a pickup truck and a tank of water and you can win. Governmentalist fire departments don't think like that. They have no incentive to find the outside of the box and think there, instead.

PS to Bill: "Police, Courts and Armies" does not include Fire Departments. Also, I am sure that you have no problem with people hiring their own protection or contracting their own adjudication, as long as they subscribe to the common laws of the society: highest courts, police oversight, etc.

For more out-of-the-box thinking visit www.washtenawjustice.com

Edited by Michael E. Marotta

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Excellent question bradallen.

"...by whatever means necessary." < This could become the worst possible iteration of anarcho-capitalism which is still alive and well, just as a perfect Utopian goal, like Galt's Gulch, which would be the best possible iteration of a pure Randian community.

However, exactly as our founders believed, man is not a perfect creature, he has to work at perfection with self discipline, study, hard work etc..

Since man is not a perfect creature, a valid balance of decentralized power with checks and balances would have to be "invented". Furthermore, a critical factor was that rights resided with the individual subject to modification ONLY as enumerated in the Constitution.

Rand's government paradigm was as Bill stated. I believe that she also stated that a system of courts was also a proper function of a Randian limited government.

Sherri is perfectly exact in that corruption is stupid, wasteful and serves not a single individual in the community. Folks, when people have to function without the GOVERNMENT - you will be amazed to find that it gets done because we are all in the same community.

I was 12 years old when the small Pennsylvania River town that we had a family summer place was slammed by a hurricane. The River rose at between 30-40 feet and cut off two of the four roads out of town. The major creek took out the third and the one lane dirt mountain road up to the Dam washed out in several places and was passable on foot which pretty much eliminated the elderly and bed ridden.

Did we call FEMA? No. We organized and conducted an orderly evacuation to the two major hilltop parts of town and sweated out that long, dark, and scary night. Most of us did not sleep. I was in one of those canvas type porch swings with my older cousin and a young lady who I am sure we both wanted to get to know better, lol.

The next morning the sun was bright and the dam had not broken, if it did, I might not be typing this. We had all broken up the town by skills. I was an excellent swimmer so I was downstream for four hour stints to catch anyone who lost their footing. Then would pitch in because we were corralling the raging creek behind the house which was normally about two three feet in the summer.

Cleanup crews were clearing roads and tree limbs. Others were setting up the kitchen in the dance hall - yes we had one and we had plays and square dances.

We were up and running in three days and noone from government was expected or desired.

Now since a clearly very intelligent seventeen year old started this thread, he might be thinking, sure sure and you walked four miles to school uphill both ways.

In 1958, this was the norm. In 1969 in the massive Lindsay snowstorm that paralyzed the greatest city on the face of the earth, all the small towns that make up NY City just got it done.

Just this past month, the Island of Maui had the one solid road to the resort area collapse. Are you all sitting down, the current central government of the USA, told the business folks on Maui that it would take three years to do and cost I believe $4,000,000.

Do we remember the dumbest man in the US Senate for 36 years, Joe the "plagiarist" Biden, the second in line to the Presidency, the next two in line are terrifying extant, said in a speech or appearance that if the bridge washes out to your business we will build it for you!

Needless to say, the business folks told the government that they were number one in their hearts with the middle finger of their hand and in three or four weeks and not one dime to the taxpayer, had the road rebuilt.

And last time I checked it was 2009, so people have not changed and therefore Laissez-Faire economic systems do work. Corruption is not efficient.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laissez-faire

Sorry to be long winded.

Adam

Edited by Selene

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When considering economics and deregulation, it is important to note that Ayn Rand promoted Laissez-Faire based upon a value system. She was not condoning a free-for-all economics policy, she was arguing for a policy that incorporated Objectivist Ethics - Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.

Rand's "Laissez-Faire" economy is still regulated. Contracts are lawfully binding, etc. All regulations are based on a set of ethical principles, but Rand argued that the result of an economy based on those principles is very-near Laissez-Faire. Government entities (Fire, Police, etc.) are part of the system that upholds these ethical principles; therefore, police and firemen by definition act in concordance with Objectivist ethics.

Corruption does happen in reality. Corruption is antithetical to Objectivist values (infringes on Liberty, private property, etc.) and therefore inconsistent with Rand's economic vision. However, I do think some Objectivists become excited by the premises of Objectivism, learn about Laissez-Faire, then promote Laissez-Faire and deregulation without continuing to refer to the premises (much like the stolen-concept error, if you're familiar with it).

Christopher

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PS to Bill: "Police, Courts and Armies" does not include Fire Departments.

Of course, "Police, Courts and Armies" does not include Fire Departments. I don't know why anybody would think it would. What is the source of this confusion? I know that I did not suggest fire departments were included in this category. Neither are grocery stories, automobile manufacturers or banks, among other things. I trust a complete list of what is not included is not really needed.

Regards,

Bill P

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Wow - thanks for "forcing me" to look up the spelling and "exact" or meaning we should work with for this thread.

I did not know about the French dude. And I am about as anti-French as you could get. Incidentally, looks like Sarkozy has a budding left wing revolution brewing in his back yard - http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/worl...icle6150447.ece

The exact origins of the term "laissez-faire" as a slogan of economic liberalism are uncertain. The first recorded use of the "laissez-faire" maxim was by French minister René de Voyer, Marquis d'Argenson, another champion of free trade, in his famous outburst:[2]

“ Laissez faire, telle devrait être la devise de toute puissance publique, depuis que le monde est civilisé.... Détestable principe que celui de ne vouloir grandir que par l'abaissement de nos voisins! Il n'y a que la méchanceté et la malignité du coeur de satisfaites dans ce principe, et l’intérêt y est opposé. Laissez faire, morbleu! Laissez faire!!

(Leave them be, such should be the motto of every public authority, according to which the world is civilized..... A detestable principle that which would not wish us to grow except by lowering our neighbors! There is nothing but mischief and malignity of heart in those satisfied with that principle, and interest is opposed to it. Leave them be, damn it! Leave them be!)

Adam

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(Leave them be, such should be the motto of every public authority, according to which the world is civilized..... A detestable principle that which would not wish us to grow except by lowering our neighbors! There is nothing but mischief and malignity of heart in those satisfied with that principle, and interest is opposed to it. Leave them be, damn it! Leave them be!)

Adam

As Mel Brooks said in -Blazing Saddles- : Loisem geh! * (let them be or let them go). Funniest scene in the movie.

Ba'al Chatzaf

* The monologue continued thus: Schvarzters! Hast du in sein ganzen leb gesheh'n? They're darker than we are! Jewish members of the audience peed their pants when they heard that.

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I always figured that if you take away the government supported fire departments, intelligent competitive builders would build houses that are not as likely to burn (use more metal, brick, concrete, glass, etc instead of wood and plastic), and they would add fire suppression systems to the homes, so if a fire did start, it would be extinguised right away automatically.

Then people would choose to buy those homes instead of the ones that burn.

But because we have governments and public fire departments and insurance companies, the builders don't have as much incentive to be creative as they would otherwise.

I don't understand why we need police departments either.

I think public police departments are the biggest source of corruption on the planet.

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I don't understand why we need police departments either.

I think public police departments are the biggest source of corruption on the planet.

That is not a productive argument here. I have long been an advocate of a free market in this area. After the Dot.Com meltdown, I sought out a new career and went into security in 2002. I completed an associate's in criminal justice with high honors in 2007 and in 2008 completed a bachelor of science in criminology (administration) summa cum laude. Along the way I worked for five different security organizations. When I argue here and on RoR, I cite the same sources that other crimiology professionals rely on: Department of Justice studies, FBI reports, Interpol, academic papers, and similar research. It makes no difference.

Ayn Rand said that a capiitalist society needs a government with police forces, an army and courts of law. That settles it.

Her fear of anarchy -- very real -- came from living through the Russian Civil War.

Her argument that the goverment must have a monopoly on force came from the German sociolologist, Max Weber. Weber lived in a time of police departments. The word "police" appears nowhere in the US Constitution. John Locke's Second Treatise on Government did not even count the courts as an agents of the government, but as institutions among the people as defenses against the government.

(Look here on OL for the posts of Wolf DeVoon and find his personal website. He is a lawyer. He wrote a nice scifi novella about policing in a free society called The Good Walk Alone. You can find in online in different places for $10 or so. DeVoon's utopia has a Randian limited government, but DeVoon argues well for the anarchist view that law comes first and government or whatever else is how we implement law.)

You can argue laissez faire in protection and adjudication all you want. You can cite facts. You can explain facts with theories. It makes no difference. Ayn Rand said it. It ends there. Trust me on this. This is one case -- perhaps the test case -- where Objectivism with a capital O is different from the objectivism which is synonymous with rational-empiricism.

Edited by Michael E. Marotta

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3. Contract fire departments nned not be community-wide.

I believe in London when fire-fighting first became organized this was indeed the case. A homeowner could get fire insurance and the insurance company hired the firefighters to service their customers. The homeowner would put some sort of sign at their premises to indicate to firefighters which house to protect. If you weren't protected they would just let it burn, apparently.

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Ayn Rand said that a capiitalist society needs a government with police forces, an army and courts of law. That settles it.

Her fear of anarchy -- very real -- came from living through the Russian Civil War.

Her argument that the goverment must have a monopoly on force came from the German sociolologist, Max Weber. Weber lived in a time of police departments. The word "police" appears nowhere in the US Constitution. John Locke's Second Treatise on Government did not even count the courts as an agents of the government, but as institutions among the people as defenses against the government.

You can argue laissez faire in protection and adjudication all you want. You can cite facts. You can explain facts with theories. It makes no difference. Ayn Rand said it. It ends there. Trust me on this. This is one case -- perhaps the test case -- where Objectivism with a capital O is different from the objectivism which is synonymous with rational-empiricism.

Did police officers protect and defend citizens during the Russian Civil War?

Or did they help government take away people's rights?

What was Ayn Rand's definition of "police force"?

Was it the same as the police force that exists in America today?

Or did Ayn Rand's definition have different limits on power?

Or was that not specified?

Edited by jeff

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Ayn Rand said that a capiitalist society needs a government with police forces, an army and courts of law. That settles it.

Her fear of anarchy -- very real -- came from living through the Russian Civil War.

Her argument that the goverment must have a monopoly on force came from the German sociolologist, Max Weber. Weber lived in a time of police departments. The word "police" appears nowhere in the US Constitution. John Locke's Second Treatise on Government did not even count the courts as an agents of the government, but as institutions among the people as defenses against the government.

...

You can argue laissez faire in protection and adjudication all you want. You can cite facts. You can explain facts with theories. It makes no difference. Ayn Rand said it. It ends there. Trust me on this. This is one case -- perhaps the test case -- where Objectivism with a capital O is different from the objectivism which is synonymous with rational-empiricism.

I've never questioned this before since it seemed so logical, but now you have me thinking. The Founding Fathers setup the Constitution to include the second Amendment, regulated militia and right to bear arms, which perhaps emphasizes that they believed a government should not have a monopoly on force, else it could ultimately be to the detriment of the citizens if that government became corrupt.

As the Second Amendent, they must have felt it was pretty damn important. This wasn't like amendent number VIII -regarding excessive bail-, this was numerus duos on the priority list. We should also consider what "The Objectivist" quoted about Madison(?) regarding the Constitution, specifically: he (and a few others) believed that there should not be Constitutional Amendments. The argument was that the government had already been setup such that the government did not have the power to violate these rights, so why reiterate protection through Amendments? By creating Amendments, it suggests that the government could have the powers to violate these rights, and therefore these rights must be protected. (in other words, existence of protection implies that government does have the power to violate these rights without protection)

So, the Founding Fathers must have to the bone felt that government should not hold a monopoly on force. Thanks for motivating me to think about this.

Christopher

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3. Contract fire departments nned not be community-wide.

I believe in London when fire-fighting first became organized this was indeed the case. A homeowner could get fire insurance and the insurance company hired the firefighters to service their customers. The homeowner would put some sort of sign at their premises to indicate to firefighters which house to protect. If you weren't protected they would just let it burn, apparently.

I am a student of the history of firefighting and that is quite correct - the fire mark:

Fire Insurance Marks

Before 1800 the naming of streets in our cities and towns was rather haphazard, and the houses and other buildings in these streets were neither named nor numbered as they are today. Signs and emblems were used by traders and inn-keepers to denote their occupation and to draw attention to their premises, but private houses were not as easy to identify and it was often difficult for persons who did not live in the immediate vicinity to locate a particular house.

When insuring a property against risk of fire, it was neccessary that the company's officials and firemen should be able to identify an insured property immediately, and so it became the practice for each insurance company to adopt a distinctive emblem for its own use, which was displayed on metal signs fixed to the wall of each property insured; this emblem usually appeared at the head of the company's insurance policies and other documents. Many of these wall marks were made of lead, cast in a mould and the number of the policy covering the particular property was stamped on a panel the design with number dies. Royal Exchange Assurance

The marks of each company varied in shape and size, and most were brightly coloured, usually affixed to the front of the building insured, at such a height from the ground as to be both easily visible and beyond the reach of pilferers. In the late eighteenth century there was a sharp rise in the price of lead and the companies began to use thin sheets of copper and other metals in the manufacture of their marks, on which the design was pressed out. As properties became easier to identify, the practice of impressing or painting the policy number on marks gradually came to an end.

Royal Insurance Co. In the early days of fire insurance, companies made it a practice to remove their marks from a property when the policy lapsed, and as a result the marks of some companies, particularly those with early polic numbers on them, are very scarce. Some small companies issued only a few of their marks before going into liquidation or being taken over by one of their more successful rivals. demolition of properties through the centuries and bomb destruction during the Second World War also took their toll and have added to the rarity of these old fire insurance marks.

Reproduced, with permission, from the book

'The British Fire Mark 1680-1879' by Brian Wright.

http://www.firemarkcircle.fsnet.co.uk/history1.htm

Adam

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(snip)

I am a student of the history of firefighting and that is quite correct - the fire mark:

Fire Insurance Marks

Before 1800 the naming of streets in our cities and towns was rather haphazard, and the houses and other buildings in these streets were neither named nor numbered (snip)

Great post, Adam.

Bill P

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Did police officers protect and defend citizens during the Russian Civil War?

Or did they help government take away people's rights?

What was Ayn Rand's definition of "police force"?

Was it the same as the police force that exists in America today?

Or did Ayn Rand's definition have different limits on power?

Or was that not specified?

In her biographical materials, such as Who is Ayn Rand? by Nathaniel and Barbara Branden, and autobiographical statements she made about her motives and motivations for writing in The Romantic Manifesto come some hints. She was a child about age 12-16. The train they were on was stopped by armed men. Bandits, the White Army, the Red Army, she did not know and it did not matter. They could all have been shot and robbed or shot as traitors or shot for no reason at all. Unlike the American "Civil War" (so-called), which was territorial and sectionalist, this one really was about two (or more) groups wanting to occupy the same government at the same time.

In her essay, "The Nature of Government" in The Virtue of Selfishness, Ayn Rand sets up a scenario of "competing governments" i.e., competing private police forces. One man, a customer of Government A accuses his neighbor who is a customer of Government B of stealing his wallet. Each calls his private police force. Two groups of armed men arrive. Neither group recognizes the validity of the other claim or the authority of the other government. "What happens next? You take it from there." And indeed, in terms of competing -governments-, the likley outcome is a shootout. Look at Iraq or Somalia, the civil wars an ethnic cleansings in the former Yugoslavia.

Those conflicts -- and her scenario -- reflect her personal experience as a victim of a civil war fought between "competing governments."

As Ayn Rand published and edited the corpus of Objectivism, it was impossible to cover every detail or even to address all of the interesting questions. She was quite specific about the purpose of a government being only to protect your rights, what are commonly called "negative rights." You have a right not to be interfered with as long as you respect the equal rights of others to the same. The police are restrained by those rights: they cannot search without a warrant, etc. But Ayn Rand never dissected the technical problems of policing in a free society ... or of medical ethics or a myriad of others. In fact, at one point, on the question of capital punishment, she said that it was "moral" but whether it was "appropriate" was a problem in jurisprudence to be solved by others. Similarly, she "thought out loud" on the question of gun control, telling a live audience that the only purpose of a handgun is to kill someone, so maybe no one should be allowed to have them, but that it was not an interesting question at this point to her.

Just to say... Moses did not get to see the promised land...

Edited by Michael E. Marotta

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The hypothetical city for my example will be Smithville. As with the country Smithville resides in, the universal economic philosophy is a Laissez-Faire Economic philosophy. Ranging from the public safety (i.e. Fire Dept., Police Dept., etc.) to the small business across the street, all are without regulation and are free to prosper by whatever means necessary. The common ideal of the people is that, seeing as people need to do their best in this society to thrive, companies will be forced to use any means necessary to meet those goals of economic prosperity.

It is important to distinguish between those entities (such as the police department) that have the power to use force and those entities that do not. In Rand's view, the government has a monopoly on the use of force. As such, the government and its organs (such as the police) are subject to regulation and oversight. They are only permitted to do certain things and those things are specified by law. Entities outside of the government, such as businesses, civic organizations, charities, etc., are banned from the use of force. However, they are otherwise free to do anything they want except for those things that are expressly prohibited by law. Among other things, they are free to make a profit. Government entities are not.

In my view, this distinction is extremely important. It is very difficult to imagine how one could operate an organization that attempted to mix elements of force with elements of profit without leading to corruption. For example, if a police department were run as a profit center with a CEO, rather than a chief of police, to whom would a police officer answer?

In a proper police department, a police officer is sworn to uphold the law. That is where his loyalty lies. Often he is protected by civil service rules, making him hard to fire unless it can be shown to an oversight board or committee that he failed to uphold the law or perform his duty.

If the police department were run as a profit center in which the boss (CEO) could fire him for not doing what he asked, where would the officer's loyalty lie? Would his allegiance be to the law or to his boss? I could easily see a police force becoming the private army of a wealthy individual, thereby threatening the very fabric of the social order.

This is not to say that existing police departments are without problems. Under the current system corruption already exists. And, a lassez-faire system probably wouldn't be able to completely eliminate such corruption. However, drawing a bright line between those that are allowed to use force and those that are not or between the cases in which force can be used and those in which it cannot, makes corruption less likely and more manageable.

BTW, I'm not saying that private security forces are completely unacceptable. One can imagine a scenario in which existing police forces were replaced by a large collection of small, private security forces. Laws would have to be written regulating the operation of such forces, limiting their size, protecting the jobs of officers while upholding the law, and delineating the kinds of activities permitted by such organizations. But, the general rule is that force must be regulated in order for people to be free. Freedom is the absence of force from human interactions or relations. It is the condition in which all interactions are voluntary on the part of all parties involved. The use of force is only permitted in retaliation against those that initiate its use.

The fire department is another story. There is no reason that fire fighting should be a function of government. For all of the good reasons given by other respondents to your post, it is clear that fire fighting can be run as a business. But, most importantly, fire fighting does not, inherently, involve the use of force. It is the job of the police to make sure that the fire fighters are not involved in criminal activity.

Darrell

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BTW, I'm not saying that private security forces are completely unacceptable. One can imagine a scenario in which existing police forces were replaced by a large collection of small, private security forces. Laws would have to be written regulating the operation of such forces, limiting their size, protecting the jobs of officers while upholding the law, and delineating the kinds of activities permitted by such organizations.

This is the situation we have today. In about one-third of the states, private guards (detectives, etc.) are heavily regulated and such regulation favors former public police who choose to go into private business., with licensing examinations (in some cases opaque to secret in nature). In about one-third of the states, regulation is fair to middling with some government oversight -- licensing of guards; fingerprinting of operators; bonding; etc., all about the same as opening a barbershop. In about one-third of the states there is no regulation at all or very little beyond simple fees. I can be far more specific if you want, but that's the outline.

Generally, in most places, guards have only the same rights as other citizens. You can "arrest" someone if you see them committing a felony. You are at risk many ways if you do. Generally, guards only observe and report, provide deterrance, check infrastructure, etc.

In some places, the private guard has the full agency of the property owner. If your state lets you shoot a burglar, you can hire a guard with the same rights. (In Michigan, de facto is what it is, but under law, the property owner is compelled to retreat if possible and so is the guard. BTW as for force, in New Mexico the law allowed more than our company rules permitted. More on that later.)

That said, about one-third of all patrol officers are public. Yes, the police so highly visible on cable-TV high speed reality shows, CSI:Hometown, Law and Order: Strange Victims and all the rest are a 2:1 minority. The overwhelming allocation of manpower and capital is in the private sector. This trend was noticed in the late 1970s. It seems that the 50-50 point was crossed 1968-1972. I never found a hard number, but the earliest figures I have from the later 70s show private police in the majority and the investment in private security outpacing tax revenues for police.

In California today, the ratio is 3:1 -- 75% of the people and money for "policing" are in the private sector.

Edited by Michael E. Marotta

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Michael; Thanks for an important reminder about the amount of the police force that is still in private hands.

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That said, about one-third of all patrol officers are public. Yes, the police so highly visible on cable-TV high speed reality shows, CSI:Hometown, Law and Order: Strange Victims and all the rest are a 2:1 minority. The overwhelming allocation of manpower and capital is in the private sector. This trend was noticed in the late 1970s. It seems that the 50-50 point was crossed 1968-1972. I never found a hard number, but the earliest figures I have from the later 70s show private police in the majority and the investment in private security outpacing tax revenues for police.

In California today, the ratio is 3:1 -- 75% of the people and money for "policing" are in the private sector.

Michael; Thanks for an important reminder about the amount of the police force that is still in private hands.

The number of officers is one thing. What pushes the capital investment over is alarms, barriers, cameras, etc. Public police spend that on vehicles, weapons, (SWAT tanks are both at once) and otherwise on themselves. As we discussed about in-home fire supression, there are many solutions to safety, security and protection.

Edited by Michael E. Marotta

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The firefighters (and police) in your scenario could exist only in a governmental capacity. A privately-owned fire department, however, could not succumb to corruption because it's profitability - the means of it's inception and ability to exist - would be shuttered if it hired or sponsored arsonists. Indeed, it's would-be arsonists would risk being murdered by the selfish owners of the property the department had targeted. Also, rational firemen might be paid an advance against a potential fire. So their ability to triage might be based upon contractual agreements rather than whim.

Men are born free but they decide to adhere to the rules of others. I may do as I wish, though usually not without certain reprisal. So remember that, in a reality of a recently-dismantled government, only we altruistic or fearful men bare corruption. The man who lives for himself won't, even if he dies trying.

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Perhaps in a true laissez faire society, homes would have built-in sprinklers, retardants, etc., etc., some easy enough to imagine on experience and some not yet invented.

Building codes have required fire sprinkler systems in multi-family (apartment and condo) buildings for a few years now.

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We can't forget that Rand's view of Capitalism and Laissez-Faire had government to protect human rights and the integrity of contracts.

If an individual buys fire insurance from firefighters and the contract says or insinuates "equal treatment," then the firefighters must act that way or be taken to court. If the contract is not equal treatment, well then I wouldn't be surprised if other firestations arose to compete.

Same with police forces. Although Rand believed that police represent protection of rights and therefore government function, if we talk about private security forces - the behavior of those forces must be placed into contract. There is no totally arbitrary basis for behavior, no "purely profit motive" so to speak. The profit motive comes through the contract, not any questionable actions that occur thereafter. In this way, you should always know what you're getting and have a lawful and legitimate right to receive it as you expect.

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