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Old 09-14-2007, 05:41 PM   #61
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I am not in favor of a bail-out. I am in favor of legal remedies if the companies were in the wrong.

I personally believe there needs to be more regulation if people are being harmed. Let's face it, many people do not really know how to interpret the terms and the potential impact. I know that many might say that it is the person's responsibility and therefore their problem. But It seems to me that too many people fell into the trap. That tells me something is wrong.
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Old 09-14-2007, 07:30 PM   #62
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I swear by my life and my love of it
that I will never live for the sake of another man,
nor ask another man to live for mine. - John Galt "Atlas Shrugged"

You perception of me is quite right. I am in fact reading Atas Shrugged right now. Although I refuse to be labeled as "libertarian" or "conservative" or anything else for that matter. I think the above quote is really what is at the heart of it. We should help each other if we choose to, if we want to. I do not believe in government forced charity or income re-distribution. Charity under threat of force is called extortion. And while I do agree with you that there are millions of people that have lived, or invented things that make my life easier, it is only I that can make use of those tools. Such is the power of the individual mind. There is no such thing as a group mind, or group decisions. There is only the power of a single man with a single mind, that can decide what direction his life will take. I do not believe in fate, or destiny, or the claim that "everything will turn out all right in the end" without me doing anything to ensure it happens. And all of this brings me back to the original topic here of govt bailouts etc. If you believe like I do, that your life belongs to you and to no one else, then by default you also believe that the negative things that happen to you in life (such as inability to pay mortgages) was in large part caused by yourself, and some bad decisions that you made. If you believe that your life does not belong just to you, but that lives are collectively owned (sometimes called a "social contract") by others, then you surrender part of what happens to you over to those other people. While I can respect that point of view, it is not the sort of life that I wish to live.
Ok... sorry if this posting thread has gotten a bit off track and a bit too much into philosophy. although some would argue that your philosphy guides all of your decisions, like wanting to retire early! Thanks again to all who were kind enough to share their views. Kudos to all... and malice towards none...
The problem with such libertarianism (or objectivism as I believe Ayn Rand called it) is that it is a "winners" creed. I dare say that you would be hard pressed to find a libertarian among the "down and out". In my experience, the libertarians tend to be the smart, hardworking people who have succeeded in life. They say, "we have been successful in life by dint of our own intelligence, talents and hard work -- a system that not only allows that success but also removes all hindrances to such success is a good one, and anything that places any claim on the fruits of that success is a bad one."

But what makes you assume that you deserve the intelligence and abilities you have? You were born with them and they certainly give you advantages in life. But as a normative matter, why should you have been born that way and not someone else? Frankly, your intelligence and abilities were a gift you probably did not deserve (at least I didn't).

It seems to me that if one were to choose an economic and political system, one should not be allowed to know the outcome of one's own situation. Rather, the choice should be made assuming that you do not know whether you will be born with or without the intelligence and ability that will make you successful. In that case, any rational person would choose a system that minimizes the plight of those born with less intelligence and talent. After all, it might be you. At the same time, you would like some chance to enjoy greater than average success in the event that you are born as one of the intelligent and talented.

From the above premises, I conclude that, while we would not be well served by communism, it is not unfair to place some limits/claims on the successful to ensure some minimum standard of living for the less successful.
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Old 09-14-2007, 08:02 PM   #63
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Channeling John Rawls, gumby?
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Old 09-14-2007, 08:26 PM   #64
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There is increasing evidence that we biologically vary in our ability to recognize and in our need to respond to the distress of others. Variations in the amygdala and certain other brain areas appear to be involved.

I guess that this variation has contributed to the survival of our species. I also wonder if it underlies many of these discussions.

While I can agree that we have a fairly level playing field, my 'amydala' finds it hard to watch a professional athlete beat up on an amateur who doesn't understand his situation. Others may be able to maintain a perspective that allows them to see the greater good but my bleeding heart just can't get past the suffering.
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Old 09-14-2007, 08:48 PM   #65
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Channeling John Rawls, gumby?
Good call, nfs. My beliefs have been heavily influenced by A Theory of Justice.
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Old 09-14-2007, 10:10 PM   #66
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I dare say that you would be hard pressed to find a libertarian among the "down and out".
I'm not sure that is true. I don't have a source off hand, but I seem to remember reading that 'down and out' people *do* believe in a capitalist system. The reason being, is that they would like to believe that it was possible for them, through their own efforts, to one day get ahead. There is at least the hope that it could happen. In a full blown communist approach, there is not even that hope.

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But what makes you assume that you deserve the intelligence and abilities you have? You were born with them and they certainly give you advantages in life. But as a normative matter, why should you have been born that way and not someone else? Frankly, your intelligence and abilities were a gift you probably did not deserve (at least I didn't).
I'm not sure what to make of that. I wasn't born with what it takes to be a Michael Jordan on the court. So.... Michael Jordan shouldn't be allowed to use his talents because he makes me look bad? Or, the playing field should be leveled so that I can challenge Mike? (Poor Mike, they'd have to amputate both legs at the knee and tie an arm behind his back, he'd probably still beat me!). That wouldn't do much for the game (or life), would it?

Whether I 'deserve' any ability I have, or any ability I've developed, or not - I ought to be able to (encouraged even) use it to advantage, shouldn't I? And any innate ability does no good w/o a lot of hard work. MJ would be unknown if he didn't apply himself. And how hard would he work at it if here was no more reward than anyone else?

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It seems to me that if one were to choose an economic and political system, one should not be allowed to know the outcome of one's own situation.
So, theoretically, we turn the clock back to birth, and I get an ability level (IQ not necessarily a good measure of that) picked out of a hat? Scary thought ('Do I feel lucky?' Well, do ya punk? ), but I'd want the system I described. Capitalism WITH social programs to help those unable (not unwilling) to help themselves.

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From the above premises, I conclude that, while we would not be well served by communism, it is not unfair to place some limits/claims on the successful to ensure some minimum standard of living for the less successful.
So maybe the *only* difference in our views is around that phrase 'less successful'. I don't think the government should jump in to help people just because they are less successful, that is their own responsibility. But if they are incapable of being minimally successful, society should step in and help.

That is a reasonably world, IMO. Not either extreme of totally unregulated capitalism and debtors prisons or cookie-cutter-communism.

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Old 09-15-2007, 09:11 AM   #67
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Boy oh Boy Gumby... this is way off topic...

So, someone who is born with good looks should not use those good looks?? Think model, actors/actress... and just everyday ordinary life... the 'good looking' people get more than the not so good looking people.. it is a fact..

And the sports people should not get the reward for being about to run faster, jump higher, score more points than 99.9999 percent of the people on the planet?? And some of them are dumb as a door knob... heck, I remember one of the old Houston Oilers was a truck driver before making it in the NFL..

And I can not use my brain to get ahead of the others that do not have as much brain power as I do


Come on Gumby... you can not be serious in what you say here.. or you and I think VERY different..
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Old 09-15-2007, 09:43 AM   #68
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Don't set up straw men; it weakens your argument. I didn't say you couldn't or shouldn't use your brains, looks or any other talent to get ahead. All I said was that, since neither you nor I are more deserving of our talents than anyone else, it is not unfair to tax some of the benefit we receive from those talents to ensure a certain minimal standard of living for the less talented in society.

By contrast, my understanding of the libertarianism embodied by Ayn Rand and her followers is that they view taxation as theft.

And you are right -- we are getting way off topic.
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Old 09-15-2007, 11:30 AM   #69
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By contrast, my understanding of the libertarianism embodied by Ayn Rand and her followers is that they view taxation as theft.
I think Ayn Rand would expect that followers of her libertarianism would make enough charitable donations to set up a safety net for people in those situations, because it's the right thing to do.

Kinda hard to see that philosophy embraced in practice. Maybe that's why philosophers have a hard time achieving a high net worth.

I think that a safety net is a good idea, but ultimately we taxpayers have to depend on the legal system to sort out who really needs the net and who just took advantage of the situation.

I really wish we could figure out a way for the government to get its share of Dave Ramsey's "Stupid Tax". Budgets would balance within a year, deficits would be wiped out within decade, and everyone would start taking financial-management classes to avoid paying the tax!
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Old 09-15-2007, 01:20 PM   #70
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Isn't that the thinking behind the lottery and sin taxes?

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I really wish we could figure out a way for the government to get its share of Dave Ramsey's "Stupid Tax". Budgets would balance within a year, deficits would be wiped out within decade, and everyone would start taking financial-management classes to avoid paying the tax!
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Old 09-15-2007, 01:31 PM   #71
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Warning- I've never actually read Rawls, just summaries of his work.

One thing in Rawls work that struck me as odd is that his theoretical pre-people are incredibly risk-adverse.

His basic premise, as I understand it, was that if you took people to the point before they were born, and told them to design the economic system, they would design the system to maximize the earnings of the least fortunate person in the system. This depends on the assumption that no one would want to risk being poorer, no matter how much richer they could theoretically be.

Some people, though, would likely vote for a system that maximized the TOTAL output. They'd be willing to risk being poor for a small chance at being incredibly rich. If you play poker, this would be the same concept as maximizing Expected Value.

Other people would take the small chance to be rich even if it didn't maximize TOTAL output, as all of the slot machine players in the world show.

quote=Gumby;556340]Good call, nfs. My beliefs have been heavily influenced by A Theory of Justice.[/quote]
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Old 09-15-2007, 05:28 PM   #72
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His basic premise, as I understand it, was that if you took people to the point before they were born, and told them to design the economic system, they would design the system to maximize the earnings of the least fortunate person in the system. This depends on the assumption that no one would want to risk being poorer, no matter how much richer they could theoretically be.

Some people, though, would likely vote for a system that maximized the TOTAL output. They'd be willing to risk being poor for a small chance at being incredibly rich. If you play poker, this would be the same concept as maximizing Expected Value.

Other people would take the small chance to be rich even if it didn't maximize TOTAL output, as all of the slot machine players in the world show.

quote=Gumby;556340]Good call, nfs. My beliefs have been heavily influenced by A Theory of Justice.
I have not read the theory firsthand, but I think I get the gist of the argument so far -- If we are allowed to in crude shorthand notation say that Randians subscribe to 'survival of the fittest', then Rawlsians might be said to want 'justice for the mostest', with a key contention being that your conditions at birth are the prime indicator of your odds of future success, and so ought to be negated somehow in your own race for the riches.

If I have not too badly mangled the theories/positions by my hatchet-chopping simplification, I would propose that there is a chance both may be reconciled:

"Driparians" <he he he> believe roughly in the Randian 'survival of the fittest' or 'social darwinism' or 'meritocracy' or 'pay to play' -- call it what you will. Not in the absolute, not to the bitter extreme, not without commonly accepted scruples and morals that help ALL of society live together, but as a general guiding principle.

Driparians ALSO however, believe in a 'maximum justice for the mostest' theory, because in the end we all are brothers on the same planet. But we do NOT limit our desire to reach equality to just any one solitary individual, or doling out community or country handouts wily-nily, because that flies in the face of the first tenant.

They believe that to hugely artificially reallocate status-quo resources, opportunities, etc outside of what the prevailing conditions would provide is right-hearted but wrong-headed. Instead, they place some faith into the pre-existing decisions and outcomes and presume that if individuals born to a community can't collectively (individual + community power together) muster enough horsepower to prevail over the existing order, they must not have too much more of a compelling story. Yes, some have the advantage of being born into a clan that was fortunate enough to be born into a clan that was fortunate enough to.... have resources, weapons, cash.. whatever... but the point is, somewhere in that lineage through effort, smarts, muscle, or happenstance, likely a combo, they succeeded where others failed. Is it right to reverse the outcome of all preceding acts and persons and history by just arbitrarily redistributing a set of the same chips evenly to everyone born to the planet? What if their genetic make up in one area is to be sickly, mentally incapacitated, physically weak, but have an inordinately fecund nature, combined with singularly robust offspring through childhood, even though they are physically and mentally not fit to the work of the day when grown?

The terrific thing is that it is NOT a zero sum game we are in. When we teach others to efficiently use their own natural resources, improve local healthcare, convert labor to food and well-being, who says it should hurt the existing folks? It need not. BUT if we artificially tax the working, to fund the unproductive, in a way that guarantees no growth for the recipient, no eventual autonomy, or no gain to the person taxed to prop them up, then I say this flies in the face of common sense, and justice in it's absolute most expansive sense. I am talking about a meta level beyond our current feeble religions and superstitions, but the meta-sense that we owe it to forces beyond us (the rest of the universe, those that follow us, those that came before) to most expeditiously change from our current inefficient, warlike, goofy natures, into the lowest impact, least wasteful, most evolved, most knowledge-shared and equalized being possible. Blindly funding sloth and backwardness by handcuffing those who provide utility to society does not seem to fit that model to me, but giving a helping hand does.

China is about ready to kick all the world's collective butts in maybe 50 -100 years max. Economically, militarily, population-wise.

So, I'd sure rather they be Driparians (saying: 'got room for us, guys, if we pull our weight?') than pure Randians (saying: 'wipe out all others when we are able') or pure Rawlsians (saying: 'put the rest of the world into glass jars like bugs and make 'em eat duck tongues until they are converted to Mandarin like us and assimilated to our ways?)

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Old 09-16-2007, 02:13 AM   #73
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Don't set up straw men; it weakens your argument. I didn't say you couldn't or shouldn't use your brains, looks or any other talent to get ahead. All I said was that, since neither you nor I are more deserving of our talents than anyone else, it is not unfair to tax some of the benefit we receive from those talents to ensure a certain minimal standard of living for the less talented in society.

By contrast, my understanding of the libertarianism embodied by Ayn Rand and her followers is that they view taxation as theft.

And you are right -- we are getting way off topic.
But isn't that the way our tax system is today? Don't the people who make more money pay a higher amount of tax and also a higher rate?

And I would say that the standard of living for our poor is a lot higher than any other country...

But I do not think that someone who is buying a house would fall into your minimal standard of living... to me by them just owning a house they are above minimum...

And I have not read Ayn Rand or the other guy... even though there is a guy up at work that would lend me his Rand books...

But... still interesting discussion
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Old 09-17-2007, 10:15 AM   #74
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But what makes you assume that you deserve the intelligence and abilities you have? You were born with them and they certainly give you advantages in life. But as a normative matter, why should you have been born that way and not someone else? Frankly, your intelligence and abilities were a gift you probably did not deserve (at least I didn't).
Wow.... this certainly has been an interesting discussion so far. I must admit Gumby I am having a hard time understanding the basis for your point of view. Why do I think that I deserve the intelligence and abilities that I was born with? Because I, and I alone am the "owner" of my life, and my mind, my abilities, and my thoughts all belong to me! You saying that we do not "deserve" our inherant differences (some that give us advantages, and some that hold us back) is the same as saying that we do not "deserve" our lives either. Our lives ARE our skills and abilities. Most folks that I know would say that their lives are about maximizing what they are born with. Not everyone has the looks to be an actor/model, nor the athletic ability to be a professional sports player, or the intelligence to be a scientist. But for me, that is what makes the world fun, exciting, and in general a decent place to live. If you told me that I had to live in a world where everyone has average intelligence, looks, athletic abilities etc, I would want no part of it! A world of abject mediocrity is as close to a vision of Hell as I have ever contemplated. I view life much in the same way as a game of poker. Anyone at the table can be dealt a bad hand, but sometimes the worst poker hand winds up the winner of the game! And why is that? Because just like in life, what YOU decide to do with the hand you are dealt ultimately decides the outcome, not the hand itself!
I am deeply sorry if you feel you are underserving of the skills and abilities that you have. I am certain that you excell in areas that I might not. But I would never feel that just because you have an ability that I lack, that I must either posses that ability for myself (to make us equal), or that you should have the ability taken away somehow (again to even it up). The world is certainly not "fair". It was never intended to be, and it never will be. But the very notion that if everyone had equal "everything" that the world would be a better place is an obscenity of the highest order. What you are proposing has been tryed many times throughout history. And that history is repeating itself again with Hugo Chavez in Venezuala. Each time tryed it has ended in failure. And why is that? Because it is human nature to always want more than what you currently have. The notion of a society where everyone is happy with what they have, and never want any more is utopian, and therefore impossible from the very start. Life is all about the unique makeup of our individual skills and abilities, life without them in my opinion is not life at all.
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Old 09-17-2007, 11:00 AM   #75
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Armor.... good points...

And I will give an example... I have a nephew who is very intellegent, scores in the 95 percentile on the test...

could not make it in college for whatever reason... was a drop out... lived off family memebers for awhile... joined the navy and looked like he was turning his life around. Met some weird girl in Australia. She was pregnant. Move her here, got married, got kicked out of the navy, lived off other relatives, they kicked all of them out as they never go a job, just wanted to lay around and play the guitar, moved back to Australia so they could live off the dole over there, had their own child, did odd jobs under the table to get some money... etc. etc. etc...

As you can see, his born abilities are more than most, but he has wasted them in his pursuit of his life. I will not help him out financially for anything and I do not think the gvmt should help him out either. However, from what I read from Gumby, he should be helped as he is in the 'poor' class...
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Old 09-17-2007, 11:15 AM   #76
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I have a simple question for you Armor: Before you were born, what did you ever do to deserve any of the abilities or talents that you were born with? The answer is simple -- you did nothing to "earn" your abilities, just as those born with disabilities did nothing to "earn" their disabilities. You may have been the fortunate heir of good genes, but that is all it is -- good fortune, not merit.

Given that fundamental precept, it is not unfair to have a system that taxes some of the benefits flowing to the fortunate to ensure that the unfortunate have some minimally acceptable level of life. Rawls' "veil of ignorance" is a thought experiment that asks "if you could not know how you would be born (i.e. - you didn't know if you would be smart or dumb, athletic or physically disabled, majority or minority, etc.), what system would you choose?" Rational people would choose a system that does not end up with the unfortunate starving in the street.

To my mind, a fundamental flaw shared by libertarians is a complete inability to imagine that they might have been born as one of the less fortunate. Of course you will favor a system in which someone of your abilities will succeed once you know what those abilities are. But such ex post facto rationalization is hardly the way to choose a political and economic system.

I have cautioned before about setting up strawmen. I have never advocated equality of outcome, or communism if you will. In fact, I believe a system that forced equality of outcome would be absurd. I enjoy Kurt Vonnegut's short story Harrison Bergeron because it highlights just that absurdity. As others have correctly pointed out, intelligence, talent and ability alone do not make success; it is also necessary to work hard with the talents that we have been given. That is one of the faults of communism -- that it does not incentivize people to work hard. But you cannot deny that of two people who work exactly as hard as each other, the one with more talent will nearly always be more successful (not counting lucky breaks or other exogenous forces).

The primary point of my posts has been to encourage libertarians to look beyond the ends of their noses. There are real people, suffering real hardship in the world. Those people are, in a moral sense, no worse or no better than you. Certainly, through hard work, you have made optimal use of the talents you were given. But others can work equally hard and still not be as successful, because they do not have your abilities. To consign those others to metaphorically "starve in the street" because you want a system that places no tax on your own success is, in my view, wrong.
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Old 09-17-2007, 11:29 AM   #77
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Armor.... good points...

And I will give an example... I have a nephew who is very intellegent, scores in the 95 percentile on the test...

could not make it in college for whatever reason... was a drop out... lived off family memebers for awhile... joined the navy and looked like he was turning his life around. Met some weird girl in Australia. She was pregnant. Move her here, got married, got kicked out of the navy, lived off other relatives, they kicked all of them out as they never go a job, just wanted to lay around and play the guitar, moved back to Australia so they could live off the dole over there, had their own child, did odd jobs under the table to get some money... etc. etc. etc...

As you can see, his born abilities are more than most, but he has wasted them in his pursuit of his life. I will not help him out financially for anything and I do not think the gvmt should help him out either. However, from what I read from Gumby, he should be helped as he is in the 'poor' class...
There is almost nothing that annoys me more than people who have been given all the abilities to succeed, yet squander their talents. You see this often when people get involved with drugs. Unfortunately, notwithstanding my outrage, I think that we do have an obligation as a society to see to it that these people don't starve. Certainly, they don't deserve everything possessed by those who did keep clean and work hard, but they shouldn't be allowed to starve.
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Old 09-17-2007, 11:33 AM   #78
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There is almost nothing that annoys me more than people who have been given all the abilities to succeed, yet squander their talents. You see this often when people get involved with drugs. Unfortunately, notwithstanding my outrage, I think that we do have an obligation as a society to see to it that these people don't starve. Certainly, they don't deserve everything possessed by those who did keep clean and work hard, but they shouldn't be allowed to starve.
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Old 09-17-2007, 11:59 AM   #79
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The primary point of my posts has been to encourage libertarians to look beyond the ends of their noses.

To consign those others to metaphorically "starve in the street" because you want a system that places no tax on your own success is, in my view, wrong.
Gumby - (I'm working on being succinct) - are you deaf?

Despite what has been said repeatedly, you are painting everyone with an opposing view as being totally opposed to any form of support for those less fortunate. That is an extreme view of capitalism, and I have not seen anyone in this thread take that view.

But you keep saying you are not in favor of communism (the extreme view), yet, you have not really said what you *are* in favor of.

IMO, it really is just a matter of degrees along a scale, not really a philosophical difference at all:

<Communism...........<-------the MIDDLE------->........... Extreme Capitalism>

The real question, as I see it, is not 'do you read Rand or Rawls?', but how much help do you give to which people?

If you look at it that way, you might see that people really are not that different. They can sit at a table and talk w/o name calling or accusations, and they might be able to come to a reasonable compromise, or at least respect for the other person's views.

If they listen.

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Old 09-17-2007, 12:33 PM   #80
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Originally Posted by Gumby View Post
I have a simple question for you Armor: Before you were born, what did you ever do to deserve any of the abilities or talents that you were born with? The answer is simple -- you did nothing to "earn" your abilities, just as those born with disabilities did nothing to "earn" their disabilities. You may have been the fortunate heir of good genes, but that is all it is -- good fortune, not merit.

Given that fundamental precept, it is not unfair to have a system that taxes some of the benefits flowing to the fortunate to ensure that the unfortunate have some minimally acceptable level of life. Rawls' "veil of ignorance" is a thought experiment that asks "if you could not know how you would be born (i.e. - you didn't know if you would be smart or dumb, athletic or physically disabled, majority or minority, etc.), what system would you choose?" Rational people would choose a system that does not end up with the unfortunate starving in the street.
Gumby... first off I am not a libertarian. As a matter of fact I a registered independant. I dislike the very notion of being labeled anything. On certain issues I might see it the conservative way, on others more liberal. But there are lots of libertarian views that I do not agree with at all. If someone wants to know what I think of a certain issue, they will have to find out the old fashioned way by asking me.
You posed to me a very good question. One that I must admit I had not really considered much. Obviously before I was born I did not exist. And before I exist I cannot possibly say that I have "earned" anything. Am I the benefactor of "good" genes? Perhaps, although I think my folks are of fairly average intelligence etc. But what I can say with a great deal of pride and certainty is that everything that I have done since I was born is all on me, to my credit or detriment. I would never blame my failure in life to anything I was born with, or even born without.
I would completely disagree with your last statement though. About the sort of system that I would choose for myself, without knowing before hand which traits would be considered advantageous in my society. I would choose whichever system gave me the most choices and posibilities to advance my life, and improve my situation. Maybe I am wrong.... perhaps there are hundreds of thousands of people that I have never met, that would really be happiest remaining poor, providing that the govt met their basic needs. I would much rather be given the opportunity to go for the "brass ring" if I choose to, and know I can fail, then to be forced to play it safe and "know" I will never have much.
I have not always been successful. There was a point in my life where my life savings was $3000 and I was laid off. I estimate that I was 3 months or so away from loosing everything. It was a rotten, horrible time in my life. But I did not blame society, the govt, my rich neighbors etc for my situation. I went about the business of finding new work. As a matter of fact because of that experience I actually look at my money and assets to this day in terms of "how many layers are there between me and going homeless".
I flat out do not believe that there are rational people that are incapable of doing everything. I will never make it in the NBA at my height of 5'9". But my life is hardly over because of that. Had I not the intelligence to go into the engineering field that I did, I would like to think I would at least have been inteligent enough to do something else. From what I hear electricians, carpenters, and plumbers can make salaries that dwarf my own. No college required, just an apprenticeship. And for the record I think that is just fine, because they have skills that I lack. If someone is truly mentally or psysically disabled to the point that they cannot make a rational decision, or take action to take care of themselves, then you know what... you got me there... and I completely agree with you! Society should have some capability to take care of people that TRULY cannot take care of themselves. It will never be possible to create a system (with the exception of communism) where "no one" ever starves in the streets. It is a cold hard reality that it will always occur to someone, somewhere at some time. To try to save everyone would need the complete sacrifice of everyone else. Obviously this is not a fair trade. As I have stated before, the best you can really ever hope for is a system in which you have as many choices to better your life as possible. That way there is more likelyhood... although not a assurance that you will succeed.
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