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The rise of wealth inequality

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By admin | Jan 23 2017 3:36 AM
boris7698: @BioHazard is right but I want to also question the notion that pride is individually held. It's like you're trying to hold me to account for whatever achievements you consider to be "mine". That's problematic because it presumes private property. In a neo-liberal framework you're absolutely right, production is a means to ownership, which is a means to empowerment. But among the drawbacks of that system is that it's essentially both meritocratic (based on a flawed democratically defined value judgment) and unrealistic (because factors of production are not evenly distributed).
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By admin | Jan 23 2017 3:38 AM
Bi0Hazard: For what it's worth, negative income tax is a terrible idea. Loopholes galore.
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By boris7698 | Jan 23 2017 4:15 AM
admin: Why do you find private property problematic ? The basic private property is your own body, and your life. The next is what you produce (with your body, your hands, your minde) -- thats yours as well, in other words, it is your private property. And why do you think that things should be evenly distributed ? After all, we are born with different abilities, and different physique. Some are smart, some are tall, some are beautiful, some are musically talented.
"You can avoid reality, but you can not avoid the consequences of avoiding reality." -- Ayn Rand
By admin | Jan 23 2017 5:04 AM
boris7698: Ok and what happens when people fail? "Oh just get back up and try again?" In critical theory that's called "modes of being," when there are certain acceptable ways to exercise talents and certain ways that are unacceptable. So it's a neoliberal idea that you have to be "the best" at something - get into a top football team, become a scholar, get rich, get married, compose a symphony. And everybody who doesn't attain these modes of being is clearly not trying hard enough, making the presumption that most people won't try hard enough on the grounds that they're lazy slobs. These are the basic presumptions of meritocracy - everyone can do something to an expert level. In fact if you look at socio-cultural reproduction theory, the real rationale behind meritocracy is to confirm the status quo, and prepare the bulk of people for mediocrity.

If we deconstruct what we mean by ownership, it's actually a kind of right. Studying law you often hear of a "bundle of rights" that property law entails. Human rights are rights too, like our right to our lives and bodies. Where do rights come from? Rights are ultimately constructed, whatever jurisprudential framework you subscribe to. So we have this democratic negotiation of a collective identity, where people have to assume the role that society bundles for them.

By the way I'm saying this not to critique private property, but to critique the assumptions that underpin your defense of private property. Speaking personally I have no issue with some level of privatization. But we need to be aware of what that entails and the fundamental assumptions that underpin that philosophical view. My point earlier was just to say that private property is a precondition for wealth inequality. Wealth inequality is bad because it leads to social unrest. Also you can't really have equitable opportunity in society without some measure of resource equality. But the conclusion that private property should be abolished, as has been pointed out, does not logically follow from these premises.
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By boris7698 | Jan 23 2017 5:46 AM
admin: I am not a neoliberal. No, you don't need to be the best at something in order to make a living in unregulated capitalism. For instance, you do not have to be the best programmer in order to write a useful computer program. The best computer programmers are busy writing software for a different domain. As a result, both kinds of programmers have a job.

But even more importantly, you don't work for someone else. Everything that you produce, you make it for yourself. Let's say you grow cabbage in your backyard. You are very good at growing cabbage, but all this cabbage is grown for you. Someone else, however, grows a lot of potatoes for _himself_. Because it is very easy or you to grow N+1 cabbages, than N cabbages (because you got very good at it), a single cabbage has fairly low value to you. But to your friend who is specializing in potatoes, this single cabbage is of a much higher value. Reciprocally, his potatoes are of more value to you than to him. So: you exchange some cabbages for potatoes. Each one of you thinks he received more than he spend. The transaction is a win+win, it is not merely an equal trade.

Then, you ask where rights come from, and you answer that they come from the judicial system. This is a huge misconception, unfortunately shared by most people. Inalienable rights do not come from society. They are inherent in the nature of Man. Because a Man is a rational being, he can only live in association with other people if those other people respect his natural requirement of life, namely: to think, to create, and to own results of his creations.

Please note that society does not require a compromise between your rights and my rights. it is another misconception that a Man must give-up the right to kill, in order to live in a society. He never had this right to begin with, so he can't give it up. Within the sphere of his inalienable rights, the freedom of a citizen is absolute.

Finally, you say that some policies (e.g. inequality in wealth) lead to social unrest. You must ask -- by what standard you judge something to be good or bad. For whom should it be good or bad. The smallest unit in capitalist is an individual, and you should judge on this level. A group of individuals, is just a statistical approximation of what each member wants. Wealth inequality is actually neither bad, nor good, but is a fact of life. A talented man will have more wealth, a less talented, less. But each man will be happy, because he made that wealth himself. An unearned wealth has no value, just as unearned love. For instance, you have worked hard to make this website, but lets suppose that tomorrow you get a phone call that you won 1 billion dollars. Are you going to enjoy this money ?
"You can avoid reality, but you can not avoid the consequences of avoiding reality." -- Ayn Rand
By admin | Jan 23 2017 6:43 AM
boris7698: In saying neoliberal I wasn't meaning to frame you, but rather name the body of argumentation I associate with the paradigm informing your discourse on modes of being. Please don't take anything I say personally - the goal here is to have a critical and informed discussion.

Domains are marketing tools. In marketing the term is "positioning." So you position yourself relative to who your customers are and what value you're providing them, in a strategic sense. There's no absolute 8 billion domains (or fields of work or whatever you want to call it) in the world, nor are they intrinsically linked to the current birth and death rates (and that's assuming switching costs did not exist). Instead they are defined by the complex intersectionality of economics and sociology. So you're left with two assumptions: one is that work is provided on neutral grounds, that is, apolitical. There is no hierarchy to the provision of work when everyone is perfectly motivated. This is particularly the case when, for example, people have serious disabilities that prevent them from working. Second you assume that work is perfectly available in each domain, given that domains are essentially "made up." The relative value that people provide people must be fair, and that value fairly paid (and then received). In critical theory these assumptions are attacked from an analytical and a political perspective.

What you describe in terms of cabbages and potatoes is what economists call the "law of comparative advantage." In this thread I've been questioning whether everybody possesses equal access to fertile land to grow crops. I'd also question socially whether the trade is conducted on equal terms even if resourcing were initially the same. What we're seeing, econometrically, is that global trade is exacerbating wealth inequality, at a rate (right now) unprecedented in human history. In my view this is an inevitable consequence of a combination of factors, inclusive of private property rights. I should note in saying that, that comparative advantage works as a trade law even without private property - for example, in communal societies. It would make no difference if that one farmer with his cabbages was actually a whole village of cabbage farmers.

I didn't say they come from the judicial system, which would be the positivist line. Instead I posited social constructionism, which is an interpretivist line. My perspective is particularly informed by critical theory and social contract theory. What you've answered with is naturalism, and that private ownership is a requirement of life. If that were true, supposing naturalism, you'd expect rights to be consistent across social contexts. Instead we find the social context matters a lot in determining what rights you have. If you happen to be born in North Korea, your rights are limited. So you have abrogations of rights in naturalism, and then the question is who defines those abrogations? Usually, the state. Or some other arm of society. So even with a naturalist framework, society still constructs what rights are available to you. This is one way of framing the social contract - by mutually giving up positive liberties we increase our negative liberty. So for example, virtually every society will in some way limit your natural right to kill. But in doing so you have some protection against murder.

You've said you don't believe that right existed to begin with. That's fine, but now you're abrogating natural rights by defining what rights people have to begin with. These things are not decided by you, but are played out in a wider social and global context, tied both geographically and chronologically. Even though killing is a good example because it's clear, private property exhibits the same basic principle of abrogation of rights. People are disempowered to steal your stuff, and they are empowered to keep their own stuff. At the center of that model is the individual. You're trying to maximize your personal conception of individual freedom, to the exclusion of others, which is a very western paradigm. As a liberal, I take an alternative view of individual freedom, which balances positive and negative freedoms with equality. And there are also non-individualist approaches that one should not be hasty to dismiss.

You finish by questioning individual values, according to the same basic paradigm. I might enjoy that money, you might not, and those are fine. It's arrogance to suppose that one's personal values ought to be imposed on others making value judgments in their own social contexts. Likewise, when the context changes it's good to reassess values. I don't believe some people need just be doomed to be devalued, because it's not their fault. It's the fault of the rest of society for valuing them less. This is one of the great empowerments of critical theory. So I would consider social unrest bad because people die. It's preferable for people to work together happily, valuing and respecting each other. As members of society we must plan for that to happen. This is borne out by historical evidence and simple logic: people don't like to be disempowered, especially when they have little control as social structures become stratified. In critical theory this is called symbolic violence. So rather than plan for winners and losers, as you allude to at the beginning of your post, ditch those values and accept other people for who they are. Why limit ourselves to the smallest unit when we can make society as a whole happier?
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By boris7698 | Jan 23 2017 7:29 AM
admin: You ask "why limit ourselves to the smallest unit when we can make society as a whole happier?" Because you don't have the right to decide for other people.
Every person must decide what he values by himself. All you can do in a perfect political system is to offer the legal protection for each person to decide for himself, and thats capitalism. The idea of "equality" is your idea, an maybe you can convince another 99% of citizens that it is right, but you have no right to impose it on the remaining 1% who doesn't agree with you. You are free to create a private club in which people will share the burden of recovering from unemployment, but you can not force everyone to participate in it.

Your example of North Korea shows the difference between inalienable rights, which is a moral concept, independent of any society, and legal rights -- implementation of a political system. Since the legal doesn't protect the moral in North Korea, it follows that North Korea does not implement the right legal system.

I also do not subscribe to the theory of natural rights as it is known in the literature. For a full reference for the theory of rights to which I subscribe, refer to Ayn Rand's theory of rights, here's a summary article: https://www.theobjectivestandard.com/issues/2011-fall/ayn-rand-theory-rights/

To clarify the example of the absence of the right to kill. The sphere of your inalienable rights is exactly the same if you are deserted on an island, like Robinson Crusoe, or if you live in a society. Robinson could only kill himself -- for this he has the right. However, when Friday arrives on the island, we now have two men. Now each must function within the sphere of his prior rights. The prior rights only allow to kill oneself' but no other. Therefore, no compromise is required in a society of men in the area of rights.
"You can avoid reality, but you can not avoid the consequences of avoiding reality." -- Ayn Rand
By admin | Jan 23 2017 8:18 AM
boris7698: Objectivism is a subset of naturalism. Taxomatically, naturalism describes all rights that exist a priori from natural (as in, not supernatural) causes. For example the concept of human rights (which I agree with) can only really exist in a naturalist paradigm. Regardless these are all socially constructed labels, having no reality beyond descriptivity. Most rights are socially constructed - I'm not allowed to fly a commercial airline because people generally agree that would be a bad idea, not least because I'm too short to reach all the controls. You constructed your ideology by reading Ayn Rand apparently. That's sociocultural constructivism right there :P

What I'm interested in is how and why people "make decisions." Decisions are based on identities that are, to a significant extent, socially shaped. The whole idea of an individual decision is strange insofar as nobody makes decisions from first principles - we are leveraging a subset of information from the world around us, including other members of society. So decisions are not asocial. For example, we do not all individually invent the English language. We use the English language which has been developed and shaped by billions of people over millions of years from countless dialects and prototypical contributing languages. The way in which we make those decisions can be shaped too, by interpreting and analyzing psychology. So it's common, for example, for children with parents exhibiting antisocial behaviors to copy those behaviors. Is it the child's fault they were born to those parents? No. And these acts of symbolic violence go beyond natural laws, to impositions inherent in human social structures. So an obvious example would be money - we tend to value people who have money, and devalue those who do not.

These paradigms can be challenged. We do not live in isolated little bubbles or desert islands, but in a profoundly complex and interconnected web of relationships. Even if we did, that still would not be sufficient to define limitations on our rights. So the idea that we decide values for ourselves is challenged by democracy, ie the idea that the sum of these relationships can to some degree define a value system. The reason why we have a state (and therefore legal protection) in the first place is to protect this particular value system. Should the value system be something else, then that loses its social mandate and is therefore no longer subject to the democratic social contract. So people enter the world as socialized, into a world of existing values they can shape, but which also shape them. So there's this irony in your post, that you put down the right to decide for others, then affirm the right to decide for yourself. Isn't that deciding for others that they should decide for themselves? Again this comes back to neoliberalism, which is also founded on the principle of hegemonic normativity as a form of cultural capital. By empowering a particular value system (individuality) society takes on the benefits and burdens of those values.

I'm deliberately analyzing values amorally because morals are a system of values, therefore defined by them. As I've said before, values are bound chronologically and geographically. Even more correctly, they are bound to social interactivity. To value only one's own moral code is egoism, which is rarely socially valued. Rather we value the "reflected self", and seek value in others - we like "good" people and shun "bad" people. If individualism, self-sufficiency etc are values, then of course you'd seek to impose that on others by socio-cultural reproduction, just as I come at it from a social democratic perspective of morality. That proves that values can be influenced.

In a critical model, individualism benefits the status quo for the imposition of power in a politicized (in the sociological sense of the word) culture. So that 99% collective is just a mediating structure that in turn further reinforces individualism. It doesn't actually question the basis for the system. So we have systemic violence in the form of subjugation and control being manifest right now in the hegemonic acquisition of capital. The first problem for critical theory is to question what the system is that allows that to happen. A critical model rejects the idea of values and morality as "right" and "wrong" and sees these labels as another form of control and power relations perpetuating inequality. Instead critical theory rationalizes both choices and outcomes. As I said critical theory is analytical but it is also political and therefore empowers people to actually effect change.

In determining that there is "one best way" among value systems, that's an issue in that first, people are fluid in their values and identities, and second, I don't believe anyone has the right to be so arrogant to claim their particular value system is utterly perfect, because nobody understands moral outcomes (insofar as nobody can actually see the future). Critical theory problematizes value systems (and I should note, I engage with this stuff a lot even within my own worldview). I think the least we can do is listen to each others perspectives and understand that all morals have something to offer. By engaging different groups in a democratic space (like, say, a debate website) that empowers us to develop as ethical people.
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By boris7698 | Jan 23 2017 8:55 AM
admin: The reason why we have a state (and therefore legal protection) in the first place is to protect this particular value system.

No, this is your opinion that you want to protect a particular value system (let's say Christian values, for the sake of argument). The reason that we need a political system is to allow for people to co-exist.

Next you say that I require others to decide for themselves. This is a logical error. I do not require them to decide for themselves, I don't impose my will on others. I don't specify what others should do. If person M have to live among other men, he can only do so under a political system that does not prescribe anything to me my decisions. It follows logically, from the generality of choosing M, than the system has to allow this for any individual.

Please note that this leaves the possibility for people band together into private clubs in which they can make decisions by majority voting, and have the group spokesmen preference be their own preference. In other words: capitalism allows socialist to exist as a private club within the system. Or any other kind of group that have their own value system, say Christians.

But capitalism is the only system that doesn't force you to be part of any group.

So we have systemic violence in the form of subjugation and control being manifest right now in the hegemonic acquisition of capital.

No we don't. Why ? No one is subjugated if he entered the agreement voluntarily. This is a contradiction in terms.

Now about values. Yes, people can have all sorts of values, and philosophical (hence moral) views. But unregulated capitalism is the only system which allows each of those people to co-exist, not forcing values of one citizen on another. As to which values are right, is a different debate.

In other words, a political system does not need to enforce the right values, only to have a legal system in which different people, who maybe holding contradictory values, can co-exist.

About your general study of values, to see how they are influenced. It is not society that affects us, it is civilization within which we live. It allows us to benefit from the work of previous people. Without this we would still be living in a cave, reinventing stone tools from scratch, in every life time. However, we are not mindless dolls that are influenced by whatever ideas the wind blows our way. That's because we posses a rational faculty that uses logic to filter through information, in order to integrate it into a whole. As a man grows, he builds this network of knowledge in his mind, each piece carefully placed in the right slot, so that everything continues to make sense. There comes a point, that the core of knowledge in his mind is so stable that no new popular idea of society would shift it.

As a proof, just look at how different are people in the aspects that they consider their "main". In the laymen aspects they may be similar, but in their specialization they are different. They do not accept any popular idea that comes their way.

"You can avoid reality, but you can not avoid the consequences of avoiding reality." -- Ayn Rand
By boris7698 | Jan 23 2017 8:58 AM
boris7698: Typo: "does not prescribe anything to me my decisions" should be " does not prescribe anything to his decisions"
"You can avoid reality, but you can not avoid the consequences of avoiding reality." -- Ayn Rand
By admin | Jan 23 2017 10:32 AM
boris7698: People's co-existence itself is a socially defined value. You can't escape a value system judgment, whether it's your concept of objectivism or any other philosophy. I'm making the point that states perpetuate the value system that constructs the state. Put in lay terms, we are influenced by the predominant social heirarchy of our times. Right now the hegemonic globalist ideology is neoliberal, and deeply individualist. If you look at something like socialism you will see it more influenced by collectivism, while looking at many indigenous cultures you will find a strong sense of universalism.

I think where we are ships passing in the night is on the issue of inaction as a form of action. To you if the government doesn't do something then it isn't a government imposition. I see the opposite as true - by failing to act on important issues, our silence inherently supports the status quo. The status quo is non-neutral: it is the imposition of a thirteen-billion-year angel of history blown backwards by the detritus of the past. So in passing responsibility and blame for decisions on to individuals, when those individuals are themselves the product of sociological forces, you're imposing the value of individualism on them. What concerns me is who controls these values? By upholding the status quo, you disempower the unempowered, and empower the empowered. Individualism, too, as a value system, is non-neutral. I've often made the point before (though in a more pragmatic context than the sociological approach I'm taking to this discussion) that modes of oppression are not limited by the current state politic. Cultural modes of oppression occur every day in workplaces, schools, family homes etc. An example might be heteronormativity. State impositions on such fields are reflective of society but they also reflect on society.

So in short, capitalism is a value system that forces us to be capitalists. It forces us to accept individualism and become meritocratic. Whether people can form clubs or not, that's a form of symbolic violence. If you don't specify what people should do, who does? No matter what your answer is here - be it the individual themselves, nobody, God, or my flatmate's cat (who has been meowing at me for several hours now for some reason) that's a form of imposition on others. Note also that this is not necessarily a "bad" thing. In the same way, private property has the positive liberty (right to have property) and a negative liberty (protection of property). This is subdivided into the bundle of rights I discussed earlier.

It is possible to be subjugated and agree to that (for example, employment contracts), just as it is possible to be involuntarily contracted (for example, a prison sentence). To unpack the "terms" I am using:
systemic violence = protocols determining the exercise of power for the domination of one group or individual over another - in this case, "the economy"
subjugation and control = bringing somebody into a vulnerable state so they can be exploited - in this case, "poverty"
hegemonic = controlled by a system of power that is self-perpetuating - in this case "the rich"
There is no contradiction between these words.

Perhaps the ultimate form of control is the claim that values can co-exist only with the imposition of your values, ie individualism. Values co-exist right now. The difference is that they are negotiated in a democratic space called the universe. Through relationships we impose and judge values relative to each other and ourselves. As I said before, decisions are not asocial, including decisions about our values. It is impossible to have a value-neutral politic, because being value-neutral is itself a value. This is the sort of thing that critical theory is very good at exploring.

Civilization is part of society. Society is an exceedingly broad term, encompassed really only by the environment. That's because most "meaning" is itself socially constructed (and here I'm being an unashamed objectivist), aside from positivist laws that few engage with. Logic is a technology that has been developed in the same way, as has all rationality. People become less mindless through the ages as our society uncovers new technology to help us understand the world. That's not the growth of one individual, but of sociocultural technology. Of course individuals can develop their own psychological technology, but such paradigms bear no meaning until they enter the sociocultural sphere. I'd be wary of a man unwilling to accept new technology, including relational technology, because that means the man cannot acquire or process new information. The more open-minded we remain as people, the more we are able to survive and thrive in an ever-changing environment. As I mentioned earlier, it is arrogance for anyone to suppose they have perfect knowledge of anything when - to borrow from Chuang Tzu - knowledge is infinite and our capacity to learn is finite.
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By boris7698 | Jan 23 2017 8:27 PM
admin: I think where we are ships passing in the night is on the issue of inaction as a form of action.

You are correct. We have a disagreement on the concept of "imposition". Here's a concrete example. Let's say you have two cats A and B that always fight for food. Then you go for a vacation, and ask two of your friends to watch each cat. Cat A is watched by your friend who has cat C. But this cat C is well behaved, and doesn't try to steal A's food. Cat A, to his surprise, can just eat his food without the fear of it being stolen.

According to you, cat C is imposing on cat A the fact that cat A does not need to fight for food. After all, cat A is used to the fighting behavior.

According to me, this is used of concept of "imposing" is wrong, and constitutes a logical error. The source of this error is to treat the concept as a mathematical quantity. Note that mathematics is subordinated to logic. In logic, negative and positive assertions have different status. For instance, the status of proposition "God exists", and the proposition "God does not exist" are not merely negations of each other that hold an equivalent epistemological weight. In contrast, in mathematics "x is greater than 5" and "x is not greater than 5" are indeed negations of each other, and they do hold the same epistemological weight. The reason that in mathematics there is no context. Reality has a much bigger context, and all rules of logic (of Aristotle) work within this context. A quick way to see this point, is to note that Aristotle identified many fallacies of reasoning, all of which depends on this realization that logic must be used in the context of reality.

"You can avoid reality, but you can not avoid the consequences of avoiding reality." -- Ayn Rand
By admin | Jan 25 2017 3:29 AM
boris7698: Logic is a means to an end that is not apolitical. Logic is a form of indoctrination which is testable only within a paradigm of what Weber called the "iron cage of rationality." So the question is really the extent to which you trust in premises that we call logical, which in turn is determinative of deduction. So there is a politic to logic, which is equally usable to control as language itself. Mathematics is the same - it does have a context that is deeply social. That's one big reason, for example, why people were very skeptical to the introduction of imaginary numbers at first. They've always existed but people never believed they did. So here we must question, why are all the laws Aristotle made up the absolute standard for truth? After all, the "wisest of all Greeks" (Socrates) was famed not for imposing logic but questioning it. I deny that Aristotle works even as a categorical imperative, and more than that, that Aristotle is either sufficient or correct in describing the universe. And yes, I know Ayn Rand was big on Aristotle, but she wasn't omniscient either.

It is actually mathematically possible for x to be greater than and less than 5. For example, if x is the square root of 144, then x is both -12 and 12, which is both greater than 5 and less than 5 (there are numerous other examples, but square roots are the easiest). But again, all these things are socially constructed. Pythagoras hid away the secrets of irrational numbers, for example.
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By boris7698 | Jan 25 2017 8:40 AM
admin: Your mathematics examples actually show that you are in agreement with me. I did not deny that in all of math context is never required, I only provided an example when it is not required. My point was that if you include context, then you can no longer blindly do symbolic computation, as your example of square root of 144 shows. I am saying that context is required more often in logic, than in math.

The next point is the way you use the term "social". A better term would be "prevalent ideas", because it more precisely identifies what motivates people. I would agree that because of prevalent ideas of philosophy, people resisted to accept imaginary numbers. No disagreement so far.

You are saying that politics influences philosophy through propaganda. I am saying that this would be only possible by use of force. Under capitalism, education would be private, so parents could teach their children the philosophy that they want. Only when education is public and the curriculum is controlled by the government, it is possible to brainwash _all_ people.

Pythagoras hid irrational numbers from his disciples. But there were other people, outside of the Pythagorean religion, that had the opportunity to think differently. Only if Pythagorean religion was declared mandatory by the state, only then people would have been forced to accept all of its ideas.

Now, lets get to Aristotle. Even if Aristotle made a mistake describing the rules of logic, this doesn't deny the fact that logic exists and is the tool of thinking. Aristotle did not invent logic, he discovered it, and gave names to various acrobatics our mind does.

You of course can define the concept "imposing" the way you want, and not the way I do. But note that logic and concepts are the combined tools to know the true nature of reality. So only one of us is right.

Finally, I don't quite understand what it is you are saying by "Whether people can form clubs or not, that's a form of symbolic violence." You can appropriate the role of the socialist government and approach people asking them to join your safety-net club. It will work like an insurance business.. Some people will join it, some (like me) would not. Or are you saying that merely asking people to contemplate if they want to join the safety-net club is oppression? I hope not. Remember, people have Free-Will.

No one claimed that Aristotle was right in everything (he wasn't about God), nor Ayn Rand expected for Objectivism to be taken on faith. She said that an error made on your own is safer than ten truths accepted on faith.
"You can avoid reality, but you can not avoid the consequences of avoiding reality." -- Ayn Rand
By admin | Jan 25 2017 10:14 AM
boris7698: And I was showing math and logic are not apolitical. That was the whole point. Knowledge is power, literally, and insofar as maths and formal logic within that are played out in a sociological context there are political consequences to the expression and proliferation of ideas. I don't really put a lot of stock in positivist ideologies for that reason (and I should add that this is a problem with much of science, even though the scientific method itself is profoundly naturalist).

Free will is a social construct. Basically anything that people claim is used to "empower" people is, by the same token, a form of control that creates these power dynamics. The worst outcome is when those dynamics become invisible so it is hard to see who benefits and who loses from such exchanges. The reality is we're biological creatures subject to the same basic psychological laws as any other animal. We make our decisions based on neural heuristics and these can be both predicted and changed. Posthumanism is very good at critiquing this. So "free will" has little basis in reality from a naturalist perspective - however, it is very good at masking a power dynamic. Free will has been used by everything from the church to the state to make people believe certain values were absolute. Hitler, Stalin and Pope Urban II are among the many who have invoked the concept for political control. Right now you're invoking the concept to attempt to control the state a certain way. Which might be fine but you need to recognize that that's what you're doing, and that this benefits some. Nor are all choices always available to us.

The point is that a private "safety-net club" (it's not just like an insurance company, that's actually literally what it is...) is indeed another kind of imposition, just as a socialist government is a form of imposition. The difference is in the values they espouse - both have the same direct ends, but indirectly they teach individualism/self-reliance, as opposed to collectivism/communalism. Again we need to be sure that we understand that impositions or control are not necessarily bad. They are social constructs that can help and empower society as much as they hinder it. So if you believe people should be self-reliant, then they should have to pay for their rainy days out of their own pocket as opposed to the state's, and that's a good thing to encourage (and in fact, in your case, mandate) in others. That's a simple way of talking about control in a political sense. I personally happen to believe that everyone should be assured the same right to basic income protection regardless of their ability to join an insurance scheme, because the way I see it people need food to live, people need money for food, and so not having social security is murder. But that's beside the point, because the right to life isn't an absolute either - it's socially constructed as a generally good idea, but there are general exceptions (I'm ok with abortion and, in most cases, euthanasia for example). So our social values and morals are at the heart of this discussion really, something that at least I'm not trying to hide behind a simplistic understanding of "free will."

If your claim is that Aristotle was fallible, why should we follow a system just because it meets Aristotle's laws? Surely then it would be reasonable to question that logic and be skeptical in our inquiry? Even if Aristotle did prescribe a laissaiz-faire capitalist paradigm (which he didn't) or if that naturally followed from his principles of logic (which it doesn't), that would still mean questioning why Aristotle was right or why we should follow his views. Language matters here. Aristotle didn't discover logic, he described a particular way of thinking about logic (today it's generally called scientific rationalism). It's not the only conception of logic, nor was he necessarily the first person to think in that way. He was providing his own paradigm and applying it to the natural world. To claim that's the paradigm of the universe or that it's the only possible way to engage with reality is profoundly limiting. That would be true even if his logic was perfect. So your claim is there is a "true nature of reality". I would question - how do you know? How would you test that if there wasn't? In an interpretivist perspective, language is socially constructed. Almost nothing (outside of a few very general caveats first described by Chomsky) is really "known." So from that first principle there is a fundamental issue with how you assume there is one way to engage with the world.

To clarify, the way I use the term social is the way it is used in sociology. It goes beyond ideas and considers every form of relationship, including relational knowledge, but broader than that.

States are not exclusive agents of force and politics. Corporations, private schools, religion, country clubs, batman, and the annoying cat who keeps trying to type on my keyboard are all powers that force things on others within particular paradigms. The state does the same thing. Insofar as I participate as a member of my state I follow the laws and am influenced by the ideologies underlying them. Insofar as I participate as a student at university, I am influenced by that in my paradigms, persona and decisions. All these are examples of relational structures building cultural capital. So to put this another way - if I became king of the world and forced everyone to believe in everything I said, would you? Probably not. I might force you to say you do, perhaps, but that doesn't mean you actually do. So the politics of power is not held by the state, but by relational investiture. Brains form connections between things which builds beliefs. Just as our minds learn by forming physical connections, we build beliefs by engaging our social and environmental ecologies.
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By boris7698 | Jan 26 2017 5:50 AM
admin: Corporations, private schools, religion, country clubs, batman, and the annoying cat who keeps trying to type on my keyboard are all powers that force things on others within particular paradigms.

Your cat is using force, the rest are not.

I agree with you that ideas have an effect on people, but they do so because those people are persuaded that the ideas make sense to them. Some people will be cautious to accept new ideas, some less so. One way to protect this second type of person from ideas which he can not yet judge critically, is to limit him to exposure to these ideas. How? With capitalism, and more precisely: with the institution of private property.

If he is a child, then his parent can choose to put him to a private school of parent's persuasion. For instance, if the parent is an atheist, he would put him to school that does not teach Creation "theory" (I put it in quotes because it does not deserve a status of a scientific theory).

If he is an adult, he can read newspapers, and what TV programs that limit ideas to align with his persuasion.

If he wants to interact with people, he can go to a party, or organize a party, in which only people of his persuasion participate.

This is all possible because private property implies personal choice of activity on the premises property. For a newspaper, it means that the owner can choose whom to publish based on his own views.

Capitalism allows for people of all persuasions to co-exist, and lets them decide by themselves how much they want to leave their bubble.

The proponents of Socialism are the ones that in-fact try to mould all the people according to their will. Most importantly, they tell people that they must live for others: that they must work a third of the year for the benefit of others (taxes). Capitalism doesn't force this idea, but it doesn't restrict those people who agree with the this idea of altruism to continue to do so.

I still don't understand your reservations about my proposed safety-net club. It doesn't mean that you have to organize it as fixed payment, like in present insurance business. You can collect payment as proportion of person's income, just like income tax is now. And there can be many such safety-net clubs, all with different terms, and people would chose the one they esteem as moral and fair.

Next point is about Aristotle and logic. Philosophers of all persuasions, particularly the ones who reject the validity of reason, use logical arguments to state their points. This reminds me of a joke I heard once, that abstract painters always sign their paintings in a realistic fashion. How do you propose that we hold a discourse if you deny logic itself? So far you have presented arguments in a logical fashion which I was able to follow. I wouldn't be able to hold a debate with you otherwise.

Please be assured that I am not saying that Aristotle's logic is valid because it was Aristotle who came up with it. It is valid because it reflects reality and the way our conceptual faculty works. I think all of the rules of logic can be derived from the axiom of the "Law of Identity", because the "Law of non contradiction" follows from it. And from this follows the "Law of excluded middle". However, I am not an expert on logic, nor on the history of its development, so I may be wrong. But what I do know that there is only one right logic.

This brings us to the question of certainty, a point you raised several times when you said that no one should have the arrogance to be certain. I am certain of the things that I know, at 100%, not at 99.99%. If I see evidence that shows me that I was wrong, I will update my knowledge, and I will be again certain of it at 100%.

For example, I am about to go for a drive, and as I approach my car I am certain that I will be able to accomplish the task of driving off. However, as I near the door to my car, I realize that I forgot my keys at home. Now I become certain that I can not drive off, again at 100%.

A more interesting example is if I have to perform a physics experiment, and I am certain 100% of an outcome. However, a different outcome occurs. Since I was certain otherwise, I come to observe an apparent contradiction, which is impossible. This causes me to review my knowledge, and adjust it to account for different cases, as to understand why in this case the experiment gave a different outcome. My knowledge grows as a result.

However, suppose I was not certain in the beginning about the outcome of that experiment, in the beginning. Instead, I was only 99.9% confident that the expected result would occur. When I observe an unexpected result, I conclude that I hit that 1% chance. This would not cause me to review my knowledge base, and I will make no new realizations about the physics of the experiment.

A historical case in which uncertainty played a pivotal role in slowing down progress is the medical practice in Babylon. No one was certain how to cure a patient, because medicine was designed to kick out the devil that causes sickness. As a result, the medicine was a purposefully disgusting mixture of (sometimes) excrement, urine, wood pulp, and other weird stuff. No one knew if it would work or not, and no one learned anything when it didn't . People just concluded that the devil is stubborn.

I may have missed some of your points, I will cover them later.
"You can avoid reality, but you can not avoid the consequences of avoiding reality." -- Ayn Rand
Dassault Papillon
By Dassault Papillon | Jan 26 2017 4:42 PM
So basically it amounts to "I, a lower middle class person, am slowly getting richer, but the wealthy are getting richer a hundred times faster than I am. Therefore, I must revolt! And I have a right to not be imprisoned for said revolting because I'm doing it because I'm oppressed."
By Bi0Hazard | Jan 26 2017 10:42 PM
Dassault Papillon: Losing your wealth to the top 1% (shift in labor share). People just tend to not want that. The working class possesses one means of production, themselves. They are there to be rented and profited from by the capitalist class.
By Bi0Hazard | Jan 26 2017 11:05 PM
admin: For what it's worth, negative income tax is a terrible idea. Loopholes galore.
Assuming there will be many loopholes, which may depend on how it is administered.
By t_rao | Feb 12 2017 10:48 PM
Really interesting discussion here. A couple of things I wanted to mention.

Firstly, the negative income tax in principle is not a bad idea. As Friedman puts it, the negative income tax would guarantee a universal basic income while still providing an incentive to work for the less well off. This would eliminate many of the problems apparent in a welfare state where the poor sometimes lose money by working or having assets since they disqualify for some program or another. This basic income would also ensure everyone has enough money to stay relatively out of the poverty line.

Back to income inequality. I think that much of the inequality today arises not from capitalism as a system but from Crony Capitalism where the government intervenes excessively to the benefit of the rich. When the government is not corrupt and not eroded by corporate lobbyists, it does not restrict free trade or favour the rich, as it currently tends to do through bailouts, etc. I support this system and believe that it will reduce inequality.

Why? Because then the poor and the middle class will be able to create businesses to compete with large corporations as well as regain control of the stock market without unfair competition. I think that the rich will naturally have a tendency to control a large portion of the wealth due to their business aptitude or their forefathers' business aptitude and this acceptable as long as income inequality reduces to what was shown in the initial video (see top of the thread) as the perceived distribution of wealth. It is not immoral for the rich to do so and I think most of us agree on the morality of a voluntary economy.

In this freer world with a more libertarian-leaning government, there would be no involuntary trade but rather, as has already been established, free trade between private entities to their mutual benefit (non-zero sum game). I think that as long as we remove any governmental restraint on money (the Federal reserve manipulating the currency of the US is a good example) it is immoral to redistribute wealth any further.

Most of the current inequality arises from either government meddling or immoral actions in the past (e.g. slavery, war). If we remove this sort of involuntary and unjust acquisition of wealth in our current society, inequality will slowly reduce until it reaches natural free market levels. For now, I support some government meddling to order to help the poor until the damage has been reversed.
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